Is It Safe to Freeze Hummingbird Nectar?

Updated: Sep. 26, 2022

Birding experts reveal whether it's OK to freeze and thaw hummingbird sugar water for feeders, and how to care for hummingbird feeders in cold weather.

Is Frozen Sugar Water Safe for Hummingbirds?

hummingbird nectarCourtesy Marion Chard

Question: I’ve heard that when sugar water freezes and then thaws, the sugar settles to the bottom of the feeder. Is this true? Does it cause a problem for the birds? –John Taylor of Grants Pass, Oregon

Kenn and Kimberly: Opinions vary on whether it’s OK to freeze surplus sugar water, so we advise erring on the side of caution. We’ve been feeding hummingbirds for decades, and we’ve never frozen our spare food. However, we do refrigerate it for up to a week.

247511949 1 Janusz Hankiewicz Bnbhc20Courtesy Janusz Hankiewicz
Hummingbird in a spring snowstorm in Colorado

If you have hummingbird feeders up in weather so cold that the sugar water freezes, we suggest thawing and cleaning out the feeders, then add a fresh batch—just to be sure you’re keeping those flying jewels safe and healthy. You can also bring your feeders indoors at night to prevent freezing, but it’s important to put them back out first thing in the morning.

Follow these expert tips to attract hummingbirds in winter and learn where hummingbirds migrate in winter.

How Do I Stop Hummingbird Nectar From Freezing in Winter?

248418012 1 James Leonard Bnbhc20Courtesy James Leonard
Anna’s hummingbird during winter in Oregon

Question: Do you have tips for keeping hummingbird nectar from freezing? We have several birds that stay all winter. —Laurie Black of Salem, Oregon

Kenn and Kimberly: In your area of Oregon, Anna’s hummingbirds appear year-round. They seem to be among the toughest members of the family, surviving very cold weather if they get enough to eat. To keep feeders from freezing, we have experimented with hanging them next to the house and putting a heat lamp above them. It worked well when we had a winter rufous hummingbird in Ohio. You can also bring feeders inside at night, but it’s important to put them back out first thing in the morning, because the hummingbirds need a shot of energy after a cold night.

Psst—this birder had more than 75 hummingbirds visit her yard in winter.

Each month, Birds & Blooms readers send in their burning questions to birding experts, Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman, who are the duo behind the Kaufman Field Guide series. They speak and lead bird trips all over the world.

Got a bird question for Kenn and Kimberly? Submit your questions here! They may appear here or in a future issue of the magazine.