Bee balm bergamot
While there are over 16 species of hummingbird that breed in the
U.S., only the ruby-throated hummingbird breeds east of the
Mississippi River. Just 3-4 inches in length and weighing less
than 0.2 ounces, the ruby-throat is one of the tiniest birds in
the world. The male’s bright red throat gives the species its
name. Females have the same iridescent green backs as the males,
but lack the red throat patch.
Migration of Hummingbirds
Each spring ruby-throats migrate north from Central America and
Mexico, flying nonstop for 600 miles across the Gulf of Mexico.
They gradually move northward following the blooming time of
early-season flowers like columbine, azaleas and rhododendron.
They usually arrive in Pennsylvania by mid-April and stay until
September, when they migrate back to the tropics.
Take advantage of the 5 1/2-month window when hummingbirds are
in our region by choosing a palette of plants that will provide
nectar from early spring to late fall. Hummingbirds are
attracted to large masses of flowers, so cluster your plants so
that the birds will notice them. When selecting plants, choose
native plants over introduced species. Natives have co- evolved
a relationship with local pollinators and often provide more
Bleeding Heart is a favorite!
Once your garden is established and flowering, it is fun to
provide a hummingbird feeder to draw birds to a specific
location for close observation. Hummer feeders are specially
designed to dispense nectar or sugar water. Choose a red feeder
that is easy to clean. Be ready to supply fresh nectar every 3-4
days. Nectar left in a feeder for over four days will spoil.
Always clean the feeder before refilling. An old toothbrush is a
great tool for scrubbing tiny crevices on the feeder.
Hummingbird Nectar Recipe
Make the hummingbird nectar by mixing 1 part sugar to 4 parts
water. Boil the water, and then pour it over the sugar and stir
until dissolved. Cool to room temperature before pouring into
the feeder. Extra nectar may be refrigerated for later use. Be
sure to keep the ratio of sugar to water 1 to 4, stronger or
weaker concentrations may sicken the birds. Never make the
solution from honey because it may contain fungal spores that
will infect the hummingbirds.
Now that you have welcomed hummingbirds into your garden,
consider certifying your garden as pollinator friendly with the
Penn State Master Gardeners. Also see Penn State Extension publication
Helping the Bees & Butterflies