Kim Beardmore has taken care of hummingbirds in his Colwood neighborhood since 2001.
During this latest cold winter snap, the president of the Rocky Point Bird Observatory said he regularly checks in on his bird feeder a few times a day. The feeder is stocked with a sweet liquid – made of four cups of water and one cup of white sugar – that hummingbirds depend on for energy when usual food sources are unavailable.
But when the temperature drops below freezing, the feeder becomes useless.
“Think about what happens when you stick your tongue to a cold surface on a really cold day,” said Beardmore. “Because the feeder is frozen, the hummingbirds aren’t getting the nutrients they really need.”
Beardmore said he’s seen all the tricks in the book to keep the feeders warm, including taped hand warmers and Christmas lights. Posts on social media show Victoria residents using bubble wrap or socks as an option. The avid birder recommends taking the feeder in at night to thaw and bringing it outside once again the next morning.
Notably, there are two types of hummingbirds that fly around the Southern Vancouver Island. Firstly, the Rufous hummingbird, which migrates in August to Mexico. The other, Anna’s hummingbirds, spend the winter in Victoria, largely due to the feeders that are put out by residents.
Anna’s hummingbirds don’t only feed on the sugar water. They eat flying insects and spiders, too, which are usually available during the winter months on the Island.
Beardmore reminds bird lovers to avoid using honey, brown sugar, or other sweetener alternatives in the bird feeder mix, as they promote bacterial growth. Feeders should be cleaned once a week to avoid nectar or mold buildup.