Hummingbirds are one of the most beloved backyard birds in Florida. Their bright colors, acrobatic flights, and ability to hover like tiny helicopters make them a joy to watch. If you live in or plan to visit Florida, you may be wondering when is the best time to see these feathered friends. Here’s a guide to when and where you can spot hummingbirds in the Sunshine State.
Why Do Hummingbirds Migrate to Florida?
Hummingbirds are migratory birds that breed in North America during the summer and migrate to warmer southern climates like Florida to spend the winter. There are several reasons why they flock to Florida for the winter months:
- Abundant food sources – Florida offers the nectar-rich flowers that hummingbirds rely on. Native plants like coral honeysuckle, trumpet vine, and firebush provide excellent nutrition. Backyard feeders also supply them with energy-rich sugar water.
- Warmer weather – The subtropical climate of Florida gives hummingbirds a respite from harsh northern winters. Temperatures stay relatively mild even in the coldest months.
- Greater diversity – Over a dozen hummingbird species have been recorded in Florida, from tiny Ruby-throated to the giant Magnificent. This variety ensures plentiful habitats and food niches.
When Do Hummingbirds Arrive in Florida?
The timing of hummingbird migration and presence varies across Florida:
- South Florida – In south Florida and the Keys, hummingbirds can be seen year-round. Some birds never migrate from these warmer areas. South Florida is a good bet for seeing hummingbirds any time of the year.
- Central Florida – In central Florida and along the Gulf coast, most hummingbirds arrive in early to mid-March. Numbers increase through April as more birds fly in from their tropical wintering grounds.
- North Florida – Hummingbirds usually reach northern Florida in mid-March. Early arrivals, such as feisty Rufous Hummingbirds, may show up in late February. Migration peaks in April.
So in general, hummingbird activity picks up by early March in most of Florida. The best sightings are from April through May as populations reach their peak.
When Do Hummingbirds Leave Florida?
Hummingbirds begin exiting Florida in late summer to migrate back to their North American breeding homes:
- South Florida – In south Florida, some hummingbirds leave by late July. However, others can linger into October or November. South Florida continues to host wintering hummingbirds throughout the fall and winter.
- Central Florida – Most hummingbirds leave central Florida by August or September. A few stragglers may remain into October or November.
- North Florida – Hummingbirds start exiting northern Florida as early as July. Most clear out by September, with a few sticking around until October.
So while a few hummingbirds can be spotted year-round in Florida, sightings drop off significantly by late summer and fall as the bulk of birds migrate north. To boost your chances of seeing them, plan visits between early spring and mid-summer.
Where to See Hummingbirds in Florida
Hummingbirds can be found anywhere there are flowers, but some spots in Florida are especially popular with these tiny birds:
- State parks – Many state parks place feeders and plant native flowers to attract hummingbirds. Popular spots include Paynes Prairie, Hillsborough River, and Colt Creek.
- Botanical gardens – Gardens like Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota and Naples Botanical Garden cater to hummingbirds with specialized planting and feeders.
- Nature preserves – Preserves that protect Florida’s native plant communities provide prime habitat. Consider Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Green Swamp, and Estero Bay Preserve.
- Backyards – Don’t underestimate your own backyard! Providing nectar feeders and flowering plants will draw in hummingbirds, especially from spring through fall.
Wherever you look for hummingbirds, exercising patience is key. Move slowly and watch carefully for fast-moving flashes of color and wings to maximize your viewing opportunities.
Tips for Attracting Hummingbirds in Florida
You can make your Florida yard or outdoor space more attractive to hummingbirds with these tips:
- Plant red, orange, and pink flowering plants like coral honeysuckle, firebush, bee balm, and trumpet creeper.
- Set up nectar feeders in early spring and keep them freshly filled with sugar water through fall.
- Position feeders near flowers and shrubs to provide landing and perching spots.
- Install a mister or dripline to create water sources for bathing and drinking.
- Let areas grow wild to support native plants and insects that hummingbirds rely on.
- Avoid using pesticides which can reduce food supplies.
- Be patient! It can take a few weeks for hummingbirds to discover new food sources.
Common Hummingbird Species in Florida
Florida hosts an impressive diversity of hummingbird species throughout the year:
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird – The most widespread and commonly seen, these green-backed hummingbirds breed across eastern North America.
- Rufous Hummingbird – One of the earliest spring migrants and feistiest species, with bright orange plumage.
- Black-chinned Hummingbird – A western species that has expanded into Florida with small dark heads and white patches.
- Buff-bellied Hummingbird – A winter visitor known for its bright red bill and buff-colored underside.
- Archilochus Hummingbird – Includes the Ruby-throated lookalike, the Black-chinned, and hybrids between the two.
- Calliope Hummingbird – One of the smallest species in the US, with vibrant purple throats.
So be on the lookout for a diversity of species, especially during spring and fall migration periods. Use a field guide or app to help identify the hummingbirds coming to your feeders.
To experience Florida’s amazing hummingbirds, time your visit from March through August. Set up feeders and flowers to attract them to your yard or outdoor space. Parks, preserves, and gardens also provide excellent sighting opportunities. With some patience and planning, you’ll delight in observing these energetic migrants during their seasonal stays in the Sunshine State.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hummingbirds in Florida
When is peak hummingbird season in Florida?
The peak time to see hummingbirds in most of Florida is mid-March through May. That’s when the bulk of migrants arrive from Central and South America and populations reach their highest. In south Florida, hummingbirds can be seen year-round.
What is the best flower to attract hummingbirds in Florida?
Great nectar flowers include coral honeysuckle, trumpet creeper, bee balm, and firebush. Red, orange, and pink tubular flowers are preferred by hummingbirds.
How long do hummingbirds stay in Florida?
Most hummingbirds arrive in Florida in early spring and stay until late summer or early fall, anywhere from 4-6 months. A few may overwinter in south Florida where winter temperatures stay mild.
How do I spot hummingbirds in Florida?
Move slowly and watch for fast darts of motion and quick wing beats. Listen for buzzing wings and chipping sounds. Sit near food sources and be patient. Early mornings and late afternoons are most active times.
What plants do hummingbirds pollinate in Florida?
Hummingbirds pollinate many native wildflowers, shrubs, and vines as they feed on the nectar. Some examples are coral bean, cross vine, Trumpet creeper, and Turk’s cap.
Do hummingbirds migrate at night?
Yes, hummingbirds migrate at night when cooler temperatures reduce their energy use. They fly low and slow, resting periodically. Bright city lights can disorient them. Turning off lights helps them navigate.
How long does it take a hummingbird to cross the Gulf of Mexico?
Most hummingbirds cross the 500 mile Gulf of Mexico nonstop in a single night of migration, an 18-22 hour flight. Tailwinds help push them along at 20-25 mph during this incredible feat.
Why do hummingbirds hover at feeders?
Hovering allows hummingbirds to lick nectar from flowers and feeders while staying in place. Their specialized wings permit the energy-intensive hovering by beating up to 70 times per second.
Do hummingbirds sleep while migrating?
Hummingbirds go into short bouts of deep sleep while migrating at night. These naps may last only a couple seconds, but allow their brains to rest during the strenuous overnight journey.
How many eggs does a female hummingbird lay?
A female hummingbird lays 1-3 tiny white eggs per clutch, each about the size of a coffee bean. She may raise 2-3 broods each breeding season, laying eggs in a new closely-woven nest for each brood.