There are about 10,000 species of birds around the world. Some birds, like ostriches, are flightless, can reach heights of 6 to 10 feet, and weigh up to 300 pounds. Other birds, such as the wandering Albatross, have wingspans measuring 8 to 12 feet, can weigh more than 25 pounds, and fly hundreds of miles in a single day—and thousands of miles in migration over a period of several days without ever stopping. (That’s quite amazing for a bird heavier than most turkeys!)
Equally impressive to “big birds” are the little birds we call “hummingbirds.” There are an estimated 350 species of hummingbirds in the world, which range in size from 2 to 9 inches in length and .07 ounces to .85 ounces in weight. Giant hummingbirds have a wingspan the length of a pencil and weigh less than one! That’s right, even the biggest hummingbirds weigh less than a standard postcard.
The Smallest of the Small
The Bee Hummingbird has a brain, a heart, a beak, a tongue, two eyes, two wings, two legs, eight toes, and roughly 1,000 feathers, as well as many other bones and body parts. Known as Zunzun in Cuba (the bird’s only known natural habitat), the Bee Hummingbird is packed full of wonderfully designed, lightweight structures—all in a body that weighs less than a penny.
The Bee Hummingbird is the smallest bird in the world at only two inches long (from beak to tail) and .07 ounces (or less). Since they hover in the air while feeding on the nectar of flowers and are only ½-inch longer than certain bees, at first glance they are sometimes mistaken for bees.
Bee Hummingbirds build small nests (about one inch in diameter) and lay eggs smaller than a coffee bean (less than .01 ounce). The egg of a Bee Hummingbird is 4,500 times lighter than an ostrich egg. The Bee Hummingbird may be tiny, but it can put away the “groceries” (in the form of nectar and tiny insects). Every day these tiny birds eat about half of their body weight in food and drink several times their body weight in water. That is comparable to an 80-pound child eating 40 pounds of food and drinking about 75 gallons of water every day.
Why does this little bird need so much food and water? Because it requires a lot of energy. And why does it need so much energy? Because Bee Hummingbirds flap their wings in flight tens of thousands of times per day. [Just move your arms up and down (or in the figure-8 motion of hummingbirds’ wings) thousands of times and see how thirsty and hungry you get.]
If the superhero “Flash” were an animal, surely he would be a hummingbird. It seems that everything about these birds is super-fast.
- Whereas most birds beat their wings less than five times per second, hummingbirds flap their wings at lightning speed—about 50 times per second for North American hummingbirds and 80 times per second for Bee Hummingbirds.
- Hummingbirds can fly horizontally at 30 miles per hour (which, considering their size, is pretty amazing) and can dive vertically in the air at speeds up to 60 miles per hour. What’s more, they can “stop on a dime” in the air with only their strong, acrobatic wings.
- Not counting insects, the metabolism of hummingbirds is faster than any animal on earth—100 times faster than an elephant.
- Even their tongues are fast. Like bees, hummingbirds drink the nectar from flowers. These lightweight birds can drain a flower of its sweet nectar with 15 licks in one second. (Try licking a sucker that fast.)
- Though the heart of the Bee Hummingbird is tiny, in proportion to body size of all other birds, it has the largest heart. Also, its heart beats fast—really fast. At rest, it may beat 500 times per minute (which is faster than you can count in 60 seconds). When active, its heart can beat 1,200 times per minute (or 20 times per second!).
Flash the superhero is make-believe, but hero hummingbirds are very real and incredibly fast—clearly and exceptionally well designed.
You might think that a tiny animal with such a high metabolism would be incapable of migrating great distances. Hummingbirds, however, are known to travel thousands of miles, from Canada all the way to Costa Rica. Though there are many places to stop and refuel along the way, one stretch includes crossing the Gulf of Mexico. Somehow, someway hummingbirds (and specifically Ruby-throated Hummingbirds) can fly approximately 500 miles in about 20 hours (averaging about 25 miles per hour) without stopping…all the way across the Gulf of Mexico.
The flight of hummingbirds is unlike any other bird. God created these amazingly fast-flying, zigzagging animals with the ability to move their wings so fast and in such a specially designed, figure-8 motion that they are the only birds in the world that can fly sideways and backward, as well as up and down, all the while keeping their torsos virtually stationary. They are the hovering helicopters of the bird world. In fact, they are much better designed than helicopters, as hummingbirds can even fly upside down!
Some contend that the godless theory of evolution must have brought about the hummingbird. Supposedly hummingbirds evolved from less advanced birds (that move their wings differently), which supposedly evolved from animals millions of years earlier that did not even have wings. In truth, this could no more happen than a tornado could sweep through a junkyard and build a perfectly functional helicopter.
If you were to make a robotic bird that could flap its wings 80 times per second, no one would ever conclude that your bird was the result of an explosion in a workshop or of some other accidental, naturalistic cause. Why, then, would anyone think that mindless evolution, time, mutations, and random chance processes could produce such fantastic flying abilities as those found in hummingbirds?
Hummingbirds can flap their wings so fast, like little hovering helicopters, because the great Creator gave them a perfectly designed body—from head to tail and from one wing tip to the other. This design includes powerful, resilient muscles that are associated with flying, such as the pectoral and supracoracoideus (SOO-pruh-cor-uh-COI-dee-us) muscles. These muscles make up a greater percentage of the overall weight of hummingbirds than most other birds and are a major contributing factor in moving hummingbirds’ wings so quickly.
Hovering hummingbirds did not evolve their unique, helicopter-like abilities from earlier airplane-like birds, which had neither the anatomy nor the ability to hover like a helicopter. Their unique and amazingly well-designed bodies and abilities demand a grand Designer.
Indeed, common sense sees the not-so-common hummingbird and recognizes that its hovering is Heaven-made.
“But now ask…the birds of the air, and they will tell you… Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing…?” (Job 12:7-10).
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