Saturday, December 7, 2013

Hummingbird's in Winter

As anyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest knows, we've had about a week of what is considered cold weather around here with the high temperatures for the last couple of days not even getting above freezing.  Some people may not realize that although most hummingbirds migrate south for the winter, we have one species of hummingbird, the Anna's hummingbird that lives around the Puget Sound area year round.  They eat insects as well as nectar so usually manage to ok finding food since there are some winter blooming flowers and it is usually warm enough that there are a few bugs around.  Not so, this week and because of the low temperatures they need more food that usual to stay warm.
Male Anna's Hummingbird - a year round resident of the Puget Sound area
The nectar in my hummingbird feeder was freezing even during the day and I had up to 3 hungry hummers at a time buzzing it.  I kept bringing it inside to warm it back up and would look out my kitchen window to find them looking in at me as if to say "hey lady, where's our food?"

An old friend who used to be my neighbor also feeds the hummers and shared her trick for keeping the nectar from freezing and also provide the birds with a little warmth.  She clamps a utility light above her feeder.  Since I lack imagination, but am a great copycat, I adopted her idea and it works like a charm.  (Thank you, Sue!)
Here is a photo of my set-up:

Keeping my hummingbird nectar thawed

If you look closely at the photo you can see the blur of male hummingbird to the right side of the feeder.  Since taking the photo, we made some adjustments to the length of the wire holding the feeder to shorten it up and keep it closer to the heat of the lamp.  Another tip I read somewhere was that it is ok to increase the amount of sugar in the nectar to 3 parts water to one part sugar.  (Normally it is 4 parts water to one part sugar).  The birds can use a little extra energy boost in the cold weather and the added sugar helps to lower the freezing temperature.  Remember to always just use regular granulated sugar - NO HONEY, NO ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS!  There is also no need to add red food coloring - as you can see, the hummers find the red feeding ports and don't need the food coloring.  No one knows for sure if the food coloring could be potentially harmful, so why use it?

Here's another photo of a happy hummer looking at me:

Male Anna's Hummingbird at a Hummingbird Feeder

As long as we're talking about hummingbird feeders, the one in the photo is the same model as the one below.   And the type of light I've used to keep it warm is just an inexpensive utility lamp like the one below:

It is the model I prefer and I think the hummers like it, too.  They seem to the perches as you can see the hummingbird in the photo is using one.  I like them because most of it is glass (other than the bottom with the feeding ports) instead of plastic so they don't get discolored or leach any unhealthy chemicals into the nectar.  I usually just run my feeders through the dishwasher, after inspecting the inside to make sure there isn't any mold.  This is also a good size - the feeder should be cleaned and fresh nectar added at least once a week - so usually my nectar runs out before it gets stale which makes it easy for me to remember to always replace it frequently.

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