Alaska Hummingbirds Migration: 5 Adorable Aviators

Nine common questions about migration are discussed in this article about hummingbirds in Alaska.

There Are Five Documented Hummingbirds Identified As Alaska Hummingbirds.

Alaska Hummingbirds in order of frequency seen.

Hummingbirds:Numbers seen:Documented:% seen
Rufous10,629Documented81.73%
Anna’s2,298Documented17.67%
Costa’s70Documented0.54%
Calliope5Documented0.04%
Ruby-throated3Documented0.02%
Total seen:13,005
These are the Alaska’s statistics at the end of 2023, as reported by eBird.org.
Click “Documented” link above to see current eBird.org sighting statistics for Alaska.

When Do Alaska Hummingbirds Arrive?

The earliest arrivals of Alaska hummingbirds are seen in March, and new arrivals continue through May.

Alaska hummingbirds begin their migration north from as far away as Panama or as close as Mexico. Alaska hummingbirds arrive in Alaska as early as March, while some late migrators may arrive as late as May.

The first migrating hummingbirds will be males, followed by females about a week later. The males arrive first to stake out the territory that they will defend as they try to attract a female.

Rufous hummingbirds are by far the most commonly seen Alaska hummingbirds, and they will probably be the first migrating hummingbirds to be seen in Alaska.

Male Rufous 7 OR
Male Rufous Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh

Watch for the male’s vividly colored gorget; a week or so later, the females will begin to appear at your feeders.
See my article: How to Identify a Hummingbird’s Gender in 4 Easy Steps

Alaska hummingbirds starting their spring migration north from Panama City, Panama need to fly about 4,250 miles.
Alaska hummingbirds starting their journey north from Mexico, at the United States’ southernmost border at Brownsville Texas, need to fly 3,300 miles to reach Alaska.

Are There Alaska Hummingbirds That Live In The State Year-Round?

There are no documented Alaska hummingbird species that live in Alaska year-round, however, Rufous and Anna’s hummingbirds are reported as being seen in the middle of winter.

Male Rufous 4 OR
Male Rufous Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh
Male Annas 7
Adult Male Anna’s Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh

The general public is unaware of how cold-tolerant hummingbirds actually are.
Some banded hummingbirds have been observed at temperatures as low as -9 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill of -36 degrees Fahrenheit, according to eBird.org.

Which Alaska Hummingbirds Breed And Nest In The State?

Two Alaska hummingbirds, Rufous and Anna’s, are the only hummingbirds that breed and nest in the state.

Female Rufous OR 1
Female Rufous Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh
Female Annas 2 OR
Female Anna’s Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh

Rufous – The Rufous hummingbird breeds primarily in the northwest along the Pacific coastline from Anchorage Alaska to San Francisco. Their breeding grounds extend eastward to include most of British Columba and some of Alberta’s state line area with British Colombia.
In the United States Rufous hummingbird breeding areas include Washington, Montana, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and northern California.

Rufous Breeding Map Picture
Rufous Breeding Area

Anna’s – The Anna’s hummingbird breeds primarily along the western coastline of North America from Vancouver, BC to the southernmost tip of Baja California and extending eastward in central California to include the southern tip of Nevada, about 75% of Arizona, and into the western coast of upper Mexico.
There are isolated scattered breeding areas identified in Idaho, the Chicago area, and northern British Columbia.

Annas Breeding Map Picture
Anna’s Breeding Area

The entire reason for northern migration, much like salmon swimming upstream to their place of birth to lay eggs, is to return to the area where they were born. There the female builds a nest, mates, and raises a family.

When a female hummingbird arrives at the breeding grounds, her attention shifts to building a nest and then looking for a mate.

Hummingbird females prefer to build their nests in deciduous trees, 10 to 20 feet above the ground.

It will take her between 5 and 7 days to construct the nest of materials such as plant down, moss, and fine plant fibers, decorated with lichens and held together by spider webs.
See my article: Hummingbird Parents: (Mating to Nesting)
See my article: Baby Hummingbirds: (Egg to Fledgling)

Humm parents Mate to Nest
Female Allen’s on Nest
Photo by: Aaron Gomperts

Each species of male hummingbird has its own unique mating dance ritual of courtship to attract a female. They do perfectly choreographed dives and dance maneuvers to attract a flirty female.
See my article: Hummingbird Dance: 5 Interpretive Explanations

During the mating ritual, there is no penetration since male hummingbirds lack external sexual organs.

The “Cloacal Kiss occurs when the cloacae, (pronounced “kloh-ay-see”), of both hummingbirds are brought together during the brief mating procedure, which lasts only three to five seconds.

After the Cloacal kiss, the female must begin building the nest immediately.

Each brood of hummingbirds typically produces two eggs, laid on consecutive days.

The majority of hummingbirds have two broods annually, although some may have more depending on the timing of their migration and the duration of the days they spend in their breeding areas.

Alaska nesting hummingbirds usually have 2 broods per year.

When Should I Put Up My Feeders For Alaska Hummingbirds?

Alaska hummingbird enthusiasts should put out hummingbird feeders in March to attract the very earliest arriving migrating hummingbirds.
The majority of Alaska hummingbirds will arrive in April and May.

Approximately one week after the arrival of the male hummingbirds, the females will follow.
Other migrating hummingbirds will continue to arrive until May.

Approximately one week after the arrival of the male hummingbirds, the females will follow.

Make sure to use high-quality nectar solutions in your hummingbird feeders; homemade nectar works best.
See my article: Forget Commercial Hummingbird Food, Try Making Homemade Nectar
See my article: The One Thing You Need to Eliminate From a Hummingbird’s Diet

How Long Do Alaska Hummingbirds Stay In The State?

Alaska hummingbirds stay in the state for at least six months.
They will start arriving as early as March and most will be gone in October.
Some Anna’s and Rufous, have been seen in Alaska during winter, but most migrate south for the winter.
No hummingbird species live in Alaska year-round.

The general public is unaware of how tolerant hummingbirds actually are.
Some banded hummingbirds have been observed at temperatures as low as -9 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill of -36 degrees Fahrenheit, according to eBird.org.

Some migrating seasonal hummingbirds that choose to over-winter in Alaska, and those too old or injured to migrate will be the only likely hummingbirds Alaska hummingbird enthusiasts will see during the winter.

The extremely cold-tolerant Rufous hummingbird is the most probable migratory hummingbird to decide to spend the winter in Alaska.

In Pennsylvania, a state known for its cold harsh winters, the Valley Forge Audubon Society reports winter sightings of the Allen’s, Calliope, Rufous, and Black-chinned hummingbirds.

Because hummingbirds have such long memories, they will revisit the flowers and feeders they frequented during their spring migration and will remember them when they migrate back to the south in the fall.
See my article: Hummingbird Adaptation and Remarkable Ability to Locate Food

The most common Alaska hummingbird seen during the hot summer months will be the Rufous hummingbird with the Anna’s hummingbird being a distant second.

Finding strategies to provide your hummingbirds with cool nectar might be crucial when the summer heat becomes unpleasant and tough to handle.
See my article: How to Help Hummingbirds in Hot Weather

When Do Alaska Hummingbirds Leave The State?

Alaska hummingbirds begin leaving the state as early as July, and by October they have migrated to their over-wintering areas in Mexico and Central America.
No hummingbirds live in Alaska year-round.

Most Alaska hummingbirds are gone by the end of September but a few stragglers might stay until the end of the year.

An article from the University of Southern Mississippi states that the hummingbirds that are the oldest will begin their migration earlier than the others.

This elongated migration time frame ensures late straggling migrants have enough food available to fuel their bodies before making the long taxing migration south for the winter.

Some Alaska hummingbirds seen during the winter are migratory hummingbirds that are too old or injured to migrate.

The circannual (annual internal clock) and circadian (day internal clock) rhythms cause hummingbird migration.

Changes in the weather, temperature, time of the season, the decline in the food supply, and decreased amount of sunlight because of shortening days are all factors that trigger an individual hummingbird’s instinct to migrate.

The inclination of a single hummingbird to migrate is triggered by a variety of circumstances, including variations in temperature, time of year, and weather; other causes include a loss in food supplies and a reduction in sunshine due to shortened days.

Similar to the spring migration, male hummingbirds start the fall migration to the south first. As soon as the female hummingbirds have finished rearing their young to the point that they can travel independently, they will set out on their southern fall migration.

When Should I Take Down My Feeders For Alaska Hummingbirds?

Mid-to-late October, or after a few weeks without any hummingbird sightings, is the ideal time to remove Alaskan hummingbird feeders for the winter.
Feeders are left up all winter by some Alaskans to feed the uncommon winter hummingbirds and those that are too old or injured to migrate.

The dilemma hummingbird enthusiasts struggle with every year is whether to leave the hummingbird feeders up all year or take them down during the winter.

Should I keep my humm feeder out during the winter
Photo by: Andrea Varju

The challenge then becomes preventing the nectar from hummingbirds from freezing.
See my article: 11 DIY Ways To Keep Hummingbird Nectar From Freezing

Investing in a hummingbird feeder warmer, like the Hummer Health feeder heater , is one approach to prevent hummingbird nectar from freezing.
Unfortunately, it is only compatible with a select few types of hummingbird feeders, like the Aspect’s HummZinger feeder.

The Anna’s and Rufous hummingbirds, who are Alaska’s most likely uncommon winter visitors, depend on the nectar that some hummingbird fans leave out all winter long.

Most Anna’s and Rufous hummingbirds will not spend the winter in Alaska and will decide to migrate south to Mexico for the winter.

Keeping hummingbird feeders up during the winter is a noble gesture that helps other migrating species that are injured or too old to migrate by providing them with nectar.
See my article: 11 DIY Ways to Keep Hummingbird Nectar From Freezing
See my article: Should I Keep My Hummingbird Feeder Out During the Winter

Hummingbird enthusiasts who leave hummingbird feeders up all winter provide much-welcome nutrition for late migrators and hummingbirds too old or injured to migrate.

The general public is unaware of how tolerant hummingbirds actually are.
Some banded hummingbirds have been observed at temperatures as low as -9 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill of -36 degrees Fahrenheit, according to eBird.org.
See my article:  3 Reasons Why Hummingbirds Are Banded

Hummingbirds that depend on these wintertime feeders may die if hummingbird feeders are taken down in the middle of winter during periods of below-freezing temperatures.
See my article: 11 DIY Ways to Keep Hummingbird Nectar From Freezing

How Long Does It Take Alaska Hummingbirds To Migrate?

It takes an Alaska hummingbird about 110 hours of flying at its average migrating flight speed of 30mph to fly from Alaska to the most distant Mexican border 3,300 miles away.
Hummingbirds migrating to Panama 4,250 miles away, will need to fly 141 hours.

Unlike other migrating birds, hummingbirds do not travel in flocks.
Individual hummingbirds travel according to their own internal clock.

This staggered migration pattern ensures resources are not consumed and depleted all at one time.

Hummingbirds regularly acquire between 25% and 50% of their body weight as migration draws nearby eating more nectar from feeders and blooming plants and by collecting more insects in midair for protein.

This rise in body fat provides the hummingbird with energy for its protracted migration flight.

Where Do Alaska Hummingbirds Go In The Winter?

Alaska hummingbirds, Rufous, Anna’s, Costa’s, Calliope, and Ruby-throated, travel south to over-winter in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.
Anna’s over-winter in upper Mexico and California.

Rufous – The Rufous hummingbird overwinters primarily in Mexico. Rufous hummingbirds are seen in some years, during the winter months, in scattered areas throughout the USA including New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Male Rufous 4 OR
Male Rufous Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh
Rufous Overwintering Map Picture
Rufous Over-Wintering Area

Anna’s – The Anna’s hummingbird overwinters primarily in Southern California and the upper parts of Baja and Mexico. Anna’s hummingbirds are seen in some years, during winter months, in scattered areas throughout the USA including Texas, Missouri, Illinois (Chicago area), Maryland, Utah, and Idaho.

Male Annas 7
Adult Male Anna’s Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh
Annas Overwintering Map Picture
Anna’s Over-Wintering Area

Costa’s – The Costa’s hummingbird overwinters primarily in Southern California, Southern Arizona, Baja California, and the Western Coast of Mexico. The Costa’s hummingbirds are seen in some years, during the winter months, in Nevada and Utah.

Male Costas 1 bird.whisperer NV
Male Costa’s Hummingbird
Photo by: bird.whisperer
Costas Overwintering Map Picture
Costa’s Over-Wintering Area

Calliope – The Calliope hummingbird overwinters primarily on the west coast of Mexico. Calliope hummingbirds are seen in some years, during winter months, in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Calliope Male ID
Male Calliope Hummingbird
Photo by: sony_alpha_male
Male Calliope 1 Bob Free CA
Adult Male Calliope Hummingbird
Photo by: Bob Free
Calliope Overwintering Map Picture
Calliope Over-Wintering Area
Ruby throated Overwintering Map Picture
Ruby-throated Over-Wintering Area

Every hummingbird has an exceptional memory. Throughout their spring migration, they can recall every flower or feeder they visited, and they will revisit those spots every year.

Hummingbirds have been seen to return to a feeder even after it has been removed for a few years.
See my article: Hummingbird Adaptation and Remarkable Ability to Locate Food

Check out my other posts on Hummingbird Questions

Happy Hummingbird Watching!

Male Rufous 7 OR
Male Rufous Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh

Elizabeth Donaldson

Hi Everyone! I have always loved our backyard and have been fascinated with all the wildlife living there. I am especially amazed by the skill, strength, and beauty of hummingbirds. I hope this article answered your questions.

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