Hummingbird Migration in Tennessee

When Do Hummingbirds Arrive in Tennessee?

Tennessee migrating Hummingbirds begin arriving in March on their journey north to their preferred nesting area, somewhere near their own birth. Migration is completed by Mid-May.
While Ruby-Throated and Rufous Hummingbirds live in Tennessee year-round, others of that species do migrate further north.

This time frame is supported by The University of Tennessee.

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

Migrating hummingbirds, including the Ruby-Throated and Rufous, continue their way north into the eastern half of the United States all the way into Canada.

Beginning their northern journey from as far away as Panama or as close as Mexico, migrating hummingbirds arrive in Tennessee as early as March but by mid-May, all migrating hummingbirds are gone from Tennessee.

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.

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 3,636 miles to reach Tennessee.

Hummingbirds starting their journey from Mexico need to fly about 1,178 miles to reach Tennessee.

While Rufous hummingbirds are seen year round, they do not nest in Tennessee. 

The only hummingbirds that live and nest in Tennessee is the Ruby-Throated hummingbird, all other hummingbirds seen in Tennessee are just passing through to their nesting destination.

Even though Ruby-Throated hummingbird lives and nests in Tennessee, some of them also will be just passing through Tennessee to their own personal nesting destination of choice.

The Ruby-Throated hummingbird’s breeding range includes the entire eastern half of the United States from southern Texas into Canada.

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, on consecutive days, per brood.

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 Tennessee, nesting hummingbirds usually have 2 broods per year but some have time to work in a third brood.

When Should I Put Out Hummingbird Feeders in Tennessee?

Hummingbird enthusiasts in Tennessee should put out hummingbird feeders at the beginning of March to attract the earliest arriving migrating hummingbirds.

Some Tennessee hummingbird admirers leave hummingbird feeders up all winter long to provide life-nourishing nectar to the most commonly seen residents in Tennessee, the Ruby-Throated and Rufous hummingbirds.

This selfless act also provides nectar to other migrating species unable to migrate because of injury or old age.
See my article 11 Ways to Keep Hummingbird Nectar From Freezing…..

How Long Do Hummingbirds Stay in Tennessee?

Some Ruby-Throated and Rufous hummingbirds stay in Tennessee year-round. The first north migrating hummingbirds arrive in Tennessee in early March and the last south migrating hummingbirds in the fall to leave Tennessee are gone by late October.

Tennessee’s year-round resident, the Ruby-Throated hummingbird and the commonly seen Rufous hummingbird along with hummingbirds too old or injured to migrate, will be the only hummingbirds Tennessean’s will see during the winter.

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 southern migration in the fall.
See my article Hummingbird Adaptation and Remarkable Ability to Locate Food…..

The only hummingbirds Tennesseans will see during the hot summer months will be the year-round hummingbird residents. 

When the obstacles of 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 Tennessee?

Tennessee’s migrating hummingbirds begin leaving the state as early as July, migrating south to their over-wintering areas in Mexico and Central America. Migrating hummingbirds will all be gone from Tennessee by late October.

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.

The only hummingbirds Tennesseans will see during the winter are the year-round Ruby-Throated and Rufous hummingbirds, and 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 Tennessee Hummingbird to Migrate?

It takes a Tennessee hummingbird about 40 Hours of flying at its average migrating flight speed of 30 mph to fly from Tennessee to the Mexican border 1,178 miles away.
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 hummingbird visitors to your feeders in Tennessee during this fall migration beginning as early as July.

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 Feeder in Tennessee?

The best time to take down hummingbird feeders in Tennessee for the winter is the end of 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 Tennessee year-round residents and those migrating hummingbirds too old or injured to migrate.

The dilemma every hummingbird enthusiast struggles with every year is leaving 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 commonly seen Tennessee hummingbirds, the Ruby-Throated and Rufous hummingbird, as well as life-saving nutrition for migrating hummingbirds too old or injured to migrate. 

Taking hummingbird feeders down mid-winter could be fatal for migrating hummingbirds too old or injured to migrate.
See my article 11 DIY Ways to Keep Hummingbird Nectar From Freezing…..

Where Do Tennessee Hummingbirds Go in The Winter?

Tennessee’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 Tennessee: (Pictures and Sounds)

Happy Hummingbird Watching!

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Photo by: paulapaintsart
Taken: Oneida, Tennessee

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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