South Carolina Hummingbird Migration: 10 Majestic Travelers

Nine common questions regarding the migration of South Carolina hummingbirds are discussed in this article.

When Do South Carolina Hummingbirds Arrive?

The earliest arrivals of South Carolina hummingbirds are seen in mid-March and new arrivals continue through June.

South Carolina hummingbirds begin their spring migration north from as far away as Panama or as close as Mexico. South Carolina hummingbirds arrive in South Carolina as early as mid-March while some late migrators may arrive as late as June.

By the end of June, all hummingbirds that are migrating further than South Carolina are gone from South Carolina.

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.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are by far the most commonly seen South Carolina hummingbirds and will be the first migrating hummingbirds to be seen in South Carolina.

Male Ruby 2 TN
Male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Photo by: Paula Leftwich

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 South Carolina hummingbird enthusiasts start feeding them when they arrive, there is less chance they will move on and will decide to spend the summer in South Carolina.

South Carolina hummingbirds starting their spring migration north from Panama City, Panama need to fly about 3,912 miles over land or 1,724 miles flying across the Gulf of Mexico to reach Columbia, South Carolina.
South Carolina hummingbirds starting their journey north from Mexico, at the United States’ southernmost border at Brownsville Texas, need to fly 1,132 miles to reach Columbia, South Carolina.

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

There are no hummingbird species that live in South Carolina year-round, however, the Ruby-throated, Rufous, Black-chinned, Calliope, and Allen’s hummingbirds are seen and documented in the middle of winter.

South Carolina Hummingbirds That Are Seen During Winter Months Shown In Order Of Abundance Seen In Winter

Ruby throat Andy Raupp
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Photo by: Andy Raupp
Male Rufous 7 OR
Male Rufous Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh
Male Black chinned bird.whisperer UT
Male Black-Chinned Hummingbird
Photo by: bird.whisperer
Calliope Male ID
Male Calliope Hummingbird
Photo by: sony_alpha_male
Male Allens 1 inthewildwithrickCA
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 South Carolina Hummingbirds Breed and Nest in the State?

The Ruby-throated hummingbird is the only hummingbird that breeds and nests in South Carolina.

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
South Carolina Hummingbirds: 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.

South Carolina 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 South Carolina Hummingbirds?

South Carolina hummingbird enthusiasts should put out hummingbird feeders in mid-March to attract the very earliest arriving migrating hummingbirds.
The majority of South Carolina migrating hummingbirds will arrive in May and new arrivals will continue through June.

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

Hummingbird aficionados can reduce the likelihood that hummingbirds will leave the state and elect to spend the summer there 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 South Carolina hummingbirds will continue to arrive until about mid-June.
Hummingbirds seen in South Carolina after mid-June will be hummingbirds that will spend their entire summer in South Carolina.

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 South Carolina Hummingbirds Stay in the State?

South Carolina hummingbirds stay in the state for at least seven months.
They will start arriving as early as mid-March and most will be gone in November.
Some Ruby-throated, Rufous, Black-chinned, Calliope, and Allen’s are seen in South Carolina during winter, but most migrate south for the winter.

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 choose to over-winter in South Carolina and those too old or injured to migrate will be the only likely hummingbirds South Carolina 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 South Carolina.

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 South Carolina hummingbird seen during the hot summer months will be the Ruby-throated hummingbird with the Rufous 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 South Carolina Hummingbirds Leave the State?

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

Most of South Carolina migrating hummingbirds are gone by the end of November but a few stragglers might stay until the end of the year.

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

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 South Carolina 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.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) states that feeders can be left up late into the fall season without making hummingbirds delay their journey. More so than food availability, the lengthening of the days affects when migrating birds depart.

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 South Carolina Hummingbirds?

The end of October, or after a few weeks without any hummingbird sightings, is the ideal time to remove South Carolina hummingbird feeders for the winter.
Feeders are left up all winter by some South Carolinians to feed the uncommon winter hummingbirds and those 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.

Annas in SNOW 3 Andrea Varju
Male Anna’s hummingbird
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 (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).

The Ruby-throated, Rufous, Black-chinned, Calliope, and Allen’s hummingbirds, who are South Carolina’s uncommon winter visitors, depend on the nectar that some hummingbird fans leave out all winter long.

Most Anna’s, Blue-throated Mountain-gem, Broad-billed, Broad-tailed, and Buff-bellied hummingbirds will not spend the winter in South Carolina 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 a South Carolina Hummingbird to Migrate?

It takes a South Carolina hummingbird 37 hours of flying at its average migrating flight speed of 30mph to fly from Columbia to the most distant Mexican border 1,132 miles away.
Hummingbirds migrating to Panama 1,724 miles across the Gulf of Mexico or 3,912 over land, will need to fly 57 or 130 hours respectively.

Some fly at a 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.

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 South Carolina during this fall migration from August through November.

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

Where Do South Carolina Hummingbirds Go in the Winter?

South Carolina Ruby-throated, Rufous, Black-chinned, Buff-bellied, Calliope, Broad-billed, Broad-tailed, and Blue-throated Mountain-gem 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.
Allen’s Overwinter in southern 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 1 OHIO
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Photo by: Rekha Pawar
Ruby throated Overwintering Map Picture
South Carolina 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 7 OR
Male Rufous Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh
Rufous Overwintering Map Picture
South Carolina Hummingbirds: Rufous Over-Wintering Map

Black-chinned – The Black-chinned hummingbird overwinters primarily in Mexico. Black-chinned hummingbirds are seen in some years, during winter months, in scattered areas throughout the USA including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and as far north as Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Male Black chinned bird.whisperer UT
Male Black-Chinned Hummingbird
Photo by: bird.whisperer
Black chinned Overwintering Map Picture
South Carolina Hummingbirds: Black-Chinned Over-Wintering Map

Buff-bellied – The Buff-bellied hummingbirds are not really migratory and live year-round in Southern Texas and the Gulf Coast of Mexico.

Male Buff bellied 2 Anthony Lujan
Buff-Bellied Hummingbird
Photo By: Anthony Lujan
Buff bellied Overwintering Map Picture
South Carolina Hummingbirds: Buff-Bellied 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
South Carolina Hummingbirds: Calliope 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
South Carolina Hummingbirds: Anna’s Over-Wintering Map

Broad-billed – The Broad-billed hummingbird overwinters primarily in Mexico. Broad-billed 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
South Carolina 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 2 inthewildwithrick CA
Male Allen’s Hummingbird
Photo by: IntheWildwithRick
Allens Overwintering Map Picture
South Carolina 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
South Carolina Hummingbirds: Broad-Tailed Over-Wintering Map

Blue-throated Mountain-gem – The Blue-throated Mountain-gem hummingbirds are not migratory hummingbirds but reside in Mexico year-round. Some Blue-throated hummingbirds are seen in some years, during winter months, in scattered areas in Southern Arizona and Western Texas.

Male Blue Throated MT Gem 1 AZ
Blue-Throated Mountain-Gem
Photo by: Rekha Pawar
Blue throated Mountain Gem Overwintering Map Picture
South Carolina Hummingbirds: Blue-Throated Mountain-Gem Over-Wintering Map

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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