Backyard bird of the month for May: Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Perhaps the most anticipated migrating bird to return in your yard is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Weighing only three grams (the same as a penny), these birds have flown thousands of miles, making a trans-Gulf of Mexico nonstop flight to return to your gardens. Their small size but large attitude makes them a joy to watch, as well as their remarkable ability to hover in flight, often observed while feeding. You can attract them with a hummingbird feeder, filled with 4 parts water, 1 part white (table) sugar. Just make sure you clean it regularly; if you wouldn’t want to drink the sugar-water, they shouldn’t either. Even better, find a variety of flowering plants to add to your garden and spread out the bloom times so hummingbirds always have a tubular flower to get nectar from. Late spring bloomers like Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) will keep them happy until Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) blooms in summer. Let Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) grow up in shady and wet areas and you’ll see the birds appreciating this important fuel source before they take off in the fall. For more native plants that attract hummingbirds, check out the Native Plant Finder and under “Filter by Wildlife Benefited,” select hummingbirds at: mainenativeplants.org

Backyard Bird of the Month is a feature by Maine Audubon created for the Maine Home Garden News, the newsletter of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Garden and Yard.