JOPLIN, Mo. (KSNF) — As the leaves are changing, hummingbird season is coming to an end for many states. Most of the tiny birds that spent the summer in the Midwest and northern states, or were hatched here this summer, are now on their way south for the colder months.
However, just because it’s officially fall doesn’t mean now is the time to stop making hummingbird food or take down the feeders. University of Missouri Extension horticulture educator and field specialist, Kelly McGowan says there are a few hummers that are still around.
“A good rule of thumb is to leave them (hummingbird feeders) up through at least mid-October, and maybe even the end of October just to catch any of those stragglers that may be coming through,” said McGowan.
However, if you do leave your hummingbird feeders up longer than experts suggest, there’s no need to worry.
“There’s a myth that, ‘If I leave them up it’ll make the hummingbirds not want to migrate.’ But, they have internal senses and primitive knowledge that’s passed down to the offspring that tells these birds when it’s time to migrate. They’re gonna do that anyway. So, it’s not a big deal if you put your feeders away later than the suggested time frame,” said McGowan.
The National Audubon Society recommends leaving the feeder out as the hummingbirds are around and beyond for late migrants. The Maine Audubon even suggests leaving your hummingbird feeders “up until just before they freeze.”
Rare hummingbird species are more likely to show up late in the fall season. Bird watchers have reported broad-billed hummingbirds and calliope hummingbirds — both are considered to be a rarity for those who do leave their feeders up into the month of November.
“Hummingbirds will use flowering plants for a food source as they migrate south into Mexico, but they also will take advantage of feeders when they can find them. I have actually heard stories of people here in Missouri that have left them up later than they should have, by accident, and still have hummingbirds — sometimes into November. But at some point, those who migrate, will do so. It just takes some birds longer than others to get going. Both the weather and the climate of the region can play a big role regarding how long those stragglers will stick around, but they will venture south,” said McGowan.
Leaving hummingbird feeders out a little longer won’t do any harm — and could help those hummingbirds keep “humming” as they migrate.