when to take down humming bird feeders

Hummingbird feeders are a delightful addition to any backyard. If you set one up in the Lower Mainland, you can watch our native Rufous Hummingbirds and Anna’s Hummingbirds flit and feed.

Ideally, all hummingbird feeders should be taken down in September of each year before migration begins. Leaving feeders up will not discourage migration, as hummingbirds that migrate are instinctually driven to do so, however; it can alter their feeding behaviors. In some cases, these feeders are left up unknowingly and without proper care, which can ultimately lead to the fungal infections, starvation and death of the hummingbirds which have become dependent on them for survival.

Hummingbird’s diet is critical for their survival. Hummingbirds can consume half their weight in pure sugar every day. Nectar fuels hummingbird’s metabolism – the highest of an endothermic animal on the earth. Although these food sources are readily available in the spring and summer, winter becomes challenging. Insects and nectar-bearing flowering plants are scarce during freezing temperatures.

The hummingbirds who are unable to find food come to Wildlife Rescue in critical condition – thin and in distress because of reduced food intake due to frozen feeders, less flowering native plants and insect populations in the winter. Some of these birds show signs of infection caused by dirty feeders that can result in fungal and bacterial infections in their GI tract or respiratory system. Tragically, these birds usually die or suffer through severe respiratory distress.

When set up properly, hummingbird feeders can have a positive impact on hummingbird populations. This post will answer some common hummingbird feeder questions and teach you best practices when feeding hummingbirds.

A simple mixture of refined, white table sugar dissolved in hot water is sufficient. The standard mixture is ¼ cup sugar to 1 cup water.

Make sure the mixture cools to room temperature before you “serve” it to your avian clients. If you have refrigerated a large batch of sugar water, allow warming to room temperature before serving.

Avoid staining the sugar water with red food colouring. Hummingbirds are attracted by the red colours of the feeder itself, not the nectar inside.

Since sugar can ferment, it is important to replace hummingbird feeders once every day or every other day and give the feeder a thorough clean. In the summer, clean feeders every day if temperatures exceed 32 degrees or higher and every 2-3 days in cooler temperatures. Never let a feeder sit out for more than three days.

The best size hummingbird feeder for you is one that naturally empties every day or two. Because hummingbirds are territorial, it is also better to have several small feeders than one large feeder that may not empty in time. If you are unable to practice cleaning and hygiene for your feeder it might be a good idea to plant native flowers that attract hummingbirds instead.

Leaving feeders up during the winter can make them freeze, it might be a good idea to have two hummingbird feeders to ensure you can leave a fresh one out in the morning and remove the frozen when during the day. Learn more about navigating your hummingbird feeder during the cold snaps here.

Leaving feeders up will not discourage migration, as hummingbirds that migrate are instinctually driven to do so, however; it can alter their behaviors.

Putting up feeders in the late fall will allow birds to store up energy for their long annual migrations. And keeping feeders around during the winter can help stragglers catch up to their bird-friends further south. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends taking down winter feeders if the feeders attract hummingbird species not native to the area.

Choosing a well-built feeder is the best way to avoid pests. Saucer designs and feeders with built-in moats do a good job of keeping away unwanted bugs like bees and ants. Avoid yellow bee guards because the yellow might attract bees.

If the perches are large enough, you may get other birds like orioles and Downy Woodpeckers. If you live in an area with bears, that may also be a problem, so be careful if you live in bear country.

As a wildlife rehabilitation centre we provide care to a lot of birds that have illnesses using bird feeders. When birds fall ill, they need to find easy food sources to stay alive, because they lack energy and ability to scavenge food on their own they flock to other bird feeders. This cross-contamination creates fungal and bacterial infections that are contagious and can spread quickly. In a flock situation, the birds will naturally fall behind and not contaminate the other birds. However, if a feeder is present the bird will leave behind bacteria or fungus that can then transfer to the other animals allowing them to spread it. Which in turn allows unhealthy birds to catch the illness. If you see a diseased bird or animal at your feeder, we recommend capturing the bird safely and bringing it to your local wildlife rehabilitation centre, then remove the feeder for at least a week to disperse the population and clean it thoroughly. Good hygiene of the feeder can prevent these issues from occurring.

With winter around the corner and suspected drop in temperatures you may come across hummingbirds and other wildlife in distress. Please call Wildlife Rescue Support Centre if you find an injured animal and are unsure what to do. Some signs to watch for are birds on the ground, soiled, confused, visible injuries and unable to fly. For more information on what to do when you find an animal click here.

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A: No, red coloring is not required, and the chemicals used to make it redder may endanger the birds. Natural nectar itself is a clear solution.

Use Audubon’s online field guide to find out more about the hummingbirds that visit your yard and the specific species’ winter range.

I want to give the birds in my yard a hummingbird feeder; is there anything wrong with it?

Q: Since I put up a feeder, no hummingbirds have visited. How can I get hummingbirds to visit my feeder?.

A hummingbird feeder that naturally empties once or twice a day is the ideal size for you. Hummingbirds are territorial, so having multiple tiny feeders is preferable to one large feeder that might not empty in a timely manner. If you are unable to maintain hygienic conditions for your feeder, planting native flowers that draw hummingbirds could be a wise choice.

Hummingbird populations can benefit from properly installed hummingbird feeders. This article will provide you with best practices for feeding hummingbirds and address some frequently asked questions about hummingbird feeders.

Avoid staining the sugar water with red food colouring. Not the nectar within, but the red hues of the feeder itself draw hummingbirds.

Hummingbird feeders are a delightful addition to any backyard. You can see our native Rufous and Anna’s hummingbirds flitting and feeding if you set one up in the Lower Mainland.

Ideally, before the hummingbird migration begins each year in September, all hummingbird feeders should be removed. Hummingbirds are naturally motivated to migrate, so leaving feeders up won’t stop them from doing so, but it may change the way they eat. Sometimes these feeders are left up without being noticed or properly cared for, which can eventually cause fungal infections, starvation, and the death of the hummingbirds that have grown reliant on them.


What month do you take down hummingbird feeders?

Q: When should I take down my feeders in the fall? A: You can leave your feeders out for as long as you have hummingbirds around. You can even continue to provide the feeder after your hummingbirds disappear—late migrants or out-of-range species can show up into early winter.

Are you supposed to stop feeding hummingbirds in the fall?

There is no reason to take your feeders down to encourage birds to migrate. They will also be a welcome resource for birds arriving from the North like these Evening Grosbeak. Photo by Linda Goodman via Birdshare. Keeping your feeders up has no influence on whether a bird will start its journey south.

When should you sit out of a hummingbird feeder?

In the Southeastern U.S., it’s best to place hummingbird feeders outside in February or March. Hummingbirds arrive a bit later in the Midwest and Northeastern U.S. and Canada. If you live in these areas, place feeders outdoors in mid-to-late April.

Where should you not hang a hummingbird feeder?

Feeders should be either far away from windows or very close to windows to help avoid the risk of collisions. Consider a feeder with suction cups, like this Jewel Box Window Hummingbird Feeder, to help keep your hummingbirds safe.