Heading South

September 15, 2020 by Team Journey North

Hummingbirds are on the move and busy fueling up for their long journey south.

“Just one hummer sighted today, feeding at Agastache.” Photo: Kathy (Whitinsville, MA; 09/13/2020)

Numbers Dropping Up North

Fall officially begins next week. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at feeders in the north are likely migrants passing through and are not your familiar summer residents. As temperatures fall and days get shorter, juveniles and adult females will prepare to migrate south also. In the northern US and southern Canada, Journey North citizen scientists are already noticing a drop-off in sightings.

Chris in Leeds and the Thousand Islands, ON: “At least two around today, both female. Highlight of summer, I will miss them, as I think we all do. Godspeed my little friends.” (09/11/2020)

Susan in Wevertown, NY: “Have only had one female all week, until Thursday the 10th, another female showed up and our resident lady chased her all around. Apparently four feeders was not shareable! Then Sat the 12th, she was alone again. Been two days and haven’t seen her. I guess the 12th was her last day here. I’m so sad.” (09/12/2020)

Reid in Ely, MN: “After days of gradually fewer sightings at the feeders, today (Monday, September 14), I saw only one bird (at approximately 8 am).” (09/14/2020)

Adult male sightings in the north continue to be few and far between, and those still around will be on the move soon.

Beth in McFarland, WI: “Two males hung around through the unusually cold, rainy days of early September. This one was guarding three feeders and Mexican sunflowers in the backyard, and not flying much in the rain, other than to take drinks to fatten up. Poor guy was shivering in the cold. I expect he’s on his way now to warmer climes: with high pressure in the week ahead, for smooth, fast flight.” (09/11/2020)

Although migration is picking up pace, reports of late season nestlings are not unheard of in September. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds usually have 1-2 broods each breeding season.

Jessica in Springfield, IL: “One nestling fledged later in the day. I anticipate the other to fledge 9/10 or 9/11.” (09/09/2020)

Numbers Growing Further South

Ruby-throated Hummingbird numbers continue to grow in the southern US as short-term migratory residents and long-term summer residents overlap. 

Richard in San Antonio, TX: “West of San Antonio, TX we are seeing a big increase in hummingbird numbers as the Northern migration arrives at our feeding station to fuel up for the next leg of the journey. We have maintained a feeding station in the same place for over 20 years so the word is out there is free fuel and rest for the weary..” (09/10/2020)

Bruce in Decaturville, TN: “I have had at least 5 males and females all summer long, and recently their numbers have increased to around 18 to 20!” (09/14/2020)

Debra in Somerville, TN: “We’ve had lots of Rubies all summer, male and female. We currently have at least 80, double the number we had a week ago. They swarm the feeders and visit a variety of flowers. They are quite a sight.” (09/15/2020)

Out West

A cold spell in Colorado brought snow and tough conditions for female and juvenile Rufous Hummingbirds that are still around. Luckily hummingbirds are a resilient species. In Utah, Rufous are finding stopover sites and squabbling over feeder privileges with other species.

MaryAnn in Colorado Springs, CO: “Unseasonable snow event with freezing temperatures along the Front Range of the Rockies. Females and immatures vying for time at the feeders and looking for flowers that have not been frozen. It may be pretty quiet in the yard soon.” (09/09/2020)

Jane in Colorado Springs, CO: “Just finished a cold snap and the hummingbirds are having to fight off the bees from the feeder, but they’re still here. Freeze did not kill most of the plants.” (09/12/2020)

Carla in Ivins, UT: “This Rufous hummer has been hanging around for over 3 weeks! At this rate, I think he might join our resident Anna’s and stay for the winter. He still chases the Anna’s and Costa’s, but I’ve noticed he sometimes will stop and eat with them.” (09/14/2020)

Keep Reporting and Watch the Weather

Keep reporting and keep a tally of hummingbirds seen by your feeder and nectaring from flowers. Record the date each time you see one. Try to catch the date of your final hummingbird sighting of 2020 – we are hoping for more reports to better determine “last seen” dates.

Weather affects the flight of hummingbirds as they make their way south. Hurricanes and other tropical storms pose challenges to both humans and hummingbirds alike. Hummingbirds have been found to “wait out” storms. However, after extreme storm events, hummingbirds may have problems finding enough food sources. Others may have been driven far off-course. Activity: Watch Windy.com