[midvalleybirds] Maintaining hummingbird feeders during winter

Lisa Millbank millbank.lisa at gmail.com
Wed Nov 13 10:21:43 PST 2019

Not a lot of research has been done on wintering Anna's (although there is
this one <https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rspb.2017.0256>),
but there are a few reasons that they're more vulnerable to a sudden loss
of a food supply than other feeder visitors.  It's common to find
statements claiming that birds don't need feeders and can find their own
food, which is generally true, but Anna's Hummingbirds should be treated as
a special case because they have expanded their range from the Southwest
only to where humans provide food in some form.  I don't think I've ever
seen an Anna's Hummingbird in winter more than about a mile from homes
where food is probably being provided, or where non-native winter-blooming
shrubs such as strawberry trees may be growing.  There is typically just
not enough flower nectar available during the winter, and even if they can
still find some insects, it's not likely that little bugs can supply a
hummingbird's total energy needs during periods of cold weather.  I think
it makes sense to assume that they are at least partially dependent on
humans for winter survival here.

In most neighborhoods, the hummingbirds have several options because
multiple people provide nectar.  If we were in the same situation of being
gone for stretches of time through the winter, I think we'd probably
gradually taper off our hummingbird feeding long before we were going to be
gone.  I think it would allow the hummingbirds enough time to locate other
feeders and battle it out over territory, rather than just cutting off the
nectar supply or having the nectar freeze while we weren't home.  I don't
worry if our seed feeders run out, but we do keep the hummingbird feeders
filled and thawed at all times throughout the winter.

Lisa Millbank

On Tue, Nov 12, 2019 at 8:36 PM Thomas Gilg <tom at barbless.com> wrote:

> My wife and I usually maintain hummingbird feeders thru the winter for
> Anna's. This winter we might be away for 4-6 week stretches.
> Is it bad to put out feeders if they cannot be adequately maintained (kept
> full and viable) thru the winter? If we get our usual 3-5 Anna's for the
> winter and the feeders suddenly go dry, will the consequence likely be bad?
> Thanks,
> --tg
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