Why Do Hummingbirds Stop Coming To Feeders? (Explained)


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Hummingbirds are some of the smallest and most beautiful birds in the world. They are native to the Americas and take on extreme migrations far larger than their minuscule size.

They are some of the most loved yard birds, dazzling birders with their aerobatics and glimmering colors.

Hummingbird feeders have been designed to attract hummingbirds to your yard. There is no doubt that many of you that are reading this article use hummingbird feeders.

Have you put out hummingbird feeders in your yard but noticed that there aren’t as many hummingbirds visiting them at specific times of the year, and sometimes they disappear altogether?

You may be worried about why that is, but there is no need to worry in most cases.

Reasons For Disappearing Hummingbirds

There are many natural reasons for hummingbirds to stop visiting your feeder, which is all part of their behavior.

The reasons range from migrations to food availability and will be discussed in more detail below.

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Migration

Hummingbirds migrate seasonally from wintering grounds to breeding grounds and vice versa.

Most species winter in Central America and Mexico and migrate north to their breeding range in the United States and Canada during spring. Some species remain in North America throughout the year.

Each species has a different migration pattern, and they move to certain areas according to where their favorite flowers are in bloom at different times of the year.

Suppose you have noticed fewer or no hummingbirds visiting your feeder at specific times of the year. In that case, they are probably on migration or visiting a different area that has food for them. They will return next season.

Hummingbirds have a natural instinct to migrate, so putting up extra feeders to keep the hummingbirds in your yard won’t stop them from eventually moving off.

Nesting

During the breeding season, the females visit feeders infrequently because they do all the nesting work.

The female is solely responsible for building the nest, incubating the eggs, feeding the hatchlings, and providing protection.

As you can see, the females have a load of responsibility on their shoulders and can’t afford to drop their guard, so they stay very close to their nests, even when foraging.

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You may see a female visiting your feeder infrequently if your feeder is close to her nest. Otherwise, she will only visit once she is finished raising her chicks.

Once the chicks fledge, more hummingbirds visit your feeder as the female returns with her offspring.

Territorial Disputes

Hummingbirds are extremely territorial birds, particularly during the breeding season.

Male hummingbirds are usually the first to arrive on the breeding grounds in spring. After arriving, the males compete for territories since they all want the best breeding areas.

The males choose territories according to the quality of nectar and the availability of water sources. Territories can be as large as a quarter acre.

Territories vary in size according to the amount of available food, with smaller territories being held in areas with high food concentrations.

During the time of arrival, you may see many male hummingbirds at your feeder, but over time, the number decreases until only one male is left.

The males chase each other to compete for the territory, and eventually, the most dominant hummingbird chases all the others away.

Your yard is now part of that male’s territory, and you probably won’t see any other males visiting until the end of the season because they will be chased away.

The territories are also small breeding grounds, so if the male isn’t overly bossy, you may see females that he has mated with visiting your feeder.

To attract another male to your yard, you could place more feeders in strategic positions, out of sight of each other, and hope other males arrive without being seen by the male whose territory it is. It helps to have a large yard for this to work.

At the end of the season, the territorial male may tire of defending his territory, and females and juveniles from nearby nests may visit your feeder, so you’ll see more hummingbirds visiting.

Dirty Feeders

Hummingbirds are used to feeding on the most natural nectar, so keeping your feeder clean and providing high-quality nectar is exceptionally crucial.

Hummingbird nectar can spoil quickly because of the high sugar concentration in the solution.

To prevent the hummingbird nectar from spoiling in the feeder, it should be replaced, and the feeder should be cleaned fairly frequently.

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In warm climates, hummingbird nectar should be changed, and the feeder cleaned every second day. In cooler conditions, you can get away with only changing the nectar twice per week.

If the nectar spoils, mold and bacteria can start breeding. The nectar is spoilt if it becomes cloudy and dark particles are floating around or stuck to the side of the feeder.

Spoilt nectar is harmful to hummingbirds, and they know it.

If you leave spoilt nectar in your feeder, they may visit once or twice to see if it has been replaced with clean nectar. The hummingbirds may never return to your yard if it has yet to.

It is always a good idea to be on the safe side and change the nectar if you think it will spoil. Keeping the nectar fresh will always give hummingbirds a sweet reason to visit your yard.

Flower Nectar

Hummingbirds were feeding on flowers long before the advent of hummingbird feeders. They would choose the flowers over the feeders, right?

Indeed, that is the truth. According to a study, hummingbirds in an area with equally available flowers and nectar choose to feed on the flowers more than the feeder.

That makes sense because the nectar you put in your feeder is different from natural nectar, and it sometimes contains unnecessary colorants or preservatives that hummingbirds don’t need and may be harmful.

In spring, there are low numbers of blooming flowers, so the hummingbirds are attracted to your feeder – leading to more visitors in your yard.

More flowers bloom by the end of spring and summer, so the hummingbirds have more natural sources to choose from.

They may prefer to get nectar from their favorite flowers instead of your feeder, and therefore, you will see fewer hummingbirds visiting.

At the end of the season, the hummingbirds will visit your feeder more frequently again as the number of blooming flowers decreases.

You can plant different types of plants that flower at various times to provide the hummingbirds with a natural source throughout their time in your area.

That will keep them in your yard, and they will probably still stop by your feeder for a quick drink.

Protein

Hummingbirds are widely known to feed on nectar, but did you know that they also feed on tiny insects? They certainly do, making up a vital part of the hummingbird’s diet.

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Hummingbirds feed on many tiny invertebrates, including spiders and a wide range of insects: aphids, leafhoppers, beetles, mosquitoes, flies, and gnats.

Hummingbirds require protein and carbohydrates to survive. The carbohydrates are derived from nectar found in flowers and feeders. Protein is a lesser-known component that is derived from insects and spiders.

You may not see hummingbirds catching insects as much as you see them drinking nectar, but when they’re not visiting your feeder, that is what they could be doing.

When female hummingbirds care for hatchlings, they mostly catch insects to return to the nest since the chicks require protein to grow. Most of a hatchling’s diet is made up of protein.

Therefore, you may see fewer female hummingbirds at your feeder because they focus on catching insects to feed their babies and help them grow until they fledge.


Conclusion

Hummingbirds have many reasons for not visiting your feeders. Most of them are part of their natural behavior, so there is typically no need to worry about why you aren’t seeing hummingbirds at your feeder.

That is if your feeder is clean, of course. Leaving spoilt nectar in your feeder will deter the hummingbirds and is a significant reason why hummingbirds stop visiting and disappear.

If you leave your feeder out with fresh nectar, then they will almost certainly return.

While the main reasons for the hummingbirds not visiting feeders were discussed above, it is essential to remember that hummingbird populations fluctuate yearly.

The fluctuations could be caused by nesting site availability, food availability, and mortality.

Therefore, you may see more hummingbirds at your feeder in some years than others.

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Want more birds in your backyard? Get simple tips on attracting feathered friends and maximizing your bird feeding setup. Our free cheat sheet has got you covered!
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Tristan Silver

Tristan is a South African biologist, photographer, and birder. From a young age, he developed a passion for the outdoors, being taught basic biology and shown animals in their natural habitat. He picked up photography at age 11, and it led him into the world of birding and exploring. He has traveled throughout South Africa, documenting over 630 bird species. He is also interested in amphibians, reptiles, insects, and some plants. He uses photography to document his experiences and has had his photographs appear in African Birdlife magazine. Tristan holds an Advanced Scuba Diving qualification and has dived on many coral reefs. He completed his honours degree in Biological Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He is also a writer, expressing and sharing his emotions from his experiences through his writing, combined with photographs.

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