More than 300 hummer species are found in the world, and 27 species nestle in the US. Ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) are the only species that breeds in Illinois. They typically winter south between Mexico and Panama and start their spring migration in January or February, moving north across the eastern US up to the Canadian border. You can encounter these mesmerizing tiny birds in the Land of Lincoln between May and September, and sometimes slightly beyond. The highest activity is observed in late summer and early fall when northernmost breeders join locals on their way back south.
Hummingbirds are well-known for being the smallest birds in the world. An adult ruby-throat is shorter than 4 in (10 cm) from bill to tail and weighs around 0.1 oz (3 g). Can you imagine the proportions of the chicks? A hummer nest resembles the size of a golf ball and typically contains a couple of pea-like eggs. If you happen to spot a well-camouflaged nest, you are super lucky! Try to look for one in Cook County woodlands or Dupage County within Chicago metropolitan area. Chicago Botanical Garden boasts frequent hummingbird sightings. However, some birds stay in Central and Southern Illinois too.
Traditionally, the best way to increase your chances of watching the hummers by your side is to put out a feeder, better several, filled with sugar water. The solution is made from one part sugar and four parts water. The artificial nectar doesn't need any red colorants, as the birds are attracted to the bright feeder base itself. You will have to clean and refill the feeders at least once a week in cooler weather and every three days in warmer weather.