Frozen food for hungry hummingbirds
December 5, 2013 4:12 PM   Subscribe

Hungry birds have not flown south.

It is cold in the Portland, OR area and our hummingbird feeder has frozen. Several little birds have gone from one port to the next trying to get some food. Watching this makes us quite sad. We intend to bring the feeder into the house to thaw, then return it outside tomorrow. Can anyone suggest a better solution? We have thought of adding vodka...
posted by Cranberry to Pets & Animals (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Standard guidance is to put out warmish sugar-water early and take it in overnight, but here are some more detailed suggestions from the Seattle Audubon Society: I like the idea of putting Christmas lights near the feeders, or of using activated charcoal handwarmers.
posted by holgate at 4:19 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I forgot mine outside last night and it froze. I brought it in and thawed it in hot tap water in the sink. It was fine all today even though we never got above about 31-32. I used more sugar than usual when making this batch, as I do in winter. I am going to bring mine in overnight (if I remember!) and take it out in the morning until our cold spell is over.

When I brought the frozen feeder in, a bird was out there, talking to me. Apparently frozen does not work for him. When I took it back out an hour later, a different bird was sitting on the post where I put the feeder and lectured me. Apparently she thought I took too long thawing it out. I guess they work in shifts.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 5:12 PM on December 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

In the PNW we have some hummers (Anna's) that will stay year-round, so if you want to feed them, they'll be there for it! We keep the sugar-water solution at 1:3 or 1:2 instead of 1:4, and it is much less apt to freeze. No fancy colored packaged stuff, no vodka or juice or vitamins, just straight up white table sugar and plain water. Put it out warm, take it in after dark and/or bring it in and thaw it up if it freezes midday, and you will enjoy hummingbirds in snow!
posted by The otter lady at 5:48 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm just blown away that hummingbirds can survive those cold temps!

Since they feed quite early, would it be possible to put the feeder near a 40 watt lightbulb to keep it thawed overnight?
posted by BlueHorse at 7:54 PM on December 5, 2013

It's currently 20-something degrees in our PNW corner of the world so I decided to check our feeder.

We feed a 1:1 ratio in the colder temps and it is still quite sloshy. A little extra oomph for the birds and no ice.
posted by Mysterious Trousers at 8:29 PM on December 5, 2013

Everyone suggesting a higher ratio of sugar to water is on the right track. Adding more sugar will further decrease the freezing point of the solution, so it will freeze less readily in cold weather.
posted by topoisomerase at 11:28 PM on December 5, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions. My husband brought the feeder in to thaw overnight, then adjusted the mix for more food/less water, and returned the feeder to its place with a large light bulb for warmth. It is 23°. There have been many tiny green guests.
Many juncos and chickadees have feasted on the seeded suet also.
posted by Cranberry at 10:35 AM on December 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

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