How do hummingbirds sleep? The fascinating truth behind the sleeping habits of hummingbirds

Almost all creatures and animals need to sleep, in order to rest the body and mind, and recharge for the following day. Energy isn’t unlimited, and you simply can’t keep on going without stopping and sleeping every now and then! 

Hummingbirds, in particular, use up a lot of energy. They are constantly fluttering about, and their wings move at an insane speed, so much so that they are able to hover in the air. So, surely, hummingbirds must require a good amount of sleep, right?

Well, hummingbirds do sleep.

But…how do hummingbirds sleep? How exactly do they recharge their energy in order to keep up their speed? We can tell you all about it! From why they need sleep, to where and how they sleep, and some more fascinating facts about hummingbirds sleeping habits. Let’s get right into it! 

Photo by ASR

Where do hummingbirds sleep?

Some animals sleep in nests, some in holes, and some just curl up on a tree and call it a day. So what about hummingbirds? Where do they sleep? 

The truth is that hummingbirds have quite an odd sleeping pattern. As a general rule, they tend to latch on to a branch, usually sheltered by trees and shrubs, so that they can be hidden from predators and other dangers, as well as being sheltered from the cold and bad weather conditions.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that hummingbirds often develop a favorite spot, so they will go back to the same place, to the same place, and it will sort of become their usual bed! It could be a branch or a twig that’s sheltered from the wind to rest on.

So, if you want to attract hummingbirds to your garden, and offer them a place to sleep, make sure to set up a comfy branch that is sheltered and warm, and maybe they’ll take a fancy to it! 

The importance of energy saving

For most animals, sleep is incredibly important, and without it, it is impossible to keep going. After all, without energy, you can’t really move or function! Hummingbirds absolutely need the right amount of sleep, because it is essential for them to get those energy levels back up, especially as during the day hummingbirds are so active in flight, nest making and all the other things wild birds do.

To keep up their energy, hummingbirds have to prioritize two things: sleep, and their diet.

In fact, their diet is essentially just nectar and insects, but they eat around three times their body weight every single day. Kind of like if a human was to eat an entire truckload of food every single day!

That is because the proteins and fats that they get from their food are essential to keeping them active, and it also helps them survive through the night. 

Photo by Joe Schneid

And what do we mean by needing it to survive the night? Well, when hummingbirds are asleep, they need to generate heat in order to keep warm. After all, they don’t have blankets or similar to fend off the cold! So while they do rest while asleep, they are still burning a small portion of energy, which is why they really do need to eat enough every day! 

However, nature is very clever. In order to save up on energy while they sleep, hummingbirds are able to enter into a deeper state of sleep, which is known as the nocturnal torpor.

The hummingbird torpor

The hummingbird has a fascinating nocturnal habit known as torpor, as sort of hibernation.

While, hummingbirds use a lot of energy during the day, they also then burn energy during the night, in order to generate heat and fight off the cold, so that they stay alive. This means that they have to eat a lot of food, from which they extract the needed energy, and eventually, it can be a hard thing to juggle. 

So on cold winter nights, they go into a hibernation-like state called torpor (pronounces tor-per). This is a state which allows them to survive these colder nights, without wasting the energy that they need to use the following day. 

In the hummingbird torpor, the hummingbird essentially slows their system right down. They stop generating heat so that they aren’t using any energy whatsoever. This basically makes them dead. They are stiff as wood, unmoving, with no body heat and no response. You could hold one in your hand during this state and you would absolutely believe that they are dead. 

Photo by ASR

After around 20 minutes to an hour, the hummingbird will “return to life”, leaving the torpor state and going back to normal. And for the rest of the night, they will generate body heat using up some energy. But by having gone into the torpor state they will have saved a good amount of energy, which in turn allows them to survive for longer! 

How long do hummingbirds sleep at night?

As a general rule, hummingbirds will go to sleep when the sun sets and will wake at daybreak. They function during the day, and they will use every waking hour to eat as much as they can so that they can top up their energy levels. If they have gone into a torpor state during the night, they will eat even more than usual! 

During migration, in which hummingbirds journey for hundreds and thousands of miles every year, they use up a lot of energy, and have less time to collect food. So they will fly all day and then rest throughout the entire night, sometimes going to sleep extra early and waking a little later.

However, hummingbirds are very resilient, and if they are crossing an ocean or similar, they are able to keep on flying until they do find somewhere to stop. They’re hardy little birds!

The reason why they are able to accomplish such feats is that they prepare for them. So if they suspect they are going to have to fly for longer, they will spend the previous days eating a lot more than normal, so that they have that extra energy. 

Photo by Chris Leboutillier

Everything else about sleep

Here are some other popular questions about hummingbirds and their sleeping habits, answered:

Do they hang upside down when sleeping?

No, they don’t. When sleeping, hummingbirds perch on a branch, the right side up. They might also enter the torpor state, in which case they go stiff and appear dead. 

Do hummingbirds sleep at all during the day?

It can depend! As a general rule, hummingbirds will not properly go to sleep until it gets dark, plus they usually need all of those daylight hours to eat as much food as they can! But if a hummingbird has eaten enough, it might just rest and half-doze off during the afternoon, waiting until proper sleep. 

Do hummingbirds ever stop flying?

It is easy to believe that hummingbirds never stop flying, especially as they non-stop flutter from flower to flower during the day, and you barely ever see one sitting still. However, hummingbirds perch on branches to sleep, and they might also take breaks during the day, so they are not always flying! 

How do hummingbirds stay on the branch?

The feet of the hummingbird are so small that they cannot walk properly on them. This is one of the reasons why you never see them stationery. However, these little feet can grip tightly onto a branch and keep the bird safe all night.

Photo by Dick Scholten

Final Thoughts

Hummingbirds are fascinating birds that never seem to stop fluttering their speedy wings. However, like most other living creatures, it is vital that they get enough sleep.

The hummingbird sleeps through the night, by perching on a branch and resting. However, they will sometimes also enter a hummingbird torpor state, in which they completely shut down and appear dead, in order to save themselves from having to use up energy to keep warm and survive. 

Photo by Frank Cone

Related Questions

What state has the most hummingbirds?

Arizona, Texas and California probably have the most resident and visiting hummingbirds in continental America.

What is the most common hummingbird?

The Ruby Throated Hummingbird is the most common species in the United States.

Is there another bird like them?

As the hummingbird is so tiny, there really aren’t any species that close to them. Probably the Spinebill in Australia would be the closest. It is also a small nectar feeder with a long bill.

How can I help hummingbirds?

Should you wish to help your local hummingbirds, you can start with bird feeders. There are special feeders hummingbird species like as they look like flowers they would naturally feed from. It is quite different from any other feeders bird usually like and takes some care.