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Cold birds appreciate the help

With the return of cold weather to the Vancouver area we are getting lots of inquiries about cold hummingbirds that are spending the winter here.

We have one species of hummingbird that overwinter in the Vancouver Area - the Anna's Hummingbird.  We've been seeing this larger hummingbird stick around southwestern BC because of our mild winters and our abundance of gardens, greenery and feeders.  They are, however, not well adapted when we get the extended cold snaps when temperatures fall and stay below zero.

If you have a regular visitor at your hummingbird feeder you can take some steps to help them out over the winter months.  Number one is making sure your feeder nectar (one part sugar, four parts clear water) stays both fresh and unfrozen.  It should be changed every couple of days and the feeder washed thoroughly with a mild soap solution.  The feeders can be brought in overnight as hummingbirds will not feed during the hours of darkness.  Then when you wake up and place the feeder out it will still be warm from being inside - just make sure to have it out a little bit before dawn.

There are commercial devices you can purchase (check online bird stores) to place around your feeder base that plug in and warm the solution and keep it from freezing.  Or if you are handy you can research some do-it-yourself techniques that involve using a lightbulb in a cut out container and attaching it to the underside of your feeder.

Because the base is what attracts the hummingbirds we've also seen some success with wrapping a small heating pad around the jar of sugar water to keep it warm as well.

Finally, providing a sheltered perch near the feeder (and away from any access from local cats) can be a nice addition to give the birds a sheltered resting point between feeds.

If you see a bird perching for extended periods of time it is probably just resting and conserving energy.  If approached it should fly off but remember this will cost them energy so please only do it if you are absolutely uncertain if the bird is ok.

Thanks for looking out for our magnificent Anna's Hummingbirds in this time of poor weather!