When Should You Put Out Hummingbird Feeders in Spring?

One of the most exciting signs of spring is when hummingbirds come back. Learn when you should put out hummingbird feeders in spring to be ready for the first sighting.

When Do Hummingbirds Come Back?

It’s hummingbird time! Migrating hummingbirds are making the trek north and will soon come back to your yard. Some hummingbirds in the Southwest and Mexico begin their “spring” flight in January. Be on the lookout for your first hummingbird of the season. In order to attract them, you need to know when to put out hummingbird feeders. Remember that those little gems also love nectar-filled blooms, especially red and tube shaped flowers.

Like the whir of their tiny wings, hummingbirds create quite a buzz among bird-watchers. This time of year, it’s normal to see social media posts announcing a FOY (first of year) hummingbird visit, or to hear neighbors discussing their sightings. The annual arrival of these energetic fliers is truly something to celebrate. Do hummingbird sightings have special meaning?

when to put out hummingbird feedersCourtesy Mindy Davis
Ruby-throated hummingbird on a sugar water feeder

“This male ruby-throated hummingbird (above) was the first to arrive this spring, almost two weeks earlier than normal, which thrilled me. He looks so regal in this photo, showing off his magnificent colors as he takes a short break,” says Mindy Davis of Bokchito, Oklahoma.

Allen’s hummingbirds begin their spring migration early. Moving north in Mexico by December, they reach coastal California and southern Oregon around January or February. By early summer, ruby-throats flutter around the eastern U.S., busily sipping nectar from flowers and feeders. Rufous hummingbirds converge in the Pacific Northwest, flying through most of the western states on their way. And black-chinneds settle into valleys and towns of the West and Southwest. Seeing one of these exuberant and energetic fliers dash through your garden or drink sugar water from your feeder for the 50th time is just as exciting as the first time.

247048381 1 Cynthia Spellacy Bnbhc20Courtesy Cynthia Spellacy

“Regardless of the calendar date, spring has arrived when the hummingbirds and butterflies return, you smell the fresh scent of hyacinth, the crocuses emerge and birds create new nests,” says Joan Heid of Chester, South Carolina.

Where do hummingbirds migrate in winter?

When is the Best Time to Put Out Hummingbird Feeders?

With the arrival of spring comes the return of exciting migrating species, including hummingbirds. As temperatures heat up in most of the country, you should put out hummingbird feeders. These backyard favorites reach the Gulf Coast by late February or March and typically make it northward by mid-to late May. It’s a good idea to have your feeders cleaned, filled and put out a few weeks early, in case they arrive sooner than you think.

when to put out hummingbird feedersCourtesy Sherry Thomas

“Each spring, I look forward to the return of the hummingbirds to my home in Buena Vista, Colorado. I make sure that my feeders are full and waiting for my winged friends by April 15. I spend many joyful hours on my deck, both watching and photographing the hummers. This is a female broad-tailed hummingbird (above) sipping nectar from my red salvia,” says Sherry Thomas.

when do hummingbirds come backCourtesy Kristen Clark

“I always look forward to the first hummingbird of the season—and last year was no exception. We put out our hummingbird feeders during the first weekend in April, which is a little early for us. Lo and behold, this broad-tailed hummingbird (above) showed up early! I was delighted to see the other hummingbirds follow suit just a week later,” says Kristen Clark of Tijeras, New Mexico.

Next, learn fascinating facts about fall hummingbird migration.

Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten is the content director of Birds & Blooms. She's been with the brand in various roles since 2007. She has many favorite birds (it changes with the seasons), but top picks include the red-headed woodpecker, Baltimore oriole and rose-breasted grosbeak. Her bucket list bird is the painted bunting.