Yukon Bird Club
13 May 2021
Hummingbirds are seen in small numbers in southern Yukon (up to Lake Laberge) most years during the summer and into early fall. The species you may see are Anna’s and Rufous Hummingbirds. Here are some tips on feeding them.
- There are a variety of hummingbird feeders on the market and they’re available in several stores in Whitehorse and in some of the communities.
- Hummingbird feeders contain sugar water. Before you get one, consider whether hanging a feeder filled with sugar water is the right thing to do in your area. Bears and other unwanted wildlife, such as wasps, bees and ants, may be attracted to the feeders.
- Ensure the feeder is hung in a location that will not cause birds to collide with windows. (See the birds and windows tips on the Yukon Bird Club’s website at yukonbirds.ca.)
- Boil one part white sugar to four parts water for five minutes. Don’t use honey or add food colouring. Allow the solution to cool. Fill one third of the feeder with the solution. Keep any excess solution in the refrigerator.
- Change the sugar solution every 3 to 5 days to prevent mold and fermentation from developing as this can be deadly for birds.
- Clean feeders at least once a week using hot water and a bottlebrush or dilute bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water) and rinse thoroughly with hot water. Allow the feeder to air dry before refilling it with the sugar solution.
- Hummingbirds can become dependent on feeders. If you do have hummingbirds at your feeder then continue to feed them regularly until the birds have left your area or you can phase out the feeding towards the end of summer (e.g., reduce the volume of the solution gradually over a couple of weeks).
- (October 2021, via Yukon Bird Club’s hummingbird expert, Cameron Eckert) October hummingbirds in the Yukon are invariably Anna’s Hummingbirds. They linger so late because they have not yet moulted the required flight feathers to migrate, and not because somebody is feeding them. A hummingbird can survive sub-zero nights by going into topor (slowed metabolic rate), and feed on insects gleaned from vegetation (wilted flowers, shrubs, trees). If you are still feeding a hummingbird after mid-September, then increase the sugar:water ratio to 1:3 and warm the feeder inside each night and put it out again before sunrise – you’ll need to do this every day. This is the best chance of survival for that hummer. And yes, some do finally re-grow the full set of flight feathers to migrate back to the coast, even as late as mid-October. This is a totally new phenomena in the Yukon as Anna’s Hummingbird is a rapidly expanding species with the very first being seen in the Yukon in 2014 (in my yard), and now the species is annual and fairly common. If you don’t want the responsibility of feeding a late fall Anna’s Hummingbird then take down your feeders in late August. But again, feeders do not cause the birds to linger; they don’t migrate because they can’t.
If you have a good or bad experience using hummingbird feeders in the Yukon, we’d love to hear your story so we can improve the information we provide. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology. www.birds.cornell.edu/home
Canadian Federation of Wildlife. www.cwf-fcf.org