Best time to travel to Minnesota

Hummingbird Migration in Minnesota

To see the world's tiniest and most lovable bird is a rare but memorable experience in Minnesota

Best time: May–August

Hummingbird Migration
Hummingbird Migration
A male ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

Whereas various hummer species call the western US their home, only one is a resident breeder and migrant in Minnesota. So if you spot a wee zippy bird with a saber-like beak, you can hardly confuse the critter for something else—you can be 99.99% certain that you're looking at the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). In exceptional cases, you could encounter a rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus). This accidental vagrant is the only other species found in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Viewed as local celebrities, the ruby-throats winter mostly beyond the Gulf Coast, in Central America, and breed throughout eastern states and south-eastern Canada. Males set off on spring migration first, usually in February, and arrive in Minnesota by late April or early May. Females follow up a week or two later when males have already established the territories.

Hummingbirds usually nestle in deciduous trees or shrubs, often close or directly above the water. However, these nests are unspeakably small and well-camouflaged. They resemble a miniature open cup, the size of a golf ball.

By early August, males are done with their northern vacation and start moving back south, and females will once again follow afterwards. August is a great time to watch the hummers fattening up at backyard feeders all across the state, including the Twin Cities. The birds gain 25–40% of their weight to complete this long-distance migration.

Prepare your yard for the hungry guests and put out several feeders filled with artificial nectar (one part sugar to four parts water). During the height of the season, a gang of hummingbirds will strategically empty the sugar water in no time. However, keep an eye on the feeder being clean and filled with a fresh solution during the lower season. The ingredients cost pennies, whereas hummers' lives are priceless.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit Minnesota to see the ruby-throated hummingbird?

The best time to see the ruby-throated hummingbird in Minnesota is from May to early August. Male hummers arrive slightly earlier than females, and by early August, they begin moving back south. The hummers can be spotted at backyard feeders during August. Observation reveals that the species start southward migration by August end with females following the males later. Show more

What is the other species of hummingbird found in Minnesota apart from the ruby-throated?

In Minnesota, there is only one other species of hummingbird sometimes seen, the rufous hummingbird. This vagrant only visits the area due to migration. The ruby-throated, on the other hand, is the bird that breeds and is the primary migratory hummer in Minnesota. Hence, the rufous hummingbird is not a resident of the area, and sightings are rare. Show more

Where do ruby-throated hummingbirds migrate from and to?

Ruby-throated hummingbirds arrive in Minnesota from their wintering grounds in Central America by late April and early May, with males arriving first. Breeding grounds are located throughout Eastern states, and they return to Central America for winters. Male hummers then begin their migration back south by August, with females following. The birds spend most of their year in the United States and Canada. Show more

How can you recognize a ruby-throated hummingbird from other species?

The ruby-throated hummingbird is recognizable due to several unique features. Males have bright ruby-red iridescent throats, while females possess white throats. They have small sabre-like beaks and cup-style nests that are hard to spot. They create buzzing sounds with wings that beat up to 80 times every second, depending on how quickly they are flying. Show more

Do hummingbirds build their nests close to water in Minnesota?

While hummingbirds usually build their nests in deciduous trees, they opt for vegetation close to nectar in Minnesota. In cases unique to Minnesota, hummers may build their nests above, or close to, water bodies due to the abundance of insects and nectar that are crucial to their survival. Hence, areas close to water bodies with adequate vegetation are ideal for nesting hummingbirds. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin