Leave Your Hummingbird Feeders Up!

hummingbird-8The question arises in the United States and Canada each year about this time: Should we take down our hummingbird feeders so the hummingbirds won’t stay too long and get caught in the cold weather?

The answer is: Leave your feeders up!

The urge to migrate far, far outweighs a bottle full of sugar water. Your hummingbirds will leave when their biological clocks command them to leave, no matter how much food is still available for them. It is likely, in fact, that the hummingbirds at your feeders today are not the same ones that were there two weeks ago. Hummingbird migration has already started and the birds you see today are likely migrants passing through rather than the ones who spent the summer with you.

And, of course, their food supply is dwindling now. Colder nights and cooler, shorter days mean fewer bugs, their primary source of protein, and less nectar from flowers which they also eat in abundance even if human supplied sugar water is available.

But your sugar water is especially helpful to them as they migrate southward. They need immense amounts of energy to migrate successfully and they need to add to their body weight substantially. If you leave your feeders up until the last one has flown through, you will help them maintain that weight for as long as possible and help provide a needed energy boost for the next leg of the journey.

Hummingbird-4For those of our readers who live in the Gulf Coast region of the southern United States, you should leave your feeders out all winter: You may be treated to Ruby-throated Hummingbirds some of whom no longer migrate any further south than your region. Warmer winters and hummingbird feeders have lured some of that species to stay for the winter in your temperate region.

But for the rest of us, it is not yet time to take down our feeders. There are migrating hummingbirds who will thank you to leave them up, with fresh syrup, for a few weeks more.

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13 Responses to “Leave Your Hummingbird Feeders Up!”

  1. Very good information Says:

    I was always told to take don the feeders so the hummingbirds will start their trip home. This information was very helpful.
    What is the best sugar to water ratio?
    How often should you change the feeder?

    • fatfinch Says:

      Change the syrup in your feeder every two or three days. A ration of 4 units of water to one unit of sugar is the standard formulation, although this time of year a ratio 3:1 is fine.

  2. Suzanne Says:

    Thanks for the info, It was exactly what I was looking for.

  3. tammy Says:

    Thanks so much for the info. I was never sure because I heard from different people that I would harm them by leaving my feeder up. I always left them up, but now I can do it with the confidence that I’m helping rather than hurting!

  4. becauseimmom Says:

    I am so glad I came across your site. I have debated on when to take down my feeders. I have always taken them down when I quit seeing the little hummers, but this year, I have wondered whether or not to take them down. I have seen more this year than normal around this time. I live in East Texas, which is a pretty warm climate, and am now glad to know I don’t have to take them down. Thank You.

  5. valerie Says:

    Hi ,
    It is Nov 14 & I am really worried for a hummingbird that is still feeding here in Winter Harbour , Canada. The nights are cold this week. and snow is in the forecast .Is there anything but offer a full fresh feeder that I can provide? I pullled fluff from my dogs stuffed toy snd threw it outside hoping it would take the fluff to its nest. My husband thought I was nuts. Please any suggestions?

    • fatfinch Says:

      I wish we could tell you what to do. Keeping fresh, unfrozen food out for it might help. Hummingbirds do slide into a state of torpor when it gets cold but, of course, they are not designed for the kind of cold you have in the winter. You might be able to trap it and take it to a wildlife rescue operation. We know a woman who bands hummingbirds who puts her feeder inside a small net cage, leaves the door open until a hummingbird flies into eat and then closes the door so she can reach in and grab the bird for banding. If you could do something like that, you could cup it in your hands and keep it warm on the way to a rescue center.

      We feel for you but there may not be much you can do. For some reason, that bird waited too long to depart for warmer climes and, if it doesn’t survive, it certainly isn’t your fault. Love can only do so much, even for hummingbirds.

  6. barbara Says:

    i live in ohio. we have a lot of cold weather (& snow) can i leave my
    “finch” feeder up all year?

    • fatfinch Says:

      Yes. The birds who stay around for the winter will appreciate it. Give them some water too. Birds can have a hard time finding unfrozen water in the winter.

  7. Roger Says:

    I also worried about this, but what you said makes sense. What hummingbird feeders do you recommend if you leave them out all year? One feeder broke when it froze. I was looking for a new one and came across Perky-Pet’s Magnolia Top Fill feeder. Unlike the others I found, they can actually be filled from the top. Sounds like they’d be super easy to fill and clean!
    Here’s the one I’m referring to:

    http://www.birdfeeders.com/store/hummingbird-feeders/120tf

  8. LJ Says:

    Hello,
    I live in Oregon and I have a hummingbird feeder out. Last year the hummingbird(s) stuck around ALL year to feed on my feeder. There were nights when it was 7’F, the sugar water was freezing so I’d bring it inside to thaw and put it right back out and there they’d be drinking it the second I’d hang it back up. They just never left! I was hoping this year it would be different because I feel so sorry for them in the cold, but here it is the middle of November and there is at least one hummingbird still drinking from the feeder (I’ve never been able to tell how many actually drink from it and/or stick around all year). I have kind of a 2 part question. Now should I possibly take my feeder down at this point, hoping they will decide to migrate or is it best to leave it up? I wouldn’t even be worried either way if they decided to stick around BUT I’m currently looking to move. I don’t have any definite plans for moving yet, but I’m hoping it will be before the end of the year. It sounds silly but I’m worried about the dang hummingbirds not getting fed when I move! I am not sure if anyone around here also keeps feeding them all year, I don’t know anyone in my area. Should I not be so worried, and just figure that I’m most likely not the only one keeping them around all year, so somebody else must be feeding them? Or what do you think? Thanks in advance for helping! Sorry my question was so long haha.

  9. Bingo Online Says:

    It feels great to know that there are social organizations doing corporate social responsibility towards others. I hope this run through and thrive as well for the benefit of those who lack shelters. This shouldn’t happen only winter season, whereas every season must be a Christmas feeling.

  10. jan Says:

    Thank you so much for the info….I am an avid birdwatcher and bird-feeder.

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