Bring Hummingbirds to your Home
Named after the humming their wings make while moving up to 80 beats per second, hummingbirds are a welcome sight to Pennsylvania gardeners. Of the 330 species of hummingbirds that live across the Americas, from as far north as Alaska to the Andes of South America, only one species, the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), makes its home east of the Mississippi. Although there have been sightings recently of the Rufus and calliope hummingbirds they are rare and seem to be due to climactic and habitat changes. Read more about hummingbird visits to PA from articles on Ebird and Pennlive.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds arrive in Pennsylvania in April and stay until late September or early October. They will nest in the same area year after year, but can be lured to visit your yard with some of its favorite foods: salvias, cardinal flower, coral trumpet honeysuckle and bee balm. In addition to these plants, plan for continuous blooms from spring through fall. Select plants from this list from the Penn State Extension or use the Sustainable Plant Finder tool. Spring and fall blooming flowers are especially important to these small migrating birds. Hungry hummers arriving in April will be happy for a full feeder and a selection of early blooming flowers. Include the following fall blooming flowers to give these feathered friends a good fill up for their long flights south:
- Red-flowering salvia – Salvia spendens
- Pineapple sage – Salvia elegans
- Cardinal flower – Lobelia cardinalis
- Bee balm – Monarda didyma
- Native trumpet honeysuckle – Lonicera sempervirens
- White turtle head – Chelone glabra
Hummingbirds are the primary pollinators to at least 19 plants in Pennsylvania, including: spotted touch-me-not, trumpet vine, cardinal flower, fly honeysuckle, trumpet honeysuckle, fire pink, columbine, and wild bergamot, according to the Penn State Extension.
In addition to the beautiful flowers planted for hummingbirds, gardeners can further support hummers with feeders, water and nesting materials. You can leave dandelion and thistle down for hummingbirds to use in their nests. Feeders filled with sugar water, made with one part sugar to four parts water, help to augment nectar from flowers. Be sure to change feeder water once a week and more often in warmer months so that the sugar water doesn’t ferment. Hummingbirds are attracted to water and dripping fountains or misting devices are their favorite places to freshen up. Learn more from the Audubon Society and this helpful resource from Wisconsin Horticulture.