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Hummingbird Gardening in the Upper Midwest

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

2014 Mid-Winter Update- please join us for the WPT Garden Expo

“If my love could be represented by a blur, it would be the beating of a hummingbird’s wings. Did you know that my love is the only love that can fly backwards?” 
― Jarod KintzA Zebra is the Piano of the Animal Kingdom
Hi Everyone,
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!  We wish all of you a wonderful 2014 filled with beautiful flowers and hummingbirds.  Whatever your traditions or beliefs might be, we hope you enjoyed a fun and festive Holiday season.  For us, it was an extremely busy family time and now we are looking forward to another fantastic year of hummingbirds and gardening.

Given this overwhelming chilly and challenging winter, it’s very difficult to think about hummingbirds and gardening now, but we can assure you that both are not that far away.  The first migrating hummingbirds are typically sighted on the Gulf Coast at the end of February and people in Florida and the Gulf Coast areas are enjoying hummingbirds right now, some of them Ruby-throats!

This winter update will be rather brief, as we need to quickly inform you about upcoming events of a time limited nature:

-WISCONSIN PUBLIC TELEVISION GARDEN EXPO, February 7-9, 2014 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin.  Our Hummingbird Gardening Program will be presented on Saturday, February 8 at 9:30 a.m. and repeated on Sunday, February 9 at 2 p.m. 
Here is a link to the Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo website for more information about the event:
-CHICAGO FLOWER & GARDEN SHOW, March 15-23, 2014 at the Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois.  Our Hummingbird Gardening Program will be presented on Saturday, March 15 at 2 p.m. 
To learn more about the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, please visit their website at:
-WILDBIRDS UNLIMITED IN MIDDLETON, WISCONSIN:  We will present our program on Saturday, April 12 at 10 a.m.  The program is free, but you must register in advance.  To learn more about the WBU seminars, please visit their webpage at:
This wonderful nursery offers many hummingbird favorites, especially salvias and native plants.  They send large beautiful plants that are expertly packed.  

Check out their hummingbird page (which we helped them put together!)--- 

Any orders placed before February 1, 2014 will receive a 15% discount.  You can also save an additional 25% by ordering some plants in groups of three.  Orders of $250 or more will receive free shipping.  They are one of the few topnotch plant nurseries to offer an early bird discount.  Don’t miss your chance to take advantage of this great opportunity to get your 2014 hummingbird garden started with gorgeous, high quality plants!
Other nurseries that you might want to check out and what they have to offer include:

-FLOWERS BY THE SEA NURSERY: :  The largest and most interesting collection of salvias currently available and their customer service and shipping are phenomenal!  Highly recommended.
-SELECT SEEDS – ANTIQUE FLOWERS: :  Salvia ‘Blue Brazilian Sage’, Cuphea ‘David Verity’, and many other salvias and perennials.  Reliable nursery with very reasonable prices.  They also have many unusual seeds for sale.
-AVANT GARDENS: :  Cuphea ‘David Verity’ and Salvias.  They send some of the largest plants of any mail order nursery!
-ALMOST EDEN PLANTS IN LOUISIANA: :  Special hummingbird plant selection, but their “claim to fame” is Stachytarpheta which is difficult to find anywhere else.
-PLANT DELIGHTS NURSERY, INC.: : Interesting and varied perennials and annuals and many hummingbird plants unavailable anywhere else.  They send very large plants and have one of the best and most interesting printed catalogs out there.
-BLUESTONE PERENNIALS: :  Mostly perennials, but a few tender Salvias such as Salvia guarantica ‘Black and Blue’ and Salvia greggii ‘Wild Thing’.  They used to sell plants in groups of three, but now all plants are singles in a ready to plant, biodegradable pot. They offer some discounts, a spring sale, and coupons.
-VINCENT GARDENS: :  Very small nursery specializing in hummingbird and butterfly plants with many unusual salvias for sale. They send large and beautiful plants and are highly recommended.
-WILDSEED FARMS: :  Seeds only.  Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra), Salvia coccinea, and zinnia.  Larger quantities of seeds are available.

We hope to see you soon at one of our upcoming programs.  Have fun getting ready for spring and your hummingbirds!!


Friday, September 6, 2013

Summer 2013 Update- garden tour

And the humming-bird that hung Like a jewel up among The tilted honeysuckle horns They mesmerized and swung In the palpitating air, Drowsed with odors strange and rare. And, with whispered laughter, slipped away And let him hanging there.”
- James Whitcomb Riley

In This Issue:

·        Welcome & Our Garden Tour Information

·        Wisconsin Has  A New Hummingbird Bander!!

·        Some Very Sad News

·        New Hummingbird Webcam

·        Learn About The Hummingbirds of Louisiana

·        Help to Save an Arizona Hummingbird Haven

·        Touching Story About a Nesting Ruby-throated Hummingbird

·        Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Bee Balm & Cardinal Flower

·        Read Our Article About Hummingbird Gardening in “A Second Opinion” Magazine

·        2013 Sedona Hummingbird Festival

Hi Everyone,

We hope you are having a wonderful summer and are enjoying your hummingbirds and gardens.  For many people, this enjoyment has unfortunately been diminished a bit because the numbers of hummingbirds in the Midwest have been less this year.    Our numbers of hummingbirds have been about the same, but there are reports from many other people that paint a much different picture.  One thing Michael and I learned early on is that you cannot control nature and wildlife---whether this was caused by our cold and wet spring or some other cyclical variation, we have to enjoy what we have in front of us right now.

In that spirit, we would like to invite you to our upcoming Hummingbird Garden Tours at our home, 5118 Buffalo Trail in Madison, Wisconsin, 53705.  For those of you who don’t know where we are located, here is information about how to find us:

The dates of the tours are:

·        SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2013, 1-5:30 p.m. (Door Prize Drawing at 3 p.m.)

·        WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2013, 3:00-7:30 p.m. (Door Prize Drawing at 5 p.m.)

It is not necessary to RSVP unless you have a special need or request of some kind (unfortunately, our yard is not wheelchair accessible with the exception of our front garden area).  Please wear comfortable and practical shoes and be aware that there are many bees this year---if you are allergic to bee stings, please be aware and come prepared! 

Light snacks and beverages will be provided.  If you would like to, please bring something simple to add to the food table (no pork or shellfish please) or a favorite beverage.  You can also bring a bag of sugar or a small bag of potting soil, but this is completely optional.

Please note that you must be present to win a door prize.  Door prizes have been generously donated by Wildbirds Unlimited in Middleton and Michael and Kathi Rock.  We wish to thank Wildbirds Unlimited for their wonderful and long time generosity and support of our work and we hope that you will patronize their beautiful store for all of your birding and nature inspired gift needs.

The event will be held rain or shine (pray for hummingbirds and dry weather!)

If you have any questions or concerns, please call (608-233-7397) or e-mail ( Kathi.

We are looking forward to seeing many of you at our garden tour and sharing a little slice of our hummingbird paradise with you!

Michael & Kathi





We have a new hummingbird bander in Wisconsin. There has not been a person who is licensed to band hummingbirds living in Wisconsin for quite some time and the majority of Western hummingbirds that show up in Wisconsin in fall and early winter have gone unbanded. Her name is Michelene "Mickey" O'Connor and she is an avian zookeeper at the Milwaukee Zoo and has also worked in wildlife rehabilitation. She recently completed her bander's training with Bob and Martha Sargent, Master Hummingbird Banders (and the best in the business!!). Here is her bio:

Mickey and her assistant met with us in our garden in late August. We have a garden in full swing, but unfortunately not many hummers right now (and most of the hummers we have are using flowers exclusively, which would make them extremely difficult to band). Mickey is very anxious to get some practice in and would like to come to your hummingbird garden with her banding equipment if you live in Wisconsin.   If you are interested, please e-mail me.

We are very excited about Mickey's work as a hummingbird bander in Wisconsin. We are especially pleased that she will be able to study the life cycle of the Ruby-throated hummingbird in the Upper Midwest and that she will hopefully be able to band those special fall and winter birds that show up from the west.

I hope that anyone who can will offer to have Mickey visit their yard and band a few hummingbirds. Who knows, maybe a Ruby-throat that she bands here in Wisconsin will go into a trap of Nancy Newfield's in Louisiana---now, wouldn't that be a thrill!


A great friend of ours and supporter of our work, Ken Wood, passed away on August 16, 2013.  Ken attended our Garden Tour every year to check out all of the unusual salvias in our garden.  He loved nature, dahlias, salvias and hummingbirds.  He did so much throughout his life in birding and nature conservation and we applaud his life’s work and passion and will miss him so much as a friend.  Here is Ken’s obituary:

No life is ever long enough, but dying at age 69 is way too young for such a wonderful man who had so much to do!  Ken, we will miss you so much!  We plan to do a brief tribute to Ken at our upcoming garden tours.


Not seeing many hummingbirds at your house?  Check out this new webcam to get your hummer fix:

This webcam comes from the brother of Lanny Chambers, the hummingbird bander who created and maintains the website with the Ruby-throated Hummingbird Migration Map.


Like Wisconsin, the only breeding hummingbird in Louisiana is the Ruby-throat, but the Gulf Coast of Louisiana is also a hotspot for many beautiful hummingbirds from the West beginning in August.  You can learn about this fascinating new trend in this report:

Hummingbirds such as Rufous, Anna’s, and Green Violet Eared have shown up in Wisconsin in fall and early winter (one more reason to leave your feeders up a little longer!)  If you ever see a hummingbird that looks more brown than green and vocalizes with a chipping sound, please give us a call!


When we took our birding trip to Arizona, we stopped at this magical place.  Many beautiful Violet-crowned Hummingbirds can be enjoyed there.  We want to make sure that it is preserved for future generations.  Here’s how you can help:

Alert: Hummingbird Haven Facing Uncertain Future - Act Now

Several months ago, American Bird Conservancy board member Victor Emanuel
made an impassioned request that American Bird Conservancy help acquire an
American birding landmark that had recently come on the market: Paton's
Birder Haven.

This property, located in Patagonia, Arizona, is the loving project of Wally
and Marion Paton, who for more than 35 years built their property into a
premier Arizona birding site and opened their home to thousands of local,
American, and international birders to see Arizona¹s outstanding hummingbird
diversity. Many visited the site for a chance to get a ³life² Plain-capped
Starthroat, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, or Magnificent Hummingbird for their
North American list.  The property has passed on to the Paton¹s children,
who would like to honor their parents¹ labor of love in making the property
a memorable, welcoming stop for birders visiting Arizona.

In partnership with Tucson Audubon Society and Victor Emanuel Nature Tours,
American Bird Conservancy has entered into a contract with the Paton family
to acquire the property and to maintain the property in perpetuity as a
hummingbird sanctuary open to visitors. We have raised $100,000 of the
needed funding, but urgently need to raise by October 15th the remaining
$200,000. Once acquired, Tucson Audubon Society will assume long-term
ownership and management of the property.

Can you please help by making a donation at
and by FORWARDING this email to as many birders as you can, encouraging them
to click on the link provided and make a donation today? Please post this
request for help on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, websites, and any other outlet
you think will reach birders who have visited Paton¹s or plan to in the
future.  One hundred percent of each tax-deductible donation will be applied
to the acquisition and management needs of this historic property. We truly
need every dollar to succeed.

Thank you very much for your support and help!  Please let me know if you
have any questions or you have a favorite picture from Paton¹s Birder Haven
you would like to share.

Learn more - please give now!

Steve Holmer
Senior Policy Advisor
American Bird Conservancy &
Director, Bird Conservation Alliance
202-234-7181 ext. 216
Skype: sholmerabc



This link was sent to us by a member of the Wisconsin Birding List.  Please enjoy:


A member of the Wisconsin Birding List shared these beautiful images of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Bee Balm and Cardinal Flower.  You just can’t go wrong with these native plants in your hummingbird garden!


This winter, a periodical in Western Wisconsin, “A Second Opinion Magazine”, asked us to write an article about hummingbird gardening from the perspective of health and wellness.  It was a little different for us, but forced us to look on this passion of ours in a whole new way.  Here is the article (and the photo of a hummingbird at zinnia is from our yard):

Take a break with your hummingbirds today and enjoy improved health and a happier life!


Last August we attended the very first Sedona Hummingbird Festival as observers.  This year, we attended the event as program presenters.  This is the longest distance we have ever taken our “Gardening for Hummingbirds” program and it was a special experience.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Festival, here is the website for the event:

The beauty and majesty of Sedona certainly make it an appealing place to hold a Hummingbird Festival.  Who can forget those beautiful red rocks----this very special setting just seems to scream hummingbirds!

The Hummingbird Society, the Sedona-based organization that sponsors this event, has been able to garner community support here in a way they were unable to in Tucson.  While the majority of the attendees were from Arizona and Southern California, 18 different states were represented, which speaks to the quality of the Festival’s offerings.

The activities of the festival include presentations by hummingbird experts from around the world, garden tours of local hummingbird gardens, hummingbird sunrise “breakfasts” at local homes hosting a lot of hummingbirds,  a banding demonstration, a hummingbird conservation lecture, and a hummingbird shopping mall.

Each aspect of the Festival was valuable and interesting in a different way (although we cannot comment on the hummingbird sunrise breakfasts because we decided not to attend those given how early they were and our schedule was extremely hectic with our two presentations---but we can imagine that they were spectacular---maybe next year!)


To attend an event where every activity is solely focused on hummingbirds is like a dream come true.  This festival offered a wide range of different presentations from the most basic (Dr. Ross Hawkins kicking off the Festival on a light-hearted but knowledgeable note speaking about “Why Do We Love ‘Em?”) to the most unusual (self-taught Sri Lankan artist Gamini Ratnavira showing us how he draws and paints hummingbirds.)  We were supremely wowed and fascinated by Jacques Ducros speaking about breeding hummingbirds in his French aviary (this would be illegal in the US) and Karen Krebbs led us through the establishment and development of the hummingbird aviary at Tucson Desert Botanic Garden (who ever realized how intense it can be to care for hummingbirds in captivity).  Photographer Dr. Larry O’Mealie showed us stunning photographs of hummingbirds and their allies from Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and the U.S. (I was as interested in the flowers, or “the resources” as Dr. O’Mealie called them, as I was in the hummingbirds).  Steve Bouricius led us through how he and his wife Debbie band hummingbirds in Palisade, Colorado---although we have heard so much about banding before, we realized what a truly exacting process this is after this program.   We unfortunately did not have time to see the presentations given by James Currie---“Hummingbirds---A Video Journey” (we saw this last year and it was fantastic—see his outstanding work in the Hollywood film about birding, “A Big Year”) or Beth Kingsley Hawkins, “Romancing the Hummingbird:  A Sedona Focus” (we did see her unique program last year and it was sweet and special.) 

Our program, “Gardening for Hummingbirds” featured a blend of what we do in Wisconsin and what we recommend gardeners in the desert southwest can do to attract hummingbirds.  Because we live and garden in the Upper Midwest, it was difficult to make these recommendations, but Kathi spent countless hours of research developing printed handout materials for hummingbird gardening in the desert southwest (if you wish to receive those handouts, please e-mail Kathi) and we also had photographs of hummingbirds at flowers and feeders in Arizona from our many trips there.  We also shared a few door prizes, hummingbird feeders, Salvia coccinea (an annual for hummingbirds that grows anywhere in the country), and Canna indica tubers (also grows anywhere in the country).  While the program had its flaws, it was a well intended effort.  We discovered that there is a great need for hummingbird gardening information for gardeners in the Southwest and that this region of the country presents some unique challenges (intense heat, lack of rainfall, unrelenting sun, difficult soil, etc.) but also some wonderful opportunities (long growing season, continuous sunshine, vast array of plants that can be grown, and, best of all, a non-stop supply of hungry hummingbirds of so many different species.)

Conservation Lecture

Dusti L. Becker, Ph.D., who directs Life Net Nature, a non-profit conservation organization, with her husband, presented a special evening session on “Saving the Esmereldas Woodstar, an Ecuadorian hummingbird at great risk”.  We were amazed by the work Dusti and her organization are doing in the cloud forest of Ecuador (this may sound romantic, but it’s roughing it to the max---the only way you can reach their site is by mule and sleeping accommodations are in tents!)  Their collaborative work with local residents has delivered amazing results in the wonderful work to save this endangered hummingbird.  Again, I was fascinated by the local flowers that this hummingbird visits (Psychotria hazenii was not even on the internet!---And acanthus).  If you are interested in giving a donation to help save this hummingbird, or better yet, joining (for those of you who are adventurous) a trip to visit Ecuador with this organization to work hands on, please visit:

Garden Tours

We were most excited about the Garden Tours of actual hummingbird gardens in the Sedona area.  Interestingly, all of the gardens we were able to visit were developed by gardeners hailing from the East and the Midwest!  Hummingbirds crowded the feeders at every location (for the most part, the plants were ignored).  We were amazed that these gardeners were attempting to grow plants from the East and Midwest regions in Arizona, an area that is the direct opposite in every respect (of course, every garden area and pot received supplemental irrigation)!  While we applauded their ability to do this, we wished that they would have included a few more Southwestern natives that Kathi worked so hard to research on her handout piece for the presentation.  The gardens were beautiful and fascinating though and we even saw Salvia guaranitica at one garden that the gardener, a landscaper by trade, said he bought in Arizona!

Hummingbird Banding Demonstration

Steve and Debbie Bouricious shared their banding expertise for the second year at the Festival.  Last year, they banded at a Sedona shopping mall and only banded few birds.  This year, the banding demonstrations were at peoples’ homes and that made a huge difference.  The site we visited was amazing, set outside of town and well away from people, highways, and traffic.  The homeowner (another transplant from the Midwest!) had a decent hummingbird garden (many agastaches and penstemons) and this was the only place during our visit where we viewed a hummingbird feeding extensively at a flower and not a feeder---the hummer was at Trumpet Creeper.  We saw four species of hummingbirds at the banding location:  Rufous, Black-Chinned, Broad-tailed and Anna’s and Steve explained that they had seen Calliope and were trying to get those birds to enter the trap.  The skill demonstrated by Steve and Debbie was remarkable and they patiently described the detailed process to the many observers.

We enjoyed the second Annual Sedona Hummingbird Festival very much and loved our lodgings at the beautiful Enchantment Resort.  We plan to attend again next year---the 2014 Sedona Hummingbird Festival will be held August 1-3, 2014.  Sedona is a wonderful, special, and stunning place to visit.  To learn more about visiting Arizona and Sedona, check out the following sites:

Sedona and most of Arizona is a fantastic place to view hummingbirds and experience nature at its finest (if you want to see Wisconsin in Arizona though, check out Flagstaff---they have a similar climate to ours and grow many of the same plants)!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hummingbird Gardening Update: Welcome to Summer and Hummingbirds



In This Issue:

·         Announcement of Dates for our 2013 Hummingbird Garden Tours:  SEPTEMBER 8 & 11, 2013
·         Mail Order Nursery News
·         Canna Indica Tubers Available
·         Salvia Amistad (Friendship Sage):  A Hot New Addition For A Hummingbird Garden!
·         Hummingbird Feeder Information
·         Are There Really Fewer Hummingbirds This Season?
·         An Easy Guide To The Best & Easiest Hummingbird Plants For An Upper Midwestern Garden
·         Wisconsin Birding List

 Hi Everyone,

HAPPY SPRING AND SUMMER, finally!!  Spring and summer have been a long time in coming this season after an endless winter.  We hope that everyone enjoyed their winter season, but now it’s time to move on to hummingbirds and gardening.

This newsletter is extremely late because our spring has been quite busy with travel, family matters, and hummingbird gardening programs.  However, we have been working furiously to get our hummingbird garden up and running (especially with spring being so late this year) and have definitely been thinking about all of you and hoping that you are enjoying your hummingbirds.  It was nice to see some of you at the Dane County Garden Expo sessions in February and our sessions at Wildbirds Unlimited in May.

Our first hummingbird was quite late this year.  Typically, we see our first bird around May 1---this year, our first bird, a female, arrived on May 13.  We were afraid that our hummingbird season might be quite sparse, but interestingly we believe that we have seen more hummingbirds in our urban yard this year than any other season.  In past seasons, we have often struggled to record even a single hummingbird sighting during May and early June, but this year that has definitely not been the case.  We have no explanation other than fifteen years of attracting and feeding hummingbirds at this location.  We have heard from any people through Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest that the numbers of hummingbirds they are seeing are fewer than in past seasons.  Sometimes nature-related events defy explanation!

We hope that you have your feeders up and clean and fresh and that you are offering a few great flowers for your hummingbirds.  This update will contain some new information about feeders and plants that might be helpful in your journey as a hummingbird gardener and give you some fresh, new ideas.

We are very excited that we will be presenting our “Gardening for Hummingbirds” program at the 2013 Sedona Hummingbird Festival for the first time.  If you happen to get out that way, please come and see us!  To learn more about the Festival and to purchase tickets, please visit:  We attended the Festival last year and it was a wonderful experience and we learned about hummingbird gardening in a whole new part of the country and met some wonderful people too.  Additionally, Sedona is extremely beautiful and worth visiting anytime of the year.

Thank you for your kind support of us and interest in our work and we hope that you will consider planting a salvia or two for your hummingbirds this season.  Go out and find the best that summer has to offer!

All the Best,
Kathi and Michael


Our 2013 Hummingbird Garden tours at our home will take place on Sunday, September 8, 1 to 5:30 p.m. (door prize drawing at 3 p.m.) and Wednesday, September 11, 3-7:30 p.m.  (door prize drawing at 5 p.m.)  Our address is 5118 Buffalo Trail in Madison, Wisconsin.  Refreshments and, hopefully, hummingbirds in abundance, will be available.  It is not necessary to RSVP for the tour unless you need special accommodations.  We look forward to seeing you there!  Watch for more details on our website and in the next e-Update.



Operation of a small mail order nursery with a specialized plant selection is clearly a “labor of love” and a very risky business.  There is absolutely no way that the prices gardeners pay for these plants online could ever compensate a nursery owner for their time and expense incurred to ship these fragile and perishable plants across the country under the most adverse of conditions.  Many fine nurseries have discontinued mail order service and others have unfortunately gone out of business completely.  While the closing of a high quality nursery offering unusual plants is always a tragedy, we have found that new and interesting nurseries always seem to make their way into the spotlight, despite the poor economy.  Here are a few updates:

-Sweet Nectar Nursery ( in Battleground, Washington has unfortunately ceased operations.  We will really miss this very fine nursery!

-Flowers By the Sea in Elk, California is a fantastic new player in the mail order salvia trade.  You can visit them at  They have literally hundreds of new, interesting and rare salvias for sale and their customer service, shipping, and plant quality are really superb.  We highly recommend that you give them a try this year.

-Vincent Gardens located in Douglas, Georgia is another hot new mail order nursery on the scene.  They carry a very interesting selection of hummingbird annuals and perennials.  Some of their plants are not the greatest for the Upper Midwest, but they send very high quality plants for a very fair price.  Visit them at

-One nursery we’ve been very pleased with this year is Avant Gardens in Dartmouth, MA.  You can visit them at   The size and quality of their plants is simply amazing and shipping is wonderful.  They have been very responsive to any questions or concerns about orders.  They offer a nice selection of perennials and annuals, including salvias, cuphea and fuchsia and most are very appropriate for and growable in our area.

-The World of Salvias:  Richard Dufresne.  Richard is an absolute genius in the plant business and really knows his stuff.  He has so many interesting salvias and other plants available.  While the plants are small, they are of high quality and prices are reasonable with shipping being extremely inexpensive.  Visit Richard at 



If you live in the Madison area and would like to try out Canna indica in your garden this season , please e-mail Kathi at or call her at (608) 233-7397.  We only ask that you come and pick the tubers up at our home.  We will provide detailed planting and growing directions.  Please note that the tubers need to dug up and stored after the first frost in the fall in zones 3, 4, 5 and 6.  Here is a link to our website with more information about this fabulous plant for hummingbirds:


This wonderful new annual (for those of us in the north---this plant is only hardy in zones 9-11) salvia has been years in the making and those of us who are passionate about hummingbird gardening have been waiting for its release with much anticipation and excitement.  Flowers ByThe Sea Nursery in California is the only mail order nursery currently carrying this exciting new sage (some people have reported finding it for sale in local retail nurseries, but we are not aware that it’s available anywhere in Wisconsin yet).  Please visit the following link to learn more and to see a photo:

In addition, here are a few other links to photos and information:

We currently have two Salvia ‘Amistad’ planted in our garden and a hummingbird has already checked this plant out.  They have been in bloom with beautiful, large, deep purple flowers since we received them about two months ago.  Today two more were planted in containers and will be very curious to see how this salvia will handle the ups and downs of our Wisconsin weather and if hummingbirds will choose it over  Salvia guarantica.  We will also be interested to see how successful we will be in overwintering this plant in our minimally heated sunroom.  We’ll keep you posted.


Properly maintained hummingbird feeders are an integral part of your efforts to bring hummingbirds to your property.  So often, people ask us if they can just plant a few perennials and attract lots of hummingbirds.  The answer to that question for most of us is an emphatic “No.”  In our northern climate, it would be almost impossible to find enough perennials that really attract hummingbirds to cover the entire season, early May through mid-October.  Also, feeders fill in on the days when nectar in the flowers is unavailable, a very cold day, a very hot day, or a rainy day.  Hummingbird feeders are always available, no matter what the weather or time of the year (unless they are frozen in winter!).  Also, hummingbird feeders with their red coloring (the nectar should be clear though) serve as an identification of your property as hummingbird-friendly---you might be interested to know that hummingbirds can see red for up to a mile away and return to the place of their birth each year (there are many fun stories of hummingbirds “knocking” on the window with their bills to let their human hosts know that they are back and hungry!)

“How many feeders should I hang?” is another common question.  The answer that everyone needs to hear first is only put up as many feeders as you can properly maintain (that means cleaning regularly as well as changing the nectar solution.)  And, place all feeders in places where you can easily view them from your home.  If you live in an urban area, MORE feeders will be needed to bring in hummingbirds on a daily basis---we have 8 up right now, although hummers are primarily using one “favorite feeder.”  By mid-September, we will have as many as 20 hummingbird feeders up!  If we lived in a rural or wooded area, we absolutely would not need to work this hard!

If you have a very territorial, aggressive hummingbird, put feeders on the opposite side of your home  so the “bully” cannot see the other feeder and that way everyone has a change to feed in peace (as much as hummingbirds can have peace!)

As more flowers begin blooming in late July and August, the feeders become less important, but please don’t take them down.  Many hummingbirds will still use them at any time of the year when they need a quick shot of reliable energy or the weather has taken a bad turn.  One late summer day, we saw an immature Ruby-throat rest on a feeder for almost 30 minutes at the end of the day.  With their fast metabolisms, hummingbirds face an energy crisis quite often, especially very young birds.  Feeders are a great fall back and safeguard for your hummingbird friends.

We reprint the following information about use and maintenance of hummingbird feeders from a past E-Update:

The diet of hummingbirds consists of small insects and nectar. You faithful readers of the Nectar
are well aware of the different kinds of flowers that provide
sweet nectar for the hummingbirds. But when the hummers return from
their winter homes in April and May, there are no blooming flowers in
Wisconsin that are attractive to hummingbirds. We may like to look at
daffodils and crocus and tulips, but those are not hummingbird flowers.
So, to maximize the number of hummingbirds in your yard throughout the
season, one must have hummingbird feeders. Here is a quick primer on the
feeders that have worked well in our yard and the care of the feeders.

Feeder styles: There are two basic feeder styles: bottle feeders in which
the nectar is above the feeder ports or saucer style feeders.

In the bottle feeder category: a workhouse feeder that has been in
existence for many years is the Perky Pet Pinch Waste Feeder
(, also
known as the Perky Pet 4 Fountains feeder. This feeder is widely
available at retailers such as hardware stores, home improvement stores
and birding stores. If you have this feeder in your yard, you are
guaranteed in seeing hummingbirds use it. One drawback of this feeder is
that if it blows in the wind, the nectar will slosh out of the feeder

A feeder that we discovered last year (although not new on the market)
is the First Nature Hummingbird Feeder
( These
feeders have 10 feeding ports with holes that are in a horizontal
position, so when the wind blows, nectar does not slosh out of these
feeders. In 2010, we found that the hummingbirds use this feeder to a
high degree. One disadvantage of this feeder is that the feeding port
holes are large oval shapes..... large enough for yellow jackets to fly
into the nectar. First Nature has redesigned this feeder to have smaller
round holes with yellow bee guards. You may see this licensed under the
name Mainstays Hummingbird Feeder. This is a new product in 2011 and it
remains to be seen if this feeder is used as much as the original First
Nature design. You can find this feeder at stores such as Walmart and
Fleet Farm.

Another bottle style feeder is the Dr. JB's Clean Feeder
( This is made of very durable plastic and a
hardened glass bottle. The feeder ports on this feeder are oriented such
that the nectar does not slosh out in a strong wind. This feeder is
widely available at retailers such as Wild Birds Unlimited and Mounds
Pet Food Warehouse.

In the saucer style category, a company that makes many of these feeders
is Aspects ( These feeders
will not leak nectar in a strong wind. Although we have seen some use of
these feeders in our yard, the saucer style feeders are not used as
much as the Perky Pet 4 Fountains or the First Nature Hummingbird
Feeders. These feeders are available at hardware stores and Wild Birds

There are dozens of styles of hummingbird feeders. We only mention the
feeders above as these have been used in our yard and we can attest that
they are good feeders. You will likely have success with almost any
kind of feeder. However, we do not have any experience with the fancy
glass blown feeders that have a single spigot feeding port. In our
discussions with other hummingbird enthusiasts, we have heard that
hummers do not use these feeders very much and that they can be very difficult to clean.

Now that you have your feeders, it is time to add nectar. Many of the
pictures of feeders shown in the web sites listed above contain nectar
with red dye. The dye is not necessary, as there is enough red on the
feeder to attract the hummingbirds. So, you can either buy a commercial
nectar mix, or make your own nectar. We do the latter by mixing a ratio
of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar
. The water can be boiled, or hot water
out of the tap. (One could also use room temperature or cold water, but
the sugar will take longer to dissolve compared to hot water.) Stir in
the sugar until it is totally dissolved, and then place in your feeder.
We do not fill up our feeders because we do not have enough hummingbirds
to drain our feeders. We only place enough nectar in the feeders to
last until the next nectar change, as often as every 2-3 days during hot, humid weather or at least every 4-5 days.   Changing the nectar is
necessary, as otherwise, the nectar will become cloudy, sour, and moldy.

The feeders also need to be cleaned. One can purchase different mops and
brushes to clean the feeders. Alternatively, a 10 to 1 mixture of water
and bleach can be used to soak the feeders for approximately 10
minutes. This is very effective at eliminating any mold.

Lastly, it is time to hang your feeders. We place our feeders at
approximately eye level. Place the feeders where you can see them and
enjoy watching nature's flying jewels in your yard. In our opinion, the
more feeders that you have, the more hummingbirds that will be attracted
to your yard. This may not be exceedingly important if one lives in the
country near ideal nesting habitat. For those of us living in the city,
we think that a large number of feeders helps us to see hummingbirds
during most days of the late spring, summer and early fall. At the
height of the fall migration, we maintain over 20 feeders in our yard.

Hummingbird lovers on forums and birding lists are saying the numbers of hummingbirds they are seeing this season are fewer.  Each person has a historical memory of what they have seen in their yard from year to year (we maintain meticulous records on a calendar, but some people are not this formal about it.)  Although our birds arrived later---typically, we see our first bird around May 1 and this year our first hummer arrived on May 13, we found that we have seen more hummingbirds generally and that they have been more consistent from day to day.   We cannot explain this trend (other than living in our home and doing this work for 15 years) and most experts could probably not either.

Master Hummingbird Bander, Nancy Newfield, who lives in Louisiana told us this in mid-May on The Hummingbird Forum:

I can say that returning migrants were a bit tardy this year, but the majority of migrants have already crossed the coast. I did receive a report from the extreme southwestern coast of Louisiana of at least 1 Ruby-throated at a feeder. They do not nest on the immediate coast, so this single individual is surely a tardy migrant.

Still, one cannot look at just a tiny speck on the map of the vast geography where Ruby-throateds nest and think that a snapshot of a single location can give an accurate image of the entirety of a species with perhaps 8,000,000 members. For every living thing, there are 'boom and bust' cycles within the population. These cycles occur in microcosm in different areas at different times, so the entire population remains relatively stable while in various parts of the organisms's ranges, there are seasons of plenty interlaced with seasons of dearth.

Here in Louisiana, I've been banding Ruby-throateds once each week from mid March until mid October at a site north of Lake Pontchartrain for 13 years. Generally, we take a break from the schedule for about a month in mid May because the number of birds is very low and they are difficult to catch at that time. Nesting does not occur at this particular site, but there are nesting hummers within about half a mile of the site.

In those 13 years, we've seen ups and downs in the population. Numbers were definitely higher prior to Hurricane Katrina. There was an horrific loss of trees in and near the subdivision and further, many homeowners removed perfectly healthy trees to protect their homes from future storms. This spring was one of the best springs at that site since the storm.

At my own place in suburban New Orleans, where I've watched and studied hummers since 1975, there is no nearby nesting population. I've come to understand the expected seasonality of occurrences. Northward migration is relatively modest with a few hummers passing through in March and a small, but steady stream of them passing in April. Come early May, I know that there won't be many until after the nesting season. This year, I saw a flush of northbound migrants for about 5 days, beginning on 10 May - and none since.

Many different, unknown factors can affect the numbers of birds we might see. Nearby development may destroy a healthy nesting population. The population cycle may be at a low point. Some natural or man-made catastrophe might have reduced the population itself or the food upon which it depends.

Additionally, the flowering of particularly favored plants just might be luring birds away from feeders and gardens. Here in my area, the flowering of Japanese Honeysuckle Lonicera japonica in mid to late April often reduces the numbers of hummers around feeders.

On the other hand, sometimes observers recall their periods of abundance incorrectly. Often, people remember the vast crowds of late August and September and forget that their population is much smaller in late May and June. If you are still seeing few hummers late in the summer, look at your surroundings to see if there have been significant alterations.”

The weather in Wisconsin and in the Upper Midwest generally was very strange this spring.  Climate change (what the experts are calling it instead of global warming) can definitely affect bird and animal populations, especially hummingbirds who are so dependent on reliable food sources for survival.  We will be most interested in seeing what the fall migration will bring this year.  Do you have an update or experience to share about this topic?  Please e-mail us.


Hummingbirds are very smart and they can remember every flower they have been to, and how long it will take a flower to refill.”  The World of

If you are interested in attracting hummingbirds to your garden, you have upwards of 200 perennial and annual plants and shrubs to choose from.  The key is to have something great in bloom during the entire season that hummingbirds are with us---from early May through mid-October.  Most gardeners (especially those are just beginning) sadly don’t have the experience, time, or resources to grow 100 or more plants in their garden (especially given our difficult climate and short growing season!)  The best way to get started is to identify the best, easiest and most accessible plants and to select a few key plants for each time period of the growing season (late spring, early summer, summer, late summer, and fall)  and then to fill in with well maintained hummingbird feeders.  Below is our effort to provide that information for the Upper Midwest region in an easy to access format (certain shrubs listed are not necessarily hummingbird magnets, but are the best plants that will grow in our climate at that particular time of the year and will be the “foundation” of your garden).  For more information about the plants, please visit our website at or

We noticed today when we were shopping at The Bruce Company in Middleton that they still had some large, beautiful Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ plants for sale for $9.99 that need a good home!


Perennial                                           Annual                           Shrub

Lonicera sempervirens (Trumpet Honeysuckle) (Vine)
Fuchsia triphylla (Honeysuckle Fuchsia)
Cuphea ‘David Verity’
Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’
Wiegela florida


Perennial                                           Annual                           Shrub

Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’
Penstemon barbatus coccineus
(well drained soil)
Aquilegia Canadensis (Columbine)
Fuchsia triphylla
Cuphea ‘David Verity’
Salvia guarantica
Salvia greggii
Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’
Dwarf Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) or Red Buckeye Tree


Perennial                                           Annual                            Shrub

Monarda ‘Jacob Kline’ (Red Bee Balm)
Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed) reseeding annual
Campsis radicans (Trumpet Creeper) (Vine)
Penstemon barbatus coccineus
(well drained soil)
Hosta (mass planting best)
Cuphea ‘David Verity’
Salvia guarantica
Salvia greggii
Nicotiana mutabilis
Salvia coccinea
Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’
Buddleia ‘davidii’ (Butterfly Bush)
Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon)


Perennial                                           Annual                           Shrub

Monarda ‘Jacob Kline’ (Red Bee Balm)
Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed) reseeding annual
Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower)
Agastache rupestris (well drained soil)
Campsis radicans (Trumpet Creeper) (Vine)
Ipomoea coccinea (Wild Red Morning Glory)  (Reseeding Annual Vine)
Cuphea ‘David Verity’
Salvia guarantica
Salvia greggii
Nicotiana mutabilis
Salvia coccinea
Canna indica (Wild canna)
Agastache auranitica (well drained soil)
Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’
Phaseolus coccineus (Scarlet Runner Bean) (Vine)
Buddleia ‘davidii’ (Butterfly Bush)
Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon)


Perennial                                           Annual                          Shrub

Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower)
Ipomoea coccinea (Wild Red Morning Glory)  (Vine)
Cuphea ‘David Verity’
Salvia guarantica
Salvia greggii
Salvia coccinea
Nicotiana mutabilis
Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’
Canna indica (Wild canna)
Buddleia ‘davidii’ (Butterfly Bush)
Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon)



Although we love and are interested in all birds (and feed other birds during the winter), hummingbirds are clearly our passion.  We recently joined a computer listserve group called “The Wisconsin Birding List”.  Seeing the messages posted by members of this group from all over Wisconsin helps us to monitor trends in terms of hummingbirds and other birds we are particularly interested in (for example, we read the messages about the recent Great Gray Owl in Middleton with much excitement and went to see this fabulous bird!)  Recently we posted a summary of what we have been doing with hummingbirds on this list.  Here is the text of this message, which we thought some of you might find to be interesting:

Hummingbird Update:  City of Madison

As some of you know, we are very passionate about attracting hummingbirds to our property in the City of Madison (near westside, near the Hilldale Mall.)  We have made many major changes to our yard over a 15 year period.  When we first moved in, there was not one blooming flower, too much grass, and too much hummingbird/bird unfriendly shrubbery, etc.  Our first year, we saw our first hummingbirds in early August with one feeder and a few flowers.  We have slowly built up over time and are now seeing hummingbirds on just about every day of the season (early May through mid-October) with a sizable showing in late August/early September.  We have done this through the use of many hummingbird feeders and the best plants for hummingbirds on all four sides of our home and a small garden pond with a mister/dripper and a small waterfall (and this pond has brought many interesting migratory birds to our yard.)  When we first began, an employee of a nearby birding store (that has since gone out of business) told us that we would never attract hummingbirds to our yard in our location---we proved him wrong!

A few exciting highlights of our work have been viewing the shuttle flight several seasons, having juvenile hummingbirds hovering right in front of us, and having a hummingbird visiting our yard until November 17 in 2010.  We are still waiting for that Rufous hummingbird to arrive!   We have gone from 1 feeder 15 years ago to 20 feeders every August and September.  We currently have 8 feeders hanging.

This year has been a unique year for hummingbirds and gardening and for birding in general in the Midwest.  Typically, we see our first hummingbird around May 1 with April 30 being our earliest sighting.  This year we did not see our first hummingbird, a female, until May 13 (our first adult male was seen a week later, on May 20).  The first week of viewing was a little sparse, but then after that we found that we were seeing MORE hummingbirds at that time of the year than any other year.  Typically, we would only have one or two sightings of a single bird (although it could have been a different bird---without color marking by a bander, we could not know this for certain)---this year we have seen two hummingbirds simultaneously (sometimes chasing each other) on many days and this amount of activity is unusual for us in May.  Since May 13, we have had at least one hummingbird sighting on all days except for three and this is quite good for us.  The best chance for a sighting is at dawn and dusk, but we are now starting to have sightings at other times of the day too.

In terms of blooming flowers, Lonicera sempervirens is in full bloom, as are Nepeta and Cuphea 'David Verity', and tender salvias are beginning to bloom.  We plant a mixture of native plants and non-invasive exotic plants and this combination seems to work the best for hummingbirds.  For the first time ever, Monarda didyma is lagging behind and it will be interesting to see how hummingbirds will use this key plant this season.

If anyone is interested, you might want to visit our website and view photos from our yard or you might want to pop in for our upcoming Hummingbird Garden Tour on either September 8 or 11.  E-mail me or visit our website for more information.

Enjoy your hummingbirds this season!

Kathi and Michael Rock

To learn more about the Wisconsin Birding List or to join this group, visit the following link: