British Columbia

As the deep freeze hits, here are 3 easy ways you can protect your local hummingbirds

Some of Vancouver's smallest residents need a little extra care to get through the cold snap.

The fragile birds depend on feeders when their normal winter food sources get covered in snow

The Anna's Hummingbird lives year-round on the West Coast. (Liron Gertsman/Best Places to Bird in British Columbia)

As Vancouverites brave a blast of Arctic air that has brought snow, knocked out power, and spread sub-zero temperatures to the region, some of the city's tiniest residents also need a little extra tender loving care. 

The Anna's hummingbird — named the City of Vancouver's official bird following an online vote in 2017 — lives in the area year-round, and depends on hummingbird feeders when their normal food supplies are covered in snow, says Linda Bakker with the Wildlife Rescue Association of B.C.

Bakker says there are a few easy ways you can help these fragile birds during a cold snap.

1) Keep your feeders out.

"Right now, hummingbirds will have a hard time finding food," Bakker said. "So, if you have your feeder up, then you need to make sure you maintain it well."

One suggestion she has is to alternate between two feeders. You can put one outside overnight and replace it with the second one in the morning with fresh sugar water while you bring the overnight one inside to defrost. 

"Because [the hummingbirds] don't eat overnight but early in the morning, you want to put your other feeder out with, you know, fresh sugar water, so they can start eating right away," she explained. 

2) Make sure your feeders don't freeze.

Having two feeders is one way you can ensure there is feed available to the hummingbirds, but Bakker says you can also purchase a specific hummingbird feeder heater to keep it warm. 

A hummingbird approaches a feeder covered in Christmas lights in Abbotsford, B.C., during the cold snap. (Submitted to CBC)

She says some people have even made their own by stringing up Christmas lights around their feeder, hanging it close to an outdoor light that can be kept on for a bit of extra heat, or keeping them very close to the house. 

"Sometimes that will create enough warmth to prevent freezing," she said.

Another potential solution is to make a stronger sugar water solution. Normally, the sugar solution is four parts of water to one part sugar. Bakker says you can increase the solution to three parts water to one part sugar to lower the freezing point. 

3) Keep the feeders clean.

Bakker says mould is a problem for hummingbird feeders, and enthusiasts should keep them clean. 

In the winter, she recommends cleaning them once a week with a 10 per cent bleach solution. Make sure it is dry before you put it back out. 

If you do end up finding a hummingbird in cold shock, Bakker says you can call the Wildlife Rescue Association of B.C. who can walk you through the particular scenario. 

In general, you can place the bird in a small box — like a shoe box — lined with a towel. If you can keep it near the feeder, so they have access to the sugar solution, that would be ideal. 

"It's all very tricky, because the hummingbirds are very fragile and small, and you don't want to get any sugar water onto their feathers because that impacts their feather quality and then they'll get cold as well," she said. 

With files from BC Today

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