Hummingbirds survive in snow and freezing temps

I have seen many posts in which folks have said they wished their hummingbirds would migrate south so as not to freeze. And many others have said they were taking their hummingbird feeders down so they wouldn’t stop them from migrating. Both are inaccurate–hummers are not wimps and food does not interfere with their migration.

As I noted in my blog ‘Keep-hummingbird-feeders-out-to-help-stragglers’ in September, the experts at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology state:

  • “A number of factors trigger the urge for birds to migrate, but the most significant one is day length. When the days get shorter, the hummingbirds will move on, regardless of whether there are still filled feeders available for them.
  • We do, however, encourage people to keep their hummingbird feeders full for several weeks after they have seen the last hummer just in case there are stragglers in need of additional energy before they complete their long journey south.”


And there are many documented reports of hummingbirds that survive the snow and freezing temperatures.   In fact, Anna’s Hummingbird winter in the state of Washington where  they endure cold periods well–as long as they have food sources.  On their webpage about wintering hummers the  Seattle Audubon Society states, “If you have been feeding the hummingbirds and they have become accustomed to finding food in your yard, we would encourage you to continue this responsibility of maintaining this food supply as much as possible through the cold snap. “

Here is a video that shows several hummers going to a hummingbird feeder during a snowstorm.

How do these little birds survive? Again, they are much hardier than many believe. And they have the ability to go into a state of ‘torpor’: “a type of deep sleep where an animal lowers its metabolic rate by as much as 95%. By doing so, a torpid hummingbird consumes up to 50 times less energy when torpid than when awake.”

If you do have a hummer coming to your feeder during snowy and very cold weather, be sure to either 1)take the feeder in at night and put it back out early in the morning so the hummer can get the fuel it needs to survive or 2)try one of the methods on the Seattle Audubon Society webpage for keeping the feeder from freezing.

Have you hosted hummers during the winter before?

If you have, what have you done to make sure there was unfrozen sugar water available for the hummer(s)?

  1. Cheery Chickadee says

    Once we had a snowstorm (yes, in AZ!) and then shortly thereafter broke the ice off the feeder. The next day, there was a Rufus, drinking happily. We were excited, because it was the first Rufus we’d seen, and it was almost on my birthday. It was an exciting birthday gift!

  2. Cheery Chickadee says

    For keeping feeders fresh in winter, I’ll pass along a tip from Donna Hayes. Place a red heating lamp so that it shines on the feeder!

  3. says

    Hi Cherry! Thanks for passing the word! I tell people all the time to keep those feeders up through the winter and how to maintain them. I like to hope that my advice will help to save a little hummer life one day! Thanks for sharing your story! Our Rufie is back for his third winter with us and the red light is ready! If anyone would like to join our Winter Hummingbirds Facebook Group, the link is above! Keep spreading the word Birds And Blooms! You guys are awesome!

  4. Donna Haynes says

    I’m sorry, the link for our Facebook Group did not show up, so here it is. We share pages like this one, share personal experiences, photos, videos and any resources found on the web regarding these special little guys. And Cheery, sorry my autocorect insisted your name is Cheryl! LOL. Keep up the good work Noelle and Jill.

  5. Cheery Chickadee says

    Glad to hear about Rufie coming back! I had wondered. And that’s fine about the misprint, “Cheery” isn’t really my name.

  6. JOYCE ANNA says


    • says

      Hello Joyce,
      Sorry for the late reply but there is no good mechanism for me to know that comments have come in long after I posted this article. You don’t indicate where you are located so it is difficult to respond. Those hummers that stay for the winter in colder areas are mostly single birds. In more northern areas there is insufficient food for more than 1 hummer in most areas.

  7. Donna says

    We string the old wee Christmas lights around the feeder and use foil as an insulator when it get really really cold here. So far the feeder hasn’t frozen.

  8. Donna says

    And please, if you find an unconcious (sp) hummer.. bring it in and drop sugar water into it’s beak. It may just be cold and too weary to feed. Nothing has died until it’s warm and dead.

    • says

      Indeed, what you describe is the state of ‘torpor’ that I note in my article. Actually they will come out of torpor naturally when the temperatures warm. If the temperatures do not warm up, then it would be necessary to the hummer inside to warm up.

  9. Nicki says

    Hello, I have 3 (at least) Anna’s in my back yard and currently it’s snowing here in Washington. I have two feeders to cut down on the competition in the yard and at night I bring one inside. That way they have a full feeder that will take longer to freeze out with them all night, and then a fresh one I put out just before the sin comes out. When the other feeder thaws out I have them both out. Seems to be working out well.

  10. E Raab says

    Amazing how they survive with so much surface area in comparison to their tiny bodies, that they can muster these conditions is incredible!

    Ervin Raab

  11. Elisabeth says

    Last year I put a pair of hand warmers next to the glass and covered with a pair of old sports socks, anchoring the warmers on either side. It kept the nectar from freezing overnight and let me sleep in a little later. I did switch out feeders in the morning. This seemed to do the trick for my 3 Annas. Also, I left out my nesting cotton so they would have have fresh materials to fix any nest damage.

  12. says

    In May in Manitoba Canada we had a winter storm. The hummers had just come back. I was forever changing the feeders to keep the syrup warm and from icing up. And it worked . they survived. I love thoes hummers!!!!!!

  13. Sharon Pierce says

    I live in North Florida and have hosted “Rufous” hummingbirds in the winter for several years but did not have them last year. I leave my feeders up year round just in case I have a wintering hummer. In 2014 we had a rare ice storm and the feeders were frozen and I heard the Rufous hummer getting mad and chirping loudly. I just had warm nectar for the first thing in the morning for them!! Hope to see one this winter!!

  14. Lois says

    Yes we have them every year. If the water is going to freeze it is the last thing in at night and first thing early morning out it goes. I’ve seen them in their torpors. So amazing.

  15. Kathy Hopkins says

    In the winter of 2014, Troutdale, Oregon, I had Anna hummingbirds that I had feed all year. During a major snow and ice storm, I continuously changed out the feeder with a fresh unfrozen one. I located it where the wind would not blow it around (wind caused to empty and freeze) and I sat it on a solid surface. I placed a wind chime out of the wind near the feeder so the hummers could have a place to perch during the daylight hours and keep the porch light on in the hopes that it would provide some warmth. I brought the feeder in at night and I would set it back out around 5:30AM.

  16. Anna says

    I live in Olympia, Washington where Anna’s stay all year. During a hard freeze, I bring in the feeders each night and take them out about 1/2 hour before sunrise so they can have food as soon as they are up.

  17. Montana Mary says

    We are in Western Montana. We have had an Anna’s in our yard since November 5th. We have 3 feeders that we rotate in and out of the house and on occasion warm the liquid before putting it out again. It has been 16 degrees in the mornings and we’re looking at a low of 3 in the next few days. We’re hoping that the Anna’s moves on, but we’ll keep rotating the feeders in and out of the house for as long as it takes! It is now November 22nd.

  18. Carol Stirling Grace says

    Last year we had 4 stay all Winter. To date there are 11 coming to 4 feeders. As long as the are here, I feed them.

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