Help Track Hummingbird Migrations

Male ruby-throated hummingbirds tend to arrive before the females in order to establish their territories. Photo Credit: Rhoude7695 cc-by-sa 3.0

It’s almost time for the hummingbirds to start arriving in Kentucky! In Kentucky, like the rest of the eastern U.S., we only have one common species of hummingbird – the ruby-throated hummingbird. Each year these tiny birds migrate from wintering grounds in Mexico and Central America to breeding grounds in the U.S. and Canada then back to their wintering grounds. Scientists are studying the migration patterns of ruby-throated hummingbirds and you can help.

Journey North Hummingbird is an online citizen science project where you can help scientists study the timing of hummingbird migrations. Simply go to the website, create a log-in, and then report your hummingbird sightings. People all over the country are doing the same thing. The reports are summarized into an interactive map that allows viewers to see how the hummingbird migration is progressing. You can also go to the archives and view maps all the way back to 2004.

I think it is fun to go back and compare previous years. For example, this year’s map looks similar to the same time on last year’s map. However at the same time in 2012, there were hummingbird reports all the way up in northern Michigan. If this year’s pattern continues like last year’s pattern, then we could start seeing our first hummingbirds within the next week or so in Kentucky. Once they get to Kentucky, it doesn’t take long for them to make it into Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio.

I always get excited when I see or hear my first hummingbirds of the year. Journey North Hummingbird gives all of us a chance to share our first sightings and track the hummingbirds’ movements on their spring migration. If you are interested, I encourage you to take a look at their website and take part in the fun.

This article was part of Shannon’s original Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife blog which evolved into the blog for Backyard Ecology.

Backyard Ecology: Exploring Nature in Your Backyard
Nature isn’t just “out there.” It’s all around us, including right outside our doors. Hi, my name is Shannon Trimboli, and I am the host of Backyard Ecology. I live in southcentral Kentucky and am a wildlife biologist, educator, author, beekeeper, and owner of a nursery specializing in plants for pollinators and wildlife conservation. I invite you to join me as we ignite our curiosity and natural wonder, explore our yards and communities, and improve our local pollinator and wildlife habitat. Learn more or subscribe to my email list at

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