Photos and text by Diane Deming
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Those of us who feed hummingbirds throughout the spring and summer often wonder when we should take our feeders down in the fall. Will they stay too long if we keep feeding them? Should we increase or decrease the amount of sugar in our feeders as the summer progresses?
Here are a few facts about hummingbirds.
Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds are the only hummingbirds that breed east of the Mississippi River and they migrate to Mexico and Central America in the fall.
Most will double their weight before migration.
Small insects, spiders, and flower nectar are their main sources of food. Insects provide protein, vitamins and minerals for good health.
Hummingbirds can fly at a top speed of 30 miles per hour when migrating.
It takes about 20 hours to fly the 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico, nonstop.
Like most migrating birds, hummingbirds fly south by instinct. They know when it is time to leave. It is suggested that you leave your feeders up in the fall to provide them with the extra food they will need for the long trip south. Increasing the amount of sugar in your sugar/water mixture in the late summer and early fall will help them increase their weight for migration. For example, if you usually use one cup of sugar to 4 cups of water, increase to two cups of sugar to 4 cups of water.
We have been recording the arrival and departure times for hummingbirds for many years now. In our experience the last hummer leaves about the last week of September. Our suggestion would be to leave your feeder up until the first of October or about 5 days after you see the last hummer. There may be some late migrants that need that extra burst of energy. The males will leave first, just as they are the first to arrive in the spring. The females and juveniles leave last. I am always a little sad when the last one leaves as I get hours of enjoyment watching and photographing them all summer. In the spring we can expect their arrival about the first week in May and we always have our feeders up and ready for our first male migrant.
Diane…what wonderful pictures. You have captured,with great detail, these beautiful little creatures in such unique ways. You have been blessed with a great talent for taking such fantastic pictures. Fondly, Joanne