[Tweeters] Thoughts on Winter Feeding of Hummingbirds

Jeff Kozma jcr_5105 at charter.net
Thu Dec 13 17:36:07 PST 2018

Great information Charles and Mark. Thank you. I also wanted to point out that Baby formula contains lactose, something birds can’t digest because they don’t drink milk and don’t’ have the enzymes/bacteria in their gut to process it and break it down. In humans, lactose intolerance is an uncomfortable and painful condition. Why feed something containing lactose to hummingbirds, regardless of the concentration, when it has the potential to harm them. Wild birds are free ranging and particularly in western WA are perfectly capable of finding insects during the winter. Even over here in eastern WA, when temps get above 40 F, small flying gnats and other insects are visible in my yard. They can find the protein they need and will survive on sugar water and their stored fat reserves during cold spells.

A version of this post might show again. Apparently my last one was too long because it had everyone’s previous posts on it and awaits moderator approval. Sorry if it shows up again.

Jeff Kozma


From: Tweeters [mailto:tweeters-bounces at mailman11.u.washington.edu] On Behalf Of creinsch
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2018 4:57 PM
To: tweeters at u.washington.edu
Subject: Re: [Tweeters] Thoughts on Winter Feeding of Hummingbirds


I wanted to thank you for writing this. I had very similar concerns. In the past, the folks at HUMNET, including banders, ornithologists and biologists, have consistently advised against mixing supplements of any kind into feeder nectar to be offered wild birds. Rehab facilities that know how to administer and use supplements may have valid reasons to use them with captive or injured birds, but the average person with a home feeder has no reason to.

As to the "evidence" that it does not harm the population of wild birds, it all appears to be anecdotal: "At the end of last winter it appeared to me that there were as many Anna's hummingbirds as at the beginning." Unless the birds are banded and recaptured, it is absurd to think they are the same birds.

In my experience most people, at least in the Seattle area, assume that all hummingbirds are migratory, and are surprised to learn that some are resident. Which is to say they take their feeders down in the winter when they think the birds have left. I've even read some bizarre advice that one should take the feeder down in the winter, so that the hummer is not persuaded to overstay. This is nuts. Instinct is much more persuasive than sugar water.

Charles Reinsch

On 12/13/2018 1:01 PM, Mark Myers wrote:

I just wanted to chime in on this conversation since some of the ideas being floated here are concerning.

Most important, to believe that the survival of our regional Anna's hummingbirds (or any bird species) in the winter is dependent upon humans offering/maintaining feeders is very flawed. Where is the evidence to support that belief? As was mentioned in a response posted today, many birds, including hummers, glean small inverts from seemingly bare trees and plants. If you just watch your kinglets and creepers, they expend a lot of energy working the branches and trunks of trees in search of food. They wouldn't do that if they weren't finding inverts. Us humans can't see those inverts, but birds have pretty good search images.

The reality is that hummers are equally adept at finding food in the absence of feeders. If they don't, they will perish, but that's true for all animals.

I've been banding Anna's (and other hummers) for many years in our region, during all seasons. I've never experienced a hummer that is in poor body weight or condition even in the middle of winter. And, I routinely recapture birds that I banded at my house years ago. And, my feeders go dry on a regular basis when I travel.

I realize hummers bring out strong emotions in those of us that watch them and feed them. But, they are probably one of the hardiest of birds. If our feeders run dry, they will not die (it's possible some may travel elsewhere to find food, but their absence doesn't mean they're dead...).

There have been questions as to whether offering probiotics or Gerber supplements may be harmful to wild hummers. My answer: if you can't answer that question with 100% certainty, DON'T OFFER probiotics or Gerber supplements in the nectar. I can say with 100% certainty that if you don't offer them, the birds won't be harmed.

My 2+ cents.

Mark Myers,

Bothell, WA

Tweeters mailing list
Tweeters at u.washington.edu <mailto:Tweeters at u.washington.edu>

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://mailman11.u.washington.edu/pipermail/tweeters/attachments/20181213/6d85bc54/attachment.html>

More information about the Tweeters mailing list