If there were a beauty prize for birds, the hummingbird would undoubtedly claim the first position. These birds, native to the North, South and especially Central America are Nature’s fire-flashing jewels. Their plumage is so brilliant that naturalists have given them the names of precious stones viz. Topaz hummingbird, Ruby-Throated hummingbird, Amethyst-Throated hummingbird, Fork-Tailed Emerald hummingbird etc. The brilliance of their feathers is produced by each barbule (a part of feather) which breaks up light like a prism.
|Upside down hummingbird|
Hummingbirds are the smallest of all birds and some of them are no larger than a medium-sized insect, weighing only about two to four grams. Yet this minute bird has the same parts of the body as any other bird: a heart, a stomach and a liver. Hummingbirds have special, vibrant way of flying, which produces a buzzing sound similar to that of bumblebees. Their wings beat so fast (50 to 70 times a second) that they become almost invisible to our eyes. Not only that, the hummingbird can also fly up, down, sideways, backwards and even upside down. (See photo above.)
The reason they can achieve such exceptional flight patterns is that they can rotate their wings in a circle, creating power on the upstroke as well as downstroke. They are the only birds which can hover in mid-air. While hovering, the wings act like an oscillating helicopter blade with a steep angle of attack, forcing the air downward with both up and down strokes. This unique method of flight allows them to draw from flowers the nectar, which they collect as avidly as any insect.