Waiting and Watching
February 24, 2017 By Mary Hosier
Migration is about to begin! Birds are fueling up and waiting for tailwinds to cross the Gulf of Mexico. When will the first arrive?

Male Ruby-throat
Spring migrant or overwintering Ruby-throat? Sometimes it's hard to tell.
By Kenneth Drake in Willis, Texas on February 20, 2017

Welcome to Spring Migration Season

Excitement is peaking in areas along the Gulf Coast where the first migrating hummingbirds will soon be arriving. Feeders have been filled for weeks. Observers are waiting for just the right winds to assist the Ruby-throats across the Gulf. A good, strong southern wind will bring them north.

Imagine the Journey
Hummingbirds are so small, Ruby-throats weigh between 2.5 and 4.5 grams. You could mail nine or ten with a single stamp, says hummingbird expert Laura Erickson! Each bird travels alone on migration. The journey across the Gulf takes about 18 hours if the weather is good. It could take 24 hours, or more, if weather is bad. Once they reach land it is essential that they find food and water.

Spring Migrant or Overwintering Hummer?
For those who have been seeing hummingbirds through the winter it can be difficult to identify a new migrant when it arrives. Hummingbird bander Nancy Newfield describes how she can tell if an early bird is a migrant.

"They are sparkling and bright. Wintering adult males are still molting. Their wing, tail, and contour feathers are quite dull by comparison to new arrivals."

Rufous Arrives
This week marks the first reported migrating Rufous hummingbird! Most Rufous that breed in Canada and the U.S. winter south of the US/Mexico border. However, more and more individual Rufous overwinter in the US.

Western Species Highlights
This month six different species of hummingbirds have been reported, some new arrivals and some overwintering. Anna's and Calliopes are being reported along the Pacific Coast, and wintering Rufous, Broad-tailed, Buff-bellied, and Broad-billed hummingbirds in Texas and Louisiana.

winds across the Gulf
Watch the Winds
Rufous in Oregon
Lee Cain
Broad-tailed Hummingbird at feeder
Kenneth Drake
An Amazing Rubythroat Journey  

Companion Resources

Where, when, and how do Ruby-throated Hummingbirds migrate in the spring?


Photo Gallery

Text Only Article

Teaching Suggestions

Driving Question

Where, when, and how do Ruby-throated Hummingbirds migrate in the spring?

Report Your Sightings
Hummingbird Migration: What to Report

Hummingbird Migration Map: Ruby-throated Hummingbird Hummingbird Migration Map: Rufous Hummingbird
What to Report Ruby-throated
map | animation | sightings
map | animation | sightings
tnail of other species map Hummingbird Migration Map: Other Observations nectaring map
Other Species
map | animation | sightings
Other Observations
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map | list
Next Update March 3, 2017