The Flight Of Hummingbirds


Each spring, thousands of Hummingbirds fly across the Gulf of Mexico.

These brave little birds fly non-stop, for up to five-hundred miles to reach U.S. shores. It takes about twenty-four hours for these tiny birds to complete this amazing flight, and another few days to arrive here, in our valley.

Many hummingbirds spend the winter in Central America or Mexico, and migrate north to their breeding grounds in the southern U.S. and western states as early as February, and to areas further north later in the spring. The first arrivals in spring are usually males.

Some species, in areas like California and the upper Pacific not migrate.

Although there are differing opinions regarding the start of migration, it is generally assumed that hummingbirds sense changes in daylight duration, and changes in the abundance of flowers, nectar and insects.

Clearly, instinct plays a huge role in making the decision to migrate.

During migration, a hummingbird’s heart beats up to one thousand plus times a minute, and its wings flap fifteen to eighty times a second. To support this high energy level, a hummingbird will typically gain up to forty percent of their body weight before they start migration in order to survive the long journey over land, and water.

They fly alone, often on the same path they have flown earlier in their life, and fly low, just above tree tops or water. Young hummingbirds navigate without parental guidance.

Hummingbirds fly by day when nectar sources such as flowers are more abundant. Flying low allows the birds to see, and stop at, food supplies along the way. They are  experts at using tail winds to help reach their destination faster and by consuming less energy and body fat. Research indicates a hummingbird can travel as far as twenty-five miles in one day.

My early morning walks tell me my feeders will soon be abandoned, the sugar-water gone to the wasps and the flies who will arrive, like clockwork, as the hummingbirds fly away.

But for now they come to the feeder often, morning, noon and night, fattening up for their upcoming trip across the border.

The incredible endurance of these intrepid little birds, serves to remind us that nothing is insurmountable. As always, Nature is the very best teacher.

These gorgeous shots were taken by Derek Hart in his beautiful garden looking out toward Taos Mountain. Derek took the very first shot on taoStyle!