Sunday, December 8, 2013

Hummingbirds in Seattle winter

by aleks
12/8/13 - NOT SJG

SJG is closed for the season, so some news from our feathered friends outside of my window. Pacific Northwest has Anna's hummingbirds which do not migrate out but stay trough the winter, and there was one, gray and green, on a below-zero Saturday morning.  I spotted it on hummingbird feeder, but when looked closer noticed that it behaved rather strangely: instead of sipping and flying out, it looked as if it was drilling or mining: wrrr, wrrr..  Of course, the sugared water was frozen, and the poor bird tried to somehow get it out.  I quickly brought the feeder indoor, thawed the content and took it out again, only to repeat it a few more times during the day.

Searched the internet for 'heated hummingbird feeder' with zero results, but found some advice there: one was to bring the feeder indoor at night at put it back in the morning; good for the early risers, those who don't travel or oversleep, and not a lasting solution, as it freezes right back fast.  Plumber's heating tape advice looked rather cumbersome and expensive in executing, but advice about putting a 150 watts clip-on outdoor flash-lamp some 4-6 inches from the feeder looked promising.

Further research revealed that the lamp would need to be fitted with a pyrex glass bulb, + I would probably have to buy a short extension cord, as the lamp comes with an 8 feet cord only, so also  some sort of insulation where the cords meet would be required.  All of this  was still agreeable until I realized that the 150 watts flood-lamp would not only illuminate the hummers' feeder but ALSO our neighbors' deck and bedroom window.  Scratch that idea.

12/8/13 - NOT SJG. Hummingbird feeder 'heater' ingredients:
washcloth, 4 paperclips and 'hand warmers' packet

On the end I did bring the feeder inside for the night, but when I put it out the next morning it was in improved state:  a washcloth, 4 paperclips and a hand warmer (the packets you get in a drugstore to put in your gloves or shoes when it's freezing outside) solved the problem.  I folded the washcloth several times to fit it under the bottom of the feeder, sawed-in a paperclip in each corner (to be used as hooks on the feeder) and slipped a hand warmer packet between the layers closest to the feeder (with 4-5 layers insulating it from the air outside).

I had a customer in less than 2 minutes, and several of them returning often throughout the day! Literally every time I looked they were happy hummers there (they live in the neighbors' camellia tree), and although the 'heater' felt barely warm to touch, it kept the water in liquid state….

12/8/13 - NOT SJG; Steller's jays got fed, too (peanuts)

I wonder how the birds in the Japanese Garden fare now;  the humingbirds live there, too - last time they had a nest on the pine tree right by the moon viewing platform - we didn't tell visitors, because of the birds' 1st and 4th amendments' issues, although we spied on them some, and then told the allies about their activities…

12/8/13 - NOT SJG;  crows' bread diner - I LIKE crows very much

Ah, to further justify why this post is on the Japanese Garden Community blog, how about a link to a yummy Japanese Restaurant Style Carrot Ginger Salad Dressing - I came across it by accident, but after making it found eating it with a salad and alone, as a condiment and snack. It is THAT good! (Halving  the recipe will give you a small, full  jar -  think 2 smashed carrots, 1 inch+ of ginger root, tablespoon of miso and a small amount of vinegar and oils)...

12/8/13 - NOT SJG; the usual little suspects munching on their seed mixture


  1. Aleks - I love your solution! Only needed when daily temperatures are below freezing. Those little birds must love you!

  2. thanks, Lynnda! exactly, only needed on those infrequent dates when temps in seattle are below freezing. i posted it hoping people can copy this easy, cheap idea of supporting hummers when they need it. i put the feeder out at 9 am, and brought it back at 6 pm, still in liquid state, on one and the same 'hand warmer' packet! :)

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