Anna’s Hummingbird is the fastest animal in the world, scientists have discovered.
Researchers have found that the spectacular courtship dive of the Anna’s Hummingbird makes it comparatively speedier than a jet fighter at full throttle or the space shuttle re-entering the atmosphere. (video)
They found that when the bird, a native of North America, pulls up at the end of the swoop it experiences forces 10 times the pull of gravity – more than even experienced jet pilots can endure without passing out.
The amazing speeds were measured using a series of cameras which calculated that the male bird, which is only four inches long, attained speeds in excess of 58mph, as it dived from 100ft in the air to impress a mate.
The team at the University of California, which reported its findings in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, revealed that the bird flies at 385 “body lengths a second” which is faster than the previous record holders, the peregrine falcon diving in pursuit of prey and swallows diving from high altitude.
It is also faster than a fighter plane with its afterburners on – 150 “body lengths a second” – and the space shuttle during atmospheric re-entry (207 body lengths a second).
The Anna’s Hummingbird, which was named in the 19th century after Anna Massena, Duchess of Rivoli and weighs less than five grams, normally flies at 33mph but hits even higher speeds when display diving during the breeding season.
When a female flies onto a male’s territory, he rises up and then dives. At the bottom of the dive when the bird reaches top speed it produces a loud sound, described by some as an “explosive squeak” with its outer tail-feathers.