Helping hummingbirds thrive in B.C. winters

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.

Each year, residents leave feeders out, and Anna's hummingbirds are taking advantage of them and hanging around town, Yousif Attia, a Birds Canada Outreach and Content Specialist, told The Weather Network in 2022.

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 said.

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.

Content continues below

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, told The Weather Networ in 2022, "and that's the real challenge when we have a major cold snap."

Keeping hummingbird feeders functional in the cold

According to Attia, the best way to prevent feeders from freezing is to use a mixture of one part white sugar to four parts water. He said 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 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 said.

Content continues below

"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."

Header image: File photo of a male Anna's hummingbird. (Wikipedia/Robert McMorran/United States Fish and Wildlife Service) Public domain.