Colorado is a diverse state, from the Rocky mountain peaks to the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the great plains. The birdlife you can see will vary depending on where you live in this state. But across much of Colorado, hummingbirds are a fairly common sight.
Some Hummingbirds begin to arrive in Colorado in March or early April and have usually departed by November. Other visitors, however, can be seen here during the summer and fall. Some just pass through, while others will remain to breed and nest in the state in summer.
Understanding hummingbirds, their movements, habits, and needs can help us determine where and when we can see them and how we can help them where we live.
What Hummingbirds are Seen in Colorado?
The hummingbirds most commonly seen in Colorado are Broad-tailed hummingbirds. Black-chinned hummingbirds, Rufous hummingbirds, Calliope hummingbirds, and Ruby-throated hummingbirds are also frequently seen in the state at certain times of the year.
When Do Hummingbirds Arrive in Colorado?
The earliest hummingbirds typically arrive in Colorado in March or early April. However, it is important to consider the various species when determining which you will see and when, as all visitors arrive and leave at different times.
Broad-tailed hummingbirds, the only birds that nest in Colorado in the summer months, will typically arrive in Colorado as early as March or early April.
Black-chinned hummingbirds usually arrive a little later, turning up from May to mid-June.
Rufous hummingbirds are only passing through, arriving in late June or July.
Fleeting visitors, Calliope hummingbirds will also typically arrive in July or even August.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds, another visitor that remains only for a brief time, are typically seen in September.
Even among broad-tailed hummingbirds, you should note that some hummingbirds are only passing through the state on the way to or from nesting or wintering grounds elsewhere. However, some will remain to breed and nest in Colorado over the summer months – and are more likely to linger if you have adequately prepared for their arrival.
Among the spring migrants, males typically arrive first, a week or two before the females. Hummingbird migration times can vary slightly, depending on the conditions in a given year. It is also important to note that not all hummingbirds will arrive at once. These birds migrate as individuals on their own schedules, not en masse.
How to Prepare for the Arrival of Hummingbirds in Colorado
When preparing for the arrival of hummingbirds in Colorado, the crucial thing to understand is how you can help hummingbirds in your garden or on your property.
The most important way to help them is to create appropriate planting plans with a wide range of native plants. A diverse and ecologically functioning garden or farm ecosystem provides a haven for hummingbirds, whether they are staying and nesting or simply passing through.
Tips for a Hummingbird-friendly Colorado Garden
Generally speaking, choosing native rather than invasive or non-native species is far better for hummingbirds and other wildlife. Native planting can bring a range of other benefits, too.
You should also make sure that you always garden organically and never introduce substances that could pose a risk to hummingbirds and other wildlife that shares your space.
To attract and aid hummingbirds in a Colorado garden, make sure they have plenty of food. Hummingbirds need flowers for nectar and plants that attract insects – another critical food source for these birds. Feeders alone will never be enough.
Hummingbirds, first and foremost, need plenty of natural food sources. Only after you have thought about planting and creating beneficial habitats should you consider feeders as an additional step.
Some Colorado native plants that you might consider for a hummingbird-friendly garden include golden spur columbine, penstemons, giant hyssop, salvias, bee balm, native honeysuckles, trumpet vines, golden currant, wax currant, lupines, and Indian paintbrush. Many of these will also work in gardens at high elevations and in less mountainous areas of the state. However, this is only a small selection of the many plants that could be very helpful in a hummingbird-attracting garden.
Combining plants and creating habitats and appropriate environmental conditions for hummingbirds is also very important.
One key thing to think about – especially in the mountains – is creating windbreak hedgerows and shelterbelts with native species to reduce the wind and create more sheltered micro-climates, which are helpful to the plants that you grow and the hummingbirds you welcome.
When Should I Put Out Hummingbird Feeders in Colorado?
Where native planting schemes suited to hummingbirds do exist, it can be helpful to take the extra step of putting appropriate feeders out for these birds.
You should always be sure to put out hummingbird feeders before the first of the migrating hummingbirds arrive. In Colorado, that means making sure that you place your feeders out around the middle of March.
When Do Hummingbirds Leave Colorado?
Broad-tailed hummingbirds will typically remain in Colorado the longest. They will frequently stay as late as November before most of them depart. However, a few individuals will remain in the winter, unable to make the southward migration because they are old or infirm.
Black-chinned hummingbirds typically leave during the early part of September or thereabouts.
Rufous hummingbirds are usually gone after only a brief sojourn in Washington and will leave in late August or September.
Calliope hummingbirds typically leave in October.
Though they only began to arrive in September, most Ruby-throated hummingbirds will have left Colorado again by mid-October.
When Should I Take Down Hummingbird Feeders in Colorado?
Leave feeders in place in your garden until you have no longer seen any hummingbirds for a couple of weeks, usually by the end of November.
However, if you still encounter hummingbirds in your garden, you can consider being kind and helping those birds that have not been able to make the migration to their wintering grounds by leaving your feeders in place. Hummingbirds that remain will not have done so because you have continued to feed them, but because they could not migrate for some reason.
Remember, doing what you can to help hummingbirds in your Colorado garden will allow you to get up close to and observe these amazing birds. They will also help you by playing an essential role in the ecology of your garden and your surrounding area.