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Freezing weather can keep hummingbirds from feeding. Here’s how to help

A little holiday cheer helps feed these hummingbirds

Elaina Bailey of Bellingham loves hummingbirds and wanted to feed them as temperatures dropped below freezing this week. A string of incandescent lights on her feeder helps prevent the nectar from freezing.
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Elaina Bailey of Bellingham loves hummingbirds and wanted to feed them as temperatures dropped below freezing this week. A string of incandescent lights on her feeder helps prevent the nectar from freezing.

Elaina Bailey of Bellingham loves hummingbirds and worried about feeding them as temperatures dropped below freezing this week.

A bird guidebook provided the solution — a string of incandescent lights wrapped around her feeder prevents the nectar from freezing.

“It works perfect down to about 20 degrees,” Bailey said in an interview Wednesday. “Then I break out a heat lamp. I end up with clouds of hungry hummers that will land on me while I’m putting out feeders.”

Whatcom Humane Society’s wildlife rehabilitation center has seen an increase in arrivals of hummingbirds this month and has fielded calls from concerned citizens during the cold snap.

“In the winter, hummingbird feeders are a hummingbird’s only source of food, so it’s crucial that feeders are available and stay thawed to allow birds to feed,” the Humane Society said in a Facebook post. It recommends securing a heat lamp within two feet of the feeder, or using Bailey’s solution of a string of lights.

The Seattle Audubon Society recommends not changing the mix of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar, but warns the mix will begin to freeze around 29 degrees Fahrenheit. It suggests concerned bird watchers keep two feeders — one outside, one inside — and rotate them throughout the day to keep the fluid moving and available to the birds.

If you find a hummingbird that appears frozen or dead, call the WHS Wildlife Center for guidance on how to safely contain the bird and bring it to the rehabilitation center. For more information, call 360-966-8845.

If you love Whatcom Wildlife: Join us in our Facebook group Whatcom Wildlife. The Bellingham Herald created this group because we know so many people love to take pictures and video of the animals around us. And while we might want to publish a photo from the site, we’ll always ask the photographer’s permission first.

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