Hummingbirds are fascinating wonders of nature, packing tremendous potential in their tiny bodies. The project leader of FeederWatch at Cornell Lab, Dr. Emma, said that hummingbirds are so unique because they are the smallest birds on the planet. Hummingbirds are the only species of birds that can fly backward, which proves to help feed on plant and insect nectar. As a result, these fascinating creatures fly to the warmest place in the US when winter comes.
The majority of North-American hummingbirds fly to Mexico or Central America during winters. While this journey is nothing compared to those made by South American hummingbirds, it’s still astonishing to see these lightweight, ruby-necked birds fly across the Gulf of Mexico in a single day.
Hummingbirds fly south not only for a warmer climate but for food. During winter, flowers are covered in snow, and most species of plants that bloom in cold climates aren’t the primary food source for hummingbirds. As a result, these solid and tiny feathered friends look for a new home in Mexico or Central America.
Upon arriving in the United States, these birds fly 20 miles a day searching for food. Contrary to popular myths, hummingbirds don’t travel on the backs of large birds such as Geese or Andean Condor.
Should I Take Down My Hummingbird Feeder in Winter?
Don’t take down your bird feeder when you feel winter is approaching. Instead, keep it fully stocked in the late days of fall because birds would visit your feeder more often to replenish their energy. Plus, your feeder will serve as a pitstop for birds that have been traveling for a long time. But at first sight of winter or when your feeder starts freezing, you should take it down.
Otherwise, you might attract Rufous hummingbirds, and they might cause concerns if they stay longer. In addition, if your feeder is out in the cold, it might cause a distraction for birds migrating to warmer areas as they’ll decide to find shelter in your feeder.
Will Hummingbirds Return to My Feeder?
Hummingbirds have excellent memory, and they don’t forget people who treated them with care and affection. So put your feeder out when winter ends, and your loyal friends will return. You can also put out your feeder during the day in winter when the temperature starts dropping because it might help save a stray hummingbird. But you shouldn’t do that too often because it can cause a distraction for traveling birds as they may decide to settle in your backyard. This isn’t a good idea if the temperature falls to a freezing point.
How Long Do Hummingbirds Migrate?
Without many pitstops, it would take a hummingbird about a week to fly south for the winter. But in reality, it takes around 2 weeks because these tiny birds take several breaks to replenish their energy, eat and bathe. However, spring migration might be faster because hummingbirds get restless for the nesting season as their hormones start acting up.
Therefore, the average time a hummingbird takes to migrate south is somewhere between 1-1.5 weeks. If there are plenty of pitstops, it might take more, but these birds are clever, so they start their journey sooner.
What Temperatures Can Hummingbirds Survive?
Western hummingbirds are remarkably tolerant of sub-freezing and sub-zero temperatures. This makes sense because they nest in the winter season. Some hummingbirds migrate back to their original destination even before the snow starts melting. This is because these birds have excellent weather resistance capabilities.
Plus, hummingbirds have deep hibernation capabilities, which conserves their energy and helps them survive cold winter nights without food. Hummingbirds can also lower their body temperatures which helps them survive cold winter days without freezing.
Where Do Hummingbirds Migrate?
Hummingbirds migrate to Mexico and Central America for the winter. They travel during the day because flower and nectar sources are in abundance. Hummingbirds’ wings flap 15 to 80 times in a minute, and their hearts beat 1,260 times during migration. The rapid flapping provides the required energy to lift off and maintain their flight and the fast heartbeat keeps up with the blood flow required to flap 80 times in a minute.
How to Help Hummingbirds in Winter
Feeding hummingbirds during the winter is possible, but you need to stay committed. This is because if you feed them once, they’ll come to your house for a couple of days and might not go elsewhere. Plus, you need to take extra precautions when feeding hummingbirds in winter. For instance, if you leave out water without a heating source in the winter, it’ll get cold. When hummingbirds drink cold water, they get brain freeze, much like humans. Here’s what you can do to make things easier for your tiny friends.
- Hang the feeder in a safe spot away from strong gusts of winds
- Have a heating source but not a fire near the feeder to keep it warm
- Bring your feeder in at night to prevent freezing. Hummingbirds don’t go out for midnight snacks. They’ll feed heavily on your feeder during dusk and return to think bushes when the night falls.
- Use a feeder with a heat light or a heating pad to keep things comfortable for the little guest at your house. Warm water during winter is a good source of nourishment for hummingbirds because they can’t find it elsewhere.
Feeding a hummingbird in winter is no easy task. You have to spend a lot of time and money making the perfect feeder. But it’s not necessary to put out a feeder during the winter because most hummers are migrating.
They usually head towards Central America or Mexico, flying more than 20 miles a day upon arrival. Don’t worry when the winter ends; hummingbirds will return to your feeder because they have an excellent memory. So just make sure to keep your feeder out before the snow starts melting because some species of hummingbirds return home before the snow starts to melt.