Spring in Alabama really can put a spring in your step, with wildflowers aplenty, and plenty of wonderful wildlife to enjoy. The spring hummingbird migration is one of the wonders of the season and shows us that warmer weather is on its way.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the most common hummingbirds seen in Alabama. They arrive from early to mid-March. Some breed and nest in the state, but many will continue north to their preferred nesting sites. Those that have spent the summer usually depart for their wintering grounds in the second half of October.
If you want to witness hummingbirds in the state, you stand the best chance during the spring and fall hummingbird migrations.
Enjoying Alabama’s spring hiking trails and getting out into the fresh spring air, or enjoying a fall forest adventure, will often give you the chance to spot them.
But with a hummingbird-friendly garden, you might see them and their young during the summer months.
What Hummingbirds are Seen in Alabama?
The Ruby-throated hummingbird is the most common hummingbird in Alabama. It is regularly spotted across all parts of the state.
Occasionally, the Rufous hummingbird is also spotted here, though it is not as common. Other species may rarely be sighted, but are not frequently seen in Alabama.
Black-chinned hummingbirds, Calliope hummingbirds, Allen’s hummingbirds, and several others are sometimes glimpsed during the main hummingbird migration periods.
When Do Hummingbirds Arrive in Alabama?
Ruby-throated hummingbirds arrive in Alabama in the first two weeks of March. Some may pass through en route to nesting sites further north, while others will remain in Alabama over the summer months.
Remember, not all the hummingbirds will arrive at the same time since they do not travel in flocks, but migrate independently, each following an independent schedule and path.
The precise timing of hummingbird arrivals in Alabama will also vary slightly depending on the specific weather conditions, and food availability on spring migration paths each year. However, you can typically expect the birds to arrive at around the same time each year.
The first hummingbirds to arrive will be the males establishing their territories. The female hummingbirds will then turn up a week or two later.
Preparing for the Arrival of Hummingbirds in Alabama
Remember, when hummingbirds arrive in Alabama in spring, they will be very tired after their long journey. Being prepared for their arrival means taking steps to make sure that they receive a warm welcome. You should make sure that they have an appropriate habitat, with plenty of food resources available to them when they arrive.
Typically, they will have made their way to Alabama from Central America or southern parts of Mexico and will need to replenish their energy once they arrive to ready themselves for the breeding and nesting season.
To help hummingbirds, whose numbers are declining, you can make sure that your Alabama garden is ready for their arrival. Planting rich and diverse habitats on your property will help you provide a meal for hummingbirds, and also give them the other things that they need during their time in the state.
How to Attract Hummingbirds to an Alabama Garden
Choosing the right plants is a big part of the puzzle if you want to attract hummingbirds and create a hummingbird-friendly garden. But you should also make sure that you choose the right plants for your specific location.
Some hummingbird-friendly plants will not be native. Hummingbirds may like these plants, but the better choice for any area is always native species. Native species are best adapted to the growing conditions where you live, and bring a range of benefits to native wildlife.
Some native hummingbird-friendly plants for Alabama include:
- Bee balm
- Cardinal flower
- Red buckeye
- Trumpet creeper
Remember that whatever you grow, you should always grow organically in a wildlife-friendly garden.
How you combine your plants is also important. Think carefully about how you can create rich, lush, and layered planting to give a meal for hummingbirds – both nectar and insects – and provide them with nesting sites, shelter, and other things they need.
Looking at what native vegetation would have been like in your area of Alabama before human intervention will help you understand how to rewild on a small scale in your garden.
For example, in the black belt prairies, native wildflowers in a prairie planting scheme will aid hummingbirds and bring a range of other benefits to local wildlife. Restoring forests or their under-story can also benefit hummingbirds in the state.
Of course, you can also help hummingbirds in your garden while growing food. For example, you can plant a food forest or forest garden, or simply add nectary plants as companion plants in or around your vegetable garden.
Adding water to your garden to help hummingbirds and other creatures beat the summer heat can also be a great idea.
When Should I Put Out Hummingbird Feeders in Alabama?
First, you should make sure that the planting in your garden is perfect for hummingbirds and other wildlife, and that you have eliminated risks to birds nesting here and passing through.
Once you have done this, however, placing hummingbird feeders is another great thing to do. Feeders will be much in demand with birds looking to replenish their energy after the spring migration, and before the fall migration begins, as well as during both of these periods.
Hummingbird feeders should be placed a week or two before you expect the first hummingbirds to arrive. This will ensure that even the very earliest visitors get what they need.
In Alabama, this means placing your feeders in late February, or no later than the very beginning of March, so that you are ready for the first arrivals of your feathered friends.
When Do Hummingbirds Leave Alabama?
Hummingbirds making their way north during the spring hummingbird migration will typically have flown through by the middle of June.
Hummingbirds that have stayed in Alabama through the summer months will typically begin to leave again from late August to mid-October.
Male Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the first to depart, soon after their young have fledged. Older birds, according to research, will also tend to leave earlier, in late August or shortly thereafter. The females will stay with their young for another week or two before they also depart.
Typically, hummingbirds will all have left by around the end of October, though some late migrators may remain a little longer and it is not all that uncommon for hummingbirds to linger in Alabama well into November.
When hummingbirds leave Alabama on their southward migration, they will make their way, on their own time schedules, to wintering grounds in Mexico or Central America – as far south as Panama.
When Should I Take Down Hummingbird Feeders in Alabama?
You should not take feeders down until you have not seen any hummingbirds in your garden for a couple of weeks. This might be as early as the end of October but is more likely to be around the middle of November in this southern state.
However, some Ruby-throated, Rufous, and Black-chinned hummingbirds that usually migrate may over-winter in Alabama through choice or necessity.
If you continue to see hummingbirds in your garden in late fall and winter, or feeder levels continue to drop, you may wish to leave these in place. It is kind to feed hummingbirds for as long as they remain on your property.