Where Do Hummingbirds Go In The Winter?
Out of over 300 different species of hummingbirds, only a handful are year-round dwellers in one place. Most of them tend to be migratory and take flight south towards warmer climates when winter arrives. They return back to the north in the spring and summer months.
Anna’s Hummingbird and Allen’s Hummingbird are two particular species that do not care much for migrating and prefer to stay year-round where they breed.
- Anna’s Hummingbirds are a common sight in inland California but they have also been spotted along the Pacific coast including south of the British Columbia, as well as northern Mexico.
- Allen’s Hummingbirds are also native to California, though they have occasionally been spotted in Oregon.
With hummingbirds exclusive to the Americas, the migration pattern of most species who are migratory often leads them to the same places:
- Southern states such as Texas, Louisiana, and Florida are home to many a hummingbird species in the winter, including the Buff-Bellied Hummingbird, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, the Broad-Tailed Hummingbird, the Lucifer Hummingbird, and the Broad-Billed Hummingbird.
- Mexico is a also common destination, attracting birds such as the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, the Calliope Hummingbird, the Black-Chinned Hummingbird, and the Costa’s Hummingbird.
- The Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, which are said to have difficulty adapting to the cold, have also been spotted flying through the Gulf of Mexico towards Central America, going all the way further down to the Caribbean islands so they can enjoy warmer weather.
- The Rufous Hummingbirds, famed for being feisty and aggressive, have the distinction of the longest migrations of any bird. They can travel from Alaska in the summer, all the way down through the Rocky Mountains straight to Mexico for winter, then back up, passing by California for the spring season. Each trip is said to be at 3,900 miles, and they make this circuit annually.
Considering the size of hummingbirds, their migration journey is rather impressive, but they are also pros at making the elements work for them:
- They choose to fly in the day, especially since they have a strong sense of sight which helps them locate sources of food easily, from flowers to nectar feeders. At night, they rest.
- Hummingbirds are fast, with their wings flapping from at least 12 to as much as 80 times in a given second. This gives them the speed they need to travel as much as 20 miles a day.
- They are also skilled in using tail winds to help them fly faster with less effort. Alongside their sugar intake, they are able to fuel up and have more energy to fly as much as 22 hours non-stop.
Hummingbirds start their winter migration as early as late summer and during fall, encouraged by decreasing daylight hours.
In spring, as early as January up to May, they slowly make their way back up north to start breeding, although climate change has been affecting this routine, with reports of hummingbirds returning earlier than flowers have been blooming. This adds to an increased risk of starvation if they do not find other sources of food such as nectar feeders.
People who want to attract hummingbirds can help them in their migration journey by setting up their garden accordingly and also being aware of the migration timeline.
In late fall when temperatures are dropping, take care to keep nectar in nectar feeders from freezing over so that late migrators can still have food. Similarly, at the beginning of spring, also keep the nectar from staying too cold so early migrators will have food, especially when flowers haven’t bloomed yet.
It is also ideal to set up some nesting materials so hummingbirds can start breeding when they return in the spring, giving them enough time and space to raise their young in time for them to migrate. Females and juvenile (hummingbird offspring) are often the last to depart come migration season.
Though unlike many other birds, hummingbirds fly alone instead of a seasonal flock, and juveniles flying out for the first time will often be unaccompanied by a parent.