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Mix the sugar water; fill your backyard feeders. The fall hummingbird migration is underway. For those wishing to obtain an eyeball to eyeball encounter with our tiniest feathered travelers; there’s no better time than the present.

Although some of the hummingbirds we’re seeing may be holdovers from birds raised right here in Northern Iowa, the bulk of the population is currently arriving from points north – many from as far away as northern Minnesota and Ontario, Canada. Although hummingbird numbers usually peak during the first half of September, the fall migration will continue with reduced intensity until withering frosts drive the last stragglers southward.

Fall migrator

Hovering on nearly invisible wings, a female ruby-throated hummingbird arrives in North Iowa.  Most hummingbirds will spend the winter in Central America.  With wings beating in excess of 50 times per second, they will cross the Gulf of Mexico in a nonstop, 500-mile nighttime flight. 

Most hummingbirds will spend the winter months in Central America. But getting there is no small feat. Guided by starry constellations and powered with wings churning beyond 50 beats per second, they will leave the Texas mainland and head directly across the Gulf of Mexico.

Exhausting fuel reserves and pushing physical endurance to the limit; the birds will cross the entire watery expanse in a single nonstop 500-mile, nighttime flight. It’s an incredible achievement for a bird weighing less than a quarter of an ounce and with a wingspan of only four inches.

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Enjoy more wildlife tales online at Washburn’s Outdoor Journal at iawildlife.org/blog

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