Birding Articles

Monday, December 4, 2023

Hummingbird Feeder Heaters: Frequently Asked Questions

Both styles of heaters contain a low wattage lightbulb inside a cup shape that directs the heat upwards towards your feeder. They are designed to keep your nectar solution above freezing but not hot. 

Hummer Hearth heaters are a plastic cup with a 7 watt lightbulb inside. The heater attaches to your feeder using three adjustable elastics with plastic hooks. They are designed to fit tightly against the base of your feeder for the least amount of heat loss possible. A spare 15 watt bulb is included for those nights that reach under -7°C, or if you notice freezing near where the heater contacts. The heater is outdoor rated though we recommend keeping the plug and socket protected if possible. The heater has a 6 foot cord that can be plugged into an outlet or extension cord.

Warm Wings feeder heaters are an aluminum cup with a red powder coating, available in three sizes. These heaters attach to your feeder with the four included elastics and/or plastic s hooks. The heaters are installed with an 11 watt lightbulb and come with an additional 15 watt for the really cold nights. The 6 foot cord includes a dimmer switch to control the current to the heater, which also works as an on/off switch so you don't have to unplug it. It is recommended to keep the dimmer switch protected from the weather to avoid potential issues with rain getting inside. Wrapping it up in something waterproof or keeping it under cover and out of direct rain is ideal. 

The included higher wattage bulbs should only be used if you are noticing freezing around the base of the feeder, where the heater is attached. This usually doesn't occur unless the outside temperature is around -7 to -10°C. If the feeder is freezing from the top down (for bottle styles), insulate the bottle with a wool sock, bubble wrap, or other insulating material. 

All four of them can work with most heater styles. Flat bottomed feeders and saucer style feeders tend to work best with the Hummer Hearth heater because the nectar solution is right above the feeder and it seals tight against the flat base to help keep the heat in. Wider bottomed feeders can benefit from the largest Warm Wings feeder (the Rufous) due to the wider top of the heater allowing the heat to directly reach more of the surface area. The smaller two Warm Wings (the Ruby and Anna) are the most adaptable and can work with any feeder style. They are the ones we prefer for the Perky Pet 8oz. feeders and the like. Mostly, it's down to personal preference!

No, all of our heaters are an attachment for existing feeders and do not come with a feeder included. They are adaptable for use with most styles of feeders, and if you are having trouble or are unsure, bring yours in and we can help you find the right heater.

The Hummer Hearth feeder heater is manufactured in the United States and shipped up to us, and Warm Wings heaters are based out of Nanoose Bay, BC.

We do make an effort to keep replacement cords and elastic in stock. We also sell spare bulbs for both heater styles if necessary.

Hummer Hearth: $54.99
Warm Wings Ruby: $49.99
Warm Wings Anna: $59.99
Warm Wings Rufous: $64.99

All of our hummingbird feeder heaters are available in our webstore ( under Hummingbird Feeders -> Accessories

Usually in cold weather hummingbird feeders need to be cleaned and refilling with fresh solution once a week. While using your hummingbird heater we recommend changing it two or three times a week to prevent bacterial growth. The heat from the lightbulb acts like the summer sun on your feeder and causes the nectar solution to ferment more quickly than it usually would this time of the year.

Got a question we haven't covered? Let us know!

Monday, October 9, 2023

Tuesday Bird Walk CANCELED

 The Tuesday Bird Walk is CANCELLED for October 10, 2023, due to the rain and high winds forecasted in the morning. 

October 15, Sunday bird walk will be going to the Nanaimo River Estuary. 

Good birding, Colin. 

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Stop birds from hitting your windows

What causes birds to impact windows?

Birds strikes are usually caused by reflections in the window that make it look like open air, or if two windows across from each other seem to make a tunnel (the birds look for the light and think they can get through). Hawks and other predators can also lead birds to hit windows as they try to escape. 

There are multiple ways to cut down on or eliminate bird window collisions.

1. Window decals placed on the outside of the window.
Window decals are best placed on the outside of windows to avoid glare or reflection on the window from making them disappear and become useless. Anything from post-it notes to UV or shadow static cling decals can work. It just needs to let the birds know that there is an obstruction in the way and they can't fly through it. 
UV decals look similar to frosted glass to us but will fluoresce a bright purple in birds eyes. Just keep in mind that UV decals will eventually wear out with exposure to sunlight and will need to be replaced. If you would like to test the effectiveness of UV decals for your windows, making a few scribbles with a yellow highlighter gives a similar effect, though it lasts a day or so at most. 
Shadow decals are like the UV decals but black or dark gray. They usually aren't quite as effective but unlike UV decals there's nothing for the sun to wear out and they can last longer.
Both UV decals and shadow decals come in a variety of shapes and designs which matter only for your aesthetic purposes. Birds aren't going to look at the hawk decals and think it's actually a hawk. 
Feather Friendly is a more permanent type of decal and consists of tiny squares spaced roughly 2" apart. Feather Friendly is designed to go across the entire window and they come in white or black squares. It works very well for glass deck panels. 

2. Fruit tree netting pulled tight against the window.
It may be distracting for those inside the house at first, but especially for windows with a large surface area that's hard to cover in decals it can work great. Similar to the decals, it's just to let birds know that the window isn't open air.

3. Bird Scare Tape is a shiny roll of tape that should be hung in roughly 3 foot strands in front of the window. The strands will move in the wind and combined with the shimmering effect it tends to make birds wary and want to steer clear. Birds that are fleeing in a panic, especially from a predator, may disregard the scare tape in their alarm.

4. Cover the window from the outside to eliminate reflection completely. It doesn't tend to look very nice but putting up posterboard or another opaque covering on the window tends to take care of the problem quickly. 

5. Close the blinds on windows across from each other to eliminate the tunnel look. If you have two windows directly across from each other, birds can look at the light coming through the far window and think there is somewhere for them to go. 

6. Put feeders close to windows so birds will go to them instead of using the area as a flight path. We've noticed that feeders within a few feet or attached to windows tend to cut down on bird collisions, or at least make them far less fatal. Birds are slowing down to land on the feeder or just taking off and don't have the speed to hit windows as hard.

7. Turn unnecessary lights out at night as migrating birds are more likely to become confused or disoriented by lights left on at night while they are trying to navigate. This can lead to bird impacts, especially against taller buildings in their general flight path.
The Audubon Lights Out program ( has more information on light pollution and migratory birds.

What ways have proven effective for your backyard birds?

Monday, May 1, 2023

Hummingbird Feeders and Pests

Spring and summer hummingbird feeding can be a great source of entertainment for people. While some places will only see the hummingbirds for a few months a year, those of us lucky enough to live on the West Coast will have the Anna's hummingbirds visiting year round. Our other local hummingbird species, the Rufous, are only here for a few months in spring and summer. Choosing a hummingbird feeder that works well for you, your yard, and your birds is important to make the experience as enjoyable as possible.

Often the biggest issue people have with their hummingbird feeders is ants and wasps. Insects will find the smallest leak in your feeder, often one you are unable to spot yourself, and quickly become regular visitors enjoying the sugar-water. Erasing the food source, or their ability to get to it, can deter these pests and make feeding the hummingbirds feel like less of a nuisance.

Perky Pet Classic 4 Flower

Feeders that you fill upside down and flip upright to use are known as bottle style feeders and are the most prone to insect problems and leaking. While they can be a great way to start hummingbird feeding, the design makes it easy for them to develop a leak. Two main factors influence the bottle style's leaking issues: gravity and pressure build up. If this feeder is left somewhere it can easily swing in the wind, the chances are higher that you will have nectar leaking out the feeding ports as it swings. They are also prone to developing a pressure build up in the bottle as the liquid is drained. The empty space at the bottle, mixed with the heat of the sun, creates pressure that pushes down on the remaining liquid and forces it out the feeding ports as a drip.

Clear Ant Moat

If your problem is strictly ants finding your feeders you can use an ant moat. Ant moats hang above your feeder and can be filled with water, making a barrier ants cannot get past when climbing onto your feeder. Ant moats will need to be emptied regularly, especially if you have a serious ant problem, and in warm weather the water may evaporate. Add a little bit of vegetable oil to slow down the evaporation if necessary. Regularly wiping on and around the feeding ports to clean off any drips of nectar can help with keeping wasps at bay, though it isn't foolproof. You can also try moving the feeder. Feeders hung in trees had a higher volume of ants finding it as they are likely already searching for food in the trees. Hanging your feeder from a standalone pole instead of a branch can make it more difficult for ants to find it. If ants have found your feeder and it isn't hanging in a tree, sometimes moving it a couple of feet to one side can help them lose the trail. 

Changing to a different style of feeder is often the best solution for dealing with leaking and insects issues. A couple of things to think about when choosing a new feeder include how easy it is to take apart and clean, how easy it is to fill, and whether or not it's prone to leaking. 

Best-1 8oz. Feeder

If you enjoy using bottle style feeders but are having issues with your current one, the Best-1 feeders are an excellent choice. It's a bottle style feeder that feeds into a small nectar reservoir in the base, with the feeding ports facing straight up. These feeders, despite being bottle style, rarely develop leaking problems. The bottle can unscrew from the base, which also comes apart in two pieces to make it easy to clean. Any bottle style feeder with feeding ports facing straight up instead of on an angle are less likely to have leaking issues due to pressure buildup. 

Aspects 8oz Hummzinger Feeder

If you want to switch to an entirely new feeder, saucer style is the way to go. The nectar reservoir is in the base, and the feeding ports are directly above. This does not allow for pressure to build up. It is also bottom heavy in comparison to bottle style feeders because of the nectar location and isn't as often found swinging in the wind. The base and top are pressure fit together, making it simple to take apart and clean everywhere. Saucer style feeders like the Aspects Hummzinger don't leak (as long as they aren't tipped when being put up, and aren't overfilled) making them the best choice for avoiding ant and wasp issues. 

Aspects 8oz. Jewel Box Feeder

Another option when switching feeders is to go to a window hummingbird feeder. Window feeders allow you the best view of any visiting hummingbirds and rarely do we get reports of ants on window glass, making it less likely they will find it. Wasps, however, may still be an issue depending on the style of window feeder. 

Enjoy your hummingbirds!

Monday, March 27, 2023

Keeping Seed Dry in Wet Spring

Early spring brings with it spring rain, which can be fun to watch but is less enjoyable when we are faced with wet, unusable bird seed in our feeders. Not only can this be harmful for your birds, but it can make it more difficult to keep your feeders clean. 

In order to keep your bird seed dry and prevent it from molding or harming your birds, there are a few steps you can take.

Using feeders with domes or large overhangs can help keep rain from getting in your seeds at all. While not foolproof, it can reduce the amount of rain that manages to enter your feeder. If your feeder doesn't have enough of an overhang, you can use something, such as a wooden shingle, and screw or nail it to the existing roof to extend it out farther. Just keep in mind that this will also make it more difficult for larger birds to get into your feeders.

The Backyard's "Nanaimo" Fly-Through Feeder

Using feeders that have mesh trays or, if plastic, plenty of well-placed drainage holes can help air circulate and keep water from pooling in the feeder. Mesh trays are preferrable when possible as they allow considerably more water to flow out while letting air circulate through the feeder easily.

Putting out less seed at a time, roughly around enough for your birds to finish in one day, can help reduce the amount of seed that sits outside wet. Seed can get wet without much issue, the problems arise when it sits for a while and is still wet and begins to mold. Filling feeders more frequently with smaller amounts during wet seasons can make sure seed doesn't sit around long enough to cause problems.

Using seeds with shells, such as black oil sunflower instead of hulled sunflower. While seed with shells can be messier and leave shell debris in your yard, the shell is added protection against moisture. 

Black Oil Sunflower Seed

Adding Feeder Fresh to your bird feeders can help keep moisture out of your seeds. Feeder Fresh is a product made with bird safe silica that absorbs moisture and keeps it out of your bird seed. Filling tube feeders and adding layers of Feeder Fresh every two inches or so, or mixing the silica in with your bird seed, is effective. Birds tend to avoid eating the silica as it doesn't have the nutrition they are looking for, but if they do ingest any it's not harmful to their systems. Add new Feeder Fresh every time you change your feeders or refill them, and off you go.

Feeder Fresh

Cleaning feeders regularly can also help cut down on issues. Check out our last blog post to see tips for what to use to clean feeders and how often to clean them. Always make sure to keep an eye on your feeders regardless of whether or not you are using any of our tips to ensure that there won't be any problems without you noticing. Using one or many of these suggestions can help keep issues down and your birds happy, healthy, and hanging around. 

Monday, March 20, 2023

Bird Feeders and Wet Weather

There are two main reasons why people feed the birds; for the enjoyment of watching them, and to help the birds through tough times. Our intentions are good and the last thing any of us wish to do is harm our feathered friends. Cleaning our bird feeders is as much a part of bird feeding as filling the feeders with seed. Making sure to keep feeders clean and full of fresh seed makes watching the birds more enjoyable and healthier for your backyard birds.

As we head into spring, we still have to make sure to keep an eye on our bird feeders and keep the area around them clean of old seeds. By keeping feeders and feeding areas clean, we can help stop the transmission of diseases and keep mold from forming in our bird seeds. Diseases are passed between birds through their droppings, which can be a concern when birds congregate around feeders. Birds that flock together in large colonies, such as Pine Siskins, are at a higher risk than others. Pine Siskins especially are prone to interbreeding in their colonies and have a weaker immune system than other finches, making them highly susceptible to disease. 

Mold will build in bird seed that is left either on the ground or in feeders for too long, and even if the birds are able to avoid eating it directly they can still inhale the spores and become ill. The easiest way to help prevent illness and keep mold from growing is to clean your feeders and feeding area at least once a month, and dispose of old seed. Keep an eye on your feeders and if you notice any issues clean them more frequently. We've found the sweet spot for keeping them problem free is roughly once a week if you are able, especially when the weather gets nasty. 

When cleaning feeders, use a bleach-water mix of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. This can be kept in a spray bottle for ease of use. Not comfortable using bleach? Industrial white vinegar, or cleaning vinegar, is also a great disinfectant and can be found in hardware stores and can be mixed with water in a 15-50% ratio. Using cooking vinegar will not clean or disinfect your feeders! The bleach-water or vinegar-water solution can be used with wooden or plastic feeders, hummingbird feeders, and bird baths to keep everything clean and disinfected.

Remove all old seed and throw it in the garbage. Do not put any back in the clean feeder even if you think it looks alright. Use a small brush or whiskbroom to clean out whatever may be stuck in the feeder, then spray liberally with your cleaning solution. Scrub it again with a stiff brush, then rinse with fresh water and let it dry. Make sure it is fully dry before refilling with seed. An easy trick is to clean your feeders in the evening and let them air dry overnight.

Remember to also clean around your feeding area and get rid of any seeds that have dropped or that you may have put out. Rake up seeds that may have fallen into dirt or grass, or if you are feeding over stone or a patio you can rinse the area with your cleaning mixture followed by fresh water.

An important thing to note when choosing a bird feeder is to make sure you can get everywhere when cleaning. Mold likes to grow in corners that may be hard to reach or difficult to notice. Wooden feeders that can be completely disassembled, or plastic feeders that come apart easily are always good choices. Fresh bird seed is like a wick that soaks up water, especially in feeders with a wooden base. When choosing a feeder, look for ones that allow water to drain out quickly. Wooden feeders with screen bases instead of solid wood are an excellent choice to allow air circulation and water to run out instead of pooling. Plastic feeders with a roof and drainage holes are also a good option.

Feeders with a large roof can help keep seed drier, and a roof that is too short can be extended by attaching a wood shingle or similar to the existing roof. The larger overhang can keep seed drier and keep larger birds out of your feeder. 

Enjoy your birds and happy birding.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Rufous Hummingbirds

 It's March and that means Rufous Hummingbirds are on their way! 

While the Anna's are a non-migratory, year-round resident of Vancouver Island, the Rufous Hummingbird is commonly seen on Vancouver Island only during the spring and summer. They arrive in March from Central Mexico to do their nesting. Once they've nested, the males begin to leave in July with the females and juveniles following shortly after.

Male Rufous - R. Hocken

The Rufous are slightly smaller than the Anna's and the male can be identified by their rufous (rusty orange) body and white chest patch. They have a brilliant red gorget, or throat patch, that they flash to attract a mate or show aggression. Female Rufous are green with a white or silver-gray underside, smaller red gorget, and the same rufous colouring in their under wings and tail base. 

Female Rufous - R. Hocken

Like the Anna's, Rufous are open nesters. They build their nests out of soft plant down held together with spiderweb. The outside then gets camouflaged with moss, lichen, and bark. Hummingbird nests are about two inches in diameter, with the inside cup being an inch wide. The nest can be reused the next year, though not always by the same birds.

Check out this link for more information on the Rufous migration.