Hummingbird Migration in California

When Do Hummingbirds Arrive in California?

California migrating hummingbirds begin arriving in late January and continue north to their preferred nesting area, somewhere near their own birth.
The last of the spring migrating California hummingbirds are gone by mid-June, however, many will stay in  California for the rest of the summer.

Beginning their northern journey from as far away as Panama or as close as Mexico, migrating hummingbirds arrive in California in January, some late migrators may arrive as late as mid-May, but by the end of June, all hummingbirds that are migrating further than California are gone from California.

The first migrating hummingbirds will be males followed by the 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.

Keep your eye out for the brightly colored gorget of the male, the females will start showing up at your feeders about a week later.
See my article: How to Identify a Hummingbird’s Gender in 4 Easy Steps

Hummingbirds starting their spring migration from Panama need to fly 3,400 miles to reach the northernmost part of California.

Hummingbirds starting their journey from Mexico need to fly about 878 miles to reach the northernmost part of California.

What hummingbirds breed and nest in California?

  • Anna’s Hummingbirds
  • Allen’s Hummingbirds
  • Black-chinned Hummingbirds
  • Broad-tailed Hummingbirds
  • Calliope Hummingbirds
  • Costa’s Hummingbird

(Click links to see breeding map)

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 to mate, build a nest, and raise a family.

Once the breeding grounds have been reached, the focus turns to finding a partner with which to mate.

Each species of male hummingbirds 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

There is no penetration during the mating ritual as male hummingbirds do not have any external sexual organs.

The hummingbird mating process only lasts for approximately 3-5 seconds while the cloacae (kloh-ay-see) of both hummingbirds are pressed together in what is called the “Cloacal Kiss” (kloh-a-coal kiss).

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

Female hummingbirds prefer building nests 10 to 20 feet off the ground in deciduous trees.

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)

Hummingbirds usually lay 2 eggs per brood, one each on consecutive days.

Most hummingbirds have 2 broods per year, but depending on migration time and day length in their nesting destinations, some hummingbirds can have more than 2 broods per year.

In California, nesting hummingbirds usually have 2 broods per year but some may have time to work in a third brood.

When Should I Put Out Hummingbird Feeders in California?

California hummingbird enthusiasts should put out hummingbird feeders in early January to attract the earliest arriving migrating hummingbirds.
Many Californians leave their hummingbird feeders up all year to feed California’s year-round residents, the  Allen’s, Anna’s, and Calliope hummingbirds.

Male hummingbirds will be the first to arrive followed by female hummingbirds about a week later.

Migrating hummingbirds will continue to arrive until about mid-June.
Hummingbirds seen in California after mid-June will be hummingbirds that will spend their entire summer in California.

Be sure to fill your hummingbird feeders with good quality nectar solutions, making your own feeder nectar is 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 Hummingbirds Stay in California?

Allen’s, Anna’s, and Calliope hummingbirds live in California year-round.
California’s migrating hummingbirds will start arriving in January and will be gone by the end of October.
Some Black-chinned, Costa’s, and Rufous that usually migrate may choose to over-winter in California, but most will migrate south for the winter.

Allen’s, Anna’s, and Calliope hummingbirds, and some normally migrating seasonal hummingbirds choosing to over-winter in California, or too old or injured to migrate, will be the likely hummingbirds Californian hummingbird enthusiasts will see during the winter.

Hummingbirds have exceptional memories and will remember every flower or feeder they visited on the spring migration and will return to those nectar sources on their return to southern migration in the fall.
See my article: Hummingbird Adaptation and Remarkable Ability to Locate Food

The most common hummingbirds Californians will see during the hot summer months will be Allen’s, Anna’s, and Calliope hummingbirds.

When the obstacles of the summer heat are difficult to manage and unbearable, finding ways to keep your hummingbirds happy and hydrated with cool nectar can be critical.
See my article: How to Help Hummingbirds in Hot Weather

When Do Hummingbirds Leave California?

California’s migrating hummingbirds begin leaving the state in early September, migrating south to their over-wintering areas in Mexico and Central America.
California’s migrating hummingbirds will be gone by mid-November.

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.

Hummingbirds Californians may see during the winter are possibly some migrating hummingbirds that are too old or injured to migrate.

Hummingbird migration is triggered by the circadian (internal daily clock) and the circannual (yearly internal clock) rhythm.

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.

As with spring migration, male hummingbirds are the first to begin the southern migration in the fall. The female migrating hummingbirds will begin their southern fall migration as soon as they have completed raising their offspring to the ability to migrate themselves.

How Long Does It Take a California Hummingbird to Migrate?

It takes a California hummingbird about 30 hours of flying at its average migrating flight speed of 30mph to fly from northern-most California to the Mexican border 900 miles away.
California’s northern-most hummingbirds migrating to Panama 3,400 miles away, will need to fly 113 hours.

Some fly at the relaxed distance as slow as 1 hour per day, others fly up to 500 miles non-stop in about 20 hours as some do while migrating across the Gulf of Mexico.

Hummingbirds do not migrate in flocks as do other migrating birds.
Hummingbirds migrate individually on their own personal time clock.

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

As migration approaches, hummingbirds routinely gain 25% to 50% of their body weight by consuming increased quantities of nectar from feeders and flowering plants as well as catching an increased quantity of bugs mid-air for protein.

This increase in body fat helps fuel the hummingbird on its long migration journey.

Expect to see an increased volume of southern migrating hummingbird visitors to your feeders in California during this fall migration from September through October.

The hummingbirds that visited your feeders during the spring migration will remember exactly where your feeder is located and will most likely revisit that same feeder on their way to their over-wintering area in Mexico and Central America.
See my article: Hummingbird Adaptation and Remarkable Ability to Locate Food

When To Take Down Hummingbird Feeders in California?

The best time to take down hummingbird feeders for the winter in California is mid-to-late November or when no hummingbirds have been seen at the feeders for a couple of weeks.
Many Californians leave feeders up all winter to feed year-round-resident hummingbirds and those too old or injured to migrate.

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

Some California hummingbird admirers leave hummingbird feeders up all winter long to provide life-nourishing nectar to Californians year-round residents, Allen’s, Anna’s, and Calliope hummingbirds, as well as some seasonal hummingbirds that choose to stay in California for the winter, namely the Black-chinned, Costa’s, Rufous, and Violet-crowned hummingbirds.

Most Black-chinned, Costa’s, Rufous, and Violet-crowned hummingbirds will not spend the winter in California and will decide to migrate south for the winter.

The selfless act of keeping hummingbird feeders up all winter also provides nectar to other migrating species unable to migrate because of injury or old age.
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 living in areas of California that experience sustained temperatures below freezing and leave hummingbird feeders up all winter provide much-welcomed nutrition for year-round, migrating, and hummingbirds too old or injured to migrate.

According to, some hummingbirds have been documented surviving -9 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill factor of -36 degrees Fahrenheit.

Taking hummingbird feeders down mid-winter could be fatal to hummingbirds depending on these winter-time feeders.
See my article: 11 DIY Ways to Keep Hummingbird Nectar From Freezing

Where Do California Hummingbirds Go in The Winter?

California year-round resident hummingbirds, Allen’s, Anna’s, and Calliope hummingbirds, remain in California over the winter.
California migrating hummingbirds travel south to over-winter in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.

All hummingbirds have excellent memories and can remember every flower or feeder they visited during spring migration and will return to those locations along their migration pathway year after year.

Some hummingbirds have been documented returning to a feeder for a couple of years after it was removed.
See my article: Hummingbird Adaptation and Remarkable Ability to Locate Food

See my article: Hummingbirds Found in California: (Pictures and Sounds)

Happy Hummingbird Watching!

Jace Annas 1 WA
Male Anna’s Hummingbird
Photo by: jace_the_bird_nerd

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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