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Feeding Hummingbirds in Freezing Weather: Keeping Nectar Warm, DIY

Hummingbird on frozen feeder

For those of you whose hummingbirds arrive in cold weather, or if your hummers stay year round and you have occasional sub-freezing weather, we’ve found some brilliant DIY feeder warmers.

Some of these warmers are brilliantly simple while others require bit of handyman-ish knowledge. All are very inventive. We recommend that you don’t start watching these videos 5 minutes before you have to go somewhere because one video always leads to another. Before you know it, it’s dark out, you’ve bought 2 advertised gadgets, and you’re watching funny cat videos.

Our favorite:

We think this particular system worked very well. Maybe it was the awesome video that made it our favorite. During a very cold spell in AZ, Patrick helped his Anna’s Hummingbirds with a heating pad and a hair dryer! And his hummers sat there! It’s a great video…

We’ve yet to try out any of the DIY warmers but will definitely be trying a couple of them this Spring. We’ll take videos and report back. ANY of them will be better than switching out cold with warmed feeders every half hour. Been there and done that. Good thing we’re self-unemployed.

Here’s one of the particularly inventive ones. Maybe a rain hood might be a helpful addition to protect the heater & thermostatically controlled outlet.


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Provide nesting material and locations for your Hummingbirds

Hummingbird sitting next to her nest
Hummer Gathering Cattail Fluff
Cattail fluff is a favorite nesting material

You can encourage your hummingbirds to nest in your area by providing nesting material for them. Natural cotton batting, [real] cotton balls, cattail fluff, plant down (ie: dandelion fluff, thistledown) and feather down (like from an old jacket) are a few examples of good nesting material. Hummingbirds also use lichens, leaf fuzz, and spider webs but the hummingbirds are probably better at collecting these materials than you.

Never use dryer lint as it’s full of chemicals, perfumes and long strands. All of which are dangerous for birds, especially small ones. If you’re providing another material, make sure it’s free of chemicals, perfumes and doesn’t contain long strands.

But how do you contain these materials to offer them? One of those cheap suet cages works great! Chances are you’ve already got one. If you prefer a little more crafty look, a grapevine ball from the craft store does a great job holding nesting material. DIY Grapevine Nesting Ball A rain hood over your offerings will keep them dry and usable plus you won’t have to replace them after a rain.

Cattails and cotton balls in a suet feeder with rain hood
Easy way to offer some cattails or cotton nesting material

You can also create a location on which they can build their nest…

If you suspect that your yard doesn’t have many suitable nesting sites, you can take matters in to your own hands. Here’s an easy How-To for creating nesting sites and supports. It could be just what your hummingbirds need to convince them that your yard is verrry hummingbird-friendly. Avoid locations with a lot of bird traffic.

If you find a hummingbird nest, keep your distance! It’ll drive you crazy because you’ll be dying to see those teeny little babies but you don’t want to interrupt even one feeding visit from mom. You also don’t want to stress her. Their lives are already stressful enough. And certainly never touch the nest. One more thing, if you get a picture of a nest, we’d love to see it!

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8 Cures for Cabin Fever While Waiting for Your Hummingbirds to Return

2 people stuck inside on a winter day

Are you staring out the window at the snow, missing your hummingbirds? Sure, chickadees, junco’s and titmice are great but they just don’t cause us to cheer out loud like we do when we see the first hummingbird in Spring. That’s because hummingbirds are just plain amazing. If you get excited with the arrival of your hummingbirds, this list of sure cures is just what your doctor would order for your cabin fever. For medicinal purposes, only, of course.

1. Plan a hummingbird-filled vacation in the USA.

Here are some really cool places to learn about, see, and even hand-feed lots of hummingbirds. Whether it’s a hummingbird banding, festival or an area known for high numbers of hummingbirds… any of them are known cures for cabin fever. Fire up the RV and call shotgun!

Banded hummingbird resting in hands before flying off

We’ve got over a dozen hummingbird festivals and bandings listed in EVENTS.

For places to visit, and see lots of hummingbirds, click on this… PLACES TO VISIT IN THE USA.

(We’d list them all here but you might never make it to #2 in the list of cabin fever cures)

2. Take a dream, hummingbird-focused eco-tour!

Sparkling Violetear in Ecuador
Sparkling Violetear in Ecuador

Why not??? Central and South America are beautiful! The weather is fabulous and there are scads of incredible hummingbirds, not to mention lots of other amazing birds. C’mon, life is short. Just do it! Maybe even save your receipts to turn in to your health insurance company. Hey, medicinal purposes, right??

We’ve got a few highly recommended destinations for hummingbird enthusiasts in our PLACES TO VISIT OFF THE CONTINENT.

Man with Costa Hummingbirds perched on his hands
Costa Hummingbirds

There are many other great places to visit. These are just a few to get you started.

3. Make a New Year’s resolution to keep your feeders clean and full

This should only take a couple of seconds so, on to #4…

4. Look for hummingbird nests. Get the grandkids involved!

Hummingbird sitting next to her nest
Hummingbird nests are very small and well camouflaged.

Winter is the best time to look for hummingbird nests. They prefer to nest in deciduous trees & shrubs so, with the leaves gone, it’s easier to spot the tiny nests. EasiER, not easy. Dress warm and maybe bring binoculars.

IMPORTANT: If you spot a nest, DON’T bother it! They often return to nests and use them again.

Don’t waste time looking for nests in busy bird areas, like your backyard full of bird feeders. “Contrary to popular belief, hummingbirds generally are not backyard nesters but prefer isolated or semi-isolated environments or undisturbed forest for their nesting sites. Most hummers will return to the same nest site each year and either build upon the existing nest or build a new nest if the old one was destroyed.”

Thomas G. Barnes, Ph.D., Associate Extension Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist, Department of Forestry

(http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/for/for97/for97.htm)

5. Start collecting nesting material for your birds

Providing nesting material is big help for hummingbirds, and all birds for that matter. You can collect material and make a nice looking “bird ball”. You can also purchase them but making a couple of them is a great winter project that doesn’t require any skill. Another grandkid activity! For more detail about what materials to collect, as well as how to make a nest support, see our blog: Providing nesting material and locations for your Hummingbirds

6. Put the migration map link on your smart phone

This map is updated daily so you can see when the first hummers are almost to your area. With this information, you’ll know when to put your feeders out in time to catch those first hummingbirds and let them know that your yard is where all the cool birds are. You could even be pro-active by checking the dates of the 2018 first arrivals and get your feeders out in time to be one of the people who report a first-sighting. Pretty exciting stuff, eh?? Here’s the MAP link. (https://maps.journeynorth.org/map/?year=2019&map=hummingbird-ruby-throated-first)

7. Post some of your favorite hummingbird pics & videos on our FB page

Link to Face Book page

8. Check our Events Calendar to see if we’re at a show near you

Spend a couple hours indoors, walking through gardens, enjoying ponds, and all sorts of un-winter-like stuff while sipping a latte or glass of wine. It’s a great way to shake off cabin fever plus we’d love to meet you so stop by! Our Spring shows

Purple Clematis
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Resources

Sparkling Violetear in Ecuador

Lots of hummer information

Your authentic resource for hummingbird information and endangered species protection. News, images, education and more…

North Carolina Hummingbirds – Identifying & reporting sightings

Georgia Hummers

The Ontario Hummingbird Project

Hummingbirds in the Sonoran Desert

California hummingbirds

Interesting general info

Tracking migrations and seasons

More hummer information, as well as other birds

Hummingbirds of the Pacific Flyway

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PLACES TO VISIT IN THE USA:

Banded hummingbird resting in hands before flying off

Ramsey Canyon Perserve, AZ

We heard the Ramsey Canyon Inn is a great B&B for hummingbird enthusiasts

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Renowned hummingbird researcher and author, Nancy L. Newfield, has compiled a fantastic list of events and destinations

We’ll continue to add to this list as we learn about more great places. We invite you to contact us and let us know of any places we should add to this list.