Is there anything more magical than seeing a hummingbird flitting around your backyard? They are so small and colorful that they seem like something out of a fairy tale, so it’s no wonder that so many Ohioans wait so impatiently for hummingbird season.
But when exactly is hummingbird season in Ohio? We have the answer to that and more so that you can set up the perfect backyard paradise for these tiny visitors when they arrive.
What Kinds of Hummingbirds Can I See in Ohio?
There are over 300 hummingbird species in the world, but out of those 300, only 12 species migrate to the United States each year. And out of those 12, only one type of hummingbird is common in Ohio: the Ruby-throated hummingbird.
“Common” is a poor choice of words for this dazzling little bird. With its bright, shiny red throat, emerald green wings, and striking black mask, the Ruby-throated hummingbird is like a little walnut-sized jewel in the sky. It is usually between 2.8 and 3.5 inches long with a wingspan of between three and four inches and is nearly weightless at just 0.1 to 0.2 ounces, so you may have to look hard to see one.
Typically, males arrive in the area one to two weeks ahead of the females to get the lay of the land before their future wives show up. When the ladies do arrive, they are distinguished from their male counterparts by their white throats instead of red, but their blue-green wings are just as beautiful to behold.
Although the Ruby-throated hummingbird is thought to be the only species that breeds in this part of North America, there have also been sightings of other, rarer hummingbirds in the area from time to time.
These include the Rufous hummingbird and the Calliope hummingbird. The former is small but mighty, with the males being a bright, vivid orange color and the females a mix of orange and green, and the latter is the smallest bird found in the United States, with the males having a red and white-streaked throat and the females having an off-white one.
Technically, there has only ever been one reported sighting of the Calliope hummingbird in Ohio, but you should keep an eye out anyway: you just might be the second person to see one!
When Do Hummingbirds Typically Arrive in Ohio?
Male ruby-throated hummingbirds usually make their way into the Ohio area in early April, not long after the official beginning of spring. However, some early birds usually show up during the first week of March, perhaps to get ahead of the game during mating season. Arrival times vary depending on temperatures in Ohio and where the hummingbirds migrated from, which is usually around Panama or Mexico in the case of the Ruby-throated hummingbird.
Regardless of where they are coming from, females always arrive a week or two after the males. Hummingbirds will continue to fly into the area until the middle of June, with the late arrivals tending to stay in Ohio for the whole summer, unlike the early birds who may keep flying to reach other states.
When to Put out Your Feeders
Since most hummingbirds arrive in Ohio near the beginning of April, hummingbird enthusiasts start setting up their feeders in the middle of March. It’s always good to have your feeders ready when the hummingbirds show up. Otherwise, they may just fly on past, thinking that your yard has no tasty treats to offer them!
How to Attract More Hummingbirds to Your Yard
If you want your yard to be a true hummingbird haven, there are many things you can do to offer them a nice space to relax and perhaps even stop and nest.
Feeders are a great place to start. Hummingbirds are very attracted to bright colors, especially red, so filling a red hummingbird feeder with nectar (which you can make at home with sugar and water) is the best way to entice them to visit.
Another thing you can do to make your tiny winged visitors feel more at home is to add some attractive flora to your yard, such as a butterfly bush, bee balm, or purple coneflowers. In most cases, the best plants for attracting hummingbirds are also the best for attracting butterflies, so your yard will be full of enchanting creatures.
And if you really want to go the extra mile, you could even leave some cotton lying around for the hummingbirds to use as nesting material, and they just might be inspired to build a home near yours.
When Do Hummingbirds Leave Ohio?
Sadly, most of our hummingbird pals can’t stay in Ohio all year long. The ones that show up in March and early April usually leave the state by October to go back south toward Mexico, Panama, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, or Nicaragua. Winters in Ohio are usually too cold for their tiny bodies to handle, so they head where it is warmer to stay for the winter.
However, some hummingbirds may remain and wait out the winter in Ohio, regardless. These tend to be the birds who showed up late and the ones who are older or injured and can’t make the long journey back where they came from.
This is why some hummingbird enthusiasts choose to leave their feeders up all winter, instead of taking them down in the middle of November when hummingbird season is officially over for the year.
Interesting Facts About Hummingbird Migration
There is much more to hummingbird migration than just showing up in April and leaving in October. Here are a few other interesting bits of trivia:
- Hummingbird migration is similar to that of salmon. Just as salmon swim upstream to return to where they were born to lay their eggs, hummingbirds fly back to their hometown to mate and start their own family.
- Hummingbirds coming from Mexico have to fly up to 1,500 miles (51 hours of flight time) to get to Ohio, while hummingbirds from Panama have to travel an incredible 2,200 miles (73 hours spent flying).
- Every hummingbird migrates on its own, not in a flock. They also have their particular way of flying, with some flying just one hour a day and others flying non-stop for 20 hours straight.
Hummingbirds are a remarkable species that never fail to bring a bit of whimsy and wonder to any Ohioan’s day. With the proper setup and the right timing, you can create a safe space for these birds that will make them feel right at home in your backyard whenever they’re in town.