Considering the fact that hummingbirds drink liquid nectar that can freeze, however, one of the inherent problems with feeding these mini birds in the winter is that their food can freeze. Here are some tips for keeping things flowing smoothly:
Have an extra filled feeder. When you experience freezing temperatures, swap out the frozen feeder with the warm one and keep doing so as necessary. Hummingbirds do not feed at night, so if you swap your feeder out in the morning after a cold night, you may be able to keep the feeder nicely thawed for a while.
If your temperatures are harsh this time of year, you could try a heat lamp to keep the feeder thawed. Some creative bird lovers even wrap Christmas lights around the base of their feeders to help keep them warm. The ambient heat generated by a string of lights can be just enough to keep your feeder flowing in some climates. (Depending on how cold it gets, of course.)
Do you have a mechanic's trouble light in your garage? This light, which features a small cage around and it and hook for hanging, can put out an appropriate amount of heat to keep the feeding solution from freezing.
Another option for warming your feeder is to attach a hand warmer to the feeder with duct tape. These hand warmers - commonly found in the sporting or camping section of your store -- emit heat for about seven hours.
Or give plumber's heat tape a try. Like the Christmas light idea, you can wrap these flexible electric tapes around the bottom of the feeder to help it stay warm. The wattage of these tapes - available in hardware and home stores -- is very low but can be enough to keep the solution from solidifying.
Although a higher sugar concentration can help prevent your feeding solution from freezing, bird experts caution you from adjusting the feeding mix from the recommended 1:4 sugar to water ratio for hummingbirds. Nectar with a high concentration of sugar cannot travel up the grooves of a hummingbird's tongue easily and it may damage the bird's kidneys and liver. Also, it's best to use only white sugar and water as your feeding solution, experts say. Do not include red dye, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup or other sweeteners.
Hummingbirds roost in trees and shrubs and are able to reduce their body temperature at night to conserve their energy. Therefore, they do need a lot of energy from sucrose during the day to keep them going strong. They also will search for and eat any insects they can find to meet their daily protein, vitamin and mineral requirements.
Just like keeping your other bird feeders full helps your larger feathered friends, keeping the nectar in your hummingbird feeder clean and unfrozen helps these beautiful and fascinating tiny birds get through the winter safely.