The mystery of the missing hummingbirds

Sandra, who lives near Pike Lake, wonders what has happened to the hummingbirds.
She has been feeding hummers for 20 years and normally has at least 10 feeders out — and gets so many hummers that she could refill those feeders daily.
Not so this summer.
“This year I have noticed I hardly have any,” Sandra writes. “I was wondering if the storms and flooding we had over two weeks ago could have destroyed their nests? Would the birds then leave the area and go someplace else?”
So I submit the question to you, dear readers: Have you noticed a change in hummingbird activity recently? And if the numbers are down, why do you think that would be?

Please direct your thoughts on hummingbirds, as well as any bird news or photos, to: jlundy@duluthnews.com.

65 thoughts on “The mystery of the missing hummingbirds

  1. I definitely have fewer hummers this year, but have no idea why. The last couple of years I had to refill three feeders almost daily. This year I have been filling them weekly just to make sure they are fresh, not because they are empty. I miss my hoards of hummers.

    • I live in Alabama and I had both male and females at my feeders in late March and first half of April. After that they just disappeared it seems. I am keeping my necter fresh just in case but I am really worried about the little birds. I so enjoy watching them.

    • I’ve seen one or two in early April but none since. I have changed the feeder water three times in hopes of their return but no such luck, so, I do not know what has happened to them but sure miss seeing them

      • I’m told that hummingbirds may be off raising the kiddos for a while. If you saw them early in the spring, I’m told, they may return later in the summer. I hope that’s the case for you and others who have experienced this.

  2. Here in Park Rapids we usually have 2 feeders up and about 3 hummers( more Oriole traffic than hummer BTW). During the last 2 weeks we have only had a couple of sighting. I believe about 2 1/2 weeks ago something attacked one of the feeders knocking off one of the perches, There was a bluish- gray feather stuck on the perch when I picked it up. Early than that I had twice before found a perch on the ground.
    Did they fall victim to a predator?
    I could believe stormy weather as a possible cause too.

    Maybe more people feeding?

    • I live in Tucson AZ. I spoke with my father yesterday – he lives on County Rd 23 Menahga MN 56464. He’s lived there over 15 yrs. He has enjoyed telling me every year about the vast animals and birds he feeds on his 10+ acre property. He said this year because of all the hummingbirds he fed last year he was going to add two more large feeders to his 4 large feeders to feed even more birds. He goes through 10 pounds of sugar every 2 weeks and refills the feeders every day. This year instead of the 40 regulars or so birds that hover daily – he had only maybe 6. Then two weeks ago- all the hummingbirds, orioles and bees disappeared. He said his water in the feeders are getting milky white waiting for the hummingbirds to come back and he’s still waiting.

      He also told me this past winter, wooded land was purchased around them and was cleared and burned to be planted by some commercial entity. Which has been a annual event in the area- with all the land being bought up by commercial farming.

      He also said within a 1/2 mile of him helicopters now spray these fields.

      His wife said her local hair dresser and other family in the Menahga area have reported the absence of hummingbirds this year too.

      I am very concerned for the health and well being of my father and where he lives. This is like the canary in the coal mine. I am a native Minnesotan but haven’t lived in MN since 1986. I want to know what is happening and can this be helped.

      With this information can you or are you interested in investigating and hopefully spreading the word and so that a concerned Minnesota based environmental group will be aware of this and research what is happening in this area????? This may take some investigating on your part. OR maybe contact WCCO TV or Minnesota Public Radio. Here’s a link to water contamination in Park Rapids MN reported in 2009 by MN Public Radio

      Click Here http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/06/29/park_rapids_water

      Also….. can you recommend a Minnesota based environmental group that would be a good resource for me?
      Thank you. Have a joy-filled day,
      Sherry

      • Sherry,
        Thank you for the information.
        Although this is beyond the scope of my blog, I certainly think the Minnesota Audubon Society might be a good resource. Here’s a link to their website:
        John

        • Thank you for the link. I trust we will all wake up and begin protecting our natual environment before we run out of a healthy stable place to work, play, and enjoy mother nature’s beautiful birds.

    • We usually have as many as 60 Hummers. This year they started to arrive about the same time, until there were about 15. Then they just vanished. Really sad

      • I live in Western North Carolina (about 20+ miles from Asheville). I typically have so many ruby throated hummingbirds that I go through 4 pounds of sugar in a day and a half and do yeoman’s work at keeping the feeders clean and fresh. This year, I’ve had only perhaps 10-12 hummingbirds and all except one of those have disappeared over the past couple of weeks. I don’t understand this and cannot help but think something really bad has happened that killed the birds. I also noticed that my neighbor’s honeybees are not visiting the hummingbird feeders as they usually do. (I dab a small, very small, amount of canola or olive oil on the ports to discourage the honeybees and the hummers don’t mind the oil.) Are there any other WNC readers who have had a similar experience this spring?

        • I live in Springfield, VA. Last year I used to get hummingbirds on my feeder every 5-10 minutes. This year I hadn’t see one yet as of June 8, 2014. Not sure why. I am sad.

  3. I live in North Central Texas. I have far fewer hummers this year than in the past 3 to 4 years. Normally, I see my first arrival the last week in March and by mid June, I have 6-8 regular residents. I did not see my first hummer this year until April 9th and saw no more until the last week of June. I have 3 regulars as of today.

  4. I’ve seen a few in my yard in Forest Lake in years past, so this year bought a feeder and received a beautiful one for my birthday. I have alot of flowers and trees in the back yard and have seen ZERO hummingbirds this year. Makes me so sad, as I really wanted to enjoy them. We do see and feed them at our cabin by Crosslake, but aren’t there very often, so miss the beauty. I’d love to know what’s happened.

  5. I was filling 2 feeders daily up till third week in June with at least 20 hummers at all times and then dropped off, But a few of us were talking and remembered same thing last year and then all were back with the young ones . Now waiting to see if that happens again. Also so many flowers now and that might be another reason

  6. Local storms once they arrive up here are one of the contributing factors. Storms over the Gulf and then over the southern and central states during migration are another. Hummingbirds migrate in waves, and often those headed to a certain latitude are moving at about the same time, which is why they seem to materialize at lots of feeders in our neck of the woods at about the same time. But that means they’re all going over Texas and Oklahoma, where tornadoes can be fierce, at about the same time, too.

  7. Michelle is right that in some localities they are as abundant as always, and that after young hatch we do often see a reduction in numbers, and we’ll probably all have a resurgence as they migrate south again, with visitors from other areas passing through. But I answer bird questions from across the country, and a great many people are writing concerned that their hummingbirds never appeared this year, so it’s not a handful of deluded pessimists complaining–this is a real and widespread loss.

  8. I recorded seeing hummingbirds last year in mid-late July and August, but it seems like they should be present earlier here in Arlington, VA. I have seen none so far this year, despite native honeysuckle, Monarda, and Agastache all being in abundance.

  9. We have noticed that we have not had any amount of hummingbirds and another strange thing I have noticed that birds arn’t as brightly colored and look kind of “ruffed up” probably because of the terrible weather. Their wings look like they have been in a fight, kind of sticking out in all directions. When the weather settles down a little we will get more of all birds I hope. I wonder if the fires out west have also messed up the birds a little, had to leave that area?

  10. before the storm i had the usual number of hummingbirds at my feeder, but after the storm i only have one left. the storm did something.

  11. I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and remember seeing what seemed like dazzling hummingbirds every summer. When my family moved to Minnesota I missed seeing the little beauties, and it wasn’t until a few years ago I realized they traveled this far north.

    Last month my sister and I went to Albuquerque to celebrate New Mexico’s 100th year of statehood. We traveled to the top of the Sandia Crest, the mountain which stands to the east of Albuquerque, and is almost two miles above sea level. I was amazed — happily so — to see many hummingbirds darting around feeders at that elevation, and during very high winds.

    Have seen one hummingbird in our Duluth backyard this year.

  12. We are saying the same here in New Jersey, I have not seen one so far this year. Usually I see them every time I step out in my yard. I have all the flowers they like but haven’t seen any. Thanks for your input.

  13. Had quite a few hummers in early June. Thought it was going to be a busy hummer season. Then the numbers dropped considerably. I figured this was due to nesting. The numbers are up again, not like early June. It seems like they are eating more than what I would expect for the numbers I see. Hungry buggers, I mean hummers.

  14. I have looked and looked from April up to present and have not seen one hummingbird. I hope that they come back next year. It’s been really sad this year not being able to enjoy the hummers! They bring such joy to your heart!

  15. John,

    Kathy, Scott and I have had a wonderful season of birding right in our backyard.. with a variety of song birds, woodpeckers including hairy, downy, and red bellied… orioles, and humming birds..along with a variety of birds of prey… some red tailed hawks, perigron falcon, (found dead in our fron yard), and coopers hawk all trying to survive off our chipmonks and rabbits… miss hearing from you… write when you can

    tom brys

    • Hi Tom!
      Great to hear from you. I’m so glad you’re having such a good season of back-yard birding. Does Kathy still feed chickadees out of her hand?
      I’ve been having mostly chickadees, house finches, starlings, chipmunks and squirrels lately.
      John

      • not feeding chicadees from the hand, but bunches at the feeder… found that they like the the feed with fruit bits in it… hope all is well…

        Tom

  16. I was feeding hummers with 2 feeders that I filled daily. Lots of sugar water. Suddenly one week ago my hummer population seemed to drop suddenly. I may only fill my feeders weekly. The acorns are dropping heavily and the grasses are in full bloom and I wondered if the hummers had found a better food source. It seems too early for this change.
    I feed my nuthatches, tit mice, goldfinches and woodpeckers of all varieties a nut and berry blend with sunflowers. They love it. My flying squirrels love it too.

  17. I not only have had a lot less hummers in the last couple of years, but the Goldfinch, I use to have in the hundreds. I couldn’t keep enough feeders filled…I had to dump out my finch feeders ….they didn’t empty it all summer. I seem to have plenty of Cardinals and Nuthatches, etc. At least they aren’t the ones I’ve been missing….I’ve been wondering if the Nijer Thistle had something wrong with it and was killing our birds. ???

  18. For the past several years I have had two quart sized feeders out, and I had to re-fill them daily. Each feeder had 10 stations and often there would be 15 or more birds on each feeder, some sharing the stations. It was kinda like a swarm of bees! Then about March 15th this year, suddenly no birds! The only change was the arrival of the Orioles, who often took over the feeders, but now I don’t even have Orioles! I’m in North San Diego county, what happened?

  19. I am searching the web to see if others too noticed that the hummingbirds have not appeared this year nor last. I have two beautiful bushes that they normally love, so I am really concerned and dissapointed not to see them. Portland,Maine

  20. I alway had about 50 to 75 feeding humming birds each year. They emptyed two, one quart feeders nearly daily. This year I identiyed two pair which disipeared after the late season cold spell. I think the weather has likely killed them off becaue I found one dead under the uclipitis tree. Not sure but the farmers have been spraing more often and this could have been effecting the creature. I miss watching them. I hope they are not going extinct.

  21. Here in Charlotte, NC in the past I have had numerous hummers to feed. I have lots of flowers and just put out a new feeder for them this year and not one hummer has shown up?? In addition and a big concern is zero bees?? I have always has so many bees that I was worried about sitting outside on my patio. Not this year. I have nothing but lots of big birds. I think it may be systemic bug pesticides. Open for suggestions in Charlotte..

  22. I saw the most recent comment to this. Last year was our first for feeding hummingbirds. Maybe we had 4-5 individuals throughout the summer. This year one female came by, then was gone. Later a male, and he’s now gone. I am quite curious too.

    About pesticide use, it is just going to continue. If one thing is banned, they come up with another to take its place. People want to make money and people want to have cheap, abundant food.

  23. We live in north Texas and normally have many hummers this time of year. We noticed they were scarce last year but haven’t seen a hummer in several weeks now. We saw our first hummer this year on April 9th and had several come and go throughout April and part of May. Just wondering and concerned about what has happened to them. =(

  24. I have only 4 hummingbirds at my feeder this year. I’m in northwest Alabama, I feel it is because we have had very cool weather. In April it was still cold here as compared to last year when I had so many hummers I couldn’t even count them. Love my hummers, God has truly blessed us with nature.

  25. I have fewer hummingbirds this year. What is going on? Usually I feed around 150 of them here on top of the mountain in the Ozarks. We had several and then the severe storm hit that took down our greenhouse with high winds. Since then I have not seen as many. I may have around 50 or more. But nothing like I usually have. I have around 25 feeders up. I make nectar all the time and keep it in the garage fridge. I can hand feed them and have gardens for the hummingbirds and butterflies.Seeing fewer hummingbirds now and fewer butterflies. Maybe the hummers are nesting now but still do not have as many. Usually every feeder is totally filled. I have to clean and refill those feeders daily normally. Is this happening to anyone else?

  26. I live in a suburb of Kansas City and last year saw several hummingbirds, maybe as many as 5 different ones at my feeder. This year I have had my feeder up since April and have not seen a single hummingbird. I have been changing the liquid and keeping everything clean but still no birds as of June 26th. This spring has been pretty good with lots of rain and a little heat so I will keep looking and when they show up will post a “head count”.

  27. I have had 3 hummers since early May. Up until yesterday they all were coming at intervals. You could time them like clockwork. Today I only have 1. A ruby throated hummer. The other 2 are gone. We have had a lot of rain in our area for the last 2 weeks or so, I don’t know if that has anything to do with it or not. I hope they come back, I miss them already.

  28. I always have at least 3 hummers every year,really miss them,see only one and thats only once or twice a day,whats going on?

  29. I live in Pittsburgh PA. Last year had a continuos flow of hummers all summer. This year I saw one in early June. None since.

  30. We’ve been feeding Hummingbirds in SE Kansas for twenty years. The first ones arrive on April 15 every year and still do, however, their numbers have dropped and remain low.
    Until three years ago we filled 6 Quart feeders daily, now we feed 6 birds!

  31. My first hummingbird arrived March 25, 2014, soon after 5 others arrived. I live on a 2 acre property with lots of trees ie pine, dogwood, maple, oak and acorn trees. I had to put out 3 feeders, and spread them out. My one male only lets females go to the feeders, so I put two where I normally do and I put one further away. All was fine, they were drinking, even watched my red throat male do his mating dance for the female. He was going back and forth really fast sideways. Two weeks later, no hummingbirds are anywhere.

    In the past and this year I sit on my porch and say “Hellllllloooooooo” and the male comes right away, followed by others. The past week nothing! I’ve been looking and nothing, I call and nothing. This is very strange however I did notice that I have more robins then ever before and a few black birds that have a nest about 80 feet away from my porch. I thought that they are in hiding, so I took one humming bird feeder, and put it in the thicket under a very dense leaf dog wood tree. I saw one female quickly feed one time.

    Before they all disappeared I noticed it was pouring raining and they actually all came out to feed. This tells me that they have a predator near. They came out in the rain because the predator doesn’t. I’m am starting to think that they all just took off. I even have a lot of japanese honeysuckle very close to one of the feeders, not bloomed yet though.

    They could be nesting but wouldn’t I see my male red throat one?

    Robins seems to be aggressive, not fearing me near them. Could this be the reason?

    • That would explain that! We generally say the hummingbirds arrive in Duluth on about Mother’s Day, but with ice still on the big lake and a breeze coming off it almost daily, I don’t think that’s going to happen this year. So March 25 sounds amazing. As far as the predator/robin possibility, I hope someone with much more expertise than I responds. I’ve actually retired the blog, so it doesn’t get a whole lot of traffic.
      But thanks for checking in.
      John

  32. Have had numerous hummers at our feeders here in SE Okla for about 3 wks. Then a slight cool front hit and we haven’t seen any in days! Where do they go? Missing them!

  33. We live in the Appalachian Mountains in N.C (Murphy, NC) and we were talking with our neighbors about where the hummingbirds are this year? We usually have 3 feeders up and will have at least 5 or 6 hummers which increases through the summer. We saw one or two and haven’t seen any for about 2 weeks now. After reading all of these comments, it appears they are missing all over the country. Can anyone explain WHY they are missing? We miss them.

  34. We have always had an abundance of Ruby throated hummingbirds until this year. We have only two this year. They usually arrive around May 1 to northern Iowa where we live. We normally go through a half gallon of home made nectar a day— It is so sad. We miss our little friends. : ( I fear something dreadful has happened to them. Does anyone know what happened to them?

  35. I usually keep ten feeders and must clean and refill them all through the week. This year none are emptying and I’m changing and dumping nectar each week. I usually have over one hundred birds, or more ,this year I have around a dozen. Something is wrong….for eight years we’ve enjoyed them, now we are concerned.

  36. I am in Springfield, Illinois and have also noticed that the hummingbirds came and then disappeared and there is one that just came back. I have my feeders right outside my hair salon windows and my customers love it! The lack of them is the conversation right now. I was wondering if it had to do with the extremely cold winter we had.

  37. My Ruby Throats noisily arrived the end of April and I was so excited to see and hear them-I had the usual feeders ready for them. There was some feeding activity but I rarely saw them. Then hardly any nectar gone at all. I haven’t seen any hummers in weeks. I keep putting out fresh nectar to no avail. I’ve been feeding the hummers for 20 years and have never experienced anything like this. I was in tears earlier today longing to see those little beauties

  38. I am in Northern VA. I had my feeders up since beginning of May. Haven’t seen one hummer yet. Last year I had 5-6 birds feeding throughout the day. I am missing the little guys.

  39. We bought our first house in Plymouth MA & put out feeders. They arrived the 1st week in May, and we saw about 6. It’s now June 10th and haven’t seen any in about a week! Also, if the males are the brightly colored ones, only saw one. I MISS THEM!

  40. I saw 2 hummingbirds at my feeders 1st week of May and then never again this year. I live in south Jersey, Bridgeton NJ area.

  41. I’m in NH, and put out my 7 feeders as usual. They arrived around Mother’s Day, as they usually do, and in usual numbers — lots. Then, around the middle of June, they all but disappeared. Never had that happen before, and I’m aware of the two gestation cycles they go through up here. Very disconcerting.

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