If you’ve been watching the hummingbirds visiting your garden and love seeing them zipping around, you may have heard someone mention that hummingbirds sleep upside down. This has most likely had you wondering whether hummingbirds do, in fact, sleep upside down and why.
Like all animals and birds on this planet that we live on, hummingbirds do need to sleep and they do sometimes sleep upside down. But hummingbird sleep is very different to the sleep of other birds and animals. Hummingbirds are tiny but they have an incredibly high metabolic rate. That’s why you’ll see them feeding almost constantly. Their constant intake of nectar gives them the energy to survive.
However, when they sleep they need to conserve their energy because they can’t keep feeding all night long. That’s why hummingbirds go into a hibernation-like state called torpor.
What Is Torpor?
For hummingbirds, torpor is a hibernation state that they initiate every night when they go to sleep. Because of their high metabolism, they need to replenish their energy very quickly and almost constantly. Of course, while they’re sleeping they are unable to replenish this energy enough to survive the night.
Well, nature has taken care of this by allowing the birds to slow down their metabolism while they sleep. Just after sunset, a hummingbird will find a nice perch to sit on deep within the foliage of a nearby tree.
Once perched, a hummingbird is able to lower its metabolism by slowing its heartbeat and its breathing significantly. At the same time, the hummingbird will also lower its body temperature.
You see, hummingbirds are warm blooded animals and their daytime body temperature sits around 104 to 108 degrees. Compare this to a human’s body temperature which is around 98.6 degrees and you’ll understand why hummingbirds have such a high metabolism.
During the night however, a hummingbird’s body temperature drops considerably. It’s only just warm enough to maintain normal body functions. Although hummingbirds have fewer feathers than other birds, they do fluff these up as much as they can during the night to try and stay warm.
Additionally, a hummingbird will drop its heartbeat to around 50 beats a minute during sleep. And, they drop their breathing so low that to an observer, it looks like they’re not breathing at all.
While in this state of torpor, a hummingbird will quite frequently hang upside down. This is because it is not using any of its energy to stay upright on the branch. Instead, its feet have locked onto the branch to ensure that the bird doesn’t fall off.
If you happen to see a hummingbird hanging upside, it might look like the bird is dead. But, it’s more likely that the bird is just sleeping. In fact, while a hummer is in a state of torpor, it will not move even if you touch it.
Why Do Hummingbirds Need To Sleep
As you’re probably aware, sleep is important for most living beings because it helps to replenish our energy and repair our bodies from the activities of the day. For hummingbirds, sleep is necessary for other reasons.
- To maintain their body heat. Because hummingbirds need to feed often to maintain their regular body temperature during the day, this is not possible during the night. You see, hummers don’t have very good night vision, therefore, it’s difficult for them to keep feeding during the night.
- To replenish their energy. Sleep is necessary for hummingbirds to recover from the huge amount of energy that they expended during the daylight hours. Because torpor allows hummers to conserve as much energy as possible, they can wake up refreshed and ready for another energy-filled day.
- To survive the cold nights. On cold nights, hummingbirds have to find a way to keep warm. They use the state of torpor to lower their body temperature to match the temperature in the air around them. This is how hummingbirds are able to survive even on the coldest of nights.
How Do Hummingbirds Wake Up?
It can take a while for a hummingbird to emerge from a state of torpor. In fact, it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. First, the bird will start to take in more oxygen. As it does this, it will make small noises that might sound similar to a person snoring.
After taking in enough oxygen, the hummer will start to shiver intentionally. This shivering starts the blood flowing through its body which, in turn, raises the body temperature of the little bird.
Once the hummer is fully awake, the first thing it will do is go in search of a feed. And, for hummingbirds, breakfast is indeed, the most important meal of the day. In fact, hummingbirds will consume around 25% of their daily intake of food as soon as they wake up.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do hummingbirds die upside down?
If you see a hummingbird hanging upside, it’s more likely that the bird is sleeping rather than dead.
Do hummingbirds sleep in birdhouses?
No, hummingbirds are not cavity-nesters which means that they won’t sleep in birdhouses.
Where do hummingbirds sleep when it rains?
When it rains, hummingbirds will find the most sheltered spot that they can in the dense foliage of a tree.
As you now know, hummingbirds do sleep upside down. Their tiny feet are developed in such a way that they can easily grip onto a branch and lock on. This stops the bird from falling off the branch when its in a deep sleep otherwise know as torpor.
If you do happen to see a hummingbird hanging upside down from a branch or even from your feeder, don’t be concerned because its more than likely just sleeping. It’s best just to leave the hummer alone and let it wake up by itself.