Pay Attention to Hummingbird Feeders in the Winter

Did you know that Anna’s Hummingbirds are the only type of hummingbird which are known to reside year-round on the Pacific coast? Historically, these birds would typically migrate South during the winter months in order to escape the harsh weather conditions following insect populations and flowering food sources. In the past few decades, however, it has become more and more common for Anna’s Hummingbirds to remain on the Pacific coast, year-round, due in large part to good Samaritans and hobbyists who leave hummingbird feeders out as a food source. The hummingbirds that do stay are usually the result of these feeders, or because of unseasonably mild Winters.

Photo Credit: Paul Steeves

Ideally, all hummingbird feeders should be taken down in September of each year, before migration begins. If left up, they encourage hummingbirds to forego their natural migration instincts and become reliant on this artificial sustenance throughout the winter months. In some cases, these feeders are left up unknowingly and without proper care, which can ultimately lead to the starvation and death of the hummingbirds which have become dependent on them for survival.

The hummingbirds which are unable to find nutrient sourced feeders come to Wildlife Rescue in critical condition – thin and in distress as a result of reduced food intake. Some of these birds show signs of infection caused by dirty feeders that can result in fungal and bacterial infections in their GI tract or respiratory system. Tragically, these birds usually pass away or suffer through severe respiratory distress.

Hummingbirds have a high metabolism and can keep themselves warm by going into torpor at night to preserve their energy. However, when they arise early in the morning, they need a reliable source of nectar to replenish their energy.

As we prepare for deadly cold snaps this winter, we want to educate and encourage our friends on how we can become instrumental to the survival of these hummingbirds.

Photo Credit: Paul Steeves

We encourage you to use these tips and share them with your feeder friends so that these tiny birds can stay strong and healthy at all times.

  • Once per week, change the sugar water and clean the feeder with bleach. Fully dry the feeder before putting it back out again for your visitors.
  • We recommend having two feeders so that you can have one out all the time, while the other one is cleaned and left to dry.
  • Alternate the two feeders to be able to bring a fresh and defrosted one out first thing in the morning. You can either remove this one at dusk and let it defrost, or just alternate the two every morning if you have a variable schedule.
  • Prevent freezing of the feeder by using feeder heaters or lights. We recommend industrial work lights or outdoor floodlights. Always ensure your cords are protected from moisture and be sure to follow the relevant safety precautions.
  • If you leave a feeder up past September (when migration begins), you will need to keep monitoring and maintaining it throughout the winter. If the feeders are not actively maintained, the birds could starve to death as a result of the harsh climate and lack of other available natural food sources.
  • Provide protection to feeders when possible. Placing them near covered porches and near windbreaks can help to prevent snow build-up and freezing.
  • You can remove your feeder in the spring when flowers and insects return.

If you have questions on how to provide care for your feeder or if you discover distressed hummingbirds in your area, please find information here or call our helpline at 604-5267-7275.

You can also help to provide care for distressed hummingbirds that arrive at Wildlife Rescue and need our help by giving today.

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