When Should I Take Down My Hummingbird Feeder?
Fall migration is underway for the hummingbird. When should you take feeders down? We have the answer, plus what you can do to help these tiny creatures on their long journey south.
Fall migration is underway for the hummingbird. Most North American hummingbird species migrate to Central America or Mexico for the winter; they travel nearly 4,000 miles—a long journey for such a tiny creature. But if you keep your feeders up, will it interfere with their migration? Will they stick around rather than take the trip nature intended?
Birds & Blooms expert Rob Ripma explains that hummingbirds migrate according to their internal, circannual rhythms and leaving the feeder up will not deter them from migrating. In fact, sugar-water feeders are important refueling stations for them along the way. Following these tips will allow you to help them on their journey south.
Preparing for the Trip
As hummingbirds prepare for migration, they need to feed more frequently to gain weight and store fat needed for the journey south. An increased intake of flower nectar and sugar-water from feeders will provide a weight increase of 25% to as much as 50% to help provide fuel for the migration.
10 Tips To Help Hummingbirds In Their Journey
- Certain species, such as the Rufous hummingbirds, are heartier and can endure colder temperatures than the Ruby-throated hummingbirds so they may show up later in the season— into October or even November. It it doesn’t hurt to leave your feed up even through November.
- You can take the feeder down two to three weeks after you’ve seen the last hummingbird visit your feeder.
- Hummingbirds are territorial and spend a lot of time and energy chasing other birds away from the feeder site. Putting out more than one feeder can reduce fighting for dominant feeder rights. This can also help reduce mold formation, bacteria, and spoilage.
- Wondering if you should increase the ratio of sugar in the feeder solution for migrating hummingbirds? Four-parts water to 1-part sugar is the standard sugar-water ratio. Robin Grant, Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s web moderator offers this advice, “High sugar concentrations could cause dehydration. In cold weather, you can use 1-part sugar to 3-parts water, but in warm weather, it’s best to stick with the more traditional 1:4 ratio.”
- Don’t use red dye in your feeder. Red dye is an artificial, synthetic chemical. It is not needed to attract hummingbirds to liquid nectar. Keep their feed as close to natural as possible. Hang a red feeder instead
- Avoid placing the feeder in direct sun.
- Change the sugar-water solution in the hummingbird feeder every three days in hot weather.
- Clean the feeder with a brush and hot water. When needed, clean with a mild detergent and water. Rinse thoroughly before refilling with sugar-water.
- Refrigerate surplus sugar-water until refills are needed. Keep no longer than one week.
Did You Know?
- Hummingbirds do not travel in flocks, like most other birds, but migrate alone.
- September is the month we see the most hummingbirds venturing south. Although, stragglers can appear at your feeder in October.
- It takes about two weeks for a hummingbird to complete its fall migratory trek.
- Hummingbirds have excellent recall. They remember the location of your feeder and will return to the sites it has visited in the past.
Learn more about Fall Bird Feeders
Have you ever heard of a hummingbird moth?
10 Facts About Hummingbirds That Will Amaze.
Join The Discussion!
Do you have a hummingbird feeder?
Is there anything else you are curious to know about hummingbird feeders?
What was one thing new you learned from this article?
Let us know in the comments below!
Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Pearls of Garden Wisdom: Time-Saving Tips and Techniques from a Country Home, Pearls of Country Wisdom: Hints from a Small Town on Keeping Garden and Home, and Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. Tukua has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.
I feel terrible, we have a huge group of hummingbirds every year. I have to refill my feeders between 8-12 of them almost every day. This year and last year when they left I would take all of them down except 2. I always have 1-2 stragglers and this year was no different. My husband said if I don’t take the last two feeders down, they would not go south. So I did. Now I feel bad because your article says I could leave them up as late as November. I had seen both of them eating the day before. We have a lot of fall flowers and wild flowers blooming, I hope they will be ok.
I have a problem with ants . I use the double hook hanger with the little bowl for water but the feeder leaks when the temperature rises. Any suggestions? Thought I would share my favorite hummer. I named her/he Goldie
I didn’t know hummingbirds migrated alone
I’ve always heard to put them up just before the azaleas begin to bloom. That could be earlier or later depending on the location and weather.
I didn’t know to take them down, this picture was from January 2021 up here in Bremerton, WA. Mine are here all fall and winter. Do some breeds hang around?
Hi Gary, we have heard from friends here and at the office that they have seen these birds in the winter, but wow! What a great shot. I’d keep it up all year long as well. Definitely helps the birds during the snow-filled winter landscape. Thanks for sharing
These hummingbirds are very smart where are they going when they got a food supply source.
I saw a honey bee on the feeder in the photo, I’m a beekeeper and I harvest and sale some of my honey, if my bees visits a hummingbird feeder then puts the sugar water in my honey supers, then I won’t have pure honey. What can people do that likes to feed hummingbirds to help prevent contaminating their neighbors honey with sugar water. Thanks P.S. My dad loved and enjoyed his Hummingbirds
That is a fantastic question. I’m not sure if we have an answer and hope someone here can offer some advice. Must be hard to keep the bees away from the easy to drink hummingbird feeder.
Some feeders have bee guards to make it more difficult for bees to mooch nectar.
My husband is a bee keeper and even with all the flowers blooming all the time, they love to steal from my hummingbird feeders. All my feeders have bee guards on them but they still take over the feeders sometimes, enough so that we turn the hose on and spray the feeders to make sure there is no sugar water outside the feeders. Also, our hummers are ferocious! They chase them away all the time. and they love it when we spray water, they will stay there and let the water get all over them.
Is it true that the males leave before the females?
Yes that’s what we’ve heard and read, the males leave first, but usually only a few days earlier and it depends on the type of hummingbird.
I’ve just got to where others comment on the type of feeders used to discourage bees. I have that type but it doesn’t seem to work. There were so many bees that the hummingbird could not even get close.
This year I noticed bees constantly chasing the humminbird away from one of the feeders. Is there anything I can do to help the bird.
I love this article about hummingbirds answered all the things I wondered about. Will start in spring the correct way for the precious hummers.
So glad to hear this helped Vonnie! Be sure to report back on how your feeders do next year.
My hummers stay all winter here in Central Florida – I have the same 2 year round
Do not use soap but vinegar to clean
Thank you for the information, it really helped about their miagration
Thank you so much! I’m in North Alabama and woke up to a cool morning in late September and was concerned about my little hummingbirds being too cold. I also didn’t know that I needed to clean it so often, I was cleaning it about every two weeks.. Headed now to clean them for the precious little sweethearts!
We had a freaky early snowfall(Sept 8) as much as 4 to 6 weeks, Bird feeder froze at 22⁰ at 7 a.m. but Hummers are still swarming. It is going to warm up again so should I keep filling the feeders till the birds are all gone?
Thank you for the information. I was worried the humming birds would not leave for Mexico as they should, if I kept the feeder.
Is there something besides sugar mixed with water to feed hummingbirds. something closer to real nectar that they would get from the flower which has nourishment in it?
Only white regular granulated sugar and always 1part sugar +4 parts water otherwise too much sugar creates a thirst imbalance. No color added!
Is there a hummingbird feeder that keeps bees out of feeder?
Hi Weatherbuff: they do make nectar guard tips that keep insects out. Try Amazon.
I use the round one, the red top fits on top with the hanger thing in the center, it keeps the bees out and the sugar water doesn’t leak out when it’s hot.
That’s what I always used until the raccoons learned how to open it.
If you hang it from your house soffits on 2nd floor with no way to reach it from the ground , deck or tree, it works.