Anna's Hummingbird
Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

B.C. residents helping hummingbirds make it through winter cold snap

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B.C. bird lovers are taking unusual measures to ensure a certain iridescent bird survives the South Coast’s cold and snowy winter.

Although the region is typically known for its mild winter weather, it’s received multiple heavy snowfalls and freezing temperatures this year, which is having an impact on local hummingbirds.

The Anna’s hummingbird lives on the South Coast year-round, feeding on small insects and the nectar provided by flowers and feeders. But it’s been so cold that feeders are freezing up, leaving some residents concerned for the birds’ welfare.

Photo by Laura Drisdelle

Although upping the feeder’s sugar content can help delay freezing, most hummingbird experts advise against it, since you could end up doing more harm than good. According to the  Seattle Audubon Society, which often receives calls regarding concerns like these, adding more sugar to the mixture can actually damage the birds’ kidneys and liver.

Other methods of keeping the mixture thawed may be more work, but it appears B.C. residents are willing to go the extra mile to keep these birds around.

Photo by Teri Banks

Chilliwack-resident Gord Gadsden, who runs a Fraser Valley birding forum, told CBC that he’s been bringing his feeders in at night, then bringing them back outside before the sun comes up.

“It’s like raising a puppy or a baby,” Gadsden said. “You’ve got to be up first at the crack of dawn because those little guys, they’re waking up and they’re looking for food.”

To ensure the birds stay well-nourished, some residents have been insulating the feeders by wrapping foam insulation around them, knitting cozies for them, and even covering them with old mittens. Others have been using everything from incandescent Christmas lights to tea lights and fondue pots to heat the feeders from underneath.

Photo by Cathy Steele

Cathy Steele, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store in South Surrey, set up a heat-generating lamp next to her feeder to keep the sugar and water mixture from freezing. For her, it’s no wonder why South Coast residents are going to such lengths for these birds:

“I think they’re one of the most loved birds around, because they’re very special. They’re very fierce little birds.”

For more tips on how to feed hummingbirds in the cold, see seattleaudubon.org.

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