Hummingbirds are one of the smallest bird species in the world and often migrate for food and survival. Like other avian species, hummingbirds also begin their journey north to feed on mountain flowers during spring and return to the south in the fall.
The hummingbirds leave their summer home environment, even if they get plenty of food. The abundance of food does not affect their migratory urge, and they believe in their instinct to find more food along the way.
Do hummingbirds migrate or hibernate?
Yes, each year, hummingbirds make two migration journeys and can span hundreds or thousands of miles. These birds trust their instincts and environmental triggers for appropriate departure times and routes.
Among the 300 recognized hummingbird species in North America, only 12 to 15 creatures regularly migrate or hibernate each year. Usually, they migrate in the daytime and fly in mid-air to watch food opportunities and rest at night.
In some hummingbird species, males start their journey before females to establish territories at the beginning of the breeding season. They follow the same pattern and directions to develop winter territories.
In North America, hummingbirds are the most anticipated and likable backyard small birds. When these birds make seasonal migrations, the regular bird feeders, fanciers, gardens, and yards can predict their migration patterns and are ready to welcome them with open hands.
Every year, most individual birds often start their journey simultaneously. They also spend time in the same yards for one or two days.
Most of the hummingbird’s species travel up to 20 miles per day and follow the routes having their favorite early blooming flowers.
When do the hummingbirds migrate?
Several factors that determine the small birds on their long journeys are :
- The amount of daylight
- The angle of the sunlight relative to the bird’s nest
- Changes in the abundance and availability of food such as nectar, insects, and flowers
- Their instinct also plays a significant role in making decisions regarding their migration.
These little birds can flap their wings up to 15 to 80 times per second when they travel. Their heartbeats up to 1260 times per minute.
When they sense subtle changes in the intensity of sunlight levels seasonally, they purposefully start eating more to gain 25 to 40% through hypergiant, and their hormones also support the increasing weight. After gaining enough energy, they start the migration to make long treks over water and land.
They migrate to areas that have less competition for food and territory during breeding seasons. Even the seasonal cooling temperature makes the small birds travel south every fall. The advancing and retreating seasons of cycling are the primary reasons for their migratory pattern. The pattern changes with changing weather conditions.
What is the season for hummingbird migration?
Every year, hummingbirds embark on two traditional migratory journeys:
- North in the spring (for breeding grounds)
- South in the fall ( to escape wintering grounds)
They require an immense amount of energy and preparations to take the extended and challenging migration flights.
In the spring, they take solitary journeys from Mexico and South America and migrate into North America up to Canada to claim the best feeding territories for their offspring. They begin spring migration as early as February in northern places and reach their destination in mid-May in Canada.
Birds prefer migrating towards the Northward as it provides them routes escaping from the tropics, where competition for food and survival would be intense. Also, generally, in the north, food is abundant during summer.
After breeding, birds move up to higher elevation mountains to eat the blooming flowers. In the fall season, they return to the coast when the blooming at the mountains slow down.
In the fall, migrating hummingbirds follow similar oval or circular routes and timeframes and reach the south before winter. They set their journey as early as July. By late October, they will cross the southern borders of the United States.
Do hummingbirds migrate in flocks?
No, humming takes the solitary individual long flight and does not travel with seasonal flocks like other avian creatures.
Usually, hummingbirds fly alone and take the same path they have passed earlier in their life. They fly usually by the day when nectar sources are abundant and they fly low above trees top or water to stop for food supplies along their way.
Hummingbirds are experts in using their tail wings to reach the destination and by using less body fat and energy.
Related Read: Do Hummingbirds Ever Get Tired? How Do They Fly So Long?
How long do hummingbirds travel for migration?
Depending on the wind conditions and climate, hummingbirds have high energy to travel up to 23 miles on a single day. The weather patterns such as local storms and strong winds have a significant impact on their traveling and delay their journeys by one or two days.
During bad weather, migrating small birds hang out in safe places for at least one or two weeks until the weather becomes normal to take flights.
Like Ruby-throated hummingbirds, they can take long flights for 18 to 22 hours non-stop and cover a 500 miles flight from Florida to the Yucatan.
The rufous hummingbird species make the longest migration of nearly 4000 miles between Mexico and Alaska. The return trip begins in July, and instead of gliding along the coast, they take a slightly different return route following the Rocky mountains back to Mexico.
Are hummingbirds hitchhikers? Do hummingbirds hitch a ride on the backs of geese?
No, hummingbirds are not hitchhikers and do not migrate on the backs of geese. Tiny hummingbirds skim along treetops or over waves and fly thousands of miles to their destination on their own.
Usually, the Canadian geese fly at 20,000 feet and end their goal within a hundred miles.
Every year, hummingbirds and geese do not begin their migratory journey at the same time or to the same destinations.
A bright green hummingbird latched onto the back of Canada geese is ultimately a myth and does not have any facts.
The tiny hummingbirds migrate with all their power to reach their destination with the help of their internal calendar and maps, consuming their body fat and eating whatever food supplies they get in the way.
Though tiny in size, their persistence helps them in their migration. They do not hitchhike or ditch their migration at any cost.