While we look forward to the return of all of our migrants, hummingbirds definitely hold a special place in every birder's heart. We have spoken at length about the approximate timing of hummingbird migration in both the spring and the fall, but identifying the right time to hang your feeder can be just as challenging.
There are many factors that will go into the timing of the hummingbird’s arrival including geographical location, weather, and data from previous years. Below we will break down each factor in a little bit more detail to shed some light on the subject.
Where you live matters when it comes to spotting early-season hummers.
For residents of the southern United States, they can often expect to see hummingbirds return as early as February. For us way up here in Canada, we oftentimes will have to wait well into April or even May, depending on Mother Nature’s mood each year.
Hummingbirds are one of the last bird species to return to their summer range, especially those who end up here in Ontario. Weather is the number one reason for this.
Given their small size, hummingbirds are not equipped with a high tolerance for cold temperatures and will stay where the weather suits them best before moving north.
Keeping a birding journal from years past can certainly aid you in remembering when each and every bird arrived in years past. If you don’t consistently journal, we have innovative tools such as eBird where you can easily log in and view sightings and activity from other birds from around the world. Browsing this kind of data will give you a great idea as to when to expect hummingbirds.
In addition to the above, take note of your surroundings. They will often reveal more than you think when trying to plan the hummingbird’s arrival. Look for the first flower blooms and budding trees to begin sprouting and your hummingbirds should not be too far behind.
Pay attention to other bird species such as warblers and other neotropical migrants who are typically the last to arrive to the show. Spotting these types of birds is a dead giveaway that spring is officially underway and your feeders will need to be hung.