NORTH CAROLINA – Recent cold snaps have some hummingbird enthusiasts concerned for the fast-winged, almost mythical small creatures.
“Surely they can’t handle the cold?” quipped a neighbor.
The smallest bird on earth, with one of the highest metabolisms, has a unique mechanism called torpor that suspends their high metabolism.
Torpor allows the bird to drop its heart rate to a few beats per minute, lower its body temperature in an effort to conserve energy, and throttle back its very high metabolic rate.
Prior to entering torpor, the hummingbird will lock its feet to a branch or feeder perch. And if you happen to see a hummingbird in torpor, it may even be hanging upside down.
That’s because the hummingbird, which is a strong creature for its size, can tip over and still hang on to the branch or perch clutched in its feet.
It’s not a quick process for them to awaken from torpor either. They can take 20 minutes or more to awaken.
Once fully awake however, they are off and running once more. Zoom!