Animal Poachery

Lizard Hummingbird Snake

Ξ Poem Hummingbird Notes
© 1986..2009 by Andreas Wittenstein. Some rights reserved. (CC)

thrumming wings: The hummingbird beats its wings so rapidly that the sound of the repetitive beats has a musical pitch well within the range of human hearing, producing the characteristic hum for which they are named. In hovering flight, depending mainly on the size, gender, and species, the frequency of its wing beats ranges from around E two octaves below middle C (a little over 40 Hertz) to around E one octave below middle C (a little over 80 Hertz).

blurred: The wings of a hummingbird in flight move its wings so quickly that to stop their motion, a camera needs an exposure time of less than 1/10000 of a second. This is far to quick for the unaided human eye, so their wings always appear blurred.

hundred-wing: Like all birds, the hummingbird has only have one pair of wings, but the hummingbird beats its wings so rapidly —up to 200 beats per second— that, glimmering in the sunlight, they often look like multiple pairs.

whir: Unlike other birds, the hummingbird does not simply flap its wings. Instead, it beats them in a figure-of-infinity pattern (∞), adjusting the pitch of the wing throughout so as to gain lift on both the forward stroke and the backstroke.

sings at a rung barely heard by more humanly beings: The songs of hummingbirds are pitched so high and sung at such a fast tempo that they sound to humans like mere squeaks, but slowed down they show as much complexity as almost any songbird's. The vocal pitch range of hummingbirds ranges from around A two octaves above middle C (1760 Hertz) to beyond A five octaves above middle C (14080 Hertz), sometimes covering most of that range within a single song.

summoning chirps: In addition to their virtuoso contrasoprano singing voices, hummingbirds can chirp with their wings, as the males of most species do to microthunderous effect when braking at the bottom of their courtship dives. While executing this chirping maneuver, their wingbeat accelerates to a very audible 200 Hz, around B below middle C.

tonguing bright syrups: Hummingbirds feed mainly on nectar, which they drink by lapping it up with a fringed forked tongue curled up from the sides to form a double drinking straw. They supplement this diet with insects caught up in the nectar.

honey-bud whorls: In return for the nectar they provide, many flowering plants are pollinated mainly or exclusively by hummingbirds.

unsummable slurps: Hummingbirds take up to 12 slurps of nectar per second, typically adding up to twice their body weight each day. The extremely high metabolism it takes to power their flight muscles forces them to spend most of the day sipping nectar.

throbbing wings: The superrapid throbbing of a hummingbird's wings is facilitated by flight musculature whose mass makes up a third of its body weight. These muscles, in turn are supplied by the throbbing of its oversized heart which beats over 1200 times a minute during fast chases. Even when perched, the hummingbird's heart pounds away at 500 to 600 times a minute; But at night, to conserve energy, the tiny bird falls into a torpid sleep during which its pulse falls to below 40.

shimmering skirt: Most hummingbirds, especially the males, are adorned with iridescent feathers that sparkle like rubies and emeralds in the sunlight.

hovering: By adjusting the pitch and angle of attack of its wings in different stages of its patented full-power stroke, the hummingbird has the unique ability among birds to not only fly forwards and hover, but to fly backwards, sideways, and upside down.

spins in a plummeting hurl on its homeward swing: In most hummingbird species, the male performs spectacular dives above the female during his courtship ritual.

together they twirl in a helical whirl: In some hummingbird species, the couple circle each other at high speed while zooming about in the air, forming a double helix.

an ephemeral world: As one might expect from a creature that lives its life at such extremes of speed, the hummingbird's average life expectancy is very short: perhaps one to three years. Nevertheless, some hummingbirds manage to survive their wild pace to the old age of 12 years.

For more information on hummingbirds, see the Wikipedia Hummingbird article.

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