About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Don't take your feeders down on Labor Day: Keep your hummingbird feeders up!

Isn't Labor Day the time to take down your hummingbird feeders? ~ Dexter, Michigan 

In mid-Michigan, I leave my hummingbird feeder up until Halloween.  

The rule of thumb is: if you haven't seen a hummingbird for two weeks in the fall it's safe to take your feeder down. Depending on where you live it is usually at the end of September to the end of October.

In the fall there is an instinctual clock that tells the hummingbirds when to head south. People still disagree over the precise mechanism within the bird that causes this. Most sources say that that food supply is not a factor and there is no reason to take down hummingbird feeders to stimulate migration.

Birds that are born late in the season are vulnerable. Leaving your feeders up may provide a critical opportunity for these hummingbirds to build reserves and “catch up.”
Green: summer-only  Blue: winter-only  Yellow: migratory

Just before they answer the call to travel south, they eat in excess and build a layer of rich fatty fuel just under their skin. You can notice the extra fat along the back, belly, and throat. 

A hummingbird gains 25 – 40% extra body-weight to have enough fuel to travel 1,400 miles – with no wind of any kind. A headwind of only 10 miles per hour will cut that distance down to 600 miles and more than 20 mph will push them backward. 
However the ruby-throated hummingbird does take advantage of tail winds constantly. Southbound ruby-throats rebuild their reserves in the early morning, travel about 23 miles during the day and forage again in the late afternoon to keep up their body weight.


Anonymous said...

When is the best time in the spring to hang up hummingbird feeders? I live in southeren Minnesota.

Wild Birds Unlimited Mid-Michigan said...

The most frequently asked question in the spring is when to put out the hummingbird feeders?

In mid-Michigan you have to pay your taxes and put out your hummingbird feeders by April 15th. But you can track the migration of the Ruby throated hummingbird in your area on www.hummingbirds.net.

When I looked at last year's map, southern Minnesota had ruby throats around the beginning of May. I recommend you put up your feeder a week or two before that. It's always better to put it up too early to attract a loyal hover of hummingbirds for the season.