There is no hard and fast rule about when you should put away your hummingbird feeders, as even a single lingering hummer might throw a wrench into your carefully laid plans.
Taking down hummingbird feeders may seem like a simple operation between the middle of August and the middle of September, but a few holdouts may cause you to keep using feeders as you always have. You should take down your hummingbird feeders in the early fall, but not for a few weeks after the last hummer has been spotted.
Hummingbird feeders should be taken down whenever the hummers in your yard cease using them, but there is no set schedule for doing so.
If you haven’t seen any hummingbirds for at least a week, it may be time to take down the feeders.
Once the nectar runs out in the middle of August, you can stop feeding the hummingbird feeders and start planning on taking them down.
There may still be hummers feasting if the nectar has been touched. Since the feeders are still being used, refill them with food and water as usual, and then clean them well to prevent the growth of bacteria.
While most hummingbirds leave their summer homes by mid-September, a select handful can linger until early October.
It’s up to you to keep an eye on your yard for the following week or more to make sure no hummers have returned after their migration.
That means it’s safe to put away the hummingbird feeders for the winter.
Don’t assume that because you’re keeping feeders full, hummingbirds won’t fly south with the rest of the flock. Late-flying birds are nothing new, and you can’t make them stay put because it’s in their DNA to fly south with the rest of the flock.
Put away the hummingbird feeder until the spring and disinfect it with a bleach or vinegar solution to get rid of any bacteria or mildew.
Hummingbird feeders should be taken down between the middle of August and the middle of September, and then rehung in March to attract the first returning birds.
Take down your hummingbird feeders and store them indoors when the last of the migrating birds has left. This will prevent the nectar from spoiling in the event of a cold snap, and will also protect the feeders from any storms that may pass through during the day or night.
Take down Hummingbird feeders in Fall
Only a small number of Rufous and Anna’s hummingbirds migrate south for the winter, while other species of hummingbirds can spend the entire year in the United States.
There is a risk of starvation if you remove hummingbird feeders when there are still Rufous or other hummers in the neighborhood.
Most of you in the south and along the Gulf Coast, where these hummers are allowed to stay, can use this information.
While hummingbirds will find a way to keep eating in warmer states where nectar supplies are plentiful, the rest of us may want to empty our feeders and put away the sugar water until next year.
Only you can determine when it is safe to take down a hummingbird feeder; by watching the birds while they eat in your backyard, you’ll get a sense of when they have left for good.
Beginning in the middle of August, you can gradually reduce the frequency with which you fill your hummingbird feeders until they are finally removed in the early fall, typically in the month of September.
If hummingbirds keep showing up to your feeders, you should keep filling them until the last hummer has flown the coop for good.
Keep up until last hummingbird seen
In the event that hummingbirds continue to hang around your property and can be seen frequently for several more months, what should you do?
So, you keep your hummingbird feeders up, and you keep filling them with homemade nectar and cleaning them out once or twice a week.
Persist in doing this right up until the last hummingbird in your yard leaves, even if it’s a long time after the final sighting.
You can’t be confident that your hummingbird feeder is no longer being used after just a few days or even a week, but putting it up for a full month is a safe approach for phasing it out.
You may have missed the last hummer or it may have been hiding for a while, but just because you haven’t seen one in a while doesn’t mean they’re gone.
Until weeks or a month have passed, it is recommended that you keep feeding these hummingbirds that are late in migrating. This is the only way to know for sure that no hummers are still around, especially this far into the month of October.
As a result, if you live near the Gulf Coast, you should keep feeding hummers all year round, as they continue to rely on feeders more in the south even if they opt not to migrate.
No discouraging a longer stay
Hummingbirds may visit your yard well into the fall, so keep feeding them even if you hear advice to the contrary.
Many people assume that if they keep feeding hummingbirds, they would stay for longer. Although hummingbird feeders are helpful, remember that the birds still need to go south for the winter.
Like other migrating birds, hummingbirds have the knowledge of when the seasons change hardwired into their brains. The decision of whether or not to keep feeding the late-migrant hummers is entirely up to them.
There is no rule that says hummingbirds have to go at the same time or even in the same direction; it’s possible that the solitary birds are just not ready to migrate yet.
Now more than ever, hummingbirds rely on feeders like yours to get the nectar they need to survive, but they will also visit neighboring feeders or even forage for flowers in the wild if necessary.
In order to keep hummingbirds around for longer, you need to do more than just keep the feeders full and never take them down.
Hummingbirds will leave when they want to, which is typically not too far away, so there’s no need to take down feeders.
Sign of frost or damage to nectar
Aside from the fact that hummingbirds had moved by the middle of August to the middle of September, there are other possible explanations.
Hummingbird feeders should be taken down during the winter months to prevent the nectar from freezing within the plastic or glass bottle, just as you would with a standard bird feeder used with peanuts, seed mixtures, or suet.
If there is a chance of frost overnight, or if frost is predicted for the next few days, take down the hummingbird feeders so the nectar won’t deteriorate.
The sugary water known as nectar can be ruined by frost, but it can be preserved by taking it indoors and letting it sit at room temperature.
Since you know it will only be handmade nectar, you may throw away the old nectar and put in the new in time for the morning visitors.
I should add that, while frost can ruin the nectar, an overnight storm can destroy your pricey hummingbird feeders.
Remove hummingbird feeders if temperatures are forecast to drop below freezing overnight, and if possible, put the feeders inside so they won’t be damaged if they fall over due to high winds.
Issues if NOT taken down
Hummingbird feeders shouldn’t be taken down until at least two weeks have passed after the last sighting of a hummer, which typically occurs between the middle of August and the middle of September.
It’s fine to leave the feeders up even if no hummingbirds return, as I’ve already assured you.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t clean your hummingbird feeder before you put it away for the winter. Ideally, you’d do so once or twice a week while the feeder was in use.
Mold and germs can grow in hummingbird feeders if they aren’t cleaned regularly, even if the feeders aren’t being used at all or only sometimes.
Since sugar is still the primary cause of mold growth in hummingbird feeders, cleaning the feeder before putting it away in storage is essential.
If necessary, clean the feeder before re-hanging it, but keep in mind that even an empty feeder not in use still needs to be cleaned if left outdoors, so bring it inside or store it in a shed until next spring.
Hummingbird feeders should be taken down between the middle of August and the middle of September.
If the hummers leave at the right time in mid-August, you won’t see them again until the spring, but if they leave later, you may have to wait until the winter for the last of them to leave.
If you have hummingbird feeders, you can safely put them away until spring.
However, those of you in the south and along the Gulf Coast may observe non-migratory hummingbirds.
Which means you’ll need to keep your hummingbird feeder up all year round, maintaining it with regular cleanings and fresh batches of homemade nectar, just like you would during the warmer months.
Hummingbird feeders shouldn’t feel guilty about what could be interpreted as discouraging late-season migrants from making the trip south.
In time, the hummers will learn that they must migrate; but, if they don’t, keep filling the feeders as usual; it’s business as usual for the hummers.
It’s not necessary to do anything special to keep nectar from going bad or feeders from being damaged, other than to take down hummingbird feeders while the hummers aren’t using them.
Since the remaining hummingbirds will be exposed to sub-freezing temperatures during winter, the nectar in the feeders should be frozen. To avoid this, you can bring the feeders within during the night, but remember to put them back up before the morning feed!
Hummingbird feeders are delicate and can be broken if left outside during a storm or other severe weather, so it’s best to bring them indoors if possible.