how to attract hummingbirds in the winter

How to Attract Hummingbirds in the Winter: The Complete Guide

Hummingbirds are among some of the most loved birds for many avid birders. The average backyard is devoid of many birds during the winter, including the hummingbird. So, what happens to the hummingbird during the winter? There are only a few hummingbirds around in the winter, the Anna’s Hummingbird among them. It is a bird that makes the Pacific Coast their annual home. Some hummingbirds do stay for the winter, but most don’t. So, do you know how to attract hummingbirds in the winter?

One of the most critical problems for winters is the cold, obviously. But with the cold comes freezing. Bird feeders can freeze in the winter, which will turn any birds away, including hummingbirds. If you want to attract birds in the winter, you have to offer them food. Hummingbirds are not suited for the winter.

They are simply not made for it. But, if they have some help in the form of a reliable nectar source. Flowers do not typically bloom in the summer so that hummingbirds will be attracted to a feeder offering some delectable nectar. 

So, if you haven’t already realized it, feeders are among the most important factors for attracting hummingbirds.

Here are some tips for your bird feeders to attract these tiny birds during the cold winter

Use Lighted Feeders

Fairy lights are your best friend when you want to attract a hummingbird. Wrapping them around the feeder bottle will gently warm it to a temperature that is, in Goldilocks words, “just right.” Just make sure that the lights are non-LED. And no, they do not have to be fairy lights specifically, but string lights or holiday lights will be just fine. Hummingbirds love the color red, so you could use pink lights that help to attract the hummingbirds. 

Author Note: There are a few important things to check before you wrap the lights around the bottle. The lights should be in good condition, without any split wires or frays that could cause harm to the tiny birds

Also to note is that you should use the lights around glass bottles. The lights will likely warm up the bottle, which is the point. But it could be dangerous if the feeder is made from plastic. So, avoid wrapping lights around any plastic bottles. This is one of the top ways how to attract hummingbirds in the winter.

Have Proper Insulation

Anna's Hummingbird

The key is to provide food that doesn’t freeze. To do this, you can use insulation to keep the reservoir warm. Bubble wrap is perfect for more than just protecting fragile goods. It is also great to use as an insulation material. The bubble wrap is just one option, though, and there are several insulation materials we can use.

Wrap the insulation around the reservoir to protect it from winter’s cold clutches. The bottle should be covered, but be careful not to cover the feeding ports. Again, it is important not to cover it with any insulation that could be potentially harmful. So, avoid any insulation material that has any dangling threads or loose fibers. 

Extra Outdoor Heating

Use external lights to help you and your feeders out. You can use an outdoor floodlight or even an industrial light used in many workplaces. Remember that these lights are strong, and they give off heat. But, you want heat. Yes, but too much heat can be a bad thing as well.

To avoid overheating the feeder, keep the outdoor light a decent distance away from the feeder. Aim for a distance between 8 and 12 inches from the feeder bottle. This distance should keep the nectar warm enough to prevent it from becoming frozen but not too close to make the feeder too hot for the hummingbirds to land on. 

There are a few other things to keep in mind, especially if you want to create a safe environment for the hummingbirds. 

Ensure that You should keep all the outlets, cords, and any other electrical connections out of the elements. If they are not kept out of the elements, you could end up with a short circuit on your hands. Avoid low heat bulbs or LED lights as they will not be the right choice, as they will not generate enough warmth for the feeders.

Window Feeders

Most homes in an area with harsh winters have indoor heating. Place the feeder on a window to give it some extra heat. The window feeders could get a little extra heat from the heated room. This transferred heat will get the bottle warmed up and prevent the nectar from freezing. 

Choose a window with single-paned windows that transfer more heat. 

And the best part of using window feeders? They will help you to get an up-close and personal view of the hummingbirds. Windows feeders are another top way how to attract hummingbirds in the winter.

Use Indoor Feeders

A female Anna's hummingbird drinks from a feeder

When the temperature drops to its lowest, it might be best to keep the feeders indoors on these nights. The nighttime and the early mornings are the coldest and the time when the nectar is most likely to freeze. But, hummingbirds are also typically feeding in the early hours of the morning. Bring the feeders in at night to avoid the overnight freeze, but you’ll need to wake up early enough to bring it back outdoors. Hummingbirds are known to feed even before the sun rises, so prepare yourself for an early wake-up call. 

Author Note: When the winter really starts to bite, you can combat the cold by keeping a feeder warm indoors and rotating them. This helps you always to have a supply of warm, delectable nectar available for the birds. 

Okay, so we’ve covered the most important part about keeping the feeders warm. But, there’s more you can do for your favorite feathered friends. Let’s see what else you can do to encourage hummingbirds to visit in the winter. 

Tips for Feeding Winter Hummingbirds

Sure, ensuring the nectar doesn’t freeze is essential. But, you should keep these tips in mind if you want to give your visitors an extra helping hand. 

Help hummingbirds stay healthy and happy with these tips.

1. Keep the Feeders Clean

Mold and fungus can be dangerous for hummingbirds. Keeping your feeders clean can prevent these toxic substances from growing. Cleaning the feeding ports will also ensure the nectar doesn’t congest, allowing a free food flow. Regular cleaning can also ensure the feeders and the feeding holes are free from blockages. 

2. Shrubs and Trees

During the fall, avoid trimming the trees and surrounding shrubs around the feeder. The hummingbirds will gather in these safe zones during feedings, offering them shelter and you a great view. While you might be surprised to find a hummingbird in the winter, there are some around. But, because the conditions are so challenging, they will only be in the most suitable areas.

And for a hummingbird, a suitable winter spot will be one that offers warmth, shelter, and safety. Sure, your shrubs and trees might seem to encroach on the area. This is one of the best ways to encourage hummingbirds looking for shelter to come to your garden. What’s more, you will get a great view in between feedings.

3. Plant the Right Flowers

Okay, so the coldest areas might not have many options when it comes to late blooms. But, some flowers have early and late cycles. These flowers will attract the hummingbirds into your garden as long as possible. When most other areas are devoid of nectar, the hummingbirds will associate your garden with food. 

Plant flowers that attract hummingbirds with both early- and late-bloom cycles, so there will be a natural nectar source available for as many months as possible. Even though most of us think a hummingbird’s food source is solely nectar, they also eat insects.

4. Make Peace with the Insects

Female Anna's Hummingbird sits in her tiny, cozy nest

Sure, insects are annoying. But, what’s annoying for us is food for the birds. According to ornithologists, hummingbirds feast on both nectar and insects. Their primary source of carbohydrates is nectar, while they get protein from insects. Hummingbirds eat aphids, ants, weevils, mites, beetles, fruit flies, and even spiders. And much to most people’s delight, hummingbirds eat mosquitos as well.

Top Tip: Avoid the temptation of throwing down some insecticide and pesticide. Insects are an attraction for these tiny birds. And while most of your neighbors will be killing off the hummingbirds’ food source, the birds will learn to come to your garden for a feast. 

Hummingbirds will begin to rely on your garden as a trusty buffet. This will further encourage them to visit your garden during the first clutches of winter. Having insects in your yard is a great way how to attract hummingbirds in the winter.

5. Use the Color Red

If you know anything about hummingbirds, then you probably already know red is a highly attractive color for these birds. Place red in your garden, through red accents here and there, or simply through a red feeder. 


So, we’ve covered the essential points for attracting hummingbirds in the winter. We know they need a sheltered and safe place and a reliable source of food. While hummingbirds aren’t particularly known for winter meanders, it is not impossible for them to be around.

Hummingbirds might go into a state of torpor when the temperature drops, which could be fatal if they do not warm up in time. Keeping an outdoor light source can not only heat up the feeder and the nectar, but it can provide warmth for the hummingbird too. Place the light strategically so it can potentially warm up a nearby shelter as well as the nectar. 

The best thing to do for a hummingbird in the winter is to get a suitable feeder and keep the nectar from freezing. Winter can be deadly for these little birds, and they know it too. Give hummingbirds good reason to trust your garden as a safe winter shelter. We hope you enjoyed this article on how to attract hummingbirds in the winter.

Fly high friends!


Where is the best place to see hummingbirds in the winter?

Hummingbirds are regularly reported at feeders in the following states: Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. Remember that the Anna’s Hummingbird is also present on the West Coast.

How do hummingbirds survive winter in Canada?

Some hummingbirds overwinter on their breeding grounds because they are too young to fly to the breeding grounds. Hence, it is entirely possible that there are hummingbirds present in colder climes like Canada even in winter. If there is no nectar from flowers available then hummingbirds will look for insects to eat. If it gets very cold or there is little to eat they go into torpor, which is a kind of hibernation. This helps them survive.

Where do most hummingbirds migrate to for the winter?

Most head to Mexico or Central America for the winter months, returning in the spring time to their U.S. breeding grounds.

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