How Do Hummingbirds Sleep?

Hummingbirds are astonishing little creatures. Watching them for only a short period of time, you can tell they are very energetic. They zip, zoom around and hover around flowers and feeders all day and are unique in all aspects.

Hummingbirds have an exceptionally high metabolism, body temperature, and high-speed heart rate. As a result, hummingbirds need to eat approximately every 10-15 minutes just to stay alive with these high-energy needs. As a result, they will often eat 1-3 times their body weight daily.

So how do they sleep without starving to death? We will cover many aspects of the hummingbirds’ ability to sleep and get the much-needed rest after a dawn to dusk day of non-stop activity.

How Do Hummingbirds Sleep?

Let’s begin by looking at their high energy demand challenge. How do hummingbirds sleep if they have to eat every 10-15 minutes? As you know, the hummingbird possesses some very unique characteristics, and its sleeping ability is no exception.

To save enough energy to survive the nights. Hummingbirds enter a distinctive type of sleep called “Daily Torpor” (pronounced TOR-per). Daily torpor allows the hummingbird to lower its internal body temperature to a hypothermic state (barely alive). Let’s take a look at torpor.

What Is Torpor In Hummingbirds?

Here is what the “Father of American Ornithology” Alexander Wilson said in the book “American Ornithology, Or The Natural History of the Birds of the …, Volume 2.”

“No motion whatever of the lungs could be perceived, on the closest inspection, though at other times this is remarkably observable; the eyes were shut; and when touched by the finger it gave no signs of life or motion.”

Torpor is an evolutionary adaptation that allows the bird to lower its body temperature to the point of barely being alive. Their metabolism is therefore reduced by as much as 95%.

Torpor is a very deep sleep closely related to hibernation. During torpor, the hummingbird will appear dead. In actuality, their bodies systems are barely sufficient enough to keep them alive.

Body temperature drops, heart rate lowers, and breathing rate lowers to almost non-existent levels.

Hummingbirds Body Temperature During Torpor

The normal body temperature for a hummingbird during daytime activity has been measured through research to be around 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celcius).

During torpor, the body temperature has been measured to be an average of approximately 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celcius). Research conducted in the tropical Andes revealed a drop in temperature to “3.26°C, the lowest yet reported for any bird or non-hibernating mammal.”

The first part is normal body temperature, Second part is torpor (not a photo).

This low temperature is considered a “set point.” Therefore, if the surrounding temperature gets colder, the body will generate heat to maintain this “set point” temperature.

Hummingbird Heart Rate During Torpor

During daytime activity, the hummingbird’s heart beats at an astonishing rate of approximately 1200 beats per minute (during flight). In comparison, a jackhammer pounds the ground 1500 beats per minute.

In contrast, the heart measures as low as 50 beats per minute during torpor. If my math is right, that is a decrease of over 95%.

Hummingbird Breathing Rate During Torpor

I could not find any scientific research that revealed a specified rate for the hummingbirds’ breathing. The information I did find stated that a hummingbird’s breathing rate is so low that it is almost undetectable.

It has also been observed that these birds may even stop breathing for periods of time to conserve energy.

Reading different studies and information, the correlation of heart rate and breathing rate seems to equal. For instance, at rest, the heart rate of a hummingbird is approximately 250 beats per minute, and according to the National Park Service “A resting hummingbird takes about 250 breaths per minute.”

When Do Hummingbirds Enter Torpor?

Hummingbirds are like most of us. Work really hard during the day and sleep at night. Fans of “The Sound Of Music” will remember, ” the sun has gone to bed, and so must I.” Hummingbirds will do the same.

Hummingbirds have an internal clock or better known as a circadian rhythm.

“Circadian rhythm, or circadian cycle, is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours.”


This process responds to light and dark conditions and affects not just hummingbirds but humans, other animals, and plants.

About an hour before the last daylight, hummingbirds will locate a safe place to perch for the night. At this point, they will settle in and the natural process of torpor begins.

Hummingbirds can be found in torpor (allows for energy-saving survival) during the daytime for several reasons:

  • They may still be coming out of torpor. Torpor is a time-consuming and difficult process that some hummingbirds don’t survive.
  • If the weather is horrible for a long period of time, hummingbirds will go into an “emergency” torpor.
  • If the food supply is hard to find, they will also enter into the “emergency” torpor.

Do Hummingbirds Always Go Into Torpor Every Night?

Yes, hummingbirds do go into a daily or nightly torpor. This allows them to sleep without starving to death. Topor reduces their internal body temperature, heart rate, and breathing.

The exception to this rule is when a female is incubating her eggs. The incubation process needs her body heat to stay warm. She will fly away from the nest to eat during the night since she can not go into the torpor state.

How Often Do Hummingbirds Sleep?

Hummingbirds sleep only at night. So there is no rest for these busy little birds. But, you may think, surely they have to nap during the day.

They constantly move around from flower to flower, feeder to feeder, chasing each other, but they do not take naps during the day. Their metabolism is so high that napping would not be possible.

How Long Do Hummingbirds Sleep?

The best answer I have found is from research conducted by THOMAS RUF, FRITZ GEISER. Ruf and Geiser found that depending on the hummingbird species, they would sleep between 5 and 10 hours.

How Long Does It Take For Hummingbirds To Wake Up From Torpor?

Studying torpor in hummingbirds reveals that they will begin to wake up 1 to 2 hours before dawn. Their internal clock will automatically reverse the state of torpor.

Their heart rate and breathing will increase while their wing muscles will begin to vibrate, producing a shivering effect to generate heat. The “waking up” will take between 20 minutes (if the weather is warm) to 1 hour (in colder weather).

Of course, the first order of business is to locate food. As a result, hummingbirds will consume approximately 25% of their daily diet during the first part of the morning. This evolutionary adaptation allows for a better chance of survival.

Do Hummingbirds Sleep Upside Down?

You may have seen or heard of someone finding a hummingbird hanging on their feeder upside down. It’s true; hummingbirds have gone into torpor while they are eating at feeders. This event happens when they are trying to “fill up” so they have enough energy to supply their bodies during torpor and sundown comes.

Watch as this hummingbird comes out of torpor. Notice the increase in breathing.

Wake Up, It’s Morning

How Do Hummingbirds Know When To Sleep?

Bedtime Birdie

As explained above, the hummingbird has an internal clock or a circadian rhythm that responds to light and dark conditions. So when dusk falls and light is dimming, they will begin to prepare for their sleep.

Finding a safe place to perch and consuming enough nectar to maintain their energy while in torpor.

Do Hummingbirds Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

No, when a hummingbird is actually in torpor, its eyes will be closed. If you find a hummingbird with its eyes open, it may be entering or coming out of torpor.


Do Hummingbirds Sleep In The Same Place Every night?

The primary objective for these tiny miracles is safety. They will perch on a twig under foliage and other branches when they sleep to camouflage themselves from predators. They also pick a place that will provide as much warmth and protection as possible from the weather.

If all of these objectives are found in a certain tree, then they will return. Maybe not in the same exact spot but somewhere close.

Do Hummingbirds Sleep Together?

By nature, hummingbirds are the “lone wolf” of birds. They are very solitary. No “Flocking Around” for these birds.

But it is not uncommon to find several hummingbirds sleeping in the same tree or bush spread out away from each other.

For some birds, sleeping together will allow for sharing body heat for warmth for cooler nights. However, hummingbirds do not need to share body heat with each other due to the ability to enter torpor.

Where Do Hummingbirds Sleep?

Short answer, they perch on a twig or branch close to the trunk (warmth) of a tree under good foliage (leaves) for camouflage to hide from predators and the weather.

Read the article “The Fascinating Sleeping Habits of Land Birds: Do Birds Sleep In Nests?

How Can You Tell If A Hummingbird Is Sleeping?

It may be difficult to tell if a hummingbird is sleeping because they will appear dead when they are in the torpor state. They will not move if you get close to them or hold them.

(YOU ARE GOING TO JAIL). There is a Law ( Title 50, Chapter 1, Part 10, Subpart 13 – List of Migratory Birds) not to touch, capture, or hold any listed species. (which can be viewed at Title 50 Wildlife and Fisheries).

Remember from the above-cited quote from Alexander Wilson:

“No motion whatever of the lungs could be perceived, on the closest inspection, though at other times this is remarkably observable; the eyes were shut; and when touched by the finger it gave no signs of life or motion.”

What Do You Do If You Find a Sleeping Hummingbird?

Again, DO NOT TOUCH CAPTURE OR HOLD the tiny cute hummingbird!

If you do see a hummingbird that looks dead, keep watch. More than likely, it is actually asleep. Remember, it can take 20 minutes to 1 hour for the hummingbird to fully recover from torpor depending on the time of day and the warmth of the day.

If you have waited over 2 hours, then the hummingbird could be sick or actually dead.

If you see that it is injured, you can call your local wildlife rehabilitator, who may help out when they need medical attention.

Do Hummingbirds Eat At Night?

No, no, and no… well, sometimes.

Hummingbirds are diurnal birds (active during the daylight). Normally they eat heavily during the morning hours, again in the evening, and a little throughout the day.

They do not have excellent night vision, so feeding at night would not be productive, but there are exceptions.

Take, for instance, areas that may have a lot of artificial lighting. The bright lights would allow the hummingbird to avoid objects while flying and to locate food sources.

This artificial lighting could allow hummingbirds to extend their activity during the months with short daylight hours and allow them to feed into the night during warmer weather.

Another exception is the female hummingbird during the incubation period of her eggs. She has to maintain her body heat for the incubation process, which prevents her from going into torpor. In addition, she needs to eat during the night or risk starving to death.

The After Knowledge

Because you have the after knowledge of how these tiny marvels sleep. You know the meaning behind these two statements:

“It’s a bat, no it’s an upside-down hummingbird.”

“Dead or Alive.” (Sounds like a wanted poster).

You know the how, where, and when of hummingbirds’ sleep. They are the most energetic creatures on Earth and can zip around for hours, hover near flowers and feeders all day long, then settle down to rest after a hard day of work.

Sleeping is necessary, but with hummingbirds’ exceptionally high metabolism, they require a specialized sleep called “Torpor.” During torpor, their heart rate, breathing, and body temperature are lowered to the point of barely being alive. Torpor is the only way hummingbirds can survive the night or if food is not available. This evolutionary trait allows the survival of the hummingbird.

As always, please show off your “After Knowledge” to your friends and family.


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