Which Birds Can Fly Backwards?

There are over ten thousand species of birds in the world. Although similar, they also have their differences. Birds can actually fly backward, pretty fascinating, isn’t it?

Birds are wonderful and intelligent creatures. Studying these creatures will give you insight into them and their lives. There are some very interesting and cool facts about birds. Flying is the signature of birds. The fluttering and flapping of their wings, which propels them forward, is an amazing discovery in itself. Now add the fact that a bird can actually fly backward (now that’s amazing).

which birds can fly backwads

It’s just like a plane moving backward in the sky, or a flying car reversing in the air. Only a helicopter can move backward in the air. This ability is scarce. It is normal to see living things move forward and backward, but seeing a bird flying backward, now that’s not something you see every year. You are about to read a shell-shocking fact about the only bird that flies backward. Let’s dive in.

Hummingbird: The Only Bird That Flies Backward

Birds often fly forward, albeit out of the over ten thousand species, only one species can fly backwards. Well, that pretty much makes them very special, one out of over ten thousand. The hummingbird is the only bird that can fly backward among all the other birds. The hummingbird is a tiny bird, as a matter of fact, they are the smallest of all birds.

Which Birds Can Fly Backwards

Their nomenclature came about the humming sound made by their wings when they flap together. They flap their wings at very high frequencies, and the humming sound is barely audible to humans.

While in flight, hummingbirds have the highest metabolism among all animals except for insects. This supports their constant wing beating during flights and while hovering. It has been estimated that they can beat their wings at a high rate of 88 times per second. The structure and muscle in a hummingbird’s wings give it total control over the way it flies. This is not present in other birds. Through this, they can fly sideways, backward and forward, even diagonally.

Their shoulder is connected via a ball and socket joint, which gives them the liberty to rotate their wings 180 degrees in every direction. The small size of this bird also allows it to change direction anytime and fly faster and easier than any other bird. It has been observed that the hummingbird exert the same energy when it flies backward and forward. This means flying backward is a normal activity for them, just like flying forward is.

There are some other species of birds that can also fly backward. However, they can only do so for a short distance—some species of birds like the egret, warblers, flycatchers, herons e.t.c. They rely on the wind to flutter backward. It is a form of defensive strategy when flying against a strong wind. They flutter backward in order to gain momentum.


For the hummingbird, flying forwards is the same as flying backward. The same energy exerted flying forwards is also exercised flying backward. There’s no difference for them. The hummingbird has no problem flying backward in the rain. In any weather, they can fly backward as easily as they fly forward.

Of course, just like any other two-legged animal, the hummingbird can walk. When feeding, they perch on the feeders and even walk around looking for insects when there is no disturbance around. However, as they are incredible at flying, they spend most of their time in the air. They dart and doge around in the air most times. Well, if you had their abilities, you’d indeed fly all day too.

The physique and skeletal structure of the hummingbird are what enable it to fly backward. The muscles in their wings allow them to move their wings in any direction they desire.

Due to its wings structure, the hummingbird has a high level of control over the way it flies, which is not so with other birds. Its wings’ joints are very close to its small body, thus giving the wings freedom to tilt and pivot in any direction. This contributes to their incredible ability to fly backward.


The hummingbird is the smallest species among all birds; however, there is nothing small about its abilities. They are a delight to watch, and their colors just make them more wonderful. The body structure of the hummingbird makes for an excellent study. Their body largely enables them to perform some slick airborne moves, which can fly backward.

The incredible ability of the hummingbird to fly backward is just one of its unique features. This bird is indeed a special bird.

Author Profile

Gabriel Tackett
Double major in Engineering and Geology at the University of Minnesota. Experienced shooter & hunter for over 15 years. Certified NRA officer for over 10 years working as a writer at Ballachy.com .

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