Hummingbirds staying in the Four States instead of migrating, expert says

The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks says these birds are among the tiniest in the world. North and South America has 319 species, 15 of which are in the U.S. Only ruby-throated hummingbirds live in Kansas.  

Most of these birds nest in streams and woodland parks in the eastern section of the state. A bug that looks and acts like them is sometimes mistaken for them.

After wintering in southern Mexico and Central America, hummingbirds return in summer when there is more food and less competition. In temperate Kansas, birds may safely raise their young, according to K-State Biology Professor Alice Boyle.

The scariest time for a bird is when it can't fly. Boyle stated most birds die before fledge. “So geographic differences in egg and nestling risk explain migration patterns.”

The vast range of temperatures each year makes it hard to know if the hummingbird spring migration is getting sooner, Boyle said. Birds return earlier and earlier.

Unlike other birds, hummingbirds move alone. reports many arriving in February and staying all winter.

Some hummingbirds can fly 23 miles a day over the Gulf of Mexico. reports 500-mile migrations across the Gulf of Mexico.

Boyle said sporadic reports from Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas indicate the birds remained in-state throughout winter.

“Another species (Anna's) hummingbird spent a lot of time this winter in central Kansas,” Boyle added. “The reason is unclear. Hummingbirds and other small migratory birds exhibit inherent migration.

Boyle said hummingbird migration is designed, but like people, they have many behavioral quirks. Boyle said some hummingbird programming “isn't so good” and could cause migration problems. When birds make mistakes, some can adapt to warmer winters.

If they live and things go well, Boyle said. “Their children can inherit staying. Migration needs complicated physiological, behavioral, and neurological programming, yet when we look at bird migration as a whole, it tends to turn on and off across species quickly.