Tennessee Backyard Animal Basics

Backyard Basics Tips Tricks and Articles to Get Started With

Hummingbirds in Tennessee

Hummingbirds All Year Long

Many of us here in Tennessee enjoy Ruby-throated hummingbirds from spring to fall but did you know that a hummingbird might spend the winter in your yard?  Hummingbird banders have banded a variety of western hummingbirds here in Tennessee during the winter and they suggest that you leave a feeder up all winter.   You should put your feeder where it can be observed and maintained easily. Perhaps outside the window where you eat breakfast in the morning.

Partially fill your feeder with a mixture of one part table sugar to four parts water, please do not use red food coloring. Sugar water has a lower freeze point so unless we get a string of really cold days in a row the sugar water won't freeze solid.  And who knows you might have a hummingbird spend the winter with you!

Wintering hummingbirds are not lost birds. They often demonstrate great site fidelity and spend the entire winter in one location. Some return to winter at the same home year after year and are considered family members. These hummingbirds are cold-hardy and will not be harmed by the winter weather in Tennessee. 

So if you have a hummingbird at your feeder between 15 November and 15 March, please contact Cyndi Routledge at routledges@bellsouth.net or Mark Armstrong at woodthrush@bellsouth.net.  Cyndi Routledge or Mark Armstrong, with your permission, will come to your home to identify, band, and photograph your hummingbird. You will get to release the bird back into your yard and receive photographs of your special bird.   They are federally licensed master bird banders who specialize in documenting western hummingbirds wintering in the southeastern United States.

Backyard Non-Native Wildlife

Non-Native Birds

 The following is a list of non-native, invasive, and domestic birds not federally protected by Migratory Bird Treat Act laws and found in Tennessee.  Although the following list of birds is NOT protected by federal laws,  there are laws about the transport of captive-raised game birds. Contact TWRA or USFWS for details on the transport of captive-raised game birds.

• House Sparrow

• European Starling

• Rock Pigeon

• Eurasian Collared-Dove

• Muscovy Duck

• Chinese Goose

• Mute Swan

Ring-necked Pheasant, Chukar, and other non-native game birds were released for hunting purposes.

All birds, NATIVE to North America (including Tennessee), are federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act laws.

It is illegal to harm, kill, possess, transport, or collect dead birds, nests, or eggs without permits issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Violators are subject to penalties of fines and jail time for violations.


List of non-native mammals found in Tennessee.

• Wild Hog (aka feral pigs)

• Coypu (aka Nutria)

• Roof Rat

• Brown Rat

• House Mouse

Please do not feed the waterfowl.

Feeding waterfowl may create a variety of problems for the birds and the environment. The notion that waterfowl cannot survive without human intervention is false. Ducks and geese have survived for thousands of years without handouts and many species of waterfowl are thriving today. In fact, many of our urban parks are now over-populated with ducks and geese. Please enjoy local waterfowl, but view them from a distance and give them the best chance of survival by not feeding them.

Reasons Not to Feed Waterfowl

1. Feeding waterfowl can quickly lead to overpopulation problems at small urban and suburban parks.
Ducks and geese occupy areas that provide sufficient natural food. When local resources are low or depleted, individuals will move to find new food resources. Increasingly, our urban and suburban parks are home to year-round resident populations of waterfowl that remain static because of the endless food supply provided by well-meaning humans. Many of our parks are plagued with sick and injured ducks that are a direct result of the intensive aggression and competition that occurs when waterfowl populations become too large. Female mallards in urban areas often build their nests far from a water source, sometimes more than a mile away. This is a direct response to their inability to successfully incubate and raise young in our overpopulated parks.

2. Feeding waterfowl can lead to severe habitat degradation.
Human-supplied food resources quickly attract concentrations of waterfowl beyond what the natural ecosystem can support. Large concentrations of waterfowl can greatly reduce water quality and denude areas of vegetation. Concentrating large populations of waterfowl into urban, city, and county parks is not a sustainable strategy. As numbers increase, natural forage will decrease and individuals will only become more dependent upon handouts.

3. Feeding can cause waterfowl to lose their natural fear of humans.
For many wild animals, survival is contingent upon maintaining a healthy fear of humans. Feeding waterfowl can quickly cause them to lose their sense of fear and puts them at greater risk. While the food providers may have the best of intentions, the ducks still have to survive in a world filled with hazards. On an urban landscape full of dogs, cats, cars, and people, the duck or goose that maintains its innate "wildness" ultimately has the best chance for survival.

4. Feeding waterfowl can lead to dietary and nutritional problems for the birds.
The age-old practice of feeding ducks and geese stale bread, pastries, cookies, and various other assorted types of junk food can cause significant health problems for the birds. Even if the food is fresh, the highly processed foods provide little or no nutritional value and may actually contribute to starvation among waterfowl. Spoiled and moldy foods can impact their health just as it does for humans. Ducks and geese are far better off building their reserves by moving from location to location in search of a healthy natural diet than they are living on foods that we would never consider feeding to our children or our pets. Although all feeding is discouraged, for those who insist anyways it is far preferable to feed foods consistent with a natural diet such as cracked corn or game bird chow.

5. Feeding waterfowl can lead to disease among waterfowl populations.
Feeding of waterfowl can lead to aggressive behavior towards humans especially among geese. Unconsumed bread and other "human foods" remain on the ground as nothing more than unsightly litter. Finally, waterfowl habituated to human handouts are more likely to take up residence and less likely to be successfully driven away from locations such as golf courses where they may not be welcomed by the human occupants. When such conflicts occur, it is inevitably the wildlife that loses in the end.