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Hummingbirds return to southern New England

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BOSTON - There are all sorts of signs of spring. The Red Sox home opener, the Boston Marathon, the first cherry trees bursting into color. But perhaps the first sign of impending summer is the return of New England's smallest breeding bird - the hummingbird. 

One of the first to leave in the fall, and last to come back in the spring! In that regard, maybe they're the smartest birds, too! The first ones have just been reported back across southern New England by local birdwatchers.

Hummingbird migration
2024 hummingbird migration map CBS Boston

Many migrating birds undergo vast annual voyages. And though the ruby-throated hummingbird isn't quite as adventurous as our osprey (which travel all the way to South America before returning), you can't blame them. It takes a lot of aggressive flapping to cover all that distance! Those wings can beat about 53 times every second. The ruby-throated hummingbird uses them to head south in late August to September and return in late April to early May. 

Where do hummingbirds go during winter?

The vast majority of this particular species will make their way down to Central America for the winter. A few sometimes hang around along the Gulf Coast, particularly in southern Florida, Texas, and Louisiana. A long journey to be sure, and they usually make it back to the same exact spot they departed. The same one you had at a feeder last year could very well be the same one you see this year! 

We may think of our hummingbird feeders and how they like to feast on sugary nectar. And though they do enjoy it to help power their little bodies, hummingbirds are carnivorous and enjoy munching on flies most of the time. When the weather is cold here, flies are hard to come by. Which is why they get out of town until their preferred snack is back in stock.

How to make hummingbird nectar   

If you have a feeder you like to put out, now is the time. It's easy enough to make your own nectar. Just combine 4 parts of boiling water to 1 part sugar. Let it cool and you're ready to go. Though some store-bought brands are red, it's not necessary to attract them. The feeding port is more important to get their attention, and those are often colored red.  

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