Hanging hummingbirds?

rbobSeptember 4, 2007

We have a garden-variety 4-seater hummingbird feeder filled with sugar water solution in the backyard.

A couple of weeks ago, I spotted a distraught or annoyed hummer repeatedly hopping from his perch to peck at something hanging from the adjacent perch. Once I got my mind wrapped around what I was looking at, I realized that the "something" was another humming bird, hanging upside down from the perch, oblivious to what was going on.

My first thought was that it had somehow gotten its feet caught in the feeder, so I went out to see if there was anything to be done for it.

The other bird flew off as I approached, but the inverted bird didn't react at all; I figured it had died sometime during the day while hanging there.

I touched it lightly on the back and it opened one eye. When I stroked it a second time, it woke up, immediately flew into the side of the house, regained flight and disappeared into the neighbor's maple tree.

I've since seen this behavior several more times, and was finally able to get a couple of pictures. The one other time I approached the feeder when a bird was hanging, it flew away when I got within about 10 feet, so it wasn't "asleep" like the first one.

Just what are these birds up to when they're doing this?



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Wow, it's only hanging by one foot! Great shots, by the way.

I wonder if it was in a state of torpor. I believe when they get exhausted they go into this state until they can recover enough strength to resume normal activity.

Donna, VA

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 2:24PM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

It must be torpor, but in daytime? That's amazing. I hope it wasn't sick.

You should submit that pic to a photo contest!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 5:56PM
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That's amazing, and the shot is so clear. I guess I would need some real equipment to get a shot that nice. Great job, rbob.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 6:09PM
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Those are good clear shots, and I must say amazing ones.

But they're at the same time somewhat disturbing. I've never seen or heard of this behavior, but I'm glad the birds seem to be ok.

It's hard to look at them without worry,


    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 6:16PM
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Made me think they were hanging around too much with the gold finches. Thats the only bird in our yard that ever hung upside down and we have lots of birds including hummmers. Really unusual. Worries me.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 6:26PM
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I saved your two photos to my PC so I could examine them at full size. That definitely looks like torpor to me, I once hand-fed a Hummer in that state (from exhaustion when it got stuck in my garage). Up close, you can see the Hummer is barely hanging on with the one claw.

They fight so hard with each other, it might have just been worn out from combat. I'm glad you stirred it, hopefully it moved to a safer perch.

Donna, VA

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 9:02PM
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rembetika(austin, TX)

They are most definitely amazing photos. And I am baffled by how the little guy/girl could just hang there, in a state of exhaustion from whatever, and keep holding on with its foot! Maybe that is a biological imperative that allows it to survive. Bizarre!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 9:59PM
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