Hummingbirds fly south for the winter, but they still have to endure cold days. It’s important to know how to feed hummingbirds when temperatures are low.
Is it safe for hummingbirds to drink cold nectar?
Hummingbirds can’t drink cold nectar without risking serious, potentially fatal health problems like hypothermia. If you leave your hummingbird feeder out during the cold months, take it indoors overnight to prevent it from freezing, and consider placing an incandescent light bulb near the feeder.
Will Hummingbirds Drink Cold Nectar?
Hummingbirds will drink cold nectar, even if it’s near-freezing temperatures.
However, this can cause serious health issues like hypothermia and even death, so cold nectar should not be left out for hummingbirds to find.
Is Cold Nectar Bad for Hummingbirds?
Cold nectar is bad for hummingbirds because it lowers their internal body temperature to a dangerous degree, especially when feeding in the morning.
Hummingbirds wake up cold and hungry, and they need something to drink that will fill them up without negatively impacting their body temperature.
Hummingbirds lower their body temperature each night as they enter into a low-metabolism state called torpor, but they need to warm up each morning.
Hummingbirds also wake up very hungry first thing in the morning, which means that they’re unlikely to be picky about their food sources.
Because of this, hummingbirds may drink nearly frozen nectar first thing in the morning after a cold night and suffer hypothermia as a result.
Feeding Hummingbirds in the Winter
Most hummingbirds migrate to Central America and Mexico during the winter months, but it’s not unheard of to see hummingbirds spend their winters in southern Texas, Florida, and California.
Hummingbirds spend their time during the winter storing up fat, often doubling in body weight.
They usually eat 1.5 to 3 times their body weight each day in nectar from flowers, insects, and sugar water.
If you’re going to leave your hummingbird feeder up in the winter months, you should ensure the feeder doesn’t get too cold.
Sugar water has a lower freezing temperature than pure water, which means that it will stay liquid at lower temperatures than pure water.
Because of this, it’s dangerous for a hummingbird to drink cold nectar.
Don’t leave the feeder up all night if temperatures are likely to drop below freezing. Consider storing your nectar in the refrigerator overnight, keeping it cool but not cold.
You can also install incandescent light bulbs near the feeder to keep the nectar warm.
Hummingbird Nectar Sugar to Water Ratio
During the winter, hummingbird sugar water needs to be extra sweet. The best ratio of sugar to water to use is 1:3.
In the summer, fall, and spring, hummingbirds need a 1:4 ratio or a 1:5 ratio on especially dry days. This prevents the birds from becoming dehydrated.
Should You Store Hummingbird Nectar in the Refrigerator?
You should store hummingbird nectar in the refrigerator because it can spoil or ferment when it’s left out in the heat.
You should store the nectar in the refrigerator even during the winter, as bacteria can grow in room temperature nectar.
If you want to store hummingbird nectar long-term, you should freeze it instead.
Hummingbird nectar can last up to a month in the freezer but last only one week in the refrigerator.
Remember to thaw the nectar thoroughly before pouring it into the feeder if you choose to freeze it.
Can Hummingbirds Eat Hot Nectar?
Hummingbirds can eat hot nectar so long as the feeder can handle the heat.
Hot nectar can damage some feeders or cause chemicals from certain feeders to dissolve into the nectar, endangering the hummingbirds.
It’s best to let your nectar cool after making it rather than serving it right away. And when you serve nectar from the refrigerator, serve it cool rather than heating it.
How To Make Nectar for Hummingbirds
To make hummingbird nectar, follow these steps:
- Mix one part sugar with four parts pure, clean water.
- Heat the mixture to a boil.
- Let the mixture cool completely.
- Place in the feeder or store in the fridge for up to one week.
Ensure that you use pure sugar, as honey, syrups, and other artificial sweeteners can cause digestive problems in hummingbirds.
Tips for Feeding Hummingbirds
There are numerous other things to consider when feeding hummingbirds if you want to keep the birds healthy, in addition to controlling the temperature of the nectar.
These include the following:
- Change your nectar regularly: every one to two days in hot weather, or once a week during the rest of the year.
- Place the feeder in a partly shady area, bright enough that the color of the feeder will stand out but not so sunny that the nectar will overheat and spoil.
- Take apart and clean your feeder every time you change the nectar.
- Avoid mixing old and new nectar. Replace the nectar completely.
- Watch how much the hummingbirds are using your feeder, and adjust your feeder levels accordingly.
- Keep insects out of the nectar by choosing a feeder that requires the hummingbird’s long tongue to access the nectar. The Bolite 180005 Hummingbird Feeder from Amazon.com is a great choice because its small flowers allow hummingbirds to access the nectar without letting insects in.
- Ensure that you put your feeders out in the early spring, before the birds have arrived and before the flowers they feed on are in bloom.
The following are things to consider if you’re going to leave your feeders out in cold weather:
- Make sure food is freely available during harsh weather when birds have a difficult time finding food.
- Offer nutritious seeds like black oil sunflower seed, niger seed, and white millet seed, as well as fatty foods like peanuts and suet.
- Offer food consistently.
- Flatten the snow beneath the feeder to allow ground-feeding birds an opportunity to eat fallen seeds.
- Store your seed in a cool, dry place. Most seeds can last for months stored this way.