Is Using Christmas Lights To Keep A Hummingbird Feeder From Freezing A Good Idea?

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Having hummingbird feeders out in your backyard in the middle of winter is tricky because the nectar tends to freeze. Once the temperatures plummet — especially during the night — the watery nectar begins to solidify. This can pose a problem for several reasons. First, if the sugar water is a solid block of ice, your feathered friends won't be able to utilize it, rendering it useless. Second, it can also be dangerous if you allow the nectar to freeze and thaw in cycles. Some experts claim that if the nectar freezes and then thaws, the sugar separates and settles to the bottom of the feeder, though there isn't conclusive evidence of that. Still, most experts urge bird enthusiasts not to risk it and keep the nectar liquid all season long. To do so, some people have utilized Christmas lights as a way to add warmth around the feeders. 

However, while there is sufficient anecdotal evidence that this works, there are some caveats to keep in mind. For example, it's best to use incandescent over LED lights since LED lights won't generate enough heat. There are also better ways to solve your winter bird-feeding issue, especially if you live in a region that gets very cold for long stretches of time. Utilizing more effective hacks ensures your neighborhood hummingbirds have enough food and energy to survive the long winter ahead. Here is why the Christmas light hack might work, but why you might want to consider using other methods instead.

How Christmas lights keep bird feeders liquid

Rather than taking down your bird feeder before winter hits, it's a kindness to keep it up for hummingbirds. It provides sustenance and energy during a season when both are hard to maintain, helping keep the hummer population alive. Many avid bird watchers have found anecdotal success using Christmas lights to warm their feeders during cold snaps. To do so, they either wrap the feeder in lights or bundle them under the bottom of the feeder, keeping the nectar warm. To bundle them, you can either put the rope of lights on a table or box, and the feeder ontop of the bundle. Or you can use a plastic plate suspended by S-hooks from the feeder, and place your bundle between the plate and feeder's bottom. 

However, to find success, you need to keep two things in mind. First, this works only with incandescent lights since LED lights don't generate enough ambient heat to keep the nectar warm. Second, this will only work up to a certain temperature. For example, some birdfeeder owners only found that the lights kept the nectar thawed when the temps didn't dip lower than 14 degrees. If you live in an area where you see temps hover near 0 degrees — especially at night — then you're better off using a different method. Let's look at some replacements below.

Other methods to keep a hummingbird feeder liquid

If you live in a place that will likely experience temperatures that dip down to the single digits, you will need to use a more effective method to keep your nectar liquid. Luckily, there are several things you can do. The most effective would be to position an industrial work light a foot or so away from the feeder. Since these bulbs give off a large amount of light, these lightbulbs also create a good deal of warmth. This will help your feeder stay warm even as frost settles outside. Just make sure to keep it at least 12 inches from the feeder, since you don't want to warm it up too much. Doing so can either melt the plastic or overheat any metal details, which can not only ruin the feeder but hurt the visiting birds.

You can also invest in a store-bought feeder heater. This is a plastic apparatus that clips to the bottom of a hanging feeder. It holds a 7-watt lightbulb, which comes with an outdoor-safe extension cord. Simply hook the apparatus to the feeder and plug in the bulb, and it will gently warm the feeder enough to keep the nectar thawed all winter long. An example of such a feeder is the Backyard Bird Centre Hummer Hearth Hummingbird Feeder Heater, which clocks in at $50 on Amazon.