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Hummingbird Migration in Tennessee

Behold the world's most adorable wee birds throughout Tennessee

Hummingbird Migration
A female ruby throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) near Woodlands Nature Station
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The migratory ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is the most famous hummer type in the eastern US for being the only species that breeds in these areas. Ruby-throats cross the state of Tennessee twice a year. Between late March and mid-May, the birds hurry to their northern breeding grounds, which reach south-eastern Canada. When nesting business is done, the migrants set off south on the more leisurely return journey to their wintering homes in Mexico and Central America. The fall migration stretches from early July through October.

Even though locals maintain bird feeders in their backyards from spring to fall, the highest chances of spotting a swarm of hummers occur during fall migration, particularly mid-August through early September. The population grows bigger as fledglings join in. Besides, the birds gorge on sugar water (1/4 part sugar to one part water) to replenish their fat reserves, essential to complete the grueling long-distance trip. Conversely, late May through June is least promising, as females are busy raising their chicks. So don't get upset if your feeders are too quiet in early summer.

In truth, you could leave the feeders out year-round, as several species breeding in western states frequent Tennessee from November to late March. The most common winter visitor is the rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus). Rarer sightings include black-chinned (Archilochus alexandri), Anna's (Calypte anna), Allen's (Selasphorus sasin), calliope (Selasphorus calliope), broad-tailed (Selasphorus platycercus), and occasionally ruby-throated hummingbirds. No matter how long you keep the feeders in the yard, remember to wash them regularly to prevent your nectar from fermentation.

Lastly, where to look for these tiny zippy critters if not in your yard? They are found in all counties in Tennessee, typically throughout suburban neighborhoods known for mature trees and shrubby cover. So no matter where you are—in Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, Gatlinburg, or elsewhere—you can sometimes get a glimpse of the tiny bird.

Practical info

When do hummingbirds typically fly over Tennessee?

Hummingbirds fly over Tennessee during their fall migration, which starts around July and lasts until October. The best time to see them is from mid-August through early September when the number of hummingbirds is highest. Although some species also visit during late March to mid-May, it is less promising since females are raising their chicks. In Tennessee, some species of hummingbirds also visit during winter, between November and March. Show more

Aside from backyards, where else can you spot hummingbirds?

To spot hummingbirds besides backyards, go to suburban neighborhoods known for mature trees and shrubby cover. While hummingbirds are present throughout Tennessee's counties, they prefer areas with plenty of nectar-rich blooms that can store their essential fat reserves. Natural attractions such as the Great Smoky Mountains offer migratory hummingbird viewing opportunities, with park rangers providing tours for visitors. Show more

Which type of hummingbird is commonly seen in Tennessee during winter?

During winter, the most common hummingbird species in Tennessee is the rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus). These hummingbirds breed in western states and migrate to the southeast for winter, often mistaken for ruby-throated hummers. Unlike ruby-throats, rufous hummingbirds have orange to reddish-brown feathers on their backs and sides. Other species that also winter in Tennessee include black-chinned, Anna's, Allen's, calliope, and broad-tailed hummingbirds, with occasional ruby-throated sightings. Show more

How do you prepare the nectar solution for hummingbird feeders?

To prepare nectar solution for hummingbird feeders, mix 1/4 granulated sugar and 1 part water and boil it, then let it cool. Honey, artificial sweeteners, and food coloring should be avoided to prevent harm to the hummingbirds. To prevent nectar from fermenting and causing a fungal infection that may be fatal to birds, clean the feeders at least once a week or more frequently in high temperatures. Show more

Are there any specific regions or areas in Tennessee for hummingbird sightings?

Although hummingbirds are present in all Tennessee counties, suburban neighborhoods are common places for hummingbird sightings. Mature trees and shrubby cover attract hummingbirds. In addition to backyards, natural attractions like the Great Smoky Mountains offer views of hummingbirds during migration, and park rangers guide tours for visitors. Sightings have also been reported in Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, and Gatlinburg. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin