Where Do Hummingbirds Migrate for the Winter?

Annas Hummingbird after a snow storm

Hummingbird migration is a remarkable natural phenomenon that many bird observers anticipate each year. This migration is driven by the search for warmer climates and abundant food sources.

Usually, the paths these birds follow and the destinations they seek vary among species. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll share more about this and other cool facts about hummingbird migration!

Where Do Hummingbirds Go in the Winter?

Wintering hummingbird sitting on thin branch

In the winter, hummingbirds migrate to warmer regions like Mexico and Central America. These regions offer abundant food sources, which are vital for their survival during the colder months. By migrating, hummingbirds ensure it has the necessary resources to live through winter.

This migration is a remarkable feat, considering their small size and the vast distance they cover. They rely on their incredible memory to return to the same feeding spots year after year.

During their stay in the warmer regions, hummingbirds feast on nectar from flowers and small insects

This diet helps them maintain the energy needed for their active lifestyle and prepares them for their return trip north when spring arrives.

Check out this video of hummingbird migration:

Hummingbird Migration

Why Do Hummingbirds Migrate?

A hummingbird migrates primarily in search of food since the availability of nectar and insects they feed on dwindle in their breeding areas as the seasons change. 

In their winter habitats, they find the necessary nourishment to sustain themselves. This cycle of migration ensures they always have access to the resources they need.

Interestingly, their migration is not just about survival. It also plays a crucial role in the pollination of plants

As they move from one place to another, hummingbirds transfer pollen between flowers. This helps in the reproduction of various plant species.

Different Hummingbirds & Their Destinations in Winter

Annas hummingbird sitting on a branch in snow

Different species of hummingbirds head to distinct destinations across the globe. Here’s a glimpse at where some hummingbird species spend their winters:

  • Ruby-throated Hummingbirds: They travel to Central America and cross the Gulf of Mexico to reach their wintering grounds in southern Mexico and northern Panama.
  • Rufous Hummingbirds: These birds have a remarkable journey, extending from Alaska to Mexico. They follow the Pacific coast southward and find warmth along the way.
  • Anna’s Hummingbirds: These hummingbirds mostly stay put on the Pacific Coast of North America, where the climate remains mild throughout the winter.
  • Black-chinned Hummingbirds: These birds migrate to the western Gulf of Mexico and Mexico.
  • Broad-tailed Hummingbirds: These hummingbirds head to Guatemala and Mexico for the winter.
  • Calliope Hummingbirds: They travel south to Mexico and Central America.
  • Allen’s Hummingbirds: Some of these birds migrate to southern Mexico, but a portion stays along the coastal areas of California, where conditions remain favorable.

As evident in the list above, the migration patterns of hummingbirds are as diverse as the species themselves. 

This shows their adaptability and underscores the importance of various habitats in supporting their life cycles throughout the year.

When Do Hummingbirds Start Migrating for the Winter?

Wild hummingbird on ice coated branch in winter

Hummingbirds start their migration to warmer climates as the seasons change, usually beginning in late summer or early fall. In other words, their migration generally kicks off around late August through September.

Note, though, that each species has its own migration schedule. For example, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird often begins its southward journey from North America to Central America in late August.

This precise timing ensures they can capitalize on the abundance of flowering plants along their route, which are crucial for fueling their lengthy voyage.

By the time winter fully sets in, most hummingbirds have reached their southern homes, where they’ll spend the colder months. Come spring, the cycle begins anew, with the birds returning north to breed. 

Are There Hummingbirds That Don’t Migrate?

Hummingbird with snow falling on her head

Yes, there are hummingbirds that do not migrate. These non-migratory hummingbirds are often found in regions with climates that remain relatively warm and stable.

For example, Anna’s Hummingbirds, primarily found along the western coast of North America, stay in the same habitat year-round, thanks to the mild winters and abundant food sources.

In contrast to their migratory cousins, these hummingbirds have developed behaviors and physiological adaptations that allow them to withstand cooler temperatures and less abundant food supplies. 

They may enter a state of torpor, a form of temporary hibernation, to conserve energy during cold nights or when food is scarce.

When to Put Your Hummingbird Feeder Away

Female hummingbird at feeder in winter

You should consider putting your hummingbird feeder away a few weeks after the migration period has begun. This usually falls around late fall, but it’s essential to pay attention to hummingbird behavior in your area.

Personally, I leave the feeder out for about two weeks after spotting the last hummingbird. 

This extra time ensures that late migrants or stragglers have a chance to refuel in my garden during their long journey south. It’s a simple act of kindness I can do for these birds.

Pro Tip: Cleaning and storing your feeder properly at the end of the season is essential. 

Wash it with hot, soapy water and let it dry completely before putting it away. This prevents mold and bacteria growth and ensures the feeder is safe to use when spring rolls around.

How Can You Help Hummingbirds During Their Migration?

You can help hummingbirds during their migration by providing them with a reliable source of food through feeders filled with sugar water. This simple step offers essential energy for their long journey.

Apart from feeders, planting native flowers that bloom during migration seasons is another great way to support hummingbirds. These plants supply nectar and attract insects, which are a crucial protein source for hummingbirds.

You can also put a hummingbird bird bath in your garden so they can take a dip in cold water during their migration breaks.

Ensuring a safe environment is also vital. Keeping cats indoors, placing feeders away from windows to prevent collisions, and avoiding pesticides in your garden helps protect these birds from harm. 

Such measures create a safer passage for hummingbirds and reduce the risks they face during migration.

Frequently Asked Questions

An over wintering hummingbird sitting on a branch in snow

Do Hummingbirds Come Back to the Same Place Every Year?

Yes, hummingbirds often return to the same place every year. They have excellent memory for locations and can find their way back to feeding sites, including feeders and nesting areas they’ve used in previous years. 

This remarkable navigational ability ensures they revisit areas where they’ve had success in finding food and shelter.

Do Hummingbirds Fly Non-Stop During Their Migration?

No, hummingbirds do not fly non-stop during their migration. While they can cover impressive distances, they need to stop regularly to rest and refuel. 

For instance, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, which makes a long journey over the Gulf of Mexico, is known for this feat but will rest before and after this challenging part of its migration.

How Far Do Hummingbirds Travel During Their Migration?

The distance hummingbirds travel during their migration varies by species, but some, like the Rufous Hummingbird, migrate up to 3,000 miles from Alaska and Canada to their wintering grounds in Mexico. 

This is one of the longest migration distances, considering that hummingbirds are among the smallest birds in the world.

How Long Does It Take Hummingbirds to Migrate?

Generally, hummingbird migration can take anywhere from a few weeks to a month. 

Factors such as weather conditions and availability of food along the migration path can influence the overall time it takes for them to reach their destination.

Did you find this guide on hummingbird migration helpful? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below! If you have any questions or experiences to share, feel free to share them, too!

Leave a Comment

You may also like