Here’s the Best Time to Put Out Your Hummingbird Feeder

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Watch hummingbirds' spring migration to know when to have feeders filled and ready after their long journey north.

For many homeowners, one of the most cherished signs of spring is the colorful whir and blur of hummingbirds making their way back to central and northern states from winter in Mexico and Central America. That means it’s time to wash up and clean out your hummingbird feeders and have them ready to go — usually by the first week of May or earlier.

Migrations Start Early

Hummingbirds that aren’t year-round residents on the southern edge of the U.S. know to head north when the days get longer. Ruby-throated hummingbirds weigh less than a penny and can make the epic 500-mile Gulf of Mexico crossing in a day, according to the American Bird Conservancy. They usually arrive in southern states between February and March, central states between March and April and northern states by April or May.

Journeys Require Fuel

With hearts that beat as much as 1,260 times a minute and wings that beat more than 50 times a second, hummingbirds require serious refueling. They consume several times their weight a day in nectar and will migrate north as flowers and trees bloom, providing the nectar they need to cover about 20 miles a day.

Live Maps Track Migration

Thanks to citizen scientists who track hummingbird sightings, several websites let you watch the progress of each year’s migration with up-to-date hummingbird maps. It’s the perfect way to make sure you have your feeders ready and waiting.

Help Track Sightings

Backyard birders can join several programs to help track hummingbird sightings, including National Audubon Society’s Hummingbirds at Home app or Cornell University’s eBird sightings.

Make Nectar for Feeders

To make hummingbird nectar, mix one cup boiled water with a 1/4-cup refined sugar. You can use a classic hummingbird feeder, try a more vintage feeder or dress up your yard with hand-blown glass feeders. Avoid these common hummingbird nectar mistakes.