Do you know when to hang hummingbird feeders? It all depends on your area and which species visit.
Pet Food in the Baking Aisle
“Can you buy pet food today when you go into town?” I asked Pedro towards the end of March.
“We don’t have pets,” he joked.
“Not yet, but they’ll be here soon. I want to make sure I have supplies on hand to make nectar for the feeders.”
“How do you know when to hang hummingbird feeders each year?” he wanted to know.
“Simple,” I said. “I keep track of when they show up and make sure I have nectar out a week or two in advance.”
“What about if it’s still freezing at night? Won’t the nectar freeze?”
“I add a little extra sugar in the spring and fall, so it takes longer to freeze.”
“Such a bird nerd,” he said with a smile. “I’ll pick sugar up.”
Waiting in Eager Anticipation
Each year, as March approaches, I find myself waiting in eager anticipation. The return of the hummingbirds leaves me giddy with excitement. I love to stand at the sliding glass door and watch the evening bouquet (the group name for hummingbirds) mob the feeders.
Their tiny wings hum, the sunlight catches the shimmer of their feathers, and their squeaky voices scold as they jostle for space and territory. They fly within inches of me. Sometimes they’ll land on my hand and sip sugar water from a bright red milk cap cradled in my palm. Their tiny toenails grip with the pressure of a baby’s breath.
Some people watch fish to lower their blood pressure. I watch hummingbirds. The Black-Chinned hummers arrive first and set up breeding territories. Next, the Broad-Tailed hummers show up, some just pass through, and others will nest. When the Rufous hummers show up on their way north or south, things get crazy.
If you want to keep your other hummers around, you need to know when to hang hummingbird feeders if the tiny tyrants arrive. You’ll want at least one additional feeder if you have Rufous hummers. Hang it higher than the others and make the sugar water a little sweeter. This will incentivize the territorial Rufous hummers to guard just one feeder instead of all your feeders.
Shy Calliope hummers, the tiniest hummer found in the United States, look dramatically smaller than the other three species that visit my feeders. They tend to sneak up to the backside of the feeders and leave quickly, making it difficult to photograph them. Only a handful migrate through in the spring and fall.
How often do I find myself giddy with anticipation about the soon return of Jesus? Do I prepare myself the way I stock my pantry for hummers as I wait for his return? If life on earth prepares us and makes us fit for heaven, what do I do while I wait? I need to love more, extend grace to others, and spend time forming a relationship with God. How often do I let my inner grump speak, judge others harshly, or choose mindless entertainment over relationship building?
I want to wait in eager anticipation for both the hummingbirds’ and Jesus’ return.
When to Hang Hummingbird Feeders
These tips will help you know when to hang hummingbird feeders.
- Keep track of when the first hummingbirds arrive in your area. If you haven’t written the dates down, you can check ebird.org. This website, maintained by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, uses reports from citizen scientists to track bird migration around the world. Hang your feeder one to two weeks in advance.
- Make your own hummingbird nectar. Use ¼ cup of white sugar for each cup of water. If it still might freeze in your area, use 1/3 cup of white sugar for each cup of water. You don’t need to boil the mixture. Just stir well. I use warm water to help the sugar dissolve more quickly.
- Avoid feeders with fake plastic flowers that stick out. These could trap tiny hummingbird legs or tongues. They are more difficult to clean, too. Here’s one of my favorites You want to hang hummingbird feeders you can clean easily, and I like the wide mouth of this kind so I can fit a scrub brush into the reservoir. This one also has an ant trap and won’t break if you drop it.
- If one hummingbird wants to monopolize all the feeders, give him an incentive to protect just one. Hang it a little higher and make the water a little sweeter.
- Watch for mold and clean your feeders regularly. Spritz the inside with bleach and wash them with warm, soapy water once a week.
- I usually take feeders down in mid-November, but most of the hummers have moved south by mid-October. Leave your feeders out until you haven’t seen any hummers for two weeks.