Keep Feeders Up for Late Migrating Fall Hummingbirds

It's the time of year when people wonder when to take down hummingbird feeders. But, don't stop feeding hummingbirds yet!

hummingbird at a sugar water feederCourtesy Raven Outllette
Ruby-throated hummingbird

Each year, I remind fellow birders that leaving your hummingbird feeders up will not cause the birds not to migrate. Although they might fight like crazy over the feeder with other hummingbirds, they don’t like it enough to risk the freezing northern winters with no bugs for them to eat. Psst—here’s how hummingbirds survive winter. With my annual reminder done, I thought I’d let you know why it’s important to not take hummingbird feeders down yet.

When should you put out hummingbird feeders in spring?

Migrating Hummingbirds Need Energy

Late migrating fall hummingbirds can use the extra energy from a feeder as they move south. It’s important for these birds to have an easy source of food so they can quickly refuel after cold nights. (Here’s the sugar water recipe). Although your summer resident hummers might be gone, there are still some to the north that will be coming through! If you take hummingbird feeders down too early, these birds will be lacking a source of food they need for the long journey ahead. Psst—make sure to grow late-blooming flowers to help fall hummingbirds out even more.

Where do hummingbirds sleep at night?

Look for Rufous Hummingbirds in Fall

Rufous hummingbirds come east every year and you are more likely to see one at your feeders in October and November. This species is very hardy and can survive colder temperatures than ruby-throated hummingbirds. This species is often reported in the east during fall migration season.

How do hummingbirds find feeders?

Chance of a Rare Species Sighting

Rare hummingbird species are more likely to show up late in the fall season. Birders have reported broad-billed hummingbirds and calliope hummingbirds. If you leave your feeder up, you might be the next birder to find an incredible rarity!

Next, check out jaw-dropping facts about hummingbirds.

Rob Ripma
Rob is a lifelong Indiana resident and co-owner of Sabrewing Nature Tours. He has birded extensively throughout the Americas and also spent time birding in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Rob is currently on the executive boards of two organizations: Past President of the Board of the Amos Butler Audubon Society in Indianapolis (after leading the board as President for 6 years) and Secretary for Ohio’s Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO). He also serves as the field trip coordinator for BSBO’s Biggest Week in American Birding annual event. Rob sat on the executive board of the Indiana Audubon Society for three years as Treasurer and Vice President. He is a co-founder of the Indiana Young Birders Club and speaks at a variety of organizations and schools about birds and birding to share his knowledge and experiences in the field. His leadership and expertise led to Rob working as the primary bird blogger for Birds & Blooms Magazine from 2013-2017. Rob enjoys working with both new and experienced birders of all ages and believes that teaching people about birds will not only increase interest in birding but also help them better understand why we must work to protect them and their habitats. Additionally, he loves educating others about the positive impact nature tourism can have on local economies, especially in developing countries. This passion led to his involvement in the production of a PBS television program called, “Flight Path: The World of Migratory Birds”, where a crew accompanied him on a tour to Panama to highlight and bring to life the effect that birds and birding have on both the people that see them and those who work and live in areas visited by birders and nature lovers. Rob graduated from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in 2008 and lives in Carmel, Indiana with his wife and daughter.