When & How To Put Out Hummingbird Feeders

When & How To Put Out Hummingbird Feeders

when to put out hummingbird feeders

Male ruby-throated hummingbirds arrive first in the spring.

An age-old dilemma. When to put out hummingbird feeders? Well, in North Carolina, where we live. ruby-throated hummingbirds are often spotted along the North Carolina coast in early March. And they are hungry!

But first, what is a hummingbird? And where have they been all winter?  How far have hummingbirds flown to get to the United States? Ah, this is an underappreciated superpower that all hummingbirds possess. Hmm. Let’s learn more.


How Far Does A Hummingbird Fly?

Check out his interactive map which changes daily as the hummingbirds move north. Come back each day to see how far they have progressed.


When ruby-throated hummingbirds head north for the summer breeding season, many fly 900 miles straight over the Gulf of Mexico. Think about this astonishing feat.

A bird that weighs under an ounce (less than the weight of a nickel) flys 900 miles over open water without stopping or eating for 18-22 hours. And they can fly at speeds over 30 miles per hour. Truly a superpower of the amazing hummer. No wonder they are hungry when they arrive in the United States.

when to put out hummingbird feeders

A ruby-throated Hummingbird can fly 900 miles over open water without stopping. Photo: Bob Gilley/Flicker

How To Help Our Hummingbirds? 

The best way you can help is to plant lots of flowering native plants. To learn more about creating habitat by planting native plants in your garden, read our blog Creating Habitat. The second way is to provide birdfeeders filled with homemade nectar.

We just put our first hummingbird feeder out (March 1, 2024) as there have already been reports of hummers in our town of Tryon, NC. The birds have obviously begun their spring migration early and we want to be ready when they begin arriving. The males always come first, followed by the females a couple of weeks later.

But what is the best feeder to use and what kind of food? We have tried a lot of options and there are many, many strong opinions.

Food & Feeder

First, we always use 4 parts water to 1 part regular cane (not organic) sugar. And please don’t use honey, powdered sugar or brown sugar.  No dyes, mineral enhancements, food coloring, etc.

Why not use any of these? Cane sugar is the closest to the nectar they get from flowers. Honey and other additives are difficult for hummingbirds to digest and can get on their feathers, making it hard for them to fly. And since we are on well water, we boil our sugar water for 2 minutes to get any contaminants out.

As to the feeder, our research says to use a feeder with red flowers, not yellow. Now we know some of the most popular feeders have yellow flowers but here’s the problem.

While hummingbirds like both the red & yellow flowers, bees love the yellow. And hummingbirds and bees do not get along. So we try & minimize the hummingbird/bee conflict by using red-flowered feeders.

when to put out hummingbird feeders

Use feeders with red flowers to minimize hummingbird/bee conflicts. Photo: Bob Gilley/Flicker

When To Put Out Multiple Hummingbird Feeders?


when to put out hummingbird feeders

We are always thrilled to see our first hummingbird. Photo: Bob Gilley/Flicker

We generally put out one feeder until the first hummingbird arrives. Since the nectar needs to be changed every couple of days (and we clean our feeders every time we replenish the nectar), it is easier to start with one.

Once we see a hummer, we put out 5-6 feeders spread out under the eaves around the back & front of our house. We try & keep the feeders in the shade as the hot sun will cause the food to spoil, contaminating it with toxins that can kill the hummingbirds. That’s not happening on our watch!

And since hummingbirds are very territorial,  multiple feeders reduce the amount of fighting (and wasted energy). Plus, we get to watch them from different spots in the house.

So when is the best time to put out hummingbird feeders? Right now for North Carolina. Maybe a couple of weeks later for the Northeast. And then keep feeding them until they leave next fall. You will be entertained all summer long by these tiny birds with extraordinary superpowers.

And to learn more about these cool birds and other animals that are pollinaters, read our blog Amazing Pollinators in the Garden.

when to put out hummingbird feeders

Hummingbirds love sipping nectar from brightly colored flowers. Photo: Stan Lupo/Flicker

To Learn More

Hummingbird Color Preferences by Wild Bird Store. An interesting article on what colors hummingbirds prefer.

When to Hang Feeders including a reference by state.



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