Fall hummingbird migration

Hummingbird migration to points south is well underway for most hummers in the U.S. and Canada (except those hummers that are permanent residents in some coastal and very southern areas of the U.S.). Since many parts of the United States have experienced severe drought problems this summer, hummers hoping to stop over in those places may find that there are no blossoms to provide nectar for them or small insects to meet their needs for protein.

If you have heard that you should take down your hummingbird feeder so you don’t delay the hummer’s migration, that is incorrect. This is what the Cornell Lab of Ornithology says about that: “That’s actually a myth. A number of factors trigger the urge for birds to migrate, but the most significant one is day length. When the days get shorter, the hummingbirds will move on, regardless of whether there are still filled feeders available for them.”

Since flowers like the trumpet vine are no longer blooming in many areas, keeping hummingbird feeders out with fresh sugar water in them can be very important in providing sustenance to a hungry hummer. The Cornell Lab states, “We do, however, encourage people to keep their hummingbird feeders full for several weeks after they have seen the last hummer just in case there are stragglers in need of additional energy before they complete their long journey south.”

In addition to keeping hummingbird feeders out and filled with fresh sugar water to help migrating hummers, please keep some water out for other migrating birds that are also facing the impacts of drought. To be of most help to hummers, both those migrating and those staying around, the National Audubon Society has a lot of helpful suggestions on ‘Healthy Hummingbird Habitats.’ –this will be helpful to other birds as well as butterflies and bees too.

This is a Rufous Hummingbird in my photos, a species that used to be considered a western bird. However, recent documentation shows that not only do they visit eastern parts of the U.S. (and a little into Canada) during the winter but they are found in locations in such very eastern areas as Florida during the fall.

Are you seeing hummers migrating through your area?

If you live in more eastern parts of the U.S., have you been visited by Rufous Hummingbirds?

  1. Donna Haynes says

    Well, Rufie, our male Rufous Hummingbird is back for his third winter, assuming he stays all winter. He arrived here in Little Rock on August 1. On September 7, we had another adult male Rufous in the yard. He was only here that one day and moved on. O I have been tracking Rufous in Arkansas this season and we have 15 confirmed reports already. Looks like it will be am exciting year for us!

  2. Cheery Chickadee says

    We have left our hummingbird feeder up for several weeks since our regulars left, and we are getting several new stragglers that only stop once. We don’t see Rufus where we live, but the ruby throats are enough. We are just outside the black chinned’s range, but we don’t see any. Maybe someday!

    • Donna Haynes says

      Cheery, don’t give up on a Rufous or a Black-Chinned for that matter. Little Rock is WAY out of range for Rufous. I maintained a feeder all winter for three years before our Rufous showed up. It was worth the wait. We still have several Ruby-Throats hanging around. I keep several feeders out until Nov. 15, because Rufie is so aggressive to the Ruby-Throats. Then I keep two feeders, one for Rufie and one just in case any other hummers show up.

      • Cheery Chickadee says

        Donna, glad to hear about Rufie. I just had read your story in an old B+B. Are you going to be putting up your red light this year?

    • says

      Hi Cheery,
      Sounds like you are giving some hungry migrating hummers some food to fuel the next leg of their journey, good job.

      Hi Donna,
      Good idea to have two feeders so the Rufous can have it’s own and the other for stragglers.

  3. Gracie says

    I am in central Indiana and still have hummers coming to the feeders. The last day I spotted one last year was Oct 9th. That was the latest date I’ve recorded seeing one. So needless to say, I leave my feeders up ’til the end of October with fresh sugar water in them!

  4. Pam Park says

    We have been warned, in the Cincinnati area, not to leave any standing water about since we have problems with mosquitoes and West Nile disease going on this year. Lost a fabulous teacher one week ago to West Nile, so sad.

    • says

      Hello Pam,
      Yes, that is another good reason to change the sugar water in your hummer feeder though the issue of West Nile virus is mostly during the July 15 to Sept 15 time frame when the species of mosquito found to spread it is active.

  5. Linda says

    I did see several Rufous’s this year as well as at least 4 ruby’s that
    spent the summer with us. It was summer as usual on Monday with
    them fighting over the feeders and then they were gone. But this
    morning a straggler was at the feeder. 9/28/12 Shrewsbury PA

  6. Lynda says

    I fight with the decision every day regarding when to take down feeders. At the moment, I still have up to a dozen hummers hanging in my yard, from morning to evening. I know most are my regulars as the trust level is so great that some will feed from my hand (holding feeders while changing them out). As the days here are still hot, they (along with the dragonflies) enjoy my afternoon spraying the trees.
    This has been my absolute best season yet and although I do not know when they will leave my yard, I will miss my morning / evening coffee time with them.
    btw, I live in central Texas.

  7. says

    I leave in Canada an I still had the hummingbird feeder out there and the birds were here 2 days ago, Sept.26.2012. I have never see them being this late here, usually they’re leave early, the first week of September. But not this year.

    • says

      Hi Cathy,
      The fact that hummers may stop after we have ever before noted them shows the importance of leaving feeders up even after the last one we have seen. One of the issues is that unless you can watch your hummer feeder constantly, dawn to dusk and every single day, you may have one or more stopping by that you don’t see. And if they only stay to feed a short time, the level will not go down enough to notice. Thanks for writing about this.

  8. Christi says

    I’m in North Carolina and still getting regular visits from Ruby-Throateds. Only females now, though. The males are presumably long gone. Seems like we stop seeing the males around late July/August (and of course they arrive well before the females at the start of the season).

    I will keep my feeders up this year. After all, sugar and water is easy and a heck of a lot cheaper than the other bird food which we provide year round. I’ve never paid close attention to when I stop seeing hummingbirds and I’ll be curious to see how late in the season we see them. RE: Rufous – I’ve never seen one, but about a year ago I came across this blog entry and video about one who stayed in this area all winter: http://smelllikedirt.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/rufous-hummingbird/

    • says

      Hi Christi,
      Glad you will be keeping your feeders up this year, they may be helpful to some late hummer needing something to fuel the rest of it’s trip. And you may get lucky and have a Rufous Hummingbird stop by!

      Thanks for the link, that was very interesting to see.

  9. says

    Thanks for the helpful information. I saw the last of my hummingbirds (I think) a couple weeks ago but am keeping one feeder on my front pouch for awhile..just love these little friends and hope to see them next spring!!

  10. Vi Sherman says

    For the past four years we have only had one pair of hummers that come back each year to raise their young – usually two babies. However, we don’t seem to attract any more. Is there something we can do? I have a feeder on the front porch and one on the back porch and have planted lots of flowers. What else can I do to entice these beautiful creatures?

    • says

      Hello Vi,
      So much depends upon where you live and without knowing that it is difficult to give any more advice than to make your yard as hummer-healthy as you can. I have a link in the article for National Audubon Society’s webpage with lots of info on that.

  11. Sandy G says

    I too, live in Cincinnati and generally leave up my feeder through Oct. We’ve seen a couple of ruby throated hummers stop by for a sip lately especially in the evenings. As far as West Nile is concerned, I have a couple of water wigglers in my bird baths to keep the water moving and seems to attract the birds as well. The baths stay up until the first frost or mid-Oct before I take them in.

  12. Karen says

    Seeing all the comments about hummers hanging on make me feel better. I am in Maryland and mine normally disappear by the second week of September. I still have two females in a feeding frenzy.

  13. Patricia Sherman says

    I moved to Tn. in 1986. Never before had I seen a humming bird. Import from N.J.. Since my first spring, I have fed them, and they have brought me great joy. Every year I can hardly wait for them to get here. The locals say theyv’e never seen as many birds as I get here. I have 4 feeders that must be replenished 3-4 times a day. Atleast 40 birds and maybe more.I expect them to wind down in a couple of weeks, and I shall miss them. I never take down the feeders until I know their gone. One year I had a somewhat larger hummer, that came after even the scouts had left. She stayed with me till Jan12. I was a nervous wreck, had to thaw her food every day. She just disappeared. God love her!

  14. Kathy Lankford says

    I’m having to fill my feeders on a daily basis now. They are coming in droves to my two feeders, sometimes as many as 40-50 are hovering waiting for a fresh drink of sugar water. They are a joy to behold and I will be sad when they leave East Texas. This year I’ve had more hummingbirds than any other previous season! I have been lucky enough to have seen at least two Rufus, but I didn’t know what they were at the time.
    I am always amazed at the tiny birds and welcome them with fresh feeders any time they need them. Would love to go with them to a warmer climate and spend the winter months where they will be. I’ve gone through at least 20 lbs of sugar just in the last couple of weeks and it looks like there’s no stopping now.

  15. Pam says

    Living in Victoria, TX, all my 6 feeders are bustling with hummers now. I now leave 1 out year-round, and can usually see a hummer or 2 who decided to stay rather than make the trek. It amazes me how they congregate & fight over 1 feeder, empty it, then move en masse to the next. I saw 2 knock each other into the grass yesterday, then fly right back up to the feeder. So comical!

  16. patricia rager says

    I live in Kentucky and still have three hummers feeding.I have three feeders in different locations in my yard and they still want the same one.I love those little birds.I sure hate to see them leave and I am leaving the feeders up as long as possible.

  17. Nancy says

    I had to take my feeders down today, we had so many bee’s that we couldn’t get in or out of the house, I feel bad. We live on the central east side of WI. Maybe I will put a different feeder out in a day or two if the bee’s go away.

  18. Jan Oquin says

    We have enjoyed having the hummers around this summer. We have two feeders and my brother-in-law (who lives fairly close to us) has one on his front porch. They fly from one feeder to the next, sometimes fighting for the best spot on the feeder. We have had more than 10 at times. I can sit on my back porch and they buzz right up to my face. Fascinating little birds…

  19. Barb says

    I had a hummer visiting my feeder in late November a couple years ago. I last saw her on November 22. So I advocate keeping those feeders up for stragglers. I live in SW Indiana.

  20. Sandy B. says

    I live in Southern Louisiana and this is the first time I have ever seen a Rufous. They are beautiful. He’s only been here a few weeks but have really enjoyed him.

  21. says

    I live South of Indianapolis, Indiana – and have had 3 to 4 hummers since Easter,(first was the female, and a couple weeks later I saw a male, then later another female). and since today was a nice day, I sat outside and read the paper, and watched the hummers chase one another – I have 4 feeders up – and today I was able to see a pair of hummers looked like mating….could be wrong, but sure looked that way.. I too leave the feeders up long after the local hummers are seen.

  22. says

    I’m in Douth Texas on the coast and have hundreds of hummers swarming. I have three feeders out and I am putting out about 4-5 cups of nectar a day and will keep it up until they are gone in November.

  23. says

    I live in Dayton,TN , have had roufous, ruby .and black chinned. The roufous is very aggressive toward other hummers. I have seen them on the ground with their feet clamped onto the other hummer. They will sit in the tree and watch the feeder, if another hummer comes along , it will fly down and knock it to the ground. When it hits the other hummer it sounds like a small gun shot. They are still here feeding, it is Oct.4, 2012.

  24. anita says

    I keep up my feeders on front & back yard porches till after Thanksgiving here in Western NC. Still having several hummers feeding every am & pm. They fly into my hair/head if I get to close to their feeders on the porches & will readily attack the chihauhau’s if they lay under the feeders on the south facing porch. They seem to always prefer one feeder over another for some reason,even though not 15′ apart. Not seeing so many ruby-throats as of now.

  25. Susan says

    I am new to humming birds but have loved every visit I had this year. They just stopped coming October 9 and these are sad days. I thought I did something wrong until I came to this site. I live in central Louisiana in Deville which is very near Alexandria. Do I take down my feeders now and when do I put them back up? Oh, they were a family of ruby throats. I bought 3 feeders, but they would only eat one at a time and chase the others off if they were there first. Is this normal behavior. Also when should I put back the feeders. Thanks for all advice.

  26. says

    Hello Susan,
    Actually they have found that a number of hummingbirds will winter in Louisiana so you may want to consider keeping your feeder up to see if it will attract one or more of these winter delights. There are a number of hummer enthusiasts in your state and there is a great website on Louisiana Hummingbirds that discusses the wintering hummers and has lots more info you may find of interest. Welcome to the world of bird watching, it only keeps getting better!

  27. Susan says

    I have so much to learn. Thanks so much for all the info and the website. I started out making so many errors and it took me a while to get back the hummers. I had not been changing the nectar every couple of days. They have forgiven me and returned to dine on fresh nectar. I also bought several different feeders and only like one which didn’t drip all over the place. I seem to remember those glass tubes but seem long gone now. I will leave my feeders up. Thanks again.

  28. Janet Muncy says

    I have only seen 1 hummingbird here in the last 10 years no matter what I’ve done. But I was delighted to have one visit my fuschia plant on September 29,2012. I live on Long Island.

  29. says

    We keep our feeders up all year round here in N Calif. We have Anna’s Hummers living with us all the time. I try to keep flowers blooming all year round to attract the Hummers. They give us great joy. We really worry about them when the weather is cold and rainy.

    We see a few Roufous in the Spring as they are migrating north. They will stay for a few days up to a few weeks to rest and get fit for the rest of the trip. They are a bit of a bully at the feeders and chase the Ruby’s and Anna’s away. They are so beautiful that we watch for them every year.

  30. ann says

    I had hummers until Oct 6th here in East Tn I had more this year than in previous years.
    My daughter is hooked on feeding them now . she and her hubby is re doing an old house
    this summer one flew into what s going to be the kitchen and could only fly into a window
    She was able to get it on her finger and return it to the outside. She was so amamzed at the tiny little creature.
    that did it she fell in love. she keeps 2 feeders out now where she can watch from that window.
    love the web sights it fills the void when my feathered friends are gone.

  31. Mary Beth Brinkman says

    I have a beautiful, male Rufous in my yard in Metairie, LA right now, & he has been here for weeks. He could be a returnee as Nancy Newfield has banded the Rufous, Ruby Throat & Black Chin in my back yard in previous years. I also have another hummer, but haven’t been able to ID it yet. It is the green color combination, either a female or young male. I guess it could be a Ruby Throat but I don’t believe so. This morning, I heard the shrill sound of its wings but couldn’t see it. The Rufous keeps a close watch on his feeder & I do believe he is trying to run off the other one.

  32. Alona Adams - Dallas,OR says

    I keep my feeders up all year round for the strugglers and my year-round hummers (I think they are Anna’s) but I also see some others. Does anyone know where I can find a hummingbird feeder that is heated and will not freeze the nectar? Love my hummers!!!

  33. Sybil Collins says

    The last hummer I saw was Oct. 12. I thought all mine were gone after not seeing any for about a week. Then on Oct. 12, I refreshed my front feeder and later that day I saw a ruby-throat drink briefly and move on. I live about 30 miles inland from coastal SC.

  34. Doris Tilly says

    I have a problem with yellow jackets and bees devouring all the hummingbird food. I have bee guards but that does not seem to keep them away. The bees even attack the hummingbirds and keep them away. Any suggestions?

  35. Aleta Konkol - Seattle, WA says

    This past Sunday, October 14, 2012, saw my regulars…. rufous and ruby, Anna’s hummers, but didn’t see the black chins, who have been regular until this past weekend.Had some very small hummers, guessing they are youths, but may be a calliope hummingbird. Because I don’t get home until after dark, I really don’t know if they are still around until weekends. I have only 1 feeder and 1 large fuchsia plant but have plenty of birds. This was my first year of feeding the hummers, and I have to say, I am totally hooked. Was really caught off guard when I took the feeder in to make fresh nectar and had one of the hummers just flying stationary for several minutes not even two feet in front of me as if she were making small talk while waiting for her food. Really loved taking pictures of them. Some have wonderful personalities.

  36. Debbe Mann says

    Hummingbirds are my most favorite birds but until 3 years ago they only made brief stops at my house. I would boil my water plant every plant someone would tell me about and hardly ever see them. After my sister passed away with breast cancer I was feeling down because my daughter was getting married and she would not be with us at the shower. I asked the Lord to please send me something small like a hummingbird to show me He still cared. The next morning at 6:30 a.m. I was blessed with my first frequent flyer. She stayed the rest of summer! Since then I have got them every year late summer through the migration.. This year was my best. I have never had any in October but on October 5th and 6th they showed up. With your advice on leaving feeders up two weeks after last sighting I still clung to hope for one more look. I took my feeders down October 27, 2012 knowing they would have to be gone.. To my surprise yesterday OCTOBER 28th, 2012 I had another visitor all afternoon till the evening. It was an amazing day! I live in Clinton Township, Michigan and this is very rare! Unfortunately the pictures on my phone are not good, but the ones in my mind will be treasued always!

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