Birdwatchers are protective of their backyard birds. We invest in plants so a variety of species can find food and shelter. We hang feeders to supplement their diet and bring them close enough to observe their behaviors.
Now that Anna’s hummingbirds are staying here in the winter, we keep out the hummingbird feeders.
And every winter, I get calls for help: “My hummingbird feeder froze! What do I do?”
Here are a few tips to keep the sugar water flowing:
Let there be light. Wrap the feeder in outdoor-rated incandescent holiday lights. The new lights, energy-efficient LEDs, aren’t helpful because they don’t give off enough heat. Hopefully the incandescent lights can warm the air to just above freezing.
This would work during the recent cold snap but probably not in bitter cold. Make sure your electric cord also is rated for outdoors use.
Or, put a clamp-on infrared shop light a foot or two from the feeder. Test both the wattage and distance. You don’t want too much heat. If your mix becomes cloudy (think of hot days), use fewer lights, lower wattage or a different distance.
On the plus side, you might see a hummingbird huddling near a light for the night.
Warm wrap. Activate a hand warmer and wrap it around the feeder. Keep it close to the ports.
Seeing double. Rotate two feeders. Or use a feeder only during the day, when the temperatures are not as cold.
Location, location. Put the feeder where it gets the most sun but is also protected from cold winds; use a dome or a roof to protect the feeder from snow.
Wrap it up. Be creative. You can crochet or knit a cover, or just go with a wool sock over the reservoir. Other options include using down-filled material or even pipe insulation. Use heat tape with a thermostat.
Sweet tooth. The standard 4:1 ratio of water to sugar begins to freeze around 27 degrees. If you’re in a particularly long, hard cold snap (not to be confused with chilly weather), change the mix to 3:1 because it lowers the temperature at which it freezes. According to research, this ratio will not hurt the bird, and since they use more energy during the winter, they’ll have more “fuel” to convert to heat and energy.
Spend money. Buy a heated hummingbird feeder.
Check out YouTube. Go to www.thewildbeat.com/2012/01/06/toasty-nectar.
Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or firstname.lastname@example.org.