Taking Hummingbird Feeders in at Night

There are many benefits to taking hummingbird feeders in at night, and it can be a great practice to safeguard both your feeders and the hummingbirds they nurture. But is it also practical for you, your schedule, and your hummingbirds?

Why Bring Hummingbird Feeders in at Night?

There are many reasons why it can be a good idea to bring hummingbird feeders indoors at night. Many birders in northern areas consider doing so when temperatures drop at night in order to ensure nectar does not freeze, which could cause feeders to leak or break. But even in warm areas, bringing feeders in after dark can help protect them. Several nocturnal raiders – raccoons, rats, bats, and even bears – can drain hummingbird feeders, possibly damaging them in the process. By bringing feeders inside, these risks are eliminated and nectar is preserved for the hummingbirds.

Developing the habit of bringing hummingbird feeders inside each evening is also a way to ensure they are cleaned and refilled regularly, ensuring the safest, healthiest nectar for every bird to enjoy. Bringing the feeders in also gives you a great opportunity to inspect them for damage and be sure each feeder – whether you have one or several – is in good condition so they can be easily used for many years.

Won’t Hummingbirds Go Hungry?

The biggest concern about removing hummingbird feeders overnight is whether or not removing that food source will deprive the birds of essential nutrition or force them to move on to different, more reliable feeding sources. While these are legitimate worries, it is important to realize that hummingbirds do not feed during the nighttime hours. Some birds will visit feeders in the twilight hours, but no hummingbirds feed frequently after dark or before the early morning sunrise.

Instead, hummingbirds spend the night snuggled down on a secure, sheltered perch and sleeping, or on cooler nights, will enter a state of torpor – a mild type of hibernation – to conserve energy. During the nesting season, female hummingbirds will be settled on their nest to keep their eggs or chicks safe and warm through the night.

Even if hummingbirds do go looking for a snack after feeders might have been taken in at night or before they are replaced in the morning, nearby nectar-rich flowers or small insects can be easy substitutes for that quick bite, and the birds will not be deprived.

How to Bring Hummingbird Feeders in at Night

Hummingbirds tell time by the level of sunlight, not the hours on a clock. Ideally, if hummingbird feeders are to be brought in at night, it should be as close as possible to full dark after sunset. This gives the birds the maximum amount of time to grab a last late evening sip, but keeps the feeders safe before nocturnal guests might arrive.

Feeders could simply be put into a refrigerator overnight, which will help preserve the nectar and keep it fresh until morning. It is not a good idea to put feeders on a counter, where nectar could seep out and attract ants or other unwelcome pests.

When feeders are brought in at night it is also a good time for them to be disassembled and thoroughly cleaned. Leaving the feeders in pieces overnight will give them ample time to completely dry before refilling and replacing them in the morning.

If a thorough cleaning is not necessary, it will still be helpful to wipe the feeders off with a damp cloth, particularly the feeding ports that may have dirt, nectar drips, or other buildup, before refrigerating them overnight.

Putting Your Feeders Back Out in the Morning

As soon as the sky begins to lighten in the morning, it’s time to return hummingbird feeders to their outdoor positions. While most hummingbirds will not start to actively feed until the sun had risen and the air has warmed slightly, putting feeders out earlier ensures they are available for the most eager visitors. The birds will quickly find that the feeders have been replaced, and breakfast will begin.

In time, hummingbirds will learn the routine of when their favorite feeders are removed and replaced, and may even be perching nearby waiting in the morning – even scolding a bit if you are a minute late! It can be very worthwhile to take hummingbird feeders in at night, and will help you keep your nectar feeders in good condition while ensuring they are safe for the birds.

Melissa Mayntz

About Melissa Mayntz

Melissa Mayntz is a birder and a writer, naturally writing about birds. Her work has appeared with The Spruce, Farmers' Almanac, National Wildlife Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest and other publications. She is the author of Migration: Exploring the Remarkable Journeys of Birds (Quadrille Publishing, 2020), and is transforming her suburban backyard into prime bird habitat. Be Your Own Birder.