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Topic: Hum (06/06/13)
By Tom Parsons
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The birds in the Trochilidae family are able to beat their wings up to 80 times per second. That is up to 4,800 beats per minute. This gives them the ability to hover in the air. The sound made by their wings flapping so fast gives these birds their more familiar name: hummingbird.
The hum created by these birds can resemble the sound of a bee or other insect. Many years ago, my wife and I were enjoying the view from the top of Spruce Knob in West Virginia when we heard a buzzing sound and saw a small dark body fly by. I was ready to take a swing at it, thinking it was a bumble bee. “Don’t hurt it,” my wife said. “It’s a hummingbird.”
They are the only birds that can fly backwards. They can fly forward at speeds that can exceed 34 mph. Their Creator gave them long, slightly curved bills that can reach deep into the heart of a flower to feed on its high energy nectar. They also feed on small insects since nectar does not provide needed protein or other nutrients.
At the heart of the hummingbird lies a muscle that is able to beat more than 1,000 times per minute. This requires a great deal of energy, so the hummingbird actually rests about 80% of its time, and feeds about 20% of the time.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about these little birds is the fact that they are not able to store very much energy, primarily because their metabolism, which is higher than any other animal, uses up their energy supply so quickly. If it were not for a unique feature given them by their Creator, hummingbirds would not have enough energy to survive the night.
The birds are able to slow down their metabolism as the temperature cools down, or when food is limited. It is called torpor, similar to hibernation in other species. Their heart rate can slow to about fifty beats per minute, and their body functions adjust similarly to preserve fluids and minerals.
However, twice each year, many of these birds make a non-stop migration across 500 miles of water as they fly from the United States to Mexico and South America. This can require more than fifteen hours of continued flying across the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Since these birds have a life span of five to ten years, some of them make this trip ten to twenty times in their lifetime.
The hummingbird is an exquisite example of God’s creative abilities. From its quick movements, its high energy life-style, from its colorful feathers which are iridescent in some birds, to its ability to evade being photographed by an amateur photographer, God gave this little bird everything it needs to survive in a world filled with hostilities.
But God made me smarter than a hummingbird. At least I like to think so. One of these days I am going to capture this little fellow with my lens. He can’t outsmart me forever.
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