Birding Myths: No Hummingbird Feeders after Labor Day

6 Sep

It’s Labor Day, folks.  The traditional end to summer.  The day we all pack up our white shoes and prepare for the dark days of winter.

Not all rules about Labor Day should be followed though.  While everyone knows that white shoes after Labor Day might call the fashion world to implode and bring back a return of the worst fashion heresies of all time.  Hoop skirts?  Go-go boots?  Need I go on? Sure, that’s one we can all agree on.  I’m putting my white shoes into storage and hitting the rest of my “get ready for winter” list.

One item that must be taken OFF the list is packing up the hummingbird feeders.  In most parts of the US, hummingbirds are beginning their migration south.  Many people believe that they must pack up their feeders or the hummingbirds will stay too long and won’t survive their migration.

Nope.  Myth.  Not true.

Hummingbirds head south when their little hummingbird instincts tell them to do so.  They will go whether there is food available or not.  They are tough little birds.  They can survive some below freezing nights.  But, they will go when they are ready to go. More important is that they are able to eat enough food to build up their reserves so that they can survive the migration flight.  Having a ready food source is essential. The best rule of thumb is to keep your feeder up for about 2 weeks after you see your last hummingbird.  That way, the latecomers can stop in for a drink on their way . . .

Furthermore, on the West Coast, where I live, we have hummingbirds year round.  Our local Anna’s Hummingbirds stay year round.  They will benefit from a ready source of food all year.  In California, keep your feeders up year round, please!  In fact, in the depths of winter, I’ll often bring the feeder in at night and put it out first thing in the morning . . . that way the hummingbird juice is warmer than the air temperature giving the hummers a warm start to their mornings.


Make sure your friends who feed the birds know to leave their feeders up.  The hummers will thank you!


6 Responses to “Birding Myths: No Hummingbird Feeders after Labor Day”

  1. Phyllis 6 September, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

    mine’s all faded and is now barely pink. do you think it would work to redden it with nail polish? Right now, they’re feeding on my lantana and the flowers on my silk tree – though the latter are fading, so I should get busy on the feeder.

    • lizalee 7 September, 2010 at 5:42 am #

      Great question. I’d probably try a red Sharpie first . . . nail polish sounds messy to me and there are very few things Sharpies aren’t good for. 🙂 You can also just tie a red ribbon around it. Once they know where it is, they don’t care about the color. Glad you have flowers in the yard for the hummers to eat . . . I need to get my feeder up, too!

  2. Mike Licht 6 September, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

    What if the birds are wearing white shoes?


  3. Jeff Jones 7 September, 2010 at 5:12 am #

    I’ve blogged that hummingbird feeders can be kept up in the parts of the country that get cold for winter right up until the first frost. Thanks for reminding people again at this time of year that hummers will not stay too long and harm themselves. They need all the time they can get to gorge themselves for the long trip ahead of them.

    • lizalee 7 September, 2010 at 5:44 am #

      Yup. Keep those feeders full. Lots of bird bloggers are trying to get that message out now!

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