Should I Keep My Hummingbird Feeders Out During the Winter?

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Keeping your feeders out during the early winter will help Hummingbirds that may have started their migration later in the season. Male Hummingbirds will start their migration in the summer months, while female and young Hummingbirds will start their migration in the early winter months. 

One question for most birders is, ‘When should I take my feeder down?’ Most believe that leaving the hummingbird feeders out during winter can delay migration. But this is not true; regardless of what the feeder provides, most birds’ departure is controlled by their hormones, as these hormones tell the birds to go. 

Putting the feeder up during the winter will provide the hummers with much-needed nutrition and nectar. In the event that someone leaves their feeder up during the winter, there is a higher chance that they would be feeding 1 of the 16 other species of hummingbirds found in North America. 

Some Hummingbirds do become stragglers and do not migrate during cold weather. Taking feeders out during winter can take away the vital nourishment they provide to hummingbirds that do not migrate.

Do some hummingbirds stay for the winter?

Two hummingbird subspecies stay put in the winter months: Anna’s hummingbird on the west coast and the Ruby-throated hummingbird on the east. These two, along with a couple of other Hummingbirds, can usually be spotted during winter. Members of these species that are too young, sick, old to travel or injured hummingbirds stay behind during the winter.

The Western Hummingbird

The Rufous hummingbird (Western hummingbirds) is a predominantly western-based species; they can usually be found in central Mexico during the winter season. As of late, these hummingbirds are more commonly spotted in the southeastern portion of the United States along the Gulf Coast. 

Black Chinned-hummingbird

Another breed of hummingbirds that can be found in the states during the winter months, is the Black-chinned hummingbirds. These hummers are usually found in the wetlands of the cascades, as well as along riverbanks and surburban and urban settings. Their typical territory is in Washington, where they are commonly found south of the Blue Mountains and near the Idaho border. 

  Other birds that can use the nectar feeders during the winter are:

The Broad Tail Hummingbird from the mountains of California to western Texas in Mexico.

The Allen Hummingbird, which breeds in the strip of coastal California, in Oregon.

The Calliope Hummingbird is also another small bird that breeds in Washington, Nevada, California, Utah, and Colorado

when to take hummingbird feeders down

How do I keep my hummingbird feeder from freezing in the winter?

During the cold season, sugar water can freeze and be rendered unusable for the hummingbirds. It will need to be taken down and refilled periodically to avoid solidification from the cold freezing temperatures. 

The nectar feeders can be kept from freezing by bringing the feeders indoors at night, keeping out of a draft, and positioning it in a place where there is not much exposure to the elements (sunlight excluded). Birders can also add more sugar to the hummingbird nectar solution, which will help lower the sugar water’s freezing point. Other birders use hummingbird heaters to maintain the warmth for the nectar in their feeders.

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What is the best time to take hummingbird feeders down?

The best time to take the feeder down would be at night, but since Hummingbirds look for food sources as early as sunrise and even before then, it is wise to place the feeder outside before dawn. 

Taking down a feeder depends on different variables. To know the exact timing of when to take the hummingbird feeders down without the birds going hungry, you should consider:


In the northern regions, people will naturally remove the hummingbird feeders earlier as soon as the fall sets in. Hummingbird lovers in Canada and Alaska can let their hummingbirds stay until late summer without encouraging stragglers. People in the Southern regions can let their feeders stay up until the last week of summer or all year round until early spring.


Regions that experience summer flowers dying quickly or the areas that experience early autumn storms can force the birds to migrate. Hence, it is wise to leave nectar feeders up later. This will provide nutrition for hummingbirds even if the natural food sources are dwindling.

Hummingbird Migration

Learning the hummingbird migration pattern will help determine the right time or when to take the hummingbird feeders down. These hummingbirds have different behavioral patterns and can be migratory birds that travel a long journey, or all-year residents like the Anna’s hummingbirds. Not all birds move to the South during winter.

Developing a habit of putting the feeders out during the migration period will help the migrants to remember the location and return in the fall migration. During their journey south, the male hummingbirds migrate first, and they are then followed later by the females and juveniles who leave last. 

Individual Considerations

There is no precise date on when to take the humming feeders down. Some people take the feeders down when cleaning or refilling the birds’ food and nectar. Once you notice the nectar changing from clear to cloudy, you should clean the feeders and then put fresh nectar.

To Keep Insects Away

Bees, wasps, ants, praying mantises, and most insects love nectar. If too many insects invade and monopolize a feeder, temporarily putting the feeder down will encourage the bugs to leave.

Discourage Visitors

  Only discouraging unwanted pests is not enough to keep hummingbirds safe. Larger visitors like bats, raccoons, and bears also have similar sweet cravings. Removing the feeders for about a week will encourage the mammals to leave, but the birds can return once the feeder is up.

Stay Safe From Storms

  Summer thunderstorms can destroy feeders and take them down from their hangers. During such incidences, one can put the feeders on a table, on the ground or on a bench in a protected area. Hungry hummingbirds may still use the feeders even before they are rehung.

Keep Nectar From Freezing

Another reason that can determine when to take the hummingbird feeder down is during frosts, and sudden chills, as those extreme temperatures can accidentally freeze hummingbird nectar. In such cases, feeders can be removed and placed inside overnight to keep them indoors to stay liquid, and then they are replaced in the early morning feeding sessions in time for the birds to feed on them again. 

How long should a hummingbird feeder be left out?

    Hummingbirds exist either as year-round natives or as part of a migratory cycle. Annual residents rely heavily on a well-supplied feeder all year-round. This need is more pronounced during the winter and the fall and winter when most natural nectar-producing plants are unavailable. Once hummingbirds lack the nutrition that feeders provide for them during the winter, this can turn out to be life-threatening. It is therefore crucial for Hummingbird enthusiasts to commit themselves to maintain feeders during the entire winter and not to take them out at the onset of the first frost. 

Tara Summerville

Tara Summerville is a freelance writer that loves her backyard birdfeeders. She enjoys sitting on her deck with a cup of coffee, watching cardinals, blue jays, finches, and chickadees munch away at her backyard offerings. Her fascination with birds began as a child; spending afternoons at her grandma's house watching and identifying birds. She has since carried her love of songbirds into adulthood and ensures no bird in her yard goes hungry!

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