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Why Do Hummingbirds Stop Coming to My Feeders!?

Why Do Hummingbirds Stop Coming to My Feeders!?
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Hummingbirds are some of the cutest birds that you might have seen. They are incredibly small and are found throughout the Americas (native to the region).

If you have a bird feeder installed outside your house, you might notice these hummingbirds hovering around it from time to time. It’s a beautiful sight to say the least, and one that will really improve your mood.

If you have been trying to make the place more inviting for natural wildlife such as birds, having a feeder outside is a wise move. If you haven’t seen a hummingbird before, you might be surprised at just how small these winged creatures really are.

They are called “hummingbirds” because their wings make a humming sound as they flutter. These birds flap their wings at incredibly high frequencies that are just barely audible to the human ear.

Their wings can flap at rates as high as 12 flaps in one second for the bigger ones, and the smaller hummingbirds are able to flap their wings as high as 80 times in a single second! Needless to say, these birds are a wonder of nature and having a few in your garden hovering around the feeder is a sheer privilege.

As long as the birds are able to find the feeder in your area, they will go to it without fail. As you can imagine, these tiny little birds tend to forage for food throughout the day.

In doing so, they also expend a great deal of energy, and they need lots of food to maintain their energy levels! Understanding their behavior is important if you want to make sure that these hummingbirds continue to come back again and again to your feeders.

Hummingbird Migratory Behavior

Hummingbird Mid Flight

As the snow begins to melt and the first signs of spring appear on the horizon, hummingbirds usually start to return to Northern parts of America. There are a few species such as Anna’s Hummingbirds that can be found in the Southern parts, or near the West Coast, all year round.

It won’t be long before you have lots of hummingbirds buzzing around your house. Spring is the nesting season for hummingbirds, and they often choose a safe and secure spot where they lay their eggs.

However, you must understand that male hummingbirds are generally quite territorial. They are often willing to get into fierce fights with other hummingbirds that tend to encroach on their territory.

As the first week of July rolls by, the hummingbird chicks will begin to fledge. When that happens, you will notice an uptick in their population all over again.

Then, as the summer comes to a close and paves the way for the fall season, the birds start to migrate again, and you will notice your feeders remaining empty for long periods of time again.

During the first wave, a majority of the male hummingbirds will depart, and it won’t take long before the female hummingbirds and the chicks fly off too. Some people think that keeping their feeders full during the fall season may delay the migratory patterns of the hummingbird.

That’s not true at all. A few may just stop to eat, but they will be on their way before you know it. There are several factors that cause hummingbirds to migrate, with the biggest one being the length of the days.

As the days continue to get shorter, hummingbirds become more and more restless. Eventually, they decide to migrate toward the Southern regions. They don’t even worry about the feeders during this time.

Hummingbirds like sucking on the nectar of different flowers, and there have been a few studies that have shown that putting up feeders for hummingbirds can increase their chances of survival in the early spring months when the flowers haven’t fully bloomed.

Now that you know the basics of their migratory behavior around the year, it’s important to understand the main reasons why hummingbirds might have stopped coming to your feeder.

Territorial Issues

Hummingbirds Fighting

As mentioned above, male hummingbirds are generally quite territorial, and they will chase other hummingbirds away if they have found a decent nesting spot close by. These hummingbirds usually stake a claim in an area that’s roughly one quarter of an acre.

Male hummingbirds usually select areas based on the availability of water and food. As spring starts rolling out, these birds migrate back to the regions.

The first ones to arrive back are the ones that get to pick the best spots. As the number of migratory birds continues to increase, the competition also starts to heat up.

Eventually, one male hummingbird will come out on top, and will chase the others away. Your yard or garden will then become the bird’s mating ground and the bird will start looking for females that venture into the territory.

However, you should know that the male hummingbird isn’t really a good companion. Once they mate with the female, they won’t really focus on anything else.

The male hummingbird doesn’t assist with nesting responsibilities nor does it help with the chicks. In many cases, the male will also mate with other females in the same area and will continue to defend its territory.

Now, what can you do about this? If you have a spacious yard, the best thing to do is install two feeders at opposite ends. If you can ensure that the feeders are not in sight of one another, even better.

As the months progress and summer rolls by, you can group a few feeders together, thus increasing the competition. The dominant male might get tired of defending its territory and is likely to give up.

Nesting Reduces Their Movements

A Hummingbird in a Nest

As you already know, it is the female hummingbird that makes its nests. Once a female has mated with a male hummingbird, you will notice their presence decreasing more and more around your feeders.

The female is responsible for incubating the eggs and then protecting the chicks when they hatch. It is also the female that must offer early protection to its hatchlings until they are able to wean off and fly.

Since the male doesn’t bother about the nest, the female usually has to stick close to the nest. If the nest is located in trees around your yard, you might notice the female coming down from the branch to the feeder for a short while from time to time.

However, if the nest is situated at a slight distance from the feeder, the hummingbird might choose not to visit your feeder at all. It will just forage around the region near its nest.

In most cases, the female hummingbird will incubate the eggs for around 18 days before they hatch. Once they do, it will take anywhere between 15 and 28 days before the hummingbirds are able to leave the nest on their own.

So, for up to six weeks, you might notice a reduction in the number of hummingbirds flying around the feeders. You also have to understand that other hummingbirds will not approach the feeder as it is still being protected by the male.

Dietary Alterations

Hummingbird Near a Feeding Bowl

This might come as a surprise to most people, but hummingbirds also like to eat bugs. Unfortunately, most people don’t talk about it as much, and as a result, a vast majority of people only assume that hummingbirds survive only on nectar.

There’s also the fact that very few people actually see this happen in real life. If you have seen hummingbirds in your life, think about what they were doing. Most people only see hummingbirds flitting from one flower to another or hovering around their feeder.

Due to their minuscule size, they are quite difficult to spot once they fly a little farther away. It’s virtually impossible to see them flying at breakneck speeds through the woods or foraging for insects.

Like a vast majority of living things, hummingbirds need a diet that contains lots of protein and sugar. The latter is readily available for them in the form of tree sap, nectar from the flowers, and of course the feeders.

They are able to derive the protein that they need from insects that have soft bodies. These include mosquitoes, aphids, spiders, gnats, and they also don’t mind feasting on fruit flies from time to time.

According to a study of Mexican hummingbirds, it was found that their diet primarily differs based on the time of the season and their habitat. Some species could survive only on nectar or insects depending on the month.

Once the eggs hatch, the mother hummingbird spends most of her day foraging for food, picking up insects to feed the baby chicks. During their early days, the baby chicks usually require a considerable amount of protein.

It’s also one of the reasons why the female hummingbird might avoid visiting your feeder as often.

Opting for Local Flowers

A Hummingbird Near Flowers

Most hummingbirds usually arrive back in the region before the flowers have bloomed. Due to the lack of blooming flowers, they don’t have any choice but to visit your feeder for their meals.

However, by the end of spring, the flowers start to bloom throughout the country, and there is a strong chance that these birds will go for their favorite flowers instead of visiting your feeder.

Some researchers conducted a study to determine the frequency of hummingbirds that visited a feeder when the flowers were in full bloom. The study revealed that the hummingbirds gave more preference to natural flowers in the region instead of going to the feeders.

What can you do about this? Well, not a lot. One excellent way to make sure that the hummingbirds continue to visit your yard is to plant more native flowers all around the yard.

To ensure that the hummingbirds keep coming back again and again, you should plant different varieties that tend to bloom in different months. This is going to improve the number of hummingbirds that will keep coming back to your property consistently during the spring months and the summers.

Cleaning the Feeder

Cleaned Hummingbird Feeder

When was the last time you decided to clean the bird feeder? This is generally applicable to people who are new to feeding hummingbirds and don’t know the proper methods.

Feeding hummingbirds is different because the feeder must be filled with tree sap or flower nectar. It is very important that you change the nectar in the feeder on a regular basis. Making sure that the nectar remains fresh is vital.

It is a common reason because of which hummingbirds might stop visiting your feeder. Hummingbirds are used to sucking the nectar fresh out of the flowers, and they are not used to stale liquids.

The nectar needs to be replaced every one to six days. It primarily depends on the temperature outdoors. During the summer months when the temperature is high, you will have to change the nectar on a more frequent basis.

Another common mistake that people make is that they simply top off the nectar instead of replacing and cleaning the feeder altogether. That’s a terrible idea because you are simply ruining the fresh nectar as well.

When replacing the nectar in your feeders, you should take off the tank and clean it properly before filling it back up again. Once you replace the nectar in the feeder, give it a day or two for the hummingbirds to return again.

Paint it Red

Red Hummingbird Feeder

While the hummingbirds generally like to drink the nectar of flowers, they also particularly like different shades of red. They are generally attracted to different hues of red.

If you have a dark-colored feeder, you should consider painting it red. Or, you can also paint some red flowers on it to give it a more dainty and stylish esthetic.

There are several ways by which you can decorate the feeder. For instance, you can tie a ring at the bottom to make it more attractive for the hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are generally attracted to different shades of red so you can also tie a few ribbons in the trees or plants in your yard.

But you have to make sure that you do not add any food coloring in the nectar that you feed to the hummingbirds. Their metabolism works differently than humans, so food coloring (red or any color) can be harmful to them.

Replace the Feeder

If you have had a feeder in the same spot for a long while, it might be a wise idea to change things around. Simply moving the feeder from one place to another isn’t going to cut it.

You might want to consider replacing the feeder altogether as well. Once a hummingbird realizes that your feeder isn’t worth its time due to any reason, they will associate the shape in their heads and will avoid it, regardless of the freshness of the nectar.

There’s a strong possibility that the hummingbirds are simply avoiding your feeder because they are not familiar with it. Hummingbirds have to work out how to suck the nectar of the feeder, so if they feel that they don’t know how yours works, they will simply steer clear.

However, this one is fairly easy to fix. You can easily do a test by using different feeders to determine which one attracts the most hummingbirds into your yard.

There are different styles of feeders, so switch around a few to determine the best choice.

If you are relatively new to the hobby, there is no point in going overboard with the purchase. It’s best if you start with a feeder that is easy to clean and one that you can readily find in the market.

Many people spend large amounts of money on the feeders in the beginning, only to find that they aren’t attracting the hummingbirds. Ultimately, they are dejected and begin to ignore the feeders altogether.

The Right Nectar

Nectar in Hummingbird Feeder

Finally, you have to think about the recipe. Hummingbirds generally prefer all-natural flower nectar instead of homemade solutions. If you can’t find that, simply mixing water with a bit of sugar and filling up the feeder is a wise idea.

It emulates the sweet taste of the nectar. To make the nectar, you just have to mix four parts of water with one part sugar. Then, stir thoroughly to dissolve the sugar completely in the water.

Once the mixture has cooled down a bit, you should place it in an airtight container and then put it in the fridge. Make sure you close the lid tightly otherwise the smells might be contaminated.

The mixture will remain fresh for half a month. Avoid using any natural sweeteners or honey, since it could be harmful to the hummingbirds. As mentioned, during the warmer days, you have to replace the nectar more frequently.

Also, when cleaning the feeder, don’t use chemicals, especially bleach or detergents. Just use hot water.

These are just a few things that you should know about attracting hummingbirds to your feeders!

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Tony Graham

Wednesday 14th of September 2022

I read that a 3 to 1 ratio mimics the sweetness of nectar. I tried the 4 to 1 ratio last year and did not get as many bird visits. Since changing to a 3 to 1 ratio this year I have attracted 6 resident hummingbirds all summer.

This is a very helpful article. It is simple and gets right to the point. Thanks for posting.

ann winfrey

Friday 4th of June 2021

Hello. Great article! I did find some new facts that I hadn't known before reading this, so, thank you for that. I do have a question..I have six different feeders for three spots in my yard. I do this so I can quickly replace the feeders when I take them down to clean. This also helps make it easier for someone else to replace nectar when I am out of town or unable to do it myself. My question is will that matter when the hummingbirds look for food? I'm wondering whether this confuses them. I started doing this last year mid-summer and it didn't seem to matter, but this year I've only rarely seen hummingbirds at the feeders.