Fueling Up

Nectar and Migration

Flower-fueled Migration
Hummers use a lot of energy — darting among flowers, hovering at feeders, and flying long distances. They burn energy so fast that they need to eat 1.5 to 3 times their weight in food each day. Your backyard hummers will leave while nectar-rich flowers are still in bloom and feeders are full. Fewer hours of daylight trigger hormonal changes that cause an urge to fuel up and fly south. 

Eating Dawn to Dusk
Watch your hummingbirds go on a feeding frenzy before leaving their breeding grounds. They will feed often and intensely for days in a state called hyperphagia. Hummers start feeding as early as forty-five minutes before sunrise and keep eating until dusk. They balance their diet with insects and spiders — necessary sources of protein. Hummingbirds will double their weight as they prepare to fly hundreds or even thousands of miles.

“Hummers feeding heavily all day at 4 feeders and at flowers like the immature with his head buried in a Foxglove.” — Keith from New York on September 10, 2016

Report Nectar Sources
What flowers are still blooming in your neighborhood during fall migration? Tell us about the natural sources of nectar hummingbirds are finding at your location and how late into the season they are available. 

“Besides feeding from feeders, I’ve seen Ruby-throated hummers nectaring from Hot Lips Salvia, Cardinal Flowers, Latana Landmark Rose Sunrise, Lonicera Major Wheeler Honeysuckle, Cuphea Vermillionaire, and Billy Green Fuchsia.” — Kate from Maryland on September 15, 2016

Report How Much Nectar 
Your gardens and feeders help hummingbirds gain sufficient fuel for their journey south. As the fall season progresses, the behavior and number of hummers visiting your feeders will change dramatically. Measure the volume of food the hummers consume and tell us what you discover. 

“Going through a quart and a half of sugar water a day.” 
— David from New Jersey on August 27, 2016 

“From mid-July to mid-August I was refilling 5 feeders daily, sometimes twice. Now I’m refilling every other day.” 
— Paula from South Carolina on August 27, 2014