Seeing hummingbirds fluttering in your yard is a beautiful sight. But one that’s only limited to daytime. There’s hardly anyone who has seen these high-energy birds at night.
The mysterious disappearance of hummingbirds at night is fascinating as well as intriguing. It’s common for people, bird watchers, and gardeners, in particular, to wonder where these tiny birds go at night.
At night, hummingbirds go into a deep sleep at a sheltered spot on a tree where they remain protected from cold, winds, and rain. Hummingbirds’ sleeping state is called torpor, and it is so deep that the birds almost appear dead. They sometimes even hang upside down during the torpor.
Since hummingbirds are highly energetic, it is quite difficult to imagine them sitting still, but it does happen. Let’s dig a little deeper to learn more about hummingbirds’ nighttime routine.
What Do Hummingbirds Do at Night?
Hummingbirds do just what every other living creature does at night (except the owl). They sleep! However, their sleep isn’t like other birds or animals. It’s drastically different. Here’s how:
Hummingbirds go into torpor – The nighttime resting of hummingbirds is called hummingbird torpor. It is somewhat similar to hibernation, but not as long as that. It only lasts for the night, and hummingbirds wake up the next morning to their old, energetic self.
They conserve energy – Hummingbird torpor is more than just resting. It allows these tiny birds to conserve a large amount of energy by dropping down their body temperature, metabolism rate, heartbeat, and rate of respiration. This conserved energy comes in handy during the daytime when the hummingbirds are highly active.
Torpor helps keep hummingbirds alive in cold temperatures – Hummingbirds have the unique ability to drop down their body temperatures by 10oC to 30oC, reaching a hypothermic state. This helps them survive the cold temperatures without spending too much energy to keep their bodies warm.
They often hang upside down – When in a deep sleep, hummingbirds often hang upside down, like bats. Its feet are designed in such a way that they lock around the tree branch and prevent the bird from falling down.
This happens because the bird doesn’t use energy to stay upright. As a result, it sometimes slips from its original sitting position and hangs upside down. But, the tiny bird is such a sound sleeper that it doesn’t wake up even when this happens. It continues to sleep while hanging upside down.
Where Do Hummingbirds Go to Sleep?
Most hummingbirds go deep into the forest and look for well-hidden twigs and branches deep into trees and shrubberies to sleep at night.
If there are recessed caves around, some hummingbirds will also torpor there. Mother hummingbirds with dependent babies will go into torpor while sitting on their nest.
When they choose to torpor on trees, hummingbirds often hang upside down by latching onto a branch with their tiny feet.
Hummingbirds choose the place of torpor with great consideration. Here’s what they primarily look for:
- Shelter – Since the real purpose of torpor is to save energy while also surviving through cold temperatures, hummingbirds choose a spot sheltered from rain, winds, and ice-cold temperature of the night.
- Safety – When hummingbirds go into torpor, they cannot respond to any outside stimuli.
Not only it’s hard for them to wake up from the torpor, but they also need at least half an hour to warm up their body before being able to jump into action even after waking up.
This makes hummingbirds highly vulnerable. Hence, they look for a space where they can be safe from outside threats and get enough time to warm up after coming out of the torpor.
How Long Do Hummingbirds Sleep at Night?
Like most birds, hummingbirds are early to bed and early to rise.
Since it’s hard for them to survive long without eating and it’s hard to find food in the dark, hummingbirds typically start to settle in for the night about half an hour before the sunset. They then go into torpor, and sleep from dusk till dawn. The exact length of a hummingbirds’ torpor depends on multiple factors, including:
- The area and season
- Weather conditions
- Food supply
Depending on these factors, the length of a hummingbird’s torpor can last anywhere from 8 to 16 hours.
The tiny birds begin foraging for food at the first light of the day and eat about one-fourth of their daily intake in their first meal to regain energy.
Do Hummingbirds Sleep In the Same Place Every Night?
Hummingbirds tend to be highly territorial birds. Since they choose their place for torpor after great consideration, they return to it every night until they migrate from the area.
It’s common for multiple hummingbirds to share the same tree or branch for sleeping. However, they don’t huddle together while sleeping, as some other bird species do. Even when they share the same branch, they space out and sleep alone. The only exception is a mother hummingbird that sleeps with her young chicks.
How Do Hummingbirds Wake Up from Torpor?
Just like hummingbirds’ sleep is different, their waking up schedule is also unlike any other bird. They take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to come out of the torpor and get ready to begin their day.
Waking up from torpor is like a step-by-step process that happens gradually. Here’s how it happens and the stages it involves:
Stage 1 – When hummingbirds wake up in the morning, typically one to two hours before dawn, the first thing that happens in their body is that their heartbeat starts to increase.
Stage 2 – The increase in the heartbeat is followed by the speeding up of hummingbirds’ breathing. As it happens, they make snoring-like sounds.
Stage 3 – As the heartbeat of waking up hummingbirds returns to normal, they begin to shiver or vibrate their bodies. This helps them warm up and bring their body temperature back to normal.
Stage 4 – With the body temperature returning to normal, hummingbirds’ body functions also regain their normal state. The blood gets pumping and circulating in the body once again.
As this happens, these tiny birds get fully awake and take their first flight of the day in search of food.
Is It Possible that a Hummingbird Not Go into Torpor at Night?
It’s extremely rare for hummingbirds to stay awake at night. However, it can happen in a few situations.
- Light is one of the most common factors that can keep a hummingbird awake at night. If these tiny birds see the light coming from somewhere, they get there in search of food. And as long as they continue to find food, they tend to remain active and awake.
- Female hummingbirds do not go into torpor while nesting, as they need the energy to keep their eggs warm.
- Another rare moment when a hummingbird might be seen at night is during the migration period, as they try to make it to their destination before resting.
Do Hummingbirds Feed at Night?
As a general rule, hummingbirds do not feed at night. But, it is not completely unheard of either.
Hummingbirds feeding at night is rare and can happen only during the migration or when they see the light somewhere. If you have a hummingbird feeder in your yard, near a light source, you may see hummingbirds coming to it at night.
This is likely to only happen in warmer weather, though. During winters, these tiny birds prefer spending the night in a deep sleep.
It’s difficult to imagine an inactive hummingbird. Still, these tiny birds go into a deep sleep every night at a sheltered place, typically deep inside a forest and on branches or twigs where they remain protected from cold, winds, rain, and any other threat. The sleeping of hummingbirds is a hibernation-like state. It’s called torpor.
Have you ever seen a sleeping hummingbird? Let us know in the comments section how was the experience like and if you could tell the bird was sleeping or thought it was dead, as many people tend to think.