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Thoughts About the Astonishing Migration of Hummingbirds

I’ve written about the migration of hummingbirds before, but I was thinking about the astonishing feat they accomplish, twice a year. When I’ve written about it before, it wasn’t quite in the following way. This should astonish you.

When hummingbirds migrate from the northern US and Canada, they often travel in excess of 1,200 miles to their wintering grounds in southern Mexico and Central America, then they make the trip back in the spring. This is pretty amazing in itself. Using ruby-throated hummingbirds as a representative example, these birds are about 3 ½ inches long. This means that a journey of 1,200 miles is 21,723,428 times the length of the bird. This would be the equivalent of a man six feet tall making a trip of over 447,502,000 miles. That means that the 6-foot tall man could travel all the way around the world over 179,000 times to match the migration of a hummingbird, one-way.

In level flight, different hummingbirds fly at different speeds, but the average is about 25-30 miles per hour. Hummingbirds are capable of making the migration non-stop, which means that it can travel up to 720 miles in a day. That means that the hummingbird can make its migration in less than two days!

It gets even more astonishing when you consider that in level flight, hummingbirds flap their wings an average of 70 times per second. That means that a hummingbird flaps its wings about 252,000 every hour or for every 30 miles of its migration. This also means that the hummingbird must flap its wings 10,080,000 times to make that 1,200-mile migration. That is ten million, eighty thousand wingbeats. 

These little birds don’t just make one such trip per year, they make two. Imagine if you could walk 179,000 times around the world, twice a year, in less than two days each time. If that doesn’t astonish you, I’m not sure what will.

  • Do you think that the migration of hummingbirds is astonishing?

    • Yes
    • No
    • I’ve never thought about it this way before


What do you think?

14 Points

Written by Rex Trulove


    • It still astounds me that a hummer that feeds at my feeder can travel to Guatemala in two days when it took my daughter about a day to fly there, and the airplanes were going substantially faster.