Hummingbird Migration Patterns

Hummingbird migration is hard to grasp.

Imagine sitting in your house getting ready for a long trip. Although you may be able to stop to snack, you can't take any food with you, so you have to gain roughly 25 to 40 percent of your body weight before you leave. Everyone in your neighborhood is eating up as well, preparing for the same trip. Since no one in your neighborhood really gets along that well in close quarters, you are all traveling alone. You will all end up in your winter homes after having taken the same route as you did the year before and the year before that. This is the world of hummingbird migration.

Hummingbird Migration Patterns
Each type of hummingbird takes a different migration path. For example, the ruby throated hummingbird, the only hummingbird that breeds in eastern North America, starts to migrate from July until late October to its winter homes in Central America. Some take a route over Texas while others go over Florida and Cuba. Rubies also fly over the Gulf of Mexico. They make their return trips from March until May.

Calliope hummingbirds, which summer in the western mountains as far north as British Columbia, have the honor of being the smallest bird that breeds in North America. They fly north starting in March from northern and central Mexico, where they keep their winter homes. They start to migrate back during August.

Female broad-tailed hummingbirds may actually return to the same tree or bush every year to nest. Most of these birds have winter quarters in Mexican mountains. Broad tailed hummingbirds migrate as far north as British Columbia for the summer months, with some stopping in Texas, New Mexico, California and Wyoming along the way.

Rufous hummingbirds are quite aggressive for their size and have been known to chase chipmunks away from their nests. These birds circle western North America during their migration, moving from the Pacific Coast to Washington, British Columbia and Alaska for the summer months. Southern migration may start as early as July, depending on where the birds summer. Rufous hummingbirds' winter headquarters can extend into Mexico.

Like rufous hummingbirds, Allen's hummingbirds will chase large hummingbirds away from their nesting areas. Some Allen's hummingbirds may stay put year round in southern California. Those that migrate move to their winter homes in southern California and Mexico starting in July and August. Beginning in February, Allen's hummingbirds travel to their breeding grounds that extend up into southern Oregon. 

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