There are over ten thousand species of birds in the world. Birds possess powerful muscles in their wings, along with feathers and bones, that make them adapted for flight. By beating their wings, birds generate force to take off and propel them forward. With their aerodynamic design, they can glide, hover, dive, and swoop through the air in dizzying patterns.
Although similar, they also have their differences. Birds can actually fly backward, pretty fascinating, isn’t it? Read to know which bird can fly backwards.
How Do Birds Fly?
When a bird is flying, their wings are flat so that the air flows easily around it in the direction the animal flies (like your hand cutting through the water or air). However, something special and tricky happens here. As the air flows over the wing, the air flows faster over the top than the bottom because the wing is slightly curved on top.
This means there will be more air on the bottom side, because the air is moving more slowly. When there is more air on the bottom that leads to a push and since the push happens against that wide flat part of the wing, this push lifts the animal. So a bird wing slices in the air in the forward direction and gets pushed up from below; the net result is a flying bird.
Birds possess powerful muscles in their wings, along with feathers and bones, that make them adapted for flight. By beating their wings, birds generate force to take off and propel them forward. With their aerodynamic design, they can glide, hover, dive, and swoop through the air in dizzying patterns. Several birds with exceptionally strong wing muscles can fly for extended periods of time or at very fast speeds. While most birds possess strong muscles to pull their wings down, few have muscles that are equally suited to pulling their wings back up. This discrepancy prevents most birds from flying backward.
Which Bird Can Fly Backwards
Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards. In fact, they can fly in any direction!
Modern hummingbirds emerged somewhere between 30 to 40 million years ago. You might be knowing that these are one of the smallest birds. Hummingbirds belong to the family Trochilidae. Hummingbirds developed more individualized traits in areas with greater flower diversity. In other words, the greater the number of flowers in a region, the more varied the differences between hummingbird species.
The hummingbird is the only bird that can fly backward. A hummingbird’s wings allow it to fly forward, backward, up, and down, as well as in figure-eight patterns. They can beat their wings up to 80 times per second, and generate much more force on their upstroke than other birds. This allows them to hover in place similar to how some insect species hover, rather than the “hovering” used by other birds.
Their wing-flapping rates can reach 80 beats per second, and their heart rates can reach 1,260 beats per minute. Their wings beat so fast that they make a humming noise, which ended up earning the bird its name.
What Makes Hummingbirds Fly Backwards?
Hummingbird flight patterns reveal that it can fly forward, sideways, and even backwards. This type of flight is usually observed when the birds retreat from one flower in order to move to another. Such a midair acrobatic maneuver is not seen in any other bird. The hummingbird can move backward, forward, from side to side and they can hover in place.
What makes this bird’s flight special is that unlike other bird species, its wings stroke backward and forward. In contrast, 99% of birds move their wings in an upward and downward motion. The hummingbird moves its wings at about one hundred and eighty degrees at the shoulders. The tips of the wings trace a figure eight pattern as the backward and forward wing strokes lift them. By simply changing the angle of their wings, the birds can maneuver and change the direction of their flight.
Are There Any Other Birds That Fly Backwards?
Only a very small percentage of birds can fly backwards but only for few seconds. These include flycatcher, warbler and heron which move backwards as a defensive maneuver. The cuckoo can appear to fly backwards when the wind is strong. It is only the hummingbird that can fly backwards for any length of time!