The Metabolic Rate of Hummingbird

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Metabolism in Birds

According to Bradley & Melby, (2017) metabolism refers to both the chemical and physical that surrounds the body energy release and use. The body requires energy to perform various tasks including but not running and maintaining the daily metabolism, muscles contraction and relaxation in movement and locomotion, daily basal metabolic activity, tissue and organ development and functionality as well as other energy requirements. Additionally, metabolic process is anchored on catalytic and enzymatic actions that have the capacity to control the reaction rates.

In birds, energy is sourced through food they eat around which are then oxidized in the process of respiration to release energy. Therefore, any significant threat to metabolism is in itself a threat to life. Different birds have different rates of metabolism depending on the characteristics special to the bird. Such characteristics includes; basal metabolic rate, body size to volume ratio, level of activity and other factors. According to Powers et al. (2017), the higher the surface are to volume ratio, common with smaller sized birds, the higher the energy requirements. This is due to the fact that higher surface area to volume ratio exposes the organism to more heat loss to the surrounding thus compelling the need for higher metabolism to generate the lost heat.

The Amazing Metabolism of Hummingbirds

Hummingbird falls under the category of birds with very large surface area to volume ratio owing to its small size in nature. In addition to the extremely high activity level, humming bird is believed to be the creature with the highest metabolism. The bird has about a hundred time the rate of metabolism relative to that of the elephant and about twelve higher than that of a pigeon. As a consequence of this amazing metabolism, hummingbirds do consume nectar equivalent to their weights daily or even more especially during migration. At their active states, the hammers can use in excess of eight times their basal metabolic rates. Other than their small size, hammers have high level of activity in the sense that they have ability to beat their wings for about 80 times per second and 1000 per minute heart beat rate (Givot et al., 2015). In this work, the amazing metabolism of humming bird was researched with the aim of achieving a better understanding behind the high metabolism rates. Most of the energy of humming bird are lost to the environment in form of heat.

Maintaining Constant Body Temperature

At night, the metabolic rate of the hummingbird is only 1/5 as compared to the rate during the day, and the temperature of the body falls to the level of ambient temperature. Every night, hummingbirds may not become torpid, but most of them move as though congealed. By the break of the day, they regain their temperatures spontaneously, and metabolic rates increase readily to undertake its activity. According to Graham et al. (2016), hammers conserve their energy by lowering their thermostats during extremely cold weather and when surviving food periods shortages. Hummers are only a few hours from starving to death at their active metabolic rate. Furthermore, bad weather periods harshly affect them even at their rate of basal. Poorwills and swifts birds may also become torpid, though different researchers have not exploited their lowered metabolic rates. Constant body temperature maintenance for the birds has been a critical challenge when the ambient temperature increases above the body temperature besides being a challenge only for birds trying to keep from chilling in cold weather.

Hummingbirds avoid overheating since they have relatively larger body surface which loses cooling water and take in the surrounding heat very fast. For instance, it is evident that songbirds seek shade and become inactive at midday during heat waves. On the other hand, it can also be observed that some birds like soaring birds take advantage of radiant heat rising warm air packets to eliminate midday heat waves as well as their protein denaturing at the high altitude cool air areas. According to Powers et al. (2017), birds are active during the night because of higher body temperatures as observed in Nighthawks and Poorwills birds. Hummingbirds higher body temperatures enable them to take on activities from which other birds are hindered or take advantage of otherwise inaccessible regions during cold weather seasons. Their metabolism functions very well in a homogeneously thermal environment because of the constant temperature of the body. Birds’ high body temperature raises the chemical reaction rate allowing essential mechanical purpose which depends on diffusion to be carried out vigorously.

The hotter a bird is, the more extremely rapid information is processed, and bird’s muscles and brain receive commands quicker because heat waves speed the diffusion of transmitter chemicals in nerve connections. This is evident why hummingbirds react very quickly. For both avian predators and prey, higher operating temperatures benefit them. Birds are not dependent on the sun’s warmth to obtain the needed body heat as opposed to other cold-blooded animals like lizards. One of the main benefits of constant high brain temperature maintenance is that it enhances memory and accelerates learning (Givot et al., 2015).


Bradley, T. H., & Melby, C. L. (2017). Discussion:“Temperature of Food and Drink Intake Matters”(Wong, KV, 2016, ASME J. Energy Resour. Technol., 138 (5), p. 054701). Journal of Energy Resources Technology, 139(1), 015501.

Givot, R., O'Connell, K., Hadley, A. S., & Betts, M. G. (2015). Hummingbird citizen science. The Science Teacher, 82(8), 25.

Graham, C. H., Supp, S. R., Powers, D. R., Beck, P., Lim, M. C., Shankar, A.,& Wethington, S. M. (2016). Winter conditions influence biological responses of migrating hummingbirds. Ecosphere, 7(10).

Powers, D. R., Langland, K. M., Wethington, S. M., Powers, S. D., Graham, C. H., & Tobalske, B. W. (2017). Hovering in the heat: effects of environmental temperature on heat regulation in foraging hummingbirds. Royal Society open science, 4(12), 171056.

August 09, 2023




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