7 reasons why hummingbirds are nature's secret badasses

Hummingbirds may look adorable, but that's just a facade.

Don't mess. Photo by Yuri Cortez/Getty Images.


Deep down, these bad boys are ornery, near-magical flying ninjas. And recent reports confirm they're even more awesome than we thought they were.

Here, then, is a brief, non-exhaustive list of ludicrously strange and amazing things you probably didn't know about these incredible tiny creatures.

1. Hummingbirds sometimes seem really, really pissed off.

Photo by Luis Acosta/Getty Images.

Hummingbird taste receptors are super attuned to sugar. So much so that — as a number of scientists have observed — when you give them food that isn't sweet enough to satisfy them, they appear visibly mad at you. Which you really don't want because...

2. Hummingbirds will cut you.

Photo by Robyn Beck/Getty Images.

Specifically, adult male hummingbirds. According to a report in Slate, they have beaks, "like stilettos, longer and pointier than those of juvenile males or females — the better for stabbing other males in the throat." Like the three hummingbirds seen here absolutely crushing a bird feeder.

3. For a hummingbird, every day is a series of epic keg stands.

Photo by Gabriel Bouys/Getty Images.

Recent studies have shown that hummingbirds have highly sophisticated tongues that function like miniature pumps, which as Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post states, "allows them to drain an entire flower in under a second."

Chug bro. #Chug. #It. #All.

4. Hummingbirds basically have nuclear power plants inside them.


Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images.

This tiny dude lounging on a baseball field may look relaxed but inside is a raging, insatiable energy volcano. Hummingbirds — unassuming as they seem — have the highest known metabolism among homeothermic vertebrates on planet Earth.

Yep. Pack it in voles. Time to admit defeat.

5. When performing courtship rituals, hummingbirds achieve a G-force so extreme it would cause most fighter pilots to black out.

Photo by Robyn Beck/Getty Images.

Trained fighter pilots can sustain up to 8 or 9 Gs in a dive or a hard turn. Hummingbirds can achieve up to 10 Gs while executing a courtship dive, traveling at speeds that, relative to the length of their bodies, are faster than a space shuttle re-entering the atmosphere.

Most ornithologists agree that this explains why hummingbirds always look so damn smug.

6. Most hummingbirds live their entire lives without ever walking.

Photo by Elmer Martinez/Getty Images.

Because of their amazing ability to keep themselves aloft, hummingbirds have no need for your mortal one-foot-in-front-of-the-other nonsense. Hummingbirds spit on your pedometer. They fly, and they are legion. Watch your back, human.

7. Hummingbirds have evolved into terrifying spy robots.

Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images.

Meet the Nano Hummingbird, a tiny, robotic sky craft modeled on nature's most efficient flying machine. According to its website, it was one of Time magazine's "50 Best Inventions" of 2011, and this "unconventional aircraft could someday provide new reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities in urban environments."

Sort of like a drone, but even harder to spot hovering over your house. Chilling!

That said, a real hummingbird could junk this baby anytime, and only by their continued good fortune is it allowed to continue existing.

Don't let your guard down, hummingbirds. We're counting on you to help us all avoid Skynet.

GIF from "Terminator Genisys."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less