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.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Photo Share: Tree Swallows fighting and Ospreys Nesting

Hi Sarah, The tree swallows just recently arrived at the Hawk Woods Nature Center in Auburn Hills, MI. The nature center has built a number of nesting boxes that the swallows return to year after year.

The tree swallows frequently squabble over nesting boxes and nesting materials. The two in the photo were a few feet from a nesting box that was probably the cause of the dispute.

There are also a pair of nesting Ospreys at Kensington Metro Park. There nest is visible from the road. If you take the Milford road entrance the nest is in the first lake on your right. This is a shot I got of the male bringing a branch to the nest.

Thank you again for sharing your photos! You can see more of Rodney Campbell’s impressive work at: http://rodney-campbell.artistwebsites.com/art/all/birds/all. And 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.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Best Mesh Finch feeders

I need your advice. In your expert opinion, what is the best finch feeder?  - Mason, MI

In the spring our American Goldfinches need a lot of energy to change into their bright spring coats. My feeders have been covered in hungry birds.

Our Wild Birds Unlimited Copper Mesh Nyjer (Thistle) Feeder is a finch magnet. I have three of these feeders. The Stainless Steel mesh tube not only lets finches land and feed in whatever position they choose, but it also allows air circulation to keep your seed as dry and fresh as possible, something that's very important to our picky eaters.

The Copper top and bottom are beautiful but still designed to be easy to clean and fill. I just slide the outside clip to fill or the inside clip to clean. Filled with nyjer seed, the birds will flock to your feeder. It holds 1 quart.
  • Stainless steel screen
  • Copper top and bottom
  • Center seed diverter
  • Easy to fill and clean
  • Lifetime guarantee
  • Made in the USA
Related Articles:
- What to do if you have soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
- Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
- Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a
- How to Attract Goldfinches http://bit.ly/A6CwjB
- How often do you clean a bird feeder? http://bit.ly/wTk0c7
- Where do you place finch feeders? http://goo.gl/avIs2

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Time to get your Hummingbird Feeders up!

Hello, I need help from a Wild Birds Unlimited expert! Here is my dilemma. I will be away from home May and June and all I can think of is my hummers. I normally begin feeding at the end of April. Will they die when I'm not there to feed them? Is there another source of diet for them apart from my sugar water? I have no idea what to do. Should I begin to feed them and then wean them off or not feed at all this summer? I would really appreciate hearing anything. Thank you! – Okemos, MI

There is no need to worry. Hummingbirds are very smart and do not rely on your feeder to survive. If you want to watch the hummingbirds up close in your yard, now is the time to find where you’ve stored your hummingbird feeders and fill them with fresh nectar. The hummingbirds have been sighted in mid-Michigan! If you have to leave for several weeks take your feeder down and let them find another source of food. There is no reason not to start feeding or wean them off. Birds do not depend on feeders to survive.

Nectar is not much more than sugar water. Throughout the day a hummer drinks more than its half its body weight in nectar. But they can't live on sugar alone, and the birds must supplement their carbohydrate-rich diet with daily helpings of insects to get necessary fats and amino acids that they aren't getting in nectar.

Besides feeders, hummingbirds drink nectar from a variety of flowers as well as sap from trees and eat a lot of insects and spiders. They are excellent hunters. (Sometimes I suggest throwing old fruit or banana peels near your hummingbird feeders to attract fruit flies for the hummers.) Hummingbirds can catch insects in flight, or pluck them from leaves, or catch spiders from their webs. While migrating, hummingbirds can follow behind Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers because these woodpeckers drill shallow wells into trees to release sap that lots of birds can drink. Sap also attracts and traps insects for birds.

Related Articles:
- When to take hummingbird feeders down and many other FAQ http://goo.gl/eIPsU
- Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/FQ9kxU
- What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/H7xvp3
- How to Stop Your Hummingbird Feeder from Dripping. http://bit.ly/yROgU5
- How Do I Keep Bees Off My Hummingbird Feeder? http://bit.ly/Aj07oq

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spring Cardinals divide territories

Why do I have fewer birds at the feeder? I started with 6 pairs of cardinals & now I'm down to 2.

That is an excellent observation. You may also have noticed in the spring, Northern Cardinals become very aggressive towards other cardinals or even attack their reflections in the window, in order to claim the perfect nesting territory and ample foraging areas for a potential mate. Cardinals don’t nest in colonies like some other birds. So it is very normal to see fewer Northern Cardinals at one time at the feeders.

Northern cardinals breed from March until September. If all goes as planned they usually raise two broods a year, one beginning around March to April and the second in late May to July.

By late summer, nesting is over and Northern Cardinals relax their defense of their territory boundaries. The birds sing less and flocks of cardinals begin to form. The Cardinals don’t migrate but can expand their range while foraging for food.

Young cardinals don’t have a set territory and can move around together freely in search of food. Older cardinals can join these young flocks for a time but drop out once it leaves their normal range.

These ever changing fall and winter flocks can consist of about four to twenty birds depending on the area, time of year, weather, and available resources.

Related Articles:
- Northern Cardinal Fun Facts http://bit.ly/twE6NV 
- How the Northern Cardinal bird was named http://bit.ly/tSKZYs 
- Cardinal Bird Feeders Made in the USA: http://bit.ly/qXJPFM 
- How to Attract Cardinals: http://bit.ly/pjh7mO 
- What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/rAArXw 
- What are the different types of cardinal birds? http://goo.gl/CUI43

Monday, April 21, 2014

Orioles will migrate when the conditions are right

We live in Virginia Beach, VA and have had the pleasure of hosting two female Baltimore orioles in our yard since December and have kept them supplied with grape jelly, etc.  For the past two weeks, we have seen only one oriole.  Isn't it time for these beautiful birds to be migrating north.  Should we stop feeding to urge her to leave or will she instinctively know when to leave?  Thanks for your advice.

Don't cut them off. They are planning on a long trip and that means they will need to fatten up before they leave.

It is still pretty cold up here and there aren't many blooms or bugs yet. When the winds are blowing in the right direction and warmer weather comes, the orioles will know when to migrate.

Females are always behind the males. They aren't in as big a rush to stake out breeding territories like the males.

It takes 2 or 3 weeks for an oriole to prepare for migration. On average, an oriole probably travels about 150 miles each night, flying at about 20 miles per hour. If the weather is good, and they do not stop for long and it can take up to 3 weeks to complete their migration, depending on where it started from and where they are going in the spring.

You have answered my questions and eased my worry about these beautiful birds!  Thanks again. 

Related Articles:
- What's the Best Way to Attract Orioles http://bit.ly/IGsyWp
- Fun Facts about Orioles http://bit.ly/IGsJB4
- Where are the orioles? http://bit.ly/IGuqOJ
- Where do orioles winter? http://bit.ly/GAeWv5 
- Close-up of Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GAf6T7 
- Favorite Oriole feeders http://t.co/OjG4Lz4

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Easter egg bird

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Todies’ general shape and colorful plumage remind me of an Easter egg.

They are Caribbean birds in the forests of the Greater Antilles: Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Cuba, and the adjacent islands, Hispaniola, has two, the Narrow-billed Tody in the highlands and the Broad-billed Tody in the lowlands.

The Broad-billed Tody (Todus subulatus) has bright green plumage above, with a red throat and washed out yellow on the breast. Todies eat small prey insects like grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, bugs, butterflies, bees, wasps, and ants and they also eat lizards. They nest in tunnels, which they dig with their beaks and feet in steep bank or rotten tree trunks. 

Related Articles:
- Spotted Wren-babbler http://goo.gl/AvNc98
- Superb Fairy-wren http://goo.gl/7iTmNc
- Eurasian Jay http://goo.gl/TR5HM3
- Indian Robin like our robin in some ways http://goo.gl/3rqV2r
- Violet-backed Starlings http://goo.gl/sJTPIo

A closer look at Hoppers

Can you explain what are Hopper Feeders? – Abernant, Alabama
Hopper bird feeders look like a house and attract a wide range of seed eating birds, big and small. It is called hopper because when you lift the roof, you pour seed into the “hopper,” a container for a seed that tapers downward and is able to dispense its contents at the bottom.

The first hoppers were built for farm animals. Wild Birds Unlimited took the original idea and built a better hopper for the backyard birds. In fact, it is so much better there is a patent on our design.

From a functional point-of-view, the following characteristics are built into The Wild Birds Unlimited Classic Hopper bird feeders: 

• Curved sides so birds can be viewed at all angles
• The removable screen bottom is treated with EcoClean® Antimicrobial Product Protection and makes it easy to keep the feeders clean.
• Patented removable seed tray also has a seed diverter to keep seed flowing and provide excellent drainage to keep the seed dry.
• Angled perch lets empty seed hulls be blown away by the wind
• Large roof protects seed but is easy to lift to fill hopper with loose seed
• It may be hung or pole-mounted easily
• Clear acrylic panels allow easy view of seed level
• It is sturdy and weathers well
• Classic EcoTough feeders are environmentally friendly, high quality products that are made from recycled plastic milk jugs.
• They are all made in the United States of America

All Wild Birds Unlimited bird feeders are built with quality materials using patented designs that keep birds safe, protected and well-nourished. Our innovative feeder designs look good but are built to attract more birds to your yard.

The EcoTough bird feeders, built with poly-lumber, made proudly from recycled plastic and milk jugs, carry a lifetime guarantee to never crack, split or fade and are constructed with stainless steel screws.

Our wood hoppers are constructed with 7/8" inland red cedar for long lasting outdoor use and all-screwed construction using weather-resistant plated deck screws. Both the recycled and wood hoppers have fully routed edges, aluminum rust-resistant hinges and thick heavy-duty acrylic panels.

Wild Birds Unlimited is the first name in the best bird feeders ever built.

 Related Articles:

Friday, April 18, 2014

Photo Share: Woodpecker eating on the ground

Greetings from Shelby Township. I saw this bird feeding along the banks of the lake I am on. Can you help in identifying? Exciting to see new arrivals!

Hello, You've captured some great shots of a male Northern Flicker. Unlike other woodpeckers they spend about 75% of his time foraging on the ground for ants, termites, caterpillars, crickets, grasshoppers, other insects, and spiders. They also like peanuts and suet at the feeders.

Northern Flickers are medium sized woodpeckers with black-barred brown back, white rump, and black tail. Flickers in mid-Michigan have black polka dots on the belly and a black bib under their long bill. The males also have a black “mustache.” And as your top photo shows the birds have a gray crown with a red chevron on the back of the head and have yellow underwings and undertail. Females resemble males but lack mustache stripes. 

Thank you Greg for sharing your photos with us! If anyone would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com and I'll put it on the Friday Photo posts.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bird ID decals for the window

Have you seen the Birds iView Window Clings? These individually die-cut window clings help you quickly identify backyard birds. They are easy to apply and remove. You simply peel the backing from the decal and place it on your window, refrigerator or wall.

These decals won’t leave a residue and they can be rearranged easily. No need to search for your field guide to identify your backyard birds. Just glance at the decals on your viewing window.

This collection of window clings includes 31 eastern backyard birds, detailed illustrations, and names all on one 8 1/2" x 11" sheet - each bird decal is approximately 2"-3" in size. On the back of the sheet is each bird's favorite food and feeder type which will help you learn how to attract new species.

Window clings can also protect birds because they make the windows more visible for the birds and reduce collisions.

Birds iView Window Clings make a great gift for any occasion. Friends and family of every age will have fun identifying and attracting new birds to the yard.

Related Articles: 
-How to stop birds from hitting the window http://goo.gl/SkwnYE
-Emergency Numbers: Who to call if you find a injured animal http://bit.ly/KLhavK
- Have you noticed more birds in the road? http://bit.ly/KLhtXz
- How to stop the Mad Cardinal Attacking My Window. http://bit.ly/KLhESM
- Baby Bird ID http://ning.it/Msgj1p

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

White nose syndrome in Michigan bats

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced in the beginning of April 2014 that the fungus known to cause significant rates of illness and death in North American bats has been detected for the first time within the state's borders. White-nose syndrome (WNS) has been found in three Michigan counties: Alpena, Dickinson and Mackinac.

MI DNR has answered some Frequently Asked Questions 
on White-Nose Syndrome in Bats 
Photo by Wikimedia Commons
What is white-nose syndrome?
White-nose syndrome (WNS) was first documented in bats in New York in winter 2006-2007. The syndrome was named for the white fungus that sometimes develops on the muzzle of the bat, giving the appearance of a white nose.  

What does WNS do to bats?
WNS primarily affects bats during hibernation. Many insect-eating bats survive winter by going into hibernation, during which their body temperatures are lowered and fat deposits collected during summer months are utilized. WNS is believed to disrupt this cycle, causing bats to prematurely and repeatedly awaken from hibernation, quickly depleting their fat reserves and losing body condition. Entire populations and endangered species of bats are at risk. Scientists across the country are working vigorously to understand more about this disease.  

How is WNS spread?
Transmission of the fungus associated with WNS is believed to occur in two ways: 1) through bat-to-bat contact and 2) by humans visiting caves and mines.  

How do we prevent and control WNS?
Many questions about WNS remain unanswered, and there are currently no effective or practical treatment options available. Some states have restricted access to caves and mines to prevent humans from spreading the fungus from cave to cave.  

Why is WNS a significant threat to bats?
Conserving bats is important. Bats make up one-fourth of the world's mammalian species. They consume large amounts of insects and are one of the primary nighttime predators of insects. As WNS continues to spread throughout the US, we are at risk of losing entire bat species.  

Can WNS affect humans?
There is no evidence that WNS is infectious to humans. The fungus does not grow at temperatures above 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which is much lower than human body temperature. The loss of large numbers of bats may have an indirect impact on human health. Bats are a primary predator of nighttime insects, and large-scale losses of bats may lead to an increase in insect populations.  

What symptoms should I look for, and where do I report my sightings?
Please use the online reporting form at www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases if you observe bats displaying any of the following:
-flying during the daytime in the winter;
-difficulty flying;
-large numbers (six or more) of dying or dead bats, especially at the opening of a cave or mine;
-hibernating bats with white fungus on the face or wings observed during winter (fungus on the body of bats has not been observed at any other time of year, although wing scarring from the fungus may be visible year-round). Watch the video: A Million Bats Dead from Mysterious Disease.ogv
Related Articles:
- What Bats Live in Michigan? http://bit.ly/sQFMtq
- Where do you hang a bat house? http://bit.ly/rRivKw
- Are there Nectar Feeding Bats in Michigan? http://bit.ly/vYPpZ1
- Do Birds have Thumbs like Bats? http://bit.ly/tjpL2T
- When do bats hibernate? http://goo.gl/egsZGk

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The origin of the Easter Bunny

Photo from Wikipedia Commons
Have you ever wondered about the Easter bunny? How is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus connected to a rabbit with a basket full of colorful eggs? We know many Christian holidays incorporated the rites of ancient holidays.

The Easter bunny evolves from a mythic German goddess named Ēostre or Ostara who was the Germanic Goddess of Springtime. According to the Encyclopedia Mythica, "In ancient Anglo-Saxon myth, Ostara is the personification of the rising sun. In that capacity she is associated with the spring and is considered to be a fertility goddess. She is the friend of all children and to amuse them she changed her pet bird into a rabbit. This rabbit brought forth brightly colored eggs, which the goddess gave to the children as gifts. From her name and rites the festival of Easter is derived."

However recent research suggests that the Ostara was potentially invented by the monk Venerable Bede in 750 A.D. According to Wikipedia, “Ēostre is only found in writing by Bede in De temporum ratione, where Bede states that during Ēosturmōnaþ (the equivalent to the month of April) feasts were held in Eostre's honor among the pagan Anglo-Saxons, but had died out by the time of his writing, replaced by the Christian "Paschal month" (a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus).”

Today Christianity uses Easter eggs to symbolize the empty tomb from which a bird hatches alive; a reminder that Jesus rose from the grave, and that those who believe will also experience eternal life.

Related articles:
- How birds color their eggs naturally http://bit.ly/IBMw69
- A look at the Easter Egg Tradition http://goo.gl/CpUvg
- Bird of the Week: The Peep http://goo.gl/Hw0icC
- When do birds begin nesting? http://bit.ly/GGuobs
- How Do Birds Lay Eggs? http://bit.ly/H8omO0
- Do birds have belly buttons? http://bit.ly/GVqhpT