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Where Do Hummingbirds Go In The Winter?

Written by Niccoy Walker
Updated: January 20, 2023
© Keneva Photography/Shutterstock.com
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Key Facts

  • Hummingbirds set off towards the south during late summer and early fall.
  • Their reason for making the trip is due to the scarcity of food supplies rather than plummeting temperatures which they are capable of handling.
  • Once spring and summer arrive, competition for nectar and insects rises to an all-time high, resulting in a return trip northwards. 

Hummingbirds are tiny, brightly colored birds native to North and South America. There are over 300 hummingbird species, and they inhabit various habitats, such as temperate woodlands, mountain meadows, and tropical rainforests.

These fast-hovering birds are long-distance migrants who make their way down south in late summer and fall. Discover where hummingbirds go in the winter, why they migrate, and how you can help them in the colder months.

Why Do Hummingbirds Migrate?

Animals that don't poop – birds
Birds, such as these hummingbirds, possess a cloaca that expels urine and feces.

©Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

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During late summer and fall, when the days begin shortening, hummingbirds make their long journey south. These birds are highly tolerant of cold weather, so decreasing temperatures is not typically their reason for leaving their environments.

Hummingbirds can withstand snow and ice as long as there is an adequate food supply. Unfortunately, their northern breeding grounds in Canada and the US don’t provide the nourishment they need during winter. 

Southern regions of the Americas have abundant flowering plants and insects, keeping them well-fed until they can return to their breeding grounds. You may ask yourself, why don’t they stay in these warm, copious habitats year-round? But competition gets high during spring and summer, leaving them fighting for food once again. They return north during the warmer months when there are fewer creatures to compete with.

Where Do Hummingbirds Migrate in the Winter?

baby hummingbirds eating
Hummingbirds can live in relatively cold weather, slowing their heart rate down when resting.

©ukrit.wa/Shutterstock.com

Most North American hummingbirds fly south to Mexico and Central America for the winter months. But where they go depends explicitly on the species. Some, in recent times, have stayed in the Southeastern US. Global warming is affecting their migration habits, and northern areas are becoming more tolerable during the colder season. Find out where these four common American hummingbirds go during the winter.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

The ruby-throated hummingbird is emerald green with bright iridescent throats and lives in open woodlands and meadows. This bird breeds in Southeast Canada and the eastern half of the United States. Most migrate by flying over the Gulf of Mexico and spend their winters in Central America. Some northern populations stay in the southern tip of Florida.

Rufous Hummingbird

This feisty bird is reddish-brown with an orangish iridescent throat and spends its days aggressively attacking flowers. They live in backyards and forests and travel 4,000 miles during migration. They breed along the western coast of Canada, the southeastern tip of Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest in the US. They migrate through the western half of the United States and spend their winters in Mexico, as far south as Acapulco. 

Anna’s Hummingbird

This common west coast hummingbird is green and grey with reddish-pink feathers around its head and throat.

©iStock.com/Jedlovec

This common west coast hummingbird is green and grey with reddish-pink feathers around its head and throat. They inhabit backyards, parks, and coastal scrubs and are permanent residents throughout most of their range.

They live year-round along the United States west coast. Some populations breed in Oregon and California and migrate a short distance to winter in Northern Mexico and the Southwestern United States (Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico).

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

The broad-tailed hummingbird is iridescent green with a white chest and magenta throat patch. They inhabit high elevations over 10,000 feet and live in mountain meadows and evergreen forests.

Some populations live year-round in the mountains of Mexico, while others breed in the western half of the United States and migrate a short distance to Mexico in the winter.

Calliope Hummingbird

The Calliope is the smallest bird in the United States, measuring three inches and 0.1 ounces. This green and grey bird has iridescent magenta stripes on its throat, and they live in mountain meadows and aspen thickets. These long-distance migrants breed in Southwestern Canada and the Northwestern United States. They migrate south along the Rocky Mountains before reaching Mexico, as far south as Oaxaca.

Do Hummingbirds Come Back to the Same Place Every Year?

Hummingbirds have excellent memories and return to the same habitats every year and arrive at the same time. Some can be so accurate they return on the same day each year. During the breeding season, females will return to the same nest, and hummingbirds will also return to specific backyard feeders, remembering precisely where they are located. Field studies indicate these birds can remember the location of rewarding patches of flowers.

Where do Hummingbirds Live?

Hummingbirds are native to the Americas and are found throughout North, Central, and South America. They are most commonly found in tropical and subtropical regions, such as Mexico, Central America, and the Andean region of South America.

Some species of hummingbirds as we mention below also live in temperate regions of North America, such as the western United States and Canada. They are also found in the Caribbean islands.

Most species of hummingbirds are migratory birds and they move to warmer climates during the colder months, but some species are also resident in some regions and can be seen year-round.

Do All Hummingbirds Migrate?

Most of them do. However, Anna’s hummingbird hangs around the Pacific Coast all year long. An increasing number of Rufous hummingbirds are also electing to hang around Texas during winter. Researchers believe the increasing availability of hummingbird feeders may have something to do with it.

Other experts, however, assert that other factors may influence their choice to remain such as age (they may be too young, for example), or illness.

How Can I Help Hummingbirds in the Winter?

Costa's Hummingbird feeder
A hummingbird feeder with sugar water will attract hummingbirds and supplement the nectar they gather.

©Rick Scuteri/Shutterstock.com

Do you have a resident hummer who likes to hang around your backyard feeders each year? If so, you may be interested in how to care for them during the winter. Hummingbirds can live in relatively cold weather, slowing their heart rate down when resting.

The best way to help these birds thrive is to keep them fed. Keep your feeder clean, full, and thawed by placing a heat lamp directed at it. Also, put it in an area out of areas that get covered in snow and rain. Ensure the full and thawed feeder is put out in the early morning and late afternoon. As long as these birds have full bellies, they can survive the cold. 

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The Featured Image

Rufous Hummingbird drinking nectar
Male Rufous Hummingbirds are brightly colored, with a reddish-orange face.
© Keneva Photography/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer and content creator focusing on nature, wildlife, food, and travel. She graduated Kappa Beta Delta from Florida State College with a business degree before realizing writing was her true passion. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and enjoys hiking, reading, and cooking!

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