Feeding hummingbirds in fall

I received a call today from a woman wondering what to do about hummingbirds. Two juvenile birds still come to her feeder, but she hasn’t seen the parents in some time. Should she take in the feeder? Is the food she provides keeping those young birds from migrating? Will they migrate without the parents? Are the parents still around, just not coming to her feeder?

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Female (woodcarving)
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Female (carved by Bob Spear)

I asked Bob Spear, since he’s got considerably more experience as a naturalist than I do–decades more.

“Leave it up,” he says. In fact, our hummingbird feeders are still up at the Museum and we saw a female ruby-throated hummingbird on Tuesday the 14th of September.  He tells us the males head south earlier than females and young ones, and he suspects that the female parent of the two juveniles is still nearby. Furthermore, migrating individuals from further north may stop at feeders on their way south (and in this week’s chilly rain, every bit helps). “It’s a myth,” he says, “that our feeders will keep them from migrating when it’s time for them to go.”

So enjoy your last glimpses of these little birds, glinting against the autumn leaves.

2 Replies to “Feeding hummingbirds in fall”

  1. It is October 21, 2013 and I still have a hummingbird here in Vermont! My hummers migrated around the 21st of September. On the 29th of September Nell(Ruby throated) showed up and she is still here. Red(Rufous) showed up on the 5th and left about five days later. Sure hope Nell leaves soon, I am getting worried.

    1. Don’t worry! Nell is probably just a more-northerly bird–female or perhaps juvenile–passing by and stocking up for the next leg of her journey.

      You can explore sightings on eBird to find out when other people have reported hummingbirds (and you can report yours too!). It is unusual to see them in October. For examples, click these links:

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