Why do Some Birds Migrate in Flocks and Some Don’t?

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Most likely we have all had the experience of witnessing an immense flock of Geese, Cranes, Swans, or other birds flying high in a V-formation. We discussed this topic in our “Why do Birds Fly in a V?” post which explains the strategy behind it.

Flying in a V-formation allows for more efficiency in flying and for more protection from predator’s, as the birds have lookouts on many sides. If flying in a V is such an efficient way of migrating, why don’t all birds do it?

There is one group of birds in particular that is a prime example of why all birds do not fly in a V.

Hummingbirds: 

Hummingbirds migrate individually. While some might bump into each other along the way, they do not “hitchhike” on other Hummers.

These tiny wings of fury like to hunt independently and away from groups. Why? I see Hummers in groups of ten or more at my feeder at once?

Feeding in a frenzy around one feeder isn’t what all the Hummingbirds had in mind, but it may be the only feeder or food source in the area. A Hummingbird’s ideal feeding ground is a large area of flowers and feeders all to itself. This way, the bird can increase its weight extremely quickly and continue on its migration path.

If Hummers were to migrate close together, they would end up at a feeder at the same time and thus have to fight over it.

There are many different species of Hummingbird in the world:

Magnificent Hummingbirds

Magnificent Hummingbird

These two species are a mere fraction of the Hummingbirds in the world. But for this post we are focusing on the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, which is the most common Hummer in North America by far.

 

Violet-crowned Wood-nymph

Violet-crowned Wood-nymph

 

Around February, Ruby-throats are stationed in Yucatan and area getting fattened up for their journey to the U.S. Once they arrive, they migrate northward at an average of twenty miles a day. This way they can follow the path of blooming flowers and hopefully not be pushed ahead of it. If a Hummingbird is pushed ahead because of limited foraging grounds, some may show up at feeders a bit earlier than expected.

It all boils down to a very basic reason: Hummingbirds like to have a foraging area all to themselves in order to fuel up for migration as quickly as possible.

I hope you enjoyed learning about these virtually weightless world travelers!

Happy birding!

- John Mark

About John Mark Simmons
John Mark Simmons has stayed in Athens, Georgia his whole life, and frequently birds the hotspots in the area. While local birding makes up the majority of his birding time, he has birded many areas of the state and has chased various rare birds. Although birding is his favorite hobby, John Mark has participated in many sports, his primary one being a competitive swimmer.

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