Washington’s landscapes and ecosystems are very attractive to us humans and a wide range of birds. Hummingbirds are just one type of bird that loves the climate and landscape of the state, and there are plenty of opportunities to see several species here.
Hummingbirds typically begin to arrive in Washington by late February or early March, and though some leave sooner, many will stay in the state until September. Most hummingbirds can typically be seen in this area in July and August.
Understanding when hummingbirds arrive in and leave Washington, how to prepare for them, and what they need can help us recognize how and where we can enjoy their presence and help them on our properties and in our gardens.
What Hummingbirds are Seen in Washington?
There are four main hummingbird species that you may encounter in Washington. Anna’s hummingbirds, Black-chinned hummingbirds, Calliope hummingbirds, and Rufous hummingbirds.
Broad-tailed hummingbirds and Xantus’s hummingbirds are also very occasional visitors, though spotting these species is far rarer.
When Do Hummingbirds Arrive in Washington?
Anna’s hummingbird is a year-round resident in Washington, frequently remaining year-round in places where they can rely on consistent food supplies. It is most common in Puget Trough and very rarely spotted along the Pacific Northwest Coast.
Migrating hummingbirds – the Black-chinned, Calliope, and Rufous hummingbirds – will typically begin to arrive in late February. Some will make their way to the west, while others will tend to veer to the east. The further north you live, the longer it will take the hummingbirds to arrive. But this will usually only be a little later than in southern areas.
Some of these migrating birds will continue north into Canada. But many will remain in the state to breed and nest there over the summer.
When exactly the migration period begins in Washington will depend on the weather and conditions in a particular year, though the timing rarely differs year to year by more than a week or so.
The first to arrive are the male hummingbirds, which establish their territory a week or two before the female hummingbirds appear. Typically, all the birds that breed and nest in the state will have arrived by the middle of May.
How to Prepare for the Arrival of Hummingbirds in Washington
Preparing for the arrival of migrating hummingbirds in Washington is all about turning your garden into a hummingbird haven, with appropriate habitat for shelter and nesting and plenty of food sources throughout the spring and summer months.
Hummingbirds need nectar, which is best provided not by feeders alone but primarily through plants. They also need insects to eat, so you should plant your garden to attract insect life and hummingbirds to your garden.
Tips for a Hummingbird-friendly Washington Garden
To create a hummingbird-friendly garden, you need to consider plants of all types: trees, shrubs, climbers and vines, and herbaceous plants. Of course, you should have plenty of flowers – especially nectary plants, which produce plenty of nectar during key periods.
It is important to choose native plant species wherever possible. Washington has plenty of wonderful native plant species to choose from, and these are far better for a wildlife-friendly organic garden than non-native species. Always avoid invasive plants, which could spread and harm native ecology.
Some great Washington native plants for hummingbirds include serviceberry, goatsbeard, red columbine, harebells, red paintbrush, fireweed, bleeding heart, small-flowered alumroot, oceanspray, penstemons, several native honeysuckles, Indian plum, red elder, and salmonberry. There are, of course, many others to consider.
It is a great idea to replace lawns or other ecologically barren garden schemes with rich, diverse, and layered planting to create wonderful habitats for hummingbirds and other wildlife to enjoy. Forest gardens, rain gardens, and wildflower meadows are just some eco-friendly garden schemes to consider.
Only after planting your garden should you consider adding feeders to further aid any hummingbirds that come into your space.
When Should I Put Out Hummingbird Feeders in Washington?
Hummingbird feeders can never entirely replace wild and natural food sources. But they can give the hummingbirds that extra boost and a little more enticement to share your garden.
You should remember to put out your hummingbird feeders by the middle of February at the latest to ensure that there are food sources available for the earliest of the birds on their spring migration.
When Do Hummingbirds Leave Washington?
Hummingbirds do not migrate all at once. Each individual will leave alone, on their schedule. Some few may only be passing through on their way further north, and these will have left for their preferred nesting sites before the breeding season begins.
Those that remain in Washington for the summer breeding season will stick around for a while, finding suitable spots, mating, making nests, and raising young from eggs.
The males are typically not only the first to arrive but also the first to leave. After mating, they can leave the state as early as July or early August. Females often stay a little longer, but most nonresident hummingbirds will have departed for their wintering grounds in Mexico or other parts of Central America by the end of September.
Remember, however, that Anna’s hummingbirds will remain year-round in certain areas in Washington.
When Should I Take Down Hummingbird Feeders in Washington?
If you have placed hummingbird feeders in your garden, note that their presence will not stop hummingbirds from migrating south. Hummingbirds tend to migrate when they should, even when abundant food sources are still available.
Experts advise that it is best to make sure that you keep your feeders up until you have not seen any hummingbirds in your garden for a couple of weeks. In Washington, this will usually be sometime around the middle of October, unless, of course, you live in an area where hummingbirds are year-round inhabitants. In that case, you should keep the feeders in place to help these birds.
Also, in the northern states, it can be a kindness to consider those poor few birds that have not been able to make the southward migration. Some birds will always be left behind due to age or ill-health. If you see hummingbirds remaining in your garden into fall and winter, you might keep your feeder up to help those individuals.