Louisiana's coastal and inshore habitats host tiny, brightly colored hummingbirds during much of the year. These hardy little flyers migrate from their southern wintering grounds in early spring, battling stiff winds and chilly rains in coastal marshes before the birds head inland for shelter and more available food sources. During the summer and early fall, hummingbirds also face risks from damaging tropical storms and hurricanes that can threaten southern Louisiana shores.
Louisiana presents a convenient stopping point for hummingbirds migrating further north, along with others who settle in the state during breeding and nesting season. Although ruby-throated hummingbirds are the most common seasonal visitors, Louisiana birdwatchers might periodically spot Anna's, rufous, black-chinned, broad-tailed and blue-throated hummingbirds, in varied numbers.
Western hummingbird species traditionally carved out year-round habitats in California's mild coastal regions. During the 1960s, some western hummingbirds ventured eastward during the winter, gradually making their way to Louisiana gardens filled with cool-weather red flowers and backyard nectar feeders. In fact, birdwatchers have spotted at least 10 hummingbird species in winter Gulf state habitats. Rare or vagrant hummingbirds often join common seasonal residents, competing for food sources and engaging fascinated birdwatchers.
Seasonal Feeding Behaviors
Migrating hummingbirds, including Louisiana's ruby-throated hummingbirds, exhibit different feeding behaviors throughout their seasonal stays. When the birds arrive famished from their northward migrations, they replenish their energy stores before breeding and nesting time. While the hummingbirds breed and raise their young, generally from late April until early July, Louisiana birdwatchers' nectar feeders don't see much activity. Once the hummingbirds begin to gorge themselves for their southward trips, nectar feeders and flowers become hubs of activity until the seasonal birds depart. Louisiana gardeners who want to attract hummingbirds during the winter might want to keep their nectar feeders filled throughout the year.
Hungry hummingbirds gravitate to Louisiana gardens featuring colorful spring, summer and fall flowers. Spring-blooming gardens, often including native azaleas and coral honeysuckles, welcome insatiable migrants eager to fatten up after their long trips. A late summer garden, showcasing salvias, firespikes and cupheas, helps to nourish juvenile hummingbirds racing to feed before their first migrations. Fall gardens might feature red-blossomed cardinal flowers that bloom until Louisiana's first frost. Petunias, red snapdragons and other annuals provide food for hummingbirds who depart later in the fall.
Based in North Carolina, Felicia Greene has written professionally since 1986. Greene edited sailing-related newsletters and designed marketing programs for the New Bern, N.C. "Sun Journal" and New Bern Habitat ReStore. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Baltimore.