Hummingbirds aren’t known for living in cold weather climates, but during the breeding season some species do fly north, and some species are now resident in the US. If the temperature drops, sugar water can freeze and the birds will go hungry.
Colder weather also means that other food sources such as insects and flower nectar will not be available so the feeder will be vital to give the hummingbirds the energy they need.
Hummingbirds In The Winter
It’s not uncommon to see hummingbirds in winter. While they mostly head south after breeding, some may have migrated later in the season and decide to wait where they are for spring to arrive. Late migration can also mean that the younger birds can get trapped before they can fly south for winter.
Hummers survive winter by entering a state of torpor. This effectively shuts their bodies down so they use less energy. Their diet is mainly insects and while this provides them with proteins, it doesn’t give them much of an energy boost. Your feeder will really help keep the hummingbird’s energy levels up so here are a few tips to keep your sugar water flowing during colder temperatures.
How To Keep Your Hummingbird Feeder From Freezing
Get another feeder
One very easy way to make sure your hummingbirds have a good supply of nectar is to rotate two feeders. If a feeder freezes, replace it with one which has been kept warm indoors. The frozen one will defrost and can be swapped with the other feeder when that one has frozen.
This is also a good way to keep your feeder clean in winter as you can clean one overnight with one ready to go out fresh first thing in the morning.
Window feeders are designed to fit on to your window and while they are ideal for those living in apartments, they are also a great way to watch hummingbirds from the comfort of your home. They are also very useful in winter.
Some of the heat from your home will get through your windows and this heat can help prevent the feeder from freezing.
You can keep your feeder warmer by wrapping something around it. Just like we use a scarf to keep out those chill winds, lagging your feeder will do the same thing. There are a number of ways you can do this.
- In fact, a scarf will do just what you need it to do. Anything which you can put over or around the reservoir to help stop it from freezing is all you need.
- Buy hand warmers. You can heat these and wrap them around the feeder, making sure you get them as close to the ports as possible. You will need to check them to make sure they are still warm.
- You can purchase tape from the hardware store which is designed to stop your pipes from freezing in the winter. This works around hummingbird feeders too.
If you do choose to wrap your feeder, cut off any loose pieces of fabric or loose ends. You can even wrap something red around the feeder to help the hummingbirds find it.
Light It Up
Using the same principle as the window feeder, you can use lights to create heat to your feeder. If you use light, make sure they are suitable for outdoor use and always check the electric cable.
- Holiday lights will make your feeder look festive, and the lights will also give out a little heat which may be enough to stop it from freezing.
- Your local hardware store will sell clamp on lights. These can be placed close to the feeder to keep it warm, but be careful you don’t place them too close or the heat could damage the nectar.
LED lights do not give off much heat, and won’t help warm the feeder. If you use red colored lights, they will also attract the hummingbirds.
Relocate the feeder
You may need to look at the position of your feeder and relocate it for the winter.
- In the summer you try to keep the feeder out of direct sunlight, but in the winter you may need to do the opposite. Winter sunshine isn’t as strong as summer sunshine so it’s less likely to make the nectar moldy. It may, however, heat the feeder enough to prevent it from freezing.
- If you have an area which is sheltered from the wind, this is also a good place to put your feeder. Protecting it from cold winter winds is a good way to stop it from freezing. If your garden is quite exposed, use a windbreak around the feeder.
- In snowy weather make or buy a dome or baffle to put over the top of your feeder. This will prevent the snow from gathering on it.
Change the recipe
The standard recipe for nectar is 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. During a normal cold spell, you will be able to keep these proportions and do your best to stop it from freezing. If the weather is particularly cold or you are having a prolonged period of cold weather, you may need to alter the ratio of the nectar.
Change your mix to 3 parts water to 1 part sugar. The extra sugar lowers the temperature at which the nectar will freeze. This temporary change will not harm the hummingbirds. On the contrary – it will give them a much needed energy boost at a time when food is scarce.
Buy a heated feeder
There are feeders available which are heated for the winter, so all you have to do is top them up, plug them in and watch the hummers feed. They do cost a little more, but they can also be very beneficial during cold weather – or an alternative is an attachment that goes on the bottom of the feeder, we recommend one here from Amazon.
While the nectar is less likely to go moldy in cold weather, still make sure it is fresh and your feeder is kept clean. You should also check your feeder to make sure it is suitable for freezing temperatures. If your nectar freezes, check for any cracks before refilling it and putting it back in your yard.