Hummingbird energy is a combination of spiritual devotion, mental agility, and physical determination to reach a goal. “Their metabolic rate when they’re hovering is, pound for pound, 10 times what an elite human athlete can achieve.” What Welch and his colleagues have studied recently is how size relates to energy efficiency. Ken Welch, for one, has spent more than a decade figuring out how these birds manage their energy budgets. New York, But the story’s not yet complete. Some way 10 times more, almost a full ounce. His most recent research with Derrick J. E. Groom, in his lab, and other colleagues is on the size and energy efficiency in hummingbirds. A. No wonder scientists have long studied these birds. So this bird is nearly always on the edge of starvation, needing to slurp up more than its body weight in nectar each day. For us fructose, as in high fructose corn syrup, goes straight to fat. Tips on attracting more hummingbirds: Hummingbirds require a lot of energy. I haven’t actually tried to do this. They need an incredible amount of energy to flap their wings 50 times or more per second in order to maintain hovering flight. Q. A. I learned to become a bit of the hummingbird whisperer. Q. My doctor advised against it. And they need the oxygen to help them metabolize the relatively enormous amounts of sugar they are taking in to get the energy to power their muscles? Kenneth C. Welch Jr. at the University of Toronto, Scarborough has studied the metabolisms of hummingbirds for more than a decade. And since they feed on nectar that is half glucose and half fructose, they’ve evolved a way to send that fructose directly to their muscles to use. Their hearts can beat more than 1,000 times a minute. By using data on oxygen consumption and wing beats to get an idea of how much energy hummingbirds take in and how much work they put out, the scientists found that during strenuous hovering flight, bigger hummingbirds are more efficient energy users than smaller ones. And so, what we see is that the apparent efficiency of the smallest hummingbirds is down around 10 percent. How in the world do you do that? Please refresh the page and try again. What does it all mean? We do know that there is a different form of glucose transporter that is a specialist at taking up fructose. Metabolism at full burn. Down in South and Central America, you can find some much larger hummingbird species. We need to do some follow up work in order to really confirm that. So, for a human to keep pace with a hummingbird calorie-wise, you would have to consume : To the North and Northeast, hummingbirds brighten our gardens from April to October. So I can say, ‘This human athlete is consuming four milliliters of oxygen per gram of body weight per hour.’. Roman-era Egyptian child mummy scanned with laser-like precision, Physicists could do the 'impossible': Create and destroy magnetic fields from afar, Who set up this mysterious metal monolith in Utah desert? (It's not aliens. You manage to get hummingbirds to voluntarily put their heads in masks while they hover and feed. And if I ask the hummingbird to do extra, if I give it a little bit of extra weight to wear, that can go up to well above 60. When a hummingbird is hovering with its heart beating more than 1,000 times a minute, it burns more energy, ounce for ounce, than any other bird or mammal. Q. Hummingbird s are the speed freak s of the bird family. Receive mail from us on behalf of our trusted partners or sponsors? So, their tissues are using oxygen at rates that are many, many times what we can possibly achieve. And what Welch discovered is that the faster the wing beats, the less efficient the energy use. Our Ruby-throated hummingbirds weigh less than a penny, 2.5 to 3 grams. And getting them to their tissues is enhanced because hummingbird muscles and hummingbird hearts and hummingbird blood vessels are so good. And even glucose doesn’t move to human muscles as quickly. A. I did a calculation back in graduate school. The hummingbird heart rate is high and it’s pumping so much blood per unit of time. This is infrared, a glimpse of a hummingbird’s internal heat. If I were to stick an elite Olympic athlete, a cross-country skier, onto a cycle ergometer and ask them to wear a mask and say, ‘O.K., go as hard as you can go, and I want to measure your peak metabolic rate,’ one of the ways we can quantify that is in oxygen consumption. But hummingbirds can essentially mainline nectar. Up in the range of 10-12 grams. And then there’s one species, the giant hummingbird, that sits at about 18-20 grams. Good thing, otherwise in eight hours without feeding, it could starve to death. Humans mainly fuel their bodies through glucose. A. Hummingbirds really do vary in size. Hummingbirds have the highest energy expenditure of any warm-blooded animal, with a heart rate of up to 500 beat-per-minute, blindingly fast wing beats and sustained hovering. Compare that with a human: An elite cyclist at 60 percent of his maximum aerobic rate can only support 15 to 30 percent of his energy needs with consumed sugars. In order to study these birds, Welch has to train them to hover and drink with their head in a mask that measures oxygen use. By comparing the energy requirement with the amount of carbon-13, they showed that within 20 minutes of feeding, the hummingbirds were supporting more than 90 percent of their hovering needs with the cane sugar. Hummingbirds are pure delight, both to the eye and to science. In our muscle cells that transporter is barely present. Live Science is part of Future US Inc, an international media group and leading digital publisher. Hummingbirds can use that fructose at very high rates. And I did the calculation and said, ‘O.K., if I scale one of my hummingbirds up to adult male human size, my size, how much sugar would I need to drink per minute if I were theoretically a hovering hummingbird as big as I am?’ It turned out to be right around the amount of sugar that’s in a can of Coca-Cola per minute. At such times, some hummingbirds could starve to death while they sleep because they’re not getting to eat every half-hour or so. Every year — from late winter into spring — the .12-ounce (0.003-kilogram) bird flies about 3,400 miles (5,470 kilometers) from its winter sites in Mexico to summer breeding spots as far north as Alaska.