Continue feeding hummingbirds in September as they start their migration back to warmer climates. They do not migrate in flocks nor fly very high—mainly so they can see food sources along the way.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds fly to Florida, Louisiana or Texas by mid-September before flying across the Gulf to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and south. However, a significant population now winters along the Gulf Coast between Florida and Texas. Almost all hummingbirds migrate except some of the Anna’s and Allen’s hummingbirds in Southern California and Anna’s can also spend the winter in Arizona. The Costa’s hummingbird breeds in the Colorado desert during winter.
In the weeks before hummingbirds migrate, they start to intensely feed in an attempt to gain weight and fat. This is called hyperphagia. A female might put on 25-40 percent more weight while a smaller male might double its weight. Hummingbirds consume 50 percent of their weight in sugar each day from flower nectar and feeders, with insects providing the remainder.
Ornithologists have calculated that a hummingbird can fly 600 miles without having to re-fuel. The distance from Florida to the Yucatan is 525 miles. It is estimated that this may take them 22 hours. With headwinds, the challenge becomes greater. With tailwinds, the trip can become easier. Also, keep in mind that hummingbirds will be migrating south from Canada. A ruby-throated hummingbird travels an average of 23 miles per day. Early morning and evening feeding are important as they travel mid-day. Blooming jewelweed is an important food source.
Here are five ways to help hummingbirds:
1. Put out hummingbird feeders, ideally more than one as they do not like to share and tend to be territorial.
2. When feeding hummingbirds, go from a 4-to-1 to a 3-to-1 ratio of sugar to water so they don’t waste energy. Boil the mixture, cool, put in the refrigerator and use as needed.
3. Plant flowers that have high nectar content.
4. Those residing in the southern part of the U.S. should add more hummingbird feeders, as this may be one of their last stops before a 525 mile journey—this could be until late October.
5. Do not use soap to clean a hummingbird feeder. Use hot water and brushes.
Change the hummingbird nectar or sugar water every 3-5 days, every 2 days in very hot weather.