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The Hummingbird Migration

The Hummingbird Migration

The Hummingbird Migration

The hummingbirds are coming!

They are leaving their winter homes and coming back to their breeding range. This little birds make an amazing journey each spring. And you need to be ready!

Migration Timeline

The hummingbird migration from their winter homes in southern Mexico and Panama  is driven by the the Gulf Coast winds (lucky little birds!) The Ruby-throated and Rufous hummingbirds both overwinter in the United States. (The western species overwinter on the Pacific coast and in Texas.)

End of February: Hummingbirds begin to cross the Gulf of Mexico around the end of February. This flight occurs alone (no flocks) and can take 18 to more than 24 hours depending on the weather. If they are lucky the Gulf winds will blow them across. When they reach land, they immediately need food and water – I’m alerting all my readers in southern Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Have your feeders ready at the beginning of the month to help these little birds. The males are the first to make the journey.

Beginning of March: Male hummingbirds enter the southern states. If you have azaleas watch for their bloom. The birds follow these flowers north as a food source. If you are in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Georgia you should be ready for the birds.

End of March: Hummingbirds continue northward and may encouter some winter weather patterns. These cold fronts can stall the birds, so it is important for them to be able to find food and shelter fast! Birds are still coming up from Mexico but now the most adventurous are entering Arkansas, Northern Mississippi and Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

First of April: More hummingbirds, males and females, are appearing in the southern states and flying north about 20 miles a day. Those in the lead may reach into Missouri, Kentucky and Virginia! Usually, the beginning of April is known for its rain which will slow the birds. Have your feeders ready to help them make it through these storms!

End of April: The northward trek continues into Oklahoma, Nebraska,Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. By now, hopefully, the spring weather is less ‘April Showers’ and more ‘May Flowers’ and the birds can find food.

Beginning of May: The first of May sees a huge jump northward as the weather warms. Sightings occur north into Michigan, Minnesota, and New York stopping just below the Canadian border. Many Ruby-throated hummingbirds are already home, but not the Rufous. They have 4,000 total miles. They have a way to go still.

End of May: Hummingbirds have crossed the Canadian border and are ready to begin raising a family. It was a long flight, and not all made it but the next generation of hummingbirds is underway!

Don’t have a hummingbird feeder? No problem!

You don’t have to have a hummingbird feeder to participate in the migration. Native plants are even better than feeders for these little birds. Plant the following in your backyard for a guaranteed hummingbird buffet.

Trumpet Honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens
Arrowwood Viburnum Viburnum dentatum
Phlox Phlox subulata
Red Buckeye Aesculus pavia
Eastern Columbine Aquilegia canadensis
Crossvine Bignonia capreolata
Native azaleas Rhododendron spp.

Do you want to track the humminbird’s northward adventure? Check out Hummingbirds.net

Paige Nugent

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