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Helping hummingbirds thrive in B.C. winters

Thursday, January 6th 2022, 3:23 pm - Anna's hummingbirds may need a little extra help to get through cold snaps in B.C.

Hummingbirds typically migrate south for the winter - but a species found in British Columbia has been sticking around a little longer than expected.

Residents are leaving feeders out and Anna's hummingbirds are taking advantage of them and hanging around town, Yousif Attia, a Birds Canada Outreach and Content Specialist, tells The Weather Network.

That, combined with warmer winter temperatures, has contributed to an increase in their population in parts of B.C.

"Twenty years ago, these birds weren't here - they were quite rare," Attia says.

But the recent cold snap taking over B.C. could put the small birds at risk.

While they're able to maintain their body temperature in chilly conditions, they rely on the feeders to get them through the winter.

That can be a problem - because the mixtures inside them can freeze when it dips below zero.

"Hummingbirds do need to eat every day," Doug Altschuler, a professor of zoology at the University of British Columbia, says, "and that's the real challenge when we have a major cold snap."


Attia says the best way to prevent feeders from freezing is to use a mixture of one part white sugar to four parts water. He says he's seen locals get creative with their feeders, sometimes wrapping glove warmers around them or placing holiday lights nearby to help keep them warm.

Another option is to bring the feeders in overnight and place them outside in the morning and at dusk, when hummingbirds are at their hungriest.

Whatever the method, experts do recommend taking steps to prevent hummingbird feeders from freezing over in cold weather.

"If the food is frozen, that they won't be able to eat anything, and they might not have another feeder nearby," Altschuler says.

"They have such a high body temperature, such a high metabolism, that they need to fuel that metabolism all the time. And if they don't have regular access to food, they're toast."

Thumbnail image courtesy: Anna Meddy.

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