Keeping Hummingbird nectar from freezing is very possible and I have some great info that will help you do this successfully. There are a number of ways that this can be implemented.
First, let's look at why anyone would want to feed Hummingbirds in winter.
Hummingbirds typically migrate from North America in the winter, for the most part, to south or central Americas.
There are exceptions though. One is the Annas Hummingbird.
The Annas Hummingbird lives on the western coast of North America along the shores of the Pacific ocean in California, Washington State and southern British Columbia and will remain all year.
Some other types of Hummingbirds also inhabit the southern regions of Arizona and Texas all year.
But occasionally stragglers occur. And, there are also some Hummingbirds, who for whatever reason choose not to make the long migration trip.
Whatever the reason for not leaving it seems indifferent to us to not make an attempt to help these “hanger-ons”.
But what can we do?
On the west coast of North America as far north as Vancouver British Columbia, Hummers have stayed all winter for decades. Enjoy this amazing video of one households winter chores in NW Oregon!
Isn't that amazing to us Hummingbird Lovers in the eastern half of the continent. I would love to be busy with taking care of those feeders all winter!
Here is a list of ways for keeping Hummingbird nectar from freezing:
1. Wrap a short string of outdoor Christmas lights around the nectar holder of the feeder. (Keeping in mind not to use too many lights making the syrup too warm.) Would it matter about the colour of the lights? Studies show that Hummers do like red, orange or yellow the best, but not in exclusion to other colours.
2. The picture at the top of the page shows a version of keeping syrup warm which worked well for the creator. Only one small light bulb is used and a foil plate to reflect the light back onto the feeder. This may not be enough if you live where the temperatures are typically below zero to keep the syrup from freezing.
3. Purchase a 125 watt infra-red light bulb (not the red type) and screw it into a clamp-on-light fixture. Place the light 1 to 2 feet from the feeder. You can connect it to a timer to come on during freezing temperatures or leave it on all the time. (Check the temperature of the syrup to adjust the distance. This information came from birdchaser.blogspot.ca)
This is what this set-up looks like:
Normally it is recommened to mix the solution to a 4:1 ratio. You can even make it weaker to a 5:1 ratio during the summer months and the Hummingbirds will not notice.
Many experts believe that mixing the syrup solution stronger to a 3 part water to 1 part sugar solution when it is colder will help the Hummers in cold temperatures. Giving them extra fuel to produce heat and energy at this needy time.
Wildflowers have a wide range of nectar sweetness strength with some up to 50:50 sugar content. The Hummers of course are getting a mix of sweetness as they flit from flower to flower.
The stronger solution also has a slightly lower freezing level so it will also be helpful in keeping hummingbird nectar from freezing.
To sum it up, in cooler weather in early spring, late fall and all winter mixing a stronger syrup solution is recommended.
(Just a note: I have not always supported stronger solutions because I had read from some sources that it would cause health problems for the little birds. But upon further investigation from reliable sources it is evident that there is no cause for alarm.)
It will surprise you how well Hummingbirds will thrive even in the coldest temperatures. Their high rate of metabolism and the fact that they are designed to go into a deep sleep called “torpor” to conserve energy will make feeding Hummingbirds in winter a great success.
Most wild birds only need to migrate because of lack of food. Keeping warm is not a problem unless there is severe conditions.
If you would like to learn more about how Hummers have adapted to survive in winter and have greatly expanded their areas over the last few decades, here is a very interesting article from Birds and Blooms.
I hope this information helps you in keeping hummingbird nectar from freezing if you have little birds visiting your feeders in frosty weather.
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