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Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Spring Migration

Ruby-throated hummingbird in flight The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird spends the winter in Central America or Mexico, and migrate north to their breeding grounds in the southern U.S. and western states as early as February, and to areas further north later in the spring. The first arrivals in spring are usually males.

The Migration Triggers

Although there are differing views in the birding community as to what triggers the start of migration, it is generally thought that hummingbirds sense changes in daylight duration, and changes in the abundance of flowers, nectar and insects. Instinct also plays a role in making the decision to migrate.

Dust off your hummingbird feeders and brew up some nectar as Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds return to Wisconsin about the first week of May.

Making The Trip

During migration, a hummingbird's heart beats up to 1,260 times a minute, and its wings flap 15 to 80 times a second. To support this high energy level, a hummingbird will typically gain 25-40% of their body weight before they start migration in order to make the long trek over land, and water. They fly alone, often on the same path they have flown earlier in their life, and fly low, just above tree tops or water. Young hummingbirds must navigate without parental guidance.

Hummingbirds fly by day when nectar sources such as flowers are more abundant. Flying low allows the birds to see, and stop at, food supplies along the way. They are also experts at using tail winds to help reach their destination faster and by consuming less energy and body fat. Research indicates a hummingbird can travel as much as 23 miles in one day. However those that make the 500 mile flight from Florida to the Yucatan do it in 18-22 hours non-stop, depending on wind conditions

Interactive Map of 2021 Monarch Migration. Zoom/pan map for more detail, and click on icons for sighting info

The spring migration can be hard on the hummingbird population as they move north from their winter homes in southern Mexico and Central America. Stops along the way may be for a few minutes, or a few days at more favorable locations with abundant food supplies. Strong cold fronts moving south over the Gulf of Mexico make flying difficult as the birds deal with headwinds and heavy rain, over long distances with no shelter. Food is non-existent over the open waters.

How To Make Hummingbird Nectar

Ruby-throated hummingbirds at feeder

Hummingbirds may be some of the smallest birds in the world, but fluttering those tiny wings can be quite a workout. Flapping away at up to 90 beats per second burns up calories fast. To maintain their momentum, hummingbirds need to eat — a lot! To satisfy their speedy metabolisms, these busy birds consume half their body weight in bugs and nectar, feeding every 10-15 minutes and visiting 1,000-2,000 flowers per day.

Materials

  ¼ cup refined white sugar
  1 cup boiling wanter
  Bowl
  Spoon

  Please do use refined white sugar! Honey can promote dangerous fungal growth, while organic, natural, and raw sugars contain levels of iron that could be harmful. Plain white table sugar is sucrose, which, when mixed with water, very closely mimics the chemical composition of natural nectar.

Directions

Mix sugar and boiling water until sugar is dissolved. Cool and fill feeder. Hang up your feeder outside and wait for the hummingbirds to come. There is NO need to use red food coloring.

6 Ways To Attract Hummers To Your Yard

  More than most birds, hummers need to bathe regularly, due to the sticky nature of nectar.
  They prefer very shallow, moving water, or a spray mist.
  Placing nesting material near a feeder may attract female hummingbirds to nest near you.
  Hummer Helper®”is a practical nesting material and is available at bird stores/garden centers.
  Hummer nests are often re-used, wholly or in part. Leave a nest in place

Bergamot — Hummingbird Favorite

Bergamot, Monarda fisulosa Bergamot, Monarda fisulosa, is a favorite of both Ruby-Throated Lovely lavender flowers top aromatic foliage. Easy to grow in a perennial border, wildflower garden or meadow. Wild bergamot is a great naturalizing wildflower and a magnet for butterflies and hummingbirds. It is a familiar component of prairie and savanna communities on all but the wettest of soils. Native to most of North America, it often is cited for its historical medicinal applications among indigenous people.

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