Hummingbirds are one of the most awaited backyard birds in North America. Although there are over 300 known hummingbird species, only a few migrate regularly.
These flying jewels have a predictable migration pattern. In fact, even their arrival and departure from one backyard to another every year are almost always the same.
Hummingbirds are only found in the Western Hemisphere, as far north as Alaska and on the opposite side as the Tierra Del Fuego in southern Argentina. They also live on different islands in the Caribbean.
Where and when do they migrate?
Hummingbirds begin their migration process depending on where they live during the summer season. Weather-related conditions and other environmental factors are also considered. Generally, though, they embark on two migratory journeys each year.
The spring north migration spans from South America and Mexico to Canada. It can start as early as February in Mexico and end in mid-May in Alaska or Canada.
On the other hand, the fall southern migration begins as early as late July, although most hummingbirds do not start until late August or mid-September. Most of them are Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds with occasional Rufous.
The former tends to gather in Florida, Louisiana, and along the South Texas coast in September before they head for their final push either via an overland or the Gulf of Mexico.
Winter Hummingbirds in the US
There are also a number of hummingbirds spending winter on the Gulf Coast. Many have been spotted at feeders in South Louisiana during mild winters, including Ruby Throated, Rufous, Black-Chinned, Calliope, Allen’s, Broad-Tailed, and Broad-Billed.
Some hummingbirds prefer to stay in warmer Pacific coastal and southern desert regions all year round.
If you want to see most of the hummingbird species, then visit Ecuador. These hummers love tropical places abundant of flowers and insects.
It has been reported that male hummingbirds travel first before the women to prepare a good area for them. But there are also rare instances when they travel together including their young.
Most hummingbirds fly to Mexico and other places in South America.
How do they migrate?
It is generally thought that the amount of daylight and the angle of the sun relative to the hummingbird’s location are important determinants of their migration process. Hummers tend to eat more on purpose as light level changes per season.
In fact, their body weight gains up to 40% more, which means they are storing valuable energy for their upcoming long travel. They surely need all those energies to survive the flight and to even maintain their normal body functions.
Hummingbirds hearts can beat up to 1,260 times per minute and their wings can flap between 15 and 80 times per second during migration.
Unlike other birds, hummingbirds do not migrate in a flock. They travel individually, following the same path they have flown earlier in their life.
Hummingbirds fly low by day, just above tree tops or water, so they can easily spot and stop at food supplies along the way.
These feathery treasures can use their tailwinds to fly faster and can limit the energy and body fat use, even though they travel as much as 23 miles per day.
Factors affecting their migration
There are several factors that affect the migration timing of hummingbirds. As mentioned earlier, daylight is one determinant.
Other reasons that influence their migration time also include food sources, weather condition, migration distance, and the age and gender of the birds.
Source of Food
Hummingbirds will move along migration depending on the availability of food sources. Although they feed on nectar-producing plants, hummingbirds also need insects as their source of protein.
High winds and storms can also affect their migration. Poor fall weather and spring bird fallouts may delay their flights.
The further their destination is, the earlier they begin. For instance, the Rufous hummingbirds embark on the longest migration compared with the other species. That being said, they tend to start their journey sooner than others.
Age and Gender
Older hummingbirds start their migration earlier as young ones are more likely developing their strength and maturity yet.
Also, male hummingbirds tend to migrate a few days earlier compared with female hummingbirds. This is to give them enough time to establish territories and attract female hummingbirds at the start of the mating season.
Hummingbirds are no free birds. They face different kinds of threats every day such as loss and destruction of habitat and climate change. Many bird hunters are also interested in their feathers.
There is still hope for these flying creatures as a lot of bird enthusiasts prepare feeders and plant flowers to welcome their friendly flying visitors.
One of the most common myths is that feeding them will stop them from moving forward. Do not worry as this is not true.
Knowing their migration timeline can help you estimate and take necessary steps instead to ensure that their migration journey is successful.
Overall, hummingbirds will always remain to be one of the most favorite garden and backyard visitors.