Donald Mitchell obtained an M.S. degree in Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota and has conducted field studies of hummingbirds and the plants they pollinate in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado and California.  He is a federally-permitted hummingbird bander and former Vice President of the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union.  He is a Goodhue County Master Gardener and attracts hundreds of hummingbirds annually to his garden near the Mississippi River in Red Wing, Minnesota.


6 Responses to About

  1. georgiana says:

    Mr. Mitchell, we have heard that cane sugar is the kind of sugar one should use for hummer food.Not beet sugar. What is the truth of this?Does it matter?We ha e been very meticulous about making hummingbird food for the masses of birds who come calling if the feeders are empty.

    Thank you,

    • Georgiana: I’ve heard the same claim before, supported by some reasoning related to how the sugar is processed. Both cane sugar and beet sugar are the same kind of sugar–sucrose, the type of sugar preferred by hummingbirds. I can’t remember the exact argument in favor of cane sugar, mainly because for years I’ve made sugar solution for my birds with inexpensive store-brand sugar made from beets, and the hundreds of hummers I get here annually don’t seem to mind one bit.


  2. I found a maple tree out side my kitchen window with a hummingbird nest in it. Hummingbirds spent a lot of time in that tree and on the wires next to it this past summer. I hope to see them return again in the spring.

    • Cathie:
      Consider yourself lucky! Ruby-throated Hummingbird nests are usually placed in more discrete locations, away from human habitation. Keep an eye out for the female hummer next year–sometimes a female will nest in the same location in subsequent years, especially if she successfully raised a brood in that location before.

  3. Jeff Feece says:

    Good morning!
    I am a landscape designer in charge of putting together a plan for a hummingbird viewing area for a local nature center. The area they have chosen for this garden is semi shade. I’ve ready your plant list and am wondering which plants you’ve had the most success with in these types of light conditions? The nature center is also partial to native perennials as opposed to more maintenance intensive annuals.
    Thanks for any input!

    • Jeff–Where is the nature center? If the center were here in Southeastern Minnesota, I would recommend cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), eastern columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and bee balm (Monarda didyma). The first two listed are native to Minnesota, and although bee balm is not native to Minnesota, it is native to the Eastern Deciduous Forest Biome and is hardy here. All three of these, especially the cardinal flower, do okay with some shade. If your project is in a warmer part of Eastern North America, there would be additional natives to choose from. Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of variety. The above three choices together would bloom during most of the period that hummers are here (columbine early summer, bee balm mid-summer, cardinal flower late summer), and hummer gardens with larger drifts of a few good types of hummer plants are generally better than gardens with a lot of variety, but with only a few individual plants of each kind.

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