Hummingbird Migration in Montana

This hummingbird article describes when hummingbirds arrive in Montana, leave Montana, when to put up the feeders and when to take them down, how long their migration journey takes, and where Montana hummingbirds go in the winter.

When Do Hummingbirds Arrive in Montana?

Montana migrating hummingbirds begin arriving in early April and continue through the middle of May on their journey north to their preferred nesting area, somewhere near their own birth. The last of the Montana spring migrating hummingbirds are gone by June, however, many will stay in Montana for the rest of the summer.

Montana migrating hummingbirds, including the Black-chinned, Calliope, Rufous, and Broad-tailed, continue their way north into the eastern half of the United States.

Beginning their northern journey from as far away as Panama or as close as Mexico, migrating hummingbirds arrive in Montana the second week of April, some late migrators may arrive in mid-May, but by the end of June to July, all migrating hummingbirds are gone from Montana.

The first migrating hummingbirds will be males followed by the females about a week later. The males arrive first to stake out his territory that he will defend as he tries 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 about 4,300 miles to reach Montana.

Hummingbirds starting their journey from Mexico need to fly about 1,900  miles to reach Montana.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the common summer breeding residents in Montana include Black-chinned, Calliope, Rufous, and Broad-tailed hummingbirds.

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, then 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 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 Montana, nesting hummingbirds usually have 2 broods per year but some have time to work in a third brood.

When Should I Put Out Hummingbird Feeders in Montana?

Hummingbird enthusiasts in Montana should put out hummingbird feeders at the end of March to attract the earliest arriving migrating hummingbirds.

Some Montana hummingbird admirers leave hummingbird feeders up all winter long to provide life-nourishing nectar to Montana’s possible year-round residents, the Black-chinned, Calliope, and Rufous hummingbirds.

Many of these hummingbirds will not spend the winter in Montana 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

How Long Do Hummingbirds Stay in Montana?

The first north migrating hummingbirds arrive in Montana in early April.
The first south migrating hummingbirds begin as early as the end of July and is usually completed by the end of August.
The last south migrating hummingbirds in the fall to leave Montana are gone by September to mid-October.

Hummingbirds too old or injured to migrate, or are brave enough to over-winter in Montana will be the only hummingbirds Montanans 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 Montanans will see during the hot summer months will be the Black-chinned, Broad-tailed, Calliope, and Rufous 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 Montana?

Montana’s migrating hummingbirds begin leaving the state as early as the end of July, migrating south to their over-wintering areas in Mexico and Central America.
Migrating hummingbirds will all be gone from Montana by September to mid-late October.

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.

The hummingbirds Montanans will 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 Montana Hummingbird to Migrate?

It takes a Montana hummingbird about 64 hours of flying at its average migrating flight speed of 30mph to fly from Montana to the Mexican border 1,900 miles away.
Hummingbirds migrating to Panama 4,300 miles away, will need to fly 143 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 Montana during this fall migration from the end of July through September.

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 Montana?

The best time to take down hummingbird feeders in Montana for the winter is by the first of November or when there have been no consistent hummingbirds at the feeders for a couple of weeks.
Montana hummingbird feeders can be up all winter to feed brave over-wintering hummingbirds or those too old or injured to migrate.

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

See my article: Should I Keep My Hummingbird Feeder Out During the Winter?

Hummingbird enthusiasts that leave hummingbird feeders up all winter provide much-welcomed nutrition for year-round, migrating, and hummingbirds too old or injured to migrate.

Taking hummingbird feeders down mid-winter could be fatal.

See my article: 11 DIY Ways to Keep Hummingbird Nectar From Freezing

Where Do Montana’s Hummingbirds Go in The Winter?

Montana’s 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 Montana: (Pictures and Sounds)

Happy Hummingbird Watching!

Male Black Chinned ID
Male Black-Chinned Hummingbird
Photo by: sony_alpha_male

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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