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Hummingbirds & freezing nights

By Gary Bogue
Monday, January 14th, 2008 at 7:10 am in Cold weather, hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds are hypothermic. They stop moving, their body temperatures will drop dangerously low and they sometimes pass out when the days and nights get as cold as they have recently.

These little guys burn up a lot of energy buzzing around the skies and they have huge appetites to replace that lost energy.

During the cold winter months, these tiny flying flowers rely a lot on the nectar in your hummingbird feeder. Your feeder can freeze during a really cold night and hummers obviously can’t drink from a frozen feeder.

Plain water starts to freeze at 32 degrees F., but the hummingbird nectar in your feeder starts to freeze (gets slushy) at about 26 to 27 degrees because of the added sugar (nectar formula is 4 parts water to 1 part sugar). So on freezing nights, bring your feeder inside the house before you go to bed to keep it at room temperature … and put it back outside just before sunrise so it will be ready and waiting (and UNfrozen!) when your hummingbird arrives for breakfast.

If you forget to do this and discover a frozen feeder some morning, replace the frozen nectar with a fresh unfrozen supply ASAP.

They need to eat early to get their tiny hypothermic bodies recharged and heated up so they can face the new day. /gary

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8 Responses to “Hummingbirds & freezing nights”

  1. Pat in Antioch Says:

    Hi Gary,
    Fortunately, my feeder has never frozen, but I still try to bring it in every morning & warm it up for the little guy. The neatest thing happened a couple weeks ago, I was just about to hang the feeder back on its post when Mr.Hummy decided he just couldn’t wait any longer; he landed on it & started to drink while I was holding it. Needless to say, I froze so as not to spook him…. he made my day!!

    Pat in Antioch

  2. kate Says:

    We’re having a cold snap causing the hummer’s mixture to freeze up during
    day. What to hiker’s use to keep their water from freezing?

  3. kate Says:

    We’re having a cold snap causing the hummer’s mixture to freeze up during
    day. What do hiker’s use to keep their water from freezing?

  4. John Says:

    I am having a simular problem with the humming bird mixture freezing and the first web site I went to gave a real good solution. Change the mixture ratio from 4 to 1 to 3 to 1.

    Web site is

  5. Bernice Says:

    I have 3 hummers that stick around every winter season and when we have really cold weather where the feeders freeze solid I have done several different things.
    1) bring the feeder in at night and put back out in the morning, the only drawback is getting up early enough to get it out before the hummers start.
    2) wrap the feeders with a heating pad and connect to an outside outlet. Wrap the pad with duct tape and keep protected from the elements preferablly under an over hang.
    3) Lastly, try wrapping Plumbers Heat tape around the feeder and you can even add insulation around that and then plug into an outlet. The shortest amount of heat tape available is 3ft but that will provide enough heat and is cost effective.
    4) Finally, try using a clip on lamp with with either a heat lamp bulb or at least one that is 150w. flood or spot lamp. Aim it about 1-2ft away. It should provide enough heat to keep the temp above the freezing point.

    Hope these ideas help.

  6. Julia Says:

    Here is another (illustrated) idea I found for keeping the nectar in the hummingbird feeder warm:

    Unfortunately I live in an apartment building whose balconies lack outside outlets, so I am looking for other solutions that don’t involve having to plug something in.

    My compromise is to muffle the cylinder of the feeder with bubble wrap (a solution suggested in my local newspaper). This does insulate the contents to some extent, and it hasn’t fazed my hummingbirds one bit!

    In the meantime I am diligently bringing the feeder in at night, and returning it just before dawn (with its contents warmed up just a bit). I also check it during the day and bring it in periodically to warm the contents if it is beginning to freeze up. This is labour-intensive, of course, but it’s worth it knowing that the h’birds have a reliable food source during this Arctic cold snap.

    Incidentally, I always use a 1:3 solution of sugar:water in the wintertime, since this higher concentration gives the birds more energy and requires fewer (energy-diminishing) visits to the feeder. However, it’s not proof against freezing. The sugar solution has a lower freezing point, but even this stronger solution started to freeze at around -3C/-28F. Some “syrup” may remain at the bottom, but it’s not necessarily the best thing for the h’birds… so again, when the nectar freezes up, it’s time to retrieve it for a quick thaw-and-return.

  7. Patti Fiske-McFall Says:

    We have four hummingbirds that winter here in Portland Oregon. We had such a winter this year that I was really afraid for them. I have three feeders of which I keep two out in the winter. We had to change the feeders about every half hour as they would start to freeze. We did a rotation of two out one in then one out and two in. This worked out well.

    A friend of mine said he found on a web site that if you used 2 cups water and one cup sugar it will make the syrup thicker and not freeze plus they won’t have to eat as often. However one of our bird shops said this is dangerous and can kill the hummingbirds because it causes their kidneys to shut down. Please advise if this is true.

  8. Kitty Says:

    What can I don to help the hummers at night. We are going below freezing here in Phoenix. The tree that one male (Buddy) sleeps in is nearly bare af leaves due to a disease. I don’t want to interfere with his sleeping habits and chase him off to sleep somewhere that is perhaps even less protective. Can I place a blanket over a section of the tree to give him more shelter. I would think letting to grill burn throughout the night would be to noxious for him. Any suggestions

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