News & Notes


How late in the year should we keep our feeders up to attract hummingbirds?

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
Posted on:

Beginning as early as August, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds start migrating south, timing their movements with peak flowering times of jewelweed. So how late should we keep our feeders up to attract hummingbirds?

Looking at a line graph of hummingbirds’ frequency in Maine, we can see that the majority of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (RTHU) have vacated the state by the second week of October. There is one very interesting record of a RTHU in November; a bird that was apparently blown north after the passage of a hurricane.

graph 1

 

That would be be too easy of an answer, though; instead I recommend leaving your hummingbird feeders up until they are frozen (maybe the day before they would be frozen to avoid damage, but you get the point). This is because in the late fall we occasionally see western hummingbirds that fly east, rather than south. These vagrant hummingbirds will find themselves in an area with few-to-no natural foods and will target the few feeders are still available.

Rufous Hummingbird - Biddeford, ME - 26 Oct 2012

Rufous Hummingbird – Biddeford, ME – 26 Oct 2012

Rufous Hummingbirds have actually had a fairly remarkable change in their wintering range, to the point where they have become regular winter residents in the east. A technical explanation of this is available by clicking HERE>> 

 Calliope Hummingbird - first record for New Hampshire - 29 Oct 2014

Calliope Hummingbird – first record for New Hampshire – 29 Oct 2014

Rufous, Allens, and Calliope Hummingbirds are in different genera than our typical Ruby-throated Hummingbird so you will probably recognize them as looking different (smaller with more red tones). So keep your feeders up this fall and make sure to let us know if you are seeing any hummers after mid-October!

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug: