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, July 18, 2018

What birds eat bugs

In mid-Michigan most songbirds eat bugs like caterpillars, beetles, grubs, other flying or creeping insects and spiders. The exception is the finches. American Goldfinches eat seeds almost exclusively. Main types include seeds from plants in the family Asteraceae: sunflowers, thistle, asters, etc., as well as grasses, and trees such as alder, birch, and elm. At feeders finches prefer Nyjer® and sunflower seeds.

To attract bug eaters in to your yard you can offer mealworms, suet, and seed cylinders.

Bug Eaters

Below is a list of common backyard birds and some of the insect pests they eat. Next time you see or hear a bird in your yard, you can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that they're foraging for bugs and keeping your garden healthy.

- Bluebirds: grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, larvae, moths, flies
- Cardinals: beetles, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, stinkbugs, snails
- Chickadees: aphids, whitefly, scale, caterpillars, ants, earwigs
- Grosbeaks: larvae, caterpillars, beetles
- Nuthatches: tree and shrub insects such as borers, caterpillars, ants and earwigs
- Orioles: caterpillars, larvae, beetles, grasshoppers
- Sparrows: beetles, caterpillars, cutworms
- Swallows: moths, beetles, grasshoppers
- Titmice: aphids, leafhoppers, caterpillars, beetles
- Warblers: caterpillars, aphids, whitefly
- Woodpeckers: larvae, beetles, weevils, borers

Related Articles:
What birds are attracted to mealworms besides bluebirds? http://bit.ly/M19jqc

What birds eat suet? http://bit.ly/q2Sfje
Can I feed suet year-round? http://bit.ly/I4Ow8l

Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Which seeds are preferred by wild birds? http://bit.ly/zchLgB 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Birds grow new feathers

Have you ever tried to get your hair to stand on end to style it? I watched a bird outside the Wild Birds Unlimited store this morning poof up his feathers in order to preen them. The control of every feather was amazing. Feathers are dead like our hair but birds can control the muscles at the base of each follicle which is connected to network of tiny muscles in the skin.

Feathers allow birds to flirt for mates, communicate or camouflage, as well as fly and protect them from the elements. Fossil evidence suggests that feathers probably evolved from scales. Birds still have scales on their legs.

A bird's feathers undergo wear and tear and are replaced periodically during the bird's life through molting. New feathers, known when developing as blood, or pin feathers, depending on the stage of growth, are formed through the same follicles as the old ones were fledged. Although feathers cover most parts of the body of birds, they arise only from certain well-defined tracts on the skin.

It takes a lot of energy to build new feathers. So many North American songbirds wait until after migration and nesting is completed, to grow new feathers. You can offer quality suet, seed, seed cylinders, or mealworms to help birds grow strong, colorful feathers critical to their next year of survival.

Related articles:
- Types of Bird feathers http://goo.gl/W9rzP
- Why Birds don't Freeze After They Take a Bath in the Winter: http://bit.ly/mPa0Y8
- How small birds stay warm in the winter: http://bit.ly/q3dDqj
- Why birds molt: http://bit.ly/ox5Hwi
- Blue Jays aren't blue: http://bit.ly/pMN37k
- Fossils of colored feathers: http://bit.ly/nc2UeA

Monday, July 16, 2018

Bird Weight

How do the weight activated squirrel proof feeders work? Why don’t they shut down when 4 birds sit on the feeder?

Most birds have hollow bones with internal struts that make them very strong. (Exceptions include swimming birds, like loons, which have solid bones to help them dive up to 150’ for food.)

Birds also have a smaller total number of bones than mammals. This is because many of their bones have fused together, making the skeleton more rigid. Birds do have more neck vertebrae than many other animals to help them groom their feathers. But overall it takes over 65 chubby chickadees to equal the weight of one medium squirrel.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Birds with wings spread out in sun

Right now a group of baby birds with new plumage and in late summer adult birds that are growing new outer feathers, often sun themselves. Like ironing our clothes, the heat of the sun might help make it easier for birds to shape their new feathers. And along with easing discomfort associated with molting, the sun may also help dislodge parasites so the bird can preen them off more easily.

Some ways birds maintain feather quality is through water, dust, and sun bathing. Instinct to sunbathe is not always to warm the body. Like humans they probably enjoy a few rays but their main reasons for sunning is probably to keep their feathers in top shape.

Most birds have a preen gland or uropygial gland at the base of the tail. With their beak, birds realign the barbs correctly, remove any dirt or parasites and apply preen oil. If the bird sunbathes the oil is exposed to the ultraviolet light from the sun. Then the uropygial gland secretions convert to an active form of vitamin D which is ingested with the next preening. This may explain in part why some birds sunbathe.

Related Articles:

Types of Bird feathers http://bit.ly/w0U1M6
Dirt baths help birds stay clean http://bit.ly/rJR7Ex
Why birds molt http://bit.ly/rGaqRL
Why do bluebirds bathe more than cardinals? http://goo.gl/ZdYRS
Birds Don't Sweat: http://goo.gl/zerp7

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Photo Share: Beautiful bee on my sunflower

Incredibly the squirrels have left me some sunflowers in front of the Wild Birds Unlimited store. I've enjoyed watching birds, butterflies, and bees as they stop by to see this giant yellow flower.

The bright, large flower heads of sunflowers present a nectar and pollen mother lode for pollinators, like bees. Each flower head's central disc contains many smaller tubular disc flowers, each with its own supply of nectar and pollen. The showy outer ray petals help attract the pollinators. Bees go from flower to flower within the disc, becoming covered with pollen. They then pollinate other sunflowers as they go from plant to plant. The success of sunflower as a crop for seeds and oil depends on bees. 

Related Articles:
Sunflowers Up-close: The Strange Journey of an American Plant http://bit.ly/uFlz65
Which seeds are preferred by wild birds? http://bit.ly/zchLgB
How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://bit.ly/rTLSqJ
Seed Storage Cans and WBU Seed Scoops http://bit.ly/uBaSwO

Sunflower seeds benefits http://sunflower-seeds-benefits.html

Friday, July 13, 2018

Good luck bird superstitions

Birds have long been related to the supernatural as they spend their lives between the earth and the heavens. In honor of Friday the 13th, here are 13 bird superstitions.

1. When you hear a Cardinal sing, your sadness will soon be lifted. When a red bird shows up, help is on the way. When you see a red bird in winter, you will prosper in spring.
2. If a bird poops on you or anything you own, it’s said to be good luck.
3. Ancient Romans believed birds flying to the right meant good vibes. A bird flying toward you meant good luck. The higher the birds flew, the better the future.
4. Sailors believe that seeing an albatross while at sea is a sign of good luck.
5. Birdcalls from the east are good for romance, while calls from the west offer all-around good luck.
6. It is good luck if a blackbird makes a nest on your house.
7. A robins sighted near a house foretells good fortune for the inhabitants of the house.
8. To hear a duck quacking is a most fortunate omen, indicating the coming of prosperity.
9. If a feather falls in front of you where no birds are present, it is a gift from your guardian angel.
10. In Ireland, sparrows are thought to be on friendly terms with the fairies.
11. Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet that the cock crows through Christmas Eve until Christmas morning so no evil spirits will spoil the holy day.
12. Seeing a yellow bird in flight means you will be free.
13. If you see a blue bird early in the morning you will have a happy day!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Where to place finch feeder

The most important place to hang a feeder is where you and your family can watch it easily. That said, I’ve found the goldfinches feel more comfortable with the feeder in or near trees. These tiny social birds can be skittish about predators around a feeder. They perch at the top of a tree, check out the area and then filter their way down to a feeding station when it appears safe.

American Goldfinches like feeders that have Sunflower seed or Nyjer® (thistle).  I prefer to feed the straight Nyjer® (thistle) in my finch feeder for a couple reasons. First it does not grow weeds and has been heat treated to prevent the growth of any noxious seeds. Second, it is a seed that attracts goldfinches mainly, while other birds as well as squirrels and raccoons avoid feeders full of only nyjer.

My favorite feeder is a Mesh Finch Feeders. Several birds can feed at a time, the seed airs out, it's easy to clean, easy to fill, has a lifetime guarantee, and is made in the USA. However if you're thinking of switching feeders remember that it may take several days for Goldfinches to accept a new feeder. If you don't see any action, shake the feeder and check the seed to make sure it's still fresh. You may have to change the seed if they haven't found it in a month's time.

But this is a very good time to feed them! 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. 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:
Prevent 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 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Why there are so many blackbirds

This has been a particularly bad year for blackbirds. The late spring and dry summer didn't produce as many bugs as normal. Many have had to supplement their diet at the feeders.
I’m watching the Common Grackles bringing babies up to the store window. One more week and they will be gathering in flocks to go back south. A big black bird about a foot long with yellow eyes, grackles can frighten other birds with their intimidating look. They can also be quite beautiful when the sun hits and their feathers. Up close these blackbirds have highly iridescent feathers, with varying colors from blue to purple to green to bronze, depending on the light. Females generally lack the strong iridescence shown by males and juveniles are a dark brown all over. Those dull baby feathers will be replaced by black adult feathers in the next several weeks.

Common grackles migrate in mixed-species flocks with red-winged blackbirds, European starlings, and brown-headed cowbirds. They need a lot of food right now for their young ones and also for them to complete a full molt of feathers.

Related Articles:
- How Grackles got their name http://goo.gl/zGBBaO
- Common Grackles facts http://bit.ly/OzgUjw
- How to keep grackles away: http://bit.ly/Q1q0GI
- Why is the blackbird associated with evil and ill omens? http://bit.ly/OzhBtb
- When black birds fly south http://bit.ly/Q1qDAk

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Blackbirds migrating south

Are you seeing fewer blackbirds? Nesting season is almost complete for the blackbirds. From August to September they will be floating around with their families.

You will see fewer and fewer at the feeders as they molt and grow new winter feathers. By October the blackbirds in Michigan will already be in the the southern United States and Central America winter homes.

Winter flocks can include different blackbird species and starlings numbering in the millions. Each morning the roosts spread out, traveling as far as 50 miles to feed, then re-forming at night. In fall and winter, they congregate in agricultural fields, feedlots, pastures, and grassland.

Related articles:
- Fun Facts on Red-winged Blackbirds: http://bit.ly/q05Bos
- All about the Red-Winged Blackbird: http://bit.ly/qAeiyj

- When black birds fly south http://bit.ly/Q1qDAk
- Bird Basics: How are birds classified? http://bit.ly/Q1reSr

Monday, July 9, 2018

Birds don't move when cars come

Drive Careful- Baby birds are on the street

Slow – Children at Play

Sometimes we think the world revolves around us because we’re so busy rushing here and there, and we can be very impatient with things that get in our way. Sometimes birds think the world revolves around them. They forage for food, guard territories, and raise large families in the spring. They don’t have time to be bothered with their surroundings.

As a result you may have noticed more birds in the road trying to outrun cars. Harried parent birds and newly fledged babies don’t know automatically what cars are or how fast they move. Please drive very carefully.

Each year 60 million to 80 million bird deaths are attributed to cars. Right now you have to watch for wildlife that crosses (or stands still in) the road. Don’t just assume that they’ll get out of the way in time. Statistics show that half the birds born this summer won't survive a year.

•98 million to 980 million fatal collisions with buildings and windows
•130 million to more than one billion fatal collisions with high-tension lines
•60 million to 80 million deaths caused by automobiles
•4 million to 50 million fatal encounters with communications towers
•72 million birds each year are killed by toxic chemicals, including pesticides
•Domestic cats are estimated to kill hundreds of millions of birds each year
•15 million birds a year in N. America are killed in managed annual hunts
•20,000 to 37,000 fatal collisions with wind turbines

It seems crazy that a robin thinks he can outrun my car, but I slow down to give him a chance. In return I hope he controls the pesky bug population in my area.
Related Articles:

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Photo Share: Garden for American Goldfinches

Look in the corner beneath the finch to see
Dolly (cat) watching behind the screen door.
Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing store has seed delivered fresh twice a week, and there are bound to be a few stray seeds escaping when the pallets are dropped. Usually the squirrels and birds clean up, but one bag actually got mangled in delivery and a few overlooked seeds produced 4 foot tall sunflowers in the front garden. Now these happy accidents are calling down the finches to check each day to see if the seed heads are ready for plucking.

The weather has finally cooled enough to have the door open in the mornings. And I am so happy to hear the sounds of birds, especially the goldfinches who have just started their courtship songs and dances. American Goldfinch males are bright yellow and black birds, with a cheery song, and a wavy roller-coaster flight pattern. They roam from garden to garden making the flowers dance as they eat seed heads until late summer when they choose a territory where they will nest.

American Goldfinches are vegetarians. If you want them in to come in your yard plant flowers and add feeders that have Sunflower seed or Nyjer® (thistle). Gardeners know they can lure these sunny birds in by growing native sunflowers, thistles, goldenrod, coreopsis, black-eyed susans, cosmos, or grass seeds. Not only are plants an important source of food, female goldfinches also use thistledown and milkweed fluff to line their nests. 

Related Articles:
Prevent 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   

Gardening for birds http://bit.ly/z095kL
Attract More Goldfinches to the garden: http://bit.ly/wNj67F