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.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Dickcissel: Miniature meadowlark

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Dickcissels are an irruptive bird species that may be common in Michigan one year and absent the next. Though Dickcissels eat insect mostly in Michigan, seeds and grain form the main part of their diet on their South American wintering grounds. Unfortunately each year large numbers of birds are killed by pesticides which may explain partially the Dickcissel's pattern of absence and abundance.

The birds migrate from southern Mexico, Central America, and northern South America to their breeding range rather late. Early birds arrive in May, but most arrive in early June.

This "miniature meadowlark" with a black V on its chest, is a bird of the prairie grasslands. From an open perch in a field, the Dickcissel's song is a sharp dick dick followed by a buzzed cissel. In flight they call a short, buzzy fpppt.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Robin bird nest

I didn't take my wreath down in time. When will the robin give me my front door back?

Robin eggs are incubated by the female for about 2 weeks before they hatch. Then she'll feed the birds for about 2 weeks in the nest.

Before you know it, they'll all leave at the same time. The young birds plop from the nest before they can fly and run across the lawn and hop to low bushes for protection.

They will follow their parents and beg food from them for another two weeks after fledging from the nest, and become capable of sustained flight. 

Related Articles:
Robin building a nest http://why-i-have-mud-in-bird-bath.html
Why Robins are Attracted to Water http://bit.ly/qP9aTs
Bird of the Week: American Robin http://bit.ly/pnUKqk
Fun Facts About The American Robin http://bit.ly/n9CSni
Why robins are called Robin Redbreast and not orange breast http://goo.gl/OB4iT

Friday, May 27, 2016

Photo Share: European Starlings

"If you can make it in here (NYC), you can make it anywhere." That phrase has never been more true than for the European Starlings.
In 1890’s, 100 starlings were released into New York City’s Central Park. It is said that Eugene Schieffelin wanted all of New York to see the birds mentioned in the plays of William Shakespeare. Until that time, starlings were not native to North America.

The birds multiplied rapidly and now there are over 200 million starlings found coast to coast year-round.

Thank you Mark 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.

Related Articles:
- Do birds warm their feet on telephone wires? http://bit.ly/t7k91r
- Fun Facts About European Starlings http://bit.ly/rSQtFD
- How do thousands of European Starlings fly without colliding? http://bit.ly/vwM3Ra
- Amazing moment bald eagle chases down & catches a starling http://bit.ly/tnPo6z
- Starlings stealing shiny money from machine http://bit.ly/uKaP8b

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Oriole nesting habits

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 of food offered at feeders. You can attract orioles to eat from your backyard feeder by setting out orange halves, grape jelly, sugar water, suets, or mealworms.

While they are busy nesting they may visit your feeders less often. But if you keep your feeders clean and full of fresh foods they will come back eventually and bring the new kids.

According to AllAboutBirds.com: "Baltimore Orioles build sock-like hanging nests, woven together from slender fibers. The female weaves the nest, usually 3 to 4 inches deep, with a small opening, 2 to 3 inches wide, on top and a bulging bottom chamber, 3 to 4 inches across, where her eggs will rest. She anchors her nest high in a tree, first hanging long fibers over a small branch, then poking and darting her bill in and out to tangle the hank. While no knots are deliberately tied, soon the random poking has made knots and tangles, and the female brings more fibers to extend, close, and finally line the nest.

Construction materials can include grass, strips of grapevine bark, wool, and horsehair, as well as artificial fibers such as cellophane, twine, or fishing line. Females often recycle fibers from an old nest to build a new one. Males occasionally bring nesting material, but don’t help with the weaving. Building the nest takes about a week, but windy or rainy weather may push this as long as 15 days."

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Too many birds at my feeder

The birds are eating me out of house and home! Will they slow down soon?

After a long migration or harsh winter, birds are hungry and appreciated an easy meal to rebuild their energy. Feeders are very welcome in the spring when natural resources are scarce. However as a lot more food sources became available, there should be a drop in the numbers of starlings and blackbirds visiting.

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 to keep your birds healthy. And provide an area with a birdbath. Water is a powerful attractor 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

Monday, May 23, 2016

Female orchard oriole pictures

Photo of female Orchard Oriole on a Trumpet Vine from Wikimedia Commons
There are 9 oriole species in North America. The Baltimore Oriole and the Orchard Oriole are the 2 species that nest in Michigan as well as the Eastern half of the U.S.

The smallest of North America’s orioles, the Orchard Oriole gleans insects from leaves and also feeds on fruit and nectar in orchards and gardens. They are not as common at feeders as the Baltimore Oriole but can be seen in open woodlands along river edges, as well as along marsh edges, lakeshores, and farms.

The Orchard Oriole males are mostly black on the head, back, wings and tail. Their breast, rump and wing epaulets are a rich chestnut. Females are greenish yellow with two white wing bars and no black. And immature males look like females, but have black around the bill and throat. 

Watch for them as they hop among scattered trees. Male Orchard Orioles sing a whistled, chattering song to attract females. After they arrive in late April, they build their hanging, pouchlike nests, raise one brood of babies and then head back to Central America by the end of July.

Unfortunately their population has been in decline in the central U.S.A, possibly due to loss of habitat and pesticides used in orchards.  

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

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Gray bird with black cap and tail

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. I’ve already seen baby chickadees and House Finches at my feeders and some chickadees are getting ready for a second round of nesting. It isn't too late to put up a bird house.

Then last Monday we had a a Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) visit outside the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing. These birds 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.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Some tips to keep your mealworms at their best

Mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) are used widely as a live food source for wild birds like warblers, bluebirds, orioles, chickadees, wrens, robins and woodpeckers. High in protein and fat, they bring a lot of the bug eating birds up close.

Mealworms hibernate at temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees, so they can be  stored easily in your refrigerator for lengthy periods of time if you bring them out and feed them a mixed salad every couple weeks.

Right now several customers are feeding mealworms to train bug eating birds to bring their babies up close.
Some tips to keep your mealworms at their best:
  1. Mealworms don’t like a drastic temperature changes. If it is very hot outside, leave your mealworms at room temperature. Then when you place them in the feeder they don’t go into shock.
  2. Feed mealworms at the same time. Get your birds into a routine of breakfast and dinner feeding so they know when to come and gobble up your offerings.
  3. Shade your feeder. Place your feeder in the shade or add a weather shade over the feeder to protect the mealworms from the sun.
  4. Protect the worms. Chop up some room temperature apples and place them in your feeder with the mealworms. The apples give the mealworms water and help them hide from the sun. Most birds also enjoy chopped fruit.
Related Articles:
What's the Best Way to Attract Orioles http://bit.ly/MP2Wa8
How to Attract Bluebirds http://bit.ly/MP3lJK
What birds are attracted to mealworms besides bluebirds? http://bit.ly/M19jqc
Why Wild Birds Unlimited has the best mealworms http://bit.ly/MP3dtH

Friday, May 20, 2016

Photo Share: 4 of our baby blue birds successfully hatched :)

Nest Building - It takes from 5-14 days for the bluebirds to complete the nest. The female does most of the work. The male prefers to perch in a nearby tree and sing. Grass and straw are the preferred nest material. If you discover moss, fur, or sticks and leaves in a house, the nest is probably being built by one of the other small, cavity nesting species (Chickadee, Titmouse, Wren, Nuthatch).

Egg Laying - Egg laying takes from 3 to 6 days. One light blue egg is laid each day until the clutch is complete. The most common clutch size is 5 eggs, but 3, 4, or 6 eggs is not uncommon. 2 or 7 eggs in a clutch is rare.

Incubation - The female incubates the eggs for 13 or 14 days. She starts incubating on the day she completes the clutch. For this reason, the eggs will all hatch on the same day.

Nestling Stage - The baby bluebirds will remain in the nest for approximately 15 days. They will be brooded by an adult bird every night, and on cool days until they are fully feathered. During the nestling period the youngsters will be fed by both parent birds. They do not leave the house during this time. All droppings are removed from the house except on the day the young birds fledge (fly from the nest). Once the young birds fledge they do not return to the nest.

Fledgling Stage - At the end of the nestling period, the young birds fly from the nest. They will be fed by the parent birds for another 7 to 14 days. During this period you will see them in the vicinity of the house. Very soon after the nesting cycle has been completed the parent birds will start over. They may raise as many as 3 broods in a season.

Above information from: The Eastern Bluebird - Management Guide by Charles Kennedy
Photos from Holly. Thank you Holly 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.

Photo Share: Late bloomers

Most of my goldfinches have completed their spring molt and males are now bright yellow and jet black. I've only seen a couple late bloomers that are holding some of their darker brown winter feathers.

Now that their molting is finishing up and the dandelions are blooming, you'll see the frenzy at the feeders die down a little until the goldfinches begin to nest in the late summer.

Thank you Mark 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, May 19, 2016

Tiny hummingbird feeders

Hummblossom hanging with weather guard and ant moat
Bigger isn't always better. Nectar (sugar water) can spoil after only a few days. Sometimes you can't wait for the hummingbirds to drink the feeder dry. You have to change the nectar at least once a week when the temperature is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit and at least twice a week if it is hotter. Sometimes in the suburbs a small feeder fits better.

Tiny feeders are also ideal for placing a grouping of feeders nearby, so territorial hummingbirds can each pick their own feeder.

The beautiful HummBlossom is a mini 4-ounce capacity feeder that has a HighView™ perch that invites hummingbirds to rest comfortably as they drink from any of four feeding ports while also offering an unobstructed view of the birds. A bright colored cover attracts hummingbirds from a distance and is removed easily so the bowl can be cleaned quickly and thoroughly.

Hummblossom staked in garden with weather guard & ant moat
And this year Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing has the Aspects HummBlossom Accessory Kit! This allows you to either hang or stake-mount an Aspects HummBlossom feeder with the protection of a 7inch diameter weather dome and ant-moat. Magnetic adapters allow the accessories to be detached with ease for filling and cleaning. The hardware is solid brass and dome and ant-moat are constructed of durable polycarbonate. It is also backed with a Lifetime Guarantee and made proudly in USA.

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