If you like birds and you live in the eastern half of the United States, chances are you look forward to the yearly arrival of the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. These little gems begin their spring migration long before we see them hanging around our gardens, so putting out a feeder or two will help them refuel from their long trip and convince them to spend the summer in your yard.
It’s a good idea to put out hummingbird feeders like this one from Audubon a week or so before you expect the first arrivals. You will often see lone males in the beginning, who depart the Yucatan first and subsequently arrive a few days to a few weeks before the females.
While exact dates vary slightly from year to year, corresponding to the end of the blooming season for favorite plants, below is a guide to help you determine when to hang your feeders in the spring and when to put them away for the winter.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird arrival and departure dates:
- Gulf Coast and central Texas eastward across the Deep South: early to mid-March through the end of October
- Northern Texas eastward across Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina: mid-March to early April through early October
- MidAtlantic states from Kansas eastward across Illinois, Ohio and Virginia: early to mid-April through late September
- Iowa eastward across the southern parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York: mid-April to early May through mid to late September
- Dakotas across to upper New England: early to mid-May through the end of August into September
- Southern parts of Canada: mid to late May into early June through August to early September
At the end of the season, it’s important to keep your feeders up for a few weeks after you’ve seen the last hummingbirds in your yard. This will not delay their migration, and in fact, your feeders will be a welcome sight to the birds who have spent the summer farther north and are passing through on their way to Central America. In some parts of the United States, particularly the south, you can leave a feeder up year-round in the hopes of seeing one of the occasional western species that sometimes shows up during the non-breeding season.
For more detailed information on the migration patterns of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, consider getting an excellent bird guide like this one from Robert Sargent.