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.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Which suet to use in spring

Which suet should I use in the spring?

Spring is a time when a lot of birds fly thousands of miles to return to their Michigan nesting grounds. When they reach your yard they are exhausted and looking for a quick high protein meal to help them recover. With some cold days still ahead, expect different warblers, grosbeaks, wrens and your regular woodpeckers to stop by to fuel up on your suet feeder. Another good reason to always keep that feeder full!

To choose a suet that attracts the widest variety of birds, the first ingredient should always be rendered beef suet. Some people feed straight suet only. Straight beef suet will deter starlings and blackbirds at the suet feeder if they become overwhelming. If you want to offer more protein and flavor the next ingredient should usually be peanuts or tree nuts.

Never, never buy suet where milo, oats, wheat, processed grain by-products or artificial flavorings are in the ingredients. These filler ingredients are used to make a cheaper cake but the birds have to pick around and pick out all this filler to reach a little suet.

All of the suets at the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI store are made with only the highest quality processed beef kidney fat. It is the most concentrated source of energy you can offer wild birds. Our best seller is the peanut butter suet cake, which has only three ingredients: rendered beef fat, chopped peanuts and peanut butter.

If you have a problem with squirrels or other wildlife eating your suet try our Hot Pepper Suet. It has rendered beef suet, ground peanuts and capsicum pepper. Capsicum contains capsaicin, a chemical that that doesn’t harm but can produce a strong burning sensation in the mouth of squirrels. Most mammals find this unpleasant, whereas birds are unaffected.

Related Articles:
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/Gmn0b
- Do we stop feeding suet in the summer? http://goo.gl/KM80C
- Best field guide for Michigan birds http://bit.ly/vPOMx1
- Warblers in Michigan http://goo.gl/WMMGs
- Best starling and blackbird resistant suet feeders http://starling-and-blackbird-resistant.html

Monday, March 27, 2017

Brown-headed Cowbird's courtship display

Female Brown-headed Cowbird observing male's courtship display. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Along with the Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles, people are now reporting the arrival of the Brown-headed Cowbird. Cowbirds are interesting birds. Instead of building a nest and raising their own young, they are a brood parasites and lay their eggs in the nests of several host bird species and allow them to foster their babies. The female Cowbirds wander about, laying up to 40 eggs per season (April to June).

Males are the first to arrive. They are a glossy black bird with a brown head and a pointed gray beak. The female soon follows. She is a dull gray/brown bird with lightly colored streaks on their breast, and a pointed gray beak.

Mate selection is controlled by female brown-headed cowbirds. Males court females through fluffed feathers, spread wings displays and perched songs. Almost all populations have more males than females, so females can be choosy. Males tend to be monogamous throughout the breeding season and try to maintain their pair-bond by guarding their female from other males. Females, on the other hand, tend to be promiscuous. There appears to be no reproductive advantage to mating with only one male as males do not provide food, nesting resources, protection from predation or parental care. Mating with more than one male is beneficial to a female's reproductive success, increasing the gene pool of her offspring. Males that are not in a pair-bond may mate with unguarded females, often when the female's mate is foraging. Video of courtship display: https://youtu.be/CcKvgMbjqXU
Source: http://animaldiversity.org/cowbirds
Related Articles:
- Brown-headed Cowbird: Scapegoat for humans’ bad behavior http://cowbird-and humans.html 

- How Do Cowbirds Learn to Sing? http://goo.gl/Y9HNDM
- How young cowbirds know they're cowbirds http://goo.gl/Jgmavd
- More about Cowbirds http://goo.gl/b1PkOd
- If cowbirds were in the summer Olympics http://goo.gl/Rajjtf

- Brown-headed Cowbirds scout for nests http:/cowbirds-scout-for-nests.html 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Photo Share: and in NJ?!

This one is new to me. At first quick look, I thought I had a sick bird with yellow stuff on its tail. I am pretty sure I have never seen these in NJ. They LOVE berries, and apparently the same ones they like out your way. Thanks for your post!
Cedar Waxwings are one of my favorite birds! Mostly frugivorous or fruit eater, they will perch on a branch and pluck berries or hover in the air and grab berries. If the berries have fermented, the birds can actually get drunk. But their digestive systems are quick and the seeds of berries are eliminated within 45 minutes.

You might hear the waxwings before you see them. They have a very distinctive thin, high-pitched warbled "zeee" or "zeeet" call that is hard to forget. They travel in flocks of 40 or more birds and often will appear in a spot with a good crop of berries. When they have eaten all the berries, they move on.

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 Friday Photo posts.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

DIY Upside Down Suet Feeder: Starling Stumper

I live in Canada and I was wondering where I can get an UPSIDE-DOWN SUET FEEDER .... Never seen one of these...
Most specialty bird stores like Wild Birds Unlimited have Upside down Suet feeders but you can also convert your own suet feeder. We have a hook with three chains that attach to an existing suet feeder called the Starling Stumper that makes it easy. This allows you to hang your basic suet cage sideways. But if you can’t find the Starling Stumper chain you can use hooks or chains to hang your suet cage so that the weight of the feeder is balanced and the feeder hangs level horizontally.

 Peel off the top of the suet package but leave the plastic container on and place it in the cage so that the opening faces downward. Suet eating birds such as woodpeckers, nuthatches and chickadees are comfortable clinging underneath to feed upside down. Blackbirds can’t poke through the plastic carton on top and can’t cling to the bottom of the cage to feed. This is a quick fix to keep the voracious blackbirds from eating all your suet.

Related Articles:
Caged suet keep grackles away from bird suet feeders http://keep-grackles-away-from-bird.html
How to get rid of unwanted visitors http://get-rid-of-unwanted-visitors.html
How to keep starlings away from the bird feeders http://keep-starlings-away-from-bird.html
How Do You Keep Doves From Dominating a Feeder? http://keep-doves-from-dominating.html

Friday, March 24, 2017

Photo Share: Beauty and The BEAST!

The Beast is a new indestructible suet feeder! Dan Panetti, the owner of the Mequon, Wisconsin Wild Birds Unlimited store introduced us to The Beast a few months ago. He sent me some OUTSTANDING photographs of all The Beauties he's attracted to The Beast suet feeder.
Why is it called The Beast? Once you pick it up, it's self explanatory. There is no critter in the backyard that can destroy it. Dan even took this picture: "Here's a photo you can use in your store which serves as a testimonial to it's strength and durability. (You really need the right Knucklehead truck driver to pull this off)"
Thank you for sharing your photos! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Recycled plastic wren house

They are so popular it's hard to keep them on the shelf. Our high quality EcoTough™  Wren or Chickadee bird house allows for proper drainage and ventilation to keep the nest and babies dry and has an ideal floor size and entrance hole for wrens and chickadees. It also includes our two-way opening system. The side opens for clean-out, and the roof opens for peeking into the nest.

EcoTough feeders and houses are environmentally friendly, high quality products that are made from recycled plastic milk jugs. These feeders are made in Wisconsin, USA. EcoTough feeders and houses won't rot, crack, fade or warp like wood can. They also come with limited lifetime guarantees. Complement your bird house with a complete bird habitat!

Related Articles:
5 things to make setting up a bird house easier http://5-things-setting-up-bird-house.html

Wild Birds Unlimited Advanced Pole System http://bit.ly/rJulFz
Wild Birds Unlimited EcoTough® Classic Hopper Feeders http://bit.ly/rpd6Cx
Wild Birds Unlimited EcoTough® Tail Prop Suet Feeder http://bit.ly/s5cNe7
Wild Birds Unlimited EcoTough® Upside Down Suet Feeder http://bit.ly/sbYFZn

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When birds eat from feeders

You can feed birds year-round. I love my winter birds. The puffed up chickadee, the brilliant red cardinal and the drab but sunny songed goldfinches entertain me during the long cold months.

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Headbanging birds

There are varied signs of spring: migrating birds passing through, new songs in the air, and the earth slowly waking up from its long winter nap. And there is another sign that is just as predictable which you may have noticed, the bird battles.

This morning a few sparrows were streaking across the sky in a chattering air battle. The testosterone levels in male birds is up in the spring, territories are being determined, and battles break out. House sparrows chasing each other or in a seemingly endless wrestling match is not uncommon. It’s usually a bloodless battle that ends when they are distracted or one bird taps out.

Cardinals and Robins are also choosing their nesting territory. Their winged battles are usually short lived with a clear winner decided. The exception is when they spot a competitor that is about the same size and coloring. I’m already getting calls about cardinals and robins attacking their reflection in the window. This is also a territorial behavior.

They are usually unattached birds without a mate to direct them in a productive direction. Most birds do stop after a couple weeks of window pounding in the spring, but it's better to try and deter the birds just in case it turns out to be an action that is performed so often that it becomes almost an involuntary response.

Some tips to deter bird window attacks:

• Cover the window with screens
• Shut the blinds on your windows when you are not at home and at night.
• Rub the window with a bar of soap or squirt with liquid soap to decrease the reflection.
• Hang balloons or Flutter Scare tape.* Anything that moves and repels the bird from that area will be effective.
• Post a spider web window cling outside a window.* The image of a sticky web will keep birds from flying towards your window.
• Install a window feeder.* This breaks the reflection and other birds interrupt the birds battles with himself.

*Available at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI

Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring Birds of Michigan

Spring is here officially! With spring’s arrival, the pace of migrants returning increases with swallows, killdeer, blackbirds, and sparrows. Long distance travelers like the orioles and hummingbirds are on the move but still way down south.

Orioles usually hit my mid-Michigan feeder at the beginning of May with a big song and dance. I'll put my feeder up on the window at the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store by mid-April just in case he arrives early. You can watch their journey north on a fist sighting map:  http://www.learner.org/jnorth/maps/

I also put up my hummingbird feeder mid-April. You can track the migration of the Ruby-throated hummingbird on www.hummingbirds.net.


The hummingbirds we see in April probably won’t stick around but continue on to nest in the Upper Peninsula or Canada. The hummingbirds that choose to nest in our area (the regulars) usually arrive by Mothers Day, the second Sunday in May.
 
Related Articles: 
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/FQ9iGc
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/FQ9kxU
How Do I Keep Bees Off My Hummingbird Feeder? http://bit.ly/Aj07oq
Facts on the Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GzSTbi
Where do orioles winter? http://bit.ly/GAeWv5  
Favorite Oriole feeders http://t.co/OjG4Lz4

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Gray Fox in Michigan

We had a Gray Fox visit our bird feeder at dawn! He was tiny. Maybe a little over a foot high and two feet long including his fluffy tail. In Michigan we have the Gray and Red Foxes. Red is spotted more often but that may be because the gray blends in so well with the surroundings. I only spotted him because I saw fast motion from the pond to the feeder and then a head that made jerky, secretive back and forth motions. As the sun rose I could see he was working slowly and deliberately, on a seed block but paused frequently to scan the yard. He blended in perfectly with the trunks of the trees.

With more light I could see a little red around the neck but he was mostly gray. The gray fox has pale feet and legs, and a black tipped tail. The red fox, of course, is redder and has black stocking feet and a white tipped tail.

According to http://www.biokids.umich.edu: "Gray foxes breed once a year in March. Both male and female gray foxes take care of their offspring. Before birth, males do the majority of hunting, and females look for and prepare a den. Females nurse their young for 2 to 3 weeks. Pups begin eating solid food around 3 weeks of age, and this food is mainly provided by the father. Parents teach pups how to hunt at around 4 months of age. Until then, both parents hunt for food separately, and pups practice their hunting skills by pouncing and stalking, which is primarily taught by the father. Pups depend on their parents for defense until about 10 months of age. At this point, they are capable of reproducing and they leave their parents."

Gray foxes are omnivorous. They prey on small vertebrates, and also consume fruit and invertebrates. In my yard he seemed to be interested in the nuts. (And maybe that is why I haven't seen any bunnies lately.)

Gray foxes prefer to live in deciduous forests interspersed with brushy, woodland areas. But with more areas being developed, animals are being forced to share human territories more and more.

Related Articles:
- Red Fox in the neighborhood http://goo.gl/u0CUqc
- How many species of squirrels are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/yYt6Nb
- Black Squirrel History & Facts http://bit.ly/AxiqPz
- Do opossums hibernate during winter? http://bit.ly/u4ORP6
- Do skunks hibernate? http://bit.ly/xVKDXP