Tracking Hummingbird Migration

by Kyle Carlsen | Assistant Editor, Bird Watcher's Digest
The first ruby-throats typically reach the Gulf Coast in late February or early March, often making a nonstop 18- to 20-hour flight across the Gulf of Mexico. This photo captures the first migrant to arrive at a reader's hummingbird feeder.
Share:

The return of the first ruby-throated hummingbird is one of the most highly anticipated spring events in eastern North America. Although a few of these winged gems spend the winter months in parts of the southern United States, the vast majority winter in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Each year the hummingbirds travel remarkable distances between their wintering grounds and their summer breeding areas, which span from the Gulf of Mexico to southern Canada.

The first ruby-throats typically reach the Gulf Coast in late February or early March, often making a nonstop 18- to 20-hour flight across the Gulf of Mexico. The birds move northward from there, relying heavily on the emergence of spring flowers as they make their way up through the United States. By early May, most of the Canada-bound hummingbirds have reached their destination, and most of the eastern two-thirds of North America is populated by ruby-throated hummingbirds.

Keeping track of the northward progression of these birds can help create an interesting picture of migration patterns. Lanny Chambers of St. Louis, Missouri, has been doing exactly that since 1997. By collecting thousands of reports each year from volunteer observers across North America, Chambers has constructed nearly real-time maps of when and where hummingbirds are showing up across the continent. Visit hummingbirds.net/map.html to view the maps, and consider contributing your own observations to this project.

About Kyle Carlsen

Kyle is the assistant editor of Bird Watcher's Digest. When not writing about birds, he divides his time between backpacking, traveling, and composing piano music. He's also a self-described coffee addict.

What do you think? Tell us!

comments powered by Disqus

New On This Site

The Latest Comments

  • There is a packaged mix sold in some specialty pet stores. You just mix it with water. It is for feeding baby parakeets, but it works pretty well for most birds.Sometimes a fledgling (a baby bird with feathers) can be set in a tree without the nest. If you get far enough away for a long enough time the baby will chirp and the parents will show up and take care of things.
    by Lynn, Aug 03, 2014
  • Thank you for the instructions. I'm afraid I've no idea what to do with orphans. I ordered the book so it should be here pretty soon. I greatly appreciate your contributions to Bird Watchers Digest.
    by Mary Bruce Milleer, Jun 29, 2014
  • Thanks for the advice about keeping thistle feeders out in the winter. I'll definitely try to lure some pine siskins to my yard.
    by Mary Bruce Milleer, Jun 29, 2014
  • I haven't put my oranges out early enough. I'll try next Spring.
    by Mary Bruce Milleer, Jun 29, 2014
  • Several times a year I "plant" containers of live worms -- easily found in the sports section at Walmart -- and enjoy watching the robins visit my yard. It's very easy to plant the containers. I simply use a shovel to loosen up the soil and put the container upside down on the pile. The next day, the container is empty; the worms have migrated down into the ground. They come up with the rain. Every morning my law is covered with robins.
    by Mary Bruce Milleer, Jun 29, 2014
Exit

Already registered? Log in here.

Not registered yet? Sign in here!

To use all of the features of this site, please create a user account with your e-mail address below. Your account allows you to read full articles, comment on website content, and use the interactive features of this website only. We will never send you "spam" or sell your e-mail address to any third party.