Overwintering Hummingbirds

Conventional wisdom used to hold that leaving a nectar feeder up after migration had ended could cause a hummingbird to stay in the area rather than finish its migration across the Gulf of Mexico.  Based on careful studies and years of banding records, we now know that some Ruby-throats have always stayed behind and that leaving a feeder out simply gives you a better chance of seeing one that is overwintering.  We also know that Ruby-throats aren't even the most numerous species of hummingbird overwintering in Florida.  That distinction goes to the Rufous Hummingbird, a species that breeds in the Pacific NW and often endures temperatures during breeding season that are harsher than those we experience here in winter.  So, we say leave a feeder out.  The chances of seeing an overwintering hummingbird are slim but they are certainly better if you have a feeder out.

Alachua County has recorded six species of hummingbird in the winter.  They are:

  • Ruby-throated - Our only breeding resident.  Second most common overwintering species.
  • Rufous - Breeds in the Pacific NW.  Most common overwintering species.
  • Black-chinned - Breeds across much of the West.  Third most common overwintering species.
  • Calliope - Breeds in high alpine habitats of the West.  Recorded three times.
  • Buff-bellied - Breeds as far north as the Texas Gulf Coast.  Recorded twice.
  • Allen's - Breeds in a few strictly Pacific Coast habitats.  Recorded once.