Hummingbird Flight Is Like Nothing Else in the Bird World

These talented fliers can hover, whiz forward and backward, and come to a complete stop in an instant.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.


This is BirdNote!

We’re hearing the sound of a male Hummingbird.

When naturalist A.R. Ammons wrote, “birds are flowers flying, and flowers are perched birds,” he may have had hummingbirds in mind. Their eye-catching iridescence sparkles in the sun.

One hummingbird commonly seen west of the Rockies is the Rufous Hummingbird. East of the Rockies, you’ll see the Ruby-throat.

The hummingbird is the only bird that can truly hover. It manages this by flapping its wings 20 to 80 times a second. It can fly straight up and down. Backwards and forwards. Or upside down. And up to 75 miles an hour. But don’t worry, it won’t run into you. This bird can slow down from 25 miles an hour to a dead stop in a space no longer than your index finger.

And even if it did collide with something, it isn’t likely to cause much damage: this mighty puffball weighs less than two dimes.

For BirdNote, I'm Michael Stein.



Adapted from a script written by Frances Wood

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

Narrator: Michael Stein

Sounds of the Rufous Hummingbird provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. “J” display and perched call recorded by G.A. Keller; wing whirring by A.A. Allen.

Ambient sound track provided by C. Peterson

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