Early hummingbird migrations and how you can help

Have you heard the buzzing of wings yet this year? The familiar chirp of tiny birds fighting? That may be because the hummingbird migration has started early, and these feisty birds are already arriving in Missouri.

Hummingbirds are a tiny species of aviators who are known for their extremely fast wing beats and penny-sized nests. During the winter months in the United States, they spend their time in Mexico or Central America, migrating north when winter hits those regions. The problem? The hummingbirds are migrating earlier than normal this year, and the necessary flowers, as well as people supplying nectar, aren’t ready.

A hummingbird’s heartbeat goes up to 1,260 times per minute. With this increased heart rate, the birds blow through energy faster, and therefore require more energy input than the flowers currently available. What’s more, their wings can flap anywhere between 15-80 times per second. These birds typically are sighted in mid-April, but there are already several sightings within Missouri. Many experts believe that they know when to migrate based on the length of daytime.

How can YOU help the hummingbirds? First, buying a feeder is essential. Most feeders support between 4-10 birds, though it is not uncommon for them to be sassy and “fight” each other. Hummingbirds love forested areas with a lot of pollinating flowers. The most important rule, however, is to NOT USE RED NECTAR! The dye, though it attracts their eyes, is toxic to birds. Instead, boil some sugar water. This is essentially the same energy they get from flowers, and it won’t hurt them.

The most popular hummingbird that appears in Missouri is the Ruby-Throated species, which are of course known for their red throats. These babies are adorable, so always keep a look out for them. As always, be conscious of our beautiful bird species.