Two Schools of Thought: Why or Why Not Leave a Hummingbird Feeder Out?

Written by Julia Elliott, owner Bird Watcher Supply Store and hummingbird bander

As we enter into fall and temperatures drop, we always get the question, “When should I take my hummingbird feeders down?” Our response is an empathic – don’t!

Although rare, we do have wintering hummingbirds in Georgia. Rufous is the most common species, followed by Calliope and Black-chinned, but a total of 13 species of hummingbirds have been documented here during the winter months.

Maintaining a winter feeder is no more difficult than during the summer. Feeding birds in general takes effort and commitment. We have a responsibility to keep feeders clean and fresh food available. The nice thing about winter hummer feeding is that the nectar doesn’t have to be changed quite as often with cooler temperatures. And nectar won’t freeze until it gets below 28 degrees or so, which doesn’t happen until well into January most years. True, some winter hummingbird hosts set up elaborate systems to keep nectar thawed during cold snaps. Or you can bring the feeder in at night and put it back out the next morning.

The truth is these birds probably don’t need our nectar feeders. They have been wintering here in greater numbers than we probably know for longer than we think, finding natural nectar sources and insects to eat. But feeders make them more visible, and easier for researchers to document. And while it may be rare – perhaps 100 wintering hummingbirds are reported in Georgia each year – your chances are much better of attracting one with a feeder out. My business partner and fellow hummingbird bander, Karen, has hosted several Rufous over the years and last winter had an Allen’s Hummingbird. What is so special about her yard? She leaves feeders up year round.

So before you take those feeders down, consider leaving at least one out. You could host the next new species for Georgia! We are overdue for a Costa here. If you do choose to leave a feeder up, please contact Bird Watcher Supply if you happen to have a winter visitor. I will be glad to come band it for you!

From Pat Pepper, avid birder and SGG volunteer

The Rufous does winter here in small numbers, but it is a real commitment to keep a feeder up especially when the temps are freezing. I have a friend who has rigged flood lights around her feeder, but, as I said, that’s a real commitment. 

The Rufous does not breed here, so they get along pretty well without nectar feeders. They also eat insects.

To see any hummingbird in the winter in GA, except perhaps near the coast and near the FL line is rare. Most birders I know take their feeders down in October, but if you really want to invest the time