Keep your eyes on the skies in the Big Sky state, and you are likely to witness many marvels. Hummingbirds account for just some of the amazing bird species you might see.
Many hummingbirds can be seen in Montana through the spring and summer months. The earliest will usually arrive in early April, and most will leave by the end of September or mid-October, at the latest.
Understanding when exactly hummingbirds arrive in and leave Montana and learning a little about how they behave and what they need while in the state can help you aid these feathered visitors and entice them to your property.
What Hummingbirds are Seen in Montana?
The most common hummingbirds seen in Montana are the Black-chinned hummingbird, the Broad-tailed hummingbird, the Calliope hummingbird, and the Rufous hummingbird. However, you may occasionally see a few other species.
When Do Hummingbirds Arrive in Montana?
Hummingbirds migrating northward will typically begin to arrive in Montana in early April.
Many of these hummingbirds will continue north to reach their preferred nesting sites, typically close to where they were born. These birds will usually be gone from Montana by June if continuing north.
However, some will remain in Montana for the rest of the summer. They may nest at a range of locations in the state.
You may continue to see hummingbirds arriving during the spring migration, and late migrators may not arrive until mid-May.
Your first sighting of hummingbirds in Montana will depend on where in the state you live. Those to the north and at higher elevations can expect hummingbirds to arrive just a little later than those in the south. Of course, those arriving in the south have had a slightly shorter distance to fly from their winter grounds in Mexico or as far south as Panama, so they may arrive a little sooner.
The weather in a given year can also influence, at least to a degree, the timing of hummingbird arrivals. In a particularly cold year, with poorer weather conditions, the migration may be slightly later than in a typical year.
Typically, male hummingbirds will arrive ahead of the female hummingbirds. They are usually around a week or two before the females and spend a little time establishing territories before the breeding season begins.
How to Prepare for the Arrival of Hummingbirds in Montana
Preparing for the arrival of hummingbirds in Montana means taking steps to ensure that you can give these birds a warm welcome in your garden or elsewhere in your community. If you want to do your bit for hummingbirds and enjoy their presence in your area, then working to create a hummingbird-friendly garden is a great place to begin.
Tips for a Hummingbird-friendly Montana Garden
When creating a hummingbird-friendly garden in Montana, the primary thing to understand is that hummingbirds need two key things. They need nectar and insects – which are another critical part of their diet.
The best way to provide both of these things is by using a wide range of native plants to create wildlife-friendly habitats in your garden. The more biodiversity you can include, the more species you will be able to welcome, and the more stable and resilient your garden will be.
A native plant garden is great for hummingbirds since it includes plants that provide nectar over the key seasons (and over as much of the year as possible). And also because the diverse native planting will attract insects to the space for hummingbirds to eat.
Wax currant, blue virgin’s bower, serviceberry, golden currant, hawthorn, mahonia, and shrubby penstemon are just some of the native plants which hummingbirds particularly enjoy.
Make sure that you focus in particular on native plants which are in bloom when the hummingbirds arrive and when they are about to leave on their southward migration. Avoid planting any invasive or non-native species that could be detrimental to the region’s ecology.
You should also always make sure that you garden organically to avoid harming the birdlife and other creatures sharing your space.
Providing natural food sources and nesting sites for hummingbirds should always be the first step. But in addition, you can further aid these birds by adding hummingbird feeders on your property.
When Should I Put Out Hummingbird Feeders in Montana?
Feeders in Montana should usually be placed and filled with a suitable ‘nectar’ in late March to be ready for the first migrating species. Whether they are passing through or will remain in the state for the summer, they will appreciate having this extra food source.
Just remember that it is more important to provide plants and a healthy environment for the hummingbirds who share your space. Feeders alone are not enough to create a hummingbird-friendly garden.
When Do Hummingbirds Leave Montana?
Hummingbirds will begin to migrate south as early as July, and these earlier migrants will typically be gone by the end of August. Others, however, will remain a little longer and will leave Montana between September and the middle of October.
While most hummingbirds will be gone by mid-October, some may still be seen in Montana in winter. These are individuals unable to make the trip south to their usual wintering grounds in Mexico or as far south as Panama for some reason, such as age or illness.
When Should I Take Down Hummingbird Feeders in Montana?
Typically, hummingbird feeders should, at the very least, remain in place until you have not seen any hummingbirds in your garden for a couple of weeks. In Montana, it’s safe to remove hummingbird feeders by late October.
However, there will always be some hummingbirds that are too sick, injured, or old to make the long journey back south. And in cooler climates like Montana’s, you might wish to keep hummingbird feeders up all winter to provide for these poor hummingbirds that cannot make the trip.
This selfless act of generosity will help any hummingbirds remaining in your garden. So, especially if you see stragglers remaining behind, this is something to consider.
Remember, the more you do to attract and cater to hummingbirds in your garden, the more they can provide for you in return. Hummingbirds are attractive and can play an important role in the natural ecology of your garden and your region as a whole.