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, August 4, 2015

Best hummingbird window feeder

I have so many hummers this month I want to bring some up to my kitchen window. Is this a good idea? Do you still have window hummingbird feeders?

Wild Birds Unlimited has a variety of window feeders year-round. I like the Jewel Box by Aspects. The bright red cover attracts the birds. Once there, the HighView perch invites them to rest comfortably as they drink from any of three feeding ports while also offering you an unobstructed view of the birds.
  • The number one rule in hanging any feeder is to place it where you can watch the birds comfortably. I feed to watch these winged wonders up close. 
  • Since hummingbirds find food by sight, the second rule is to hang the feeder where they will be able to see it as they fly over your yard. A new feeder may be found sooner if hung near a flower garden or hanging flower basket.
  • The height of the feeder is less important. Hummingbirds feed from the flowers on the ground and from the tops of flowering trees or climbing vines.
  • Part sun or shade is the best place for nectar feeders. The nectar lasts longer in the shade.
  • In hot weather you should clean your feeder at least twice a week so it won't spoil.
  • Make sure your nectar is fresh and the correct one part white sugar to four parts water solution.
In Michigan you can leave hummingbird feeders out from mid-April to the end of October. Migrating birds follow their own schedule usually, based on the weather.

Late summer and early fall is the best opportunity to see hummingbirds. Adult hummingbirds are now joined by juveniles at the feeders before they head south to Central America and their winter territories, traveling thousands of miles.

It's estimated that more than seven million Ruby-throated Hummingbirds return to the tropics each winter. As they make their way south, hummingbirds will take part in an eating binge that is unmatched at any other time of the year. A high-calorie diet is important to build fat reserves for their long stretches of flying. So be sure to have your hummingbird feeders ready.

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Related articles:
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/II4RQ4
Hummingbird Information on Habitat and Habits http://bit.ly/H2Ua9s
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/H7xvp3
Fun Facts about Hummingbirds http://bit.ly/II5sBl
How to keep bees and ants away from the hummingbird feeder http://goo.gl/R5F40G

Monday, August 3, 2015

Flash of yellow bird in the garden

American goldfinches are granivores, eating mainly seeds. In the wild they look for grass seeds, thistle, and other low-growing herbaceous seeds.You will also see them perch on weak stemmed flowers like cosmos, ride them to the ground as they eat seeds and then let them bounce back up when their done.

Flowers that form a seed head like cosmos, black-eyed-susans or Coneflowers draw finches to your yard. And if you keep your feeders clean and full of fresh seed, your yard will have the best curb appeal. At the feeders Goldfinches like to eat fresh, dry Nyjer® (thistle) and sunflower seeds.

Goldfinches nest in late summer and early fall. This is when you will see a dramatic increase in the number of finches in your yard, so keep those feeders full. It's a joy to see a flock of goldfinches raining down to the feeder or dancing in the flowers in search of seeds. And the happiest sound in the late summer is the call of baby goldfinches!
 
Related articles:

What is Nyger Thistle? http://t.co/Gg2AxQg 
Where are my finches? http://t.co/FRqa7eo
Goldfinch colors: Why aren't all the goldfinches yellow? http://t.co/c57skHi
Is There a Way to Attract More Goldfinches to My Yard? http://t.co/RB1cqWf

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Kingbird wearing a business suit

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, www.allaboutbirds.org says, "With dark gray upperparts and a neat white tip to the tail, the Eastern Kingbird looks like it’s wearing a business suit. And this big-headed, broad-shouldered bird does mean business—just watch one harassing crows, Red-tailed Hawks, Great Blue Herons, and other birds that pass over its territory.

Eastern Kingbirds often perch on wires in open areas and either sally out for flying insects or flutter slowly over the tops of grasses. They spend winters in South American forests, where they eat mainly fruit."

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/GcSTE

Saturday, August 1, 2015

It’s Time to Provide Water

Eastern Bluebird in bath - photo by Holly
During the hot and often dry conditions that make up the “dog days of summer," you will be doing yourself and your birds a big favor by providing them with a reliable source of water.

Water is very important to birds. Whether they are feeder visitors or not, birds need water. Offering a dependable source of water is probably the simplest and most important step you can take to greatly increase the variety of birds in your yard.
Eastern Bluebird in bath - photo by Holly
It can also significantly increase your enjoyment of your birds by allowing you to watch their often comical antics as they drink, bathe and preen.

However, as entertaining as it is for us, water (or the lack thereof) can be deadly serious for birds. Birds must be ready to fly at all times, and bathing is a critical part of feather maintenance and staying in top-flight condition.

Water is also vitally important when it's extremely hot and a bird’s ability to regulate its body temperature can become stressed. Birds do not sweat and must remove excess body heat through their respiratory system. So when temperatures rise, a bird's respiration rate increases, sometimes to the point that it can be seen panting like a dog. This activity dehydrates birds and increases their need for a reliable source of water to replace lost fluids. 

Related Articles:
- What are the Dog Days of Summer? http://goo.gl/3b0nf
- Why do birds poop in the bird bath? http://bit.ly/whKqHg
- Water Wiggler Attracts Birds and prevents Mosquitoes! http://bit.ly/wKl40q
- Why Birds Preen http://bit.ly/wcoC9d
- What kind of bird bath is the best? http://goo.gl/01sug

Friday, July 31, 2015

Photo Share: Sunny Day

Bird watching is one of the most relaxing hobbies.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

6 steps to make the future brighter for birds

Habitat loss, disease, severe weather, window collisions and many other factors contribute to the decline in bird populations. Here are six steps you can take to make the future brighter for birds:

Land development is changing the habitat available for many birds. You can help by landscaping with native plants that provide natural food sources, shelter and protection predators. Man made feeders, nest boxes and bird baths also benefits birds.

2. Prepare a proper menu
Food is essential to provide birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition to endure the elements year-round. Wild Birds Unlimited has regionally formulated seed blends to provide the most nutritious food for your birds. The first ingredient in our top 4 seed blends is sunflower seed, the favorite of most of the backyard seed eating birds.
To help reduce the possibility of disease transmission in birds, clean feeders and feeding areas at least once a month. You can purchase professional cleaners like Scoot at Wild Birds Unlimited, or use a mild one part vinegar to nine parts water solution to disinfect all of your feeders. Keep seed and foods dry by adding Feeder Fresh; discard food that is wet or looks moldy. Birdbaths also need to be scrubbed with a brush and water should be replaced every three to days to discourage mosquito reproduction. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned every three to five days, or every other day in warm weather.

4. Birds and chemicals don’t mix 
Many pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are toxic to birds; avoid using these near areas where birds feed, bathe or rest. Read the ingredients on the bird seed bag. The number one reason you will have weeds on the ground is because the birds are kicking the seeds that they don’t prefer on the ground and they grow.

5. Keep cats away from birds 
Outdoor cats are estimated to kill 500 million birds per year. Even the sweetest cats still have the instincts of their wild ancestors. When something flutters by, they must swat it down. Cats do what comes natural but you can help wildlife by restricting their access outside. A lot of our customers start bird feeding to entertain their indoor cats. It is a challenge to keep indoor-only animals stimulated and engaged mentally. A window feeder is one solution.

6. Reduce window collisions 
It is estimated that between 100 million and one billion birds are killed every year in the United States when they crash into glass windows. And even one billion deaths might be a conservative estimate. Decals like Window Alert placed on the outside of windows have had the most positive feedback from customers. Each decal contains a component which brilliantly reflects ultraviolet sunlight. This ultraviolet light is invisible to humans, but glows like a stoplight for birds.

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
- How to get rid of weeds under the bird feeder without using poisons http://goo.gl/fHlsE0
- Cats Indoors! http://goo.gl/YIOUpI
- How to Prevent Window Strikes during Migration http://goo.gl/KZRzKb

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Baby Cowbird vs. Cardinal

Baby cowbird with momma cardinal
The baby cowbird is all gray with speckled feathers
Brown-headed cowbirds are a brood parasite. They do not raise their own young, instead laying their eggs in the nests of other bird species. The young cowbird is fed by the host parents. If the foster family is successful in raising the cowbird, the baby will start out with the basic baby call of “feed me, feed me” call, but later develop their innate unstructured song.

Several published studies on the subject have found that adult cowbirds check in with young cowbirds while the youngsters are still living with other species. The adult cowbirds help teach fledglings cowbird-specific behaviors before they leave their foster homes.
Juvenile cardinal: gray feathers tinged with red and a dark bill
This baby cardinal is coming out of the awkward baby stage, into beauty!
Juvenile cowbirds, which fledge during the summer months, leave their foster parents about two weeks after hatching to flock together with other cowbirds. Chatter calls, as well as other visual cues help with recognition of their own species. The theory is that cowbirds and other parasitic birds possess a simple behavioral trait or cue that is species specific and helps them recognize themselves as cowbirds.
  
Photos Shared by Holly. Thank you Holly for sharing snapshots of what's going on outside your window! 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.  
 
Related Articles:
- How Do Cowbirds Learn to Sing? http://goo.gl/n6kYS 

- Brown-headed Cowbirds http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2009/05/cowbirds.html 
- How young cowbirds know they're cowbirds http://goo.gl/hYSyUV 
- Basic Instinct: Cardinal Feeds Goldfish http://bit.ly/Kgv2Mi
- Starling and sparrow nesting together http://goo.gl/5aQftb

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

5 Awesome Facts about Birds

If you are interested in birds, then you may want to forward these fun facts.

1. Every bird has feathers and every animal that has feathers is a bird. A Whistling Swan, in winter has the most with about 20,000 individual feathers. And the bird that has the fewest feathers is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird with about 940.

2. Of the world's more than 10,000 species of birds, over 200 are known to breed in Michigan and more than 400 species spend at least some time in the state. The list includes many songbirds ranging from the common American robin to the endangered Kirtland's warbler.

3. The biggest bird is the Ostrich who can grow up to 9 feet tall. They can’t fly but they are number one when it comes to running speed. The Bee Hummingbird is the smallest living bird in the world, with a length of just 2 inches. They can’t walk but can fly forwards, backwards, up, down, sideways or hover.

Image from Reddit Pics
4. Most birds have reptile-like scales on their legs and feet. The evolution of birds is thought to have begun in the Jurassic Period, with the earliest birds derived from a clade of theropoda dinosaurs named Paraves

5. Ornithologists use two basic terms to describe a bird at hatching: altricial or precocial. Songbirds are altricial. They hatch from an egg with their eyes are closed, little or no down and are still incubated and fed by the parents for weeks before they can leave the nest. Precocial birds like some ducks and chickens are well developed straight from the egg covered in down, and eyes wide open. Within two days, they are out of the nest and foraging on their own, staying near mom only for protection.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Hummingbird moth life cycle

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Moths in genus Hemaris are known collectively as clearwing moths or hummingbird moths in the US and bee hawk-moths in Britain. Its long proboscis and its hovering behavior, accompanied by an audible humming noise, make it look remarkably like a hummingbird while feeding on flowers.

The females entice the males with an aroma or pheromone that they produce from glands at the tip of the abdomen. After mating, they lay their tiny, round, green eggs on their larval food plants, usually on the underside of the leaves. The caterpillars have a horn at the rear end and are commonly green, well camouflaged among the leaves.

When they are fully-grown they drop to the ground, spin a loose cocoon and pupate, partially protected by leaf litter to shelter this beautiful pollinator. In the north, where the season is short there is only one generation per year; the pupa spends the whole winter well-hidden and the adult does not emerge until the next spring. In the south, there is usually more than one generation each summer.

Related Articles:
-Tiger moths: What is that white moth with black spots?: http://bit.ly/rtneuz
-A Very Tiny Hummingbird (Moth)?: http://bit.ly/qtrAaV
-Moth With Twelve Inch Tongue: http://bit.ly/pcs0TV
-Why did I take a picture of bird poop?: http://bit.ly/o9APHb
-Where does the Woolly Bear go in the winter?: http://bit.ly/pB5L4V

Sunday, July 26, 2015

How to get hummingbirds to a new feeder

How do I get hummingbirds to a try a new feeder ~ East Lansing, MI

Hummingbirds find feeders by sight so hang the feeder where they will be able to see it as they fly over your yard. Also a new feeder may be found sooner if hung near a flower garden or hanging flower basket.

Hummingbirds feed from the flowers low on the ground and from high up in the tops of flowering trees or climbing vines. But if there are two feeders close together they will usually go to the feeder that is hanging higher and gives a better view.

Also make sure your nectar is fresh and the correct one part white sugar to four parts water solution. In hot weather you should clean your feeder at least twice a week even if there are no hummingbirds feeding. If a hummingbird comes by to check out your new feeder and finds it filled with spoiled food, they won’t return anytime soon.

In Michigan you can hang hummingbird feeders out from mid-April to the end of October. Migrating birds follow their own schedule, usually based on the weather. And these end of the summer months are the best viewing times as birds start their pre-migratory wandering.

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
When to take hummingbird feeders down & other FAQ http://goo.gl/CspGnT
When did people start to feed hummingbirds?: http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Cardinals work hard to get red feathers

A regular resident of mid-Michigan backyards, the Northern Cardinals form one of the bird world's most faithful pair bonds. The male and female remain in close contact year-round, singing to one another through the seasons with soft, bubbly whistles. The female is known to sing while on the nest, and it is believed that she is informing her partner whether or not she or the young need food.

The red color of the Cardinal’s feathers is the result of pigments called carotenoids. The amount of the pigment ingested, and then deposited in the feathers as they molt in the fall, influences the quality and depth of their red coloration. A study done by the Ohio State University found that juveniles, less efficient foragers than adults, often have a duller red feather coloration.

At the feeding stations the birds tend to prefer seeds that provide the most nutrients. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a landmark study of bird food preferences in 1980 for several bird species and found cardinals exhibited the greatest preference for fresh sunflower, peanuts, safflower, and millet. They avoid buckwheat, cracked corn, milo, oats, wheat, nyjer, canary, flax, rapeseed, and rice.
 
Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess Blend is our best selling blend. It has everything the birds want and leaves no messy shells behind. The first ingredient is sunflower seeds with the black shells removed. You only pay for seed not the shells. Birds don't eat the shell. Those are just discarded below the feeder as waste. Because there is no shell, there is about twice as much seed in the bag. Pound for pound it is the better deal and it also should go down twice as slow in the feeder.

Whatever seed, seed cake, or suet you choose at Wild Birds Unlimited, we guarantee it will be fresh and a healthy choice for our local birds.
Related Articles:
What seed is best for attracting the colorful birds? http://goo.gl/SAA35
What seeds do wild birds eat? http://goo.gl/MjUCA
When should I feed the birds? http://goo.gl/IvocS
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