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When Should You Put Your Hummingbird Feeder out in Spring?

Hummingbird on shrub branch

Many people don’t think about putting out their feeders until…

  1. The weather is warm and they suddenly remembered they used to feed hummingbirds.
  2. They see a hummingbird in the yard.
  3. There’s a hummingbird at the window, making it known that the feeder should have been filled and put outside.
Hummingbird outside window looking for feeder
Hey! Where’s the feeder?

If you wait til then, you’ve missed a very important opportunity to help them, not to mention lure them from the neighbors. It’s important to understand that hummers don’t want to leave a good source of food. So, once they find a source, they usually stick with it. YOU want to BE that source. If you’re the first one with feeders out, that means you’re the only one with feeders out. Your neighbors will wonder where their hummingbirds are. OK, it’s not 100% because hummingbirds do remember where all the feeders are but, if yours is the only feeder available before bugs hatch and flowers bloom, that will definitely put you way up there on their list of favorites. And, if you’re consistent with those feeders, the hummingbirds will have no choice but to make your yard their go-to yard.

Catch their attention when they first arrive.

A hanging basket of flowers next to your feeder will really get their attention. It’s like the billboard on the highway that says “EAT. HERE.” Your local nursery will have some great attention-grabbing annuals that the hummingbirds can’t help but spot. A double shepherd’s hook with those constantly-blooming flowers on one side, and your feeder on the other, is almost like cheating.

SO… when DO they arrive???

Ruby Throated hummingbird early Spring
Early arriving Ruby Throat

Don’t guess. Use this handy migration map to see when the first arriving hummingbirds are getting close. Then you can get that feeder out in the nick of time. It can be downright exciting, especially if you’re recovering from cabin fever. You never know… maybe you’ll be one of the first to report a sighting. You can also look at the previous years’ arrival dates.

Check the map and you could be their go-to yard.

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Why You May have had Fewer Hummingbirds Last Year

Two male hummingbirds sharing a perch

In 2018, many people reported that very few of their Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds had returned. Some people reported that they had none at all! … Gulp!

Migration for hummingbirds is dangerous; Maybe more like death-defying.

Ruby-Throated hummingbird flying fast in the Fall sun
Flying against the odds

In Fall, when many hummingbirds are migrating south, it’s hurricane season from Central America through Texas. The young hummingbirds are the last to leave in Fall. They stay as long as possible to gain as much weight as they can for their journey. The more weight, the more energy. If only it worked like that for us.

Hummingbird sitting in a frost-covered shrub
Cold days are challenging for hummingbirds

In Spring, extra early arriving hummers may have to deal with late wintry cold spells. In April, 2018 the Midwest through New England had very cold, snowy, windy weather… for four days. It would have been very difficult for any early arriving hummers to survive. To make things worse, many people reported that they didn’t put out their feeders due to the wintry weather. Yikes! That’s when their hummers needed a feeder more than ever. It takes a lot of calories to be a hummingbird and cold weather greatly increases their need for calories. With the wintry weather and no food, well… no need to state the obvious. The good news is that many still hadn’t migrated. So some people still had plenty of hummers. Whew!

To add to their challenges, half of young hummingbirds don’t survive to return. With banding, we’re learning more about when, and where, they disappear. It’s no secret that feeding them has helped many survive as well as increase their range.

Hummingbird sitting on frozen feeder
Nectar popsicles are no fun for hummingbirds

Getting your feeders out just before your hummingbirds arrive will not only help them survive but it greatly increases your chances to steal the neighbors’ hummingbirds. Just admit it. That’s what you really want. Beat the neighbors and find out when the hummingbirds are getting close by checking the Migration Map. If you get some late, cold weather you can easily MacGyver a DIY feeder warmer we wrote about in our previous post, “Feeding Hummingbirds in Freezing Weather