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Photo: Martin Dollenkamp
Amazing Flying Machines!
A hummingbird can't walk or hop, but it can zip backward, forward, sideways, and upside down. It can even hover in mid-air as it sips nectar from flowers! Few other birds can do any of these things. What's his secret?

Well-Adapted Wings
A few adaptations help him do this. Unlike other birds, a hummingbird's wings attach to its body only at its shoulder joints. This enables the bird to move its wings in all directions and rotate them 180 degrees. Its large set of flight muscles attached to a large breastbone provide the "oomph" to do this and more!

Hover Like a Hummer!

Put your hands out to the side, palms down, and create a "figure 8." Here's how: Bring your hand forward and then up as you turn your palms up. Make sure your thumbs lead the way. As your hands go back, down and around, you'll come back to where you started. Imagine doing this 50 to 80 times a second as you take a long drink!

Because a hummer's "upstroke" muscles are as strong as its "downstoke" muscles, it can hover in mid-air. To do this, it turns its wings over and back in a figure eight shape.

Did you know that a hummingbird flies with its hands? It has a short, thick upper bone (like the top of our arms) called a humerus. But its "handbones" are very long. These support its large primary feathers and let it quicky move its wings without bending them. As it flies, its wings beat so fast (about 75 beats per second) that they sound like they're humming! One Journey North observer said, "It's very noisy when flying. It almost sounds like a little propeller plane!" Click here to listen >>.

A Short Tale of Tails
A hummingbird's tail feathers help it balance, take-off, stop, and steer!


How Do These Adaptations Help Hummers Survive?

Think. Then come back next week for an exciting slideshow.
Discover how hummingbirds use their acrobatic abilities to defend food sources, scare off thieves, and impress potential mates!



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