Friday, November 2, 2018

Hummingbird Magnets – How to Attract and Support Hummers in Fall and Winter

Ruth de Jauregui

Hummingbird in snow in Portland, Oregon - Credit: Scazon / Flickr
As the weather cools in fall and winter, some hummingbirds migrate to warmer climates. Others, however, are year round residents and need food sources. Even in cold climates, there may be a few hummers that won't migrate due to their age or injuries.

Male ruby-throated hummingbird
Credit: Sabrina Setaro / Flickr
The first step to supporting your hummingbirds is to leave the feeders up through fall and winter. Don't worry about disrupting their migration pattern, when it's time to go, they'll go. Your feeder won't make a difference; they won't linger. Continue using the 1 part sugar to 4 parts water solution. Don't use honey, it's bad for hummingbirds. Scrub the feeder out every time you refill it to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold.

Hummingbird fans are innovative in finding ways to keep the feeders warm. From hanging a mechanic's light nearby to wrapping heated plumbers tape around a feeder to taping a light sensor night light to the bottom of the feeder, there's a way to keep that feeder warm even on the coldest days. Be careful! Always use fixtures suitable for outdoor use or move the feeder under a deep overhang and use a GFCI-protected portable outlet, power strip or extension cord to protect against electrocution.

Anna's Hummingbird on witch hazel
Credit: Willamette Biology / Flickr
Plant a variety of cool-season annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees. Chrysanthemums, Christmas rose, pansies, petunias, primroses and salvias thrive during the cooler months of fall and some salvias will bloom in winter! Add winter-blooming shrubs like 'Jelena' witch hazel, luculia, Japanese Andromeda, Oregon grape, winterglow bergenia and winter jasmine to the garden for winter color as well as providing a hummingbird smorgasbord. A few trees also provide winter blossoms, including loquats and native pussy willows, while citrus, the Prunus family (almonds, apricots, cherries and plums) and some magnolia varieties begin blooming in late winter and early spring.

Hummingbirds also eat a variety of small insects, including gnats and mosquitoes. Hang a basket outside in a warm, sheltered location (and away from open doors and windows) and add overripe fruit, banana peels and other fruit fly favorites. The tiny birds need the extra protein in their diet to thrive through the cold days and nights of fall and winter.

Anna's Hummingbird - Richmond CA
Credit: Becky Matsubara / Flickr
Even if you don't see any hummingbirds, if the nectar is disappearing from the feeder, they're probably feeding when you're at work or otherwise busy. A perch installed next to the porch light can provide a warm place for overwintering birds to sit when the weather outside is frightful. They're competitive little things, so expect plenty of chittering and buzzing about feeders and warm perches even on the coldest days.

Meanwhile, if you have cats, keep them indoors. Hang a hummingbird feeder near a sunny window and your kitties can safely enjoy "Cat TV" as the little birds swoop and fuss around the feeder.

Amazon - GFCI Sources
Flowers by the Sea - Salvias and Companion Plants