Despite a rare and unique occurrence in the world of Lepidoptera, other winged species, besides monarch butterflies, migrate at this time of year.
Hummingbirds are on the move! There has been a noticeable flurry of activity at our feeder over the last few days. The tiny birds drained the feeder yesterday. Today, there will be fresh nectar available to help nourish them on their exodus from the upper midwest. The days are rapidly becoming shorter here and as sundown approaches, there is a familiar fall nip in the air. The tiny red throated hummingbirds are sure to notice our environment cooling off as well. The shorter photoperiod (fewer hours of daylight) trigger bodily changes in these tiny birds, signaling them to nourish themselves for a trip to a warmer climate (Journey North, 2021).
But, early this morning, they were back at it again, buzzing by the feeder on their helicopter wings reminding me to provide more sugar-water.
Where do hummingbirds go?
We know that monarch butterflies migrate a great distance, encompassing thousands of miles, to the Sierra Madre Mountains of Central Mexico. But, where do hummingbirds go? In the fall, hummingbirds in more northern climates such as ours in Wisconsin, migrate to the warmer coastal waters off the shores of Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Florida (Journey North, 2021).
This tiny bird is very smart and undertakes the migration journey before flowers and other nectar sources are diminished or dead from the change of seasons bringing colder temperatures. Like monarchs, they depend on finding flowers for fuel on their journey.
There are several distinctive patterns to hummingbird migrations. Males leave first. They have less competition for food when traveling in waves. Next, females leave and then younger, more immature birds, allowing them time to make the journey after they’ve stored up some fat (Journey North, 2021)! Hummingbirds travel alone, on their migration but typically are faithful to their own path. This information has been confirmed by the return of banded hummingbirds on the same day each year at a specific location! Many of these observations are made by Citizen Scientists or lay people, like you and I who observe species and phenological changes (seasonal change), reporting it to online data bases which the actual scientists use to learn more about these awe-inspiring creatures. In the past, I only reported on monarchs as a citizen scientist, but in the last few years I reported on hummingbirds and loons (another migrational species), as well.
Hummingbird migration is in full swing here, as noted at my feeder over the last week. In fact, the end of August to early September is a prime time to travel if you are a hummingbird relocating for the winter!
For more on hummingbirds, you can visit the following sites:
As fall approaches with cooler weather in tow, I know that watching the tiniest of birds outside my kitchen window will end as well. I hope their journey to the warmer coast is successful and filled with flowers along the way.