There are over 330 hummingbird species that reside in the Americas; however in PA we only have the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Occasionally we will get other species as they travel through during their migration, such as Anna’s Hummingbird.
The Ruby-throated hummingbird is PA’s smallest bird, weighing in at a mere .2 ounces! Every year they will migrate south to the Gulf of Mexico and return to the US starting around mid-March to April, just in time for the rhododendron, azalea, and columbine flowers to bloom, as these flowers are good sources of nectar for the speedy little birds. If these plants plus a water source are around, you can be sure that a Ruby-throated hummingbird will be there! If you are looking to draw these quick, feathery, flashes to your garden, the easiest way is to put up nectar feeders.
All you need to do is mix 3 parts hot water to 1 part sugar (don’t put food coloring in it)—make sure the water has cooled – place it outside and wait for your hummingbirds to arrive!! Choose a feeder with some red on it (usually the feeder ports) as that color is especially attractive to hummers.
In warm weather you’ll need to replace your “nectar” every few days whether it’s been used or not. It’s recommend that you put some bright potted flowers next to the nectar feeder to help attract the birds – if you use something with a tubular flower such as trumpet-flowers, nicotiniana or delphinium, or perennials such as columbine and lobelia your chances are better. These have the added benefit of attracting butterflies as well!
Another way to attract the birds is to keep kitty inside. Cats will go after most small animals and this includes hummingbirds. If kitty is allowed to wander around outside, you run the risk that the birds will avoid your yard completely. If the birds do decide to brave your yard and garden make sure that the nectar feeder high enough that kitty won’t be able to get at the feeding birds.
Once you have attracted the birds to your back yard, there is a great chance that you will continue seeing them year after year as they will return to the same area after each migration. They might even reuse their old nest, so if you find it (usually 5-20 feet off of the ground), don’t disturb it. With your homemade nectar, these amusing birds will be sure to find a home in your garden and backyard!
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