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When Do I Take Down My Hummingbird Feeder in the Fall?

September 15th, 2011

If you put up a hummingbird feeder in the summer you may wonder when you need to take it down. It has been rumored that if you leave it up the little birds will stick around delaying their migration, but this is not the case. There is no need to worry that you’re keeping them around. It’s actually a good idea to keep the feeder up well into fall for the opposite reason. Even though the hummingbirds that frequented your feeder all summer may have left already, migrating birds from farther north may use your feeder for a quick pit stop on their way south.

Here at Chiot’s Run we leave the hummingbird feeders up until mid to late October (I wait 2 weeks after seeing the last hummingbird). They get taken down and washed in a non-toxic soap every 3 days and then they’re filled with homemade organic nectar. Making your own hummingbird nectar is quick and easy.

Simply mix 1/4 cup organic sugar with 1 cup of filtered water in a cup or bottle. Mix until combined, fill feeders, store any extra in the fridge (although I make just enough to fill the feeders each time). Contrary to popular theories, you don’t need to boil the water or use hot water.  The nectar does not last longer if it is boiled since bacteria is introduced the first time a bird drinks.  It is also not necessary to add red food coloring either.  In fact the red coloring can be detrimental for the little birds.  I make sure I use organic sugar and filtered water because birds are more sensitive to toxins (read through your oven manual and they say to never clean your oven with a bird in the house and think about the canary in the coal mine).

To give the little hummingbirds a helping hand you can also make sure you have some late blooming flowering in the garden. Nicotiana, or flowering tobacco does very well at seeding down and blooming through frost here at Chiot’s Run. I also have Cardinal Climber vines and a few other nectar rich flowers for them.

Keep those feeders up and have some late blooming flowers in your garden for the little birds traveling the LONG way down for the winter!

Do you feed the hummingbirds in your garden? When do you take down your feeder?

55 Comments to “When Do I Take Down My Hummingbird Feeder in the Fall?”
  1. Linda on September 15, 2011 at 6:23 am

    Thanks for sharing the tip about not having to boil the simple syrup. I always take 4 cups cups of water, bring it to a boil, add 1 cup of sugar and then let it cool. Way too time consuming. I also always wondered when was the right time to take down the feeder We’re in Maryland and I take mine down the end of October. Love your blog.

    Reply to Linda's comment

    • Richard Head on September 26, 2015 at 9:59 am

      If you have any questions about your water, IT IS BEST TO BOIL IT!!!! We have lots of chemicals that the city uses to “purify” the water. BS!!! Our water tastes like sh*t!!!!!!! We use as much bottled, from a good source, as we can find. I boil our water to get rid of as many of the chemicals as heat will destroy before I add the sugar, so it wont carmelize. Chlorine will dissipate, thankfully. I have been thinking about using distilled water.

      I agree with those who place actual flowers near their feeders. Good idea. It is best to have several food sources as the hummingbirds will defend their food sources fr4om other h’birds and even from larger birds. We had a h’bird that would swoop down on finches trying to get a drink from the water ant trap on top of the feeder.

      We still have ruby throated h’birds in our feeders right now. Good to see them.

      Reply to Richard Head's comment

  2. Gayle on September 15, 2011 at 7:10 am

    I also appreciate knowing that the water doesn’t need to be boiled. I always feel bad if I’m a little late making it and they have to wait for it to cool. I put mine up in May and take down the end of October as we have quite warm weather late into the year.

    Reply to Gayle's comment

  3. Andrea on September 15, 2011 at 8:25 am

    I also love knowing I don’t have to boil the water and sugar. That alone will make me take better care of feeding them.

    I have a question and maybe I missed something. You stated red food coloring may be detrimental to the birds, but I noticed yours is red. Do you use an organic coloring?


    Reply to Andrea's comment

    • Susy on September 15, 2011 at 9:38 am

      That’s actually my feeder, it has a red bottom on it – I don’t use any coloring in mine. My nectar is actually just the yellowish color shown in the bottle because of the organic sugar.

      Reply to Susy's comment

    • Lynn Craig on September 12, 2013 at 5:34 pm

      Andrea If you look closely you’ll find that the feeder itself is coloured red on the bottom 1/2 while the top is clear. In the 2nd picture you’ll see it is a blow-up of the 1st and you can see the blurred sugar water line near the top of the feeder. :D

      Reply to Lynn Craig's comment

  4. goatpod2 on September 15, 2011 at 9:26 am

    We don’t feed the hummingbirds here.

    goatpod2´s last post ..Photo Theme for Thursday: Learning

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  5. kristin @ going country on September 15, 2011 at 9:43 am

    I just saw a hummingbird out the window yesterday. We don’t put out dedicated feeders, but they come around anyway for the flowers.
    kristin @ going country´s last post ..Re-Direction

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  6. MAYBELLINE on September 15, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Those crazy buzzing terrorists have a feeder to enjoy year round.
    MAYBELLINE´s last post ..Mystery Tomato

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  7. Val on September 15, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I used to try to put up a feeder (never found one I liked) and always felt badly about my failed attempts at keeping it clean. Then I planted native honeysuckle and lots of other hummingbird attracting plants–especially Agastache–and now it is so much easier to enjoy the birds!

    Reply to Val's comment

    • Lynn Craig on September 12, 2013 at 5:44 pm

      Hi Val I do use feeders because I have cats and I pulled up all my low plants like Lords and Ladies (Lungwart) because it saddened me and made me very angry to find poor little hummingbirds dead on my doorstep. I hang my feeder off the roof overhang on my deck ensuring that the cats cannot get them…..I do not have any other bird houses or bird feeders for the same reason. I love my cats but I almost cry when I see little birds on my doorstep ( but I have no feelings at all when it is mice one of the big reason I keep cats)…by the way I live in the country so yes my cats are outside cats, there is absolutely no way I can ever keep cats indoors (can’t stand messy litter boxes).

      Reply to Lynn Craig's comment

  8. Seneca on September 15, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I have a hummingbird feeder, but my little visitors want nothing to do with it. They’re all over the monarda, however.

    Reply to Seneca's comment

    • Susy on September 15, 2011 at 3:13 pm

      That’s funny. I notice them a lot on the flowers around me, but since I live in a mostly wooded area and not many of my neighbors plants flowering plants, there are not many flowers besides the ones in my garden.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  9. rachel whetzel on September 15, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    It’s also handy to know if there are any hummingbird species that do not migrate from your area. If you have them (as I do) you should leave your feeder up year round! I loved finding that out, and I have to say, on cold winter days, it’s very neat to see birds getting energy and warmth from my feeders.

    Reply to rachel whetzel's comment

    • Susy on September 15, 2011 at 3:21 pm

      Very true. We do not have any that stay all winter in these parts. I wonder how far South you have to be to have them stick around? That’s a good research topic!

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Carol on February 20, 2013 at 5:17 pm

        Live just south of Seattle and have hummers all year round.

        to Carol's comment

  10. Diana Holly on September 15, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    On the topic of birds being sensitive to toxins, people who keep indoor birds as companions cannot cook on teflon-coated pans because they release toxins when heated that can kill the birds. Upon learning this, we banished all the teflon from our home. We don’t keep birds, but if it’s lethal for them, and can’t be good us either.

    Reply to Diana Holly's comment

    • Susy on September 15, 2011 at 5:55 pm

      Yes, we too banished teflon a long time ago. And if it’s releasing toxic fumes into the air, it’s definitely leeching them into your food *YIKES*. We stick to cast iron and enameled cast iron here at Chiot’s Run as I’ve heard even stainless can leech things into your food.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  11. KimH on September 15, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    No hummingbird feeders here… I do have lots of plants that flower, but I dont really remember seeing any around here either.. But there are a multitude of other birds out there that enjoy my little water fountain splashing around watering the plants below it.

    Reply to KimH's comment

  12. SewLindaAnn on September 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    I love my two hummer families that come back every year, but wish I could keep them from being so territorial about the feeders. I could put 3 out and they still fight over one in particular. I’ve seen pictures and read about all kinds of hummers being on several feeders together and wonder how they do it?! I will be keeping mine out until I don’t see them for a couple of weeks as well. I get such a kick out of having my coffee in the morning and having them check me out and buzz by. The wing vibration is amazing every time.

    Reply to SewLindaAnn's comment

    • corinna on June 12, 2013 at 8:13 am

      in order to avoid the fighting, the feeders need to be placed so that they can not be seen at the same time… this can be tricky as hummers will position themselves in such a way that they can observe several locations at the same time – so ideally they should be hidden by a tree, a building, a parked car etc…

      also, the buzzing you are hearing signals the amount of aggravation. so the angrier they get the louder and more aggressive the ‘hum’. it is used as a fighting tool to deter others… (i guess this info gives it a whole new value… ;-))

      Reply to corinna's comment

  13. misstresseve on September 16, 2011 at 1:18 am

    I feed them every year. They let me know it is time to put out the feeder by buzzing around the front porch looking for it. I have very small feeders so as not to waste food by letting it mold or sour in the sun and the brave little things will even come into my garage if I forget to fill the feeders on time. I love to watch their territorial antics and we hear them chirping and chattering and dive-bombing each other all day long. I generally leave the feeders up until I no longer see them in the yard, but I had somehow never considered leaving them up for migrators. Perhaps I will leave them out a bit longer.
    By the way, my mother leaved hers out much longer as she has both Downy Woodpeckers and Orioles that feed from them. My Downy Woodpeckers here won’t touch it, and I have yet to see an Oriole in my yard.

    Reply to misstresseve's comment

    • Susy on September 16, 2011 at 6:20 am

      I’ve never seen a Downy Woodpecker or an Oriole at mine either. I’ve seen an Oriole a few times and considered putting out a feeder, but haven’t yet found one that I like. I do put out suet for the woodpeckers, they flock to that all winter long.

      I too love the young hummingbirds dive-bombing each other and chattering. Sometimes I worry that I’m going to go out the back door and end up with a hummingbird stuck in me since they always seem to do it between our house & garage.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • misstresseve on September 17, 2011 at 12:57 am

        When the orioles began coming to my mom’s hummer feeder she made a feeder for them using a small plastic tray that she hung from some string from the eaves above her bird watching window. She fills the little tray with grape jelly and they LOVE it. The downies still use the sugar water.

        to misstresseve's comment

      • Linda on October 8, 2018 at 5:06 pm

        In regards to Orioles. I live in Northwest Louisiana and – about 3 years ago – I first noticed Orioles at my feeders. They come in late April or early May and stay most of the summer. I researched them and found that they love grape jelly. I have feeders from Amazon that hold all of their favorites – grape jelly or jam, nectar (a little stronger than hummingbird nectar and fresh cut oranges). For the last two years, I have stopped the oranges, kept the grape jam and just let them drink the hummingbird nectar. They must like it as they keep coming back. They are my favorites. Another breed of bird that likes al that are the little red finches. But, even, my local birds – mockingbirds, blue jays, sparrows, woodpeckers – are regular “customers”. Love to sit out in the early morning and watch them from my porch.

        to Linda's comment

  14. Susy on September 16, 2011 at 6:18 am

    We have a few that are territorial as well, I have 3 feeders out and we’ll get a male protecting each one.

    Reply to Susy's comment

    • corinna on June 12, 2013 at 8:08 am

      i’m a little late replying but in case others are reading this, too:
      you need to place the feeders so that they can not be seen at the same time… this can be tricky as hummers will position themselves in such a way that they can observe several locations at the same time – so ideally they should be hidden by a tree, another

      Reply to corinna's comment

  15. Sincerely,Emily on September 16, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    Love hummingbirds. We had several feeders when we lived in Palm Springs. Had year round hummers there as we do here in South Texas. They are so territorial, but at dusk, it was always a sight to see them all sharing a feeder, getting that last drop of nectar before tucking into bed for the night. I finally broke down this week and bought three feeders to put up here in TX. 3 c water/1 c org sugar. Without rain here there are not many things blooming, so I decided those little hummers needed help. I just put the feeders out on Wed morning and I already have a little territorial hummer at each one. Selfish little bugs! It’s alright, I know they are loving the feeders.They are chattering excessively out there now. I just chuckle and watch their antics and aerobatics. Now that I have hummer feeders (I call them hummer theaters) I will keep them out all year round here. Emily
    Sincerely,Emily´s last post ..Making “Italian Seasonings”

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  16. ami on September 17, 2011 at 1:45 am

    We have a hummingbird feeder that the birds never use (I finally quit filling it after 3 months of inactivity). However, they love the bee balm and nasturtiums. Unfortunately my cat also loves to hunt hummingbirds- so far this summer he’s caught 6 (that I know of). I wish I could find a way to keep him from catching them.
    ami´s last post ..Superfine Merino/2 ply

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    • Susy on September 17, 2011 at 6:17 am

      Our cats seem to ignore the hummingbirds, they mainly focus on chipmunks & moles with the occasional bird.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  17. Charmaine on June 4, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I have read that organic sugar is bad for hummingbirds and only white sugar is ok for feeders. Even the website for Florida Crystals Organic Sugar states that their organic sugar is not to be used for hummingbirds. The white sugar is the only one that has had impurities removed and is 99% sucrose. I think you should clarify that white is safer.

    Reply to Charmaine's comment

    • Susy on June 4, 2012 at 10:40 am

      White sugar has toxic chemicals and pesticides though, even if it is “pure white sugar” so I’m not comfortable telling people to use non-organic sugar. If you don’t buy “cane” sugar it also contains GMO beet sugar, which is not healthy either. I’m comfortable using organic high quality cane sugar in my hummingbird feeders along with planting lots of nectar producing plants so they can get their food from the most natural source. I can’t see that the impurities from the non-bleached organic sugar are any worse than the chemicals/GMO’s in conventional white sugar.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  18. Diana on September 4, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    My mother loved to watch the hummingbirds when she was alive. I have taken up the watch!! We fill 3 feeders on a daily basis. We have lots of hummers!! Good to know that I can leave the feeders out a little while longer.

    Reply to Diana's comment

  19. Monta on September 28, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    Hello everyone! I heard that using red food coloring may make the babies go blind.i never use it but,it bothers me when I see feeders with that red nectar. Can you tell me if there’s any truth to what I heard? Thank you

    Reply to Monta's comment

  20. Francis A Williams on October 1, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Hello hummingbird lovers! I live in Pennsylvania at the mouth of the grand cayon and I leave my feeders out till we get our first snow. I know the little hummers are long gone by then. I use pure cane sugar, one cup sugar to four cups water,no color. I have three feeders about three feet from each other and they each hold around three cups. The little hummers even eat small insects. Hummers that gather at my feeders are in the numbers of 40 to 50 at one time there is six feeding stations per feeder and they are all full. I fill the feeders twice a day and the little hummers will even sit on my hand while I am putting up or taking down the feeders, they are so much fun to have around. I donot know why I have so many hummers. My mother that lives about thirty miles south of me had this many or more last summer, but this year only had about ten. Mom has a flower garden out of this world. I only have a few flowers. I do feed the song birds year round and have thousands of them around maybe the hummers like the company, whatever the case I love having them around. Gods little gift.

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  21. joan gossett on September 21, 2013 at 8:45 am

    i feed my humming birds i have 8 feeders out in my frount and back i lov watching i buy the food to feed them and they lov it and i lov watching them

    Reply to joan gossett's comment

  22. Sue on September 21, 2013 at 10:16 am

    I live in the north country and can not leave my hummer feeders out, the nectar will freeze. I love, love , love the hummers. It is now Sept. and still warm but have not seen the little cuties in a fe