Hummingbirds are prolific eaters. They use up a huge amount of energy and feed roughly every 15 minutes throughout the day. Hummingbirds generally rest at night then first thing in the morning, they’re busy at the feeders.
Let’s take a closer look at when hummingbirds eat and when you can enjoy bird watching in your own yard in each area of the US.
- 1 When Do Hummingbirds Come to Feed in Your Yard?
- 2 How Many Times a Day Do Hummingbirds Eat?
- 3 Best Time of Day to Watch Hummingbird Feeding
- 4 Feeding Hummingbirds at Night
- 5 What Do Hummingbirds Eat?
- 6 Where Is the Best Place to Put a Hummingbird Feeder?
When Do Hummingbirds Come to Feed in Your Yard?
Depending on where you live, you may only see hummingbirds during the summer months when they migrate to breed. The migration period is the height of hummingbird activity at feeders.
Putting out feeders during this migratory period is the best way to attract hummingbirds to your garden. They need plenty of nectar sources to keep them going on their way.
The table below is a quick guide to when you can expect hummingbirds in your yard in different areas of the US. It is just a guide though – weather factors and specific species have their own migratory patterns.
During spring migration, put your feeder out 2-3 weeks before their expected arrival because certain weather patterns may push them to fly earlier. Early blooming flowers or spotting other species of migratory birds are a sign that hummingbirds might come early.
After the fall migration, keep the feeders out for approximately 2 weeks after you last saw a hummingbird. Unlike many other birds, hummingbirds are a species that migrate solo so don’t bring the feeder in too soon.
Some birders are lucky and have a hummingbird garden year round. Anna’s Hummingbird is a hummingbird species that stays in the area covered by the Gulf of Mexico, California and Arizona to the south and all the way up the Pacific Coast to British Columbia.
How Many Times a Day Do Hummingbirds Eat?
Hummingbirds can come to a feeder throughout the day. They are in constant need of energy, which is not a surprise considering how fast they flap their wings.
These hummers eat about half their bodyweight in sugar every single day. They stop to eat the nectar of flowers and plants as often as every 10 minutes while they are awake.
The tips of their tongues actually only bring up very small amounts of nectar. Their answer to this conundrum is to eat nearly non-stop.
With all these feeding stops, you start to question how hummingbirds even reach the destination of their migration. You also understand why remembering a food source is such an important survival skill for hummingbirds.
Best Time of Day to Watch Hummingbird Feeding
This is possibly when your feeders will be at their busiest. After a good night’s sleep, the hummingbirds will be looking to top up their energy levels for the long day ahead.
Daytime / afternoon
During the day, your feeder will still be a hive of activity. Hummingbirds have such a high metabolic rate that they need to feed between 5 and 8 times every hour. Sugar water is a vital source of energy which keeps them alive.
Having topped up their energy levels all day, they start to wind down and settle down for the night as dusk draws in. You will see some activity but it can be a lot quieter now as the birds find a place to spend the night.
Your hummingbird feeder is a good lure for photography. You have the best chance of capturing their beauty in the late afternoon or mornings.
Feeding Hummingbirds at Night
You should keep your feeder up all day and night, as some people have reported the odd hummingbird feeding at night. However, they spend most of their evenings resting for the next day.
Some areas have problems with other creatures destroying the feeders and eating the nectar overnight so they decide to take the feeder in. If you do this, you must make sure it’s out at first light so they can be feeding hummingbirds again at dawn.
If you have plenty of flowers, water features and plants where insect species are found in your yard then you may not even need a feeder. Sweet smelling flowers are enough of a sign for hummingbirds to pay you a visit.
What Do Hummingbirds Eat?
When they first arrive after their long migration, they need energy. For this they need sugar and lots of it. In fact, every day they have to consume almost half of their body weight in sugar. Your feeder will be an important source of this, but they will also get sugar from:
- Nectar from flowers, particularly ones which are tubular in shape.
- If you have fruit trees or bushes in your garden, you may see them sucking the juice out of the fruit.
- They have also been known to sip tree sap, but this is only if the sap is available to them. They won’t try to find it like some other birds do.
Although it may look as if the hummingbirds live off sugar alone, this is not true. They need a source of protein and minerals both for themselves and for their young. Just like nectar, hummers will eat insects all day and it is estimated that a bird can consume anything from a few dozen to a few hundred in one day.
They will eat more when they are feeding their young or preparing for their long migration.
They prefer smaller insects, such as:
If you provide sugar water and have plenty of places in your garden where little critters can hide, then the hummingbirds may well spend their entire summer there, and could even set up their nest in your yard. They have excellent memories too, so if they have visited you one year, you may see them for many years to come.
Homemade Nectar Replacement: Sugar Water Recipe
Most hummingbird lovers use a sugar water recipe as an alternative for natural nectar. You can pour this solution into a DIY hummingbird feeder.
This is one of the best tips for attracting a hummingbird since it is so simple.
Combine 1 part refined white sugar with 4 parts warm water
Stir until all the sugar has completely dissolved
Let cool completely before pouring into feeders
Be careful, when this nectar replacement is exposed to direct sunlight the warm temperature can cause mold to grow. If you do notice mold, thoroughly clean the container and replace it with a fresh sugar water solution.
Also, never add food coloring to your bird feeders because it is not safe for a hummingbird.
Where Is the Best Place to Put a Hummingbird Feeder?
Feeders are best placed near trees and plants away from direct sunlight. This provides the hummingbirds with some shade and places for them to perch nearby.
Hummingbirds can be quite defensive of their feeder or source of nectar. If you are patient enough, these territorial battles are a fantastic chance for photography.
Hummingbirds don’t like feeders that are near windows or where people pass by often. Of course, you would enjoy some bird watching from your window but hummingbirds can see you through the glass which discourages them from the feeder.
Hopefully, this article has given you the answers to when you can spot a hummingbird at one of your feeders. You now know more about where hummingbirds reside during the four seasons and when you should put out your feeders.