Can Birds Fly Backwards?


The only birds that can fly backwards for any length of time are hummingbirds.

The majority of birds are unable to fly backwards because of the structure of their wings. They have strong muscles to pull the wing down but much weaker muscles to pull the wings back up so the air around the wing is forced backwards pushing the bird forward.

Some birds, such as herons, egrets, flycatchers and warblers, can flutter backwards for a short distance as a defensive strategy, and some birds, such as cuckoos, if they are flying against a strong wind, appear to be fly backwards, but relative to the air they are moving forwards.

The muscles in a hummingbird’s wings can move their wings up, down, backwards and forwards and they can also rotate them to make a figure of eight. This gives them the ability to make some spectacular airborne moves, including the ability to fly backwards.

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