Tracking Hummingbird Migration

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.
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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.

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    by Iris Delgado, Thu, 09 May 2019
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    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019