Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hummingbirds, an Observation on Torpor

Dusk and time to replenish for the night.
You probably already know that hummingbirds survive cold nights by lowering their metabolic rate to conserve energy. This results in a state of torpor that makes them unresponsive. Except that they hold tightly to a branch, they may appear dead. In fact, if found on the ground someone might think they are dead. Don't toss one into a trash receptacle!

It may take up to an hour for a hummingbird to awaken from a state of torpor. But this post isn't to discuss the whys and wherefores for torpor. There are many other sites that cover that topic. This is about hummingbird behavior.

One morning I awoke to see a hummingbird in torpor sitting on our feeding. This had never happened before and I assume he arrived late while migrating, was very hungry and as it grew dark he had no time to search out a safer place to sleep. Although on the north side of our house, this feeder is in a sheltered corner.

The sheltered feeder where a hummer spent the night in torpor.
He slept later than others, but was left undisturbed.
I left the hummer alone, but watched as other hummers awakened and came to the feeder while he continued to remain immobile, unmoving and unaware. All seemed curious about him, but none disturbed him. This amazed me since typically one hummingbird decides a feeder is his and attempts to intimidate and chase away all others. All the visiting birds scrutinized the statue-like bird, but none of them touched or threatened him.

Hummingbird protocol? An unwritten law that you don't disturb a fellow bird during torpor? Probably.

If you want to know more about hummingbird torpor, I found this site enlightening.

A Link to "Lisa's Garden" about hummingbird torpor

Not the best choice in feeders.
Compare these two hummingbird feeders. The one below and to the right has a perch that circles the entire feeder. That is one advantage, but there's more. It also separates so that every bit of it can be cleaned. The one at the left (with birds) does not entirely come apart and it's impossible to get into every area to adequately clean it.

A recommended feeder that unscrews completely to allow
thorough cleaning of every nook and cranny.

Since mold is a problem in our area, a feeder that comes completely apart for thorough cleaning is very important. I recommend only hummingbird feeders that dismantle completely to allow every part to be cleaned between each refilling.

Peace and Blessings.

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