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.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

An owl can also “hear” the height of a sound

Most birds have eyes at each side of their head. They see a different scene with each eye. But an owl’s eyes are at the front of its head. The owl sees the same scene with both eyes, just as a human does. However, an owl cannot move its eyes in their sockets. In order to see what is beside or behind it, the owl turns its whole head.

An owl's neck has 14 vertebrae, which is twice as many as humans. This allows the owl to turn its head up to 270 degrees left or right from the forward facing position. An owl cannot turn its head full circle as is the common belief.

The stiff feathers around the owls’ eyes act a lot like dish antennas. They reflect sound toward the ear openings. If the sound is louder in one ear than in the other, this tells the owl that the animal is closer on that side. The owl turns its head until the sound is equally loud in both ears. Then it knows it is facing the animal.

An owl can also “hear” the height of a sound. It turns and tilts its head until it gets a perfect “fix.” They hunt mainly for small animals that creep on the ground, and can even locate by sound those animals hiding under snow. 

Related Articles:
Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/t6elFd
Amazing Vocals of the Barred Owl http://bit.ly/sguMqL
Do Bluebirds Cough Up Pellets Similar to Owls? http://bit.ly/t3Gu0D
Small Michigan Owl Visits Neighborhood http://bit.ly/tlzaoN Fall Trees Reveal Their Secrets: Screech Owl peek-a-boo http://bit.ly/uC91a5

Friday, October 31, 2014

Photo Share: Chilling bird photos

Pictures of WBU feeders last winter - Anka

Thank you for sharing your photos of the last winter. They sent a chill down my spine. They are perfect to post on this Friday's Photo share for Halloween. - Sarah
 If anyone would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The spider is another animal linked to #Halloween

“Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly,
 'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
  The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
   And I've a many curious things to shew when you are there.”

“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “to ask me is in vain,
 For who goes up your winding stair
  -can ne'er come down again.
~by Mary Howitt,
My neighbor has a giant fake spider hanging by the front door and cotton webbing in the bushes to scare all the trick-or-treaters but it does the real spiders no justice. Spider webs have existed for at least 100 million years.

Spiders produce silk from their spinneret glands located at the tip of their abdomen. Each gland produces a thread for a special purpose – for example a trailed safety line, sticky silk for trapping prey or fine silk for wrapping it.

Webs allow a spider to catch prey without having to go out and forage. However, constructing the web itself costs them a lot of energy because of the large amount of protein required, in the form of silk. It is common for spiders to eat their own web daily to recoup some of the energy used in spinning.

Spiders have always been associated with witches and Halloween. Many superstitions and myths have been handed down for generations and linger on to this day.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Related Articles:
Myths surrounding owls http://goo.gl/A8lL3w
The origin of pumpkins and Jack O'Lanterns http://goo.gl/vH4FqL
Share the fall harvest with the birds http://goo.gl/0CMJr8
Photo Share: Mother Nature's clean up crew http://goo.gl/9RQnEG

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Black cats are good luck

J.B. is solar powered.
October 29th is National Cat Appreciation Day. At the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, Michigan, JB will be celebrating with a special treat of course. He really enjoys sunning himself under the window feeder and trimming his cat nip plant (Thank you Holly for these special plants).

Happy Cat Day to me! Where's my treat!
Black cats are a classic Halloween symbol, and objects of superstition. In Medieval France and Spain, black cats were considered bringers of bad luck and curses to any human they came near, and were associated with witchcraft. Many Medieval Germans believed themselves to be cursed if a black cat crossed their path from left to right.

Black cats, however, have also served as symbols of good luck in numerous cultures. In the British Islands, black cats are often believed to bring wealth to any house they occupied. In Japan, they are also considered to bring good luck. And in Ancient Egypt, black cats were worshiped as sacred.

Source: How Black Cats Came To Halloween

Related Articles:
My Favorite Weed: All About Catnip http://goo.gl/txqoL
The Trials of Living in a Bird Store http://goo.gl/1hzvES
Cats Indoors! http://goo.gl/B64Go
Do You Take Your Cats Home at Night? http://goo.gl/gm8mP
A window feeder is the best way to entertain indoor cats http://goo.gl/iWHHo

Monday, October 27, 2014

Why blackbirds are a sign of impending bad luck

Why are birds with black plumage the subject of so many unpleasant stories and superstitions all over the world?

The only conclusion that I can come to is because a lot of these black colored birds are clever enough to out smart people. Crows, Grackles, and Starlings are very intelligent birds and tend to work together in family groups to get what they want and what they want is a lot of food generally.

When they go after birdseed we’ve designated for Cardinals only there is always a problem. They can empty a feeder in a day and a suet feeder in minutes. But that doesn’t mean they are any less deserving.

I wonder if they were brilliant red or indigo blue if they would be more loved or excused of their “bad habits"? Most of the black colored birds aren’t beautiful songster either, but they can learn to imitate human speech. Although that didn't help the image of the bird in Edgar Allen Poe's poem "The Raven".

Most blackbirds are also good scavengers and clean up many road kills or garbage littering the roads. In the fall you can watch them gather in large roosts. This sometimes includes millions of birds that blanket groups of trees or fly in intricate patterns across the sky.

Now that Halloween is approaching let's look again at our black feathered friends and see if we can find something nice to say about the much maligned black birds.

Related Articles:
Myths surrounding owls http://goo.gl/A8lL3w
The origin of pumpkins and Jack O'Lanterns http://goo.gl/vH4FqL
Share the fall harvest with the birds http://goo.gl/0CMJr8
Photo Share: Mother Nature's clean up crew http://goo.gl/9RQnEG

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Myths surrounding owls

The variety of myths surrounding owls range from the idea that they bring bad luck, announce death, or take away souls, to the belief that they provide cures for ailments, ward off evil spirits, and guide the dead on their journeys. Many superstitions persist to this day.

In autumn there are a lot of first year owls that leave their parents and move to new territories. Inexperienced young birds that make swoop downs on unsuspecting nighttime travelers walking a dark and lonely road can make the beginning of a great story.
The turning head, glowing eyes, silent flight, night hunting, and cackling like an otherworldly creature also helped make the owl a part of our Halloween traditions.
Today however, when we think of owls we know they are a beautiful and valuable asset to the natural ecology feeding on rodents, insects, frogs, lizards, and birds. We can study and admire their silent flight, incredible eyesight and hearing, and their ability to almost completely turn their heads around.
Related Articles:
- Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/t6elFd
- Amazing Vocals of the Barred Owl http://bit.ly/sguMqL
- Snowy Owls http://bit.ly/ylJmQq
- Eastern Screech Owl http://bit.ly/wMQBZj   
- Great Horned Owl http://bit.ly/zmlFqY
- Great Gray Owl http://bit.ly/tAewYm  
- Long-eared Owl http://goo.gl/qGgbju

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tufted Titmouse: Not shy but introverted

As cold weather moves in and the active bug population decreases we get to see more sightings of the Tufted Titmice at the feeders! This self-contained little bird is often found foraging with flocks of chickadees during the winter months. They do not migrate extensively. In fact most live their entire lives within a few miles of their birthplace.

The big black doll eyes of this small gray bird make them irresistible. They are attracted mainly to feeders that offer suet, nuts or sunflower seeds. If you have sharp eyes you may spot them as they slide by unnoticed among the branches of the trees and hanging upside down while searching beneath twigs for insects.  

Males are dominant over females and they form pairs that persist until the death of one of the mates. The titmouse family bond is so strong that the young from one breeding season will often stay with their parents long enough to help them with nesting and feeding duties the following year.

Tit is an old English word meaning little and mase meant small bird. The name titmase morphed eventually into titmouse. This was probably because the bird's coloring does sort of remind people of a small mouse. But actually the meaning of the name Titmouse is small, little bird.

Related Articles:
Bird of the Week: Small gray and white bird with tuft http://goo.gl/6dRVfF
Tufted Titmouse’s song is a fast-repeated, clear whistle http://goo.gl/cF55yP
Titmice Fun Facts http://goo.gl/nggZtM
Why offer peanuts to birds http://goo.gl/QK4t7K

Friday, October 24, 2014

How bug eating birds survive the winter

Chickadee rides a flower head while examining it for seeds
From sunrise to sunset, the chickadee spends most of its time feeding. The natural diet of the Black-capped Chickadee consists of 50% insects, insect eggs, larvae and pupae, as well as spiders, and 50% seeds and berries in the winter. Every time I fill the feeder, little woodpeckers, nuthatches and chickadees are around to let me know they are doing their best to reach the end of my bottomless buffet of birdseed.

Goldenrod Gall
Birds are excellent food foragers. They don’t need a feeder to survive normally, but I enjoy watching them up close, so I provide them with ample seeds and suets. I also provide them with lots of trees, bushes, flowers, and vines that produce fruits, nuts and berries.

Bugs and bug larvae are also hidden but available if you know where to look. Sometimes they are buried in the fallen leaves or in the crevices of tree bark. Another tasty treat for bug eating birds is the Goldenrod Gall Fly larva. You may have noticed golf ball sized growths on dried goldenrod stems. Did you think maybe it was some weird seed pod development? It’s actually a spherical gall bed for larva to develop.

The female Goldenrod Gall Fly lays her eggs on young goldenrod stems in the spring. In about 10 days the eggs hatch and larva burrows down into the plant stem. The larva's saliva, which is thought to mimic plant hormones, results in the plant producing exaggerated plant growth or galls to provide the larva with both food and protection over the winter.

Woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice and nuthatches can peck into the galls to extract the tasty and energy rich larva inside. In some areas, it can be a very important food source for birds.

Related Articles:
- Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/pXv5ZN
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/nImz5g
- How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh
- How to Prepare Your Yard for Winter Birdwatching http://bit.ly/q93Men 
- What is the best bird feeder? http://bit.ly/qVr7i8

Photo Share: Eastern Bluebirds and the last hummingbird

Here are some pics for you...

Thank you for sharing. If anyone would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Photo Share: Fall Colors

We went on a canoe ride in Lansing, MI last Sunday. The colors were beautiful! We also saw wood ducks, herons, turtles, deer, salmon and lots of other stuff.

Thank you for sharing. If anyone would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How to select the best bird seed

I'm feeding No-mess bird seed. Is that the best blend for winter?

No-mess is the only blend I use personally and Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess bird seed is our most popular blend with our customers by far. I have to order so much that it is sometimes hard to find a place to stack the extra tonnage on the floor.

No-Mess Blend is unique because it features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds make for a tidier feeding area, since there's no debris on the ground to clean up. The first ingredient in the No-Mess blend is sunflower seed with the hulls removed, then peanut pieces, and finally a little millet, also with the hulls removed. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything.

Food is essential to provide birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition to endure the elements. An ample supply of fresh high-calorie foods is crucial to a bird's survival. All our Wild Birds Unlimited seed blends have been formulated regionally to provide the most nutritious food for your birds.

The first ingredient in our top 4 seed blends is sunflower seed. Oil Sunflower seed is the favorite of most of the backyard seed eating birds and I always like it to be the first ingredient in my bird seed blend. Choice, Supreme, and Deluxe all have oil sunflower, striped sunflower, safflower, and sunflower chips. Deluxe also has white proso millet to attract the ground feeding birds like the juncos, sparrows, and doves.

Choice is the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing’s second most popular blend. It has peanut pieces in the mix. Now when I tell that to most people they say, “oh, no that will attract squirrels”, but the peanuts in the mix are for the birds. Lots of bug eating birds like the woodpeckers, jays, wrens, chickadees, and nuthatches love to pick out the peanuts. Peanuts have a high calorie/ounce ratio due to its high fat and protein content. Lots of interesting birds love peanuts.

Each of our blends is mixed to attract the widest variety of birds that live in our area. We do not include cheap filler grains like oats, wheat and milo that decrease the price per pound of a mix but aren't eaten by the birds in Michigan. Therefore, there is no wasted seed. Wild Birds Unlimited blends actually end up costing less to use while attracting more of the birds that you want to watch.

Related Articles:
What birds like peanuts? http://bit.ly/zispJK
What seeds do wild birds eat? http://bit.ly/wKyQNB
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/xbkaPP
Why pay more for seed at Wild Birds Unlimited? http://bit.ly/xJZMFe
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh