Hummingbirds. Everyone loves them because they’re absolutely adorable. Hummingbirds respond well to feeders and love the color red, although you should never put red food coloring in their water. Still, hummingbirds can be elusive creatures because not everyone knows that much about them.
One of the questions often asked about hummingbirds is, do they sleep? People think they don’t sleep because they seem to flutter around endlessly day in and day out, but in reality, hummingbirds do indeed sleep.
But their sleep patterns are not exactly like those of humans or even other animals, in part because they migrate every year and have to alter those sleep patterns accordingly.
Except when migrating, hummingbirds tend to have a schedule that is very similar to the rest of us; that is, they sleep at night and are active during the day. When they are migrating, their schedule sometimes gets turned around and they end up flying at night and taking short naps during the day.
Hummingbirds tend to feed heavily in the early-morning hours then settle down roughly half-an-hour before it turns dark. However, if you have some type of artificial light outside, for example, a porch light, hummingbirds often feed well into the night. This is especially common when the weather is warm outside, because it keeps them active and continuing to eat.
How Do Hummingbirds Sleep
Hummingbirds sometimes sleep upside-down and are so still when they’re asleep that it’s easy for onlookers to think that they’re dead. If you ever see a hummingbird do this, just leave it alone because it will wake up at the appropriate time. When they sleep, they go into a very deep state of sleep called Torpor, and it is an intense condition indeed.
Torpor is an almost hibernation-type of sleep that results in their metabolism lowering to about 1/15 of its normal speed. In fact, their metabolism slows down so much that their body temperature is lowered as well – to the point where they are practically hypo-thermic.
Indeed, a hummingbird’s heart rate will slow down to about 50 beats per minute when it is sleeping, which is one of the reasons why some people think hummingbirds are dead when they sleep.
Because their breathing gets down so low, hummingbirds are able to save their energy for the next day’s activities, whatever those may be. Hummingbirds save up to 60% of their availability when they sleep, thanks to Torpor.
The Hummingbird Sleep Position
Just where do hummingbirds go when they decide they want to sleep for a while? They usually settle in some place where they feel safe before they go to sleep. Female hummingbirds with a nest of baby hummingbirds won’t leave the nest to sleep. Instead, they will sit on the nest as they sleep because baby hummingbirds cannot fend for themselves.
When hummingbirds are in the Torpor state and hang upside-down, they may not respond if you touch them or somehow bother them. Still, it is a good idea not to touch them when they’re hanging upside down because they will wake up when the appropriate time arrives.
Once it starts to get a little warmer, this is when most hummingbirds will wake up from their “trance.” When they do, it can sometimes take from 20 minutes to one hour to fully recover from Torpor.
As you can imagine, Torpor takes a lot out of these hummingbirds, mostly because of their tiny size. When hummingbirds wake up and recover from Torpor, they are ravenous and go out looking for something to eat. As a matter of fact, hummingbirds often eat 25% of their daily intake as soon as they recover from Torpor.
How Migration Is Different
Again, during migration a hummingbird’s sleeping patterns are somewhat different than they are when they’re not migrating. Even though hummingbirds try to sleep at night and fly during the day when in migration, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes, it is difficult to find a place to land to sleep, so they sometimes spend at least part of the night flying in the dark.
Because there are so many types of hummingbirds, the length of their migration varies quite a bit. For example, the ruby-throated hummingbirds leave Texas at dusk to fly across the Gulf of Mexico, which is a 500-mile trip that usually takes around 20 hours to complete. Before they leave land, these hummingbirds stuff themselves with a lot of fat to fly for long periods of time without stopping to eat.
This is, however, part of the natural selection process because many hummingbirds simply don’t make the trip and, therefore, their genes are not passed on. This is sad in many ways because the world is simply much better with hummingbirds in it, but there doesn’t seem to be a need for concern when it comes to these teeny birds becoming extinct.
Unlike the ruby-throated hummingbird, the rufous hummingbirds fly from either Alaska or Canada down to their habitat in Mexico when they migrate. Instead of 500 miles, these hummingbirds have about 3,000 miles to travel.
Needless to say, they usually spend a lot of time flying in the dark, at least when compared to other types of hummingbirds whose trips are much shorter. Each type of hummingbird has its own migration pattern and, therefore, its own sleep schedule, which is interesting to say the least.
Hummingbirds do indeed sleep, and even though they generally sleep at night and stay awake during the day, this pattern changes somewhat when they are in migration. Their sleep is very intense and because their metabolism and heart rate are both lowered quite a bit, they are almost completely still and may even look like they’re dead.
Hummingbirds also eat a lot of food right after they wake up, consuming up to 25% of their daily intake during that time frame.
The sleeping patterns of hummingbirds are interesting to learn about, and you can learn even more with a little online research. Hummingbirds are amazing creatures that have amazing brain power considering how small they are. They’re so intelligent, in fact, that they even sleep in a smart way!