Hummingbirds are amazing creatures with fast-moving wings and long leg. They enjoy darting around nectar feeders and flowers across the U.S.
How much do you know about our feathered little friends? This article details the sleep habits of hummingbirds.
Hummingbirds can travel rapidly thanks to their swift movements and lightning-fast wings, they travel rapidly through any park or garden, so, understandably, they would be worn out at the end of each day.
Being such little, fun creatures, hummingbirds arouse the interest of many, but this thought, brings up many questions, such as do hummingbirds sleep? If they do, where does such a tiny bird find a safe space to spend the night?
Do hummingbirds sleep? Yes, hummingbirds sleep at night but this sleep is quite unusual. Instead of regular sleep, they get into a state similar to hibernation known as torpor. Unlike other hibernating animals, hummingbirds do not hibernate only during the winter. It is done every night.
Hummingbirds are fascinating little birds with their long beaks and fast-moving wings. They can be seen darting around nectar feeders and flowers across the U.S. How much do you know about these tiny feathered friends? These facts might surprise you and you might even learn a thing or two about your backyard visitors.
10 Facts About Hummingbirds
1. Hummingbirds are the smallest birds on record. Unlike other species they do not migrate in flocks, on the flip side they love to travel alone for up to 500 miles a time.
2. Hummingbird is a name coined that comes from the humming noise their wings make when it flaps rapidly.
3. Hummingbirds are the only birds capable of backward flight.
4. They do not have the sensory ability to smell, but they have a spectacular color vision. Though hummingbirds cannot sniff out feeders, red dye must never be used as nectar as it may harm the birds. A way around is to plant orange or red flowers or employ the use of feeders that are red colored by structure.
5. Most hummingbirds weigh less than a nickel.
6. Hummingbirds cannot hop or walk, their tiny legs are only used for moving and perching.
7. To drink nectar found in feeders, hummingbirds have to rapidly move their tongues in and out 13 times per second, and they’re able to consume twice their body weight daily.
7. Female hummingbirds lay an average of two eggs and the eggs can be found in nests smaller than a half-dollar. Some hummingbird species resort to spider silk, plant down, and other forms of naturally occurring resources that are capable of expanding as their babies start to grow.
9. A flock of hummingbirds can be referred to as:
- A bouquet
- A glittering
- A hover
- A shimmer
- A tune
10. As of today we have over 330 known species of hummingbirds in North and South America. Some common species found in the U.S include:
- Rufous Hummingbird
- Anna’s Hummingbird
- Calliope Hummingbird
- Broad-tailed Hummingbird
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird
- Black-chinned Hummingbird
Hummingbirds are among the world’s smallest birds (the smallest being about 2 inches long), and it is always interesting to watch their tiny bodies buzz around as they feed on the nectar from flowers or take a sip from a backyard feeder.
The Hummingbird’s Deep Sleep State or Torpor
Because hummingbirds move so swiftly, they use up a large amount of energy (the metabolic rate of a hummingbird is 100 times that of an elephant!) and thus need to rest without burning any more energy, or at least without burning as much as they do during the day.
Torpor allows the hummingbird to do that. When they are in this state, the metabolism of the hummingbird slows to 1/15 which is the usual rate. They also lower their body temperature remarkably, to become hypothermic.
Their breathing also becomes significantly shallow, thus when they are in a state of torpor, hummingbirds look like they are dead. Their brains hardly do any work, and they are in such a solid-state of sleep, they most likely would not even respond to being nudged.
By restricting their body systems in such a substantial way, they can prevent themselves from using up too many calories and preserve energy during the night. It is also a way for them to thrive during the night when the temperature drops since they do not have adequate feathers to keep warm.
As mentioned earlier, getting into their hibernation-like state involves lowering their temperature quite a bit, so they do not have to burn the energy needed to retain high body temperature.
This activity doesn’t have to take place in a particular location. A hummingbird can perch anywhere it feels safe to get into a state of torpor, this is usually on a branch, and most times, it hangs upside down to sleep (which contributes to the impression of a dead bird).
For mother hummingbirds, however, they sit on their nests at night to watch over their young.
After three weeks of sleeping with mummy, the babies leave and each of them will have to find their own safe space to spend the night. Because of the complex nature of this activity, hummingbirds go to bed early.
They have to start getting ready for torpor about 30 minutes before the sun sets, due to the time it takes for their body systems to slow down and for their temperatures to drop adequately. They usually locate their safe spaces and hang upside down, settling down for the night.
As their systems slow down, their necks withdraw so that their heads are facing upward at a weird angle, and their feathers puffed out. Thus, not only do hummingbirds look like they’re dead while sleeping, but they also look quite fluffy.
In the morning, it takes up to 20 minutes for a hummingbird to wake up (return from a state of torpor) because, just the way it takes time for its systems to slow down, it also takes some time for it to speed up again.
During the waking up process, the hummingbird will begin to shiver to warm itself back to a normal temperature, and, sometimes, the bird’s breath speeds up during this process, and it can sound as though the hummingbird is snoring.
Just like in humans, the first meal a hummingbird eats after waking up is the most important, so their first task in the mornings is to eat a good breakfast. They usually consume up to a quarter of their daily food intake right after recovering from torpor, and then it goes off to the races again.
Why Do Hummingbirds Sleep at Night and Feed During the Daytime?
Hummingbirds are warm-blooded and thus require warm temperatures for the blood that rushes through their body as well as their wings speeding.
Also, hummingbirds rely on the nectar from flowers for survival, and most flowers open during the day so, day time is perfect for hummingbirds to search for and eat food.
But after sunset, they have to find a tree to hang unto and go into torpor where their body temperature drops and they can preserve energy.
During sunlight hours, hummingbirds feed a lot on flowers and store enough in their body to carry them through the cold night.
Hummingbirds have two vital feeding times which are: morning and afternoon. After feeding in the morning, they rest for an hour or two and then go for another round of feeding in the afternoon, then they go to perch and sleep.
Final Thoughts: Do Hummingbirds Sleep?
Data available to us indicates that the population of hummingbirds is on the decline and this has been a decade long affair. One of the many species, the Rufous hummingbird, reportedly lost 62 percent of its population from 1966-2014. Some of the reasons behind the decline are climate change, habitat loss, fragmentation of breeding grounds.