Along the Garden Path: Bring hummers to you


Who doesn’t enjoy watching the hummingbirds come to the feeder or to welcome the nectar in our flowers?

For most of us in Ohio, April 15 through May 15 is the best time to put out the hummingbird feeders.

Hummingbirds remember their favorite feeding sites from year to year, and the longer you have been feeding hummingbirds, the more of them that will return to enjoy your generosity. This means that each spring you may need to have even more nectar feeders ready and available for hummingbirds or else they may move on to areas with more abundant food sources. Putting up just one or two hummingbird feeders very early in the season is suitable, but as soon as the birds are sighted additional feeders should be hung to accommodate even more voracious appetites.

Many backyard birders assume that the first day of spring is the best time to hang hummingbird feeders, and while the middle of May can be good timing to get started feeding hummingbirds, don’t depend on one exact date to hang your feeders. A mild winter and a warmer spring when flowers bloom sooner can encourage hummingbirds to migrate a few days earlier than expected while a hard winter with many late season storms can delay migration. Weather conditions won’t affect hummingbird migration for more than a few days, however – instead, it is the light levels and amount of daylight that triggers these birds’ migration instincts.

One of the most effective ways to know how early to put out hummingbird feeders in spring is to keep your own, personal calendar of migration dates for these popular birds. Each year, note the date when you first see a hummingbird appear at your feeders or flowerbeds. Compare those dates from year to year, and you’ll see that hummingbirds have very accurate calendars themselves! You can also note other significant dates on your hummingbird calendar, such as when male and female birds appear (males typically migrate earlier), when nesting begins or when hummingbirds begin to leave on their return journeys each fall. Our first hummer appeared on May 2 this year.

No matter how many hummingbirds you expect to arrive or how many nectar feeders you want to put out each spring, it is better to be a few days early than a few days late. If you put out hummingbird feeders too early and the birds haven’t arrived, all that may be lost is a few ounces of uneaten nectar that you need to replace as it slowly spoils. On the other hand, if you put out feeders too late, hummingbirds may believe your feeders to be unreliable food sources and they will move on to find better options, bypassing your feeders entirely. Early feeding may surprise you as more hummingbirds arrive perhaps even sooner than you expected while late feeding is sure to be a disappointment as the birds find someplace better to eat and fewer birds visit your feeders.

So what are you waiting for? Spring is here, it’s time to get those hummingbird feeders out!

By Charlene Thornhill

Along the Garden Path

Charlene Thornhill is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her community column Along the Garden Path. She can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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