As we all know, the fall migration of the ruby-throated hummingbird is in full swing. In a few short weeks, most of the flying jewels will have left our yards flying toward their winter home in southern Mexico and Central America. While we do not fully understand this migration, we do know that some will fly nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico to reach the western shore of the Gulf of Mexico. With this in mind, let’s look at some of the things that involved in this amazing flight.
The birds do not migrate in flocks. Instead, each bird must make its own way over the choppy waters of the Gulf.
The shortest distance across the Gulf of Mexico is 467 miles. In order to have enough fuel to successfully make the journey they must carry at last 3/40th of an ounce of fuel shored in the form of fat.
The birds travel at an average speed of approximately 25 miles per hour. A male rubythroat can carry enough fuel to stay aloft for 26 hours and fly a distance of 645 miles. In comparison, a heavier female can stay aloft 24.3-hour flight that covers 604 miles. Biologists estimate each bird must beat its wings 2.7 million times to cross the Gulf of Mexico during the estimated 20 hours it takes them travel from shore to shore.
Rubythroats are benefitted with they are migrating with the aid of headwinds. One the other side of the coin, if the tiny migrants encounter a 20-mph headwind, they literally fly backwards.
When you consider what an amazing athletic and navigation fete this is, you cannot help but wonder how in the world they can do it.