When to Put out Hummingbird Feeders

One of the benefits of outdoor living is enjoying the return of hummingbirds to Western New York. Offering a consistent source of nectar is the ideal way to attract hummingbirds. But, when should you put out your hummingbird feeders? While the exact dates can vary, the birds do tend to be reliable in their migration patterns and when they start visiting feeders. Here are the months it makes most sense to put out feeder in our region:

  • April / May: Hummingbirds begin to reach their northern ranges in late April or early May, and it is best if all backyard birders have their hummingbird feeders cleaned, refilled and ready for thirsty guests no later than the first week of May.
  • May / June: In the furthest northern reaches of hummingbird ranges, such as the central Canada reach of the calliope hummingbird or the Alaskan territory of the rufous hummingbird, waiting until mid-May or very early June to put out hummingbird feeders isn’t necessarily too late, but be on the lookout for early arrivals and get the feeders ready to serve them.

Hummingbirds, like most migrant birds, can be very predictable with their arrival and departure dates, and while there may be a few days’ variation from year to year, learning when these birds migrate is the best way to judge when to get those nectar feeders ready.

Better Early Than Late

The best rule of thumb for when to start feeding hummingbirds is this – it is better to put out hummingbird feeders early rather than late. These birds have amazing geographical memories for reliable food sources, and once they find your feeders they will continue to visit year after year. If the feeders are missing, the birds are likely to move on to another option, and they may not readily return to an unpredictable food source.

At worst, putting out feeders too early may mean taking steps to keep the nectar from freezing during a late winter or early spring cold snap or replacing old nectar once or twice before the birds arrive, but those are very small inconveniences for the joy of welcoming these flying jewels back at the first opportunity every spring.

Enjoy your outdoor visitors!