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.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Feeder suggestion to attract Pileated Woodpecker

I'm looking for a good feeder to feed the pileated woodpecker at my house up north. Can you make some suggestions?

Now is a great time to start feeding woodpeckers and Pileated Woodpeckers are known to frequent feeders near a large woods. So your area sound perfect.

These are Michgan's largest woodpecker at sixteen and a half inches in length and a wingspan up to 30 inches. Their pointed tail feathers are especially strong and rigid. The tail bone, lower vertebrae and the tail’s supporting muscles are also large in comparison to other birds. These modifications allow a woodpecker’s tail to serve as a prop that supports their weight as they climb and cling to trees.

So to attract Pileated Woodpeckers I would recommend the WBU Double Tail Prop Suet Feeder. The paddle simulates a tree trunk and offers birds a place to prop their tail while they feed. Even the Pileated Woodpecker's huge frame will fit on our feeder. It is made out of Recycled Plastic so it won't rot, crack, fade and it is also is easy to fill and clean. They hold two suet cakes at a time and yes we do sell suet too. I like peanut butter suet or hot pepper suet if you have a problem with critters.

Tail Prop suet feeders also attract a wide variety of other birds like chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and other woodpeckers.

Related Articles:
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
- Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX
- How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/tJ7e6S
- Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/tQ5lwt
- How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI

Friday, October 20, 2017

Photo Share: Red-winged Blackbird hanging around

I came in this morning to the Wild Birds Unlimited store, still dark, to the calls of a Red-winged Blackbird. The call was familiar but took me a few moments to recognize it because red-wings are usually gone from mid-Michigan by October. 

While not common, Red-winged Blackbirds have been known to make appearances here during the fall and winter. Blackbirds usually leave Michigan soon after nesting season is over but they don't have to. Most fly to the southern and central states in huge male or female flocks, where they are abundant especially on farms.

Warmer temperatures and a greater supply of food and water could be some reasons a few Red-winged Blackbirds are still around. The cold doesn't bother them as long as they can find enough food. Perhaps it is another result of climate change.

Young males also stick around sometimes so they will be the first ones back to claim a nesting territory in late Feb or early March. You can view the normal Range Map at: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-winged_Blackbird/id


Related articles:
- Fun Facts on Red-winged Blackbirds: http://bit.ly/q05Bos
- All about the Red-Winged Blackbird: http://bit.ly/qAeiyj
- Red-winged Blackbird info http://bit.ly/yQPs61
- Blackbird Battle http://bit.ly/xFsHIN
- Red-winged blackbirds attack hawk http://bit.ly/yaudwu

Thursday, October 19, 2017

6 common misconceptions about wild birds

1. All birds fly south in the winter - In general, it's estimated that of the over 200 species of birds nesting in Michigan, about 90 percent migrate to some extent. Whether it’s from the U.P. to mid-Michigan or from our state to Mexico or Central America depends on the bird. Some permanent or non-migrating backyard birds are Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmice, Downy Woodpeckers, Black-Capped Chickadees, White Breasted Nuthatches, and House Sparrows.
2. Don’t start feeding birds until it snows - Birds have a varied diet and the best way to help them develop brighter plumage is to create a habitat with lots food high in fat in protein in the fall. Young birds like chickadees and titmice find new territories to hook up with other young birds at the end of summer and join local adults to form winter flocks. If you are feeding a good birdseed blend now, you will attract lots of birds that will remain in the same general area for the rest of their adult lives.
3. I can use last year’s seed this year - In warm weather or if you store your seed inside buy no more than 2-3 weeks supply of seed at a time. And never pour old seed on top on new. During the winter, foods will generally be fine for at least 3 months if stored properly in a cool, dry place.
4. Birds will eat any seed - Food is essential to provide birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition to endure the elements. Our Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI are dedicated to offering fresh, top-quality seed that is also sifted to take out all the sticks and field debris. Our no-waste bird seed blends are made from 100% edible seed and have been exclusively formulated for the feeding preferences of our local birds. No cereal fillers—just fresh, high-quality seed your birds will love. We also carry a wide variety of other bird foods—Seed Blends, suets, seed cylinders, mealworms and more. We do not include cheap filler grains like oats, wheat and milo that decrease the price per pound of a mix but aren't eaten by the birds in Michigan.
5. Heated bird baths are like hot tubs for birds - If your area freezes like mid-Michigan, you can provide a heated birdbath for your birds. This isn’t like a hot tub. The bath just remains free of ice and open to the birds. Most people understand the importance of water for drinking but many do not realize just how important it is in bathing for birds. Because feathers are critical for flight and insulation, birds keep them well-maintained. A good part of a bird's day is spent just cleaning and grooming its feathers by bathing, scratching, and preening.
6. Bird houses are only used in the spring - At night or during bad weather birds often find shelter in tree cavities, birdhouses, or under the eaves of houses. Bird houses left up all winter also might attract young birds scouting out future nesting sites.

Related Articles:
What birds like peanuts? http://bit.ly/zispJK
What seeds do wild birds eat? http://bit.ly/wKyQNB
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/xbkaPP
Why pay more for seed at Wild Birds Unlimited? http://bit.ly/xJZMFe
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Birds plan ahead for rainy days

Chickadees, nuthatches, some woodpeckers, jays, and crows all plan ahead for those rainy and snowy days. These birds not only eat lunch at our feeders, they also take doggie bags away.

Extra seeds and nuts will be secreted away in the crevices of tree bark, in knotholes, or in the ground for them to retrieve and eat at a later time. They hide hundreds of seeds all over their territory, in a behavior known as scatter-hoarding to help them survive if food sources become scarce.

Each seed is placed in a different location and neurobiologists have discovered that the part of the bird brain that processes spatial information increases in fall to help them remember where they hid each yummy morsel and shrinks in the spring.

Not only can they accurately remember the location of each seed they hoard a month later, they also remember the quality of items they initially stored, making more of an effort to retrieve the best food.

Recent research has shown that a consistent and reliable source of food helps birds to
build body fat reserves, reduces their physiological stress and helps to maintain a healthy body condition. By providing easily accessible, quality food, you can help your birds with their caching needs in the fall so they will stick around your yard all winter. Below is a little more detail on some of your favorite birds' caching behaviors.
  • Cache seeds (in the shell and out), nuts, insects and other invertebrate prey
  • Food is typically cached about 100 feet from feeders
  • May carry off several seeds at a time, but each item is stored in a separate location
  • Store food in knotholes, bark, under shingles, in the ground and on the underside of small branches
  • Prefer to cache hulled sunflower seeds, because they are easier and faster to cache; occasionally mealworms
  • Food is typically cached about 45 feet from feeders
  • Store food in bark crevices on large tree trunks and on the underside of branches
  • Cache sunflower, peanuts and safflower one seed at a time
  • Food is typically cached about 130 feet from feeders
  • 80% of the time seeds are removed from their shell before hidden in tree trunks
  • Cache acorns, peanuts in the shell, and sunflower seeds
  • They can carry several nuts at one time in their esophagus.
  • A single blue jay can cache or hide as many as 5,000 acorns up to 2.5 miles from their original source and retrieve them when needed.
  • Jays cache nuts by burying them singly in the ground in their territory.
Related articles:
- Birds Move Trees http://bit.ly/oPqFgG
- Screech Owls cache uneaten prey items in cavities http://bit.ly/pJ7jCP
- Red-Bellied Woodpecker stores its food in the barks of trees http://bit.ly/nqYS7j
- Mine! All Mine: Why Squirrels Hoard http://bit.ly/qFANnl
- Michigan’s Top 20 Winter Backyard Birds http://bit.ly/qq5xu1
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/ngkPX3

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Regional Differences of Northern Flickers


Image red-shafted via Wikipedia

Image of yellow-shafted via Wikipedia
From AllAboutBirds.org
North America has two easily distinguished races of Northern Flickers: the yellow-shafted form of the East, which occurs into Texas and the Great Plains, and the red-shafted form of the West.

The key difference is the color of the flight-feather shafts, which are either a lemon yellow or a rosy red. Yellow-shafted forms (the ones we have in Michigan) have tan faces and gray crowns, and a red crescent on the nape. Males have a black mustache stripe. Red-shafted forms have a gray face, brown crown, and no nape crescent, with males showing a red mustache stripe. Hybrids look intermediate and are common at the edges of these two groups’ ranges.


Related Articles:
- Northern Flicker Roosts Alone in the winter http://bit.ly/zouUF6
- Northern Flicker Stops by for a Surprise Visit http://bit.ly/Aouqjf
- Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/yGoOUc
- Why Flickers Flick Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/Ar0Rin
- How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/x5PGT1

Monday, October 16, 2017

Tiny wild white mushrooms under pine in michigan

These adorable white mushrooms popped up under the pine outside the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI after all the heavy rain. One day just pine needles and the next a carpet of little umbrellas.
Related Articles:
Photo Share: Puffball Mushroom http://puffball-mushroom.html
Mushroom that make Reindeer Fly? http://reindeer-fly.html
Photo Share: On a Morel hunt http://morel-hunt.html

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Birds look like dancing leaves

Flitter, flutter... those "dancing leaves" I saw under the feeder this weekend were actually new birds visiting! Little brown birds with plain gray underparts, and conspicuous white throat and yellow lores above the eyes between black-and-white or black-and-tan stripes on the head means the White-throated Sparrows have come to town! Watch for them doing the chicken scratch dance under the feeders.

White-throated Sparrows show up in mid-Michigan right before the first frost in the fall. They can be spotted hanging around for a couple weeks in flocks of mixed sparrows before they continue to their wintering grounds in the eastern states below Michigan and in small numbers in southwestern states.

You may hear the birds before you see them. Birders describe their song as "Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody". Be on the look-out for the White-crowned Sparrows too. They usually pass through around the same time as the White-throated. Their visits to feeders tend to be early and late in the day. And Dark-eyed Juncos are sure to follow.

Watch the video:  https://youtu.be/sL_YJC1SjHE
 
Related Articles:
White-throated Sparrow fun facts http://white-throated-sparrow-fun-facts.html
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/oy9XGz
Which one of these birds is not like the others? http://bit.ly/qM1LQt
What birds winter in Michigan? http://bit.ly/rqQgU2

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Pecking order

What is the true pecking order? Little was known about encounters between birds of different species until now. A recent citizen science project conducted by Project FeederWatch has collected and analyzed thousands of reports on the drama taking place every day at the feeders.

And the results are in: When it comes to fighting over food, bigger is better but woodpeckers are best. The outcome of aggressive encounters between birds frequently determines which bird species gains access to food. Eliot Miller, a post-doctoral researcher studying feeder hierarchies at the Cornell Lab, says: “We’re finding that you can take that rather complicated, messy set of nearly 2,000 interactions between 85 different species and assemble those species into a fairly good approximation of a pecking order — a linear dominance hierarchy.”

But it is not all black and white. Observations revealed some unexpected relationships like how European Starlings are dominant to Red-headed Woodpeckers, and Red-headed Woodpeckers are dominant to Red-bellied Woodpeckers, but then Red-bellied Woodpeckers are dominant to European Starlings. Other unexpected findings were who turned out to be the least dominant. Doves, buntings, and grosbeaks seemed to be less dominant than expected based on their body size.

Take a look at the video and see pecking order in action:  https://youtu.be/uLieJQ3azOk
See the Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers dominate at the feeder over the cardinal, chickadees, finches, titmice, and the lowly nuthatches trying so hard to impress.
 
Sources:
Who is the toughest bird? https://feederwatch.org/blog/who-is-the-toughest-bird/
Fighting over food unites the birds of North America in a continental dominance hierarchy https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/01/30/104133


Related Articles:
Do Birds Eat Only at Certain Levels? http://goo.gl/vgE94
Why feed birds in the fall http://goo.gl/Jq4Aj
You get more birds if you feed year-round http://goo.gl/IsJKJ
Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://bird-guild.html
Black-capped Chickadee: Nature’s Backyard Charmer http://goo.gl/ji1vh