How to help hummingbirds survive winter weather

Anna’s hummingbirds stay in the PNW year-round and supplement their nectar diet with insects and sap.

A tawny-and-green-colored hummingbird hovers near a feeder.

A female Anna’s hummingbird surveys the menu.

Photo by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

The Anna’s hummingbird is Oregon’s only overwintering hummingbird species, but when temperatures dramatically plummeted last month, one plucky individual sought out warmth in a Portland home. Its story had a happy ending, but others aren’t always so lucky.

Here are some tips from the Portland Audubon Society to help these beautiful, tiny birds survive a cold snap:

  • Anna’s hummingbirds conserve energy by lowering their body temperatures by half (a behavior called “torpor”). If you see a hummer sitting motionless, don’t panic — it’s just enjoying a mini-hibernation.
  • As a result of their fast metabolisms, a hummingbird can starve within hours. In winter, they eat insects and sap from holes in trees drilled by woodpeckers. While they don’t need it to survive, you can help supplement their diet by hanging a feeder full of sugar water.
  • Hand warmers, string lights, foam, or even a thick sock can be placed around feeders (we like this one) — filled with a mix of four parts water to one part white sugar — to keep them from freezing.
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