There are a lot of great things about living in South Dakota. The landscape is beautiful, and South Dakota is home to multiple National Parks and National Recreation Areas. Nature lovers thrive in South Dakota, which is home to beavers, wild turkeys, bighorn sheep, elk, mountain goats, mountain lions, prairie dogs, and wild horses.
The hummingbird is one of the tiniest creatures that South Dakotans get to see!
People in South Dakota can expect to see their beloved hummingbirds arrive by mid-May. Then, they leave for their annual migration sometime in September.
When you know about hummingbird migration behavior, you can predict when you will start seeing them in your region of South Dakota. You can also attract them to your yard or garden by practicing hummingbird-friendly habits!
Which Hummingbird Species Can Be Found in South Dakota?
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the only hummingbird species consistently found in South Dakota. While the state does get other visitors, if you see a hummingbird in South Dakota, it is probably a Ruby-throated male or female.
You are more likely to see a Ruby-throated hummingbird during its migration season than during the breeding season, as they only breed along the eastern edge of the state.
When you do see them, Ruby-throated hummingbirds are easily recognizable. Males boast a ruby-red throat and a neck with a white collar. They have a forked tail and an emerald-green back. Females also have a green back, but they do not have the telltale ruby throat. Their tail feathers are banded in black, white, and greenish-gray.
Although none of these other hummingbirds stay in the state to breed, a very accomplished or lucky birdwatcher might spot some other species. Their migratory patterns are unlikely to bring them into the state at all.
The rare or incidental species that may arrive in South Dakota are Anna’s, Black-chinned, Broad-billed, Broad-tailed, Calliope, Costa’s, Rufous, and White-eared hummingbirds.
When Do Hummingbirds First Arrive in South Dakota?
Ruby-throated hummingbirds travel thousands of miles during their annual migration. They spend the winter in Mexico and Central America, then migrate north in the spring as the weather turns warmer.
South Dakota hummingbird watchers can expect to see them arrive in mid-May. Males arrive first, so you’ll probably spot individuals with that distinctive ruby-red throat before you see the females, which are more muted in color.
How Consistent are Hummingbird Migration Patterns?
Hummingbirds are creatures of habit that follow predictable patterns every year. The hummingbird you see one year might have migrated back to the same area where they were the year before!
Even though they are predictable, they are not machines. Hummingbirds will arrive in South Dakota on their own schedule. Variables in weather and insect behavior are two key things that can cause hummingbirds to delay their arrival in a given state or region.
Regardless of the small changes, you can typically expect to see hummingbirds arrive in South Dakota in mid-May.
How to Attract Hummingbirds to Your South Dakota Garden
Whether you have a landscaped garden, a huge backyard, a tiny little patio, or even just a window, you can take steps to attract hummingbirds to your home!
If you want to spot more hummingbirds during the warm months when they are in the state, either traveling or breeding, you need to consider three main things: flowers with nectar, well-maintained feeders, and insect protection!
What Plants Attract Hummingbirds?
Your first step is to attract hummingbirds with the right plants.
Hummingbirds are critical pollinators. Of course, that means they are drawn to pollinator-friendly plants, like colorful, tubular blooms that hold lots of nectar.
Some of the highly recommended plants for attracting hummingbirds to South Dakota gardens are trumpet vine, bee balm, salvia, lupines, columbines, fireweed, golden currant, beard tongues, anise hyssop, phlox, and petunias.
What About Insects?
Insects are an essential part of a hummingbird’s diet. Hummingbirds eat massive amounts of bugs every year, including their larvae and eggs. From the time they are baby hatchlings, hummingbirds consume insects to get the fats, salts, and proteins they just can’t get from consuming nectar.
So, if you want to see hummingbirds in your yard, you should have a healthy insect population!
Create an insect-friendly garden by avoiding chemical fertilizers, weed-killers, and pesticides. These chemicals impact your insect population, reducing the likelihood that you will bring hummingbirds to your home.
Should You Use Hummingbird Feeders?
Hummingbird feeders can be an excellent way to supplement the nutritional needs of these tiny jewels of the animal kingdom, especially if they have just arrived following their spring migration. They may also benefit from consuming extra calories in September when most hummingbirds are preparing to migrate again!
Using a hummingbird feeder also allows South Dakotans to see hummingbirds up close. Putting a feeder on or right outside a window means bringing hummingbirds right up to your home!
The best way to support hummingbirds is to give them the flowers they need, but a feeder is a great solution when you want to increase your chances of seeing these delightful creatures up close. Plus, you can provide extra nourishment to migrating individuals.
Use hummingbird-safe sugar water in your feeders, and keep your feeders clean! You can have more than one feeder, but they should not be in sight of each other because that can create negative territorial behaviors among male hummingbirds.
When Do You Put Out Hummingbird Feeders in South Dakota?
Don’t wait too long to put out your feeders. If you wait until mid-summer, you may miss your window! That’s especially true if you live in the western part of the state, where hummingbirds migrate but are less likely to stay, breed, and raise young.
Put your hummingbird feeders out in mid-April in advance of the hummingbirds’ arrival in May. That way, if the migration occurs a little early, you are prepared!
When Do Hummingbirds Depart South Dakota?
South Dakota’s hummingbird population will generally leave the state in September.
The males will leave first, and the females will depart with the juveniles a few weeks later. Hummingbirds are individuals that may choose to go a little earlier or later. They may also migrate at different speeds, making it possible to see hummingbirds for weeks after they typically leave.
When Should You Put Away Your Hummingbird Feeders?
Because of those migratory changes and the fact that some hummingbirds stick around much longer than others, you can keep your feeders up for a while after the typical September migration period.
If you live in the eastern part of the state, you can leave your feeders up until October or even early November. That said, spotting a hummingbird in South Dakota that late in the season is pretty rare.
If you live in the western part of the state, you don’t need to keep your feeders out as long because hummingbirds only pass through rather than stick around.
If you still see hummingbirds, it is not time to put your feeders away!
How Migration Varies Throughout the State
South Dakota is a big state, and not every region sees the same hummingbird activity throughout the summer.
Western South Dakota will only see hummingbirds in the early and late part of the hummingbird season because no hummingbird species nest and breed in the west. On the other hand, eastern areas of South Dakota will see hummingbirds from their arrival to their departure.
As an attentive birder, you’ll be able to spot more hummingbirds if you know when to look for them, make your yard or garden appealing to them, and pay attention to their migratory patterns.