Your guide to hummingbird season in Pennsylvania

Your Guide To Hummingbird Season In Pennsylvania

Ruby-throated above tree (Ross Township) by Steve McDonald // CC BY 2.0 Deed

By Kalena Thomhave

April 12, 2024

Come late April, you may spot the tiny and elusive hummingbird flitting about your yard. Read on to learn more about these birds that nest in our state and how you can help them keep coming back.

What hummingbirds can I expect to see in Pa.?

Though there are more than 300 species of hummingbirds around the world, just one is known to frequent Pennsylvania. You’re most likely to see the ruby-throated hummingbird in your backyard; males of this species have distinctive red throats while females are more muted, with gray-tinged throats. Both have glistening, iridescent green backs.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the only species of hummingbird that breeds east of the Mississippi River, and these amazing, minuscule birds can flap their wings as fast as 80 times per second!

Ruby-throated hummingbirds nest, and are common, all across Pennsylvania, where they assist the entire ecosystem by pollinating many flowering plants.

Your Guide To Hummingbird Season In Pennsylvania

Ruby-throated on cardinal flower (John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge) by Bill Buchanan/USFWS // CC BY 2.0 Deed

Though sightings are quite rare, the rufous hummingbird also sometimes visits Pennsylvania. If you see one of these feisty, orange hummers, it might have just gotten lost during migration, as the birds are usually only seen in the West and parts of the South.

Some species of hummingbirds, including the ruby-throated hummingbird, migrate more than 1,000 miles south each winter for a healthy supply of nectar and insects. On the journey, some will fly across the Gulf of Mexico without stopping. Ruby-throated hummingbirds will leave Pennsylvania between August and October to begin their trek.

Your Guide To Hummingbird Season In Pennsylvania

Ruby-throated at feeder (Ross Township) by Steve McDonald // CC BY 2.0 Deed

How can I attract ruby-throated hummingbirds to my yard?

Rapid urbanization is restricting hummingbirds’ habitats and food sources. But you can help the tiny birds and attract them to your yard by making your space a bird-friendly habitat.

Get a hummingbird feeder

The first thing you’ll want to do is acquire the right bird feeder, which is different from the typical bird feeder you fill with seed, as hummingbirds drink nectar. Invest in a hummingbird feeder, which is designed to hold sugar water for hummingbirds to feed on.

The National Aviary, located in Pittsburgh, recommends a sugar water recipe of four parts water to one part sugar. Be sure to change out the water regularly so it doesn’t go bad and cause you to unintentionally repel hummingbirds.

Your hummingbird feeder will likely be bright red because it’s generally believed that hummingbirds have a favorite color, so to speak. Their favorite flowers to feed from tend to be bright red or bright orange. But if your feeder is a different color, that’s actually fine too — as long as you provide good-quality nectar, hummingbirds will learn to frequent your feeder. Still, they do love bright colors!

Hang your feeder in a safe, albeit visible, spot

Hummingbirds like to feel safe as they’re eating (doesn’t everyone?). You don’t want to hang the feeder in the middle of an empty yard, but instead, you’ll want to hang it in a shaded area that’s close to something that could provide cover for hummingbirds, like a tree or some shrubs. If you live in an apartment and have limited yard space, you can just make sure that the feeder has cover overhead, shaded by an awning or gutters.

Be sure not to place feeders too close to windows. Each year, up to a billion birds are killed colliding into windows in the United States alone — and hummingbirds are some of the most vulnerable. One more thing on keeping hummingbirds safe: keep your cat inside!

Your Guide To Hummingbird Season In Pennsylvania

Rufous at feeder (Hanover) by Henry T. McLin // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Deed

Provide other nectar sources (as in flowers) to get even more hummingbirds to visit you

Hummingbirds will poke those long bills inside their favorite flowers, which tend to be brightly colored and trumpet-shaped. If you plant a pollinator garden, you’ll be providing another feeding option for your hummers. Hummingbirds will also eat the insects that live in and on your garden plants.

Flowers and other plants native to Pennsylvania you may consider planting for hummingbirds include beardtongue, bee balm, Eastern columbine, wild bergamot, blue cardinal flower, blazing star, and trumpet honeysuckle.

Your Guide To Hummingbird Season In Pennsylvania

Hummingbird in garden (Bethlehem) by Jim // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Deed

How else can I see and learn about hummingbirds this year?

Besides backyard birding, you can plan to take part in activities oriented toward celebrating the humble hummingbird. Is there a hike nearby that passes through a haven for hummingbirds? One example is the Hummingbird Trail at Montour Preserve in Danville. The short walk passes through areas of flowers that hummingbirds love. Of course, you can see hummingbirds in many different places, whether it’s the ‘burbs or the woods, but hummers especially like water and the outskirts of forests. Within Philly, the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum with its woodlands and wetlands is a popular hummingbird hangout.

You can also look at activities hosted by local libraries or garden shops. For example, Ken’s Gardens in Lancaster County is hosting a workshop on May 6 during which participants will construct a container garden to attract hummingbirds and other pollinators.

Get ready to welcome ruby-throated hummingbirds with open arms (and a full feeder)!

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.Your guide to hummingbird season in PennsylvaniaYour guide to hummingbird season in Pennsylvania

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