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Discover What Really Happens to Hummingbirds If They Stop Flying

Jul 20, 2023

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You’ve seen hummingbirds flit rapidly from flower to flower, their wings a vibrant blur, but have you ever seen one resting? Most people haven’t, which has given rise to the widespread belief that hummingbirds must keep flying or die. But is this true or is it just a myth? If it’s a myth, what happens to hummingbirds when they stop flying? Read on to find out this and much more!

©Christine Balleau/iStock via Getty Images

Hummingbirds do not die if they stop flying. The myth that they must keep flying or perish partially stems from the mistaken idea that they have no feet. Hummingbirds appear to be footless because they keep their feet tucked up against their bodies while in flight. In reality, they are fully capable of landing and standing.

Although they can land and perch, hummingbirds are unable to walk or hop due to the unique anatomical structure of their legs and feet. For one thing, hummingbirds have no knees. For another thing, their legs and feet are disproportionately short compared to their bodies. They can shuffle sideways but not take a step.

©roclwyr/iStock via Getty Images

When not flying, hummingbirds mainly sleep. These tiny birds need a lot of rest, typically 12 hours from dust to dawn. However, if they are especially tired or injured, they can sleep up to 18 hours in a row. When a hummingbird settles down to rest, it enters a state of torpor (a form of hibernation). This decreases their metabolism, including slowing their heart rate and dropping their body temperature. They may appear dead while in this state, but they are just resting.

Hummingbirds either sleep in nests or perch on branches with ample leaf cover to avoid predators. Often, they hang upside-down. It takes them a while to fully wake up from their torpor, usually about an hour. For this reason, they refrain from napping during the day.

©R.C. Bennett/

In addition to the myths that hummingbirds die if they stop flying and have no feet, here are a few other common but false hummingbird myths:

©Gregory Johnston/

Here are a few facts about hummingbirds that sound fake but are true:

Contrary to popular belief, hummingbirds do not die when they stop flying. A hummingbird at rest is likely either sleeping or injured. If you see a hummingbird perched motionless on a branch, don’t disturb it – it’s likely not dead but rather in a state of torpor.

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Hummingbirds do not die if they stop flying.A hummingbird hanging upside down is dead.Hummingbirds perch on the backs of other birds during migration.Hummingbirds only feed from red tubular flowers.Hummingbirds only eat nectar.Hummingbirds use their tongues like straws to suck nectar.Adding red dye to water is a good way to attract hummingbirds.Keeping bird feeders out during the winter will prevent hummingbirds from migrating.Hummingbirds don’t just fly forward – they also fly backward and upside down.Hummingbirds are the only birds that can hover in midair.Hummingbirds fly at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.Hummingbirds can stop on a dime.Hummingbirds beat their wings up to 80 times per second.Hummingbird hearts beat at up to 1,260 beats per minute.Hummingbirds are extremely territorial.