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  • Roberta Winchester

Leave Your Hummingbird Feeders Up!*

The question 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! It's a myth that keeping your feeders up will prevent hummingbirds from migrating.

The urge to migrate far, far outweighs a bottle full of sugar water. Your hummingbirds will leave 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 is well underway 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.

Our bottom line recommendation is that you leave your feeders up for an additional two weeks after you see the last hummingbird feeding. This way any late migrants will have a pit stop along their journey.

*For you lucky ducks who have hummingbirds year-round, obviously you won't have to take down your feeders. (We're jealous!)



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