Even if you haven't attracted hummingbirds this summer, leave those nectar feeders out. Hummingbirds need to feed even more before migrating to their wintering grounds.
According to Beverly Overmyer, Valparaiso, Indiana, a few hummingbirds often stick around until early October. Having your feeders available provides an extra source of nourishment that hummingbirds need to survive their long migration.
Contrary to rumors, it does not encourage them to stay too long. The majority of hummingbird species spend their entire lives within 20 miles of where they were born, but rufous and ruby-throated hummingbirds are two that travel.
The rufous hummingbird nests as far north as southern Alaska, then flies 2500 miles to Central America for the winter. Ruby-throats fly about 2,000 miles twice each year between their breeding and wintering sites.
Juvenile ruby-throated hummingbirds make the flight across the Gulf of Mexico to southern Mexico or Central America without guidance from their parents.
Although they may find a group of adults that have made the flight before, it is a leap of faith to follow their instincts and leave the safety of land for the long flight over open water.
The length of daylight hours triggers their hormones to put on the extra weight necessary to sustain them for their long journey.
Before migrating, hummingbirds enter a phase called hyperphagia. This is like a feeding frenzy as they spend more time than usual ingesting nectar and insects. They add 50% to 100% of their normal body weight for fuel for the migratory exertion.
Hummingbirds do not ride on the backs of geese or any other bird when migrating. This is a popular myth.
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