Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Spring Migration

Migrating hummingbirds usually begin to arrive in the Badger State during the first week of May

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

Spring Migration
Distance Average: 500 miles
Flight Time 18-22 hours
Flight Speed   Average: 23 mph
Flap Wings 15-18 times/second
Heart Rate 1,260 times/minute

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.

Hummingbirds are 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

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.

  Working Up An Appetite

Hummingbirds may be some of the smallest birds in the world, but fluttering those tiny wings can be quite a workout. Flapping their wings 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.

How To Make Hummingbird Nectar


  ¼ cup refined white sugar
  1 cup boiling water


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


  Always use refined white sugar (regular table sugar).
  It is okay to use tap water.
  Never use honey, confectioners, corn syrup or raw, unprocessed sugars.
  Extra sugar water can be stored in a refrigerator.
  The water for your nectar does not need to be boiled.
  It’s recommended that feeders be changed and thoroughly cleaned.

  6 Ways To Attract Hummers To Your Yard

Ruby-throated hummingbirds at feeder

  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

  Hummingbird Favorites

Plant native red or orange tubular flowers to attract ruby-throated hummingbirds, in addition to native plants rich in nectar. Group similar plants together and choose species with different blooming periods so that there will be a steady supply of flowers nearly year round.

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.

Beebalm, Monardy didyma Beebalm, Monarda didyma, As its name suggests, this perennial plant attracts bees, but it's also a hummingbird magnet. Bee balm is a bushy plant that grows two to four feet high. The dark-green leaves smell like mint or basil. Most bee balm plants have red, pink or white blooms. The red flowers do the best job of luring these tiny birds to your yard.

Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis, this perennial plant produces vivid cardinal-colored flowers in the summer months. The bright red color of the flowers and the sweet nectar they contain attract hummingbirds in droves.


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