When do hummingbirds leave? It all depends on how far they must journey. Here’s what I learned.
Isaiah 43:2 NIV
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
When Do Hummingbirds Leave?
If you live in North America, you’ve probably seen the harbingers of summer. Tiny, colorful hummingbirds flitting from flower to flower or feasting on your backyard feeders. Some lucky people might live in an area where hummingbirds breed, and others may live along a hummingbird migration route.
The answer to when do hummingbirds leave depends on where you live and what hummingbirds do in your area. To reach their breeding grounds in time to lay eggs and raise a clutch (or two) of chicks before they leave in late summer, a hummingbird must leave its wintering grounds in late winter or early spring.
Some species, such as the Calliope hummingbird, migrate from central Mexico all the way to British Columbia and southwestern Alberta. Other hummingbirds migrate only a few hundred miles from southern Arizona to warmer climes in Mexico. This cool website has photos of fifteen species of hummingbirds that migrate into and out of the United States.
The hummingbirds who travel the furthest leave the earliest. Calliope and Rufous hummingbirds may leave their winter homes in February. Some Rivoli’s hummingbirds overwinter in the same places they breed, while others take leisurely trips south of the border and return in April or May.
Imagine traveling almost a half-million of your body lengths each day on foot. A 3.25-inch-long hummingbird travels about 480,000 times their body length each day during migration. Or, about 25 miles. It sounds more impressive to speak in hummingbird terms. To sustain their journey, hummingbirds must fatten up before they migrate. In the late summer, the swarms of hummingbirds at my feeders in northern Arizona look like tiny minivans each time they take off. And no wonder since they gain 20-40% of their body weight.
The Perils and Pitfalls of Migration
Hummingbirds face many perils during migration. Some Ruby-throated hummingbirds cross the entire Gulf of Mexico without stopping. Other species cross mountain ranges, deserts, and fly through cities. They rely on flower nectar, tiny insects, and sugar-water in feeders to fuel their journey.
When Hummingbirds leave for breeding grounds, they travel in a direct route, and they travel solo. When they travel in later summer and early fall, they often wander or choose an entirely different route. This website has an interactive map (just click on the species to see its migration habits) so you can see when hummingbirds leave and return.
The question of ‘When do hummingbirds leave?’ makes me think of my own journey through life. Sometimes, the journey seems too difficult. But then I think about the hummingbirds. They accomplish an incredible journey twice a year while having to sustain themselves along the way. Instead of traveling in flocks, they travel solo. They must rely on instinct to choose the proper flyways and end up in a destination where others of their kind congregate.
We each have an incredible journey to travel during life. But we don’t have to go it alone. God promises to be with us through both water and fire. We won’t drown, nor will we burn up. Instead of traveling alone, we have community to encourage, sustain, and help us along our way. Rather than relying on our internal compass, God provides a promise-filled compass. The Bible gives us moral and social directions, too.
We never journey alone.