Warmer weather isn’t changing hummingbird migration

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The warm weather in the Great Lakes region this March is unusual, but it should not change hummingbirds’ migration patterns and instincts, according to a hummingbird enthusiast.

A Ruby-throated hummingbird weighs less than an ounce and can fly at speeds up to 60 mph. Photo: Ohio Department of Natural Resources

Lanny Chambers from St. Louis, Mo., is licensed to band hummingbirds, which is when a band with a unique number is placed around the bird’s ankle. This is for educational purposes and reveals a lot about migration habits. He also runs a website where people post when and where they have seen the birds migrating. People also can get their hummingbird questions answered by Chambers.

Chambers said although the weather has not changed instincts, it has allowed for some unusual opportunities.

“This year, the East saw several weeks of extraordinarily warm weather, with strong southerly winds and no cold fronts to impede the migration,” he said. “Normally in March, there’s a cold front every few days, and each front makes the migrants hunker down until it passes, rather than fight headwinds from the north. For the first time since I’ve been paying attention, that did not occur this year.”

Chambers also said the early blooming of flowers and amount of insects, which make up more than half of the birds’ diet, allowed some birds to migrate north at an astonishing pace.

“I don’t believe a lot of birds took advantage of the strange weather, and I suspect the majority of the species will reach their final destinations at about the same dates they always do,” Chambers said. “There are evolutionary advantages in being early, but the risk is high, and most individuals will keep a conservative schedule.”

One thought on “Warmer weather isn’t changing hummingbird migration

  1. I was going to put my feeder up today but it was so windy I figured it would all spill. Maybe tomorrow and see if any of my little hummer buddies are around.

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