Winter Hummingbirds - Helping our Tiny Neighbors Survive a Freeze

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors

How to Help Anna's Hummingbirds Survive in Winter 

We have four different types of hummingbirds in the Pacific Northwest, and Anna’s is the only one that doesn’t always migrate south to warmer spots for the winter. They used to, but biologists say over the last couple of decades that has changed. Prior to the 1930’s, it nested no farther north than San Francisco. However, a combination of plentiful nectar feeders and urban gardens seem to have lured them to overwinter in the colder climes of our region.

It’s also thought the Anna’s Hummingbirds are able to winter so far north because of their fondness for insects and arachnids. Not only does their buggy diet provide nutrients when flowers stop blooming, but they also provide a slower metabolizing source of food to help them survive long winter nights. However, they do live a precarious existence and rely on our help, especially when the temperatures drop below freezing.

If you provide a feeder for hummingbirds, and have regulars who rely on it, it’s important to ensure the feeder is available during cold spells. You’re not encouraging them to stay, but helping them survive. One way to keep the nectar from freezing is to invest in a heated feeder, otherwise you’ll have to rotate feeders, removing and replacing as necessary. Some people bring their feeders in at night to keep them from freezing, and get up at the hint of daylight to rehang them when they know the tiny birds will be rousing.

Nature's Magnificent Design

The size of Anna’s may also help this hummingbird tolerate the Pacific Northwest winters. They are more stocky than other species and weight a few tenths of a gram more than other hummingbirds. However, the real survival tool is an ability to become hypothermic. This is called torpor, a type of deep sleep and by doing so, the little bird consumes 50 times less energy than when awake. When torpor takes place for long periods of time during winter it’s known as hibernation.

Torpid hummingbirds often appear to be dead. During our last cold spell, my mom saw a little bird hanging upside down from the feeder. However, when she went to investigate the hummingbird flew off, much to her relief. Awakening fully from a night of torpor takes a hummingbird about 20 minutes. Shivering is sufficient to warm a little bird’s body by several degrees each minute, and the bird awakens with enough energy reserves to get his through to his first feeding of the morning. Isn’t nature amazing?

We are keeping close watch on our feeders this week and leaving our Christmas lights on for longer periods to help provide a source of warmth. The photo of this Anna’s was taken during yesterday’s snow storm when temperatures hovered around 29 degrees. The little bird would sit for extended periods on the strand of lights, and then eagerly sip nectar from the nearby feeder. We suspect he was loading up for a long night hunkered down in the evergreens next to our house. This morning, a feeder with room temperature nectar awaits his return, we do too!

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ViewHomes™ grew out of our passion for nature, beautiful surroundings, and peaceful environments. Starting together in an urban environment, over the years we've gravitated towards areas with smaller populations and less density. We now enjoy our lifestyle in a rural environment, but with close proximity to metropolitan areas where we appreciate all the amenities of fine restaurants, shopping, and an easy drive to an international airport.
Living in ViewHomes™ is like having “elbowroom for the soul”.


 

                                                                             

 

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Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams fox cities - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

Such precious birds, take good care of them and help them through the tough times.

Dec 15, 2016 10:37 PM #18
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Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams fox cities - Stevens Point, WI
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I dont know if Anna's hummingbirds like bananas, but everyone likes Anna Banana Kruchten 's BananaTude!

bananatude

Dec 15, 2016 10:59 PM #19
Rainmaker
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Robert Bob Gilbert
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Anderson Properties - Katy, TX
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Debb, Thanks for very informative post about my favorite bird being hummingbirds. 

Dec 16, 2016 02:50 PM #20
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Jeff Dowler
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad

Hi Debb and Bernie

I love this post and enjoyed reading all about these amazing birds. Of course we have lots of hummingbirds but they don't have to deal with quite the temperatures you do, and we have flowers all year. Nature is truly amazing!

Jeff

Dec 17, 2016 07:14 AM #21
Rainmaker
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Joanna Cohlan
Fresh Eyes For Your Home - Chappaqua, NY
Designing, Decorating & Staging Westchester Homes

Oh  my goodness! How interesting about the Anna type hummingbird-I think a heated feeder is a good idea but could they get hurt from them if they shorted out? I think it better to rotate the regular feeders.  What do you think?

Dec 17, 2016 09:49 AM #22
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Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Debb- first...thank you for taking care of the hummingbirds.  What interesting information this is!  We had them when we lived in Northern VA and though it didn't get too cold, I wish I'd put out Christmas lights to help keep them warm. 

Dec 17, 2016 02:55 PM #23
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Gayle Rich-Boxman Fishhawk Lake Real Estate
John L Scott Market Center - Birkenfeld, OR
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This is such great info, Debb and Bernie! And just in time (a little gift) for Bernie's birthday! I saw one here in Newport yesterday and was blown away. So, I am now on a Birder app on my iphone so that I can report a sighting on birds in the areas I travel in. I've sighted 4 different types that I photographed  down here, including a pair of Surf Scoters--birds I've never seen before. 

And you always give us great info while sharing a piece of your peaceful existence. 

 

Dec 17, 2016 04:22 PM #24
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Evelyn Johnston
Friends & Neighbors Real Estate - Elkhart, IN
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I did not know much of what you wrote about. I have wondered how birds of any size could survive the extreme cold and snow. So glad to know!

Dec 17, 2016 06:35 PM #25
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Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
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                            Thank you Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD 

Dec 17, 2016 06:54 PM #26
Rainmaker
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Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Debb & Bernie as I read this post I showed the pictures to Diane and needless to say tears were about to come out of our eyes.... then she said our Humming Birds need nectar... that is another word I have to make some tomorrow:)Endre

Dec 17, 2016 08:55 PM #27
Rainmaker
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Lou Ludwig
Ludwig & Associates - Boca Raton, FL
Designations Earned CRB, CRS, CIPS, GRI, SRES, TRC

Debb

Interesting post on the winter hummingbirds . . . . Enjoyed the post.

Good luck and success.

Lou Ludwig

Dec 17, 2016 08:59 PM #28
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Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

What wonderful photos - one can truly see how tiny these birds are.

Thanks for sharing - my neighbor has a hummingbird feeder and I'll have to ask her if the birds stay here in the cold weather.

Dec 18, 2016 05:52 AM #29
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Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Debb and Bernie. What a terrific and insightful post. Great effort for these birds.

Dec 18, 2016 07:11 AM #30
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Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Realty Center - Waukesha, WI
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I can see why Kathy chose this post to high light this week...well done!

Dec 18, 2016 07:16 AM #31
Rainmaker
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Nick & Trudy Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 - Devon, PA
Tredyffrin Easttown Realtors, Philly Main Line

What great photos, I have tried to photograph our hummingbirds but they are just to flighty and nervous. Nice reminder to care for all those around us.

Dec 18, 2016 08:33 AM #32
Rainmaker
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Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

I found this so interesting. Great idea to use the lights to help keep them warm. That is one amazing picture!

Dec 18, 2016 11:17 AM #33
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David Alan Baker Laveen Realtor & South Phoenix Realtor
HomeSmart - Laveen, AZ
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Referred to you by Kathy Strieb picks of the week, and it was a good read.  Thanks for sharing.

Dec 18, 2016 03:41 PM #34
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Mel Ahrens, MBA, Kelly Right Real Estate
Kelly Right Real Estate - Hood River, OR
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Hi Debb,
I had no idea hummingbirds stayed here over the winter.  Will have to keep an eye for them; we have lots of them during the warmer seasons; have not seen one in the winter, though.
Mel

Dec 18, 2016 04:46 PM #35
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Gene Allen
Fathom Realty - Cary, NC
Realty Consultant for Cary Real Estate

I almost didn't read the post but glad I did.  Amazing little creatures.

Jan 07, 2017 08:31 AM #36
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Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA,

what a spectacular story - I learned so much from this post that I didn't know - thanks for sharing with us! 

Jan 13, 2017 08:22 PM #37
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