Best time to travel to Kentucky

Hummingbirds in Kentucky

You might discover a hummer zipping around your backyards at any time of the year, but the warm season is the most promising

Best time: late March–early September (best in late July–August)

Hummingbirds in Kentucky
Hummingbirds in Kentucky
Hummingbirds in Kentucky
Hummingbirds at the Woodlands Nature Station

Seeing a tiny hummingbird is a premium birdwatching experience. The world boasts over 350 species of them, but Kentucky is home to about four or five kinds. All of them are incredibly tiny and fast, beating their wings up to 53 times per second. So as you encounter one in nature, it might feel like a greenish iridescent blur, flashing by your side. But when you draw a hummer to your backyard, the chances of a close-up look increases drastically.

Types of hummingbirds in Kentucky

The only native species in the Bluegrass State is the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). It breeds in Kentucky and retreats to Mexico for winter. This hummer is the most commonly seen throughout the state. Yet, during the cooler months, you can occasionally spot several other types, such as rufous (Selasphorus rufus) or black-chinned (Archilochus alexandri) hummingbirds, and some other vagabonds. They are typically western breeders, which migrate south across the Gulf of Mexico for winter, but eventually, end up in eastern states.

When do hummingbirds come to Kentucky

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the only hummers breeding east of the Mississippi River. These birds usually arrive in Kentucky in mid-March, with males coming first to stake out their feeding territories and females follow about two weeks later. The feeders can be put out by late February or early March. The timing depends on the geography—southwestern regions welcome ruby-throats earlier than other areas of the state. Their nesting takes place around June, and they raise their chicks throughout the summer.

When do hummingbirds leave Kentucky

The hummingbird migration in Kentucky starts in late July. Again male ruby-throats leave first, and females follow two weeks later. Still, lots of them stay longer to fatten up before the long journey to Mexico and Central America. Late July through August is the best time to witness swarms of hummingbirds feasting on your homemade nectar from the feeders. Anyways, by the end of September, most ruby-throats are gone. And this is when you can start noticing other vagabonds coming around. So don't be hasty in taking down your feeders, as they will be pretty much helpful for other hummers showing up.

Best time to see hummingbirds in Kentucky

To sum up, the best and most reliable time to enjoy hummingbirds in Kentucky is late March through early September, when the native ruby-throats live here. In summer, they would eagerly feed in your backyard—either from red tubular blossoms, or from hummingbird feeders, filled with sugar water. Also, if you don't have a garden, you may find some hummers at Woodlands Nature Station in Cadiz.

Lastly, a small tip for those who keep the feeders over winter—please put out several ones. The reason is you might draw a cute but aggressive rufous-plumaged guest, which passionately drives away all other species, even twice their size.

Practical info

What is the only native hummingbird species in Kentucky?

The hummingbird species that breeds in Kentucky is the ruby-throated hummingbird. The males come first to mark their feeding territories, and the females follow two weeks later. Around June, the females start nesting, and the chicks are raised throughout the summer. The birds usually migrate to Mexico by late September, and their arrival time in Kentucky is usually mid-March. Show more

When do ruby-throated hummingbirds migrate to and from Kentucky?

Kentucky's ruby-throated hummingbirds usually arrive from their migration in mid-March. During June, the birds' nesting commences and continues throughout the summer. By August and September, the birds begin their migration, usually to Mexico and Central America. The best time to see hummingbirds in Kentucky is just before they start their journey. However, some hummingbirds stay longer in Kentucky rather than migrating. Show more

What are the best ways to attract hummingbirds to your backyard?

To attract hummingbirds, people should put sugar water in a hummingbird feeder and place it in the backyard. The birds are also attracted to red tubular flowers such as columbine, cardinal flower, trumpet creeper, and bee balm. Pesticides should be avoided as hummingbirds enjoy insects. Finally, feeders should be kept clean, and water should be changed often to keep birds healthy and happy in the backyard. Show more

How can you identify different types of hummingbirds while birdwatching in Kentucky?

Hummingbirds in Kentucky include the rufous or black-chinned hummers and can be identified by their unique colors and markings, such as brightly colored feathers on the throat or head of males. Some diverse species have different tail feather shapes that distinguish them from other hummingbirds. Other resources, including regional bird guides or experienced birdwatchers' assistance, may be useful for identifying specific hummingbird species in Kentucky. Show more

What is the significance of keeping the feeders over winter in Kentucky?

Hummingbird feeders in Kentucky can be left up over winter to attract the rufous hummer, which may overwinter in the state if the weather is mild enough. During colder months, having the feeders up can provide an opportunity to view these territorial birds, which sometimes drive other species away. Additionally, people can keep their feeders up to support year-long birdwatching and attract other species such as chickadees, thrashers, and nuthatches to their backyards. Show more

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Last updated: by Olha Savych