About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Identify bluebird nest

With the approach of spring the Eastern Bluebirds are beginning to search actively for places to nest. If you live in the country, near an open field or around a golf course that has open spaces and trees, you have a very good chance of attracting a nesting pair of bluebirds to your property.
Modified from nabluebirdsociety.org

Eastern Bluebirds are cavity nesters and prefer to nest in abandoned woodpecker nests or tree hollows. However bluebirds natural habitats have been reduced and old tree snags eliminated. That's where birdhouses come in by setting up a man-made tree hollow (also know as birdhouse or nestbox).

Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI has several styles of functional bird houses that help Eastern Bluebirds or perhaps a Tree Swallows find a place to nest.

And if you live in the suburbs a “bluebird” box could also house some other common backyard birds like the House Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, House Wrens, and Carolina Wrens.

Related Articles:
Ultimate Bluebird House http://bit.ly/xeGs0e
Feeding and Raising Bluebirds http://bit.ly/A39dAh
How to Protect My Bluebird House http://bit.ly/zI48Ts
5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses http://bit.ly/yNT6Ye
When is the best time to put up a bird house? http://bit.ly/yAI123
Bluebird House Designs http://bit.ly/w7FWRE

Sunday, March 24, 2019

You can feed birds year-round

I love to feed birds year-round. Some of my favorite winter birds include the puffed up chickadee, the brilliant red cardinal, and the drab but sunny-songed goldfinches. They all brighten the long cold winter days.

But I can’t wait to put out extra plates for the spring and summer birds; Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, wrens, hummingbirds, orioles, Song and Chipping Sparrows to name just a few. My reward is the extra bright songs and colors right outside my window.

Birds don't take a Spring Break. It is the hardest time for them to find food as many prime food sources are depleted. Bird feeders provide an easy source for birds after a long winter or arduous migration. Many birds migrating to their nesting grounds may see yards with lots of bird activity as a safe stop-over point. The numbers and variety of birds appearing in your yard can actually change every morning all the way to the end of May as species such as warblers, vireos, tanagers, gnatcatchers, kinglets and sparrows all migrate north.

In the spring, birds have a long “to-do” list and a short time to accomplish it. They claim territory, seek out mates, build nests and begin to raise their young. With so many birds arriving there’s a lot of competition. Offering foods makes everything a little easier to accomplish.

Birds that have survived winter in good health are best suited for getting reproduction going as soon as possible. A wide variety of studies have shown that providing supplemental foods permits birds to begin reproduction earlier with better success. The additional food helps them have more eggs per nest, bigger eggs, better hatchability, faster nestling growth, and lower nestling mortality. Feeding is especially helpful in years when storms and other natural disasters happen.

Backyard bird watchers can enjoy a variety of birds up close and wait eagerly for the new babies to arrive at the feeders and baths. In the summer, even if there is a lot of food available for birds, believe me, energy requirements are high when you have many mouths to feed and sometimes they just appreciate a night out at the feeders.

Related Articles:
What seed is best for attracting the colorful birds? http://goo.gl/SAA35
What are the differences between the Wild Birds Unlimited seed blends? http://goo.gl/lF0rr
What seeds do wild birds eat? http://goo.gl/MjUCA
When should I feed the birds? http://goo.gl/IvocS

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Make your yard inviting for robins

In early spring American Robins are looking around for the best neighborhood to start their families. There a few steps you can take to make your yard more attractive.

Things you can do to attract American Robins.
1. Water - A clean bath full of fresh water is a good way to draw robins to the yard. Water is a powerful attraction and will increase the number and variety of birds visiting your yard.

2. Food - You can feed robins chopped apples, suet, mealworms, or nuts on a tray feeder. I like to put out a Wild Birds Unlimited bugs, nuts, and berries seed cylinder that is full of pecans and fruit when the robins visit.

3. Landscape - For roosting and nesting, robins like evergreens and they like to eat a variety of fruits and nuts in the winter. Some fruit and nut trees are pecans, walnuts, acorns, apples, cherries, and dogwood fruit from trees and the berries of blackberries, blueberries, greenbrier, honeysuckle, juneberries, juniper, madrone, mountain ash, mulberry, pokeberry, pyracantha, raspberry, sassafras, serviceberry, spiceberry, sumac, viburnum, and woodbine.

4. Nesting material - The American Robins choose their Michigan nesting territories in March and they are excited to start nesting. That means they need a lot of Nesting Material like grasses and mud to build the perfect nest. The nest is usually located 5 to 15 feet above ground in a dense bush or evergreen, in the crotch of a tree, or on window ledges or other human shelves. Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI also has nesting platforms.  Mount the shelf on a building in a sheltered site, under the eaves or soffits, or over a light fixture.

5. Chemical free lawn - In the spring the robins' diet changes from mostly fruit, nuts and berries to insects and worms. According to the (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center, many birds die each year from landscape pesticides, when they eat pesticide granules or eat poisoned insects. To reduce or eliminate your use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides use disease- and pest-resistant plants, cultivate native plant species, and reduce the lawn area. If you manage your yard naturally, you can increase natural insect predators like ladybugs, praying mantises, frogs, toads and of course birds. Leaf mulches and compost also add nutrients to soil and eliminate the need for weed killers and fertilizers.

Related Articles:

Why are the Robins Attracted to Water? http://bit.ly/qP9aTs
Fledgling Robins Find Their Way http://bit.ly/pqrhSL
Fun Facts About The American Robin http://bit.ly/n9CSni
Bird of the Week: American Robin http://bit.ly/pnUKqk
Why robins are called Robin  http://why-robins-are-called-robin.html

Friday, March 22, 2019

Killdeer arrive

Another sure sign of spring is the call of the Killdeer. Killdeer are a shorebird you can see without going to the beach. Every year we have one nesting in the runoff ditch across the street from the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing. You usually hear their familiar Kill-deer call before you see them, especially if you aren't expecting to see them on the edge of a parking lot.

Killdeer are surprisingly unobtrusive even with their yellow legs, white belly, two black necklaces and a brown face marked with black and white patches. They spend their time walking along the ground or running ahead a few steps, stopping to look around, and running on again as they look for earthworms, snails, crayfish, grasshoppers, beetles, and aquatic insect larvae.

Killdeer that breed in the southern half of the US and along the Pacific Coast are year-round residents. But those that breed in the northern US and Canada, where winter conditions are more severe, winter in Gulf and Atlantic states. In the new year, migrating killdeer arrive in Michigan early March, with peak numbers in last 3 weeks of March. In Michigan, egg-laying begins in late April and continues through June. In most northern areas, one brood is normal and second or third nesting attempts usually happen because of a failure of earlier efforts. By the end of October most have returned south.
Related Articles: https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/414948
- Killdeer nest abandoned http://goo.gl/qNkf3w
- What bird makes a ground nest in Michigan? http://goo.gl/2yc02
- What Do I Feed Baby Killdeer? http://goo.gl/fXiYD
- Nesting Questions http://goo.gl/pNt7V

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Photo Share: Seeing Double Pileated

Captured this in our backyard in Bath. First time seeing Pileated Woodpeckers! And two! I've since been able to witness the pair fly from tree to tree in our back woods twice now. Hoping they stick around for more sightings! Enjoy!
 Thank you for sharing your photos! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com and I'll put it on the Photo Share posts. 

Related Articles:
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
- Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX
- How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/tJ7e6S 

- Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/tQ5lwt
- How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Supermoon gets birds excited for spring!

Early this morning I started on my way to Wild Birds Unlimited and was treated by this morning's full moon, on the first day of spring, accentuated by robin calls! Full moons that fall on the first day of spring happen only about three times a century and hasn’t happened since March 20, 1981.

It’s also a supermoon, third of 3 consecutive supermoons in the first quarter of 2019 and the final supermoon this year. All that extra light is getting the birds super excited. Robins tend to break their silence more than an hour earlier with the extra light.

The dawn chorus is when birds sing louder, livelier, and more frequently. It’s mostly of male birds, attempting to attract mates and warn other males away from their territories. Singing loud and proud first thing in the morning tells everyone within hearing distance that you were strong and healthy enough to survive the night. This is attractive to potential mates, and lets your competitors know you’re still around and in charge of your territory. Also dawn songs are clearer and more consistent, which allows individual males’ signature songs to be identified easily by their bird neighbors.

Later in the spring, when males sing while the female songbirds lay their eggs in early morning it may reinforce the bond with the female, and dissuade other males from jumping into the nest. 

Related Articles:
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/H42e6s
- What seeds wild birds eat http://goo.gl/Un35yR
- What to do if you have soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
- Early birds also get the best mates http://early-birds-also-get-best-mates.html

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

House Wrens migrating

When do wrens arrive in the Chicago area in the spring?
Most House Wrens in North America migrate to the southern U.S. and Mexico for winter by October. They usually return to their Northern nesting territories from the end of April until the end of May. They want to get here as early as possible to set up house but a lot depends on the cooperation of the winds and weather.

If you go to http://ebird.org/ you can explore data using range and point maps to see if anyone has reported sighting House Wrens. I put in House Wren and the date range for March of this year and saw that most reports are still in the southern states. My results are at: https://ebird.org/map/housewren2019

Related Articles:
- Do the same House Wrens nest in the same house every year? http://bit.ly/uDBbIb
- Quick Fun Facts on Wrens http://bit.ly/v5XVoU
- Hanging & Placement of Wren Bird Houses http://bit.ly/rBLsGQ
- The best suet for wild birds http://goo.gl/yY7bGt
- House Wren vs. Carolina Wren https://house-wren-vs-carolina-wren.html

Monday, March 18, 2019

Common cavity nesters

Why don't all birds nest in bird houses or natural cavities?

Over 80 species of North American birds excavate nesting holes with their bill, use natural tree cavities, re-use holes created by other species or utilize bird houses. Chickadees, woodpeckers, bluebirds, swallows, wrens, nuthatches, sparrows, and owls are just a few of the birds that use birdhouses to keep warm in the winter and build nests in come spring.

It seems like a good idea during the cold winters or rainy springs to have a cozy shelter. In reality many species of cavity-nesting birds have declined because of habitat reduction. Manicured suburbs have few dead trees and in the eastern United States, where primeval forests are gone some birds like Eastern Bluebirds and Purple Martins depend almost entirely on man-made houses. You can help birds to nest in your backyard by providing bird houses.

Other birds like cardinals, jays, doves, juncos, robins, and finches roost and nest in dense brush, bushes, or trees. You can still help them nest by providing quality food and nesting materials.

Related Articles:
How to get birds to nest in your yard https:/Get-birds-to-nest-in-your-yard.html
How do you know when a nest is abandoned? http://bit.ly/usMPY8
Goldfinches: The Last Birds Nesting http://bit.ly/sqafTq
Common Backyard Bird Nest Identification http://bit.ly/sVfipj
Common Bird House Problems http://bit.ly/wrWzyN
Which Way Do You Face a Birdhouse? http://bit.ly/AD43TW 
DO NOT Collect Dryer Lint for the birds to use as nesting material! http://bit.ly/wC5HcO

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Photo Share: Female cardinal

The Northern Cardinal is a favorite backyard bird of many people not only for their coloring but also the demonstrative courtship displays they perform to strengthen their bond in the spring. Cardinals live well next to humans and are found in residential areas all over mid-Michigan. Cardinals prefer to feed on the ground so if you can "raise the ground" by feeding cardinals on tray feeders, hopper feeders or any feeder that gives them a comfortable feeding position they'll be happy. Their favorite food is oil sunflower, nuts, safflower and seed cylinders. Wild Birds Unlimited has a wide variety of cardinal friendly food and feeders.

They are also attracted to fruit and berry producing trees and bushes. And my cardinals love the honeysuckle vine to build a nest. They are not cavity nesters so they don't want a bird house. They prefer to build their own nests in the lower part of dense evergreen or vines. The female builds a cup-shaped nest with twigs, strips of bark, and grass, and is lined with leaves, cottons, or hair. Nesting Materials placed in trees or bushes close by will allow you to observe a part of nest construction!

Related Articles:
How to get birds to nest in your yard https:/Get-birds-to-nest-in-your-yard.html
How do you know when a nest is abandoned? http://bit.ly/usMPY8
Goldfinches: The Last Birds Nesting http://bit.ly/sqafTq
Common Backyard Bird Nest Identification http://bit.ly/sVfipj
Common Bird House Problems http://bit.ly/wrWzyN
Which Way Do You Face a Birdhouse? http://bit.ly/AD43TW 
DO NOT Collect Dryer Lint for the birds to use as nesting material! http://bit.ly/wC5HcO

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Tips to deter blackbirds from mobbing the feeder

I was hoping you can offer some advice on an ongoing spring problem in our yard. The blackbirds and starlings have started landing enmasse as I'm sure we are on their flight path after 25 years of feeding birds. I don't mind that they clean up areas under our feeders that have accumulated over the winter but they empty our feeders quickly and our resident birds get nothing. I have a number of niger feeders that they can't get on but our chickadees, sparrows, cardinals etc get chased away. Do you have any advice? We stop putting food out in the bigger feeders but see our regular birds looking so forlorn, it is heartbreaking. How long will it take for them to move on if we stop feeding them? Thank you.
I love it when the feeders are mobbed by the big, loud, blackbirds and starlings in the beginning of the year. They’re all excited! Unfortunately most of the bugs (their favorite summer food) haven’t
appeared yet and March means slim pickings for a lot of birds. So they turn to feasting at your feeders. And while I love all the activity, I know many people worry about the other birds they have been feeding all winter being pushed around. I've compiled some tips to deter the starlings and blackbirds, but still attract cardinals, chickadees, finches, and all the other less boisterous backyard birds.

Feeder Choices
  • Squirrel Buster Plus- This feeder is guaranteed Squirrel and large bird proof. You can exclude large nuisance birds with this feeder by rolling in the perches to make them short. You can also adjust the tension on the spring mechanism to have the feeder ports shut when large birds land. Blackbirds weigh twice as much as cardinals.
  • Upside Down Suet Feeder- a feeder that dispenses suet from the bottom doesn’t phase a woodpecker but will deter most blackbirds.
  • Finch Feeders- I’ve never had a problem with the blackbirds on any finch feeders that are filled with straight nyger thistle seed.
Food Choices
  • Use pure beef suet with no seeds
  • Switch to straight safflower seed: Start by offering safflower gradually, mixing it with the seed you currently use. Over time increase the amount of safflower until you are feeding straight safflower. The seed looks and tastes different from other bird seed, so it may take your birds some time to adjust. Safflower is a small, white seed that is high in protein and fat. Many favorite backyard birds - including jays, cardinals, chickadees, finches, doves, woodpeckers, titmice and nuthatches- savor safflower. Blackbirds, starlings, and squirrels typically refuse to eat safflower seed.
Related Articles:
· What are those birds that sit on the wires? http://bit.ly/y608rz
· Fun Facts About European Starlings http://bit.ly/rSQtFD
· How do thousands of European Starlings fly without colliding? http://bit.ly/vwM3Ra
· What birds like Safflower seed? http://bit.ly/w3ZBGa
· What do grackles eat? http://bit.ly/xBhX3j

Friday, March 15, 2019

Help prevent bug bites

As the weather starts to warm, the bugs will come out, which is a good thing for hungry birds and a not so good thing for birdwatchers on a walk. You can wear long sleeves, or rub your arms with catnip to repel biting insects. And now new research reveals that a black and white striped jacket may also dazzle flies enough to not bite.

Scientists learned in recent years that zebras have black and white stripes to avoid biting flies. And a study published in February in the journal PLOS ONE went even further to discover that stripes actually disrupt a biting fly’s ability to land on a zebra and suck its blood.

Related Articles: https://youtu.be/JyDa8SQ0l3I
My Favorite Weed: All About Catnip https:/my-favorite-weed-all-about-catnip.html
Stink Bugs: Large brown shield-shaped bugs https://stink-bugs.html
Are Bluebirds Attracted to Blue? https://bluebirds-attracted-to-blue.html
Reasons to Serve Dried Mealworms https:/serve-dried-mealworms.html