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.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

When to put up hummingbird feeders and other FAQ

Where do hummingbirds spend the winter? When do I put up the feeder? Are they migrating to Michigan soon? What is the best hummingbird food recipe? Should I make it stronger in the spring? How many kinds of hummingbirds nest in Michigan? Where is the best place to put my feeder?~ Lansing

Thank you for your questions! There is a lot of excitement about hummingbirds and I’m always happy for the opportunity help people learn more about spring feeding.

Where do Ruby-throated hummingbirds spend the winters?
Most Ruby-throated Hummingbirds winter in southern Mexico, Central America, South America, and the West Indies. A few remain along the Gulf coast and on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

When do I put up the hummingbird feeder?
The days are getting longer and people are anxious for spring and the arrival of certain birds and flowers. If you check out the migration maps at www.hummingbirds.net you’ll see that Ruby-thoated hummingbirds begin to travel north as early as the end of February.

Hummingbirds migrate alone, each to their own internal clock and map. As the weather warms individuals will begin to reach Michigan in mid-April and the final ones will arrive in June. I always say in mid-Michigan you have to pay your taxes and put out your hummingbird feeders by April 15th. The first hummingbirds probably won’t stick around but continue on to nest in the Upper Peninsula or Canada. The hummingbirds that choose to nest in our area (the regulars) usually arrive by Mothers Day, the second Sunday in May.

Do I make the nectar recipe stronger to give them more energy?
It's not necessary to make your sugar solution stronger. The 4:1 ratio is the closest to the favorite flowers that hummingbirds visit. That would be four parts water to one part plain white sugar. Click HERE for the nectar recipe.

How many species of hummingbirds are in Michigan?
Actually five species of hummingbirds have been sighted in Michigan, however most people only see the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The male and female hummingbirds look different. Ruby-throated male's have ruby-red feathers on the throat, a green back and white belly. The females have an emerald green back and white bellies.

Other hummingbirds seen very, very rarely, in Michigan according to Hummingbirds.net are the Rufous Hummingbird, the Broad-billedHummingbird, the GreenVioletear Hummingbird and the White-eared Hummingbird.

Where is the best place to hang your hummingbird feeder?
  • The number one rule in hanging any feeder is to place it where you can watch the birds comfortably. The whole point in bird feeding is to watch these winged wonders up close. 
  • Since hummingbirds feed by sight, the second rule is to hang the feeder where they will be able to see it as they fly over your yard. A new feeder may be found sooner if hung near a flower garden or hanging flower basket.
  • Place your hummingbird feeders near bushes to provide perching spots and protection from predators.
  • The height of the feeder is less important. Hummingbirds feed from the flowers on the ground and from the tops of flowering trees or climbing vines.
  • Part sun or shade is the best place for nectar feeders. The nectar lasts longer in the shade. Also the nectar in bottle feeders can expand in the sun and start to drip and this will call in bees and ants.
  • Make sure your nectar is fresh and the correct one part white sugar to four parts water solution.
  • In hot weather you should clean your feeder at least twice a week. Just like a restaurant, if a hummingbird comes by to check out your new feeder and finds it filled with spoiled food, they won’t return anytime soon.
In Michigan you can hang hummingbird feeders out from mid-April to the end of October. Migrating birds follow their own schedule usually, based on the weather.

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