Hummingbird Migration


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The Great Hummingbird Voyage

Why Hummingbirds Migrate

It is believed that the first hummingbird species developed during the ice age. They have always been considered tropical birds, and the majority of them are still today, however, when the layers of ice withdrew from North America the hummingbirds saw an opportunity to discover a new land.

When the tropic region became overcrowded with hummers, making food and shelter supplies slim, these little explorers decided to journey north to take advantage of the abundant preserves of insects and flowering plant life. Because these types of preserves can not survive in cold temperatures, the hummingbirds needed to travel back to Central America during winter months in order to live. Thus began the famous hummingbird journeys known as hummingbird migration.

Winter Vacation

The mass of Ruby-throated hummingbirds spend their winters between southern Mexico and northern Panama. Because hummers are solitary birds, individual birds migrate anywhere within this range.

Solo Fliers

These solitary creatures do not travel in flocks during hummingbird migration; when it is time to migrate north they will leave on their journey at various times. By February, most have reached the Yucatan. Here they begin their feast on insects to prepare for their non-stop flight of up to 500 miles, which takes approximately 18-22 hours.

Fast Weight Loss

The Ruby-throats will have just about doubled their weight from 3 grams to over 6 grams. The most amazing part of this fact is that once they reach the U.S. the hummer may only weigh around 2.5 grams! This establishes their need to fuel up and add the extra weight to their tiny frames for their long hummingbird migration northward.

The Migration Process

Male Ruby-throats will set out first for the coast, followed by the females who will depart approximately 10 days later. The entire hummingbird migration process spans a period of about 3-months.

Planes are scheduled to take off at various times to prevent accidents. Hummingbirds follow this same routine during hummingbird migration. If the hummers were to leave all at once and a weather catastrophe would occur, it could likely destroy the entire species. This explains the reason why only a few Ruby-throats will be spotted in the beginning of the hummingbird migration. The remainder of birds will arrive later, sometimes by a span of several weeks. Northbound hummingbird migration is typically concluded by mid-May.

Once the flowers cease blooming and insects are scarce, sometimes as early as mid-July, hummers start preparing for migration again. However, the majority of them will leave late August and early September for their southward hummingbird migration.

To begin their journey home (south) the hummers will follow the same hummingbird migration process as when they travel northbound.

Naturally, we do not know all the specifics of hummingbird migration, but we do enjoy and appreciate the laborious journey these tiny travelers make each year to our backyards!

Go to the Migration Map

See additional Hummingbird information at: Species, food, and feeders.

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