Category Archives: Hummingbirds

Heading South

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

juvenile male Ruby-throated Hummingbird at a feeder in Peachtree Park on September 21, 2016

Do the hummers that you are seeing now seem to be a bit more skittish than the ones that you’ve been seeing all summer?  Maybe it’s because the migrants are here, and they aren’t as familiar with their surroundings as the locals.  [1]

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

adult male Ruby-throat 9/21/16

Hummingbirds overwinter in Central and South America. [2]  Ruby-throated Hummingbirds return to most parts of Georgia in March (in Atlanta, around March 15 – April 1) [2] and usually stay with us until the first week in October. [10]  So it’s a great time to enjoy the last days of the locals before they head south, as well migrants passing through from points north.

Black-chinned Hummingbird - Archilochus alexandri Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin TX - April 7, 2015

Black-chinned Hummingbird – Archilochus alexandri
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin TX

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only species of hummingbird known to nest to Georgia. [4]  In fact, it is the only hummingbird known to breed east of the Mississippi River. [11]  Our female Ruby- throated hummers produce up to two broods per year.  Nests are typically built on a small branch, sometimes rebuilding the nest from the previous year. [4]

However, Ruby-throats are not the only hummingbirds in Georgia.  There are 10 others that spend time here in the summer: Black-chinned, Rufous, Calliope, Magnificent, Allen’s, Anna’s, Broad-billed, Green Violet-ear, Green-breasted Mango and Broad-tailed hummingbird. [4]

Anna's Hummingbird - Calypte anna Desert Museum, Tuscon, AZ - March 2010

Anna’s Hummingbird – Calypte anna
Desert Museum, Tuscon, AZ

Some hummingbirds do overwinter in Georgia [6] and there are periodic sightings in Atlanta. So, it’s a good idea to keep one feeder up in the winter.  Even better, make sure you have pollinator-friendly plants blooming year-round. Witch Hazel, Lenten Roses, and winter bulbs such as Crocus are some examples.

Despite what you may have heard, you cannot keep hummingbirds from migrating by leaving feeders up during the fall and winter seasons.  Hummingbirds migrate in response to a decline in day length, not food availability. [5]

We’ve included some links below with additional information on migration, feeding, and overwintering.  The first link from Lerner.org will direct you to a dynamic hummingbird migration map and the second link from the University of Georgia has good information on feeding.  Also, If you haven’t visited the State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s Hummingbird Trail, you should consider a drive over to Athens.

Hummmmm.  Zoom!  Zip!    We’re outta here.

References and Additional Information

[1]  Learner.org – Journey North: Hummingbird: Pushing Southward
[2]  UGA: Make Your Backyard a Favorite for Hummingbirds
[3]  GA Department of Agriculture: – Plant a Garden for Hummingbirds
[4]  Georgia DNR: Hummingbirds in Your Backyard – Interesting Facts
[5]  Georgia DNR: Hummingbirds in Your Backyard – Feeding Hummingbirds
[6]  Georgia DNR: Out My Backdoor – Creating Hummingbird Havens
[7]  UGA: Creating Native Plant Hummingbird Habitat in Georgia
[9]  Georgia DNR: Georgia’s Wintering Hummingbirds
[9]  UGA: Extension: Attracting Birds to Your Backyard
[10]  The State Botanical garden of Georgia: Hummingbird Trail
[11]  The Breeding Bird Atlas of Georgia – UGA Press: Schneider, Beaton, Keyes and Klaus, Eds.

Even More Hummer Activity Now

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Phlox

In our April 23 blog we talked about the first of the season hummingbirds.  Then it seemed as if hummingbird activity dwindled with not many sightings until about a week or so ago. We wondered why.

Fortunately someone posed exactly this question about the drop in hummingbird activity in June followed be a late July spike on GABO, the forum for Georgia Birders Online.  The answers were great and helped us understand.  We thought you might like to know too.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird perched on fig limb

During the early spring the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds return from their southern overwintering locations.  They come in pairs, both males and females.  But beginning in June, you don’t see many females – they are nesting.  Another reason that you are less likely to see females at feeders and flowers, as suggested by one of the GABO contributors, is because the females are in search of protein to feed their young.  The hummer perched on the fig limb has her tongue out and we speculate that it maybe to round up ants.

Then, at the end of June and into July the relative dearth of hummers is replaced with an abundance as the newly fledged birds begin joining their parents in search of food.

Who’s That Humming?

Native Columbine

Canadian Columbine

Local wisdom says when the Canadian Columbine (a native) booms the hummers are here.  It’s certainly true this year.  We have already been buzzed by a few, but no visuals yet.    Atlanta Audubon’s check list for Atlanta lists four Hummingbirds: Ruby-throated, Rufous, Black-chinned and Calliope.  Only the Ruby-throated is common here and only in the Spring, Summer and Fall; the rest are rare.  Enjoy them while they’re here, because in the fall they’ll be headed back on the long flight across the Gulf of Mexico  to Central America.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeding on Agastache

Right now they are building nests and gathering fuel to recharge after their long flight.  Nectar from flowers and flowering trees, as well as small insects and spiders are the main food source.  Young birds are fed insects for protein since nectar is an insufficient source of protein for the growing birds.

They prefer flowers that are red or orange.  This is where, with a little planning,  you can have something blooming that will provide them with food throughout their stay.

If you decide to feed them with a sugar solution, do not color the water since the dyes are bad for the hummers.  Feeders should be checked frequently in warm weather, and daily if it’s really hot since the sugar water will ferment and make them sick.

We received this from Audubon two days ago: “Download Audubon’s Hummingbirds at Home app and join a network of citizen scientists working to help hummingbirds now and ensure them a bright future.”  There’s a link at the top of the page to download the app.