Iowa Hummingbirds Migration: 5 Documented Amazing Aviators

Nine common questions about the migration of Iowa hummingbirds are discussed in this article.

There Are Five Hummingbirds Documented As Iowa Hummingbirds.

There are five hummingbirds documented as Iowa hummingbirds, with an additional four identified, but not documented by sighting maps, as Iowa hummingbirds.

Iowa hummingbirds are listed in the order of frequency seen:

Hummingbirds:Number seen:Documented:% seen in Iowa:
Ruby-throated22,219Documented99.56%
Rufous74Documented0.33%
Mexican Violetear10Documented0.04%
Anna’s9Documented0.04%
Broad-billed5Documented0.02%
Allen’s0Not Documented0.00%
Broad-tailed0Not Documented0.00%
Calliope0Not Documented0.00%
Costa’s0Not Documented0.00%
Total Number seen:22,317
The above are the Iowa statistics at the end of 2023, as reported by eBird.org.
Click the “Documented” link above to see current eBird sighting statistics for Iowa.
Male Ruby throated 7 mz13hummingbirds
Male Ruby-throated
Photo by: mz13hummingbirds

When Do Iowa Hummingbirds Arrive?

The earliest arrivals of Iowa hummingbirds are first seen in April, and new arrivals continue through June.
The majority of Iowa hummingbirds arrive in May.

Iowa hummingbirds begin their spring migration north from as far away as Panama or as close as Mexico.
Iowa hummingbirds arrive in Iowa as early as April, while some late migrators may arrive as late as June.
By the end of June, all hummingbirds that are migrating further than Iowa will be gone.

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.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are by far the most commonly seen Iowa hummingbirds, and they will be the first migrating hummingbirds to be seen in Iowa.

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

According to the Missouri Department Of Conservation, if Iowa hummingbird enthusiasts start feeding them when they arrive, there is less of a chance they will move on and will decide to spend the summer in Iowa.

Iowa hummingbirds starting their spring migration north from Panama City, Panama need to fly about 3,774 miles over land or 2,404 miles over the Gulf of Mexico to reach Des Moines, respectively.
Iowa hummingbirds starting their journey north from Mexico at the United States’ southernmost border at Brownsville, Texas, need to fly 1,103 miles to reach Des Moines.

Are There Iowa Hummingbirds That Live in the State Year-round?

There are no hummingbird species that live in Iowa year-round, however, the Rufous, Calliope, and Allen’s, hummingbirds have been documented as being seen in the middle of winter in Iowa.

The most likely hummingbirds seen in Iowa in the middle of winter:

Male Rufous 4 OR
Male Rufous Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh
Calliope Male ID
Male Calliope Hummingbird
Photo by: sony_alpha_male
Male Allens 2 inthewildwithrick CA
Male Allen’s Hummingbird
Photo by: IntheWildwithRick

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 Iowa hummingbirds breed and nest in the state?

The only Iowa hummingbirds to breed and nest in Iowa is the Ruby-throated hummingbird.

Ruby-throated – The Ruby-throated hummingbird has an extensive breeding area that covers the entire eastern half of the United States and extends into Canada as far west as Alberta.

Female Ruby 1 TN
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Photo by: paulapaintsart
Ruby throated Breeding Map Picture
Iowa Hummingirds – Ruby-throated Breeding Map

The entire reason for northern migration, much like salmon swimming upstream to their place of birth to lay eggs, is for female hummingbirds to return to the area where they were born to build a nest, mate, and raise 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.

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

When Should I Put Up My Feeders For Iowa Hummingbirds?

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

If migrating hummingbirds are fed when they start to arrive there is less chance of them moving on.

Hummingbird aficionados will reduce the likelihood of hummingbirds leaving and electing to spend the summer in that state by providing food for them as soon as they arrive, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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

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

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 Iowa Hummingbirds Stay in the State?

Iowa hummingbirds stay in the state for six months.
They will start arriving as early as April and most will be gone by October.
No hummingbird species live in Iowa 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.

Iowa hummingbirds too old or injured to migrate will be the only likely hummingbirds Iowa hummingbird enthusiasts will see during the winter, although some brave birds sometimes choose to stay.

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

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 Iowa hummingbird seen during the hot summer months is the Ruby-throated hummingbird.

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 Iowa Hummingbirds Leave the State?

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

Most of Iowa’s migrating hummingbirds are gone by the end of October.

A few older hummingbirds will be the first to start the fall migration in late August, depending on their strength and energy, with the youngest hummingbirds finishing the fall migration by October.

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 migrating hummingbirds Iowans will possibly see during the winter are migrating hummingbirds that are too old or injured to migrate.

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

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 spring migration, male hummingbirds are the first to leave and head south for the winter during fall migration. As soon as the female hummingbirds have finished raising their young and can travel independently, they will set out on their southern fall migration.

When Should I Take Down My Feeders For Iowa Hummingbirds?

The ideal time to remove Iowa hummingbird feeders for the winter is the beginning of October or after a few weeks without any hummingbird sightings.
No hummingbirds live in Iowa year-round.

Some Iowans leave feeders up all winter to feed the hummingbirds that are too old or injured to migrate, and for that very rare brave hummingbird that stays late into the winter.

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
Two Anna’s at Feeder in Snow
Photo by: Andrea Varju

If the hummingbird feeders are left up then the problem 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 (Amazon link), 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 (Amazon link).

Almost all Iowa hummingbirds will decide to migrate south to Mexico and Central America in the fall and will not spend the winter in Iowa.

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 an Iowa Hummingbird to Migrate?

Iowa hummingbirds require 37 hours of flying at its average migrating flight speed of 30mph to fly from Des Moines Iowa to the most distant USA/Mexican border 1,103 miles away.
Hummingbirds migrating to Panama 2,404 miles across the Gulf of Mexico, or 3,774 over land, will need to fly 80 hours or 125 hours respectively.

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

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 once.

Hummingbirds regularly acquire between 25% and 50% of their body weight as migration draws near by 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.

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

Hummingbirds that stopped by your feeders in the spring will remember exactly where it is, and they will probably stop by again on route to their overwintering grounds in Mexico and Central America.
See my article: Hummingbird Adaptation and Remarkable Ability to Locate Food

Where Do Iowa Hummingbirds Go in the Winter?

Iowa Ruby-throated, Rufous, Mexican violetear, Anna’s, Broad-billed, Allen’s, Broad-tailed, Calliope, and Costa’s hummingbirds 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.

Ruby-throated – The Ruby-throated hummingbird overwinters primarily in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are seen in some years, during the winter months, in scattered areas throughout the USA including New Mexico, Texas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Male Ruby throat 2 OHIO
Male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Photo by: Rekha Pawar
Ruby throated Overwintering Map Picture
Iowa Hummingbirds – Ruby-throated Over-Wintering Map

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
Iowa Hummingbirds – Rufous Over-Wintering Map

Mexican Violetear – The Mexican Violetear hummingbird overwinters primarily in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. Mexican Violetear hummingbirds are seen in some years, during winter months, in scattered areas throughout the USA including Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana.

Mexican Violetear Overwintering Map Picture
Iowa Hummingbirds – Mexican Violetear Over-Wintering Map

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
Iowa Hummingbirds – Anna’s Over-Wintering Map

Broad-billed – The Broad-billed hummingbird overwinters primarily in Mexico. Broad-tailed hummingbirds are seen in some years, during winter months, in scattered areas throughout the USA including Texas, Arizona, Louisiana, Florida, and Utah.

Adult Male Broad Billed AZ
Male Broad-Billed Hummingbird
Photo by: Aaron Gomperts
Broad billed Overwintering Map Picture
Iowa Hummingbirds – Broad-billed Over-Wintering Map

Allen’s – The Allen’s hummingbird overwinters primarily in Southern California. The Allen’s hummingbirds are seen in some years, during winter months, in scattered areas throughout the USA including Texas, Tennessee, and as far north as Maryland, New York, and Wisconsin.

Male Allens 1 inthewildwithrickCA
Male Allen’s Hummingbird
Photo by: IntheWildwithRick
Allens Overwintering Map Picture
Iowa Hummingbirds – Allen’s Over-Wintering Map

Broad-tailed – The Broad-tailed hummingbird overwinters primarily in Mexico and Guatemala. Broad-tailed hummingbirds are seen in some years, during winter months, in scattered areas in Western Texas.

Broad tailed bird.whisperer UT
Male Broad-Tailed Hummingbird
Photo by: bird.whisperer
Broad tailed Overwintering Map Picture
Iowa Hummingbirds – Broad-tailed Over-Wintering Map

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
Calliope Overwintering Map Picture
Iowa Hummingbirds – Calliope Over-Wintering Map

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.

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!

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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