Hummingbird Migration in Michigan

Photo by: mz13hummingbirds

When do hummingbirds arrive in Michigan?

Migrating hummingbirds begin arriving in Michigan at the end of March and the beginning of April. Hummingbirds seen before the last week in March will most likely be Michigan’s only year-round resident hummingbird, the Ruby-throated hummingbird.

Migrating hummingbirds, including some Ruby-throated hummingbirds, continue their journey North into the eastern half of the United States all the way into Canada.

Some migrating hummingbirds start their spring migration from as far south as Panama, about 4,150 miles away from Michigan. These hummingbirds must start their spring migration in February to arrive in Michigan at the end of March or beginning of April.

Some migrating hummingbirds start their spring migration from Mexico, about 2,000 miles from Michigan. These hummingbirds can delay the start of their northern migration but their arrival to Michigan will be the same as their more southern relatives, the end of March and the beginning of April.

Most hummingbirds seen in Michigan during spring migration are not nesting in Michigan with the exception of the Ruby-throated hummingbird.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the only species that breed in Michigan and are the only ones that nest east of the Mississippi River.

The reason for northern hummingbird migration is to reach their nesting area. Once they reach their preferred nesting destination the focus changes from migration to finding a mate and raising a family.

Upon reaching their breeding grounds in early spring, Michigan observers will see male Ruby-throated hummingbirds perform dive displays and dance maneuvers to attract a flirty female.

Each species of hummingbirds have their own unique mating dance ritual or courtship routine to attract a female.

See my article: Hummingbird Dance: 5 Interpretive Explanations

There is no penetration during the mating ritual as male hummingbirds do not have any external sexual organs.

The mating process only lasts for approximately 3-5 seconds while the cloacae (kloh-ay-see) of both hummingbirds are pressed together which is called a “Cloacal Kiss” (kloh-a-coal kiss).

A female hummingbird’s nest may take five days or up to a week to build. They prefer to build their nest in deciduous trees 10-20 feet high.

The nest is constructed of plant materials for the base of the nest such as grasses, animal fur, cotton fiber, young immature leaves and small sticks or twigs to create a strong shelter that is resilient against outdoor elements. All of these resilient outdoor elements are held together with spider web silk, which acts like glue.

To learn more of this process see my article: Hummingbird Parents: (Mating to Nesting)

See my article: Baby Hummingbirds: (Egg to Fledgling)

Some researchers report female hummingbirds may raise as many as 6 families called “broods” per year.

The Ruby-throated hummingbird is the only hummingbird that nests in Michigan. On average they raise two families per year. However, there are occasions where they are able to work in an additional family for a total of three families per year.

When should I put out my hummingbird feeders in Michigan?

Hummingbird enthusiasts in Michigan should put up their hummingbird feeders by early April. Migrating hummingbirds will begin arriving in Michigan the end of March into the beginning of April.

Some Michigan hummingbird admirers leave hummingbird feeders up all winter long to provide life-saving nectar to Michigan’s only year-round resident, the Ruby-throated hummingbird. This selfless act also provides nectar to other migrating species unable to migrate because of injury or old age.

See my article: 11 DIY Ways to Keep Hummingbird Nectar From Freezing

How long do hummingbirds stay in Michigan?

Some Ruby-throated hummingbirds stay in Michigan year-round. The first migrating hummingbirds arrive in Michigan at the end of March and the last migrating hummingbirds that leave Michigan are usually gone by early October. 

Ruby-throated hummingbirds or migrating hummingbirds that are too injured or old to migrate are the only hummingbirds people from Michigan will see in the winter.

Hummingbirds have exceptional memories and they will remember feeders they have visited on their way north to their mating destinations.

See my article: Hummingbird Adaptation and Remarkable Ability to Locate Food

As summer sets in, the number of spring migrating hummingbirds that visit Michigan feeders will decrease.

Year-round native Ruby-throated hummingbirds in Michigan brave through the heat and humidity and will be the vast majority of hummingbirds seen in Michigan’s summer months.

See my article: How to Help Hummingbirds in Hot Weather

When the obstacles of summer heat are difficult to manage and unbearable, finding ways to keep your hummingbirds happy and hydrated with cool nectar is crucial.

See my article: How to Cool Hummingbird Nectar in Hot Weather

As some hummingbirds from Michigan begin their migration south expect hummingbird feeders to become busy and popular. Hummingbirds remember the exact location of hummingbird feeders they have visited along their earlier northern migration path.

When do hummingbirds leave Michigan?

Hummingbirds that choose to migrate from Michigan to Mexico and Central America start migration in August or early September and are gone by late October. Some Ruby-throated hummingbirds choose to over-winter in Michigan. Any hummingbird seen in Michigan during the winter are most likely Ruby-throated hummingbirds.

Hummingbird migration is triggered by circadian or daily internal clock and the circannual rhythm or yearly clock.  Changes in the weather, temperature, time of season, decline in food supply and shorter days with less sunlight are factors that influence the beginning of fall migration.

After the fall migration of Michigan hummingbirds, beginning in August to early September and ending in October, most hummingbirds will have migrated south, overwintering in Mexico and Central America.

This elongated migration time frame ensures late straggling migrates have enough food to fuel their bodies before making the long taxing migration south for the winter.

How long does it take a Michigan hummingbird to migrate?

It takes a Michigan hummingbird about 65 hours of flying at its average migrating flight speed of 30 mph to fly from Michigan to the Mexican border 2,000 miles away. Some fly at a relaxed distance as slow as 1 hour a day, others can fly 500 miles non-stop in about 20 hours, as some do while migrating across the Gulf of Mexico.

Hummingbirds do not migrate all at the same time to ensure all resources are not consumed and depleted. They do not migrate in flocks as do other birds; they migrate individually on their own personal time clock.

As migration approaches, hummingbirds routinely gain 25% to 50% of their body weight by consuming nectar from feeders, flowering plants, and catching bugs in mid air for protein. The extra body weight and fat fuel the hummingbird for their long migration journey.

Expect to have an increased volume of hummingbird visitors to your feeder during this migration time beginning in August and ending in October, therefore, maintaining feeders is critical in order to maximize food consumption that nourishes and prepares their bodies for migration.

See my article: Should I Keep My Hummingbird Feeder Out During the Winter?

When should I take down my hummingbird feeders in Michigan?

The best time to take down hummingbird feeders for the winter in Michigan is in mid-October or when there have been no consistent hummingbirds at the feeders for a couple of weeks. Feeders can be up all winter to feed the year-round Ruby-throated hummingbird or those unable to migrate, but removal in mid winter could be fatal.

This rule only applies to those who choose to take down their feeders every year, however many choose to leave their feeders up year-round providing consistent nourishment for the year-round native Ruby-throated hummingbirds and for the other hummingbirds that are too old or injured to migrate.

Providing and maintaining a steady food supply during the winter is critical for hummingbirds who become dependent on the feeder for winter nutrition. Taking them down could be life threatening!

The dilemma every hummingbird enthusiast struggles with every year is leaving the feeders up all year or choosing to take them down?

See my article: Should I Keep My Hummingbird Feeder Out During the Winter?

See my article: 11 DIY Ways to Keep Hummingbird Nectar From Freezing

Where do Michigan hummingbirds go in the winter?

Michigan migrating hummingbirds travel south to winter in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

All hummingbirds have excellent memories and can remember every flower or feeder they have visited during migration and will return to those sites along their migration pathway year after year.

Some hummingbirds have been spotted returning to a feeder for a couple of years after the feeder was removed.

See my article: Hummingbird Adaptation and Remarkable Ability to Locate Food

Happy Hummingbird Watching!

Photo by: mz13hummingbirds

Elizabeth Donaldson

Hi Everyone! I have always been fascinated and amazed by the skill, strength, and beauty of hummingbirds. I hope this article answered your questions.

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