Attracting Hummingbirds

Female Ruby-Throated hummingbird
Female Ruby-Throated hummingbird

Here are both the north and south migration dates for North American Hummingbirds. Hummingbird migration northward starts earlier than you would think. And hummingbirds stay later in the autumn than we believe.

I spotted this female Ruby-Throat at the Schuylkill Nature Center in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia in late autumn. Longer after you would think these small, delicate birds would have headed to the warmer southern regions.
Tiny as these birds are most fly non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico to spend the winter in Mexico and Central America.
At first I heard a squeaking noise and then I realized it was a hummingbird. She flew right by me and sat on the thin branches of a tree, not more than fifteen feet from me.
Several days later, another female Ruby-Throat hovered less than six feet from me when I was at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve in New Hope Bucks County.
So, the female Ruby-Throats were still in the area in early autumn.

Hummingbird Migration Dates

This chart covers the eight most common species that breed in North America.

Eastern Northward Southward
Ruby-throated late February to mid-May late July to late October
Western Northward Southward
Allen’s January to March mid-May to September
Anna’s does not migrate; shifts to local areas with more food
Black-chinned mid-March through mid-May mid-July – November
Broad-tailed March to May August to October
Calliope March to May late July to September
Costa’s late January to February September to October
Rufous February to May late June to September

Ruby-Throats are the Northeast’s Only Hummer

The Ruby-Throated hummer is the only hummingbird that lives and nests in the Philadelphia area and in eastern North America. The male as a sparkly deep ruby red colored feathers on its throat. The female has plain white feathers.

Another hummingbird the Rufous Hummingbird is a regular rare visitor to Pennsylvania during migration. This hummingbird frequents backyard hummingbird feeders during their migration from August to December. The Rufous doesn’t nest in Philadelphia or Pennsylvania. The Ruby-Throated does nest in the state.

birds annas hummingbird drinking nectar
Anna’s Hummingbird drinking from feeder in San Diego County. Public domain.


When to Put Out the Nectar

Now it a good time to put out hummingbird feeders to attract hummingbirds to your garden. Many of these small birds will be passing through on their migration south to Central America or north to parts of North America.

The hummingbird migration dates vary according region of the country. This information is helpful in knowing when to place your nectar feeders out in your backyard habitat gardens.

If you don’t live in the Philadelphia area, any bird field guide will tell you which species you can expect to find in your neighborhood. For Philly it is a Ruby-Throat most of the time. Some lucky folks may spot a rare Rufous or other rarity.

You can also plant native flowers that will attract hummingbirds. Make sure you plant flowers that bloom during migration season. Plant flowers that bloom in the spring using the dates in the chart. And don’t forget autumn-blooming flowers.

Here is a list of spring hummingbird attracting flowers for Philadelphia and the MId-Atlantic region.  Also A Backyard Habitat Garden: What You Need to Start One.

Use the Audubon Native Plant Database to find flowers for your area.

hummingbirds at feeder
Hummingbirds at feeders. Centpacrr at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA (]

Recipe for Homemade Hummingbird Nectar

Use the hummingbird migration dates to know when to put out to attract hummingbirds.

This nectar recipe mimics the water to sugar ratio of flower nectar, the main food of adult hummingbirds. They do feed their young insects and spiders along with nectar.

The Key: Four parts water to one part refined white sugar.

Four parts means four units of water to one unit of refined white sugar. So, take a coffee cup or a glass or a measuring cup. Fill it with water four times. Then take the same container and fill it once with sugar.

  1. Pour the refined white sugar in the water.
  2. Dissolve the sugar in the water and place it hummingbird feeder.
  3. Change the sugar water frequently as it can spoil quickly in the sunshine.
  4. I would make it fresh every time I change the nectar in the feeder.

Plants to Attract Hummingbirds

See Spring Plants to Attract Hummers and Hummingbird Migration Dates


I hope this information is useful. We can put our nectar feeders out early enough to attract hummingbirds in the spring. At leave them out late into the fall to help hummingbirds on their trip south.

If you have a question or suggestion, let me know in the comments below.


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