Hummingbirds, being as small and discreet as they are, often get overlooked by communities. While they jettison in to drink from tubular flowers or make chittering sounds as they protect their territory, environmental temperatures play a huge role in their well-being. Are they, and how are they affected by the weather?
How can we assist hummingbirds during hot weather?
Make sure hummingbirds have adequate amounts of food, water, and shelter protecting them from the sun. Nectar-bearing plants give hummingbirds quick hydration and nourishment. Misters and birdbaths cool the hummingbird. Shady trees provide rest and rejuvenation.
Studies note that the hummingbirds are less social during the hot summer months. A lack of social interaction decreases their ability to reproduce and impacts the hummingbird’s population.
I will break down the effects of how hot weather stifles the hummingbird’s ability to function and how to create solutions to sustain their overall longevity when in crisis. Becoming informed on ways to protect them will keep these remarkable hummingbirds buzzing around our gardens and outdoor spaces for many years to come.
Hummingbird’s Body Temperature in Hot Weather
You may see hummingbirds fly effortlessly in the air without looking distressed, however they actually have their share of struggles. Heat impacts the hummingbird’s general health, energy, fitness, strength, well-being and can have a negative impact on reproduction.
When the temperature climbs above 90 degrees Fahrenheit there are serious adverse impacts on hummingbirds in multiple ways. Knowing why, and alleviating their struggles, will help us solve the problem keeping them happy and content while they hover from flower-to-flower throughout the warm seasons.
To put it simply, hummingbirds overheat easily. It is important for them to stay out of direct sunlight as much as possible. While a nice spring afternoon with temperatures in the 70’s may bring around a slew of hummingbirds ready to feed, weather temperatures ranging in the 90’s and 100’s Fahrenheit keeps them in hiding.
Hummingbirds have difficulty regulating their internal body temperature in hot climates. They will overheat in direct sunlight. Knowing this, the hummingbird finds a shady canopy to cool and normalize its internal temperature while waiting between feedings.
If the hummingbird overheats it can suffer serious negative side effects. While a hummingbird is likely enough to find shade and not perish from heat exhaustion, they may perish from another reason: not having enough food.
Extreme Heat Causes Hummingbirds to Eat Less
Just as we can lose our appetite during hot weather, hummingbirds do not eat as much when temperatures rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. They also lose their appetite during hot weather months and become lethargic. This restricts their behavior making it difficult to venture out into the heat to locate food. Hummingbirds must consume nutrition every 10-15 minutes in order to sustain their vitality.
Think of it this way, when the hummingbird leaves a shady area and into the direct sunlight, their body temperature starts to quickly rise. As they are scouring for food, they overheat and return to the shade for protection without successfully filling their bellies.
Why is under-eating problematic for a hummingbird? A hummingbird’s heart beats over 1,000 times in a single minute, which means they are expending energy to find food and must eat frequently. In fact, over half of their day is spent consuming nutrition to keep up with their metabolism.
In the summer months when temperatures rise, food sources diminish causing dehydration, starvation and ultimately death. Humans may also be unknowingly contributing to the summer deaths of hummingbirds by not regularly changing their feeders.
Hummingbird friendly plants also suffer in the heat. They stop producing nectar, dry up and die. This forces the hummingbirds to search far and wide for the life sustaining nectar. The additional time and effort to locate other food sources causes hummingbirds to overheat.
First, the natural plants that hummingbirds use for shade are affected. When temperatures rise and water resources diminish due to climate change, hummingbird habitats are affected. To compensate, these hummingbirds migrate to other locations looking for a cooler and suitable food source.
Secondly, as the hummingbirds try to find a cooler area to stay during the summer, the plants they feed on may not be as abundant. These new destinations present the hummingbird with a predicament of not finding familiar feeding plants, or not being able to find adequate shady locations to rest; which can lead to heat exhaustion.
Water, (H2O) is the most important resource on earth for survival and constitutes seventy-five percent of the earth’s surface. Life cannot exist without water.
Hot weather drastically affects hummingbird hydration. A hummingbird’s water needs are met by drinking flower nectar. During hot climate conditions water sources also diminish. The combination of decreased available nectar and water can cause a lack of adequate hydration. Just like humans, they can overheat. For humans the term is called “heat stroke” and requires intravenous injections of fluids to prevent permanent damage. For hummingbirds having an absence of water leads to ultimate death.
How You Can Help
It is clear that heat has a major impact on the overall health and happiness of hummingbirds. Therefore, there are certain steps we can take to help them during hot weather. As a hummingbird enthusiast, below are some simple ways of preventing diseases from spreading around your hummingbird feeders and assisting them to survive during the heat.
Feeder Maintenance During Hot Weather
If you enjoy observing and feeding hummingbirds just as much as I do, it is important to properly clean the feeders on a regular basis. A simple daily task that is often overlooked is to regularly inspect the feeders. Hot weather creates the perfect environment for bacteria and mold growth. Therefore, purchase feeders that have a wide mouth for easy cleaning.
Hummingbird feeders should not be left unattended for more than a day during the summer when heat temperatures rise above 93 degrees Fahrenheit. Since feeders are prone to mold growth; a toxin to hummingbirds, fill the hummingbird feeders with fresh homemade nectar regularly every 3- 5 days.
Read my article: How to Cool Hummingbird Nectar in Hot Weather
If you have a hummingbird feeder in your backyard, be extra careful during the summer months. Your feeder can actually become a breeding ground for spreading the following diseases:
- Candidiasis– a fungal tongue infection transmitted through contaminated water sources or feeding grounds.
- Avian poxvirus– a tumor growth on a hummingbird’s beak which obstructs their ability to feed.
- Aspergillosis- mold/fungus airborne spores that affect the intestinal system causing difficulty with digestion found in unclean hummingbird feeders.
- Salmonellosis or Salmonella– bacteria that causes diarrhea, lethargy and ruffled feathers with the possibility of death found in contaminated food and water sources.
Read my article on: Hummingbird Diseases: From Pathogens to Prevention
There are three important factors to consider with hummingbird feeders and hot weather:
- Reduce the amount of sugar to water ratio when making homemade hummingbird nectar. A hummingbird needs water during the hot weather, and adding too much sugar can leave them feeling tired and dehydrated. For that reason, reduce the sugar to water ratio down from 1 part sugar to 4 parts water to 1 part sugar to 5 parts water when making your homemade nectar during the hot weather. This will give the hummingbirds the nutrients and energy they need while increasing their hydration.
- Switch out the homemade hummingbird nectar regularly and daily for temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Leaving sugar water in a hummingbird feeder out in the heat can cause the homemade nectar to ferment, producing a perfect environment for unwanted problems and spreading of diseases.
- Place your hummingbird feeder in the shade. Placing feeders in the shade during high temperatures slows the fermentation process of the homemade nectar and provides a resting place for the hummingbirds from direct sunlight. Providing shade for hummingbirds can reduce their risk of suffering from a heat stroke.
To put it simply, major considerations to keep in mind when using a feeder to offer food to the hummingbird population during hot weather is to ensure that you are using the sugar to water ratio of 1 part sugar to 5 parts water, regularly provide a fresh supply of nectar, and assure that the feeder is placed close to a perch in a nice shady location.
By following these simple rules, you can help the hummingbirds stay fully hydrated, happy and healthy during the summer months.
Provide Water in Your Yard
Every living organism needs water to survive. A hummingbird is no exception. Being such a tiny animal that expends high amounts of energy, they feel the effects of dehydration sooner than other birds or animals.
Dealing with high temperatures depletes and deprives the hummingbird’s body of water requiring extra attention to be replenished. Major health issues are experienced when a hummingbird becomes dehydrated or exhausted from high temperatures.
There are a few different ways to ensure that a hummingbird is receiving enough water in your yard during the hot summer months. These include the following:
- Add a misting feature to your feeder
- Water your garden regularly
- Consider a birdbath
- Make sure you have enough plants offering nectar
- Keep the plants and feeders in the shade
Add a Misting Feature to Your Feeder
Many people have hummingbird feeders in their backyard in hopes to partake in the joys of experiencing these wonderful creatures. Adding a mister in your backyard provides multiple benefits. Not only does it contribute to a cool oasis attracting hummingbirds, it supplies a gentle hydration as the birds fly through the mist. It also sprays the plants in the garden leaving droplets of water on the flowers. When the hummingbird feeds, they receive extra hydration which is exactly what they need. Natural nutrition and extra hydration!
Adding a mister has two major benefits for the hummingbird who decides to visit:
- Provides the necessary hydration needed to survive through the hot summer temperatures.
- Contributes to a refreshing shower while consuming homemade nectar. Their overall body temperature will significantly decrease.
The consumer will be glad to know small misters are usually cost-effective and can be installed with ease. Purchasing a mister with an automatic timer is beneficial to allow setting the mister to go off during the hottest times of the day. Misters can be found online or at any local hardware shop.
Water Your Garden Regularly
To make your garden a powerhouse for the hummingbirds, consider watering your plants and garden regularly. Replenishing thirsty plants with a shower of water helps assure an abundant production of nectar and helps the hummingbirds cool off during the high daytime temperatures.
The water droplets that are left behind on the flowers and petals after your garden is watered will easily be consumed by the hummingbird as it feeds on the nectar in the flowers from their favorite plants. This cycle helps them become hydrated. The hummingbirds brushing up against the plants while sipping the nectar, cools their bodies and adds a quick and refreshing shower into their daily routine.
Since hummingbirds are attracted to any water source, another way they may cool their core temperature is by visiting the end of your hose when you are watering your garden. If you see a hummingbird, don’t try and spray it with water. This will scare and chase the hummingbird away. Rather stand perfectly still and allow them to investigate the situation prior to approaching the water from your hose.
If you are patient, they will dance in and out of the spray as they bathe. The benefits of these sprinkled showers and mists lowers their body temperature giving them a better chance of surviving the difficult challenges they face during the hot summer months.
Tip: Set up an irrigation plan and water your garden with a garden hose, or set up a sprinkler system to turn on throughout the day.
Consider a Hummingbird Bath
Hummingbirds take baths? Yes, they are meticulous cleaners and hygiene is of the utmost importance both for their well being and survival. Water is necessary to sustain life. A hummingbird bath is an added contributor to create a well-balanced ecosystem.
A hummingbird is attracted to the sound, sparkle and coolness of low flowing water. A shallow, gentle stream of water from the fountain is the ideal choice. Standing water alone in a basin will not entice the hummingbird like other birds such as finches and wrens. The movement of the water attracts the hummingbird’s attention which then will inspire them to investigate and react.
Below is a short video demonstrating hummingbirds enjoying a communal bath.
The obvious benefit of adding an appropriate hummingbird bath to your backyard is to provide a safe space to relax and cool down their core temperature without drowning. Reducing their body temperature, increases their alertness and energy levels during scorching weather.
Hummingbird baths of course require maintenance and upkeep. Regularly clean the bird bath. That means changing the water along with removing any algae build up since the sun increases algae production. Hummingbirds can easily carry diseases and unknowingly contaminate other hummingbirds when they come to visit.
An eco-friendly and non-toxic way to help safely reduce algae is to use one part distilled vinegar to 9 parts water (1 to 9 ratio). Thoroughly scrub your affected surface area, then rinse and repeat if necessary.
Sustain Enough Nectar Producing Flowering Plants
High nectar producing flowering plants that are fully hydrated with water not only gives the hummingbird nutrition, but also adds accessible moisture to their diet. Offering plenty of water to the plants in your area will guarantee happy and confident nectar producing flowering plants for hummingbirds.
Keep in mind that the hummingbird relies on their sight to find their food sources. This underscores the importance of surrounding your garden with brightly colored plants with tubular shaped flowers that are easy to locate. Tubular shaped flowers hold the most nectar which translates to efficiency in sustaining their blood sugar levels to stay alive.
Remember a thirsty wilted and dried up plant lacks the ability to produce nectar for a hungry hummingbird. Satisfying both elements with an abundance of water is the key to providing a healthy hummingbird and bountiful landscape.
Add Perching Areas to Your Yard
A perch site is extremely important in a hummingbird’s life. Perches allow the hummingbird to rest while scanning their territory for their next meal or keeping watch over their territory. It also gives them a vantage point while seeking out their next prospective mate. Perching areas located in the shade are necessary and beneficial to hummingbirds during the scorching months in the summer.
Make sure the perching area is in the shade. The whole point of helping a hummingbird during the hot weather is to give them a shady, cool space to relax and rejuvenate. Their perch requires a location that is covered, protected and free from direct sunlight.
As they rest on a branch to take a break from the high gruesome heat, their bodies have the opportunity to cool down, have a reprieve and recuperate. This also gives hummingbirds the convenience to consume nutrition while they escape from the heat.
No human or animal enjoys consuming food in the blazing hot sun, and neither do the hummingbirds. Eating a meal in the shade lets them enjoy a nutrition break without becoming dehydrated or overwhelmed by the sweltering temperatures. Remember, they have to eat every 10-15 minutes to replenish their quickly depleted energy. While perched, hummingbirds focus on their next feeding location and/or seek out insects to consume.
Adding shade bearing nectar producing plants to your area will supply another alternative option for hummingbirds to stabilize their obstacle of overheating. Placing plants underneath a covered porch, placing feeders on the northern side of a building or providing shade by using a tree also assists these delightful hummingbirds to stay cool, hydrated and healthy.
Perches in protected high locations are vital for mother hummingbirds and her young. Providing a sheltered and shaded perching site allows the mother hummingbird to save precious energy in between feeding and tending to her young along with the benefits of keeping her body temperature cool.
Do not over prune your bushes or trees. Over pruning creates sun-exposed areas. Barren patches and unattractive holes in the landscape of your trees leaves hummingbirds unprotected and vulnerable to heat exhaustion.
Leave more branches and twigs on your trees during the summer months. The overlapping of foliage serves to further provide a covered canopy for hummingbirds to rest and relax.
Study the direction of the sun’s path during the summer. Know that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. The morning sun is gentle but the afternoon sun can be harsh. Keeping the sun’s direction in mind facilitates deciding on the perfect location to place the feeders and plants when designing a summer oasis for your hummingbirds.
If you live in a drought tolerant area where bushes and trees are scarce, using a clothesline as a perching station will attract hummingbirds. When deciding on the location of placing the clothesline, keep the sun’s path in mind. Place the clothesline on the shady or northeastern side of your home or structure and in close proximity to a hummingbird feeder or other source of food to keep the hummingbirds satisfied.
Heat can have a negative impact on hummingbirds. We play an integral part in contributing to their healthy environment by providing plentiful sources of food, water, and shelter.
Keep in mind that the hummingbird relies heavily on their sight. Therefore a low flowing shallow water fountain or the spray of water from the end of the hose attracts their attention.
Turn your backyard into a hummingbird haven by providing clean ample food from feeders or nectar producing flowers, misters, birdbaths and plenty of shade to perch.
Happy Hummingbird Watching!