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.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Help the birds nesting in your yard

You will begin to see a lot of new faces at the feeders at the end of May and the beginning of June. Many of the birds that nest in Michigan are bringing their first batch of babies to visit baths and feeders and teaching them to forage for food.

This has been a particularly tough spring for the birds. I know the some people are complaining about the numbers of starlings and blackbirds at the feeders this year due to the cold weather. But then they are happy about the extra numbers of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Scarlet Tanagers, warblers, bluebirds, and orioles that are also hungry this year.

Thankfully it looks like the cold weather is finally going to leave us for a while. The rains and now the warm weather brings a lot of bugs, a favorite food for many growing families. And vegetarians like the American Goldfinches are also enjoying soft spring leaves as well as a plethora of dandelion and grass seeds.

But, don’t forget to keep your feeders clean for healthy birds. And provide an area with a birdbath. Water is a powerful attraction and will increase the number and variety of birds coming to your yard. In fact parent birds will often bring babies to the bird bath as their first road trip.

Related articles:
- Can birds become dependent on bird feeders? http://goo.gl/GZYpke
- Do we stop feeding suet in the summer? http://bit.ly/GKWSRt
- Feeding Baby Birds http://bit.ly/GSHKwY
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://bit.ly/GKYw5q

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

How long orioles stay in Michigan

I'm not getting as many orioles anymore. Where are they?

Baltimore Oriole chick from Wikimedia Commons
When orioles arrive in the spring they are super hungry. The diet of the Baltimore Oriole consist of insects, fruits, and flower nectar. After a long migration they take advantage feeders that offer orange halves, grape jelly, sugar water, suets, or mealworms.

Males arrive around the end of April in mid-Michigan and the females follow a couple weeks later. Males immediately start to court potential mates. Once the birds pair up the female goes to work on building a nest usually around the end of May. Building the nest takes about a week, but windy or rainy weather may push this as long as 15 days. By mid-June she will be incubating about four eggs for a couple weeks. Then the babies hatch and both male and female will feed the little chicklets for a couple weeks in the nest.

During this time males continue to visit your feeders if you are near their nesting territory but the females on the eggs will visit less often. But always keep your feeders clean and full of fresh foods. By the end of June if everything has gone as planned, a lot of orioles will come back and bring the new kids. And the babies' reaction to getting their first taste of jelly is priceless!

July is the last hurrah. Orioles begin to molt and prepare to migrate south. Peak migration south is August and September. October through February most orioles hang out in the tropics. Then in March and April some orioles begin moving north again.

Related Articles: 
- Facts on the Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GzSTbi
- Where do orioles winter? http://bit.ly/GAeWv5
- Close-up of Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GAf6T7
- When can I expect my orioles to arrive? http://goo.gl/OHrCc

Monday, May 20, 2019

Best bird bath placement

How close does their water need to be from the food. What type of a water pan is best. I have two, but the dove that I have keeps it pretty dirty. What should I do. I love my wild finch. 

Place the bird bath where you can watch it and refill it easily. Birds are very dirty. When they take a bath or sip from the edge they are taking on weight. So before they fly away they usually turn around and unload a poopy in the bath to make them lighter. I try to change the water at least every other day.

Baths can be near a feeder (but not close enough to get seed scatter) or far away. Birds will go where you place the water high or low, near or far. Finches especially like water. They are mainly seed eaters and need water to wet their whistle.

The best bowl has a nice edge to perch on, a gradual dip to the middle which is no deeper than 2 inches, and a textured bottom. A rock in the middle or a stick across a bath will help if your bath is too slick or too deep.

I have multiple baths that are different sizes and at different levels. That way the dove can sit and digest in one and allow the finches to utilize one of the others.

Related Articles:
Best way to keep bird bath clean https://keep-bird-bath-clean.html
Why Birds Preen http://bit.ly/wcoC9d
What kind of bird bath is the best? http://goo.gl/tXz65
Do Birds Sip or Slurp? http://bit.ly/yAHTTV
Why is bird poop white? http://goo.gl/zQXiT

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Cooperation among different species of birds is common

Sometimes at the feeders it can look like a bird-eat-bird world out there. I'll see many scrabbles as birds wing their way in at the feeder and establish a pecking order or like last night when a hawk literally flew in for bird take-out. But as the hawk barreled in to the scene, the Blue Jay immediately began calling out the alarm.

Jays aren't the only birds that give warnings.
A study published in the Journal Science a few years ago demonstrated how black-capped chickadees embed information about the size of predators into their calls. When faced with a high-threat raptor perched nearby, the birds not only call more frequently, they also attach more dee’s to their call. Studying the phenomenon, it was found birds have a “distant early-warning system” in which the alarm calls are picked up by other birds and passed through the forest at more than 100 miles per hour.

New studies confirm that cooperation among different species of birds is common. Some birds build their nests near those of larger, more aggressive species to deter predators, and flocks of mixed species forage for food and defend territories together in alliances that can last for years. In most cases, these partnerships are not between specific individuals of the other species, any bird from the other species will do.

By interacting with other birds that share the same territory instead of working against them, bird species create a larger group to help defend their territory and ward off intruders. In other words, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Sources:
When Birds Squawk, Other Species Seem to Listen
Song recognition and heterospecific associations between 2 fairy-wren species 

Related Articles:
- Hawks and hummingbirds http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2017/08/hawks-and-hummingbirds.html

- New blue-eyed owl discovered by MSU researcher http://goo.gl/4FdZYR
- New MSU Study: Biofuel grasslands better for birds than ethanol staple corn http://goo.gl/D2yODK
- Free Downloads of Bird Sounds from Around the World via MSU http://goo.gl/ZKEKmk
- Black Squirrels’ history begins at MSU http://goo.gl/Ryxnqx

Saturday, May 18, 2019

How hummingbirds find feeders

Hummingbirds find feeders by sight. If they come down to investigate flowers and then see a feeder they will investigate. Eating from a feeder isn't innate, it is a learned behavior. You may see them approach a new feeder and fly away only to approach it again a few minutes later. Keep the feeders fresh and full of the proper nectar solution and then be patient. Hummingbirds have an outstanding memory. Once they figure out you are offering a reliable source of nectar, you will have a loyal customer.

A hummingbird's brain is very large in comparison to their body size. They know every flower in their territory and how long it will take each flower to produce more nectar. And yes that is probably the same hummingbird that comes back year after year to your feeder. They remember where each and every hummingbird feeder is, both at home and along a migration path.

Weather is also a big factor in how long it takes for hummingbirds to find a feeder. A good, wet spring that produces nectar filled blooms and protein packed bugs means there will be less activity at hummingbird feeders. Drought years are the hardest for the hummingbirds and you will notice instant attraction to feeder feeding as they attempt to find additional reliable food sources.

At the end of summer I watch the bumbling baby hummers jump from flower to flower, feeder to feeder, red chair to red hat, as they learn how to forage. Hummingbirds have been observed watching older hummingbirds to learn some tricks and tips. They also learn which people are the ones responsible for filling hummingbird feeders, and which ones don't.

If you put up a new feeder, it may be an instant hit or it may take them awhile to figure it out. But continue to keep the feeder clean and the nectar fresh even if you see no activity. In late summer it gets hot and activity always increases. At the end of June there are hopefully twice as many hummingbirds and you'll see momma and babies visit along with migrating hummingbirds as they bulk up to fly south.

Related Articles:
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
Fun Facts about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds http://goo.gl/jcjcr
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
Why the color on a hummingbirds’ throat flashes http://bit.ly/JZ31qX
When did people start to feed hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR

Friday, May 17, 2019

Photo Share: Upside Down suet feeder in action

Q: What do you call a Downy Woodpecker feeding from the EcoTough Upside-down Suet Feeder?

A: An upside-"downy" 😆😂🤣

I wish I could take full credit for this one but it was all Chuck Brewer. I just took the video so I could tell the joke 😂.

Yours to share if you like. https://Upside-down suet feeder in action
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, May 16, 2019

Baltimore Oriole females


Orioles are such bright birds to have during the summer. Females are less noticeable and can vary in coloring. Some are yellow and some are more orangy. The Baltimore oriole girls are yellow-orange on the breast and have gray-brown wings with two bold white wing bars.
Male and female Baltimore Oriole at Wild Birds Unlimited oriole feeder

Females show up a week after the males and if you're lucky you'll get to see the boys chasing the girls around trying to make a good impression.

Immature orioles also can vary in looks. It takes over a year for them to reach adult plumage and some boys even resemble the females.

Males stake out a territory with elms, maples, cottonwood, willow, or apple trees that can hold a tear drop shaped nest 25 to 30 feet in the air. Some other courtship displays include bowing, to show off the bright orange front and black back, and singing. Once the chooses a mate, she builds a nest with little or no help from the male.

Related Articles:
- Facts on the Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GzSTbi
- Where do orioles winter? http://bit.ly/GAeWv5
- Close-up of Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GAf6T7
- When can I expect my orioles to arrive? http://goo.gl/OHrCc

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Why haven't I seen any hummingbirds?

Hummingbirds are truly one of the most fascinating groups of birds on the planet and it’s not too late to put up a feeder! Hummingbirds don’t need feeders to survive, but they might appreciate a reliable source of food with this cold spring we’ve been experiencing. Also these incredible little birds are fascinating to watch and a hummingbird feeder can bring them up close.

When they aren’t at the feeder, hummingbirds find nectar from a variety of flowers as well as sap from trees. Throughout the day a hummer drinks more than half its body weight in nectar. But that pointy hummingbird bill isn’t only for lapping nectar; it’s also made for snatching bugs out of the air. They use the flexible tip of their bill to capture insects and insect eggs from the ground and on plants. They love spiders and spider eggs.

Early spring birds are still establishing territories. Make sure your nectar is fresh and clean your feeders once or twice a week for the best results. Visits may be less frequent until females begin to incubate their eggs in June. Then they will appreciate quick bites at the feeders between sittings. You can also put out a Wild Birds Unlimited's Natural Cotton Ball Nesting Material to line their nest.

Related Articles:
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
Fun Facts about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds http://goo.gl/jcjcr
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
Why the color on a hummingbirds’ throat flashes http://bit.ly/JZ31qX
When did people start to feed hummingbirds?: http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Scarlet Tanagers moving through Michigan

If you have ever seen a brilliant flash of red, impossibly brighter than a cardinal, most likely you caught a glimpse of one of Michigan's neotropical migrants, the Scarlet Tanager. Over 250 species of tanagers can be found in South America. The scarlet tanager is the only one of these species to summer in Michigan.

As their name implies, the males are a bright scarlet red with black wings during the breeding season, while the females tend to be a more camouflaging olive-green. They prefer to live in mature forests with a high percentage of oaks foraging for caterpillars, moths and beetles.

Scarlet tanagers are considered very beneficial to humans because they consume many insect pests. Some people have even called them the "guardians of the oaks". During migration in the spring and fall keep your eye out for them as they stop in your yard for suet and drink breaks.

Related Article:
A scarlet bird that is yellow https://-scarlet-bird-that-is-yellow.html
What is That Red Bird with a Black Head? http://bit.ly/L4tpl5
Black and White Bird with Red Head http://bit.ly/JFQDAq
Black and White Bird with Red Chest http://bit.ly/JXmkBC
Sexually dimorphic Northern Cardinals: Why male and female cardinals are a different color http://bit.ly/JFQXiw

Monday, May 13, 2019

Gray catbird call

Gray Catbird photo from Wikimedia Commons
May is a busy time with local birds nesting and a number of species still migrating through mid-Michigan. We had a lot of customers talking about the catbirds showing up. One family calls them their toupee bird because of the black cap of feathers. Another person noted the rufous rump on the bird.

Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) get their name from the catty mew calls it produces. Their genus name Dumetella is based upon the Latin term dūmus (small thornbush-dweller) which refers to the species' habit of singing when hidden in undergrowth. Listen for the distinctive mew call of the Gray Catbird, or for its imitation of several species during a long, seemingly improvised series of notes at the top of a dense, tangled thickets.

In summer, Gray Catbirds eat mainly ants, beetles, grasshoppers, midges, caterpillars, and moths. They also eat native fruits from trees and shrubs such as dogwood, winterberry, and serviceberry. You may see catbirds at the jelly and fruit feeders you put out for the orioles and also at the suet, nut and mealworm feeders.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Photo Share: Cape May Warbler at Tollgate Wetlands during migration

I saw this bird on Tuesday at the Tollgate Wetlands in Groesbeck. It was gone Wednesday. It is a great place to enjoy migration, especially for those who can’t travel elsewhere.
Photo of Cape May Warbler male by Laura Millmore
Thank you for sharing your gorgeous photo! 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.

Cape May warblers nest mainly in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They like the mature forests that are at least 50 years old for a secure nesting habitat. But as they migrate through mid-Michigan from May until June, you may see them at your suet, fruit or nectar feeders as well as your bird bath.

The Cape May's semi-tubular tongue is unique among wood warblers and allows them to feed on flower nectar while wintering in the tropics and during migration.

They are named after Cape May, New Jersey, where Alexander Wilson first described them. But after that first time, Cape May Warblers were not recorded in Cape May for more than 100 years. 

Related Articles:
Michigan warblers begin migrating http://goo.gl/37QhV
Michigan's Kirtland's Warbler Continues to Exceed Recovery Goal http://goo.gl/Q3xQ0
Small Mysterious Black & White Bird Visits Mid-Michigan http://goo.gl/VOl3s
When is bird migration over? http://goo.gl/1Fiq6
Blackpoll Warbler: Greatest warbler migrant http://goo.gl/GcST