Being a southern state, Texas has hummingbirds within its borders all year, though most hummingbirds will head even farther south for the winter months. Texas is also a popular stop for many hummingbirds migrating south to warmer climates in Mexico and Central America. So when can Texans expect to see hummingbirds in their state?
What Hummingbirds are Seen in Texas?
According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, up to 18 different hummingbird species have been known to visit Texas in the past, and up to 16 of them have been seen in the state in some years, such as in 2012.
The most common hummingbirds in Texas include the Ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) and the Black-chinned hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri).
The Ruby-throated hummingbird is characterized by a bright red patch on males’ throats that gives the species its name. Female hummingbirds have a white underside and a green back, but lack the male’s ruby throat.
The Ruby-throated hummingbird is the most common hummingbird in the eastern United States, with a range that extends from central Texas and the Great Plains states all the way up to Nova Scotia. These hummingbirds are most common in eastern Texas.
Black-chinned hummingbird males feature a black head and a purple patch along their throats, though that may be tough to see with the naked eye, as the birds typically measure less than four inches. Females boast a white underside with a metallic green back and head. Their breeding range includes most of central and western Texas.
Depending on your location in Texas, the Ruby-throated and Black-chinned hummingbirds may not be the most common hummingbirds, especially if you’re located in southern Texas, where some hummingbirds may stay year-round or spend their winters.
Other possible hummingbirds in Texas include the Broad-billed hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris), Buff-bellied hummingbird (Amazilia yucatanensis), and Blue-throated hummingbird (Lampornis clemenciae). Some are rarer than others in Texas, and some may be only accidental visitors to the state.
When Do Hummingbirds Arrive in Texas?
Migrating Ruby-throated and Black-chinned hummingbirds will begin to arrive in Texas in early to mid-March, but could come as late as mid-May. The spring months may also offer higher numbers of Ruby-throated hummingbirds as northern populations migrate through the state on the way to their breeding grounds.
Texas measures over 268,000 square miles, so hummingbird arrivals vary based on location. Some residents of the southern coasts of Texas near South Padre Island and Corpus Christi may see hummingbirds like the Buff-bellied hummingbird all year.
Some Black-chinned hummingbirds will also spend the entire year in southern areas near the Rio Grande Valley, and Rufous hummingbirds may spend the winter in southern Texas.
How to Prepare for the Arrival of Hummingbirds in Texas
Hummingbirds’ wings get a lot of work with all their zooming around during the day. According to the San Diego Zoo, the average hummingbird will consume between 3.14 and 7.6 calories per day. That may not seem like many calories to you, but it’s the equivalent of about 155,000 calories per day for a human being.
You’ll often spot hummingbirds reaching their long beaks into flowers, searching for nectar, a critical hummingbird food. Despite their reputation as nectar-eaters, hummingbirds will also eat bugs like fruit flies, so, with this in mind, curating a yard with native plants full of food for hummingbirds is a significant first step to attracting hummingbirds to your property.
The Texas A&M University Extension offers a list of suggestions for Texas property owners, from trees like Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) and Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) to flowers like Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea) and Bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis).
Many bird enthusiasts will also place feeders to provide a meal for hummingbirds. If you want to place a hummingbird feeder, make your own hummingbird food or buy a nectar solution free of dyes. Do not use honey or other sugar substitutes in your mixture.
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute suggests a mixture that’s one part refined white sugar to four parts water if you’re making your own hummingbird food.
When to Put Out Hummingbird Feeders in Texas
If you have a garden or yard with a suitable hummingbird habitat and want to add a feeder to supplement your plants’ food, make sure to have your feeder placed at least by the time you expect hummingbirds to begin arriving or passing through, likely by the beginning of March.
Some hummingbirds may be early arrivals, and migration patterns can vary year to year, so you can always put your feeders out a few weeks early to ensure that you don’t miss the beginning of the season.
In addition to your feeders and native plants that provide food for hummingbirds, you may want to consider a birdbath or fountain that birds can bathe in. All that nectar can lead to sticky bills and feathers, after all.
When Do Hummingbirds Leave Texas?
Hummingbird migration dates will depend on their location in the state and the species.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds will leave in the fall, and they could begin heading south between September and November. Black-chinned hummingbirds will likely follow a similar timeline. Hummingbirds passing through as part of their migration will probably have passed by the start of November for most of the state, though some may linger a little longer.
Do Any Hummingbirds Winter in Texas or Stop on Their Migration Path?
While fall means the departure of some regular hummingbird residents, it could also mean migration stopovers, so don’t take your feeders down too early.
For example, fall brings the migration of Rufous hummingbirds through central Texas on their way south to Mexico and the southern Texas coast and Broad-tailed hummingbirds through western Texas on their path to Mexico. Those birds need food to power their lengthy migrations, and it’s possible you could see them briefly on their travels.
Some hummingbirds might spend their winters in southern Texas, like the aforementioned Buff-bellied hummingbird or Rufous hummingbird, which may make its winter home along the Texas coast and even spend the entire year in the state.
Many Black-chinned hummingbirds spend the winter along Mexico’s southern coast, although some may stay the year in the southernmost reaches of Texas.
Where Do Ruby-throated Hummingbirds Go?
Ruby-throated hummingbirds spend their winters from the southern coast of Mexico to the southern edge of Central America in countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.
Where do Hummingbirds Nest?
Most of the time, if you see a hummingbird, it’s whirling around looking for food, visiting flowers and feeders. It’s not quite as common to see hummingbirds at their nesting sites.
Hummingbirds like the Ruby-throated hummingbird build their nests on downward-sloping trees or shrub limbs, often about 10 to 40 feet off the ground. Spotting a nesting hummingbird can be a real challenge owing to the size of these birds.
Planting healthy native trees on your property can make it more likely that you’ll see several species of hummingbird. You may not see them in the nests, but your chances of seeing one whipping through the air in your garden are higher if its nest is nearby.