Donna J
Donna J
  • Hometalker
  • Conyers, GA
Asked on Aug 20, 2012

When should I stop feeding the hummingbirds?

Sue KieneMary GibbsSherrie S
+54

Answered

We have several feeders in our yard and enjoy seeing the hummingbirds fight and fuss over them. I do not want to cause a delay in their winter migration. They are very familiar with our yard and use the feeders all day long. When should I stop feeding them?
when should i stop feeding the hummingbirds, pets animals
57 answers
  • Susan S
    on Aug 20, 2012

    Donna - there is absolutely nothing to the myth about stopping feeding hummers or anything else that migrates. They have their own built in system and know when it's time to go. As you're in Ga. your weather will stay warm longer than here in Va. but there will still be the "just passing by" stragglers migrating from further north. Keep your feeders up as long as you have traffic at them. I don't take mine down til usually mid-late Sepetember. Right now we have three and our deck is a virtual flight path!!

  • Jan P
    on Aug 20, 2012

    Had a family here in CT that had one coming in winter - made the local news!!

  • Susan S
    on Aug 21, 2012

    WOW Jan - that's absolutely incredible!! Did the little guy make it thru the winter? I can't believe one could survive w/the way their metabolisms work - and I know it gets colder in CT than in Va.

  • Marg C
    on Aug 21, 2012

    now something like that would make me worry about the little guy all winter long! I keep my feeders up until there are absolutely no one coming around...

  • Angela A
    on Aug 21, 2012

    I heard the same thing about the delay in migration and wondered if it were true...I keep mine up til I quit seeing them coming around tho and I am in GA as well...

  • Donna J
    on Aug 21, 2012

    I heard that once there is food they will stay until the cold comes. By that time it is too late for them to migrate. I am with you Marg... I definitely don't want to be the reason for these little guys demise. It would break my heart. They can't take the cold weather.

  • Susan S
    on Aug 21, 2012

    OK people - you can just google when to take feeders down so here's the scoop!! I copied & pasted this so just sharing the information!!! **When To Take Feeders Down** We have found one of the biggest misconceptions about hummingbirds is the belief that if you do not take your hummingbird feeder down they will not migrate. This is absolutely false! In many areas hummingbirds start to migrate even before the flowers and insects start to wane. Males generally migrate several weeks ahead of immatures (new hatchlings) and females. Migration is done according to changing day length or photoperiod. Actually, migrating hummingbirds may be helped by hummingbird feeders that are left up until at least two weeks have passed since seeing your lasthummer.

  • Vicki
    on Aug 21, 2012

    Every year I keep one all year round in a case, some hummingbird do migrate thru here late to find the feeder for it's energy to migrate. they usually leave early October here to go to south till next year. Good to see my 4 same hummer birds here very year and take some pixies every year to post on my fb wall.....

  • Teresa D
    on Aug 21, 2012

    Thanks for that, Susan and thanks for asking the question Donna J. I had been meaning to ask that very question but for a different reason. I haven't seen any more hummers around since I refilled my feeder. I changed the food from a just pour in the feeder kind to a just mix with water kind. I wasn't sure whether they were being snooty and didn't like the cheaper mix or if they had actually migrated. The ants don't seem to mind. I think I'll change it out again and see if any hummers are still around and don't mind the budget mix.

  • Susan S
    on Aug 21, 2012

    Teresa, are you buying your nectar - then mixing w/water? If so, make your own. NOW, it's up for debate but you can use either 1 part regular white sugar added to 3 or 4 equal parts water. THE IMPORTANT PART is you should boil your water - it removes flouride & chlorine if your have city water. If you have a well - WELL, boiling it probably removes microbes or something. I don't know - just boil it OK??? LOL Mix your sugar in until dissolved & let cool. Refrigerate any left over. I have 3 feeders going so not usually much left over. Also, DO NOT use any red dyes - that's up for debate too but every site I've ever read says to not use dyes.

  • Sherrie S
    on Aug 21, 2012

    Susan S, I'm proud of you for your scoop and glad you shared it. The hummers thank you, too.

  • Susan S
    on Aug 21, 2012

    Thanks Sherrie - I'm certainly no expert but I do have a real "thing" for my hummers and wildlife in general!!

  • Angela A
    on Aug 21, 2012

    To keep your ants away Teresa....put Vicks on the flowers and string you hang it by....i was using vaseline for years which works great for the ants as well, but the vicks also keeps the bees away...(someone on here - cant remember who - told me about the vicks in my hummer post!) Hometalk ROCKS!!

  • Marg C
    on Aug 21, 2012

    thanks for the googling :)

  • Donna J
    on Aug 21, 2012

    Teresa, I too agree with Susan. It is important to boil the water before making the mixture. Once your feeder is attractive in color you do not need to get the colored food. You can paint the outside of the clear feeder in red. That would attract them. They are still around my yard. I even have some ruby throat hummers. They are my favorite in the summer then I go to the cardinals for the winter. I consider them my destressors.

  • Susan S
    on Aug 22, 2012

    @Angela L - we're talking Vick's salve here? The smelly kind you rub on your chest when getting a cold??? The smell isn't a deterrent to the hummers? Now that is amazing because truthfully, plain ole vaseline doesn't do squat and neither does vegetable oil. Another thing you can do is add colorful streamers from your feeders - they like bright colors and will come to investigate and then their curiosity will lead them to the nectar ports. And thank you Marg & Donna J. Yeah - I love my cardinals too, one of my favs!!

  • Donna J
    on Aug 22, 2012

    I forgot to share this one. I use a paste made with shortening (or vaseline ) and cinnamon to keep the ants away. Ants do not like cinnamon and we know what the grease does to them. And yes, HOMETALK ROCKS!!!!

  • Susan S
    on Aug 22, 2012

    Cinnamon - gosh you'd think that would attract ants instead of repelling them. All I know is come tomorrow morning I'm slathering something all over the areas the ants use as highway!! This year we've had these absolutely enormous redish brown ants. They actually climb into the feeder - then drown. I don't see how they get through the ports their so big. Oh well . . . in order to attract & accomodate one part of mother nature we have to battle & try to deter another!!

  • Sue brigle
    on Aug 22, 2012

    living in Michigan, I put the hummer feeders up May 1, and put them away Oct. 1. I wouldn't be able to leave them out all winter, they would be frozen solid almost instantly on some days.

  • Marg C
    on Aug 22, 2012

    it's a very sad day for me when I take my feeders down for the winter because I adore my hummingbirds. I just put out my other feeders for all of my other birds that like to stay in the winter. I don't leave them up all summer because there is plenty of mother nature's food available. My other birds are my ray of sunshine through our brutal winters.

  • Angela A
    on Aug 22, 2012

    @ Susan S....YES! the Vicks salve my mom used to smother me in when I had a cold as a child! LOL....I thought the same thing at first, that the smell would deter the hummers, but it doesnt deter them at all....they are still coming strong, and the bees and ants stay away!

  • Sherrie S
    on Aug 22, 2012

    Donna J & Susan S, I got tired of ants and other bugs on my sugar/water feeders and decided to grow plants for the hummers & butterflies. I have quite a large bed where many hummers & butterflies visit daily. Better yet, most plants are native to this area so they are probably healthier than drinking sugar water.

  • Teresa D
    on Aug 23, 2012

    Sherrie S, that's a good idea. I don't have enough sun in my yard though. I had some things that are known to attract hummers in the sunny spot, near my mailbox but that is so far from my window, I would never see them. @Angela L. Thanks for the tip! I will pick up some Vicks this weekend! If I can't find any, I will try the cinnamon and vaseline. (thanks Donna) Susan, I didn't think about the boiling thing when I added water to this mix I bought. That could be the problem. Thanks for that!

  • Debbi C
    on Aug 23, 2012

    Where I live in southern Alabama it is recommended that you keep feeders going all year for those hummers who don't make the "last flight out of dodge". I do this and it is true. There are quite a few that stick around and this allows them to stay alive throughout the winter here.

  • Debbie R
    on Aug 23, 2012

    We add a drop or two of orange extract. That also helps to attract them. Good to know about the vicks as we have a ton of wasps around the feeders as well. I will try this..

  • Fairfield House
    on Aug 23, 2012

    Or you could do it the old fashioned way and plant trumpet vines, red bee balm, foxgloves, honeysuckle, hollyhocks, butterfly bushes ... Our yard is loaded with nesting hummingbirds and butterflies and I don't have any feeders out.

  • Pat F
    on Aug 23, 2012

    We put our hummingbird feeders away in September. They fly south around the middle of September and return in early Spring. We are located at Lake of the Ozarks, MO. Our other bird feeders come out in October and stay out all Winter.

  • Susan S
    on Aug 23, 2012

    @Debbie R (Coleville, CA) Do you add the orange extract to sugar water? I'm not sure why anything would need to be added if it's sugar water. That alone will attract the hummers. I've never "researched" putting any other additives in sugar water but EVERYTHING I've ever read always warms about NOT putting food dyes into their feed as it could cause genetic deformities and I've also heard it has caused growths on their beaks. I'm not challenging you in any way, just a new one to me and I was wondering. As to attracting hummers the natural way - believe me, I wish I had an abundance of the right type of flowers to keep them going all summer long but since I don't, I'd rather supplement them w/feeders than only getting a a few weeks from unreliable blooming flowers/ Besides, like Teresa said, some of my flowers are way too far from any windows to be able to see & enjoy them.

  • Diana W
    on Aug 23, 2012

    if you have and Skin-So-Soft oil, put alittle on a paper towel and rub in on the feeder holes. The birds can smell and the bees won't go near them. I've been doing this for years; really works.

  • Diana W
    on Aug 23, 2012

    i meant to say that "the birds CAN'T smell"

  • Susan S
    on Aug 23, 2012

    If the birds can't "smell" then how do they know where the flowers are or the feeders? They must have some sort of sense of smell besides tasting??? Hmmmmm - another question to google, right? LOL

  • Sandra A
    on Aug 23, 2012

    I have read before that you don't need to "stop" feeding the hummingbirds. They instinctively know when to migrate, even when food is still available. And by offering nectar throughout the winter, you may provide food for a hummer who is unable to make the flight south and must over-winter in your yard. I feed them year-round!

  • Susan S
    on Aug 23, 2012

    Sandra, being in Tx I would figure your climate is relatively conducive to hummers staying longer. I know your state has it's cold areas too but for sure, in Va. they know when it's time to say adios. Keeping a feeder up doesn't encourage them to over stay their welcome but sometimes there are very late stragglers - who knows why. Very early in this conversation Jan in Ct. said she had heard of one getting stranded there for the winter. I don't see how these little guys can survive the cold - they have to sit in the sun to just warm up on chilly mornings before they can even fly. They are amazing!!

  • Sherrie S
    on Aug 23, 2012

    Sandra A, I also feed them all year. When flowers/plants are not growing in abundance in Florida I put out the feeders. The rest of the time the butterflies & hummers get "natural" food from plants.

  • Jeanne C
    on Aug 23, 2012

    Don't stop feeding. Northern hummers will appreciate the stop. In the Atlanta Metro area there are hummers that winter over. Birding experts DO NOT suggest adding anything to the sugar water (1 part sugar to 4 parts water). Happy birding and keep feeding those little guys!

  • Patricia R
    on Aug 23, 2012

    I have heard that even feeding them boiled sugar and water(4c.to 1c.sugar) isn't even good for them,so I just plant lots of annuals and other plants they love.(lobila,beebaum,honeysuckle and others.Stayed away from trumpet vine as it tends to get away. Pat R

  • Marg C
    on Aug 24, 2012

    I've been using 1part sugar to 4 parts water for years....I never have put the red food coloring in because I heard it was harmful to the little guys. Can't remember why but I heard it a very long time ago. happy birding!

  • Sharron W
    on Aug 24, 2012

    Hey at Angela and Susan, just put the Vicks on the hanging string or the hook you hang the string from, not on the flowers they drink from.....The ants and bees and wasps don't like it and it keeps them away, the hummers don't care for it but it only takes a minute for them to realize it doesn't affect their food supply, (if you Don't put it on the flowers) and they'll happily visit the feeres without trouble from the pests....I recoat my hanger every 2nd time I refill the feeders...which is about every 2 weeks give or take a day here and there.... I haven't had a problem with ants, bees or wasps at my feeders in 2-3 years since I started doing this....

  • Neva F
    on Aug 24, 2012

    In the past I've used prepackaged hummingbird food, but this year I've given them the four parts water, one sugar. I bring the water to a boil, add the sugar making sure it is completely dissolved. The hummers seem very happy.

  • Susan Turpin
    on Aug 24, 2012

    The drought has so impacted the humming birds , your feeders may be vital for their successful migration and survival, now more than ever....do not stop filling your feeders.

  • Donna J
    on Aug 24, 2012

    Susan, thanks for reminding us of the hot and dry summer we are coming out from. Even my garden has much less flowers this time of year because of the drought. I'll definitely keep that in mind and keep my feeders up. Thanks again!!

  • Ann R
    on Aug 25, 2012

    I use honey and water...I hope that's ok they seem to like it

  • Susan S
    on Aug 25, 2012

    Um Ann R. - not to be a fly in your - nectar, BUT, everything I've read said to ABSOLUTELY NOT put honey into their nectar. I'm sure they do like it cause it's sweet but there's something about honey that isn't supposed to be healthy for them. Guess I better go look that one up huh??

  • Susan S
    on Aug 25, 2012

    Ok, rather lengthy but here's the scoop on using honey, molasses etc. 1.Combine one part white sugar and four parts water. 2.Heat the solution for 1-2 minutes to help the sugar dissolve and slow fermentation. 3.Allow the solution to cool completely before filling feeders. Nectar Recipe Tips •If your tap water contains heavy chemicals, consider using bottled or purified water for purer nectar. You can also boil the water before adding the sugar to help purify it. •Do not use honey, brown sugar, molasses or artificial sugar substitutes for any hummingbird nectar recipe. Honey and molasses (brown sugar contains molasses products) are too heavy for hummingbirds to digest efficiently and can ferment more quickly, creating a mold that is fatal to hummingbirds. Sugar substitutes do not have the caloric energy that hummingbirds need for energy. •While boiling will help slow the fermentation of the nectar initially, the nectar in hummingbird feeders is contaminated as soon as it is sipped by a bird. Therefore, it is not necessary to boil the nectar once the sugar has been dissolved. If you use extra fine sugar no boiling may be needed. •The ratio of sugar and water can be slightly adjusted, but a solution that is too sweet will be difficult for the birds to digest and one that does not contain enough sugar will not be suitable to attract hummingbirds. The 4:1 water to sugar ratio most closely approximates the sucrose levels in natural nectar. •Hummingbird nectar must be completely cool before filling feeders. Hot nectar can warp or crack both glass and plastic hummingbird feeders and warm nectar will ferment more quickly. •Commercial hummingbird nectar products may advertise different flavors, vitamins and other additives that are supposed to attract additional birds. These additives are not necessary for hummingbirds’ health and a simple sugar solution will attract just as many birds as more expensive commercial products. •Unused hummingbird nectar can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. When making your own nectar, adjust the recipe quantity to only make enough for one week to eliminate waste. •Clean hummingbird feeders at least once a week and refill them with fresh nectar. In warm weather or when multiple birds are using the feeder, clean them more frequently.

  • Marg C
    on Aug 25, 2012

    thank you Susan. great info!

  • Susan S
    on Aug 25, 2012

    You're welcome Marg! Gotta admit, I've learned quite a bit myself about how our tiny little chirpers manage - sometimes despite our best intentions!!

  • Sharron W
    on Aug 25, 2012

    Well I didn't know multiple birds meant clean more often....Darn just when the kid moved to college someone else to clean up after...LOL

  • Joanne williamson
    on Aug 25, 2012

    we have banded many hummers and you should always leave up a couple of feeders.if there is a bird that is not strong enough to make the trip it will need those feeders,especially when the flowers are gone.i keep some up year around.hope this helps.

  • Marg C
    on Aug 26, 2012

    oh Joanne, you are so lucky! I wish I could hold one.

  • Susan S
    on Aug 26, 2012

    @Joanne - I've seen programs where people have banded hummers. That enables them to track, keep tabs on which ones return and also report on other banded hummers that show up as well. But, how does one become an official bander and how in the world do you catch these guys. I would assume some sort of net must be used???

  • SANDRA BRYANT
    on Aug 28, 2012

    There's no need to put away feeders, it is recommended to keep a feeder out all year. Mother nature has handled the migration, no need to worry. I use 1 part sugar and 4 parts water, no color.

  • Marg C
    on Aug 28, 2012

    at some point I have to put them away or they will freeze lol.

  • Susan S
    on Aug 29, 2012

    Yeah - same here!! Although parts of Ga. can get some pretty cold weather occasionally too! Maybe those in more temperate zones can leave theirs out but after September they're pretty well gone.

  • Sonja Davis
    on Sep 1, 2012

    I live in the Kansas City area and I always stop in Oct.. I have read Nov but it just seems too cold then

  • Sherrie S
    on Sep 1, 2012

    I'd be the first one to tell you to always keep the feeders out - but if the sugar water is frozen what good will that do?

  • Mary Gibbs
    on Sep 18, 2016

    I see my birds start to disappear about the last week of Sept. I live in the high country of Colorado and Winter comes in Oct.

  • Sue Kiene
    on Nov 4, 2016

    I have hummingbirds usually until between Oct 1-15 and then they are gone. I keep an eye on the feeders to see how much they are hitting them. Usually shortly before they go they are hitting them very hard.

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