It's late winter and the urge hits.
The Migration North.
The race is on.
With the exception of Anna's hummingbird that hangs around the Pacific coast, America's hummers head to Mexico and Central America for the winter (though more and more are finding the south and east coasts as acceptable winter homes).
Like all birds, heading north is dictated by length of day, temperatures and food sources.
Hormones kick in.
Nature is letting these tiny avian marvels know that it is indeed time to head out.
The more experienced birds take off first, knowing it's a simple case of first come first serve.
Early Migration means getting prime territories are all in the timing.
It sounds a bit romantic to hear talk of early visitors and calling them scouts.
The truth is, there is no such thing as a scout in the bird world.
A scout implies that a bird checks out an area and goes back to tell the others that it is all clear.. (A huge waste of time and energy).
That goes against everything in the bird kingdom.
Sure some species of birds congregate before they take off, but once they reach their destination it's every bird for themselves.
The trip north begins with the male hummer leaving first and the females follow a couple of weeks later.
Successful birds will return to the exact same place as last year for food and mating.
Most hummingbirds are arrogant and anti social, why would they want to share?
The trail north can end along the southern states or continue as far north as Canada and Alaska.
For these northern hummers, the trip takes a few more weeks and a few thousand miles. often arriving here in Michigan in early to mid May.
hummer migration map
Supply and demand.
Location, location, location.
They need food and habitats.
With habitats shrinking, it is that more important than ever that we offer hummingbird gardens, protection and feeders.
After the long trip North, hummers are hungry. (more hummingbirds die of starvation than any other cause).
A Good Hummingbird Feeder or three are a good thing to put out for them.
Place the feeder near protection but visible for you to observe and put it out a good week or two before you might expect your first visitors.
There is always that chance visit from an early bird.
For the first three weeks, I mix 3 parts water to 1 part sugar (33%).
After a long difficult trip, this gives the hungry travelers a well needed boost.
After the birds have settled in and more blooms are available, I reduce the nectar water back down to a 4 parts water to 1 part sugar (22%).
The increased sugar solution doesn't harm the little guys, nor does it make them feeder dependant. In fact, Migration is hard work and that added boost just might be what a hungry bird needs.
Besides food and protection, offer water.
Hummers get most of their water in the liquid they drink, but they still must bathe and preen.
Misters are ideal for hummingbirds.
The male hummingbird has set up shop.
Establishing his territory and keeping away any would be land grabbers with the tenacity that would make a lion proud.
The size of his territory depends on the quantity and quality of habitat and food.
It can be as small as a city lot or about 1/4 acre or it can be more expansive.
A female's hormones have kicked in as well.
Heading North for her is at a fevered pitch as well, but she must wait for conditions to favor nesting and raising a family.
Warmer weather and ample food are needed to help insure a successful nesting season.
She will stock up on nectar and insects in preparation for nesting season.
Mom's seem to know a few things don't they?
Hummingbirds have few natural predators. Still, long distance trips are stressful times.
After Migration North, Comes the Mating Season
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