Every year, hummingbirds embark on two significant migrations – one to the North and another to the South. These two migratory journeys occur over hundreds or thousands of miles.
Knowing about these movements is essential for backyard birders as it will help you prepare for when to welcome these tiny birds in your garden, yard, or feeders.
Birders can also have a clear timeline on when they can expect to see the hummingbirds. In North America, Hummingbirds like the Allen and Anna’s hummingbird can often be seen in people’s backyards.
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Hummingbird Migration Map
During the summertime, hummingbirds track the blooming meadow flowers as they make their way back through the mountain. They can be sighted in the USA and South-East areas of Canada. In the colder months, a few birds stay around places like California, the upper Pacific coast, Central Mexico, the southern parts of the Gulf of Mexico states, and some along the southern Atlantic Ocean areas. Others migrate to the South. The birds then fly to their breeding grounds.
Also, during the spring migration, hummingbirds fly low across the western U.S in regions like Alaska, California, Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, and Washington.
It is in the spring that hummingbirds start to fly north. Their journey begins in February and continues until mid-May, when they reach their breeding grounds in the northernmost parts of their range. The spring migration can be arduous for the hummingbirds as they cover a vast distance and deal with headwinds while traveling to the North from their winter homes (like from the southern parts of Mexico and Central America). The birds also encounter the strong cold fronts that move south from the Gulf of Mexico.
On their journey, the birds must stop for a few hours or days to look for more favorable locations with abundant food supplies. They must add at least 40% of their total body weight before starting their long trek over land and water.
When can I expect hummingbirds in my area?
Predicting hummingbird species patterns is relatively easy. They tend to take the same routes each time they migrate.
According to their migration map, Ruby-throated hummingbird species are typically expected to arrive in the USA during spring. From late February to mid-March, they can be seen in south Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia.
By Mid-March, the first hummingbirds arrive and are usually male. They can be seen in Louisiana, Texas, and along the Gulf Coast. As spring progresses, more migrants can be sighted in the North up to Canada, especially when there are still an abundance of insects for the hummingbird hatchlings from where they can get enough protein for healthy growth.
By early April, the birds can be seen further North in Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and South Carolina.
In mid-April, there are sightings of the hummingbirds in Oklahoma, Kentucky, West Virginia, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, and Virginia.
By Late April, they reach Ohio, Nebraska, Iowa, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and other parts of New England.
In May, the birds can be seen in North and South Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Maine, Vermont, Minnesota, and Canadian provinces like Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Aside from the ruby-throated hummingbirds, other species can also be sited during this period.
During the fall migration, the hummingbirds embark on their journey back to the south in search of warmer climates.
By July, August, and September, hummingbird breeding periods are complete, and the birds start to migrate south for the fall migration. One can also see some of these birds in Texas during this time.
By September, Ruby-throats can be seen in Louisiana, Florida, and along the South Texas coast. In October, the birds can be sighted in the Gulf of Mexico en route through Mexico. Most of these birds follow the Texas coast when going back into Mexico. This is because they aim to avoid tropical storms and hurricanes.
Starting the Journey Southwards
These tiny birds have a very predictable migration pattern. They arrive and leave the same yards within the same day or two each year. Hummingbirds can travel over hundreds or thousands of miles despite their body size. They fly alone and often on the same path they have passed through earlier. While migrating, the hummingbirds fly low just above tree tops and near the grounds to allow them to watch out for any available feeding opportunities. They also travel during the daytime and rest at night.
Although over 300 hummingbird species exist, just a handful of these birds migrate seasonally between their northern breeding grounds and South winter grounds. Often, they do not travel in flocks but instead individually. Young hummingbirds also navigate without parental guidance.
The tiny birds are experts when it comes to using tailwinds to help them reach their destination faster and to consume less energy and body fat. Research shows that hummingbirds can travel as far as 23 miles daily. During migration, a hummingbird’s heartbeats can go up to 1,260 times a minute and at least 15 to 80 times per second.
Hummingbirds that fly to Florida and the Yucatan can make a 500-mile flight within 18-22 hours non-stop, depending on wind conditions.
What other Hummingbird Species Can I see?
There are a few species in Canada and the United States:
the rainy season is for Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). They can be sited in the Eastern United States, South, and Central Canada.
The Black-Chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) can be found in the Southwest United States.
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) can be sighted in the West Coast of the USA and Canada.
Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) is found within the United States and Canada’s Northwest areas.
Calliope Hummingbird in the western United States and Canada.
Helping Migrating Hummingbirds
Spring time for hummingbirds means traveling from their winter homes to breeding habitats in the USA and Canada. About two weeks before they arrive, birders can start providing food using hummingbird sugar water recipe’s so that everything is ready when they get there. Other ways you can help include:
Planting flowers provide that provides hummingbirds with ample nectar during spring and fall.
Taking care of hummingbird nectar and ensuring it does not freeze during late fall can provide nutrition for the late-migrating hummingbirds.
Ensuring hummingbird feeders are clean and replacing any spoiled nectar.