Many folks east of the Mississippi River enjoy Ruby-throated hummingbirds from mid-April to mid-October but did you know that a hummingbird might visit for a brief time or even spend the winter in your yard?? Since 1990 hummingbird banders in the east have banded a variety of western hummingbirds. Here in Tennessee there have been ~300 to date.
SEAR would like to suggest that you leave a feeder up all winter placing it where you can observe and easily maintain it. Perhaps outside the window where you eat breakfast in the morning or where you first observe the weather for any given day. Partially fill your feeder with a mixture of the standard 1 part white table sugar and 4 parts water. Please remember NO RED DYE or red food coloring. You can leave it up overnight or bring it in at dark and hang it back out at first light. Please also remember that sugar water has a lower freeze point so unless you get a string of days below freezing your nectar will not freeze solid.
Winter hummingbirds are not lost birds. They often demonstrate great site fidelity and spend the entire winter in one location. Some return to winter at the same home year after year and are considered “family members”. These hummingbirds are cold hardy and will not be harmed by the winter weather for if they can’t “make a living” in your yard they will migrate to a location where they can survive.
Collaborations between winter hummingbird hosts and researchers are shedding light on the behavior of vagrant birds once written off as lost and doomed. Not only are these hummingbirds much tougher and better oriented than previously assumed, but their migratory behavior is turning out to be far more flexible than even experts would have imagined!
If you see a hummingbird at your feeder or in your yard between November 15th and March 15th please contact the nearest hummingbird bander and report that bird to them. Chances are they will ask permission to come to your home to band the bird and release it there. In doing so, you will not only help advance winter hummingbird research but have the distinct pleasure of being a winter hummingbird host.