HBRC

Ohio Tri-state Hummingbird Study

Attracting and Feeding Hummingbirds In Winter

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Winter

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The goal to feeding hummingbirds in Winter in the Eastern U.S., and for this study by the Ohio Tri-state Hummingbird Study, is to attract Western Hummingbird Species that pass through various parts of Ohio. 

 

Until Hummingbird banding and winter feeding really took hold, there was very little data related to Western Hummers in our area. Since the need for winter feeding awareness and Hummingbird banding was realized 20 years  ago, 14 species of Western Hummingbirds have been identified in the Eastern U.S. Four of which have 

been recorded in Ohio! 

 

Keep a feeder out and see what comes in!!! Then contact Tim Tolford at hummers@tolford.com if you have a visitor from the West. 

 

Click here to see a review of several feeders I have tested.

 

The following information was obtained and/or copied by permission from Hummer Bird/Study Group (HBSG) website. Visit HBSG for more information about feeding hummingbirds all year long.

 

 

Hummingbirds have excellent eyesight and have great fidelity to established feeding stops along their migration route. Attracting hummers to your yard will require a bright splash of color. This can be accomplished by selective plantings or by artificial means such as surveyor's ribbon or silk flowers. These methods will attract the hummers to your yard making it easier for them to find your feeders. See the list of the HBSG favorite plants for hummers.

 

Based on 20 years of studying and banding wintering hummingbird species in the eastern United States, here are my recommendations for preventing the contents of hummingbird feeders from freezing.  My personal recommendation is to continue to fill your feeders with the widely accepted mix of four parts water to one part regular table sugar (4 to 1). A mixture of 3 to 1, water to sugar, is probably not harmful but it may lead down that slippery slope of ever-stronger mixes that probably are not useful and may in fact be less than desirable for hummingbirds.  Note that a 4 to 1 mix begins freezing when the temperatures drop to the 26-27 degree Fahrenheit range.  At and below these temperatures, the fluid will likely become somewhat slushy.  Hummingbirds will still feed on slushy sugar water at temperatures even lower.  One option to prevent freezing is bring the feeder in at night and put it out again before dawn the next morning.  While this works fine if you are a dedicated, stay-at-home early-riser, this system is however, full of dismal failures, such as sleeping late, forgetting, sickness, vacations, etc.  Plus, the feeder will promptly freeze again as soon as it is placed outside on mid-20's or lower mornings.  Needless to say this is not my favorite option.

 

The most successful option is to use a 150-watt outside flood or spot lamp in a clip-on utility light fixture.  The lamp needs to be one of the shatterproof lamps like those that most of us have under the eaves of our homes.  The glass on these "bulbs" is usually a Pyrex type glass.  They will not shatter when they are hot in cases where cold rain or snow splashes on them.  The fixture is a handyman type, with an 8" to 12" aluminum reflector with a lamp socket in the center of the reflector.  The reflector part will swivel to adjust the angle of the lamp.  It is equipped with a 6 foot long plug-in cord.  The fixture has a spring handle that opens the gripping jaws when squeezed.  The jaws will close allowing the fixture to close on many different surfaces when your grip is released on the handle.  The spring-loaded jaws will affix easily to a shepherd's hook, deck railing, hanger wire, plant arbor, any protruding wood or metal surface etc.  I recommend that the face of the "heat lamp" be placed so that it is 10" to 12" from the feeder "bottle".  This arrangement can easily be turned on and off at the fixture or by unplugging the cord.  If you use an extension cord to reach the "pigtail" cord on the light fixture, I suggest that you plug the fixture cord into your extension cord, then place that connection in a ziplock type baggie and tape it closed to make it more waterproof.

Finally, another method you may wish to try is to use a 3-foot long plumbers heat tape.  These flexible electric tapes resemble a flat extension cord and can be easily wrapped and taped to many types and shapes of hummingbird feeders.  Most heat tapes are equipped with a built-in thermostat in the cord that will energize when the air temperature approaches 40 degrees F.  The wattage on these tapes is very low and the cost of operation is minimal.

If you have any questions about maintaining a winter hummingbird feeder, you may e-Mail Bob and Martha at RubyThroat@aol.com. Tell them Tim referred you!

 

 

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