When should I hang my hummingbird feeders?

This question rings loudly on every birdwatching group, listserv, and internet search. Here is a simplified approach for all lovers of hummers!

A Broad-tailed Hummingbird sits on a hummingbird feeder.
Broad-tailed Hummigbirds are a migratory hummingbird that return to the Rockies in springtime.

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Every year, when there is more sun than snow, bird-lovers begin to wonder when they will start seeing their favorite little sky gems, buzzing about their yards. Of course, it is not a simple answer that covers everyone, but we can offer advice to assist your hummingbird feeder timing!

Check out a few of our other related posts:

When do hummingbirds arrive in the spring?

Depending upon your location, you may have the luxury of experiencing hummingbirds year-round. However, for those who experience harsh winters, hummingbirds bless our feeders for only a few months each year. If you live on the Gulf or Pacific Coast, you are likely to have hummingbirds most of the year. If you live in the central areas of the United States, your hummingbirds may not arrive until the end of April or even early May. While unfair, we only provide the dates of hummingbird arrivals. We do not get to decide when they show up!

Using the map below, you can estimate the arrival dates for your resident and migratory hummingbirds! Some individuals may show up sooner or later, so do not fret if these lines do not meet your experience. The hummingbird arrival dates are estimated upon data recorded over ~20 years, and as estimates, they are imperfect!

For example, if you live in central Colorado, you are most likely to begin recording hummingbirds between April 15th and May 1st. However, you may not see a hummingbird until May 17th, or you might see a hummingbird before April 15th!

A map shows arrival dates for hummingbirds in North America
Hummingbird arrival dates across North America

What date should I hang up a hummingbird feeder?

Using the map above, we can use the estimated arrival dates to paint a window of most likely arrival dates for hummingbirds. However, if you want to be proactive and provide a food source for early arriving hummingbirds, we recommend using the FIRST line, most south of your location. For example, if you live in South Dakota, hang your feeders around May 1st at the earliest, UNLESS you see a hummingbird before that date.

Do hummingbirds arrive sooner at your location? Please, do not "@" us. (Did we use that correctly?) Instead, use eBird to help track population movements of birds across the globe!

An image of the head and gorget of a male Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Using a feeder can attract gorgeous hummingbirds like this Broad-tailed Hummingbird male!

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When do hummingbirds arrive in the fall?

This is an easy question to answer. If you do not have a breeding species that reside around your home, you still have a chance to see some migratory birds after their breeding season has ended. To optimize your chance to see a hummingbird during its 'fall' migration, hang your feeders during the first weeks of July. Can we guarantee you will get some migrants? No. However, you cannot catch a fish without bait.

...do not catch the hummingbirds. Seriously. We were just using a wreckless cliché.

Which hummingbird feeder should I use?

We recommend using a small, simple hummingbird feeder (unless you see hundreds of hummingbirds). Why? Hummingbird food, or sugar water, should not sit out for more than a few days. Using a large feeder will lead to the temptation to leave the food out past the safety point, or you will waste a lot of sugar. Additionally, this hummingbird feeder is much easier to clean than a bottle-style hummingbird feeder.

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Which guide should I use for hummingbirds at my feeder?

Our favorite field guide for hummingbirds, currently, is North American Hummingbirds: An Identification Guide. There are a variety of guides that exist, but this is the most up-to-date guide available. It also offers angles, artwork, and insight that is not found in the other guides available to birders.

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Instructions for making hummingbird food

First, DO NOT USE RED DYE! If you do not believe you have the time to make your own hummingbird food, then plant native flowers that attract hummingbirds. Purchasing hummingbird food with red dyes could HARM birds. Additionally, do NOT add extracts or other substances.

Keep the food simple. Sugar + water.

Now, to make your own hummingbird food, follow these steps:

  1. Mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water (for example, 1 cup of sugar with 4 cups of water) until the sugar is dissolved - Make sure to only use REFINED WHITE SUGAR

  2. Do not use honey


  4. You can heat the water to help the sugar dissolve, but boiling is not necessary.

  5. Fill your hummingbird feeder with homemade food

  6. Extra hummingbird food can be stored in a refrigerator

The whole process takes less than 10 minutes, but making large batches and refrigerating them can help those who are busy.

Attracting hummingbirds to your yard

Hanging hummingbird feeders can be a quick and easy way to attract a variety of hummingbirds to your yard, but using native plants is a more natural way to attract hummingbirds to your yard. There are countless native plant databases available on the internet, but the National Audubon Society has an easy-to-use database for attracting hummingbirds and other yardbird favorites.

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