Is July too late to put out a hummingbird feeder?

Many people wonder if it’s too late in the summer season to put out a hummingbird feeder and attract hummingbirds to their yard. Hummingbirds are found across much of North America during the warmer months, and they rely on nectar from flowers and feeders for their food. While early spring and summer are the peak times for hummingbird activity, these tiny birds can still be drawn to feeders even as late as July if the feeders are set up and maintained properly.

When do hummingbirds arrive in spring?

Hummingbirds often start migrating north as early as January and February from their winter homes in Mexico and Central America. The exact timing of spring arrival varies by species and location, but here are some general timeframes:

  • Mid-February to early March: Anna’s and rufous hummingbirds arrive along the Pacific Coast and Southwest deserts
  • Early to mid-April: Ruby-throated hummingbirds return to the Eastern U.S. and Canada
  • Mid-April to early May: Black-chinned and other species reach the Western states and provinces
  • Mid-May: Most broad-tailed hummingbirds arrive in mountain areas

Weather patterns each spring influence exactly when the birds will show up in any given area. Some eager hummingbird enthusiasts start putting out their feeders as early as February in hopes of spotting the first arrivals.

When is the peak hummingbird season?

The peak activity period when hummingbirds are most abundant and active typically spans from May through early July across most regions. During this prime season, the birds are busy feeding on natural nectar sources and establishing breeding territories.

Some of the key aspects of peak hummingbird season are:

  • Female hummingbirds build nests and lay eggs
  • Eggs hatch and adult birds feed the young
  • Local wildflowers and gardens provide plentiful nectar
  • Territorial behavior between males defending areas
  • Highest diversity of hummingbird species present

This is when hummingbird feeders are most popular and get the greatest use from these energetic birds. Having fresh sugar water available supplements their natural food sources.

Do hummingbirds stay all summer?

Many hummingbird species continue breeding and nesting through mid to late summer. How long they remain in an area depends on the specific type of hummingbird, availability of food, and weather conditions.

Here are the general summer timeframes for hummingbirds in different regions:

  • Pacific Northwest: Rufous hummingbirds typical depart by late July. Anna’s hummingbirds will stay through summer.
  • Southwest: Black-chinned, Costa’s, and rufous hummingbirds leave by early July. Broad-tailed and Anna’s persist into August.
  • Midwest: Ruby-throated hummingbirds linger through August as they breed into summer.
  • Southeast: Ruby-throats remain common through mid-August before migrating south.
  • Northeast: Most ruby-throats are gone by early September.

With some species sticking around into late summer, maintaining hummingbird feeders continues to provide an important food supplement.

Do hummingbirds migrate through in fall?

From July through September, many areas see southbound migrants passing through even as some local hummingbirds remain. This includes “vagrant” species rarely seen outside their normal range.

Notable hummingbird fall migrations:

  • Rufous hummingbirds moving south through western states
  • Ruby-throated hummingbirds passing through southern Canada and the U.S.
  • Anna’s and Allen’s hummingbirds migrating along the Pacific Coast
  • Rare migrants like calliope and broad-tailed hummingbirds

Keeping feeders up through September will fuel these migrating hummingbirds on their long journeys.

Do hummingbirds stay through winter?

By October, most hummingbirds have left for their wintering grounds in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Only a few species remain year-round in certain warm climates:

  • Anna’s hummingbirds along the Pacific Coast and Southwest
  • Rufous hummingbirds in coastal California and the Southeast
  • Tropical and buff-bellied hummingbirds in Florida and Gulf Coast
  • Calliope, broad-tailed, and black-chinned hummingbirds in Southwest deserts

Supplementing natural food sources with feeders during winter helps these non-migratory populations survive cold weather until spring flowers bloom.

How long does it take hummingbirds to reach winter homes?

Most hummingbirds migrate incredible distances each fall to reach their tropical wintering grounds. Here are estimated travel times for some common species:

  • Ruby-throated – 18-22 hours of nonstop flight over the Gulf of Mexico to Mexico and Central America
  • Rufous – 40+ hours flying down the Pacific Coast to Mexico
  • Allen’s and black-chinned – 30+ hours crossing the Gulf of California to Mexico
  • Broad-tailed – 24+ hours over western mountains to Mexico

These marathon trips are fueled by fat stores built up through summer feeding. Many hummingbirds weigh twice as much in fall to make the journey possible.

What are the best flowers for hummingbirds?

Hummingbirds rely on nutrient-rich tubular flowers as their main natural food source. Some top native plants that attract hummingbirds include:

  • Trumpet creeper
  • Cardinal flower
  • Bee balm
  • Columbine
  • Penstemon
  • Coral honeysuckle
  • Firepink
  • Lobelia
  • Indian paintbrush
  • Salvia

Non-native flowers like fuchsia, petunias, nasturtium, and flowering tobacco also provide excellent hummingbird nectar. Gardens with a mix of tubular flowers in red, orange, and pink hues will attract the most hummingbirds throughout summer.

What is the best recipe for hummingbird food?

Artificial nectar in hummingbird feeders should closely match the sugar content of natural flower nectar. The basic ratio is:

  • 1 part white granulated sugar
  • 4 parts water

Boil the water first to dissolve the sugar thoroughly. Let cool before filling feeders. Do not add food coloring, honey, or other ingredients. Change the nectar every 2-3 days in hot weather to prevent spoilage.

How do you attract hummingbirds?

Follow these tips to make your yard or garden as attractive as possible to hummingbirds:

  • Plant a variety of tubular flowers in red, orange, yellow
  • Set up feeders with proper sugar-water mix
  • Place feeders in open areas away from bushes
  • Use bright-colored feeders with perches
  • Keep feeders clean and nectar fresh
  • Run a garden hose sprayer to create a water source
  • Supply insects for protein by allowing aphids on some plants
  • Provide shrubs and trees for perching and nest sites
  • Avoid using pesticides

Providing food, water, shelter and nesting sites will create an appealing habitat for hummingbirds throughout the summer.

What problems do hummingbirds face?

Major threats and issues facing hummingbird populations include:

  • Habitat loss from development
  • Climate change misaligning flower blooms and migrations
  • Pesticides reducing insect populations
  • Outdoor cats preying on birds
  • Collisions with windows and towers
  • Disease and parasites

Home gardeners can help counteract these problems by providing healthy food and shelter in their yards. Reducing pesticide use and keeping cats indoors protects hummingbirds visiting feeders.

Fun facts about hummingbirds

  • Their rapid wing beats can reach over 50 beats per second
  • They have the highest metabolism of any animal to power their flight
  • Hummingbirds are only found in the Americas
  • They build nests smaller than a golf ball
  • Males do not help incubate eggs or feed chicks
  • Hummingbirds can remember favorite feeding locations
  • They prefer red or orange nectar flowers over other colors
  • Hummingbirds are aggressive and territorial
  • Their tongues extend to lick up nectar
  • They can fly forwards, backwards, up, down, and hover in place

Key takeaways

  • Hummingbirds start migrating north as early as February
  • Peak hummingbird season runs from May through early July
  • Some species remain through late summer into September
  • Fall southbound migrants need fuel from August to October
  • A few hummingbird species live year-round in warm climates
  • Feeders provide an important food source, even in mid to late summer
  • Red tubular flowers attract the most hummingbird activity
  • Use a 4:1 ratio of sugar-to-water for nectar mixes
  • Providing food, water and shelter encourages hummingbirds
  • Habitat loss, climate change, pesticides and predators threaten hummingbirds


July is not too late to start enjoying hummingbirds by putting up feeders. While hummingbird populations peak in spring and early summer, numbers remain strong into late summer. Ongoing migrations, breeding, and year-round residents mean feeders will still attract these energetic birds in July across most of North America. By providing fresh supplemental nectar, water sources, flowers, perches, and shelter, homeowners can successfully draw hummingbirds to their yards even in the heat of mid-summer. Attracting these tiny winged marvels offers an exciting opportunity to connect with nature right outside the door.

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