Torpor and Animals



Simple definition:  A survival mechanism employed by some mammals and birds where there is a temporary reduction of body temperature on cold days.  Torpor is triggered by ambient temperature and food availability. Note: Hibernation is an extended form of torpor.

To read more about what torpor is and how it compares with hibernation, here’s a link: The Difference Between Hibernation and Torpor.


pygmy nuthatches

We came across this term for the first time when we were learning about the life cycle of the pygmy nuthatch. Reading in our field guide, we came across the term “torpor” and didn’t know what it meant. This led to some research online and it amazed us how this little bird is able to survive the below freezing temperatures we have here in Central Oregon by going into torpor and huddling together with other nuthatches in tree cavities.

These things all work together to conserve energy and keep the tiny little birds alive through the long winter nights.

Please note that I am just skimming the surface of this topic here in this post and I intend on continuing to learn about this topic as time goes by. It fascinates me to see how there are such amazing mechanisms for survival in the seemingly ordinary animals right in my own backyard.



Additional Links:

4 Nuthatches, 4 Ways to Make it Through a Cold Winter

Hummingbirds Sleep

What is torpor? -includes a short list of mammals that go into torpor



Learning About Birds 3D cover

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  1. I didn’t realize that birds did that also. We have frogs that go into a state of torpor here in Minnesota to get through the winter. The glucose in their bodies also acts like an antifreeze so that they can survive the sub-zero temperatures. I’ll have to learn more about birds and torpor too. Very interesting! Thanks for posting this.

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