Little life: how tiny dimensions forced hummingbirds to become real superheroes

If you are very small, then the world around you is mortally dangerous for you. But brave birds, were able to find ways to survive among giants

Little life: how tiny dimensions forced hummingbirds to become real superheroes


Trochilidae family

Little life: how tiny dimensions forced hummingbirds to become real superheroesLittle life: how tiny dimensions forced hummingbirds to become real superheroes

Class– birds
Detachment – Cargeted
Family – Hummingbird

In total, about 350 types of hummingbirds are known, and all of them live on the American continent. For such tiny creatures, these birds live extremely long – up to ten years. At the same time, birds never go down to the ground: their small legs are not adapted to walk. At night, hummingbirds fall into the likeness of hibernation – to save energy.

The speed of life

To snatch at least something from the cruel world, hummingbirds are forced to act very quickly. These birds are planetary record holders for relative flight speed. If passenger planes flew at the speed of hummingbirds, we would get to the destination 3-4 times faster than now.

However, birds are well performed by absolute indicators: a long-tailed humming-a-distance Permanent Phaethornis SuperCiliosus weighing 5-7 grams can fly at a speed of 40 km/h to 40 meters. In the diving flight of hummingbirds and completely accelerate to 80 km/h, however, not for long. Bird wings at the same time make up to 80 waves per second.

Super -Energy

To withstand the pace, which is envied by large animals, the hummingbird had to disperse his metabolism into full. In flight, these birds spend 10 times more energy per unit than the best athletes when running at a hundred meters.

Patuns develop such power due to a number of devices. One of them is a giant heart that occupies almost half of the body cavity. In flight, hummingbirds spend more oxygen (of course, in relative quantities) than any other vertebrates, and in order to deliver it to the fabrics, the bird’s heart beats with a frequency of up to 1,200 beats per minute. In rest, it slows down “only” up to 250 strokes.

Volumetric lungs of hummingbirds “absorb” oxygen from incoming air more efficiently than that of other birds, blood with an increased content of red blood cells super -efficiently binds gas, and a dense capillary network in the muscles allows them to transmit it “fuel” as quickly as possible.

Little life: how tiny dimensions forced hummingbirds to become real superheroesThe largest representative of the family of the gigantic hummingbird weighs “whole” 20 grams 

Finally, a powerful energy station operates inside each Caperia Code. Cells create energy from compounds coming with food in special “factories” – mitochondria. The obtained “kilowatts” stock up in the form of adenosine triphosphoric acid (ATP) – a universal cell battery. Hummingbirds have a “working” surface of mitochondria than other birds, and the “factories” themselves work in a permanent aircraft mode.

But, despite all these tricks, the ladbounds cannot stand the maximum loads for a long time. So 80% of the time are forced to sit on a branch, recovering after extreme battles with the “big” world.


To live in your crazy rhythm, hummingbirds need to eat often and properly. And if people can sometimes violate the balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, for hummingbirds, maintaining it is a matter of life and death. Unlike people, for fast hummingbirds, the right diet is carbohydrate.

Their main food, floral nectar, is almost pure sugar syrup. There is no time for tiny birds and there is no need to think about the future. Therefore, most of the consumed nectar is spent right there, and only a small part is stored in the form of fat.

Moreover, nectar falls immediately into the duodenum, bypassing the stomach to speed up the casting of the “fuel”. But on one “gas station” hummingbirds can fly only a few minutes. Therefore, they have to hardly save all their lives: nectar is used exclusively for the flight, and in other cases, reserve fuel is in progress, that is, fat reserves. But even despite the scrupulous distribution of calories, weapons can fly no more than 20% of the wakefulness time.

At emergency, birds are used to fly fat. From an energy point of view, it is worse than nectar: its effectiveness is less than 16%. However, without a fat “pillow of safety”, hummingbirds cannot survive: it is not possible every day to find enough nutritious flowers. Therefore, fat depot of birds, again, unlike people, are formed very quickly and are also consumed as rapidly.

Little life: how tiny dimensions forced hummingbirds to become real superheroesAt dawn, the males of hummingbirds fly around their territory 

This is especially important during annual migrations that have to perform a migratory hummingbird of the northern latitudes. For example, Slavsphorus Rufus humming humming, every spring and autumn overcomes the distance from Canada to Mexico. On the trip, birds make several stops, during which they are intensively feed and gain fat. During the day, their fat depot can increase by 10% of the total weight of the bird.

No love

The difficulties of being forced hummingbirds to despise the most important thing in life – love. In some species, males and females have irreconcilable rivals. Purple hummingbirds Eulampis jugularis lives in the small Antille Islands and feeds on the nectar of helikonia flowers. Short -blocked males are larger and more aggressive than females and monopolize areas rich in food.

Although the main dish of males is gelikonia, a “universal” short beak helps them easily get nectar from other small flowers. Females are pushed out in worst places. To survive, they seek rare large flowers of helikonia day after day: males do not guard them, as they cannot get to deeply hidden contents. And only thanks to this long-cereal females manage to feed themselves at least somehow.


Big animals that do not need to think every second how not to become a dinner can afford to be gourmets and choose the most delicious pieces. Tiny hummingbirds are forced to eat everything that gives them critical calories.

Little life: how tiny dimensions forced hummingbirds to become real superheroesHummingbird eggs are also the smallest among birds 

It was previously believed that individual species drink nectar only a specific flower. But reality is much harsher, and birds cannot be picky, looking for the same flower. After all, every minute of flight for hummingbirds is a huge energy consumption.

Little life: how tiny dimensions forced hummingbirds to become real superheroesIn the shadow of the fire-hearted hummingbirds looks dark gray, but in the light of the sun, its plumage lights up with all the colors of the rainbow

To survive, the majority of hummingbirds “hill” all large bright flowers with a deep whisk, which are able to reach. Unless it is more convenient for birds with a long beak in flowers more, and short-cloth prefers small corolla. Such specialization allows short and long-circuent species not to compete for resources.

But some birds unilaterally violate the “Gentlemen Agreement”. For example, the owners of a short beak eared a hummingbibri Heliothryx Barroti instead of being content with small colors, steal nectar from large ones, piercing the base of their cups. The plant is not pollinated at the same time, so that the eared hummingbird behaves as a parasite, reducing the chances of surviving not only relatives, but also flowers.

Separate desperate species nevertheless reserved pride, and they refused to eat everything in a row, just to survive. Hummingbird-mechkek Ensifora Ensifora with an unusually long beak eats exclusively nectar of one type of passiflora-Passiflora Mixta. The flower, in turn, completely depends on the pollinator – more to its pollen, hidden deep in the whisk, no one can reach.

Competition for fuel

Although it seems that in the tropical forests of flowers without counting, all of them are not enough. Therefore, tiny birds wage an irreconcilable war with each other, competing for nectar. In one place of feeding, up to 28 types of hummingbirds can accumulate.

Large views rule the ball, pushing the small on the periphery. Many “kids” in such a situation have no chances to get nectar at all, so they have to climb the mountains. Living there is much more difficult than in the sun -flooded lowlands. For example, the flowers of some cacti in the mountains in the north of Brazil blossom only a few hours, closer to the evening, and if the chrysolampis mosquitus rubbine hummingbird will miss time, he will have to starve until the next morning. But, despite the hardships of life in the mountains, applicants for a valuable nectar there are less.

1/3-libri-brilliant lunch with nectar tropical etlingers

Finally, hummingbirds are forced to compete even with those whom the “big” birds consider to be food. Among the insects there are many nectar lovers – these are daytime butterflies, and brawls, and bumblebees. Hummingbirds are clearly fighting them for food, and, as a rule, they win, but if there are too many arthropods, they cannot drive away all the birds. Moreover, in size, some insects are not inferior to them. Walls and bumblebees are especially dangerous: if one of them stung the baby, there will be no chance of surviving a bird.

Nutritional supplements

Eating only nectar, hummingbirds risk not receiving the necessary amino acids: for a full life, they need animal proteins. Therefore, a small but important part of the diet of all types is insects and spiders. Such “additives” are especially necessary during periods of reproduction and molting, when birds need a lot of protein. And to make up for the lack of minerals, hummingbirds eat earth and clay on occasion.

Endless food

Not only are the hummingbirds, which are larger species pushed out from all “normal” resources, there are not your favorite dishes, but all in a row, they are also forced to do it constantly. To replenish the calorie supply rapidly melting due to frantic metabolism, they have to have a snack every 10-15 minutes. During the day, birds eat nectar half their own w8. A few hours of hunger for hummingbirds mean certain death.

Little life: how tiny dimensions forced hummingbirds to become real superheroes

To save time for food, hummingbirds drink nectar, hovering in the air. This goes to the break in energy, so the birds learned to empty the flower coroners with cosmic speed – in a few seconds. A long tongue helps with lightning speed with food, with the help of which they caress nectar, almost like cats or dogs. In a second, birds immerse the tongue in sweet juice up to 20 times.

To consider a new flower and decide whether it is worth spending time on it, as well as to drink it to the bottom, the hummingbird developed a jewelry flight: they learned to stop abruptly, hang in one place for a long time, fly backwards and even downwards. This is not available to any other birds.

Photo: Nature Pl (X4) / Legion-Media, Getty Images, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). 2017. The iUcn Red List of Threatened Species. Version 3.1, Alamy, Nature Pl (X2)/ Legion-Media, Diomedia

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