About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

How does the Cold Weather Effect Hummingbird Migration

Everything in the bird world seemed to be placed hold when the freezing weather hit mid-Michigan. I don't hear the excited singing in the morning, my nest building material hasn't been touched in a few days, and the early migration of the hummingbirds has stopped.

I was shocked last week when the migration maps showed the hummingbirds had arrived five weeks earlier than normal in Michigan. The good weather encouraged some males to race ahead to claim the best breeding territories. Now the cold weather has stopped the birds in their tracks.

However, the early birds should be alright. Healthy Ruby-throated hummingbirds can tolerate nights in the teens easily as long as there are bugs, blooms and feeders available. During the night, hummers will enter into a state of torpor to save energy. Similar to a type of short-term hibernation, torpor reduces their metabolic activity and drops their heart rate from 1,200 beats per minute to 50 beats per minute.

Hummingbirds migrate alone, each to their own internal clock and map. As the weather warms more and more individuals will join the first wave of hummers until the final ones arrive in June.

What can you do to help the early hummers? Don't wait to hang your feeders until after you see hummingbirds. I have had many customers report that the ruby-throats are in the area. The standard 1:4 white sugar and water solution won't start to freeze unless nights drop below about 27 degrees Fahrenheit, and even a slushy feeder is better than none at all.

You can also leave all the spider webs you see outside alone for the hummers to pick clean and encourage fruit flys to your garden by tossing in old banana peels. The banana peels break down rapidly and fertilize the garden with important macro-nutrients plants need and attract small flys for the hummers to eat.

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