Best time to travel to Wisconsin

Hummingbird Migration in Wisconsin

Catch a glimpse of the little flying jewels with iridescent feathers in the Badger State

Best time: early May–late September

Hummingbird Migration
Hummingbird Migration
Hummingbird feeding near Madge, WI
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A ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is Wisconsin's only native species that winters in tropical Central America and returns to its northern nesting grounds in early May. Males arrive first, sometimes already in late April, and stake out their feeding territories. Wisconsin, along with other north-eastern states and south-eastern Canadian provinces, falls into the ruby-throats' breeding range. So you can see some hummers throughout summer until they are back on their return journey south. Most birds depart by late September.

The nesting occurs mainly in June. This month is when bird feeders might get somewhat quiet as females engage in raising the chicks. On the other hand, during this period, you could get lucky and spot a tiny nest shaped like an open cup about the size of a golf ball. Despite low chances, you could occasionally discover a well-camouflaged hummers' cradle in a tree or a bush. Ruby-throats are common in suburban neighborhoods in Milwaukee and throughout the state.

The sightings become more frequent by late summer and early fall when the bird population, replenished by fledglings, resort to backyard feeders to fatten up. Prepare artificial nectar from sugar and water (the ratio of 1:4), and you'll witness the frenzied feeding. The hummers tank up on sugar water for a reason—they need to put on weight to have enough energy for a grueling long-distance migration, including non-stop flying above the Gulf of Mexico.

If you leave your feeder longer than the ruby-throat season, some other winter vagrants could pay a visit to your house. Rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) and other rare guests sporadically show up between late October and January. Just remember to clean and refill the feeder even if it's not emptied yet. Don't treat your diminutive aviary friends to a moldy home brew.

Practical info

When do hummingbirds visit Wisconsin and for how long?

Hummingbirds visit Wisconsin to breed and feed from early May to late September. Male birds arrive first, sometimes in late April, and establish feeding territories. In late summer and early fall, the bird population increases as the birds fatten up before their long-distance migration, including non-stop flying above the Gulf of Mexico. Show more

Where is it possible to see hummingbirds in Milwaukee and other parts of Wisconsin?

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are common in Milwaukee suburbs and throughout Wisconsin. Look for nectar feeders in backyards, gardens, and parks where the birds feed. Artificial nectar, made from a mixture of sugar and water, can be used to populate these feeders. Other species, such as Rufous hummingbirds, can also be found between late October and January. Show more

What is the nesting period for Wisconsin's ruby-throated hummingbirds, and how do they behave during this period?

Ruby-throated hummingbirds nest between June and the summer's end. Their nesting period is marked by mature females laying around two eggs per clutch, which they incubate for approximately two weeks. The males feed the females during the process. Hummingbirds' nests are usually tiny, open cups constructed on tree branches or bushes and made from vegetation, spider silk, and cotton. These nests may be difficult to spot as they can blend in well. Show more

What are the recommended proportions for making artificial nectar for hummingbirds, and what steps should be taken to ensure its safety?

The recommended proportions for making artificial nectar for hummingbirds are 1:4 (one part table sugar to four parts water). Granulated white sugar should be used, and it should be mixed with boiling water until it dissolves completely. The solution should be cooled before filling nectar feeders. Honey, brown sugar, or other sweeteners should not be used as they may be harmful to birds and lead to fermentation and mold growth if left in the feeder for too long. Show more

Apart from ruby-throated hummingbirds, what other hummingbird species can be found in Wisconsin?

Rufous hummingbirds have been spotted in Wisconsin as winter vagrants. These birds are rare and occasionally appear between late October and January. Even if the nectar isn't depleted, maintaining tidy, well-supplied nectar feeders is crucial to attracting these unexpected visitors. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are typically the only known species inhabiting the region. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin