The tragic curse of a beautiful bird: What is the negative part that you would not like to become a hummingbird?

Incredible is a phrase that could not describe the great characteristics that hummingbirds have, either because of their unique way of holding still in the air, their striking colors and other unique features, hummingbirds are a true jewel of evolution. But have we ever stopped to think about the negative part? What is the price of being a hummingbird?

The characteristics that these birds possess, no doubt make them amazing living organisms on our planet. Many would argue that these are the most exceptional birds on the planet, and there is no shortage of reasons to think: when we talk about hummingbirds, with about 330 species distributed mainly in tropical America, there are no comparisons that count. Hummingbirds are the true masters of flying, capable of fluttering up to more than 70 times per second achieving absolute mastery of the aerial environment, where there is no acrobatics or other organic mechanism discovered that surpasses it on our planet (Earth).

The ability of hummingbirds to fully control their locomotion in the air column, this allows them to remain suspended at a fixed point, something that no flying vertebrate is able to emulate even with an apex of the precision that these privileged animals demonstrate .

Within their diet, these animals collect the nectar of certain flowers from which they feed using the different forms adapted in their peaks, which are composed of some very long and many more short. The ability to hold on to a fixed point, coupled with a peak and tongue that work with superb precision, guarantee them access to that nectar without touching or leaning on the flower.

Colibrí en pleno proceso de alimentarse  Linda Tanner Creative Commons.png
Hummingbird in the process of feeding | Linda Tanner (Creative Commons)

The characteristic of being the birds with the fastest flight in the earth has besides great admiration “a great curse”. The “tragic curse” that hummingbirds have in their lives is that a hummingbird for moving its wings so fast must be small and light (about five grams on average). That is the only way for such a particular flight system to be Viable, because if we increase the size of the body and its mass, the wings could not move at enough speed to keep the flight suspended.

Biologically we find the problem in which homeothermic animals (known as “warm blood”) of small size find it much more difficult to maintain their body temperature (40ºC in the case of birds) so that their metabolism, even in total Rest is already very high. If to this we join the amount of energy that its tiny muscles need to get those frequencies of 70 flutters per second, the energy consumption goes off scandalously.

Like the bird to make these muscular feats viable, it needs food and oxygen so that it must be pumped through the circulatory system at an equally spectacular rate: the heart of hummingbirds pumps blood to more than 1200 beats per minute, the record Absolute heart rate of vertebrates. Together, hummingbirds have the honor of achieving the highest metabolic rates of the terrestrial biosphere, consuming energy in proportion to their body mass at a rate that is simply unsurpassed by any other biological organism on earth.

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