Tiny colorful birds with long, pointed beaks fluttering around is a beautiful sight. Many people install hummingbird feeders in their yards to attract these delightful little birds.
Since hummingbirds are heavy feeders, food is the greatest attraction for them. But, sometimes they stop coming to feeders, or their number reduces significantly, leaving homeowners and birdwatchers wondering what made them disappear.
There can be multiple reasons why hummingbirds stop coming to garden feeders. The most common ones include migration, nesting, presence of predators, poor condition of the feeders, territorial behavior from other hummingbirds, and the availability of better quality food somewhere nearby. It may come as a surprise to many, but hummingbirds’ dietary needs also change with season and habitat. They may stop coming to your feeder because of this change in their dietary requirements.
Hummingbirds are unique in many ways. Their feeding behavior is one of them. Read on to get a deeper insight into why they may stop coming to garden feeders suddenly.
Why Do Hummingbirds Stop Visiting Feeders?
As mentioned above, there can be many reasons why the number of hummingbirds in your yards reduces or they stop coming to your feeder altogether. Let’s take a look at the most common reasons to develop a better understanding of this change in hummingbirds’ behavior:
- Migration – While some hummingbird species spend the year at the same place, most migrate to the south for the winter season. The migration time can vary depending on what state or part of the world you live in, but it could be the reason behind the disappearance of hummingbirds from your yard.
- Nesting – The exact time of nesting varies across different hummingbirds’ species and locations, but their breeding season starts as early as March and lasts till November. When nesting, female hummingbirds only leave the nest when absolutely necessary.
- Presence of Predators – Predators are another common reason why hummingbirds stop visiting some yards. Crows, hawks, roadrunners, merlin, large lizards and snakes, orb-weaver spiders, and praying mantises are all known hummingbirds’ predators. If you have a cat that loves to chase birds and hunt them, it will also likely drive the tiny birds away from your yard.
- Territorial Behavior from Other Hummingbirds – Hummingbirds, particularly the male hummers, are known to be highly territorial. The presence of a feisty hummer displaying territorial behavior can be a reason why there are lesser birds in your garden.
- Dirty Feeders – When was the last time you cleaned the hummingbirds’ feeders in your garden? If it has been long, the poor condition of feeders could be the reason why hummingbirds have stopped coming around.
- Better Food in the Neighborhood – It can be a little challenging to keep the hummingbirds coming to your yard if there is plenty of food available in the neighborhood. One great way to attract them is to provide the food they love and make sure it’s fresh. The hummers will stop coming to your garden if they find a better food source in the neighborhood.
- Changing Dietary Needs – There are times when hummingbirds need more protein than sugars. For that, they need to consume bugs and insects. The unavailability of protein sources is another potential reason they may stop coming to feeders.
What To Do When Hummingbirds Stop Coming to Your Feeder?
Now that we know the common reasons why hummingbirds can stop visiting your yard let’s talk about what you can do to bring them back. Here are some useful ways to resolve the issues that drive hummingbirds away and attract more of these tiny colorful birds to your home garden:
- Set up multiple feeders in your yard to avoid or resolve territorial wars between hummingbirds. Make sure to place them away from each other, and preferably in such a way that birds coming to one feeder cannot (easily) see the other ones.
- Provide fresh food.
- Make your garden insect-friendly, so there’s plenty of protein available.
- Grow native plants and flowers that attract hummingbirds.
- Clean your hummingbird feeder frequently.
- Add some red color to your garden, around the feeder. Hummingbirds are greatly attracted to red color.
- Make sure the feeders are clearly visible; not hard to find.
- Grow trees and shrubs that hummingbirds can nest on.
Should You Remove Hummingbirds Feeders?
Though it’s only a misconception that keeping hummingbird feeders available during fall can delay their migration, you may want to take down the feeders temporarily for several other reasons.
- To keep away, the insects that love the sweet nectar hummingbirds feed on
- To discourage other larger visitors, such as bats, raccoons, and flying squirrels. If you live in an area where bears are prevalent, they may also visit the hummingbirds’ feeders to satisfy their sweet cravings, and you don’t want that.
- To prevent the nectar from freezing in cold weather
- To protect the feeders from rain, winds, or snow
When to Take Down Hummingbirds’ Feeders?
It depends on the reason for which you’re removing the feeders. If you’re taking them down for cleaning, you can do it any time. If you’re looking to discourage other visitors or prevent the nectar from freezing, you can remove the feeders at night, as hummingbirds rarely feed during the night, and put them back in the morning.
However, if you want to take the hummingbirds’ feeders down because they are no longer coming to them, you should wait for at least 7 to 10 days after you spot the last hummingbird. This is to make sure that there is feed available to the migrating hummingbirds.
How Often Should You Clean Hummingbirds’ Feeders?
Dirty feeders drive hummingbirds away, so make sure you clean yours frequently. Depending on how soon they get dirty, you may need to clean your hummingbird feeders anywhere from 1 to 6 days.
Experts recommend cleaning the feeders more frequently during summers, as the hot weather makes them more prone to mold growth and increases the chances of nectar going bad. Hot weather also provides an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.
As a rule of thumb, the hotter the outside temperature, the more frequently you should clean the hummingbird feeders.
How to Clean Hummingbirds’ Feeders?
There is plenty of information available on cleaning hummingbirds’ feeders, making it a little difficult for many to choose the right cleaning method. Here’s how you should go about it:
- Clean Regularly with Soap and Water – For regular cleaning, wash the feeder well using a milk soap or detergent and hot water. Make sure to rinse well, so there’s no soap residue, and let it dry completely before refilling with hummingbirds’ feed.
- Wash with Vinegar Sometimes – Wash your feeders with water and vinegar mixture once in a while to deep clean them. For this, mix one-part white vinegar with two parts water, and soak the feeders in it for some time. Scrub using a brush and then rinse well with warm water.
- Use Bleach to Sterilize – Make your hummingbirds’ feeder germ-free and resolve mold growth issues by giving it a wash with bleach water every 4 to 6 weeks. Mix a quarter cup of bleach in a gallon of water, soak feeders in it for about an hour, and then wash well.
Will Hummingbirds Find Feeder If I Move It?
Changing the place of hummingbirds’ feeders is often recommended to protect them from other visitors. However, it makes many wonder if hummingbirds will find the new location.
Do it gradually to make sure the change of feeders’ location doesn’t drive hummingbirds away from your yard. Hummingbirds have a sharp memory. They tend to remember the locations of feeders and come back to the same spot. Therefore, it is best to put the feeders at the same place, year after year. However, if you have to change the location, move the feeders gradually so the hummingbirds can easily find them.
Multiple factors can reduce the number of hummingbirds in your yard or make them disappear completely. Some of them are natural hummingbirds’ behaviors, which you can’t do much about, while others can be resolved by taking appropriate measures.
Do you have hummingbird feeders in your yard? How do you make sure they don’t stop coming to them? Share any tips that you may have in the comments below.