Hummingbird is a type of bird which we know very little about and therefore it comes as no surprise that people are very curious about this type of bird and about how it lives and how it survives.
There are various species of birds which have been tracked with the help of transmitters but when you look into the information on hummingbirds you would realize that almost very little to no information is available.
One of the main question which many people are curious about is do hummingbirds migrate? If you ask some people, they would say that they do migrate but others would say they do not migrate.
The confusion is because there are many different species of hummingbirds.
Unless and until you’re not sure about the specie which you are talking about of hummingbirds, you cannot answer that question correctly.
Do hummingbirds migrate?
Yes, hummingbirds do migrate but the exact place of migration and the direction of migration would always be dependent on the individual specie of hummingbirds which you are talking about. You need to take into account that there are many different species of hummingbirds and therefore each and every specie has a different migration method and a different migration route. The most common hummingbird which you would see in the United States would be a ruby throated hummingbird. We would be discussing about the migration of this hummingbird to help you better understand what is the course of migration of the hummingbird.
Reason of migration:
In order to understand the migration of hummingbirds it is important to 1st understand the reason of migration and then it would be easier to understand how hummingbirds migrate.
Hummingbirds are carnivore birds which feed on the insects. In the winter season, when the ground is completely frozen and often covered by ice as well, the number of insects which can be easily be found the by the hummingbirds decreases significantly and therefore there is a shortage of food specially in the Northern American region and the Canadian region.
That is why, the hummingbirds migrate to the lower America and to the central part of the America to ensure that they get the food which they need.
Some of the hummingbirds, stay on the coasts if they are not able to migrate due to health reasons. If the winter is pretty harsh, then the population of the hummingbirds can also decrease due to death.
Migration in the north direction:
Hummingbirds do not migrate in groups and therefore they migrate individually and during the winter. They generally go to Mexico and Panama. After the winter starts receding by January, they start coming back to their original habitat. Generally speaking, hummingbirds would be going to the same spot each and every year for migration. The migration in the northern direction starts in January and is completed by February end because by February end there would be a lot of food available in the Northern America as the temperatures are at a more comfortable level.
In order to migrate northwards from Mexico to the southern parts of the United States, they have to cross the Gulf of Mexico which is a distance of around 500 miles and in order to cover this distance they require at least 20 hours and therefore when they need to migrate they would be starting their flight around the dusk time. Contrary to the myth, hummingbirds do not piggyback on other type of birds in order to migrate but they migrate on their own.
In order to rest, it is common for the hummingbirds to sit over the fishing boats as well as the oil rigs in the gulf of Mexico. Needless to say, they would be touching the land anywhere from Texas to Florida.
In order to complete such a long continuous flight, they would need a lot of energy and therefore when they depart from Mexico, their weight is usually around 6 gm and when they reach the land their weight can be easily half of that, that is 3 gm.
Some of the birds, would also be coming in through the Caribbean. This would make it much more easier for them to migrate to the United States.
If you look at the gender-wise migration, then you would realize that first the males migrate in the northward direction and the female migration only starts after about 10 days of the male migration. This ensures that even though there is bad weather the entire specie of hummingbirds would not be affected.
The time duration over which this migration takes place can range up to 3 months.
Once the hummingbirds are in the United States and have to migrate in the north direction, the speed of migration is much slower and the average speed is pegged at only 20 miles per day and this is also dependent on the flora and fauna of the surrounding in which the hummingbirds currently are.
If you look into the entire range of migration ranging from the land of Mexico all the way towards Canada, it can easily start in January and would be only completed at the end of May. Thus you can say that the northern migration can last for a pretty long period of time.
Migration in the south direction:
The southward migration starts as soon as the temperatures start falling below 25°F. The migration also starts with the males first and can start by mid-July. If you look into the bulk of the migration then it is usually done in the August month and at the most in first half of the September month.
The population of the hummingbirds which migrates in the south direction is almost double of the population which would later on migrate in the northern direction. That is because, many of the hummingbirds specially the ones which are very small and have just been born, would not be able to make it through the winter.
As we mentioned above, hummingbirds do not migrate in groups and therefore even for the smaller hummingbirds who have just been born, it is up to themselves individually to find out the route for the migration.
Generally speaking, hummingbirds which have been just born, put on a lot of weight according to the seasons because this weight would be required during the migration. They get an urge to fly southwards away from the harsh temperature. Once they are able to find a route and are able to find a place to spend the winter is, they would be sticking to the same route year-on-year and would be coming to the same place to spend their winters.
The place which they generally find would be dependent on the presence of food. If they are able to get some food at the place at which they have reached after the migration then they would be coming to the same place again and again. The trigger of the migration in the south direction also depends on the number of hours of sunlight in the location in which they are in initially. When the number of hours of sunlight goes on reducing, this is the trigger for them to start the migration.
The hummingbirds would only start the migration when they have put on quite a bit of weight which is required to cover such a large distance of flying.
So, yes hummingbirds do migrate individually and in most of the cases the places of migration is fixed and the same year-on-year.