When Do Hummingbirds Arrive In & Leave Nebraska?

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It’s no surprise that Nebraskans love hummingbirds!

These tiny, beautiful birds are delightful. Birdwatchers and gardeners across Nebraska enjoy spotting them in gardens and flowerbeds during the short months that they reside within the state. 

Nebraska’s gardeners and birdwatchers only have a few months every year to enjoy hummingbird season. If you live in Nebraska and want to see them, you must know when hummingbird season begins, when it ends, and what you can do to attract hummingbirds to your yard or garden. 

Hummingbirds begin to arrive in Nebraska by the middle of May. In mid-September and throughout early October, they begin to return to their winter habitats. 

Make the most of the months that hummingbirds are in Nebraska by planting a hummingbird-friendly garden, protecting the insects that make up a hummingbird’s diet, and using hummingbird feeders. 

When Do Hummingbirds Begin to Arrive in Nebraska?

There are four species of hummingbirds that migrate to Nebraska, but only Ruby-throated hummingbirds are considered common. 

Ruby-throated hummingbirds arrive in Nebraska by mid-May. You will start to see males first, with their recognizable flash of color. Females will come a few weeks later. Unfortunately, most hummingbirds will quickly pass through on the way to their spring mating grounds.

However, in Eastern and Western Nebraska, the females will build a nest, find a mate, lay and hatch their eggs, and raise their hatchlings to be juveniles. 

When Do Hummingbirds Arrive & Leave Nebraska

How Predictable is Hummingbird Arrival?

Like other migratory creatures, hummingbirds are somewhat predictable. However, there is no way to predict exactly when they will migrate and arrive.

There are often small variations in migratory patterns due to weather, storms, droughts, and changes to the insect populations that make up their diet. 

Which Hummingbirds Can Be Found in Nebraska?

Nebraska does not have many hummingbird species within its state borders.

Fifteen species of hummingbirds spend a significant amount of time in the US, and only four of those can ever be found in Nebraska. Of those four, only one can be found consistently in the state: the Ruby-throated hummingbird. 

Although they have been spotted in some western areas, including North Platte, Ruby-throated hummingbirds typically nest along the Missouri River. 

These tiny birds are almost immediately recognizable and distinct from other hummingbirds. The males have a ruby-colored throat, a white collar, a forked tail, and a green back. The females also have green backs, and their tail feathers are banded in black, white, and greyish-green. 

Rufous hummingbirds are rare in Nebraska, but they can sometimes be seen in western Nebraska during the fall migration season. Male Rufous hummingbirds have a glossy throat that is orange-red in color. Females, on the other hand, have a speckled, off-white-colored throat and a green back and crown. Their rufous-colored tail feathers are tipped in white. 

If you are lucky, the other two potential species that you might spot in Nebraska are Broad-tailed and Calliope hummingbirds. However, these varieties are rare visitors to the state if their migration patterns change slightly. 

How to Attract Nebraska’s Hummingbirds to Your Garden

If you want to increase your chances of spotting hummingbirds in Nebraska, one of the surest ways is to make your yard attractive and appealing to them!

A hummingbird-friendly garden or landscaping area will allow you to enjoy the birds for as long as possible. 

Attract Hummingbirds with Plants

Hummingbirds play an essential role in pollination. They are excellent pollinators who gather nectar from colorful blooms and spread it from plant to plant. 

To attract hummingbirds, you will want to grow pollinator-friendly plants! Colorful, tubular-shaped blooms hold a lot of nectar, making them attractive to hummingbirds. 

One of the best hummingbird-attracting plants is the Black-and-Blue Salvia, a gorgeous cobalt-blue annual. Another popular option is Hummingbird Mint, which typically lasts only a season or two, even though they are listed as perennials. 

Salvia Coccinea is a more affordable salvia than Black-and-Blue. It thrives in both full sun and partial shade. Finally, Coral Honeysuckle boasts that tubular flower shape that hummingbirds love!

Protect the Insects in Your Hummingbird Garden

Stop before you pick up that pesticide!

Hummingbirds depend on small insects to complete their diets. If you kill all the bugs in your garden, you will end up limiting your interaction with hummingbirds! 

If you live in a region where hummingbirds only pass through during their migration, a hearty assortment of bugs and insects will make your garden much more appealing to the traveling hummingbirds. 

Avoid chemical fertilizers, weed-killers, and pesticides that can threaten hummingbirds by killing the insects they need to survive. 

Are Hummingbird Feeders a Good or Bad Idea?

The best way to bring hummingbirds to a Nebraska garden is to grow the right plants and flowers. However, many homeowners love to incorporate a hummingbird feeder as well. 

The great thing about a hummingbird feeder is that it provides supplemental nutrition to traveling hummingbirds in the days and weeks following migration. The birds also use these feeders when storing up calories in anticipation of their winter migration. 

Choose a clear pre-made hummingbird nectar to put in your hummingbird feeder, as red food coloring may lead to health risks. Skip the dye, and you can still attract hummingbirds, especially if the feeder itself is colorful. 

When Should Hummingbird Feeders be Hung in Nebraska? 

You can put your hummingbird feeders out when you first anticipate the birds’ arrival during the spring hummingbird migration: typically, early May is a good time to start.

If you want to put out two hummingbird feeders, make sure they are not within sight of one another. That is because hummingbirds are territorial, and they will try to guard both hummingbird feeders and prevent other hummingbirds from coming into their space. If the feeders are spread apart, that is less likely to happen, and you should end up with more birds.

When Do Hummingbirds Leave Nebraska?

When male hummingbirds begin to leave, the females and juveniles aren’t far behind. The whole process only takes a few weeks, and thousands of hummingbirds will have left Nebraska by the middle of September or early October. 

Why Do Male Hummingbirds Leave Nebraska First?

It is nearly universal across hummingbird species that males will migrate first. 

You will probably notice the distinct coloration of male hummingbirds before females because males can arrive up to a few weeks before their potential mates. 

Upon arrival, female hummingbirds will build their nests and find a mate to lay fertilized eggs, nurture hatchlings, and raise their young.

When it’s time to leave, male hummingbirds will go first because it allows them to travel without competing with females and juveniles for food along the way. This also allows juveniles to eat as much as possible to grow in size and strength before embarking on their migration.

When Should You Put Away Your Hummingbird Feeders?

The time to put away your hummingbird feeder is dependent upon when they are finished migrating through the area. You should leave your maintained hummingbird feeders in your garden until at least two weeks after the last hummingbirds have left. 

This way, you will assist in the migration of hummingbirds who are departing later or more slowly than their fellow hummingbirds! 

Nebraskans should leave their hummingbird feeders up until mid-November. If you keep your feeder full until the middle of November, you will have taken advantage of as many months of hummingbird season as possible!

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Liz Ranfeld

Liz Boltz Ranfeld is an independent educator and writer from Indiana. She lives on the edge of the woods with her husband, 2 kids, dogs, chickens, and hedgehog. One of the best things of living in rural Indiana is spotting hawks, pileated woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and other wild creatures. She enjoys hiking, canoeing, and gardening, and one of her personal heroes is the conservationist and birdwatcher Rosalie Barrow Edge, who paved the way for the protection of birds around the globe.