The ruby throated hummingbirds as harbingers of changing seasons are now in migration mode flying south. The first hummingbirds to leave, usually at the end of July / early August, are the adult males followed by the females and the immature hummingbirds two to four weeks later.
Hummingbirds do not migrate in flocks but chose to make the long journey on their own. For many, the summer and winter homes are more than 2,000 miles apart.
Some hummingbirds fly straight across the Gulf of Mexico while others follow the western shore through Texas and Mexico. While most songbirds and some other kinds of birds migrate mainly at night, hummingbirds travel mostly in the daytime, flying fairly low—taking advantage of the warm sunlight and watching carefully for flowers or feeders along the way.
It is rare for hummingbirds to linger in Ontario after the beginning of October. Some birders often wonder if keeping a hummingbird feeder up in fall will stop the birds from leaving. The answer is: No. Instincts drive the timing of hummers’ migration, not the availability of food. When it’s time for them to head toward their wintering grounds, they fly away from gardens filled with flowers and feeders. Rarely, a stray hummingbird stays far north in a snowy climate in winter, visiting a heated feeder. But that’s due to faulty instincts—the feeder didn’t keep the bird from going where it should have gone.
Hummingbird Fun Fact: Hummingbirds flap their wings in a figure 8 pattern. This allows them to hover or fly backwards.
Resources for this article
Map - Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Georgian Bay Biosphere
"Some of my old memories feel trapped in amber in my brain, lucid and burning, while others are like the wing beat of a hummingbird, an intangible, ephemeral blur." Mira Bartok / The Memory Palace