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Helping our feathered friends in the winter

~wildlife education~

Winters can be tough for wild birds, but backyard bird enthusiasts can help.

Anna’s Hummingbirds don’t migrate in the winter; they become dormant daily to conserve energy, entering a state of torpor on cold nights. Their body temperature lowers, and their heart rate slows.

If you like to feed birds during the winter, you know that as temperatures drop and it gets colder, the water in hummingbird feeders can freeze, preventing the hummingbirds from getting the nutrients they need and potentially causing them bodily harm. There are special heaters designed for hummingbird feeders to keep their sugar water food liquid.

Feeders should be stocked with sugar water made of four parts water and one part white sugar. Hummingbirds depend on this for energy when their usual food sources are unavailable. It’s easy to make a batch of sugar water by boiling four cups of water in a clean glass container and adding a cup of white sugar. Be sure to stir the mixture and then let it cool down to room temperature before filling your feeders. Store left over liquid in the refrigerator.

Do not use honey, brown sugar, or other sweetener alternatives in your hummingbird feeders, as they promote bacterial growth. Feeders should also be carefully cleaned at least once a week to avoid nectar buildup or mold growth.

Keeping bird feeders and bird baths clean is key to preventing and spreading diseases such as salmonella, trichomoniasis, aspergillosis, and avian pox among our other feathered friends as well.

Once a month, take down your bird feeders and soak them in a 10% bleach solution. Rinse thoroughly and dry the feeders before refilling them. Discard old seeds and remove seed from the ground. Some diseases can be spread to humans, so protect yourself by wearing gloves while doing the cleaning.

If you also treat our feathered friends to a birdbath, please keep it fresh by rinsing and scrubbing it with nine parts water, one part vinegar, before refilling it. And refill the water regularly. Heated birdbaths designed to keep the water from freezing are available so you can continue giving birds access to water in the colder months.

If you see a bird with illness symptoms such as a lack of energy or movement, tremors, lack of coordination; swelling around the head, neck, and/or eyes, call North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre (NIWRA) or your local wildlife rehabilitation centre for advice.

You can help the wildlife in care at NIWRA by making a financial contribution on our secure website. Thank you so much for caring about wildlife!




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