It’s unusual for us to get the winter freezes and snow here in the Portland/Vancouver area, but when we do, the resident Anna’s Hummingbirds count on our feeders more than ever. I have three hummingbird feeders that I keep going all winter long. When we have freezing weather, they are more popular than ever. When the weather drops into the 20’s, keeping the nectar from freezing is a big challenge. Here are some ideas, with illustrations, that may make it easier!
People have developed different techniques for the different models of feeders on the market. Here are some of the ideas that might work for your feeder:
1. Try using a feeder model that suction cups to the window. This will buy you a few degrees and works well until the temperature dips really low.
2. Maintain several feeders and rotate them. As they freeze, move them indoors, then back outside when the nectar has thawed.
3. Avoid bringing in feeders at night as some hummingbirds will come out of torpor to feed several hours before dawn or during dark hours of the night. It costs a bird a lot of energy to come out of torpor only to discover the feeder is gone and no food is available. By leaving the feeder out, there’s a chance the nectar will not be frozen solid, which allows the birds to still feed. Either way, do plan to change the nectar out early the next morning. Most hummingbirds begin moving before sunrise and are looking for food immediately.
4. Bottle type feeders– Try wrapping the bottle with holiday lights or bubble wrap for insulation.
5. Saucer type feeders– There are a number of ways to use “Trouble Lights” or even Christmas lights to generate enough warmth to keep the nectar from freezing. Here are a few:
a) Erect a heat lamp under an eave or porch and direct it on the feeder. Place the feeder in a dish with holiday lights below it. As always, use caution when you’re dealing with electricity!
b) Here are a few sketches to help:
Don’t forget to keep the hummingbird nectar fresh. It’s easy to make your own nectar. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add ½ cup sugar to dissolve. Cool. You can store the nectar in the fridge for 2 weeks. Clean and refresh the nectar in the feeder every 4-5 days.
The extra maintenance may be daunting, but these feathered jewels are worth it!