Hummingbird Migration Map for 2020 – listing of 2020 hummingbird migration patterns & sightings (Spring & Fall). Access the live map & find species information.
In the United States, hummingbirds can be found throughout most of the country, but they blanket the eastern half of the country in a solid sea of color. More than a dozen species visit the United States in spring, concentrated in the eastern half of the country and along the West Coast all the way up to Alaska, as the map clearly shows.
Migration is a critical survival strategy for birds because they were often chased off by bird and animal predators in prehistoric times. Hummingbirds are believed to have migrated to South America 22 million years ago from Asia. As the food supply became scarce, the birds migrated to Central America and eventually spread to North America. Some of the species don’t migrate, but most do migrate regularly or occasionally. Seasonal cooling is the usual reason for hummingbird migration, but other factors can disrupt the regular pattern, such as natural disasters, food shortages and an increase in predators.
Scientists believe that each bird begins its annual migration based on key environmental triggers, such as the angle of the sun, temperature or a drop in the available food. As these triggers intensify, the bird begins preparing to migrate by building up calories for the intense flight.  The ruby-throated hummingbird is known for following the exact same route on both spring and fall migrations. Most U.S. species cross the Gulf of Mexico and settle in the eastern part of the United States.
Interesting Facts About Hummingbirds & Migration
Hummingbirds rank among the most fascinating species for bird watchers and naturalists because they’re small, lively, colorful and hover in a stationary position. Some of the most interesting facts about these birds include:
- They don’t migrate in flocks like other birds.
- They are the smallest species of migratory birds.
- The can hover and even fly backwards.
- They can’t smell the flowers, but they have enhanced color vision.
- They are named for the sound of their wings beating between 3 and 80 beats per second.
- They can’t walk, but they can scoot sideways when perched.
- There are more than 325 species of hummingbirds.
Hummingbird Migration Patterns
Hummingbird migration patterns are fascinating based on the fact that each bird makes the journey alone. The birds often follow paths they’ve used before, but first-time migrations are made by fledglings without any parental guidance. Most species spend winters in Mexico or Central America, but many migrate to South America and the tropical jungles where food – flowers and insects – are plentiful. Males are usually the first to arrive in spring, and some birds begin to migrate as early as February, depending on how far their migratory path is. Hummingbirds living in parts of California and the upper Pacific Coast often don’t migrate at all.
The triggers that start semi-annual migration include changes in the weather, sunlight and food supply. The length of the day is a common signal to prepare for migration. Some scientists worry that global warming could disrupt breeding and migratory processes, leading to possible extinction of some of the rarer species.
Patterns of Flight
Flying a long distance with wings beating 15 to 80 times per second seems an incredible accomplishment, but these smallest of birds undergo the journey twice a year. Before migration, hummingbirds typically gain between 25% and 40% of their normal body weight as fuel for the journey over land, sea, mountains and valleys. Hummingbirds typically fly at low altitude, so single-bird migrations don’t attract attention like migratory flocks of birds.
During the long trek, the birds survive on nectar sources when available. The birds are expert flyers that use tail winds to speed the flights and save bodily energy. They can travel up to 23 miles per day.flying between 18 and 22 hours without stopping. The birds occasionally stop when they find food, but the trips are often non-stop until they stop to eat and rest.
Most U.S. and Canadian species winter in Mexico or Central America. Ruby Throats leave Mexico and points farther south as early as February to begin their migration to NorthAmerica. This species can travel more than 2,000 kilometers non-stop. Experts believe that many species travel the same route on the same days of the year, stopping at the same bird feeders and meadows. Rufous birds travel north on the Pacific Coast and South by the Rocky Mountains.
Spring migration brings Ruby Throats, Rufous, Anna’s and Black-chinned hummingbirds to U.S. gardens. The migration exhausts the determined birds because they expend a lot of energy and body weight during the trip. Adverse weather conditions can prevent the birds from feeding at expected stops along the way. That’s why it’s important to prepare feeders so that a food supply is available. Migration maps online can help to fine-tune your feeding strategy based on conditions and the state where you live.
In the eastern half of the country, you can begin seeing hummingbirds as early as March 1 on the southern coast, March 15 across the southern Gulf Coast states, April 1 in the mid-Atlantic states, May 1 in the northern states and May 30 in southern Canada. A similar timeframe applies to the western half of the country, but the dates might be accelerated.
During the fall, people living in Florida, Louisiana and southern parts of the Texas Coast can view thousands of Ruby Throats that gather there before their final trip farther south. Although these birds don’t fly as a flock, bird watchers can view Ruby Throats and other species in large numbers in their annual feeding frenzy.
It’s just as important to provide hummingbirds with food for the fall migration as the spring trek. Some people worry that feeding the birds in the fall could encourage them to stay too long, but that doesn’t happen. The extra fuel helps them prepare for the fall migration unless they belong to one of the species that doesn’t migrate. Many species in the western part of the country don’t migrate.
Ruby Throats usually begin their long trek around Labor Day. The Rufous species migrates from Alaska and Canada on an incredible journey that’s often extends 4,000 miles over a few weeks.
When and Where Do Hummingbirds Migrate?
As native species of North and South America, hummingbirds migrate north and south, and their routes depend on the geography of where they were born or migrated in the past. Birds in the eastern part of the country usually travel south and across the Gulf of Mexico to Mexico or Central America. A few might travel as far as northern South America. On the other leg of the trip, refer to the migration map at https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1bPiaI0_x73_Ax3y5T6HrEXZdNI4&msa=0. That shows the destinations where the top four species usually return year after year. The birds migrate in late winter or early spring and late summer or early fall.
Where Common U.S. Species of Hummingbirds Migrate
Hummingbirds are exclusive natives of the new world, so they’re only live in the wild in North and South America. In the United States, there are four major species of hummingbirds that are commonly found.  These include the ruby-throated, black chinned, Anna’s and Rufous hummingbirds. Although dozens of species can be spotted, the aforementioned are the most commonly found. Checking out the birds in their natural habitat can be rewarding because they’re tiny, elegant and brilliant navigators that frequently demonstrate incredible aerial acrobatics, zipping, darting and hovering in mid-air with precise control.
Ruby-throated Migration Pattern
The Ruby-throated hummingbirds begin their semi-annual migration in early fall, and their destination is usually areas of Central America. In preparation, the birds engage in a migratory feast to double their size – from 3 grams to 6 grams on average.
Black-chinned Migratory Pattern
Black-chinned hummingbirds are common in the western part of the United States, northern Mexico and British Columbia. The species lives in many habitats from below sea level to heights over 2,500 meters. You can find the birds in urban areas, desert washes and mountains. Most of these birds migrate to Mexico for the winter, but some spend the winter in parts of southern Texas. The pattern is in flux because of global warming, a situation that concerns many scientists. The birds arrive at staggered times in spring, such as late May and early June in Washington State.
Anna’s Migration Pattern
Anna’s hummingbirds rank among the most dazzling of species with shimmering emerald feathers and rosy pink throats. The males also have a bright red cap, which led to the species being named after Anna de Belle Masséna, the duchess of Rivoli. The species commonly lives along the West Coast, and unlike the other common species, they often remain year-round in the warm Pacific Ocean climate. However, the birds do migrate occasionally to Mexico for the winter where they’re forced to compete for six months for chuparosa nectar among dozens of hummingbird species.
Rufous Migration Pattern
Rufous hummingbirds are very small, but they’re feisty enough to chase off other birds around feeders and flowers. These birds live in summer in the northernmost areas of the United States, but they migrate up to 4,000 miles to Mexico during the winter – an astonishing feat considering their small size. The birds migrate from breeding grounds in Alaska and Canada by way of the Rocky Mountains in late summer and early fall and return flying up the Pacific Coast in spring.
Hummingbirds are fascinating, and studies show that they achieve incredible feats during the semi-annual migration processes. Knowing hummingbird migration patterns can help you to prepare feeders for them and enjoy their aerial antics in your own yard or garden.
Alyssa McDuff received a Masters Degree in biology from The University of California. Alyssa has been working as a full-time biologist for the past 4 years. In her spare time, Alyssa writes for several publications including National Geographic and Hummingbird World.