Can Hummingbirds Drink Cold Nectar? (Yes, But They Must Not)


Hummingbirds are beautiful flying jewels that live an extremely busy lifestyle – supplementing it with sugar-rich nectar.

They are very popular yard birds, and many people put out feeders containing sugar water to attract them. 

Sugar water is a perfectly acceptable way of feeding hummingbirds. The critical thing to remember is that the sugar water solution should be as similar as possible to natural nectar.

Many questions arise for those new to feeding hummingbirds who want to do what is suitable for the hummingbirds. One of the questions asked is whether hummingbirds can drink cold nectar.

Simply put, hummingbirds can and will drink cold nectar when available, but it has detrimental impacts on their health. Hummingbirds cannot drink cold nectar without having adverse health effects, such as cold shock, hypothermia, or death.

Why Is Cold Nectar Bad For Hummingbirds?

Hummingbirds have an extremely high metabolic rate, and in order to maintain such a high rate, their bodies need to be kept warm. Cold nectar would negatively affect their internal body temperature, causing it to decrease to a dangerous level.

Get Our FREE Bird Feeder Cheat Sheet
Want more birds in your backyard? Get simple tips on attracting feathered friends and maximizing your bird feeding setup. Our free cheat sheet has got you covered!
Download The FREE Cheat Sheet

Hummingbirds enter a torpid state in the evening before nightfall to conserve energy by lowering their heart rate, body temperature, and breathing rate. 

In the morning, their metabolism increases again as they emerge from the state of torpidity. At that point, they are starving, and they need to feed straight away.

The outside temperature is usually cooler in the early morning, and they desperately need to feed. That makes it a difficult time for the cold, hungry hummingbirds.

To maintain a high metabolism, hummingbirds need to feed on energy-rich nectar. The nectar mustn’t be cold because the hummingbirds are already cold and at the limit of their energy resources in the early morning.

See also  How To Clean Bird Feeders And Bird Baths To Avoid Harming Birds (6 Ways)

When the hummingbirds go out and look for their first food source of the day, they will feed on any energy-rich source, whether warm or almost freezing.

Hummingbirds are not picky when starving, so they may drink freezing cold sugar water in the cold mornings, which could cause hypothermia or even death.

Why Do Hummingbirds Prefer Warm Nectar?

Hummingbirds appear to choose warm nectar because warm nectar has a strong scent that appeals to hummingbirds and attracts them to the smell. 

Therefore, hummingbirds prefer warm nectar from flowers warmed up by the sun.

Is Hot Sugar Water Also Bad For Hummingbirds?

Cold sugar water has the most detrimental direct impacts on hummingbirds, but hot sugar water is also bad in a different way. 

Sugar water that is too warm can become rotten, making it unpleasant for the hummingbirds and creating a perfect area for bacteria, mold, and other microbes to reproduce.

Boiling sugar water may reduce the chances of bacteria and other pathogenic organisms from growing in the solution. Another benefit of boiling the solution before adding it to the feeder is that it decreases the rate at which the solution goes rotten.

A good habit is to allow the boiled sugar water to cool down before putting it in the feeder. Hot sugar water can damage and degrade the feeder.

Damage to the feeder, particularly plastic feeders, can cause chemicals and other dangerous materials to be released into the sugar water from the deteriorated plastic. The hummingbirds drink that sugar water and may be adversely affected if they drank it.

Feeding Hummingbirds In Summer

During the summer months, the temperature is high, and hummingbirds have a far easier time maintaining their high metabolism.

Some people may wonder if it is alright to feed hummingbirds cold nectar in summer because it is warmer outside.

See also  Why Do Hummingbirds Sit On Feeders For Hours? (Answered & Explained)

Generally, it is better not to feed hummingbirds cold nectar, even in summer.

In some cases, feeding hummingbirds cool nectar in summer may be acceptable because the sugar water will eventually warm up quickly after being out in the sun.

Feeding Hummingbirds In Winter

Most hummingbirds migrate south for the winter months, but there are areas where hummingbirds remain all year round.

When feeding hummingbirds on cold days, it is best to ensure that the sugar water is placed in the sun first and allow it to warm up before feeding it to the hummingbirds. This will prevent the hummingbirds from being affected by the cold nectar on cold days.

In winter, the sugar water can get frigid. In some cases, it may get close to freezing.

Sugar water has a lower freezing point than pure water because of the concentration of solutes. Therefore, sugar water freezes at a much lower temperature and stays in the liquid form for longer. 

That makes it more dangerous for hummingbirds because they will still drink the sugar water when it is colder than the freezing point of pure water.

It is particularly important not to feed hummingbirds cold nectar when it is cold outside because hummingbirds in cold temperatures need to work harder to control their body temperature and essential bodily functions.

In the winter months, it is good practice to keep the hummingbird feeders indoors for the night to keep them warm and then put them back out again the next morning.

Another good way of keeping hummingbird nectar warm is to place incandescent lights next to the feeder to keep it warm.

Sugar Water Storage

Sugar water should be stored in refrigerators to prevent the solution from going rotten and bacteria from growing in the sugar water.

Long-term storage of sugar water should be done using a freezer. That is because sugar water stays unspoiled for up to one month in the freezer, compared to only one week in the refrigerator.

See also  What Do Blue Jays Eat In The Wild? [Answers]

If the sugar water is frozen, let it melt and warm up before putting it in the feeder.


Feeding hummingbirds can significantly benefit them during times of low food concentrations. Still, it is essential to remember that hummingbirds should not drink cold nectar because it can cause hypothermia or even death.

Hummingbirds expend massive energy when flying about from flower to flower, looking for nectar. A decreased body temperature causes the hummingbird to be less active and not feed as much as it needs to. That can also harm the hummingbird.

The nectar that is too warm can also adversely affect the hummingbird through degradation and the release of chemicals from the feeder.

Overall, it is best to feed hummingbirds nectar that is not too cold and not too warm. The exact temperature of the nectar depends on the environmental conditions, geographic location, and time of day.

Read More About Hummingbirds:

  1. Can Hummingbirds Eat Honey?
  2. Can Hummingbirds Fly In The Rain?
  3. Can Hummingbirds Fly Backwards?
  4. Do Hummingbirds Build Nests?
  5. Do Hummingbirds Lay Eggs?
Get Our FREE Bird Feeder Cheat Sheet
Want more birds in your backyard? Get simple tips on attracting feathered friends and maximizing your bird feeding setup. Our free cheat sheet has got you covered!
Download The FREE Cheat Sheet

James Goodman

James is a native Texan with a love for birding and outdoor adventures. When he's not birdwatching, you can find him hiking, camping or playing the piano.

Recent Posts