HUMMINGBIRD’S HEALTH AND HIBERNATION
We are back! Happy New Year everyone, we hope you have been having many nature adventures in our absence. In the past few weeks I know I certainly have had all kinds of nature adventures: being followed by a coyote, stumbling upon some skunks, being buzzed by some hummingbirds and much more. . . But the joy of nature walks and nature stories truly lies in sharing them! Please feel free to share your nature stories with us. You can submit your stories to facebook at: Havasi Wilderness Foundation.
Recently a friend of Havasi Wilderness Foundation observed that where she lived (up north in Oregon) hummingbirds are spotted all year round, much like in our California climate, however these hummingbirds stay even in the winter. Hummingbirds can be spotted even during the snowy months–buzzing about in spite of the frigid temperatures. Now we know that the postal service runs rain or shine, but apparently even certain types of hummingbirds tough it out. But how do they do it? Hummingbirds have such a high metabolism and are so small it seems impossible that they would be able to survive. They don’t have blubber, they don’t have fur, they don’t have those warm downy feathers that many other bird species use to survive winters. They couldn’t possibly hibernate like bears. . . If we see them they must be awake and active.
This incredibly small “cute” looking bird has developed incredible survival skills to help them overwinter even in the snow. Even though they are so small and burn energy quickly because of the way they fly, hummingbirds can control the amount of energy they lose by controlling their internal thermostat. They control their body temperatures at night which allows them to save energy. This adaptation or skill, is known as “torpor” which is similar to hibernation. The one difference between hummingbird torpor and the kind of hibernation we associate with bears is the timing. Hummingbirds use torpor throughout the year and usually at night (also known as noctivation).
When they are torpid, they show very little signs of life and it takes about 20 minutes for the bird to wake up completely from a “torpid state,” and somehow (as unknown to science yet) these birds manage to wake up from this deep sleep in enough time to be ready for the brand new day. Their internal alarm clock allows them to be up before dawn and beginning their
many hours of feeding and flying–to repeat the process again the next day. Imagine what having those incredible set skills would be like: you’d never need a heater (no costly electric or gas bills in the winter), you’d get a full nights sleep and wake up on time everyday for the important work ahead of you. Certainly it is difficult being a hummingbird, but the skills and adaptations they have developed to survive in extreme difficulty is amazing.
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