How to Help Hummingbirds During the Winter

If you leave a feeder out in winter, will it help the birds or keep them from migrate?

Close-Up Of Hummingbird
Sandi Walmsley / EyeEm / Getty Images

Many hummingbird species are migratory. People who know this often take down feeders in the winter, thinking all the hummingbirds have left and will return when it gets warmer. Some people may even worry their feeder might encourage birds to linger instead of migrate.

However, some hummingbirds live year-round in relatively cool climates. And those that migrate can still face hunger throughout their journey depending on the route and weather conditions. So what can you do to keep hummingbirds happy and healthy in the colder months?

Here are a few ways to help out hummingbirds during winter.

Leave Out the Feeder

Contrary to common belief, a feeder will not delay or discourage hummingbirds from migrating, even if it's left out all winter. Migratory species head for warmer climates in the fall, according to the National Audubon Society, and the presence of hummingbird feeders doesn't influence that trip.

Your feeder may not get many visitors if you live in a colder climate, but if there are any stragglers or early arrivals in your area, it could make a big difference for them. And in places with milder winters, hummingbird feeders can be an important resource as large numbers of birds travel through or settle down.

In Georgia, for example, the Department of Natural Resources encourages people across the state to leave out at least one hummingbird feeder during winter to accommodate western migrants.

Hummingbird Feeder Maintenance in Winter

Hummingbird on Feeder in Winter
shanecotee / Getty Images

A potential issue with leaving a feeder out all year is it could freeze over. In this case, a little extra maintenance might be necessary.

One factor to consider is placement. A feeder might freeze more easily if it's exposed to wind. Try protecting it with a windbreak, such as a tree, a shed, or the side of your house. Placing the feeder near a window can give you a view of any visiting birds. You can also more easily warm up the feeder, especially if you have a suction-cup feeder that attaches to the window.

Some people set up feeders near outdoor light fixtures for extra warmth, or even add a new heat source such as a heat lamp. Others wrap theirs with insulating materials, like fabric or socks full of rice. A covered porch or eave may prevent snow and ice from accumulating on a feeder, but it could also limit warmth from sun exposure.

If freezing is the most likely after dark, you could bring your feeders inside at night and put them back out in the morning. But keep in mind: Hummingbirds tend to start the day early and hungry, so don't dawdle if you use this strategy.

Cleaning Your Feeder

Hygiene is important for hummingbird feeders at any time of year. Remember to replace the sugar-water solution at regular intervals, even if it's still full. This can help prevent bacteria and fungi from colonizing in your feeder. Regularly cleaning your feeder also provides a chance to ensure feeding ports aren't clogged.

Other Measures for Hummingbird Wellbeing

Feeders aside, you can make attract hummingbirds and keep them happy with a few landscaping tweaks. Creating a hummingbird habitat is the best way to support their migration journies.

  • Add native flowering plants. Flowers can make your garden a valuable resource for hummingbirds, especially if you can provide a range of early and late bloom cycles.
  • Support specific species. Check which hummingbird species inhabit your area and when. You can look up their preferred plants and try growing them yourself if you have the right soil and resources. might want to try growing.
  • Practice bird-friendly landscaping. Organize your yard and prioritize a mix of variables: sun and shade, vegetation and open space.
Frequently Asked Questions
  • Should you leave hummingbird feeders out in winter?

    You can leave hummingbird feeders out during the winter for any hummingbirds that migrate late in the season or return early as the weather gets warmer. However, make sure to check the feeder regularly and take measures so it doesn't freeze.

  • What temperature is too cold for hummingbirds?

    While hummingbirds generally prefer warm climates, some hummingbird species have different migratory routes and even handle freezing temperatures. Check out whether the hummingbirds in your area are likely to stick around during the wintertime.