There’s a common misconception among those of us who are quite fond of hummingbirds that leaving our feeders up all year long stops the birds from embarking on their migration journey.
Our first instinct upon hearing this myth is to rush outside and take our bird feeders down. But are you aware that by taking them down you’re actually not helping at all?
In fact, keeping your bird feeders up will help provide these little creatures with the nourishment they need on their journey. Think of your backyard feeders as a rest stop where birds can feed and refuel before proceeding to migrate.
How Important are Feeders to a Hummingbird?
Feeders don’t hold that much importance when it comes to the survival of a hummingbird. After all, these little creatures are highly intelligent and can find their own food easily.
At best, feeders are just additional sources of food for a hummingbird. Nectar-producing plants and insects will always be the main nourishment interests for hummingbirds.
During extreme weather conditions, however, you’d be doing these birds a favour by hanging up a feeder since the snow will probably be covering all the plants and most insects will cease from their usual activities.
Also, during the winter season, keeping your feeders up will probably help some vagrant birds find fresh nectar nourishment to give them the energy they need to survive the harsh cold.
The reports of vagrant western hummingbirds of numerous species spending the winter season in places they shouldn’t be in during that time of the year have been increasing significantly.
You may be linking these reports to the increasing popularity in feeding and gardening for birds, which isn’t far from the truth. However, these birds aren’t really lost, that’s just part of the grand scheme of thing that will allow these birds to evolve and expand their range.
When to Stop Feeding Hummingbirds?
There isn’t really a specific time when you need to take your bird feeders down. This depends completely on factors such as the location, climate, and time of migration.
In the northern regions, birders will tend to remove their feeders in the early days of the fall. In countries of the northernmost region such as Canada, you can remove your bird feeders in the late summer without taking away anything from hummingbirds.
If you’re a birder in the southern regions, you can keep your hummingbird feeders up for longer. Birders who live in regions where hummingbirds are prominent all year long can leave their bird feeders up throughout the whole year.
As far as climate, it’d be nice of you to leave feeders up if you live in a region where flowers tend to die quickly in the summer. Same applies to birders who live in regions where autumn storms happen often. Such storms can hinder the hummingbirds from migrating due to decreasing food sources.
For birders who live in areas where the crop of flowers is dwindling, keeping your bird feeders up for a longer period of time will ensure that the birds don’t suffer from a shortage of nectar.
Lastly, it’s important to know when exactly do hummingbirds migrate so that you can figure out the appropriate time to take down the feeders accordingly. To find out when hummingbirds tend to migrate, click here.
The first to embark on the migration journey is male hummers, followed by females and then juvenile hummingbirds. Keeping your feeders during the migration period will help provide the birds with the food they need to store enough body fat for their journey.
Expect hummingbird visitors during the migration period to return again next year, as they’re known to have pretty strong memories and will likely remember the locations where they got their nourishment from.
When to Temporarily Take Down Bird Feeders?
Even when your backyard is being swarmed by an army of hummingbirds every day, there are a number of things that may cause you to take the bird feeders down for a few minutes or even a few days depending on the reason.
One of the most obvious reasons you’d want to take down your bird feeder is for cleaning. Your feeders should be cleaned every few days before you refill them. Make sure that you rinse the feeders properly whenever you see any sign of contamination.
It’s advised to prepare the nectar early so that you don’t take the feeders down for too long that the birds start searching for some other place where they can find nourishment.
Alternatively, you can keep spare feeders around and alternate between them and the ones that are already outside so that there’s no cleaning or refiling delay.
Another reason that may force you to take your feeders down is during a harsh storm. A rough storm can tip the feeders and lead them to leak or even fall.
If you frequently get visits from hummingbirds, you may want to take the feeders down from the hangers and leave them on the ground or some sort of well-protected area so that they don’t get damaged but still be there for hungry birds to feed.
Birders who live in areas that are known for frost in the early spring or late fall should take down their feeders temporarily until the sudden wave of chills passes so that the nectar doesn’t get frozen. The most extreme waves of cold that can freeze the nectar usually take place overnight, during which most hummingbirds sleep anyway.
Lastly, you may want to take down your nectar feeders temporarily to protect them from insects invasions, as hummingbirds aren’t the only creatures that like to feed on nectar. Removing the feeders for a few days will cause the insects to move on and find other things to feed on. You can find tips on how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders here.
No, hanging your hummingbird feeders for extended periods of time doesn’t stop the hummers from migrating, it actually helps them on their journey. So keep your feeders up to help provide nourishment for our fluffy friends and only remove them when it seems necessary.