Given Georgia’s remarkable natural beauty, it’s not surprising that the state is home to the lovely hummingbird. Also known as hummers or flying jewels, hummingbirds are the smallest – and among the prettiest – birds in the world. The tiniest species is the bee hummingbird, which measures around 2.25 inches in length, not much bigger than a bee! But most hummers don’t remain in Georgia year-round or even nest there. Read on to discover when hummingbirds leave Georgia and where they go!
Types of Hummingbirds in Georgia
Before we get into the topic of when hummingbirds leave Georgia, you might find it helpful to glance over this list of the 11 types of hummingbirds found in the state. The ruby-throated hummingbird is the most common species and the only hummer that nests in Georgia. The other birds on this list are either seasonal, rare, or vagrants. For example, there has been only one confirmed sighting of the Mexican violetear to date.
- Green-breasted mango hummingbird (Anthracothorax prevostii)
- Black-chinned hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri)
- Ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
- Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna)
- Mexican or green violetear (Colibri thalassinus)
- Broad-billed hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris)
- Rivoli’s or magnificent hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens)
- Calliope hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope)
- Broad-tailed hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)
- Rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)
- Allen’s hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin)
When Do Hummingbirds Leave Georgia (and When Do They Return)?
Most hummingbirds that live in Georgia leave by mid-October of each year. Returning species are typically back in the state by late February or early March. However, the majority of species merely pass through on their way to somewhere else and consequently lack well-established patterns. Some of these have only appeared in Georgia during the winter.
The rufous hummingbird is the most common wintering hummingbird in Georgia. By contrast, the ruby-throated hummingbird only occasionally remains in the state during the coldest months with most individuals migrating southward.
Below is a summary table detailing when each species leaves and returns to Georgia as well as where it spends the winter months.
|Species||Leaves Georgia||Returns to Georgia||Winter Range|
|Green-breasted mango hummingbird||Before mid-October||Late February||Mexico|
|Ruby-throated hummingbird||Most before October 31 *Wintering birds typically stay along the coast||Spring||South Florida, southern Mexico to Panama|
|Anna’s hummingbird||Pattern not well-established due to extremely rare sightings||Pattern not well-established due to extremely rare sightings||Pacific US coast, Arizona, and northwest Mexico|
|Mexican or green violetear||Pattern not well-established due to extremely rare sightings||Pattern not well-established due to extremely rare sightings||Mexico south to Peru and Bolivia|
|Broad-billed hummingbird||Pattern not well-established due to extremely rare sightings||Pattern not well-established due to extremely rare sightings||Mexico and some southern states (i.e., South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama)|
*One winter sighting in Georgia
|Rivoli’s or magnificent hummingbird||Pattern not well-established due to extremely rare sightings||Pattern not well-established due to extremely rare sightings|
*At least one summer sighting in Georgia
|Mexico and southward|
|Calliope hummingbird||Pattern not well-established due to extremely rare sightings||Pattern not well-established due to extremely rare sightings||Mexico|
*At least one or two sightings in Georgia each winter
|Broad-tailed hummingbird||Pattern not well-established due to extremely rare sightings||Pattern not well-established due to extremely rare sightings||Central Mexico and southward|
*Rare winter sightings in Georgia
|Rufous hummingbird||Early spring||Early winter||Throughout the majority of Mexico but often spotted in Georgia during the winter|
|Allen’s hummingbird||Pattern not well-established due to extremely rare sightings||Pattern not well-established due to extremely rare sightings||Mexico|
When Hummingbirds Leave Georgia, Where Do They Go?
As the table above shows, most hummingbirds leave Georgia to head southward into Mexico, Central America, or even South America. In fact, many hummingbird individuals spotted in Georgia are outliers and don’t stay long.
Why Do Hummingbirds Leave Georgia?
Hummingbirds typically leave Georgia in pursuit of food sources like flowers and insects. The shortening days act as the catalyst for these migrations, not dropping temperatures.
Is Migration Dangerous for Hummingbirds?
As with any other bird species, hummingbirds face a number of challenges during migration. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is the sheer distance. The rufous hummingbird has the longest migration of any North American hummingbird, traveling up to 3,000 miles. A marathon of this kind takes its toll on the body and opens the migrant up to other challenges like predation. Common hummingbird predators include larger birds like hawks, owls, gulls, and herons. Additionally, finding enough food to sustain its energy over a trip of this length is also a significant challenge.
Should I Keep My Hummingbird Feeders Up In Fall and Winter?
According to the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, it’s perfectly fine to keep hummingbird feeders up during the fall and winter months. Contrary to popular belief, it will not prevent hummingbirds from migrating. This is because hummingbird migration depends on day length rather than food supply. For those rare individuals that decide to stay in Georgia for the winter or end up there during the colder months, it will provide much-needed nourishment!
Most hummingbirds in Georgia leave by mid-October and return by late February or early March, meaning the best time to see hummingbirds in Georgia is during the spring and summer months. However, it is possible to catch a glimpse of stray hummingbirds during the winter season. Migrating species typically end up south of the United States during the colder months.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © John L. Absher/Shutterstock.com
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