Leave Your Hummingbird Feeders Up!
The question often 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 begin migrating 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. I generally leave my hummingbird feeders up for two weeks past the time I see the last hummingbird. There are always stragglers. And you don't always see every bird that comes to your feeders.
For those of our readers who live in the regions of the United States that have hummingbirds year-round, you should leave your feeders out all winter, filled with clean fresh nectar of course. And I also say: Lucky You!!
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.