Hummingbirds in Utah

Hummingbird feeding from Corrine Thul’s Hand
Courtesy & Copyright © 2009 Corrine Thul

Holly: Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

Depending on where you are in Utah, fall is just around the corner. Or it may already be here. That means it’s time for many of our Utah birds to migrate south to warmer temperatures and more abundant food sources. Here in Logan Canyon, we’re getting ready to bid farewell to our charismatic little friends, the hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds are a New World phenomenon, living only in the western hemisphere. They are primarily tropical. Of the 330 species we know about, 95% live south of the US-Mexico border. Ecuador has 163 species–more than any other country. Colombia is next with 136 including a new species discovered just 5 years ago. Hummingbirds are known by a number of different names in Spanish including the generic term colibrí, picaflores meaning flower pickers ; and the more poetic term, joyas voladores or “flying jewels.”

In spite of its great size, only 16 different hummingbirds regularly found on the North American continent. Interestingly, –except for the Ruby-throated Hummingbird—all of these species breed west of the Mississippi River.

In Utah—roughly comparable to the size of Ecuador—5 species are regular visitors. Broad-tailed hummingbird and the black-chinned hummingbird are the most common and most widespread. They both overwinter in Mexico.

The calliope hummingbird is also seen in Utah. It is the smallest breeding bird in North America weighing about as much as a penny! The calliope is also the smallest long distant migrant bird in the world traveling up to 5600 miles in a single year. The rufous hummingbird is another long distance migrant seen in Utah, traveling from as far north as Alaska all the way down to central Mexico .

There is some controversy over whether or not you should continue to feed hummingbirds in fall. Some say you should quit feeding by late August or the hummingbirds won’t migrate. This is not true– in fact many hummingbirds begin migrating when their natural food sources are still intact. According to Audubon Society website, in the fall, you should keep your feeders up for two weeks after you see the last bird using it. The tiny birds need to double their body mass before migration, and a bit of extra nectar can only help.

Thanks to the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation for supporting the research and development of this Wild About Utah topic.
And thanks to Corrine Thul for supporting both hummingbird conservation and educational programming in Logan Canyon.

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.


Image: Courtesy and Copyright 2009 Corrine Thul

Text: Holly Strand, Stokes Nature Center

Sources & Additional Reading:

Hummingbirds/Nectar Feeders, National Audubon Society, (accessed September 2, 2009)

Johnsgard, Paul A. 1997.  The Hummingbirds of North America.  Washington DC:  Smithsonian Institution Press.

Klesius, Michael.  2007.  Flight of Fancy.  National Geographic. Vol. 211.  pp. 114-129.

Utah woman has a way with hummingbirds, Daily Herald, July 19, 2009,

Nature News, Evolution News and Views, David Klinghoffer, The Genius of Birds: Watch a Hummingbird’s Tongue in Action – See more at:

Holly Strand

Author: Holly Strand

Holly is a Science Communications Specialist for the Quinney College of Natural Resources at Utah State University. A geographer by training, Holly received her master’s degree from the University of Colorado. In the early 90’s she led tours to nature reserves in the former Soviet republics. Then she worked 10 years for World Wildlife Fund, describing and mapping conservation priorities at overseas locations around the world. Over twenty years of professional work in great places with unique habitats and endemic species has given Holly an appreciation of what’s special within the Utah landscape. Holly and her family live in Providence, UT. Many of her stories originate as attempts to answer questions about nature posed by her curious and very observant daughter.