When to Put Out Hummingbird Feeders — and How to Know When These Beauties Will Visit Your Yard (2024)

If you like to attract birds to your yard, it's time to consider when to put out hummingbird feeders.

Hummingbirds may be the world's smallest bird, yet these tiny, colorful creatures have a fast metabolism and a huge appetite. According to Birdlife International, hummingbirds can consume up to 12 times their bodyweight in nectar every day. That's a lot of flowers.

With habitat loss, due to deforestation, and pesticide poisoning, the biggest threats to this spectacular species, hummingbird feeders and native flowers in your backyard can provide much needed fuel on their long migratory journeys.

So when is the best time to feed hummingbirds?

When to put out hummingbird feeders

When to Put Out Hummingbird Feeders — and How to Know When These Beauties Will Visit Your Yard (1)

'The best time to put out hummingbird feeders around your home depends on where you live,' says D. Emma Greig, leader of Project FeederWatch at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

'Some places may have hummingbirds around all the time, but other locations only have them in the spring and summer.

'Watch for signs of spring such as flowers blooming and days lengthening. And look out for hummingbirds showing up in your yard too. That’s when you know it’s time to put out feeders.'

Hummingbird spring migration

Although hummingbirds are native to the Americas, with over 300 species, the highest diversity is in the tropics. Those living further north in the U.S. tend to see hummingbirds only in the warmer months, usually from March.

'The Ruby-throated Hummingbird begins its fall migration in September along the eastern United States,' says Jen McGuinness, author, Bird-Friendly Gardening.

'It will fly 600 miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico during its migration until it reaches the overwintering grounds in Mexico and Central America. Because of the long overwater flight, it’s important for the birds to find food to eat and store energy for the long journey.'

'Beginning in March, the hummingbird will begin to fly north, feeding from early season flowering plants along the way as it gradually makes its way back up the eastern coast of the U.S.' As well as the best flowers for hummingbirds, you can opt for feeders for your yard, too.

'Hummingbirds that are found west of the Rocky Mountains, such as Allen’s and Rufous Hummingbirds, also migrate but can also be year-round residents in certain areas.'

Where to place your feeder

When to Put Out Hummingbird Feeders — and How to Know When These Beauties Will Visit Your Yard (2)

'To attract hummingbirds to a new feeder, place it near blooming flowers early in the season,' says Jen McGuinness. 'Once a hummingbird knows supplemental food will be supplied, it will return to the spot each year.

'You can also set feeders up on balconies, patios, and by windows to get a closer view of the birds. Depending on how many hummingbirds visit the property, you can use several small feeders or a few larger ones.'

It's important to keep feeders clean. Rinsing or scrubbing the feeder under hot tap water, or with a weak vinegar solution is all you need to do before refilling with sugar water. In cooler weather, once a week is recommended and in hot weather clean feeders twice a week, to prevent harmful bacteria from building up.

'Hummingbird feeders that provide sugar water nectar but are not regularly cleaned and refreshed can do more harm than good,' says Jen McGuinness. 'A hummingbird’s tongue can swell from the bacteria in expired sugar water, and can ultimately cause death.

'When cleaning feeders, avoid using dish soaps, as this can leave harmful residue in the feeder.

'If regularly cleaning feeders is not a possibility—either due to schedules or accessibility—then it is better not to use bird feeders at all.'

What to feed hummingbirds

When to Put Out Hummingbird Feeders — and How to Know When These Beauties Will Visit Your Yard (3)

'The best recipe for hummingbirds is the most simple: white sugar and water in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of water to sugar,' says D. Emma Greig, leader, Project FeederWatch. 'One tip is to boil the solution and let it cool before putting it in the feeder to make sure you kill any bacteria and give those hummingbirds the freshest solution possible.'

'Do not substitute the white sugar with honey, corn syrup, powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar), or raw, unprocessed sugars to make the hummingbird food,' adds Jen McGuinness. 'These other sugars can be harmful to hummingbirds because they can ferment more quickly.

'To create a viable hummingbird habitat for a balcony or patio garden, there also should be a plethora of nectar-rich plants that will bloom throughout the season.

'Many of the plants that are attractive to hummingbirds—and have evolved to cater to hummingbirds for pollination—will be brightly colored but low on fragrance (since birds are attracted to flowers by vision), and are often tubular in form in order for a hummingbird’s bill and tongue to reach the nectar.'

According to Jen McGuinness, some native plants (depending where you live) that are attractive to hummingbirds include Red Columbine, Fire Pink, Anise Hyssop, Wild Bergamot and Butterfly Milkweed.

When to Put Out Hummingbird Feeders — and How to Know When These Beauties Will Visit Your Yard (4)

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When to Put Out Hummingbird Feeders — and How to Know When These Beauties Will Visit Your Yard (5)

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When to Put Out Hummingbird Feeders — and How to Know When These Beauties Will Visit Your Yard (6)

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When to Put Out Hummingbird Feeders — and How to Know When These Beauties Will Visit Your Yard (2024)


When to Put Out Hummingbird Feeders — and How to Know When These Beauties Will Visit Your Yard? ›

“Most of their migration occurs in late March and early April, when they head farther northward and farther inland.” Depending on where you live, the hummingbird feeder can be put out as early as late February. “But for most of the Southeast, it's probably okay to wait until late March or early April,” Wiedenfeld says.

How long before hummingbirds notice a feeder? ›

It may take several weeks before the hummingbirds find and begin feeding regularly from a new feeder. Before making any changes, try waiting at least two weeks to give them enough time to discover your feeder.

When can I expect hummingbirds in my area? ›

First arrivals in the spring, usually males, are back in Texas and Louisiana in late February to mid-March. In more northern states, first arrivals are not until April or May. The map below shows the approximate spring migration arrival dates for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in North America.

How do you let hummingbirds know where feeders are? ›

Place a red gazing ball or pot of red flowers nearby, or decorate the feeder pole with red ribbons or paint to give it an extra touch that will get hummingbirds' attention.

When should I expect to see hummingbirds? ›

Each spring, this species arrives in numbers along the Gulf Coast by early March, filtering northward over the next two months until arriving in northern states and southern provinces by late April or early May. Migrating males usually arrive a week or so before females at any given location.

Where should you not hang a hummingbird feeder? ›

An unsafe hummingbird feeder can hurt birds, and feeders should always be hung high enough that cats or other predators will not be able to jump at feeding birds. The feeders should also be either very close to windows or far enough away that birds can avoid the glass rather than risk collisions.

Do hummingbirds come back to the same place every year? ›

Hummingbirds Will Often Return to the Same Location Year After Year. This is such an amazing and fascinating fact. It doesn't seem like it can be true, but it definitely is.

Why are there no hummingbirds at my feeder? ›

Perhaps availability of natural sources of food or nest sites have changed, causing the birds to look elsewhere. Despite their tiny size, hummingbirds can be injured or killed by free-roaming domestic cats. Some studies have also found that a good wildflower crop will reduce the number of hummingbird visits to feeders.

Do hummingbirds remember feeders? ›

Hummingbirds have a great memory – they remember every flower & feeder they've been to, and how long it will take a flower to refill. The hummingbird brain is 4.2% of its body weight – this is the largest, in proportion, of the wild bird group. Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly like a helicopter…

Should a hummingbird feeder be in the sun or shade? ›

It's highly recommended to hang the feeders in partially sunlit areas. The redness of the feeder will beckon to them, and become an offer they can't refuse. But make sure they are not directly in the sun and are shaded during the hottest hours of the day, as the heat can spoil the nectar.

Do hummingbirds like feeders high or low? ›

As a rule of thumb, try to keep your feeder anywhere from five to six feet from the ground. Remember that hummingbirds don't naturally feed on treetops, so hanging it too high can discourage feeding. Alternatively, placing your feeder too low on the ground can present other threats as well.

Why do I only have one hummingbird coming to my feeder? ›

Some individuals are more aggressive than others and therefore are more likely to dominate a single feeder. Hummingbirds have an instinct to protect their food sources, because in nature, a patch of flowers will produce only so much nectar in a day. The tiny birds carry this defensiveness over to artificial feeders.

What are the signs of seeing a hummingbird? ›

Hummingbird Meaning and Symbolism

To some, sighting a hummingbird signals that challenging times are over and healing can begin. To others, these tiny fliers are an inspiring sign of hope and good luck. Hummingbirds also can have a spiritual significance and mean the spirit of a loved one is near.

Do hummingbirds get to know you? ›

Studies have shown that hummingbirds can remember migration routes and every flower they've ever visited. They can also figure out how long to wait between visits so the flowers have time to generate more nectar. They can even recognize humans!

Why am I not seeing hummingbirds this year? ›

Courtesy Susan Klos Don't worry if you notice your hummingbirds have disappeared. The short answer—hummingbirds migrate south to warmer climates where food is readily available for them through the cold winter months.

Do hummingbirds come back to the same yard every year? ›

Our observers were right. Most of these birds DO return to the same feeders or gardens to breed year after year. What's more, they often stop at the same spots along the way and arrive on the same date!

Will hummingbirds come if I hang a feeder? ›

Your hummingbird feeder should be able to catch light during some parts of the day, so the colors and reflections attract the attention of the hummingbirds nearby. If you place your hummingbird feeders close by other red things, such as garden decor or flowers, this will also help catch their attention quicker.

Will hummingbirds come to a feeder that is not red? ›

But it turns out that it's the nectar, not the color that makes the most difference with hummingbirds. By varying the nectar content of flowers, researchers were quickly able to switch hummers from a preference for red to a preference for the most nectar-rich flowers, regardless of color.

What would empty a hummingbird feeder at night? ›

bats to be exact, and they LOVE hummingbird feeders!

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