Hummingbirds are among the most beloved and highly anticipated birds in North America. The return of these backyard birds creates amazing sightings for backyard birders. Understanding how these flying jewels migrate, the various species, the routes and the overall travel patterns will make the entire experience enjoyable. It is because the birders extensively prepare for the hummingbird’s spring arrival at their yards, feeders and gardens and also appreciate their fall departure.
What is Hummingbird Migration?
Hummingbird Migration is the movement of the hummingbirds to and from their winter habitats in Central and Latin America to conducive and favorable areas of North America. Even though hummingbirds tops the list of the smallest birds in the world with a high migration verge, their migration is highly regulated.
These backyard jewels usually embark on two above mentioned migrations: one north and one south. As the birds do their seasonal migration between northern breeding grounds and southern winter ranges, the journey is not a smooth endeavor. It forces them to have the right calendar, timing and preparation strategies.
Despite all this, they arrive at their destinations and will return to the same birder’s backyard every year, especially where they were born. Some research also argues that the birds will stop along every feeder they had an encounter with during the previous migration journey.
The Hummingbird Migration Interesting Facts
The Hummingbirds Migration Pattern and Routes
The hummingbird’s journey begins both on the preparation at hand and the environmental situation at that time. Although food makes them migrate, sunlight and wind enable an easy transition. The migration involves the northern and southern routes. The Maps has all these in detail.
On the northward trip, the birds advance quite fast, and by February, most have reached Mexico. While in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, they feed on available insects while getting ready for the remaining part of the journey.
The next route is now towards the US shores via the Gulf of Mexico pen waters. This is the toughest journey that takes more than 500 miles. Most hummingbird species will cover this journey in 18-22 hours.
Some birds find it hard to fight through, and they take breaks at the oil rigs and idle boats along the Gulf of Mexico. They, later on, advance across the open waters. But this time with adequate energy. In no time, they will successfully reach the US shores.
The return route towards the south taking the same lengthy and daring routes. The birds charge up for adequate energy while still in the southern US. They then zip across the waters towards their homes for the winter season. The entire journey through the routes is worth admiring.
The Hummingbirds Spring and Fall Migration
The spring migration is the northern journey from South America and Mexico all the way to Canada. It can start as early as February and end in May. It covers hundreds and thousands of miles, and the hummingbirds require complete preparation.
The fall migration also covers many thousand miles back to Central America and Mexico. The hummingbirds cross the Southern US border anytime from late October. Other times, it starts from late August or early September. The fall migration is crazy and starts when insects start to decrease. Note that not all hummingbirds will migrate, some choose to spend winter in North America western coast.
Why Do Hummingbirds Migrate?
The first hummingbirds were spotted in South America from Asia. That was 22 million years ago. With the desire to look for better conditions, the birds moved from South America to Central America and later the Caribbean. They, later on, they moved to North America. And the migratory pattern to and fro persists to date.
Hummingbirds migrate in search of food, breeding grounds and other resources that are favorable for their survival. The migration from South America and Mexico is in the bird’s desire to explore places with less competition and adequate food. The birds move south for Seasonal cooling every fall. The retreating and advancing explain their migratory pattern.
How do Hummingbirds Migrate?
The perilous journey for hummingbirds leaves them predisposed, but they have several tactics and adequate preparation to enable them to triumph and receive their destinations. Migration is through the north and south routes. Explained below are some of the key strategies that these birds use to travel 20-25 miles per day.
Hummingbirds know the predators are on the way, and they migrate alone. They are never in flocks. This is one major difference with other birds like swallows, geese and ducks. Besides, they don’t scramble for food sources; they split to accommodate others.
Their migration is during the day, mostly from mid-morning hours to the early evening. They do so because air is warm at that time, making their journey easy because of the streamline flow. During the day, they can notice the flowers where they take breaks while refueling. For their safety and ease of travel, they rest at night.
While flying, they stay very low. Flying low other than being in high altitudes is a strategy to help them see the blooming flowers and feeders. The hummingbirds also easily notice the resting point easily when they keep it low.
Hummingbirds also migrate with the weather patterns in mind. When there is a considerate tailwind and ideal temperature, these birds can cover miles in a few hours. They take it as an advantage and cover the longest distance they can. On bad weather, they take a rest and wait for the ideal traveling condition.
Their body allows them to enter into a state of hyperphagia before the journey commences. The hormonal response enables them to raise their weight. For that reason, they utilize fat for the long journey. This makes them complete the journey while still safe and with much energy.
When and Where Do Hummingbirds Migrate?
Hummingbirds know the right time for every activity they undertake. The birds have very accurate calendars. To evidence this, you will notice that they will arrive in a particular area within the same time of the year. Most birds also migrate in close intervals.
The first male arrivals are on spring anytime from late February to March. From the migration map, you can check the arrival dates for various species. As the spring progress, more sightings are evidenced. However, their move is affected by environmental issues, and therefore, subject to variation.
During August and September, these birds fuel and get ready to move south. Here there are multiple activities as the map indicates. The travel is in sections, with some traveling to Southern US and others into Mexico.
Hummingbird Migration Timing and Preparation
In preparation for migration, hummingbirds increase their weight from 3 to 6 grams before they commence their journey. That means they double the nectar intake. The wings flatter at a high rate, around 53 rounds in a second at a heartbeat rate of approximately 1,200 beats per minute.
That does not mean that they will remain full and sturdy during the entire flying time; not many will make it to more than 2.5 grams when they reach the US shores. Depending on the particular species, here are some of the things that come along during their migration.
• They get exposed to predators along the way
• Bad weather and storms delay their journey but mitigate easily
• Those travel far will commence the journey early
• Mature birds migrate ahead to secure space and mates
• Male migrate ahead of females with 7 — 10 days difference
The Most Common Species of Hummingbirds
No clear, definite or exact record shows the exact number of hummingbird species. However, statistics and research have it that there are more than 300 hummingbird species in the entire world. The data is derived from comparing the subspecies that closely relate to the birds.
From over 300 hummingbird species, not all of them regularly migrate. Only a handful does. The hummingbird species are categorized into those that breed in North America, the rare visitors to the North, and all-year residents. Every bird has a scientific name that they are identified with. Below is the most common hummingbird species.
These birds breed at the far north. They are seen in California during spring and spend summer in the Pacific Northwest. During the fall, they occupy the Rocky Mountains. Their migration across North America is clockwise.
It is one of the most common and permanent residents of the Pacific Coast. However, they have been seen in multiple areas of the Northern America coast. It breeds from Canada South to Southern Arizona. They fit in all year range.
Found in the Southern part of Mexico during winter. It advances to the Pacific Coast and later in the mountains during summer. It nestles in California most often.
Black-chinned and breeds in many places, stretching from British Columbia to Northern Mexico. They spend their winter in Southern Texas, Arizona and California.
These birds feed at highly elevated areas. For that reason, they breed in the mountains of Northwest, Canada, and Alaska. When spring and summer nears, they travel to New and Northern Mexico. They stretch to Belize and Southwest Mexico for winter.
It migrates north during the spring to areas around Arizona, and Colorado. They will breed in the areas during the time they stay before stretching again. They occupy Mexico Highlands and Guatemala for winter.
The number of hummingbirds is on the rise compared to many years back. As you plan to enjoy the migrating birds, ensure you have the feeders full and in the right position, plant nectar flowers, or acquire the right components to make the nectar and ensure there is a safe thicket where the birds will reside. Hummingbirds are the best visitors you will get. Now that you understand their patterns ensure you make their journey and stay a success. They will surely come back.