Is It Safe to Freeze Hummingbird Nectar?

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.

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

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.

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.

Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman
Kenn and Kimberly are the official Birds & Blooms bird experts. They are the duo behind the Kaufman Field Guide series. They speak and lead bird trips all over the world. When they're not traveling, they enjoy watching birds and other wildlife in their Northwest Ohio backyard.