When to put out hummingbird feeders – get the timing right with these expert tips

Attract these adorable birds to your plot with this advice

hummingbird feeder
(Image credit: Chelsea Sampson / Alamy Stock Photo)

Q: I have recently bought a new hummingbird feeder to attract these pretty birds to my backyard – when is the best time to hang it up?

A: After overwintering in the warmer climes of Central America or Mexico, hummingbirds travel north. They face many challenges during this migration, including powerful cold fronts, headwinds, rainstorms and a lack of shelter, explains Tammy Poppie of OnTheFeeder.com. It's no surprise that once they arrive, they're on the lookout for food to replenish their energy levels. 

As Tammy notes, many spring flowers that attract hummingbirds are yet to bloom, so providing homemade hummingbird food or shop-bought nectar in early spring gives them much-needed sustenance.

hummingbird feeders

Welcome these tiny birds to your plot

(Image credit: FluidMediaFactory / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)

Using migration maps for your specific area

'The right time to put out your hummingbird feeder varies depending on where you live,' says Kelsey Waddell of Wildbirdscoop.com. 'If you live in the southern part of the United States, you can put your feeder out as early as February or March. In the northern states, you may need to wait until April or May. The timing can also vary depending on the elevation and local weather patterns.'

If you’re not sure when to expect these birds to return to your area, you can check a migration map, such as the one at Journey North, Kelsey says. These maps allow you to see when hummingbirds were first sighted in your area last spring, she explains. 'This will give you a good idea of when to expect them to return this year.' People can track hummingbird sightings for the current year, too.

Hummingbird Central is another example, suggested by Tammy.

Shop hummingbird feeders:

Kelsey Waddell
Kelsey Waddell

Kelsey is a freelance writer and amateur backyard-bird enthusiast living in southern Virginia. From the moment she moved from the suburbs to her current rural home, she was struck by the sights and sounds of the abundant wildlife. She's been watching, learning, and trying to attract more feathered friends ever since. 

hummingbird feeder amongst pink flowers

Hummingbirds are naturally attracted to the color red, which is why many feeders are this color

(Image credit: Daniel Dempster Photography / Alamy Stock Photo)

Put hummingbird feeders out early

'It’s a good idea to set out your hummingbird feeder sooner than you expect the hummingbirds to return; around two weeks early is a good rule of thumb,' says Kelsey. 'This will give them time to discover your feeder and start visiting regularly. 

'If you wait until you see the first hummingbird in your yard, they may have already passed through without noticing your feeder,' she warns.

To increase the chance of attracting these feathered friends, hang the feeders in the best place possible and refresh the nectar frequently. Keep them clean, too, as a buildup of sugar can attract bees to your feeder.

Holly Crossley
Contributing Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then; over the years, she's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator. Having worked for Gardeningetc.com for two years, Holly now regularly writes about plants and outdoor living for Homes & Gardens.