Do Hummingbirds fly south in flocks, on the backs of bigger birds, or what? ~ Eaton Rapids, Michigan
Hummingbirds migrate thousands of miles south every fall to reach their winter homes in Mexico and Central America under their own power. They fly about 23 miles a day by themselves, not in flocks or on the backs of geese.
Some think that the rumor of hummingbirds hitching a ride with geese was started by Mr. Audubon himself. But migratory geese don't fly as far south and leave much later than hummingbirds. Geese don't start migrating until mid-September and are not gone until early November while hummingbirds start migrating in mid-July and are mostly gone from Michigan by mid-October.
It's not necessary to take down feeders to force hummingbirds to leave. The initial urge is triggered by the shortening length of sunlight as autumn approaches, and has nothing to do with temperature or the availability of food.
Many hummingbirds migrate around the Gulf of Mexico, through Texas and northern Mexico to winter in Central America. Others will fly from Florida across the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula.
Regardless of which migration route they take it's inspirational. Individual adult males get the urge to leave first, followed soon after by the females, and then finally the juveniles. Amazingly, once the young have gained enough weight, they find their own way to the same winter habitat as their parents - someplace where they have never been, using the GPS in their head.
It’s astonishing that a bird that weighs as little as a penny with the brain the size of a BB has traveled thousands of miles all alone and ended up in the right place every fall since the last ice age.
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