November 2019: The Great Hummingbird Migration

The ruby-throated hummingbird weighs less than a nickel. Every spring, they migrate up the east coast and as far as into southern Canada, feeding on the nectar of flowers as they go. 

In the fall, they’re usually gone from New England by Thanksgiving. This tiniest of birds takes to the air and with a heart beating as fast as 1,260 beats per minute, flies to the Gulf of Mexico, stopping for sustenance along the way.

  They gather in Florida and Louisiana to continue increasing their body weights for the final push to Mexico and Central America. While some follow the land down into these areas, others fly straight across the Gulf. These fragile but mighty creatures can fly in stretches of 2,000 kilometers (over 1,200 miles) in one go. 

What does this mean for us with hummingbird feeders? Keep them going through the fall, but it’s safe to bring them inside at Thanksgiving. Hummingbirds are not spurred to migrate by a decrease in food, but a decrease in daylight hours. So you can safely provide sugar water for these birds as they travel south. 

If you’d like to keep track of hummingbird migration, check out this site!

To safely feed hummingbirds, use a 1 part sugar to 4 parts water ratio, without any need for food coloring. The red dyes are unnecessary. Be sure to clean the feeder every 3-4 days and replace the liquid within, or you risk making the birds ill.  

Better yet, plant natives in the garden to feed birds seasonally. Plants to consider:

Trumpet creeper (Campis radicans)

Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)

Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervivens)

Scarlet bee balm (Monarda didyma)

Beardtongues (Penstemon spp.)

Obedient plants (Physostegia spp.)

Sweet azalea (Rhododendron arborescens)

Indian pinks (Spigelia marilandica)

Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)