Ideas for making sure hummingbirds can use feeders in the winter

The Hummers Heated Delight is a heated hummingbird feeder that keeps the solution warm throughout the winter.
The Hummers Heated Delight is a heated hummingbird feeder that keeps the solution warm throughout the winter. Courtesy

Feeders, feeder problems, solutions to feeder problems — these are popular subjects to discuss at this time of the year. Most of us think feeders that offer seeds are the main topic. However, the last few weeks have generated questions about hummingbird feeders.

Considering that we are headed into late fall, this is evidence of how the Anna’s hummingbird population has grown. This bird has become our “winter hummingbird.” Those of us who have been feeding birds for decades remember very well when the only hummingbird we fed was the rufous, and they headed south before fall arrived. Now, we are feeding hummingbirds when there is snow on the ground.

Our mild weather has extended the bee problem some people have when it comes to their syrup feeders. How to keep the bees away is a regular question. I don’t have this problem, but I did. That was a long time ago when hummingbird feeders first came on the scene. They were small and they all had tubes hanging from them. The hummers sipped from those tubes. So did the bees. The tubes always dripped — especially when they became warm. That dripping problem added to the bee problem.

The only feeder design used in my yard now doesn’t have any tubes hanging from it.

These feeders come in two sizes, and I use the one that holds about 2 cups of liquid. The hummers feed from them by dipping their long beakdown into the openings. The openings are spaced around the feeder’s base, which looks a bit like a flying saucer. When the occasional bee checks out the feeder, it gives up because it can’t reach the syrup.

Once the weather turns cold and stays that way, bees won’t be a problem but something else will. When the temperature drops below freezing, the syrup for the hummingbirds freezes. Most of us have developed the habit of taking the feeder in at dark and putting it back out just before daylight. Other faithful hummingbird fans have developed different ways to keep their hummingbird feeders from freezing. Most of these solutions are too complicated, and some of us just give up.

Now, thanks to a reader in Puyallup, we have an easy solution and it isn’t expensive. There are heaters to keep bird baths from freezing, and now there are hummingbird feeder-heaters that will keep the syrup in liquid form.

Cheryl and Dan have had a “Hummers Heated Delight” feeder for three years and have had no problems with it. I appreciate their sharing this information with the rest of us.

The website for this product, which is made in Albany, Oregon, shows the feeder in use under a variety of conditions, including snow. These feeders were tested in Northern Minnesota when the temperature was 1 degree Fahrenheit. The syrup remained liquid. The heater and feeders are only sold as a unit. They come in 16- and 32-ounce sizes. Prices are $21.95 and $27.95, respectively. Go to hummersheateddelight.com for more information.

Cheryl said she plugs her feeder into a timer on the days when the weather warms up and the syrup doesn’t need heating all day. When it is cold enough to freeze, the timer can be adjusted to keep things warm all day and night.

Squirrel problems and solutions for those problems were supposed to be included in this column, but that will have to wait for another day. In the meantime, if you’ve solved a squirrel invasion problem, I’d like to hear about it. Finally, don’t forget to keep those hummingbird feeders ready for winter action.

Write to Joan Carson at P.O. Box 217, Poulsbo, WA 98370. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Or send an email to joanpcarson@comcast.net.