Ruby-Thrated Hummingbird Spring Migration

Baltimore Oriole 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

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.

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.

Robin with nesting materials

Provide Spring Nesting Material

It’s nesting time! Birds are master builders, putting together intricately made weavings of twig and leaf, stem and fluff, hair and moss

Hummingbird Quiz Logo

Hummingbird Quiz

Take this quick quiz and see how much you know about hummingbirds. This quiz is intended for fun, in a random-facts-can-be-cool kind of way.

Hummingbird pollinating a flower

Garden Plan For Birds

This guide features regional native plants for the Great Lakes that are highly attractive to bird pollinators.