Hummingbirds are one of the bird species that birdwatchers are protective of in their backyards. Although they are not known for living in colder climates, some especially during the breeding season, fly north and becomes resident of colder places.
Anna’s Hummingbird, in particular, is seen in several states throughout winter. They are a year-round Pacific Coast resident that occasionally overwinters in the northern areas.
It isn’t a problem at all. In fact, it is quite a sight to see. However, the drawback kicks in with keeping hummingbird feeders from freezing. Cold weather entails that food sources like insects and flower nectar go unavailable.
Hummingbirds and Cold Weather
Most hummingbirds head south after breeding. Some decide to migrate at a later part in the season and wait where they are until spring arrives. This means that younger birds can get trapped before they can fly south for winter.
This specie of birds can survive winter by entering a state of torpor. This process shuts their bodies down to use less energy. At this time, their diet mainly consists of insects for their protein intake. However, it does not give them much of an energy boost.
Their high metabolism also does not help. Although they have their ways to keep themselves warm, an abrupt cold snap can be fatal.
What they need is a reliable source of nectar to renew their energy. Nighttime temperatures may freeze sugar water, causing night-starved birds to wait few more hours for the nectar to thaw enough for them to drink.
Another thing to consider is how frozen nectar can damage hummingbird feeders making them less useful for feeding birds for the rest of the year.
Keeping Hummingbird Nectar From Freezing
It is possible no matter how cold the weather may be. You can do it successfully with the many ways you can implement it.
Prepare 2 to 3 Feeders
The easiest way to ensure you will have a good supply of thawed nectar for hummingbirds is to rotate feeders. That way, if one feeder freezes, you can instantly replace it with another that has been kept warm indoors. Then the frozen one can get thawed and be swapped in the event the other one freezes.
A good thing about this is that you can keep your feeder clean in winter as often as having to clean it every night when you take it in, with one ready to go out fresh the next morning.
Design a Window Feeder
This tip is ideal for birdwatchers who are living in apartments. Window feeders are great to fit on to your window panes. They instantly give you the cozy feeling of watching birds from the comfort of your home. But, how can they be great in winter?
The heat coming from inside of your home can get through the windows. The same heat that can keep the nectar from the feeder from freezing. Attach hummingbird window feeders from a heated room. Best if it is from a single-paned window where more heat gets transferred.
Lag Your Feeders
Wrap your feeder around with a scarf or anything that will keep it warm. The same principle applies when you wear a jacket or a scarf to keep out the chilling winds. Lagging your feeder does the same thing. You can do that by:
- Putting or wrapping over with scarf.
- Use hand warmers to wrap the feeders. Get the tightest ones as possible.
- Purchase tapes from the hardware store. The same one you use to stop your pipes from freezing in the winter. Works great with feeders too.
Light It Up
Applying the same principle in window feeders, lights create heat that can be enough to keep your hummingbird feeders warm. Be sure that if you choose to do this process, that you select a light set that is suitable for outdoor use. Always check the electrical cables for any wear and tear.
LED lights do not heat as much. Incandescent lamps are perfect however, the government has prohibited the manufacture and import of all incandescent lights. You may substitute it with holiday lights instead. Don’t you like it that it will add a festive feel to your feeder?
Relocate and Reposition the Feeder
Relocate your feeder from where it is positioned during summer. Summer would need you to keep the feeder out of direct sunlight however, in winter, you may just need to do the opposite. The sun during the winter season is not as strong as summer so it won’t get the nectar moldy. On the other hand, it will keep the feeder warm enough to keep it from freezing.
You may also create or buy a dome to put over the top of your feeder to help keep the snow from gathering on it.
Alter the Recipe
Normally, your nectar for the hummingbird should be 4 parts water and 1 part sugar. But, during the colder season, you can alter this concoction to stop it from freezing.
For particularly colder days or prolonged period of chilly weather, change your mix to 3 parts water and 1 part sugar. The excess in sugar reduces the temperature at which the nectar can freeze. This is safe for hummingbirds and won’t harm them at all. It can even give them the much-needed energy pep at the time of food scarcity.
Get a Heated Feeder
Some feeders are designed to produce their own heat during the winter and it is not so bad to use them with hummingbirds. They may cost you extra but, they are effortless to use. All there is to do is to top them up with food, plug them in, and wait for the hummers to feed.
Check out this Feeder Heater that you can purchase from Amazon and see for yourself just how beneficial it is for you and your birdwatching satisfaction.
While hummingbirds have this mechanism of entering into an energy-conservation mode during winter, they still have limits as to how low they can deal with temperature. However, freezing temperatures are not direct factors in the mortality of hummingbirds. What they need is to have enough supply of food like nectar and bugs. Otherwise, their nutrition will suffer.
During winter, there is little bug activity making it a challenge for hummingbirds. Nectars get frozen during winter, too and they shouldn’t drink them as they can actually cold-stun them.
The best way to keep hummingbirds from freezing is the first step we mentioned – preparing enough feeders to take alternates. Don’t worry about making too much nectar. They can be stored for later use and can stay fresh for up to 7 to 10 days.