How Fast Do Hummingbirds Flap Their Wings?

Hummingbirds fly at what speed? The wing speed of hummingbirds varies based on the species. The faster the hummingbird flaps its wings, the smaller it is. The wings of a ruby-throated hummingbird beat roughly 50 times each second. The wings of a rufous hummingbird beat at a rate of 52 to 62 beats per second. The enormous hummingbird of the Andes, roughly the size of a cardinal, hums at a rate of 12 beats per second. The bee hummingbird of Cuba is the world's smallest bird, measuring about 2 inches from bill tip to tail tip and buzzing at 80 beats per second.

Ruby-throated hummingbird flying near a feeder

With the introduction of high-speed motion photography, scientists can now precisely measure and examine wing movements that are much too fast for the human eye to detect. While hovering, hummingbirds flap their wings anywhere from 10 to more than 80 times per second. They flap their wings considerably faster during some species' males' courtship display dives. Hummingbirds can also fly quite rapidly, reaching speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. During those stunning courting display dives, they triple that speed.

Female Anna’s hummingbird in flight

Hummingbirds with the fastest flight speeds

The fastest hummingbirds fly at breakneck speeds. Christopher James Clark, a UC Berkeley hummingbird researcher, revealed that the male Anna's hummingbird curls its wings in to its sides during its courtship plunge. It reaches a top speed of about 90 feet per second on average. This is the highest relative speed ever recorded for a vertebrate. Even more incredible, the bird endures centripetal accelerations roughly nine times larger than gravitational acceleration as it pushes up with its wings outstretched.

In short, hummingbirds can outfly fighter jets in terms of speed. They can tolerate g-forces that would cause a normal person to black out.

Hummingbirds are also skilled at hovering, which is the approach used by most species to feed on flower nectar. They can also fly backwards and, for a brief period of time, upside down. Discover 13 incredible hummingbird facts.

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