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Hummingbird Migration Guide

Hummingbird Migration Guide

Almost everyone loves hummingbirds, and who can resist them? There is something unbelievably impressive about these tiny birds’ ability to zoom around and hover. There are fifteen different species of hummingbirds that can be observed in the U.S. along with a few others that wander into our borders now and then. If you are someone who cannot get enough of their aerial acrobatics, you’ll be interested in this hummingbird migration guide. Learn all you need to know about the migratory patterns of hummingbirds near you. 

Why Is It Important to Understand Hummingbird Migration?

Understanding the migration of hummingbirds is important for a number of reasons. First, it enables you to get a sense of when you can begin spotting the animals in your area. After all, they are very regular creatures, arriving at nearly the same week every year. 

However, it is also important for the birds. Hummingbirds typically return to the same area year after year, and often feed from the same feeders. In fact, some experts believe they feed at the same locations throughout their migration. Thus, you definitely want to have your feeders up when the thirsty birds arrive looking for food. 

What Triggers Hummingbird Migration?

Hummingbirds found in North America typically winter in areas of Mexico and Central America. Some do winter in the United States such as the ruby throated hummingbird in the southern tip of Florida or the Rufous Hummingbird that winters along the Gulf Coast from Texas to the Florida panhandle. 

The annual hummingbird migration is typically triggered by a combination of factors including genetic instincts, changes in the length of daylight, weather changes, and shifts in food availability. This typically causes them to follow a fairly predictable pattern most years. 

In providing information about migration, we will focus on the most widespread U.S. hummingbird species. However, we will not discuss Anna’s hummingbird as it is found year-round in most of its range, only migrating in relatively small areas. 

Ruby Throated Hummingbird Migration 

When most people think of a hummingbird, this is likely the one you picture. It has the largest range in the United States. If you draw a line from west Minnesota to the easternmost part of Texas, you will find these in every state east of that line. 

This species’ migration can be seen through horizontal bands. By the beginning of March, they typically have arrived in the Gulf Coast region. By early April, they usually have expanded their range as far as Tennessee. By mid-May, you typically find them from Maine to Minnesota. 

You can research data for your area and find a fairly specific timeline to expect their arrival. For example, they generally land in Rhode Island around the third week of April while they tend to turn up in Arkansas around the third week of March. 

Rufous Hummingbird Migration

The Rufous hummingbird is an interesting species because its winter range is almost exclusively in Mexico while its breeding range is primarily in Canada. However, it migrates across the bulk of the western United States. 

This species will migrate up the west coast throughout late winter and spring. They tend to arrive in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and western Montana in May, where they will stay for the breeding season. In July or August, they will typically begin traveling south. However, their south path sees them traveling through the Rocky Mountain states as they return towards Mexico.

Calliope Hummingbird Migration

The Calliope hummingbird follows a pattern very similar to that of the Rufous hummingbird. Specifically, it engages in a clockwise migration, heading north along the Pacific coast and south along the Rocky Mountain states. 

They begin to arrive along high elevations of the Pacific coast in early spring, reaching northwestern states by early May. They congregate in mountainous areas, typically staying until August. You’ll find these breeding in select parts of the Pacific Northwest, northern California, and Nevada. Late summer and early fall will see them passing through the Four Corners states, typically leaving completely by late September.

Black-Chinned Hummingbird Migration

Black-chinned hummingbirds spend the winter on Mexico’s Pacific Coast with some also choosing southern Texas as a destination. They will arrive in spring, entering Arizona by late February and reaching as far north as Washington by May. You will find these birds most concentrated in the Four Corners states along with Texas and patches of California, typically at lower elevations. 

This species will begin leaving the northernmost portion of its range by July and typically be gone by the end of August. In more southern areas like Arizona and New Mexico, the black-chinned hummingbird will stick around until September. 

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird Migration

The broad-tailed hummingbird spends breeding season in a fairly large area spanning from stretches of Mexico into the bulk of the American Southwest. You’ll find them throughout most of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico along with far west Texas, southeast Idaho, and small areas of Wyoming and California. 

This species will typically head north in early March, staying at lower altitudes. They reach Arizona and New Mexico in March, Colorado in April, and Idaho by late May. By August, they begin heading back south. You’ll typically be more likely to see them in Utah during this southern migration. New Mexico provides the longest window for viewing these, ranging from March to September. 

Get Ready for Hummingbird Season!

Hummingbird season is right around the corner. Be sure to check when hummingbirds typically arrive in your area to ensure you have time to order the supplies you need. Whether you want to stock up on hummingbird food or some new feeders, Birdertown is here for all your hummingbird needs!

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