Caring for Migrating Hummingbirds

“I’ve heard that I shouldn’t feed hummingbirds through the winter. Is it true that they won’t migrate if we feed them?”

caring for migrating hummingbirds

Ruby throated hummingbird on feeder.

Don’t take down your hummingbird feeder just yet! Hummingbirds are migratory and travel south across the Gulf of Mexico and Central America when weather conditions are favorable in the winter. Ruby throated hummingbirds can migrate 2,000 miles from breeding site to wintering grounds. So, as they begin to make their way southward this fall, leave your feeders up as long as the birds use them.

Continue to fill your feeder with a nectar solution that is either purchased or made at home. For the homemade solution, mix 1 part table sugar to 4 parts warm water. The warm water makes the sugar dissolve faster. Allow the solution to cool before filling the feeder.

Be sure to keep your feeders clean. Rinse the feeders with vinegar and hot water at least once a week, even if some solution is left. Avoid using detergents. Do not allow mold to grow on the feeder or let the feeding solution become cloudy. Discard old feeding solution and store additional fresh solution in the refrigerator.

As the days become cooler, do not worry that caring for migrating hummingbirds will keep them here longer than they need to stay. They know when it is time to leave for their winter residences. In early fall, just before migration, a lot of hummingbirds may use the feeders and then disappear overnight.

By Bethany O’Rear, Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  Contact Bethany at bethany@aces.edu.


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. ACES is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce.  Educational programs of ACES serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or national origin.

Alabama Extension

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities and answers home-gardeners' questions each week on Birmingham Gardening Today.

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