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Fat deposition and torpor use in hummingbirds exhibiting distinct foraging styles should vary. We predicted that dominant territorial hummingbirds will use torpor less than subordinate nonterritorial species because unrestricted access to energy by territory owners allows for fat storage. Entry into torpor was monitored using open-flow respirometry on hummingbirds allowed to accumulate fat normally during the day. Fat accumulation was measured by solvent fat extraction. Territorial blue-throated hummingbirds (Lampornis clemenciae) had the highest fat accumulation and used torpor only 17% of the time. Fat storage by L. clemenciae averaged 26% of lean dry mass (LDM) in 1995 and 18% in 1996, similar to that measured for other nonmigratory birds. Fat storage by magnificent hummingbirds (Eugenes fulgens; trapliner) and black-chinned hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri; nectar robber) averaged 19% and 16% of LDM, respectively, and they used torpor frequently (64% and 92% of the time, respectively). All species initiated torpor if total body fat dropped below 10% of LDM, indicating the existence of a torpor threshold. The ability of L. clemenciae to store enough fat to support nighttime metabolism is likely an important benefit of territoriality. Likewise, frequent torpor use by subordinates suggests that natural restrictions to energy intake can impact their energy budget, necessitating energy conservation by use of torpor.


Originally published in Physiological & Biochemical Zoology, 76:389-397, 2003.

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