As the snowy months approach, many pack their bags and head south for the winter, leaving Chicago’s chilly weather behind.
This includes hummingbirds – and according to experts, they begin their migration long before the cold weather arrives.
According to a Chicago Botanic Garden article, hummingbirds are often found in Chicago-area yards in late spring and early summer, when females build “golf ball-sized nests.” “made of pieces of soft leaves and cobwebs. But in September they are already leaving as part of the “great autumn migration” of birds.
“Hummingbirds tend to be out of the Chicago area around the second week of October,” the post read. “On their fall migration south, they cross the Gulf or follow the coast of Texas back to Mexico.”
And while there are more than two dozen hummingbirds in the United States, it’s the ruby-throated hummingbird that you might find in your Chicago-area garden.
“The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only hummingbird regularly found east of the Mississippi River,” the garden says. “During the summer they are frequent residents of the Chicago Botanic Garden. At this time many more come from Canada, stopping in search of nectar and insects. They are building up energy for their long journey south” for the winter season.
Hummingbirds are typically in Illinois from May through October, although a dispersal of them has been seen as early as March, according to DuPage County’s Forest Preserve District. You may have noticed them by the ‘buzz’ of their flapping wings, or their chatter, which sounds like high-pitched dolphin chatter,” the forest reserve says.
As for the looks, they are hard to miss. “Ruby-throated hummingbirds are bright emerald or golden-green on their backs and crowns, with grey-white underparts,” the forest reserve continues. “Males have a bright iridescent red throat that appears dark when not well lit.”
Hummingbirds aren’t the only residents of Chicago heading south for the winter. Butterflies are too.
Dubbed the “monarch migration,” the show sees the winged insects embark on a months-long journey to Mexico, says Doug Taron of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. The butterflies will pass through Chicago, the Mississippi Valley and Texas before settling about 100 miles west of Mexico City, Taron said.
Typically, an abundance of butterflies can be spotted throughout September, with monarch migrations peaking in the area September 5-10, Taron noted.
Taron said there have been reports of moth clusters in central Michigan, indicating the creatures are “definitely coming.”
Chicagoans will also be able to spot packs of butterflies through October, as Taron said groups of stragglers are expected to complete the migration.