Friday, December 9, 2016

A little birdie told me.....

The hummingbirds diving around the patio early yesterday morning had every right to be cursing me under their wee little breaths - the hummingbird feeder had frozen during the night.  I hurriedly brought it inside, and grabbed an empty one to fill with fresh nectar for their dawn feeding.

The service on this patio is lousy!

Morning is the most important feeding time for these wee birds, after their bodies awaken from a pseudo-hibernation state known as torpor, in desperate need of quick energy.  Torpor, in which their body temperature temporarily drops, is a short-term survival mechanism during nights of cold temperatures and lack of food. Hibernation, on the other hand, is a longer-term survival mechanism related to the length of the days and hormonal changes.

Hummingbirds' bodies go into a state of torpor to survive cold winter nights;  bears and aging female bloggers go into hibernation to survive the whole long, dark winter season. Hummingbirds awaken each morning just before dawn and feed until dusk, particularly in the early morning and late afternoon.  Bears and aging female bloggers stir themselves from their hibernative state every once in a while to relieve themselves and have a drink - and maybe a nice high fat or sugary snack, if one can be found without too much effort.

Even aging bloggers have to come out of hibernation
for sustenance now and then.

But I digress.  The hummingbirds reminded me that those who feed them must do so consistently - they are creatures of habit once they find a good locale for their meals, and can die of starvation if a customary source suddenly dries up, freezes, or is neglected such that it develops mold and other nasties in the water or container.

It's cold out here!  I wonder if Timmies is open yet?

Finally!  I'll have one tall, non-fat, double sugar nectar to go please!

The experts are a bit at odds on the exact ratio of sugar to water to mimic the natural nectar they find in flowers in the summer.  Most say one cup granulated sugar (do not use honey or other sweeteners, which can cause great harm to the birds) to four cups water in summer, and some recommend cutting that to three cups water in winter to help prevent freezing and to compensate for the lack of natural nectars and insects which usually make up the diet of Anna's hummers, the kind that stay around all winter here on the island.   Any sweeter and you risk causing dehydration, illness, and starvation in the little buzz-bombs.  Don't use that prepared red mixture or add red dye to the water - several studies suggest it may do more harm than good.  A feeder with some nice bright colour - especially red - on it somewhere is all that is needed.

Ahhhhhh!  There's nothing quite like that first sip of nectar in the morning! 

Most bird people recommend boiling the water and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved, though some say boiling is not necessary.  The important thing is to make sure all the sugar granules have dissolved and to stir well so they are dispersed throughout the mixture. In winter, change the mixture every three days or so (though in all likelihood, you'll be refilling it daily or even more often), washing out the unit carefully to ensure it is clean.  A solution of a little vinegar and water, and the use of a bottle brush and pipecleaners, will do fine - then rinse thoroughly.

I take my feeders in at night and put them back out at dawn so they won't freeze, but you can also place them near a lightbulb (the kind that gets warm, not one of those newfangled always-cool-to-the-touch ones),  such as a porch light or a suspended trouble light, or insulate the glass part with a warm sock and/or some plumbing insulation.  Depending on the material your feeder is made from, you can even tape a hot pocket (the things skiers use) to the bottom of the container.  What you do may depend how cold it is.  

Ittttssssss cccccold!  Vvverrrry ccccccold! 

And if you live somewhere where it is too cold even for Anna's hummingbirds, please remember that all birds require water to survive - so if the lakes and ponds and puddles are frozen over, put out some bowls of water for any birds in your area, near where you have placed seeds and fruits or berries natural to the area. The birds will thank you.

Hey, server, I'd like some water too please! 

What?  Huh?  Who said that?
Get over there with the suet balls, Nuthatch!
This is MY feeding station!

1 comment:

spackminder said...

Thanks Jean. I find myself stirring from my torpor to vetvthe feeders out!! Great info and pics.