Do Birds Hibernate Or Migrate? | What Is Torpor?

Hibernation is a term most commonly referred to the wild animals and not birds. 

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When harsh cold winters knock on nature’s door, both birds and animals develop different strategies to keep their temperature warm. 

This guide is all about whether birds migrate or hibernate.

Do Birds Hibernate Or Migrate? 

You must have seen different exotic birds visiting your city when their native cities are covered in snow. So, it answers your question that birds migrate

Different species of birds travel thousands of miles to stay away from the snowy weather and find shelter in warmer places. 

Sadly, animals can’t fly over the seas and go to a warmer place. Thus, they enter into a state of hibernation. Thus, hibernation is more for animals than birds. 

But it does not mean that birds do not hibernate at all. There are birds that do hibernate, which will be talked about later.

Related Read: How to keep birds off my porch? | Best ways to keep birds away.

Concept Of Hibernation- Wild Birds Vs. Pet Birds

The concept of hibernation or migration only applies to wild birds who live outdoors and don’t have warm and soft weather like your pet bird.

The reason for migration is the colder environment and lack of food which compels them to fly away. 

Since your pet bird lives in a cage or a room with normal temperatures, they do not hibernate, and migration is not an option. Since they don’t have the wild instincts to survive, flying miles off is a far-fetched possibility. 

Also, they have plenty of food in your home. So, they don’t hibernate or migrate. But they also feel cold in the winter weather. 

You must consult your vet and learn how to keep your pet birds warm in winters and feed them. 

Now let’s talk about wild birds. Hibernation is when mammals reduce their energy spending and go into a deep sleep.

You must have heard about polar bears. It hibernates for months. 

During hibernation, The animals reduce their heart rate and body temperature, eat less, and go into a deep sleep, reducing their metabolism. 

The animals eat lots of food before hibernating and then reduce movements and activities to use less energy. It helps them survive through the winter. 

Some mammals hibernate throughout the winter in areas where winters are severe.

Related Read: How To Cope With The Loss Of My Pet Bird

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What Is Torpor?

You can understand torpor as a shorter version of hibernation. Torpor is a hibernation state which only lasts for a few hours or overnight. 

It is a strategy used by smaller birds to restore their energy during harsh weather. Scientifically, it refers to a physiological state where the birds and plants change their food, water, and metabolism balance to survive. 

A torpor may last less than 1 day, for two, three days, or the entire season. Some birds enter torpor every night as their energy is the reason for their survival. 

While hibernation involves accumulating all the food and water storage for months, torpor is different. The bird eats rich foods and then goes into torpor for its fixed hours. 

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What Types Of Birds Hibernate Or Torpor?

Different birds use different survival strategies. While you may find many birds that use torpor, there is only one that hibernates. 

Poorwill is the hibernating bird. The bird is a native of the USA and is found in California and New Mexico. 

This nocturnal bird feeds on insects, but insects are hard to find during winters. Thus, this bird does not migrate like other birds. Instead, it goes into long hibernation-like mammals. 

Its hibernation period lasts for the entire winter season, i.e. months or weeks, until the food is scarce or is not available at all. But Poorwill does not hibernate mandatorily. 

If the weather is good and there is food, it won’t hibernate at all or will shorten the span of hibernation. 

The Birds who use torpor are smaller birds who cannot regulate their body temperatures due to extreme shifts in day and night temperatures. 

Three birds prey during the day, and when they can’t find food, they go into torpor. These birds are- 

  • Hummingbirds
  • Doves
  • Poorwills
  • Nighthawks
  • Titmice
  • Sunbirds
  • Toadies
  • Frogmouths
  • Mousebirds
  • Roadrunners
  • Swifts
  • Chickadees
  • Bats
  • Hedgehogs
  • Dwarf lemurs
  • Badgers

There isn’t any fixed period of torpor. These birds use it as per their convenience. 

The bat may feel the need to use torpor if it does not find enough food, while a small owl may not need it at all. 

Torpor is a very personal matter for all the birds, which depends greatly on their surrounding weather and environmental conditions. 

What Is A Torpid State?

Do you receive birds in your backyard? If you receive hummingbirds in your backyard, you must have seen them lying dead under the tree, and when you go there after a few hours, they aren’t there. 

It is a torpid state. The birds that use torpor go into a torpid state. They looked sluggish and lethargic, void of any activities or movements. 

They use it to restore energy and save calories. Thus, they look almost dead in a torpor. It is called a torpid state. 

What Do Birds Do In Winter? Do They Torpor?

Not all birds migrate or torpor. Going deeper, you must understand more about migration as well. 

In winter, there is a lack of food and nesting resources. Thus, different birds use different strategies during winter for survival. 

When there is food available during the day; the birds who feed on them opt for torpor, where they feed during the day and go into torpor during the night, instead of traveling half the globe to find insects. 

While some birds use migration. Migration means traveling to a resource-rich venue away from the native place. 

It includes traveling to other cities where weather is warmer, or only down the hill where there is still greenery and lots of food, or to other countries where lots of food is available. 

Migration is of three types. 

Short-Distance Migration

It refers to smaller distance travel. Usually, the birds living on high mountains travel to the lower areas when the mountains are covered in snow. 

The lower regions, which are full of greenery even during the winters, provide them with ample food and shelter.

Related Read: What Are The Longest Lived Birds ( Lifespan Of Birds List, Types, Care )

Medium-Distance Migration-

It refers to a few hundred miles where birds travel to different cities or nearby countries from their native places to avoid the cold.

Long-Distance Migration- 

Different exotic birds travel to different continents to spend the winters. These birds travel thousands of miles and spend entire winters in a different place and return to their native lands after winters. 

Migration is triggered by different factors, mostly lack of food and lower temperatures.

Hibernation is the last thing that birds opt for. As you read earlier, only Poorwill hibernates.

How Long Do Birds Hibernate Or Torpor?

Torpor lasts only for a few hours, less than 24 hours, or even two to three days. Hibernation is a long process that lasts for a few weeks or an entire season. 

The Poorwill hibernate the same way as mammals do. But it depends on the weather and environmental conditions.  

Why Do Some Species Don’t Hibernate?

Some species don’t hibernate or migrate at all. These are permanent residents who survive the winters in their native abode. The reasons are several.

  • These birds receive an adequate supply of food and water even during the harsh weather. 
  • Migration requires lots of energy. They rather use it in keeping themselves warm and active instead of using it to fly miles away.
  • They hatch their young ones during winter. 
  • These birds have physical attributes that help them survive the winters. While most birds migrate, they have their fair share of food and water supply, which helps them stay in the winters. 

Are There Any Dangers Of Torpor?

While torpor is a survival strategy, it has its downsides as well. 

In a torpid state, birds are very lethargic, and their senses are not alert, making them vulnerable to attacks from predators. 

Also, coming out of torpor is not easy. It takes several minutes to gather energy. 

A small hummingbird takes around half an hour to wake up completely. And if the conditions are not favorable, the birds may find it even more difficult, and it can also lead to death.

After waking up, birds need to forage for food immediately. It requires rich sources of food to restore its energy.   

How To Keep Pet Birds Warm During Winter? 

While wild birds adopt different strategies to survive, your pet birds depend upon you to keep them safe and warm during the cold. Use the below-mentioned tips to keep your pet healthy.

  • Move their cage to a warmer corner of the house.
  • Use a cage covering to cover them at night. A blanket will also do the work. 
  • If you have a fireplace, keep the cage at a safe distance from it. Or you can buy a heater and place it near the cage.
  • Give them proper winter food, which keeps their digestive system working. It will produce heat and keep the bird warm.

Related Read: What Not To Feed Wild Birds? ( Harmful Foods For Wild Birds )


This is an exclusive guide about winter for birds and how they survive it. 

If you have a pet bird, do understand its requirements and create a suitable environment. 

Also, if you can help wild birds with food and water, it will be great for them. 

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