Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hummingbird Heart

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for hummingbirds, the little jewels of the bird world. There's something fragile about them that I understand in an intangible way.
Every year, I grow pineapple sage and lobelia in hopes of attracting hummingbirds to my back yard. Whenever I see one, I run to get my camera and attempt to take a picture. It shouldn’t surprise you that I’ve never succeeded.

A hummingbird is about the size of a cork from a wine bottle, and its heart the size of a baby's fingernail. Comparing the bird’s weight vs. heart size ratio, they have the largest hearts in the world. When you consider that a hummingbird's heart whirs at 500 beats a minute at rest, and up to 1,200 beats a minute in flight, you wonder if they experience time differently than humans. With exquisite eyesight that gives them an ability to catch tiny insects mid-flight, their experience of a second must be more like a minute to us.

All living creatures have approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. Tortoises spend them very slowly, allowing them to live twice and thrice the years of humans. But hummingbirds spend them faster than any other creature, so they live only two to eight years.

Hummingbirds have metabolisms that I can only compare to the speed of light. Their little bodies, completely lacking fat cells, devour oxygen and calories faster than a jet engine. Ambitious in spite of their size, they live closer to death on a daily basis. They frequently die of heart attack. But when hummingbirds sleep, their heart rate slows to about 36 beats per minute, exhausted by the daily marathon.

So, the next time you fall, exhausted, into bed after a stressful and busy day, think of the frantic life of a hummingbird.

No comments:

Share this with the world

Bookmark and Share