And to All a Good Night: The Snoring Hummingbird

Candice Gaukel Andrews December 20, 2012 6

On these dark, wintry nights, you may find yourself preferring the proverbial “not a creature was stirring,” but when you hear the cute “snoring” of this creature, you just might change your mind.

The hummingbird in the video below is a female amethyst-throated sunangel, native to the Andes of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. While the sound this tiny bird makes may not technically be snoring in the human way, it sure makes for a charming comparison.

As part of a research study aimed at understanding the differences between the metabolism of hummingbirds and that of larger species, this little sunangel was placed inside a specialized container connected to a machine that measures how much oxygen it breathed while it slept.

Hummingbirds have huge metabolic needs. To keep their tiny bodies warm, they eat the human equivalent of a refrigerator full of food every day — mostly fatty bugs and high-energy nectar. Because of their small size, hummingbirds also lose a lot of body heat to the air. So to preserve energy on cool nights, they enter a daily, miniature hibernation called torpor. Then, just before morning, their natural circadian rhythms kick in and they start to “thaw out.”

Scientists say that what you see in the video is probably a bird coming out of torpor, starting to breathe in more oxygen to raise its body temperature. The result is the “snoring” noise.

Happily, this little one was released back into the wild the next morning.

Here’s wishing you peaceful, restful holidays — and a very happy New Year,

Candy

6 Comments »

  1. Todd November 21, 2013 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    A really cute snorer 🙂 Never seen something like this…but as scientists said, it is not regular snoring. But i wish my parrot will never make such sound…

    Todd

  2. Mat December 25, 2012 at 4:33 am - Reply

    That is possibly the cutes thing I have seen today:)

  3. Howard C. December 23, 2012 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    Very cool, posted to me FB page Candice 🙂

  4. Larry December 23, 2012 at 6:45 pm - Reply

    Thanks, I was fascinated by this video.

  5. Shadmeena Khanum December 23, 2012 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Dave Ealey December 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    What a delightful story and interesting phenomenon! This hummer is clearly named for its throat colour–amethyst–in consideration of the purplish mineral quartz. Perhaps an intriguing sidenote is that this mineral was named by the Greeks as “not intoxicating” due to a belief that it prevented drunkenness. Surely they never heard the snoring sound from this hummingbird living on a different continent, but if they had, perhaps “intoxicating” or at the very least “enchanting” could be an appropriate label. (Of course, some might suggest the hummingbird was simply “sleeping it off”!)

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