Hummingbird Migration in South Dakota

When Do Hummingbirds Arrive in South Dakota?

South Dakota migrating hummingbirds begin arriving in early April and continue north to their preferred nesting area, somewhere near their own birth.
The last of the South Dakota spring migrating hummingbirds are gone by mid-June, however, many will stay in South Dakota for the rest of the summer.

South Dakota migrating hummingbirds, including the most common South Dakota hummingbirds, the Ruby-throated hummingbirds, continue their way north and into the eastern half of the United States.

Beginning their northern journey from as far away as Panama or as close as Mexico, migrating hummingbirds arrive in South Dakota in April, some late migrators may arrive in mid-May, but by the end of June, all migrating hummingbirds are gone from South Dakota.

The first migrating hummingbirds will be males followed by the females about a week later. The males arrive first to stake out his territory that he will defend as he tries to attract a female.

Keep your eye out for the brightly colored gorget of the male, the females will start showing up at your feeders about a week later.
See my article: How to Identify a Hummingbird’s Gender in 4 Easy Steps

Hummingbirds starting their spring migration from Panama need to fly about 3,800 miles to reach South Dakota.

Hummingbirds starting their journey from Mexico need to fly about 1,400 miles to reach South Dakota.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the only common summer breeding resident in South Dakota is the Ruby-throated hummingbirds.

The entire reason for northern migration, much like salmon swimming upstream to their place of birth to lay eggs, is to return to the area where they were born to mate, build a nest, and raise a family.

Once the breeding grounds have been reached, the focus turns to finding a partner with which to mate.

Each species of male hummingbirds has its own unique mating dance ritual of courtship to attract a female. They do perfectly choreographed dives and dance maneuvers to attract a flirty 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 in what is called the “Cloacal Kiss” (kloh-a-coal kiss).

After the Cloacal kiss, the female must begin building the nest immediately.

Female hummingbirds prefer building nests 10 to 20 feet off the ground in deciduous trees.

It will take her between 5 and 7 days to construct the nest of materials such as plant down, moss, and fine plant fibers, decorated with lichens and held together by spider webs.
See my article: Hummingbird Parents: (Mating to Nesting)
See my article: Baby Hummingbirds: (Egg to Fledgling)

Hummingbirds usually lay 2 eggs per brood, one each on consecutive days.

Most hummingbirds have 2 broods per year, but depending on migration time and day length in their nesting destinations, some hummingbirds can have more than 2 broods per year.

In South Dakota, nesting hummingbirds usually have 2 broods per year but some may have time to work in a third brood.

When Should I Put Out Hummingbird Feeders in South Dakota?

Hummingbird enthusiasts in South Dakota should put out hummingbird feeders at the beginning of April to attract the earliest arriving migrating hummingbirds.

Some South Dakota hummingbird admirers leave hummingbird feeders up all winter long to provide life-nourishing nectar to South Dakotans only possible year-round resident, the Ruby-throated hummingbird.

Most Ruby-throated hummingbirds will not spend the winter in South Dakota and will decide to migrate south for the winter.

The selfless act of keeping hummingbird feeders up all winter 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 South Dakota?

Hummingbirds are seen in South Dakota from the beginning of April through the end of September.
The first north migrating hummingbirds arrive in South Dakota in early April.
The last south migrating hummingbirds are gone by the end of September.

Hummingbirds brave enough to over-winter in South Dakota, or too old or injured to migrate, will be the only hummingbirds South Dakotan hummingbird enthusiasts will see during the winter.

The only hummingbird that might be brave enough to spend the winter in South Dakota would most likely be a Ruby-throated hummingbird.

Hummingbirds have exceptional memories and will remember every flower or feeder they visited on the spring migration and will return to those nectar sources on their return to southern migration in the fall.
See my article: Hummingbird Adaptation and Remarkable Ability to Locate Food

The most common hummingbird South Dakotans will see during the hot summer months will be the Ruby-throated hummingbird.

When the obstacles of the summer heat are difficult to manage and unbearable, finding ways to keep your hummingbirds happy and hydrated with cool nectar can be critical.
See my article: How to Help Hummingbirds in Hot Weather

When Do Hummingbirds Leave South Dakota?

South Dakota’s migrating hummingbirds begin leaving the state in early August, migrating south to their over-wintering areas in Mexico and Central America.
Migrating hummingbirds will all be gone from South Dakota by the end of September.

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

Some hummingbirds South Dakotans will see during the winter are possibly some migrating hummingbirds that are too old or injured to migrate.

Hummingbird migration is triggered by the circadian (internal daily clock) and the circannual (yearly internal clock) rhythm.

Changes in the weather, temperature, time of the season, the decline in the food supply, and decreased amount of sunlight because of shortening days are all factors that trigger an individual hummingbird’s instinct to migrate.

As with spring migration, male hummingbirds are the first to begin the southern migration in the fall. The female migrating hummingbirds will begin their southern fall migration as soon as they have completed raising their offspring to the ability to migrate themselves.

How Long Does It Take a South Dakota Hummingbird to Migrate?

It takes a South Dakota hummingbird about 46 hours of flying at its average migrating flight speed of 30mph to fly from South Dakota to the Mexican border 1,400 miles away.
Hummingbirds migrating to Panama 3,800 miles away, will need to fly 127 hours.

Some fly at the relaxed distance as slow as 1 hour per day, others fly up to 500 miles non-stop in about 20 hours as some do while migrating across the Gulf of Mexico.

Hummingbirds do not migrate in flocks as do other migrating birds.
Hummingbirds migrate individually on their own personal time clock.

This staggered migration pattern ensures resources are not consumed and depleted all at one time.

As migration approaches, hummingbirds routinely gain 25% to 50% of their body weight by consuming increased quantities of nectar from feeders and flowering plants as well as catching an increased quantity of bugs mid-air for protein.

This increase in body fat helps fuel the hummingbird on its long migration journey.

Expect to see an increased volume of southern migrating hummingbird visitors to your feeders in South Dakota during this fall migration from August through September.

The hummingbirds that visited your feeders during the spring migration will remember exactly where your feeder is located and will most likely revisit that same feeder on their way to their over-wintering area in Mexico and Central America.
See my article: Hummingbird Adaptation and Remarkable Ability to Locate Food

When To Take Down Hummingbird Feeders in South Dakota?

The best time to take down hummingbird feeders in South Dakota for the winter is mid-October or when there have been no consistent hummingbirds at the feeders for a couple of weeks.
South Dakota hummingbird feeders can be up all winter to feed brave over-wintering hummingbirds or those too old or injured to migrate.

The dilemma every hummingbird enthusiast struggles with every year is whether to leave the hummingbird feeders up all year or taking them down during the winter.
See my article: Should I Keep My Hummingbird Feeder Out During the Winter?

Hummingbird enthusiasts that leave hummingbird feeders up all winter provide much-welcomed nutrition for year-round, migrating, and hummingbirds too old or injured to migrate.
Taking hummingbird feeders down mid-winter could be fatal.
See my article: 11 DIY Ways to Keep Hummingbird Nectar From Freezing

Where Do South Dakota Hummingbirds Go in The Winter?

South Dakota’s migrating hummingbirds travel south to over-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 visited during spring migration and will return to those locations along their migration pathway year after year.

Some hummingbirds have been documented returning to a feeder for a couple of years after it was removed.
See my article: Hummingbird Adaptation and Remarkable Ability to Locate Food

See my article: Hummingbirds Found in South Dakota: (Pictures and Sounds)

Happy Hummingbird Watching!

Adult Male Ruby-throated hummingbird
Photo by: MaryLou Ziebarth

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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