Hummingbirds migrate when ready
Feeding hummingbirds will not prevent the beloved little birds from migrating. Birder's World magazine explains this fascinating behavior.
October 7, 2008
WAUKESHA, Wis. — Millions of birdwatchers across the country keep their hummingbird feeders full all summer. Many worry that doing so in the fall will prevent the birds from making the all-important migration. Is this true?
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds swarm a backyard feeder in Walnut Hill, Illinois. Joreta Gregory photographed the birds on a mid-September evening. The picture was featured as the Birder's World Photo of the Week September 29, 2008.
Photo by Joreta Gregory
"People worry that feeding hummingbirds in fall and winter may be harmful to the tiny birds, but that isn't the case," says Birder's World Editor Chuck Hagner. "The birds will migrate when they're ready."
Birder's World magazine editors are available to explain this phenomenon. To request an interview, please contact Matt Quandt at 262.798.6484 or email@example.com.
Hummingbirds (like other bird species) migrate in response to shortened day length, which brings about hormonal changes. The presence of a feeder does not influence the progress of migration.
Most hummingbirds migrate by mid-October, but a few birds usually linger.
If you happen to host a hummingbird after the weather turns cold, simply continue to supply sugar water for as long as the bird stays. Use the standard syrup concentration of four parts water to one part plain sugar. To keep your homemade nectar from freezing, bring the feeder indoors overnight, alternate two feeders, or use a heat lamp.
If you live east of the Mississippi, take a close look at any hummingbird you see late in fall and winter. It may be a species other than the Ruby-throated Hummingbird you're accustomed to seeing.
Many more Rufous, Calliope, Black-chinned, and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, hardy western breeders, are showing up in winter in eastern states.
More resources from Birder's World
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