Q: Where do the hummingbirds and robins go in the wintertime. I still see robins in the winter. Hummingbirds seem awfully small to travel that far. Do they migrate, or just go a little further south?...................................... Shelly, S
A: And the correct answer is, both. Hummingbirds, specifically the ones we see a lot of here in the Northeast, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, generally migrate south to warmer climates. Since they are primarily fly catchers and use the nectar from plants mainly to fuel their search for insects, they have to follow the food source. The majority go to Mexico and Central America but those that can’t make the trans-Gulf flight will winter along the Gulf coast. There is also a small population that winters along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It’s a pretty amazing fete to fly over the Gulf, a 500 mile journey in 18-22 hrs. depending on weather conditions. Before leaving for the trip they will have nearly doubled their weight so they have enough reserves to make it all the way across the Gulf. The details of how and when an individual hummer migrates will not be very accurate until they can figure out how to put a small enough transmitter onto a 3 gram bird.
Robins on the other hand do migrate south in large groups but many stay behind as well. Generally if there is an adequate food supply, robins will stay nearby. They move only when forced to do so due to lack of readily available food sources. Robins are not affected by the cold and have adapted to eating fruits and berries during the winter when worms are no longer available. Those robins that have migrated south begin to return as soon as the ground is warm enough and the worms begin to come out of the ground. Spring rains make them very available and allow the birds to fatten up after their long flights north.
Both robins and hummers make the return journey north in stages, the males generally leaving a few weeks before the females. In this way, if weather along the way harms the birds the entire population will not be destroyed at one time. Robins maintain territories as a couple during spring and summer, then flock together in the fall to head south.
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- Wednesday, 11 April 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Ask Madalyn