Don’t give up on hummers just yet

Hummingbirds at feeders for web

Above, a scene from my deck during the summer. We had at least six of these guys drinking from 5 feeders, which I had to refill 2-3 times a day. That thing in the background is the tower that delivers our high-speed Internet service—not the prettiest thing in the landscape, but we do love having high speed.

AS I WRITE THIS, it’s September 1, and I still have at least one hummingbird coming to the feeders of the six or more that came constantly throughout the summer. Instead of having to fill five feeders at least twice a day, I now am down to three (the last storm having blown down and smashed two of them). I go on filling them daily to make sure the food is fresh, but the feeders are usually not empty when I do fill them.

Wherever you live, if you feed hummingbirds at all it’s a good idea to leave the feeders out and keep them filled with fresh food at this time of year. This will help your own birds, who most likely will come back to you next spring, “make weight” for the big migration that’s ahead of them. It also provides food for hummers that are stopping over on their way south. Some sources recommend keeping feeders up for at least two weeks after you think you’ve seen your last hummingbird of the year.


Christine said...

or even better- make sure you plant plenty of plants with flowers that the hummingbirds love. tubular-shaped and red is usually surefire. i'm sure that's easier to do in California this time of the year than where you are, though!

Wild Flora said...

Hi Christine,
You're right that it's important to plant for hummingbirds if you can. But as you also point out, some of us live in areas where most of the plants hummingbirds love have already stopped blooming. Where I live, crocosmia is the only "hummer plant" still blooming strongly; other than the sugar water they are getting from my feeders, the local hummers are probably surviving primarily by eating small insects.

FYI, when I was first starting this blog I wrote about the types of flowers that appeal to hummingbirds and why. You might be especially interested in this post, which talks about whether hummers really do prefer red and, if so, why:

Thanks for your comment! WF

gardeningAngel said...

The hummingbirds are very busy here in Colorado also - 10 to 20 of them flying, eating and divebombing around the property at any given time between sunrise and sunset. I have two feeders that I am filling every couple of days, but the hummers are mostly drinking from the penstemons, many types of agastaches, red birds, and autumn sages. They will be here for only a couple of more weeks before they make the long journey south. I hope that yours stay as long as possible!


Wild Flora said...

Hi Kathy,
If my one remaining hummer doesn't leave town soon, I'm going to end up having to feed her all winter! (I've heard of people keeping non-migrating hummers alive through the winter, but you need a warm greenhouse or sun porch, which I don't have.) Your plant list makes me jealous--I love all the plants you mention. You're probably on a migration route for hummers, too.

Benjamin Vogt said...

I was just up in Minnesota last week where my mother sees many humers (I see 1-2 a year here in Nebraska). While sitting on a bench my wife and I were confronted by a hummer--he flew around us, checked out some flower, turned, inched toward us, and hovered for 2-3 seconds just looking at us... about 4 feet away! Coolest thing ever! And I could hear them long before I could find them, quick suckers. Then I cam home and one was in my garden for about .6 seconds. FINALLY.

Wild Flora said...

Hi Benjamin,
Yeah, they are pretty cool, aren't they? You would have trouble attracting hummers in Nebraska because it's not one of the 38 states in which rubythroats regularly breed. My heart goes out to you -- I'd hate to do without them. Next spring, you might want to keep an eye on the hummingbird migration map at Then when hummers are about to pass through or near your area, try putting out feeders for them. If the males locate a good, reliable food source, they mind decide to establish breeding territory around it. Worth a try?