Hummingbird Engineering Design

Hummingbird Engineering Design

The popularity of our “Dandy Designs” columns exceeds anything else we produce. As we read science literature, new examples of design in nature come across my desk every day. Many living things demonstrate design, but the hummingbird engineering design is one of the most astounding examples.

The first hummingbird of the year arrived at my feeder here in Michigan on the first of May. I am told that the first hummingbird is a “scout,” paving the way for other hummingbirds to come to the feeder and get the sugar nectar they need for energy. How do they know where to go to get their desired sugar? The “scout” that just arrived was here last year at about this time. I know that because he has a scar on his head that seems to be a healed wound from an encounter with a predator. 

We have many questions about how these tiny birds do what they do. Since we are still having chilly nights, the hummingbird’s metabolic system allows it to go into a state where its energy needs are reduced at night while remaining aware of any threats.

How do hummingbirds fly thousands of miles to arrive in Michigan in the spring and return to subtropical areas for the winter? Some have proposed that they hitchhike on geese, but that creative explanation is not supported by the evidence. We observe that the hummingbird engineering design allows them to follow the weather systems that bring warmth in the spring, and they return to warmer areas south of us in the fall.

The engineering behind the hummingbird’s flying ability challenges the best human engineering minds. The hummingbird can fly forward with enough speed to avoid predators, but it can also fly backward, sideways, or hover. The male hummingbirds in our area have a splash of red on their throats, but there is no red pigment in their feathers. Researchers only recently discovered the color dynamics that allow certain colors to be visible, and using it instead of pigment is a new technology.

The hummingbird engineering design conveys an excellent argument for the existence of God as their creator. They are part of our world’s beauty, complexity, and design that defies chance evolution.

— John N. Clayton © 2024