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Local News

Where Are the Hummingbirds of Wisconsin Heading?

Credit: iStock

Armand Jackson

As fall approaches, various animal species are beginning their seasonal migration to brace for the changing climate along with dwindling food and resources. In Wisconsin, hummingbirds are starting their migration south to warmer weather after spending the summer in the Midwestern state. According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, most of the almost 340 species of hummingbirds are entirely restricted to the Western Hemisphere living in mostly tropical environments like South America. Meanwhile, only 17 species of hummingbirds are found to regularly nest within the United States where they are often found near the Mexican border, but Wisconsin in particular has a few species of hummingbirds that regularly visit its lands. 

The most common species that nest in the state is the Ruby-Throated hummingbird but there are also Broad-Billed, Anna’s, Green-Violetear, Allen’s, and Rufous hummingbirds that have been sighted as well. According to University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and Extension wildlife specialist David Drake, hummingbirds in Wisconsin are very common around homes and backyards as both the sugar water placed feeders and nectar filled flowering plants Wisconsinites have in their yards tend to attract them. According to Professor Drake, hummingbirds in the state start leaving in late August, flying to Mexico or Central America in the fall, and are completely gone by the beginning of October with the rare occurrence of sightings in November. 

Before the migration south however, hummingbirds tend to add on 25 percent to 40 percent extra weight in preparation for long flights. According to Drake they fly during the daytime, traveling about 20 to 25 miles a day, sometimes even crossing the Gulf of Mexico. This has some birds who fly for long periods of time without a break feel exhausted and fall out of the sky as soon as they reach the other side of an expanse of water. Afterwards, they will rest for a couple of days to regain their strength and once they are fully rested they continue their journey to warmer temperatures. When they return to Wisconsin, the male birds will start to arrive in March or April with the appearance of the females soon after.