Where Do Hummingbirds Migrate in Winter?

As the weather turns colder, hummingbirds migrate to places where food is plentiful. Find out how far these tiny fliers travel on their migration journeys.

ruby-throated hummingbirdCourtesy Linda Petersen
A ruby-throated hummingbird shares a flower with a painted lady butterfly during fall migration in Iowa.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

The only species regularly spotted in the eastern half of the United States, ruby-throated hummingbirds are on the move by late August. They are usually gone from their nesting grounds by the end of October. Some fly more than 3,000 miles, from Minnesota and Canada to Costa Rica. That’s quite a feat for a bird that weighs less than 4 grams.

Psst—here’s why you should keep feeders up for late migrating fall hummingbirds.

Because flying over a large body of water means no stopping to rest, the Gulf of Mexico is a very challenging barrier for many eastern birds. Some species go thousands of miles out of their way to fly around the Gulf, but some ruby-throats fly straight over it to Central America. It takes ruby-throats about 18 hours to make the journey, a lot faster than if they had taken a detour along the coast.

Before they take off on their solitary flights, they fuel up and put on weight. If they get tired en route, sometimes they rest on boats. You might spot some of these travelers if you visit the Gulf Coast in September or March. You won’t see them again until May in the northern states and Canada.

Check out more fascinating facts about ruby-throated hummingbirds.

anna's hummingbirdCourtesy Sal Ahmed
Of the four Pacific Northwest hummingbirds, Anna’s is the only one that doesn’t always migrate south in the winter. Rufous, calliope, and black-chinned hummingbirds leave for Mexico and the Gulf Coast by late summer.

Western Hummingbirds

Rufous hummingbirds have one of the longest migratory journeys for birds of their size. Some individual rufous hummingbirds migrate from Alaska to Mexico—about 4,000 miles! Some rufous are now wintering in southeastern coastal states like Alabama and Florida. This species typically migrates to and from Mexico. Check out expert tips to attract hummingbirds in winter.

Calliope hummingbirds also travel long distances during migration, traveling as far north as Canada for breeding and wintering in Mexico. And several other types of western hummingbirds, including broad-taileds and black-chinned, sometimes show up in the Gulf States in fall and winter. However, most spend the winter in Mexico.

Anna’s hummingbirds stick around along the Pacific Coast all year, even through the winter. Learn how hummingbirds survive snow and cold weather.

Lori Vanover
Lori Vanover is the senior digital editor for Birds & Blooms. She enjoys growing vegetables in containers and raised beds and watching for birds in her backyard.