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Ruby-throated Hummingbirds Migrating

9-7 female hummer IMG_1097Anyone with a hummingbird feeder knows that finally female and juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbirds can feed without fear of being driven off by male hummingbirds, due to the fact that the males have, for the most part, headed for warmer climes. All summer the males do their very best to have sole occupancy of feeders. When the time for hummingbirds to migrate south arrives in the Northeast, males leave first, then females, and lastly, juveniles. The fall migration of hummingbirds occurs just at the time of peak of Spotted Jewelweed (Touch-Me-Not) flowering, suggesting this flower is an important nectar source during this time and may influence the timing of migration. Many of the hummingbirds visiting feeders now are migrants.

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14 responses

  1. Kathy

    I only have females all summer long. If a male shows up the “girls” immediately drive them off. The males are, of course, the early spring arrivals, but after that the girls rule.

    September 7, 2015 at 7:54 am

  2. Really interesting, Mary; never knew that but then I don’t have feeders. What do you suppose the rationale for that behavior is?

    September 7, 2015 at 8:08 am

  3. Marilyn

    Leaving the little ones to follow their instincts!

    September 7, 2015 at 8:39 am

  4. Don Herzberg

    It seems that having the right flowers for the hummingbirds to feed on would be preferable to feeders, since the males couldn’t chase away the females and juveniles from all of them (and still have time to eat).

    September 7, 2015 at 9:00 am

  5. Ruth

    Oddly (it seemed to me) I haven’t seen male Rubies this year (i.e. with actual ruby throat) since earliest weeks of hummingbirds. Maybe I missed spotting the throats later in the season, since as far as I can recall, some of the birds I saw were engaging in (sexy? territorial?) behavior: paraboling up and down around e.g. the blueberry patch.

    September 7, 2015 at 9:33 am

  6. Joan Wadleigh Curran

    Sent from my iPad


    September 7, 2015 at 9:33 am

  7. At our feeders, the females are more aggressive at protecting their turf than the males! They usually successfully run them off.

    September 7, 2015 at 10:31 am

  8. micky

    Several weeks ago I witnessed 5 females feeding simultaneously on my feeder. I have never before seen more than 2 or 3. All females. Girls do know how to share (sometimes).

    September 7, 2015 at 12:06 pm

  9. Katherine

    Thanks for posting on Labor Day. I have “withdrawal” symptoms over weekends as it is.

    September 7, 2015 at 7:51 pm

  10. Beryl Barr-Sharrar

    Have you been visited by any of these guys (the bullies!) or ladies? I remember Harriet’s visiting humming birds from a visit to you ages ago. Love,


    September 7, 2015 at 8:13 pm

  11. William Loomis

    As with the above our feeder behavior seems more complex than boys rule. We have one female dominated feeder of our two where girls drive off girls. We also note the owner bird parked on a nearby tree watching over its feeder(but only one feeder is visible to him/her). BTW how long does it take for a e to show the full red throat?

    Tony and Marianne

    September 8, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    • Hi Tony and Marianne,
      Near summer’s end, young males may (but don’t always) show one to several red throat feathers. They do not get a full red throat (gorget) until their first winter.

      September 8, 2015 at 6:24 pm

  12. Marty Green

    I’ve had a hummingbird feeder out for several years. This year was the first time that honey bees moved in and seemed to keep the birds away, although my neighbor has kept bees for a long time. The bees arrived in late summer, and I never again saw a hummingbird at the feeder. Could it have had something to do with the drought??

    September 8, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    • Yes, I believe if there’s been little rain, or if few flowers are in bloom, honeybees will temporarily (usually) visit hummingbird feeders. I found a solution online if the bees move in permanently: “Honeybees seem to prefer feeders in direct sunlight, so hanging a second feeder in the shade often will allow hummingbirds to feed unmolested by bees. If honeybees continue to be a problem, mix up a super-concentrated sugar water mix (two parts water, one part sugar), tint it with red food coloring, and pour it into a shallow plate–preferably a big yellow one. Put the plate on a ladder or stool near the hummingbird feeder the bees are using and they will probably move over to the plate. Each day, move the plate a foot or two further away from the hummingbird feeder and eventually the bees should stop using the feeder.” I have never tried this, but it may well work!

      September 8, 2015 at 6:28 pm

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