Feeding Hummingbirds in Spring
If you want to attract hummingbirds, the best way is to provide a consistent supply of nectar, but birders often ask when is the right time to put out hummingbird feeders to allow the birds savor the free meal. Various factors determine the ideal time to start feeding hummingbirds in a particular area. To ensure that you don’t waste your nectar and the birds don’t suffer from lack of food, it’s important to understand these factors as well as the peculiarities of your area regarding hummingbirds.
Determinants of When to Feed Hummingbirds
When they are around all-year round, there is no particular time to bring out the feeders. However, many hummingbirds are migratory, which means they are not around to enjoy the free meal at certain times of the year. Hummingbirds’ migratory behavior vary from place to place, and this in addition to the following factors affects when they arrive in your yard for treats.
Location: Hummingbirds are present year-round in many parts of South America and the Caribbean as well as some southern and coastal regions of the US and Mexico. In such areas, every time is the best time. For other regions, the ideal time to put out hummingbird feeders is determined by the local hummingbird population and the season.
Climate: In early spring, hummingbirds love to be in places with a mild or warm climate. People in these areas should start feeding hummingbirds as early as possible to provide them a consistent nectar source. In places where the temperature is cooler and during late spring, birders can delay putting out their hummingbird feeders. The geographical location and elevation can influence the climate of an area, and this can impact the ideal time to start feeding hummingbirds.
Migration: Another way of identifying when to put out hummingbird feeders is to study their migratory behavior. When they are migrating, hummingbirds require good nectar to recharge their bodies and any fresh, clean feeders will readily become their host. The presence of a reliable feeder can be a boon for early migrants because it may be their only source of food at a time when flowers are not yet in full bloom.
When to start feeding hummingbirds
There are no exact dates to begin feeding hummingbirds, but their migratory patterns and the time they begin visiting feeders are reliable.
This is practiced where hummingbirds are available year-round or in areas where overwintering birds join local hummingbirds during the winter months. This is common along the Pacific coast of the United States and Southern British Columbia as well as southern and central Florida, southeastern Arizona, and the Rio Grande Valley area in south Texas because hummingbird populations are available year round.
February and March
In the United States, hummingbirds start migrating early. Birders in the deep south and northern Florida can begin feeding hummingbirds as early as mid-February to early March.
March and April
By mid to late March and early April, early migrant hummingbirds on their way to breeding grounds further north start landing in the central United States. Rufous hummingbirds and ruby-throated hummingbirds are some of the first arrivers, and they would be glad to find your feeders in the backyard.
April and May
By late April and early May, hummingbirds start appearing in their northern ranges. Backyard birders should try to make their feeders available with fresh, clean nectar by the first week of May.
May and June
Hummingbirds reach the northernmost part of their ranges by late spring or the beginning of summer. The birders in the Alaskan territory of the rufous hummingbird and the central Canadian range of the Calliope hummingbird can still wait until the middle of May or early June to start feeding hummingbirds. But watch out for early arrivers and put out the feeders for them.
Regional Tips for Feeding Hummingbirds
Here are some clues to look out for to determine the best time to put out hummingbird feeders in your locality:
- Swelling tree buds or early flower blooms heralding the beginning of spring.
- The arrival of migrating birds especially buntings, warblers, and other neotropical migrant species.
- Regional records of the first arrival of hummingbirds or local sightings.
- Records from a birding journal about the arrival dates of hummingbirds in the past.
Like other migrant birds, the arrival and departure dates of hummingbirds are easy to predict. Despite yearly variations of few days, the best way of determining when to put out hummingbird feeders is to study their migration patterns.
It’s better to be early than late
Putting out hummingbird feeders too earlier instead of too late is the best rule of thumb when deciding the ideal time to start feeding the birds. When you start seeing the first hummingbirds, it may already be too late to attract the earliest migrants by then. Hummingbirds are blessed with excellent geographical memories and will continue to return to your feeders every year once they find them. While you might need to make arrangements to keep the nectar from freezing during the winter or replace spoilt old nectar once or twice, the trouble pales in significance to the joy of hosting these beautiful birds at the arrival of every spring.