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Keep Nectar From Freezing

Keep Nectar From Freezing

By Duncraft
Photographs courtesy of Duncraft

What do you do when you are faced with freezing temperatures and hummingbirds at the same time? Here in the Snow Belt, fall migration can begin as early as August and continue through October and sometimes even later. In other parts of the U.S., hummingbirds stay year-round, but the nighttime temperatures can dip below freezing.

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Here are a few tips to help keep nectar from freezing:

Sweeten the deal. A four-to-one nectar solution will start getting slushy at around 26 degrees F. A somewhat controversial approach is to make a nectar solution of one part sugar to only three parts water. The sweeter solution will stay fluid longer in cold temperatures, plus it offers the hummingbird more critical calories per sip.

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Provide a little shelter. A cold wind will cool the nectar so it freezes faster, so place the feeder in a more protected area out of the wind. A clear baffle will help keep snow and ice from accumulating on the feeder but allow the sunshine to help warm the nectar. Heat from a house will help keep nectar in a window feeder from freezing.

Bring the feeder indoors at night. But set your alarm clock, because hummers start feeding as early as 45 minutes before sunrise, and that early morning food source is desperately needed after a long, cold night.

Mix it up. Have two feeders going – one in the house and one outside and switch them out as needed.

Wrap it up. A layer or two of bubble wrap around the bottle of the feeder is good insulation. You can get creative and make a little feeder cozy out of a heavy wool sock, hat, or oven mitt. Dark colors would help absorb the sunlight. You want to cover as much of the bottle as possible without blocking the feeder ports.

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Turn up the heat:

  • Tuck a hand warmer inside your feeder cozy or tape it right to the nectar bottle.
  • Wrap a 3’ length of pipe heating cable (plumber’s heat tape) around the glass nectar bottle and secure it to the feeder with easy to remove black electrical tape. These heating tapes or cables are low wattage and designed for outdoor use. Many of them are thermostatically controlled so you don’t have to worry about overheating the nectar.
  • For a more festive solution, wrap a string of outdoor-rated incandescent holiday lights around the nectar bottle or just underneath a dish-style feeder.
  • Hang a work or flood light about 12 inches from the feeder. Make sure you’re using a Pyrex bulb that won’t shatter if rain or snow splatters on the hot surface. This is the easiest method, but is safest when the lamp is under a cover of some sort (like a porch roof or eave) to keep it out of snow and rain.

Don’t hesitate to give us a call if you have any questions. You can reach us at (888) 879-5095 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Monday–Friday. Or visit for more information on attracting hummingbirds to your garden. Happy Humming!

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