Hummingbirds' darting flight and hovering ability as they search for nectar-rich flowers have fascinated people for ages. Because of hummingbirds' nature, people put out nectar feeders attracting the birds to their gardens. Most hummingbirds migrate, escaping winter's cold, raising a question of when to put out your hummingbird feeders. The dates vary depending on the U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone.
Hardiness Zone 7
The USDA divided the country into 11 hardiness zones based on the average coldest winter temperature. Zone 7 covers a region where the coldest winter temperatures normally fall between zero and 10 degrees Fahrenheit. This region covers the interior areas of Washington, Oregon and California, parts of central Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico; most of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas; the northern parts of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia; and the interior regions of South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.
Hummingbirds on their northward migration normally arrive in the eastern two-thirds of zone 7 during the first week in April. Putting your feeders out in the last two weeks of March attracts early migrants. Keep the feeders filled and maintained throughout the summer. Take most of them down in early October, but leave one up until Thanksgiving or until it becomes impossible to keep the mixture from freezing. This ensures stragglers have food to fuel their migration. Contrary to popular myth, leaving feeders up into the fall won't stop the birds from migrating. The migration instinct is triggered by the length of days, not food supply. Many species in the western third of zone 7 don't migrate, so you can leave feeders out all year.
Hummingbirds exert prodigious amounts of energy to stay aloft, which they gain from sugary flower nectar or from the sugar solution in hummingbird feeders. Hummingbirds eat tiny bugs for protein, vitamins and minerals, and consume nectar for the energy they need to fly and catch bugs on the wing. Hummingbird fanciers at Operation Rubythroat say the best approximation to natural nectar is a solution of one part cane sugar to four parts water. Prepare 1 gallon of feeding mixture by pouring 1 cup of sugar into 4 cups of hot water. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil for two minutes. Allow it to cool and pour it into your well-cleaned feeders. Keep the excess mixture refrigerated. It can be kept for up to two weeks.
Don't use honey or artificial sweeteners in your mixture. Honey in water ferments within hours and artificial sweeteners have no nutritional value. Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, but you don't need to add red dye to your solution, as most feeders are red-colored. Don't allow your feeders to get dirty. Clean them thoroughly in hot, soapy water and rinse them with a mild vinegar solution before refilling them. This prevents mold growth. Don't leave solution in your feeders too long. Discard the solution in your feeders after three days and replace it with fresh solution.