Hummingbird Migration Takes an Incredible Journey

Many birds migrate in flocks, including geese and goldfinches. Each hummingbird navigates alone. Even juvenile birds undertaking their first southerly journey fly alone without parental guidance. They trust instinct.

As they move, hummingbirds stop to feed since their metabolism is fast. If they find a good area of flowers or feeders, they stop to tank.

Hummers may swirl and fight over nectar near feeding sources during peak migration. They come and go alone at concentration spots. Each person's journey involves short flights with refueling stops.

Hummingbirds migrate based on instinct rather than decision. But those instincts have evolved throughout time depending on what has helped earlier generations survive.

Hummers cannot predict the weather as they migrate north to reproduce in spring. Their senses tell them to come at each destination when the coldest weather has passed and flowers are blooming in an ordinary year.  

Hummers move south in late summer or fall without being motivated by weather or food. They frequently leave when food is plentiful.

Eastern North American hummingbirds may migrate along the same paths in spring and fall, just in reverse.

In the West, several mountain ranges with drastically diverse climates at different elevations impede travel, and many hummers take different routes to and from their breeding areas. How do hummingbirds find feeders?

Many tropical hummingbirds are nonmigratory because their surroundings are favorable year-round. Even in North America, some live permanently. Some Anna's hummingbirds live year-round along the Pacific Coast, while others only visit in the warmer months.