Although tiny, hummingbirds are renowned for their unique plumage and long beaks specialized for nectar feeding. One is undoubtedly lucky to have these gorgeous birds in their backyard!
But what if they suddenly disappear? Many bird enthusiasts reported such out-of-the-blue hummingbird disappearances. What prompts them to leave? Do they feel threatened somehow, or is there another explanation?
Hummingbirds may stop coming to your yard due to territorial disputes and migration. This may also be linked to the breeding and nesting seasons. Additionally, since hummingbirds don’t feed only on nectar, they may look for food elsewhere. Loud noises, lack of water, or dirty feeders can also prompt them to look for other feeding grounds.
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Why Do Hummingbirds Disappear?
Get yourself a cup of tea because you’re about to read an interesting story about how hummingbirds mate and nest! Their behavior during this season has much to do with food availability and territorial disputes, and if you’re providing them with a feeding ground, you’ll be part of this fascinating process!
Once male hummingbirds return from their wintering grounds, they start assessing the area to claim territories. These tiny birds are quite aggressive, and they are willing to go the extra mile to defend not only one but multiple feeders if possible.
Since hummingbirds have a fast metabolism, they are well aware that a steady food supply is absolutely necessary, so they don’t give up on defending a feeder if the opportunity shows itself.
As such, you may initially see multiple males in and around your backyard but they’ll soon leave one by one until the winner remains.
Although they do not typically engage in physical fights, hummingbirds will still display aggressive behavior, like chasing or vocalizing.
If only one hummingbird remains in your yard, then you can guess it’s the winner! The other hummingbirds are already on their way to conquering their own grounds elsewhere.
2. Mating Competitions
While territory wars are primarily linked to food availability and feeders, they can also be associated with breeding. As such, males will try to stand their ground so that they do not have other males to compete with once the breeding season starts.
If other males intrude on their territories, they’ll chase them away to avoid the competition. Considering that male hummingbirds mate with multiple females during the same breeding season, it’s only natural for them to feel threatened by the presence of other males!
Therefore, if you wake up one morning and see multiple male hummingbirds hovering around your feeder and all but one suddenly disappear, it may be linked to the upcoming breeding season.
A solution to this problem would be setting up two bird feeders in opposite yard corners so that males feel they acquired different territories.
3. Nesting Season
Once the male has acquired its mating territory, you may start seeing more hummingbirds around your yard, which are females, of course! The romantic season is at its peak!
Males will start engaging in courtship displays and calling for females. If they do so from around your yard, you’ll be able to observe the males’ hard work to conquer the future mothers of their babies! They’re even willing to let females enjoy your (their!) bird feeder!
However, once fertilization occurs, females suddenly disappear, and you may be left again only with the male. On the other hand, if the females build their nests close to your backyard, they may be the ones chasing the males away and take advantage of your bird feeder when motherhood allows it.
Females never allow males to participate in incubating or raising the young, possibly because their bright breeding plumage may attract predators.
While incubating the eggs, which typically lasts 14-23 days, females may come to your yard to feed if it’s close enough. They can only leave the nest for approximately 30 minutes.
Once the babies are old enough to forage on their own, they may also end up in your backyard, enriching it with their beauty and unique calls!
4. Lack of Food
Contrary to popular belief, hummingbirds do not feed only on nectar. Flower nectar serves only to supply their energy needs. Furthermore, it is a poor source of nutrients since it consists only of glucose, sucrose, and fructose.
Therefore, hummingbirds must supplement their diet with insects like fruit flies, aphids, gnats, and spiders. They may stop coming to your yard because they must find something else to eat, so they’ll turn their energy toward a place that provides both nectar and insects.
This can happen especially after baby hummingbirds hatch. Since they feed primarily on insects, females are busy looking for food sources and keeping their babies well-fed.
Studies show that the hummingbird hippocampus is unusually enlarged, which is associated with their ability to remember locations. So, even if hummingbirds suddenly disappear, they may be back in your backyard sooner than expected!
5. Feeder Problems
Cleaning and maintaining a hummingbird feeder can be quite challenging, especially in the summer. The high sugar content spoils the nectar quickly enough when it’s hot outside. This leads to bacteria and mold growth and can harm the birds.
If the nectar isn’t fresh enough, hummingbirds won’t enjoy it and will eventually stop coming to your yard.
As such, we recommend changing the nectar and cleaning the feeder daily or every other day during the summer and every 3-5 days during the spring and fall.
Don’t forget that some hummingbirds are migratory! Once they sense that the summer is over, they start preparing for the journey.
For a few weeks before migration, you’ll notice hummingbirds going a little crazy about food, so there may be plenty in your yard, especially if you have multiple hummingbird feeders.
If there are various bugs or spiders around your house, the better! The hummingbirds will undoubtedly stay in the vicinity!
When it’s time to go, however, they’ll just leave without prior notice! Males typically fly off before females, as they have to arrive earlier to claim their wintering grounds.
As such, if you know that hummingbirds are common during the summer and they start disappearing when fall comes, the reason is probably migration.
What Scares Hummingbirds Away?
Although hummingbirds usually disappear due to various instinctual reasons linked to breeding, nesting, and migration, sometimes the reason behind their disappearance has nothing to do with these.
They may refuse to come back to your feeder because it’s too noisy around it or because they can’t find a favorable place to build a nest.
Additionally, the lack of water sources and plants to feed on may cause them to look for and claim a new feeding territory.