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, May 29, 2015

Photo Share: Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moths mating
Hummingbird moths fly and move just like hummingbirds. They can remain suspended in the air in front of a flower while they unfurl their long tongues to sip their nectar from flowers. Often mistaken for baby hummingbirds, they even emit an audible hum. 

The adults may start flying in early spring, when the bluebells (Mertensia) are still blooming; but you will have a better chance to see them when they are most active, in the summer when the bee balms are in bloom.

Source: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/hummingbird_moth.shtml
Thank you Holly for sharing your interesting photo! 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, May 28, 2015

The babies have fledged! Should I clean out the birdhouse?

If the birds have been successful in raising their young in a nest box, the babies will fledge and then there is at least a two week break before they might begin to raise another brood. I always call it their family vacation time. You can clean the nest box at this time while the baby birds are shown the territory and taught how to forage on their own.

If something happens to disrupt the success of the first batch, the birds might begin a new nest within a week. You don’t have to remove the nest in this case but broken eggs or dead nestlings should be removed immediately. If they want to try again in that box, it will give them a head start to have an existing nest. Also try to determine why there was a failure and how to prevent further tragedy.

By cleaning out a nest box you help deter parasite infestation and a predator’s ability disturb a nest that is built on top of old nests making it closer to the entrance hole.

To clean the nest box I usually place a plastic bag over the nest and just sweep it all in and twist the bag shut. You can rinse out the house with a water hose or diluted bleach spray. Make sure the drainage holes are unplugged and leave the house open to dry for a couple days. Finally dispose of the old nest in the trash and wash your hands thoroughly.

Related Articles:
5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses http://bit.ly/xETceZ
Common Bird House Problems http://bit.ly/wrWzyN
Which Way Do You Face a Birdhouse? http://bit.ly/AD43TW
Don’t use treated lumber to build a birdhouse http://bit.ly/x2pIG0
When do birds begin nesting? http://bit.ly/wbJ3kE
DO NOT Collect Dryer Lint for the birds to use as nesting material! http://bit.ly/wC5HcO

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What to do with the hummingbird feeder while on vacation

What should you do with your hummingbird feeders if you are going on vacation for a week?.

Hummingbirds are wonderful to attract to a backyard garden and a joy to watch. These sparkling jewels of summer are easy to love and so we should always feed responsibly to keep them healthy.

If you don’t have a trusted house sitter that can clean and change your nectar twice a week, then take the feeder down. It is better for a hummingbird to fly by and see no feeder that week than for them to eat fermented nectar. When you come home put up fresh nectar and they will return.

Hummingbird feeders must be kept clean and free from mold and fungus, or the tiny hummers could get sick. The more often you clean them the easier they are to maintain. Bring your feeders inside and rinse them once a week when the temperatures are below 70 °F and at least twice a week when the temperatures are above 70 °F.

We have several easy to clean feeders and brushes to scrub out those tiny ports. It is best to clean your feeder with hot tap water and use brushes to scrub the sides. If you use soap or put the feeder in the dishwasher, rinse thoroughly so there is no residue left behind. Inspect the feeder carefully for black mold. If you see any mold growth, soak the feeder in a solution of one part vinegar to 9 parts water for one hour and then scrub and rinse again.

To make nectar, mix one part ordinary white sugar to four parts water. Bring the water to a quick boil to dissolve the sugar, then let the mixture come to room temperature before you fill your feeder. You can mix up a large batch of nectar to keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

If the nectar becomes cloudy, it has spoiled and needs to be replaced. When the feeder is hanging in the sun or outside temperatures are high, the sugar solution may spoil in just one day. To keep the nectar from fermenting it is better to keep your hummingbird feeder in the shade or add a shaded weather guard to keep the sun from spoiling the nectar.

Related Articles:
- When to take hummingbird feeders down and many other FAQ http://goo.gl/7xANk
- Do hummingbirds migrate together? http://bit.ly/rVOJVm
- The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
- What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
- When did people start to feed hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR
- Flowers that attract hummingbirds: http://bit.ly/wkhlJn

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How long before doves leave the nest

The day before Mother's Day I discovered a pair Mourning Dove's had built a nest in one of my hanging flower pots on my front deck.  The first egg was laid that night and the next morning the 2nd egg. On Mother's Day they would fly away from the nest whenever I got too close, but each day I would go out and stand near them, talk to them and move closer and closer over the 2-weeks. 

This past Saturday the first egg hatched.  I haven't been able to tell if the 2nd one hatched, but I can now stand less than 2 feet from the nest and look the bird in the eye and they just sit there (probably wondering what I'm saying to them).

I've been trying to figure out which bird is the dad/Burt and the mom/Pippa - I usually see one with a longer tail and iridescent neck feathers sitting on the nest, and always assumed that was Pippa.  That is actually Burt isn't it? 

The day the first egg hatched, the bird I thought was Pippa started looking a bit disheveled (like the stuffing in a feather pillow - feathers poking out), was this in preparation for the hatchlings?

I would like the doves to stay and make my porch their home but I want to take down the ugly planter they are nesting in.  When can I do that and replace it with a larger planter without causing them to fly away and never return?

Once the baby birds have fledged you can replace the planter.

Both male and female mourning doves share in incubating and feeding their young. Mourning Doves sit on their eggs for about 2 weeks, feed the babies in the nest for about 2 weeks and then care for their young for about a month after they've fledged. Once they leave the nest they won’t return unless they want to build another nest a month later.

Males are larger than females and show more color with a bluish cap, pink chest and neck feathers and three white outer tail feathers. The female is graced with an olive gray cap and a tan breast. Neck feathers can be greenish or pinkish with one or two white outer feathers. Juvenile Mourning Doves look like the parents except for a little white at the end of each feather and a lack of iridescent feathers.

The male usually incubates from mid-morning until late afternoon, and the female sits the rest of the day and night. When not on nest duty they eat enough to fill their bi-lobed crops and then fly back to digest.

While most birds meet their chicks’ protein needs by bringing back insects, doves feed their newly hatched chicks a fat- and protein-rich “crop milk.” This whitish fluid comes from liquid-filled cells that slough off the lining of the crop, a portion of the esophagus. After 5 or 10 days, the chicks switch to a diet of regurgitated seeds or fruit.

Related Articles:
Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://bit.ly/wMKEKF
How Do You Keep Doves From Dominating a Feeder? http://bit.ly/zDAwR2
How Mourning Doves defend their nests http://bit.ly/LiE7TH
Do Birds Sip or Slurp? http://bit.ly/N6syCY
Mourning Dove nesting facts and figures http://goo.gl/WeLWy

Monday, May 25, 2015

A rather large blackbird

The Common Grackle is distinguished easily by its iridescent purple and bronze plumage. One interesting fact is the Grackles often roll around on ants to make them secrete formic acid, which is thought to kill parasites. This is called anting, and grackles are frequent practitioners among the many bird species that do it. Besides formic acid from ants, the Common Grackle has been observed using various other substances, such as walnut juice, mothballs, lemons, limes, marigold blossoms, and choke cherries in similar ways.

Common Grackles do well in human landscapes, using scattered trees for nesting and open ground for foraging. They eat mostly seeds, particularly agricultural grains such as corn. Other seeds include sunflower seeds, acorns, tree seeds such as sweetgum, wild and cultivated fruits, and garbage. In summer, one-quarter or more of a grackle’s diet may be animals, including beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, spiders, crustaceans, mollusks, fish, frogs, salamanders, mice, and other birds.

Related Articles:
   - Bird of the Week: Common Grackles 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
   - Bird Basics: How are birds classified? http://bit.ly/Q1reSr

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Orioles can disappear while building a nest

Hello, I live in mid-Michigan and I put up a Oriole feeder with 2 orange slices and grape jelly for food.  We started getting Orioles coming to it for about 2 weeks.  Then I put up our Hummingbird feeder which is about 3 ft. from the Oriole feeder.  We have not seen a single Oriole at our Oriole feeder since.  Do the Hummingbirds scare the Orioles away?  Nobody that I have asked around our neighborhood knows the answer.  Do you have any idea?  Thank You.    Bill

When orioles arrive in the spring they are super hungry. After a long migration they take advantage of food offered at feeders. Later while they are nesting and feeding young, the diet changes to more bugs for the added protein. Baltimore orioles eat primarily caterpillars, including many pest species like tent caterpillars. This means they are foraging for food, building nests, and incubating eggs instead of visiting your feeders.

Don't worry, often the adults will bring they're young to the feeders once they've left the nest. So be prepared for a return after a couple weeks absence. Or you can add live mealworms to some of the food you offer.

Mealworms are the larvae of a beetle with a high protein level. Many birders believe the mealworms are used solely for attracting bluebirds. This is definitely not the case as many other species enjoy these little treats. Some birds attracted to mealworms include: wrens, robins, bluebirds, jays, sparrows, cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, and yes even orioles.

The diet of the Baltimore Oriole consist of insects, fruits, and flower nectar. You can attract orioles to eat from your backyard feeder by setting out orange halves, grape jelly, sugar water, suets, or mealworms.

A hummingbird won't deter an oriole from coming to the feeder.

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

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Eagles are symbols of power and majesty

The United States started the trend for national birds when it made the Bald Eagle its avian representative over 200 years ago. In 1789 George Washington became our Nation's first President and the American Bald Eagle became our Country's official bird.

President John F. Kennedy later wrote: "The Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the Bald Eagle as the emblem of the nation. The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolizes the strength and freedom of America."

When America adopted the bald eagle as the national symbol, the country may have had as many as 100,000 nesting eagles. The first major decline of the species probably began in the mid to late 1800’s, coinciding with the decline of waterfowl, shorebirds, and other prey.

Although they primarily eat fish and carrion, bald eagles used to be considered marauders that preyed on chickens and domestic livestock. Consequently, the large raptors were shot in an effort to eliminate a perceived threat. Coupled with the loss of nesting habitat, bald eagle populations declined.

In 1940, noting that the species was “threatened with extinction,” Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act, which prohibited killing, selling, or possessing the species. A 1962 amendment added the golden eagle, and the law became the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Shortly after World War II, DDT was hailed as a new pesticide to control mosquitoes and other insects. However, DDT and its residues washed into nearby waterways, where aquatic plants and fish absorbed it. Bald eagles, in turn, were poisoned with DDT when they ate the contaminated fish. The chemical interfered with the ability of the birds to produce strong eggshells. As a result, their eggs had shells so thin that they often broke during incubation or otherwise failed to hatch. DDT also affected other species such as peregrine falcons and brown pelicans.

By 1963, with only 487 nesting pairs of bald eagles remaining, the species was in danger of extinction. In addition to the adverse effects of DDT, some bald eagles have died from lead poisoning after feeding on waterfowl containing lead shot, either as a result of hunting or from inadvertent ingestion.
 
Today, there are almost 10,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the contiguous United States. Bald eagles have staged a remarkable population rebound and have recovered to the point that they no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

For more information about Bald Eagles, visit All About Birds- the Cornell Lab of Ornithology online bird guide.

Related Articles:
Bald Eagle Information http://t.co/o4ugzs2
Nesting Eagles http://t.co/vpj99ZV
Terrified Geese Have Eyes on the Sky http://t.co/pqsWQqE
Amazing moment bald eagle chases down and catches a starling in mid-air http://t.co/U3CT5Sh
Michigan DNRE asking drivers to watch out for bald eagles http://t.co/A9R33zI

Friday, May 22, 2015

Photo Share: Walking Stick

There are over 3,000 species of stick insects, often called walking sticks, which range in size from a tiny half-inch-long to a formidable 13-inches-long. Many stick insects feign death to thwart predators, and some will shed the occasional limb to escape an enemy’s grasp. Little is known about stick insects, making it difficult to declare the vulnerability of their status in the wild.
Stick insects are among the best camouflaged of all creatures, with a body shape that mimics the branches of their home.
Source: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/stick-insect/

Thank you Holly for sharing your interesting photo! 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, May 21, 2015

Keep mold away from hummingbird feeders

Mold is very bad in hummingbird feeders. Remember to change the nectar in your feeder every 2-4 days, regardless of whether the nectar has been used. In hot, humid weather you might even have to change the nectar every other day.

I find the more often I change the nectar, the easier it is to maintain the feeder. You won't be battling any black mold and you'll have a lot more hummingbirds and orioles.

To clean the hard to reach places you can use a pipe cleaner or we have special little brushes for cleaning feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited.

As soon as the weathers turns hot and humid, you should soak the hummingbird feeder for about 5 minutes in a Scoot, active enzyme cleaner once a week. Or use a one part vinegar to nine parts water solution to clean the feeders. Then rinse your feeders thoroughly.

Also make sure your nectar solution is the proper proportion.
 
Nectar (sugar water) recipe
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup water

 
Related articles:
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/II4RQ4
Where to hang my hummer feeders http://bit.ly/H2U4P4 
Habitat and Habits of hummers http://bit.ly/H2Ua9s
Nectar recipe for hummingbirds http://bit.ly/H7xvp3
Summer Bird Feeding Tips http://bit.ly/KIv38a

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Photo Share: Bee House

Mason Bee House
One tip for bee nest placement , don’t put by the birds we found out quickly with one nest block the woodpeckers and jays ate them ;0 -Holly
Leaf cutter bee

Thank you Holly once again for sharing your interesting photos! 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. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Baby Bunnies not abandoned

Rabbits hide their nests in plain view, sometimes right next to the house, as well as in brush piles or long grass. They construct the nest with fur and grasses which helps to keep the babies warm in between feedings. If you come across a nest of wild bunnies, and the mother is nowhere to be seen, please DO NOT disturb them. This is normal behavior. By removing them from the nest, you are reducing their chances of survival greatly. The mom will only return at night.

Rabbit mothers nurse their babies for approximately 5 minutes a day.  Mothers will be in the nest early in the morning and then again in the evening. The milk is very rich and the babies “fill up” to capacity within minutes. Mother rabbits do not “sit” on the babies to keep them warm as do some mammals and birds. Baby bunnies don’t leave the nest voluntarily until around 4 – 5 weeks old.   

Source:  http://rabbit.org/faq-orphaned-baby-bunnies/

Related Articles: 
The origin of the Easter Bunny http://goo.gl/egBze5
How rabbits survive the winters http://goo.gl/l7ASdp

Thank you Ruth for sharing your adorable photo! 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.