Hummingbirds Beat Top Gun Fliers—Resilient Mother Nature!


A benefit of a slower summer is being able to stop and observe the natural world—often realizing that we humans still haven’t matched the forces of Mother Nature. For example, when the male Annas hummingbird drops out of the sky, he pulls more G forces than a landing space shuttle.  I watched this death-defying stunt from my kitchen window as this tiny plumed rocket dove toward the ground at 90 feet per second or nearly 400 times his body length per second.  (No - I didn’t clock it. I had to do research because their aerial stunts just fascinate me.)


According to Chris Clark, a biologist at UC Berkeley, the male Anna Hummingbird quickly bullets skyward, multiplying by 10 the gravitational pull of the earth. Such a stunt would knock out a human fighter pilot and the wings of most planes would break off.  To put icing on this amazing display, the male always orients the dive so that sun reflects on his pink feathered neck.


I should have known. A few years ago, we found a hummingbird nest in my camellia bush. The tiny nest perched under a glossy leaf was a little smaller than a silver dollar and made from feathers and spider webs.  For days I watched. Two even tinier eggs, no bigger than my finger tip appeared. At last, two tiny babies hatched. In short order they grew much larger, wedged in so tight I couldn’t see how they could eventually leave and fly.


It was during one of my nest observations that I experienced the propulsion might of this amazing bird. The mom had zipped off for breakfast. I stood about 3 feet from the nest, watching the twins. Suddenly, one of them lifted its tail and zap—straight as an arrow, faster than a bullet—I had baby hummer poop on my shirt.  Now—you do the math: If a bird no bigger than an inch can be that deadly accurate and fast at three feet, whatever could a human do?  I’ve heard of projectile vomit but this is a whole new skill.  I couldn’t help but laugh. It’s a whole new meaning to “bombs away.”


What are you observing this summer?

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