Monday, March 9, 2009

Winging It

It took a camera with a shutter speed of 1/3,000th a second to capture these hummingbirds in flight. Medium sized hummingbirds beat their wings 25 times a second, while the smallest of the species beat theirs an incredible 70 per second. To support this high level of activity, their hearts beat 1.260 times per minute.

When they sleep, they enter a state called "torpor" that reduces their need for food as their heart rate slows down to 50-180 beats per minute. If they survive their first year, they may live for 3-4 years. One tagged hummingbird lived twelve years.

To prepare for long distance migrations, they store up fat for fuel and increase their weight by up to 100%. Thus, they are able to fly nonstop 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico as they head south to more tropical climes.

Thanks to local wildlife photographer Chris Mayne for the pictures.

This is the 99th plate illustration from the 1904 book "Kunstformen der Natur" by Ernst Haeckel, showing 12 varieties of hummingbirds.

1 comment:

High Desert Diva said...

The fancy head feathers of the last striking!