A Life On The Edge

Imagine yourself a hummingbird. First and most importantly you’re plumb adorable. More clinically, at up to 80 strokes per second, your wingbeats alone are the envy of birds everywhere. It’s not just the frequency of flapping that causes a flap though, your circular wing motion allows you to do things impossible for other birds. You can hover, zip sideways, and most impressively, fly backwards–a feat enjoyed by no other bird. You’re fast too; on a straight shot you might be able to reach a speed of 30 miles per hour (approximately 50 kph) and twice that in a dive. You have a pretty impressive cardiorespiratory system to support all this too. Your heart might beat as fast as 1250 beats in a single minute and you take 250 itty bitty sips of breath in the same amount of time. You put Arnold to shame too; your pectoralis muscles make up 25 percent of your entire body mass. You are totally pumped up–in your chestal region at least.

Pretty cool right? Maybe not. All of this crazy activity comes at huge cost metabolically. To support all this motion and cardiorespiratory frenetics you are ravenous. You must eat more than your body weight in nectar each day. It’s a good thing you can hover, zip and zoom because you need to visit hundreds flowers to get that amount of food. Flowers are well, miserably mundane necessities. So massive are the demands of your ravenous metabolism you can only survive a night’s sleep without food by entering into torpor–bird-style hibernation. Worse than that, you will spend every moment of your life just an hour or so away from starvation. Think about that. Every second of your existence is a life on the edge of certain death. Poor hummingbird-version-of-you; not so cool now are you?

On the upside, you’re still plumb adorable.


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  1. Posted December 9, 2012 at 9:16 am by Audubon Hickok | Permalink

    Wow, your amazing image pumps me up! Your description of the hummer is perfect, both as an incredible organism, and the desperate mode of its existence. Now I get why they are so feisty with each other around the feeders. What a great post this is (I love me some birds)!!!

  2. Posted December 9, 2012 at 9:31 am by Roland Theys | Permalink

    Wonderful photo!

  3. Posted December 9, 2012 at 10:31 pm by Phil Vaughn | Permalink

    Lovely shot. The colors are great and you caught the hummer’s wings really well. Fascinating creatures to be sure. What an incredible life they live!

  4. Posted December 10, 2012 at 6:57 am by rian | Permalink

    that’s a good bit of info about these cuties! you’d make for an excellent bird photographer.. 😀

  5. Posted December 11, 2012 at 1:12 am by fabrizio | Permalink

    a perfect captured my friend, indeed is not easy, but your photo is great!!!! also is in a wonderful light

  6. Posted December 11, 2012 at 5:08 am by yz | Permalink

    amazing capture, wow

  7. Posted December 11, 2012 at 9:36 am by Diane - Daily Walks | Permalink

    Gorgeous image, Christopher!

  8. Posted December 11, 2012 at 1:43 pm by Brenda | Permalink

    What an amazing image. What an amazing creature. What an amazing story.

  9. Posted December 12, 2012 at 9:20 am by george | Permalink

    An incredible image – and story – even the rather negative second half. The positive take is that the humming bird can’t read your blog and can stay in blissful ignorance.

  10. Posted December 13, 2012 at 2:40 am by joshi daniel | Permalink

    excellent timing and beautiful :)

  11. Posted December 13, 2012 at 7:01 am by sherri | Permalink

    your capture is exquisite. feels like spring.

  12. Posted December 13, 2012 at 4:33 pm by faisal | Permalink

    nice timing. nice title too!

  13. Posted December 14, 2012 at 8:40 am by Klaus | Permalink

    Just beautyfull !! I never seen a hummingbird live, hope some day i do.

  14. Posted December 27, 2012 at 6:18 am by bluechameleon | Permalink

    I can’t imagine all that work!
    Amazing shot Christopher!

  15. Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:17 am by Anneli - A'la Foto | Permalink

    I didn’t know that about this adorable little Hummingbird. Thanks for the information! It’s a stunning picture!

  16. Posted January 1, 2013 at 9:35 pm by Rob | Permalink

    All hopped up on sugar. Beautiful image of your little hummer friend. I am amazed how territorial they are at our hummingbird feeders.

  17. Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:31 am by Roland Theys | Permalink

    Happy new year!

  18. Posted January 3, 2013 at 6:12 am by Will | Permalink

    Happy New Year Christopher,

    What an amazing picture of a wonderful bird. The photo geek in me is wondering what you shot it with, but I’m also just really impressed that it has to eat more than it’s own weight in nectar. A tough life, but could be worse.

    Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy 2013!

  19. Posted January 3, 2013 at 2:18 pm by Kevin | Permalink

    Wow, amazing shot !
    Great work and happy new year !

  20. Posted January 20, 2013 at 12:48 pm by Aurore | Permalink

    Love how everything seemsto be generous. A beautiful gift.

  21. Posted January 25, 2013 at 8:08 am by Photo Attraction | Permalink

    Love the matching pinks.

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