[Tweeters] tending hummingbirds through the deep freeze

Pterodroma at aol.com Pterodroma at aol.com
Sat Feb 18 21:40:54 PST 2006

As David Plummer notes:
<< The effect of the cold  weather on my Anna's has been for them to lay 
aside hostilities and actually  share the feeder on occasion. There were two 
females, or young males, sipping  for several minutes together >>

...I noted the same thing.  With temperatures starting out at 17 and  warming 
to the mid 20's by noon, keeping my hummingbirds properly  tended to was a 
busy challenge.  All feeders were kept indoors over  night and I started out 
putting just one feeder knowing it and any  others would soon freeze which was 
within about 45 min.  But the  hummers were eager for it in an instant putting 
aside their territorial  differences to share the single available tube, 
something which I had never seen  before here.  Gradually, I put more out and just 
kind of rotated frozen and  warmed feeders in and out through the morning.  I 
had a large sauce  pan on the stove filled with water and kept the burner on 
low so the warm  water would thaw and warm the smaller feeders quicker and this 
seemed to  work just fine and kept them from refreezing immediately.  

What didn't work, so DON'T DO IT(!), was putting the larger feeders in the  
OVEN.  This was kind of an experiment; turn the heat on 'warm',  leave the door 
cracked open so nothing gets too hot, and put the feeders in  there for what 
should be a short while and hopefully everything will warm up  really fast.  I 
did anticipate the potential for mess as the cold to  heating process would 
result in expansion of air pressure inside the glass  bottle which would 
probably push some of the fluid out.  I didn't  want any fluid on the bottom of the 
oven of course, so I put the  feeder on an insulted hot pad on a plate.  What 
eventually  happens is that the rapidly expanding pressure in the bottle will 
push  ALL of the fluid out eventually.  What I ended up with is an  insulated 
hot pad dripping with sugary fluid and a plate full as well.   Okay, so we 
won't be doing that again and it's back to just letting it sit at  room 
temperature for awhile and even that results in a little fluid leakage and  besides, it 
wouldn't hurt if those demanding hummers were to learn a  little patience 
All this in and out activity today worked hand in hand with  my "Great 
Backyard Bird Count" this morning.  Ended up with 19 species,  highlight being an 
immature Bald Eagle soaring round and round straight up over  the yard.  
Otherwise, nothing out of the ordinary and those normally back  yard bird usuals that 
disappointed by deciding NOT to participate this  morning were the Pileated 
Woodpecker, Brown Creeper, and the recent new yard  list addition, the Barred 
Owl was a disappointing no show as well.  No  House Sparrows or Starlings 
either and no surprise since they are about as rare  and hens teeth around here.  
The hummingbirds, all 8 of them, were  happy and exuberant all day long zipping 
about the intermittently available  feeders and when perched were often all 
puffed up to keep  warm.
And although I was physically warming the feeders, sometimes a little hot  
even, one thought did occur to me and hopefully this isn't a problem, so maybe  
someone can set me straight.  How physiologically hard might it be on a  
'cold' hummingbird suddenly sampling something that is unexpectedly warm,  hot 
even, not boiling of course, but still hot, and whether the shock of such if  
there is any might be of any detriment?  Or is it more like a treat as it  is for 
you or me to have a cup of hot cocoa after being chilled to the bone  after 
camping overnight outside?  Of course the nectar doesn't stay 'too'  hot for 
long once subjected to subfreezing cold and the hummingbirds are just  kind of 
sticking their tongue into it rather then just guzzling it down  like a scalding 
hot cup of coffee or cocoa that burns your mouth.  So,  if it is initially 
'too hot' they just sit nearby, 'test' it once  in awhile until it's, yum,  just 
right, or at least that's the way it  seemed.
Richard Rowlett  
Bellevue (Eastgate), WA, USA

"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what  
nobody has thought" --Albert Szent-Gyorgi  (1893-1986).

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