If you spot a hummingbird in Pennsylvania, it’s likely to be a ruby-throated hummingbird. Incredibly small and quick, it’s the only breeding hummingbird species east of the Great Plains, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Despite the name, you’ll only catch a ruby-colored patch on the throat of the males – the females instead have a white throat. But both male and female ruby-throated hummingbirds have a metallic green back and a white chest.
So, what do you do if you’d like to see more of these nimble birds in your yard?
The National Wildlife Federation says ruby-throated hummingbirds are especially attracted to nectar-producing flowers like trumpet creeper, coral honeysuckle, bee balm, buckeye, and cardinal flower. They tend to gravitate toward red or orange blooms, which is why so many hummingbird feeders are bright red.
Tubular shaped flowers are the best way to go. Penn State Extension shares this advice when considering plants for hummingbirds: “Flowering herbs, shrubs, vines, and trees provide additional food for hummingbirds and attract them to specific areas. Your plantings should include a variety of plants that flower from May through early September. This will ensure food is available throughout the time hummingbirds are present. Hummingbirds are attracted to large clusters of flowers, so group the plantings so that they are conspicuous to the birds.”
After planting, a hummingbird feeder is a way to attract the birds to your garden. Penn State Extension says to place the feeder near flowers first to make it easy for hummingbirds to find, then you can move the feeder somewhere nearby.
When it comes to filling the feeder, keep it simple: One part sugar to four parts water. Boil the water and pour over sugar, stir and let cool. Don’t use honey, artificial sweeteners or food coloring.
The Hummingbird Society offers these tips when considering a hummingbird feeder:
Type & Size:
- Choose a feeder that you are able and willing to clean.
- Look for a feeder that has the ports above the pool of liquid to avoid drips, because drips will attract ants and bees.
- Use feeder(s) whose size matches your population.
- Don’t fill the feeders all the way if they aren’t being fully consumed between fillings.
- More feeders will support more hummers and help reduce territoriality.
- Change the mixture every four to five days – more frequently if temperatures are over 90° F.
- If the liquid appears cloudy or you see mold, wash the feeder thoroughly right away.
- Put your feeders at least four feet above the ground so they are beyond the reach of cats and other predators.
- Never place a feeder too close to a nest, because doing so may cause predation.
- If possible, the feeder should be in a shady spot.
- Placing the feeder where you can see some beautiful hummingbirds through the window is a good idea, too!