Slowest wing beat, fastest wing beat

Birds fly. Their little wings do so much work, beating and beating, keeping their bodies afloat. We admire them in many ways. We try to imitate them. Oh what we would not do to fly!! Most small songbirds fly between 20 and 20 miles per hour.1 And most songbirds have a wingbeat frequency between 10 and 25 beats per seconds. One of our personal favorite backyard birds, the chickadees, have a wingbeat frequency of about 27 beats per second.

Slowest Wing Beat

Large vultures will often only flap their wings one time per second.

Photograph by Jeff Lynch (All Rights Reserved by the photographer)

Fastest Wing Beat

It should come as no surprise to anyone who watches birds that a hummingbird beats its wings the fastest. The title of fastest wing beat goes to a hummingbird in South America, the Horned sungem Heliactin cornuta. It  wings beat a mind-boggling 90 times a second.

Horned Sungem -- Bird with the fastest wingbeat frequency

Horned Sungem -- Bird with the fastest wingbeat frequency -- Photo by Arthur Grosset

  1. Podulka, Sandy, Ronald W. Rohrbaugh, Jr., and Rick Bonney, Editors. Handbook of Bird Biology. 2nd edition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2004. []

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