COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — They’re small and slender, their wings flap infinitely fast and they appear to float more than they fly: The hummingbirds are traveling north for the summer — and some of them are already here.
Spring marks the start of a massive migration by more than a dozen species of hummingbird, each bird individually embarking on a long journey north from their winter homes in Central America and Mexico. The bird, famous for its affinity for sweet nectar and its long, straw-like beak to match, makes a pit stop in southern states to breed in February before flying further north, touching the northernmost areas of the United States and reaching into Canada.
The most common type of hummingbird in the U.S. — and the one you’ll see in Ohio — is the ruby-throated, with its nearly luminescent, metallic green and blue feathers and thin black beak. A handful have already been spotted in central Ohio, according to Hummingbird Central’s community-sourced sightings map, but Laura Kearns, a wildlife biologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said most will arrive in late April.
If you want to attract hummingbirds to your yard, Kearns recommends thinking bold.
“One thing is just to have beautiful flowers in your yard,” Kearns said. “They’re attracted to red and orange, bright colors — hot pink, yellow.”
Hopeful birdwatchers can also buy hummingbird feeders, Kearns said, and like bright flowers, brightly colored feeders grab the attention of the tiny flyers.
To attract the most hummingbirds, Kearns recommends using both flowers and feeders — and keep the feeders full. Hummingbirds will incorporate reliable food sources into their breeding and foraging grounds. You can make a simple “nectar” using one part white sugar to four parts water.
“Because the hummingbirds do become territorial about their feeders, if you want to see more hummingbirds, it’s better to have multiple, smaller feeders in your yard instead of just one big one,” Kearns said.
Hummingbirds stay north until about September, Kearns said, when they’ll begin their annual move south for the winter. If you stumble across a hummingbird nest, Kearns recommends treating it like any other animal nest: Don’t touch it, and give the babies some space.
If you want to see other species of hummingbird, travel west of the Mississippi to see the black-chinned, the buff-bellied and the broad-tailed. In the Pacific Northwest, you’ll find the already find the rufous hummingbird with its toasted orange feathers and soft, white chest.