When To See Humming Birds In New Hampshire: Know This Before Making The Trip

Thanks to some remarkably diverse geography, New Hampshire plays host to a plethora of wonderful bird species throughout the year, some of which belong to the beautiful humming bird family.

These delicate little creatures adore The Granite State as much as we do, but something to bear in mind if you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of them on your next New Hampshire trip is that their visit is almost always a fleeting one.

Although there is a thriving humming bird population in New Hampshire during certain times of year, these birds eventually continue their migration and move on to more temperate areas of the US and beyond.

As such, if you want to increase the chances that you’ll see some of these small but majestic birds in New Hampshire, timing is everything, but hummingbirds have, on occasion, given even the most meticulous travelers the slip due to their strange migratory habits.

Here’s what you need to know before planning your excursion.

When Do Humming Birds Arrive In New Hampshire?

I’d love to give you a precise window for the arrival of humming birds in New Hampshire, but sadly, I cannot, as hummingbirds aren’t exactly the most sociable creatures, refusing to migrate in groups like most other birds.

This means that every single humming bird is master of its own fate, responsible for deciding when to migrate and what route to take.

Consequently, their migratory patterns (and I use the word patterns lightly) are, shall we say… a little higgledy-piggledy, so all you have to rely on when planning your trip is a very broad window — We’re talking late spring all the way through to mid-summer.

The males tend to arrive first around the start of May in order to establish breeding territory before female friends join them, but it’s important to note that there are various factors involved with their migratory decision-making, including food availability and weather.

Why Don’t Humming Birds Migrate En Masse?

To glean why humming birds don’t migrate in flocks, all we really need to do is consider why other birds do.

One reason is that when flying in formation, upwinds from the birds in front optimize aerodynamics, helping the birds at the back to conserve energy, but humming birds are far too small to feel aerodynamic benefits when flying in formation.

Another reason for flying as a group is to protect one another from predators, but, again, the size of humming birds limits their defensive capacities, even if they were traveling as a flock.

Location Matters

One more thing to factor into your itinerary is that humming birds migrate northward from the south in spring in order to capitalize on growing bug populations and numerous prospective nesting grounds.

In light of this, if you skirt the southern end of New Hampshire, you’ll likely see a few specimens quite a few days earlier than bird watchers heading to the northern end of the state.

This also means that staying south (ish) gives you the best chance of catching some humming birds on their way out of state in mid to late September, so if you can only take your trip at the tail end of the season, a southern destination is preferable.

Where Am I Most Likely To See Humming Birds In New Hampshire?

Humming birds are frequently seen in a number of different environments, from parks to gardens to farms, but these are relatively chance encounters. The best luck you’ll have of seeing a lot of humming birds is if you can find a popular nesting ground.

Typically, humming birds will nest on the smaller limbs of trees, and, in some instances, shrubs between 5 and 20 feet above ground level.

Lucky for us, although these birds tend to choose a spot with plenty of leaf coverage above, they rarely pick a limb with coverage below, meaning, if we can find them, we enjoy a clear line of sight to their nests.

They also like to set up shop near a partially open area such as above a water source or beside a trail, which is again lucky for us, as we might catch a glimpse of these colorful birds in action on our nature excursions.

What Humming Birds Will I See In New Hampshire?

By far the most common New Hampshire humming bird is the beautiful ruby-throated humming bird, identifiable by – you’ve guessed it – the red band around their throats.

They also have an iridescent turquoise streak down their back, making them a sight to behold on a sunny day.

Measuring between 2.8 and 3.5” in length, they’re quite small, even by humming bird standards, and they have a wingspan of only 3.1 to 4.3 inches, which can make them difficult to observe from distance without a good pair of binoculars or bird watching scope.

When To See Humming Birds In New Hampshire Know This Before Making The Trip (1)

Spotting a rufous humming bird is less likely, but known to happen. Like inverse robins, rufous humming birds are mostly red all over but for their breast and a small streak along the front of their wing, so there’s no mistaking them for anything else.

Other species, such as the Calliope humming bird, are spotted now and then, but this is exceedingly rare, so don’t get your hopes up of glassing one of these pink-throated beauties in New Hampshire.

When Do Humming Birds Leave New Hampshire

Humming birds typically leave New Hampshire and continue their migration after mating season, which falls towards the end of September and the beginning of October.

The weather is getting colder and as the trees shed their leaves, shelter is limited at best, so sadly, they move on.

Most will have gone by mid-September, but, as established earlier, these birds do things in their own time, so you may still see a couple when October rolls around.

Do All Humming Birds Leave New Hampshire?

You might be surprised to hear that some humming birds don’t leave New Hampshire at all, choosing instead to forgo the migration and stay in the nests they built in spring, but why is this?

Well, as happy as a late humming bird sighting may make us, the reality of the situation is pretty grim. Those left behind to winter in this state are only staying put due to old age, injury, or infirmity.

Physically incapable of making the journey south, they cannot join their feathered fellows on the next big move and will die in New Hampshire.

There is, however, one exception to this rule… the lost humming bird.

Migration is pretty tough, especially when attempted solo, so it’s not uncommon for humming birds to lose their bearings and wind up in New Hampshire when they should be further south.

This accounts for some of the rare humming bird sightings across The Granite State referenced earlier.

 Final Thoughts

Now you know a few things about the humming bird’s rather complex relationship with the great state of New Hampshire, you can plan your trip accordingly, and although a sighting is never a sure thing, your new knowledge gives you the best odds possible.

If the worst happens, and you don’t spot this often elusive little bird, there is still a vast array of truly amazing wildlife to enjoy across the breathtaking wilderness of New Hampshire.


Kyle Battis is a life-long NH resident that enjoys making his way around the state, sampling delicious food and drinks, and sharing his experiences. Follow us at www.HereInNewHampshire.com