Hummingbirds in the Snow

We had snow yesterday – enough to stick and be beautiful – and the temperatures continue to plummet.

I love snow but worry about the hummingbirds. So last night I brought the feeders in and returned them this morning; by midday they were frozen again.

I refilled them with fresh sugar water and afterwards grabbed my camera and waited in the icy cold. I was not disappointed.

A beautiful male Anna’s perched in the fir tree overhead, and I watched as he turned his head this way and that, as if showing off his beautiful crown.

He finally swooped down to the feeders while I kept my distance so he could eat in peace.

He fed for a while, and I was happy for that. But I wondered how he would stay warm tonight in the freezing temperatures.

After a bit of research, I learned that hummingbirds are able to enter into a hibernation-like state called torpor. Their body temperature drops, heart rate goes down, respiration rate drops and their metabolism lowers. They sleep at night in this state and can survive frigid temperatures.

I’m thankful for that.

Still, I hope this cold spell passes quickly.

~ Susanne

32 Comments on “Hummingbirds in the Snow

    • We’re down in the low twenties but I think you definitely have it worse. We only got a couple inches of snow. The Anna’s Humminghbirds here on the west side of Washington stay year-round. I was glad to learn how they’re able to survive the cold.

  1. Beautiful pictures, Suzanne! My little hummers (two, I think) are still coming to my heated feeder regularly. One little guy is there at it as soon as it gets light. It’s going to be below zero here tonight so I hope they will be okay. Hope yours are, too!

      • I’m still seeing two come yo my feeder, despite the below zero temps we had one night before Christmas. They are so resilient!

  2. Beautiful photos of a beautiful bird! Unlike you I’m no fan of snow, although maybe I’d feel differently if I lived where you do?

  3. It is wonderful that you are caring for your Anna’s in this wintry blast, and I was esp. entranced by those as well as your photo of the winterberries. The “bleak midwinter” sure started way too early, didn’t it! Forecast here is for freezing rain and if it’s anything like the last time, the tree and powerline falls, roof collapses, road closures, and power outages will be epic. For those in a more forgiving climate (not sure where that would actually be right now, but personally I’d sure take snow before ice), freezing rain is what happens after a hard long freeze makes every surface so cold that when rain finally comes it encases everything in glare ice sometimes as much as an inch thick (I saved a little ice-encased twig in my freezer to show people who didn’t know what freezing rain actually is). Susanne, you would love freezing rain photo ops – last time we had this kind of weather event, my neighbor’s John Deere tractor was turned into an unbelievably gorgeous ice sculpture! Beauty can be found in everything, truly.

    • Yes, all of nature is grand and glorious, including snow and ice. But sometimes destructive, unfortunately. Our snow came quietly and is still beautiful on the ground, but I worry about the rest of the country bracing for a massive winter storm. I’m hoping it doesn’t create too much havoc!

  4. I was wondering the same thing. Good to know they have the physiology for this freezing weather. Now, if the food would just not freeze up! Great photos.

    • Thank you. I was relieved to know they can survive cold weather. I’ve been rotating my feeders when they freeze up and bringing them in at night. So far that parts working. 🙂 It’s the water that’s more challenging. I need to get a birdbath heater.

      • You’re welcome. They’re so tiny, I’m glad they’re ok when it’s so cold. I always wonder about animals and how they make it through cold temperatures.

  5. Amazing! And I had just read the same thing about how hummingbirds can survive in freezing weather. I had started to wonder if mine were going to get too cold here in Fresno, where it’s not nearly as cold as it is where you are! I was surprised to learn how they do it.

    • Yes! I was encouraged to find out how they go into a state of torpor to survive the cold. I’m also happy the brutal cold finally lifted in our area. Hope other parts of the country find relief soon.

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