Do hummingbirds return to the same place every year?


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Many gardeners enjoy attracting hummingbirds to their yards. These birds are beautiful, active, and playful as they dart from flower to flower. They do not require a nesting box or any nesting materials other than the flowers that attract them. So if you have the space in your garden, there is no reason why you can’t invite some of these fascinating little creatures into your yard.

Many gardeners who love to watch their hummingbirds have often wondered whether they are seeing different hummers every season or their feathered friends are returning to them each year.

Can hummingbirds really return to the same gardens and feeders every spring? Yes! Hummingbirds do return to the same place ever year.

Studies Show Hummingbirds Return To The Exact Same Yards Over Several Years!

It probably doesn’t surprise you that hummingbirds return to the same towns and neighborhoods every year in the spring. What’s fascinating is that they can pinpoint to exact yards they have frequented previously. They have even been observed looking in the same spot for a feeder that used to be there!

Some studies have found that when comparing data over multiple years, they discovered individual hummingbirds returning the same feeder on the very same date multiple years in a row.

Why do hummingbirds return to the same place every year?

Scientists have been able to gather enough data to definitively support the fact that hummingbirds return to the same yards year after year, but they still don’t understand why.

Even though they have proven findings on this amazing fact, the biological mechanism that allows hummingbirds to perform this feat is still a mystery.

There are currently a few different hypotheses that have gained traction:

  • Many scientists believe that the change in daylight hours at specific times of the year may trigger the release of a hormone that signals hummingbirds to return home. This is a popular hypothesis for many migrating bird species, but it doesn’t account for how they can find their way back to one specific garden.
  • Hummingbirds likely use the sun as a compass to coordinate their flight path and make sure they’re still going the right way. It is also possible that they are ultra-sensitive to the Earth’s magnetic fields. This would allow them to act as their own compass and always inherently know which direction is North.
  • Some scientists believe that hummingbirds have a significantly greater than average memory and awareness when it comes to landmarks. This would make it possible for them to find their way home in the same way you might remember your way home from work – just on a much larger scale.
  • Hummingbirds may use their sense of smell and hearing, in addition to their sight, to identify their location and backtrack.

Regardless of how they find their way, the evidence strongly suggests that hummingbirds return to the same location every year because it is where they were hatched. This means that each local area has its own breeding ground that is primarily made up of the hummingbirds who were born there and have been for generations.

To put it simply, they travel back to the same place for the same reason humans travel during the holidays – because they are going home.

How To Keep Attracting Your Hummingbirds

Based on what scientists have discovered so far, it’s clear that your garden could be the ancestral home of an entire family of hummingbirds. In fact, the only documented reason for hummingbirds not returning is a lack of food and shelter.

If you want your hummingbirds to keep coming home every year, all you have to do is make sure they still have a nice home to come back to. This means keeping your feeders maintained and making sure your garden is full of nectar-rich flowers.

Here is a quick checklist you can go through to make sure your hummers don’t move away on you.

Keep Your Hummingbird Feeders Clean & Full

Hummingbird feeders are a great way to supplement the natural nectar your garden flowers produce. Hummingbirds use a massive amount of energy, and having an additional source of pure sugar water is just the thing they need to keep on humming.

The best hummingbird feeders have specialized perches for them to rest on while they refuel. Hummingbirds rely heavily on their vision to find food sources, so choosing a feeder that is bright red will give you the best results.

Provide Abundant Food Options

Nectar is a hummingbird’s primary source of energy, but the majority of its nutrients come from insects. This means that the best natural environment for hummingbirds contains a well-rounded variety of food sources.

You can provide this by keeping a garden full of their favorite native flowers. The flowers themselves provide a nice mix of different nectars, and having them around will also attract insects for your hummingbird to munch.

Don’t Move Your Hummingbird Feeders Around

Hummingbird enthusiasts have often been confused to find their hummers buzzing around an empty spot in their yard, only to then remember that their feeder was in that exact spot the previous year.

Because hummingbirds return to the same yards, feeders, and flowers year after year, we can also observe this occurrence anytime their internal map needs an update. Even after migrating for the winter and returning home, your hummers are still calibrated to the same pathways and routines.

If your feeder and flowers remain in the same place, it will be much easier for your returning hummingbirds to pick up right where they left off.

Keep Your Hummingbirds’ Favorite Flowers Around

Having a hummingbird feeder is an excellent way to attract hummingbirds to your yard, but if that’s the only thing around for them to eat they won’t stay for long.

Hummingbirds like variety and will flit constantly from flower to flower to keep up with their massive metabolisms. The more interesting options you can provide them with, the longer they’ll stay around to enjoy your nectar buffet. You can maximize this effect by arranging your flowers all around your yard with plenty of space in between so that they have multiple places to explore.

The Bottom Line

Now that you know the same hummingbirds are coming back to you every year, you can keep your yard comforting and familiar for your specific hummingbird family.

By priming your yard to attract hummingbirds and then leaving the same pathways in place over time, you’ll create a safe place your hummers can come home to and find everything right where they left it.

About The Author
Robert has been an avid birdwatcher pretty much his entire life. Living in the suburbs he does his best to bring wild birds into his backyard. He currently has 13+ bird feeders in his yard and also raises and races homing pigeons. Robert writes part-time for Wild Yards, mostly about the subject he cares most about - birds.


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