An age-old dilemma. When to put out hummingbird feeders? Well, in North Carolina, 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. Truly a superpower of the amazing hummer. No wonder they are hungry when they arrive in the United States.
How To Help Our Hummingbirds?
The best way you can help is to plant lots of flowering native plants. The second way is to provide birdfeeders filled with homemade nectar.
We just put our first hummingbird feeder out (April 17, 2023). The birds have begun their spring migration 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 hard for the hummingbird to digest and can get on their feathers making it hard 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 Multiple Hummingbird Feeders?
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 become contaminated with toxins which can kill the hummingbirds. Not 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 multiple 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.