Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Sound of Hummingbird Wings

from US Fish & Wildlife
I was in the garden yanking weeds when I heard the soft whirring of hummingbird wings. A ruby-throated hummer hovered above the chives, a splash of red and emerald amongst the pale amethyst of the earliest blossoms.

Hummingbirds are amazing for so many reasons: they can fly up, down, backwards and sideways; they can stop in midair; they rival the Blue Angels for aerial displays. For such small creatures – only 3 to 4 inches long and so light you could mail about ten of them for the price of a first class stamp – ruby-throated hummingbirds are amazingly strong. During migration they fly about 600 miles.

But back to their wings. A ruby-throated hummingbird beats its wings more than 50 times a second.  I could probably flap my arms 50 times a minute – but not long enough to fly 600 miles south for the winter.(Some hummingbirds migrate much farther!)

And it’s the wings that make that wonderful whirring distinctive to hummingbirds. It’s soft, but strong enough to hear amidst the buzzing of bees and rustle of leaves in the breeze.

This week listen to wing sounds: the drone of bumblebees, the flutter of moths against the screen, the sound of chickadee wings as they flit by. By the end of the week you may even be able to identify the kinds of bees in your yard by the pitch of their buzzing.

For more amazing facts about ruby-throated hummingbirds – and to listen to wing sounds – visit Cornell’s All About Birds.

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