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.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Keep cardinals coming year-round

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.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

First winged insects: Dragonflies

Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve, over 300 million years ago. Fossil dragonflies have been found with wingspans of up to two feet. Today dragonflies have wingspans of only two to five inches, but their two pairs of transparent wings allow them to propel themselves upward, downward, forward, backward, and side to side.

Dragonflies’ eyes are so large they take up most of the head. This gives them incredible vision that encompasses almost every angle except right behind them. Which is good because, unfortunately for them, they are preyed upon by a number of birds, fish, reptiles, toads, frogs and more.

Fortunately for us dragonflies are big predators themselves and feed on variety of bugs including pesky mosquitoes and flies. They catch their insect prey by grabbing it with their feet. They’re so efficient in their hunting that, in one Harvard University study, the dragonflies caught 90 to 95 percent of the prey released into their enclosure. 

Thank you Lynn for sharing your wonderful photos! If anyone 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:
- Mosquito hawks http://goo.gl/f8ojiF
- Why Do Mosquitoes Bite Some People More Than Others?: http://bit.ly/nMo9uV
- A Very Tiny Hummingbird (Moth)?: http://bit.ly/qtrAaV
- 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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hummingbirds pollinate flowers

According to Birds of Michigan by Ted Black, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds span the ecological gap between birds and bees- they feed on sweet, energy-rich nectar that flowers provide and pollinate the flowers in the process.

Many avid gardeners and birders have long understood this interdependence and cultivate native, nectar-producing plants in their yards to attract these delightful birds. Even non-gardeners can attract hummingbirds by maintaining a clean sugar water feeder in a safe location.

Weighing about as much as a nickel, a hummingbird is capable of briefly achieving speeds of up to 62 miles per hour. It is also among the few birds that are able to fly vertically and in reverse. In a straight-ahead flight, hummingbirds beat their wings up to 80 times per second, and their hearts can beat up to 1200 times per minute!

Each year Ruby-throated Hummingbirds can migrate across the Gulf of Mexico- an incredible, nonstop journey of more than 500 miles. In order to accomplish this, these little birds first double their body mass by fattening up on insects and nectar before departing in late October.

1. Birds of Michigan: by Ted Black
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

Monday, July 21, 2014

Orange lilies with their polka dot petals

These orange lilies, with their polka dot petals pulled up and long stamens dangling look very exotic, but the Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganense) is a native wild flower.

If you see this lily don't pick it. Populations of Michigan lilies should be protected if possible. They reproduce very slowly from seed, taking several years to bloom. The plants have a small scaled bulb and they also produce rhizomes underground that eventually produce new bulblets and then new plants.

Thank you Lynn for sharing your interesting photograph! If anyone 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 to garden for birds http://goo.gl/ypyRV
Hummingbird Flowers http://goo.gl/XSy5V
Monarda: Fireworks Flowers http://goo.gl/vFxDc
Michigan Lily http://goo.gl/bSlff
Wild plants that combine unique shape, fascinating folklore and practical uses. http://goo.gl/XEyWf

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Funny looking birds showing up at the feeder

I don’t have favorite birds but I do find the juvenile house finches adorable to watch at my window feeder during the summer. Not just because they are friendly and just a little clueless about feeders. It is those fluffy head plumes that stick up like unwieldy cowlicks on little kids or two fuzzy antennae. Perhaps in the bird world this is also a cue or stimulus to adults to recognize the youngsters.

Adult male House Finches are rosy red around the face and upper breast, with streaky brown back, belly and tail. Adult females are plain grayish-brown with thick, blurry streaks with no red and look similar to the immature birds. The amount of red the male finch has can vary depending on the quality of food he eats during his fall molt.

These 6″, talkative little birds get their name from their habit of hanging around houses. They build their nests in the hanging baskets, wreaths, or in bushy trees, and their cheery warble and variety of chirps is a constant around the bird feeders.

In Michigan, if you have your feeders filled with WBU No-Mess Blend, sunflower, safflower or Nyjer® seed, the chances are good that finches will be a regular visitors to your yard year round.

Related Articles:
Compare House Finches and Purple Finches http://bit.ly/oOogOf 
What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/vn2HK3
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/rT5Hfj
Why male and females are a different color http://bit.ly/ueILUf
Baby cardinal with two distinctive head feathers http://goo.gl/J0isco
Remove all winter wreaths before finches begin nesting in them http://goo.gl/OeyOS

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Robins' strange migration

My father in-law said Robins leave our area (iron Mountain) during the upcoming month or so and head to Canada for a week or two....This sounds a little strange, but have you heard of such a trip? - Say Ya to Da UP

After nesting is completed in late summer and up until the breeding season begins next spring, robins form flocks that roost together at night and feed together by day. Robins are nomadic, and wander irregularly. The same individual robin may winter one year in Florida and remain in mid-Michigan the following year. American Robin flocks can move around to different nut or fruit trees as they ripen and avoid bad weather when it blows through.

In the early spring, robins usually return to the same neighborhood. When their brood of baby robins fledge, both parents take care of them for a couple weeks. They are taught how to forage and take shelter at night in shrubby areas. Other robins also lead their babies to safe shrubby roosting sights.

Map produced with digital range map files provided by the Canadian Wildlife Service.
If the adult female has time for a second clutch, the older babies are left on their own, to hang out with other fledglings. They learn that being in flocks, is normal. Robins ARE territorial on their summer breeding territories, but not at their roosts, or in feeding trees. Flocking is a behavior that gives the birds more eyes and ears to search for food sources and be watchful for predators.

Young robins tend to follow adults in big migratory flocks in late summer. If there is some wonderful food source in Canada they might have learned to flock up to feed. But it is more likely that the Canadian American Robins are gathering to move south and your Iron Mountain robins also leave yards to gather in their own nomadic flocks.

Related Articles:
- 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, July 18, 2014

Photo Share: Handsome homecrafted wren house

A nice shot of a house wren in a nest box my neighbor made me. - Lynn

Thank you for sharing your lovely 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, July 17, 2014

Unique Recycled Barnwood Birdhouse

We just brought in some adorable bird houses from Tomorrows Treasures. They combine functionality with a unique decorative look. All of the birdhouses are made for outdoor use, from recycled western red cedar barn wood. Both the bluebird/tree swallow and chickadee/wren birdhouse styles, have side doors for cleanout or sneaking a peek at the houses’ occupants. 

From re-purposed and natural materials, they make perfect nest sites in spring and roosting spots during the off-season. No two are exactly the same and they come with a scrolled rustic metal stake that is perfect for planting in the garden.

Limited quantities available at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI.

Related Articles:
Ultimate Bluebird House http://bit.ly/xeGs0e
Feeding and Raising Bluebirds http://bit.ly/A39dAh
How to Protect My Bluebird House http://bit.ly/zI48Ts
5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses http://bit.ly/yNT6Ye
When is the best time to put up a bird house? http://bit.ly/yAI123
Bluebird House Designs http://bit.ly/w7FWRE

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Orange and black butterfly not a Monarch

People who are not very familiar with butterflies frequently mistake fritillaries for their more famous distant cousins the monarch butterflies. Most are orange and black like the monarchs, but with a different pattern. They are as attractive and their life histories are perhaps just as interesting, although they do not migrate to Mexico.

Caterpillars hatch in the fall and go to sleep right away without feeding. They sleep through the winter and will only awaken in the spring at the same time as violet plants begin to grow. The timing is important to the hungry caterpillar. It is feared that global warming may disrupt this synchronization; this would prove catastrophic to fritillary caterpillars. They do not go for milkweeds as do monarchs; they prefer violets instead. Without violets, there would be no fritillaries.

The adults, on the other hand are thirsty for nectar of many native flowers, such as mints, butterfly weed, common milkweed, Joe-pye-weed and others; but they do not hesitate to visit some non-native flowers such as lilacs, butterfly bush and some thistles. In general they prefer long tubular flowers, but they can also use some easy to reach, more open flowers.

The common name comes from a Latin word, fritillus, which means chessboard or dice box. Fritillary is also the name of a flower with an interesting checkered pattern; it is obvious that both the flower and the butterfly get their common name because of such pattern. Another name for these handsome butterflies is silverspots because of the metallic markings on their wings undersides. It is possible that this pattern, similar to a leopard’s spots, serves as camouflage when they are resting in places of dappled sun and shade spots.

The females emit an enticing aroma called a pheromone that attracts males. The adults mate in the summer; afterwards females may take a nap of a few weeks, called diapause. They emerge from diapause in late summer and lay their eggs near patches of violets.

Female great spangled fritillaries seem to be able to find the violets even after they have wilted and blown away. It is possible that they can smell the roots of violets. Curiously, females of other species of fritillaries do not appear to be terribly careful about finding the presence of violets; they seem to choose shaded, weedy places that are likely to favor the growth of violets, thus many eggs are lost when the larvae search in vain for their food and cannot find it. These mothers can afford to be careless because they lay as many as two thousand eggs, so it does not matter if many are lost.

Article from:  http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/fritillary.shtml
and Thank you Lynn for sharing more of your wonderful photos! If anyone would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com
Related Articles:
Fritillaria meleagris flowers http://goo.gl/ysPN3n
Lifecycle of Monarch Butterflies http://goo.gl/8dTiBz
Plant some milkweed http://goo.gl/8s6F1d
Monarch migration route http://goo.gl/L66ty
Punctuation Butterflies: The First Butterfly of Spring! http://bit.ly/JHUpG1

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Close up on spotty robins

I have some spotted robins in my yard, could you tell me if something was wrong?

Young robins 2-6 weeks old have brown backs, dark brown cheeks outlined in white and a white breast speckled with black splotches. As they grow older the speckles disappear and they grow to look more like their parents with an orange breast.

The earth coloring and camouflage markings disguise babies from predators. When American Robins first leave the nest at two weeks old, they can't fly. If they are scared or want to avoid detection, they squat in on the ground with their head up. And they blend right in with their environment.

Their parents feed them at first and teach them gradually how to hop, sleep on sheltered branches at night, forage for food, and learn how to fly. If you watch longer, you'll probably see an adult robin nearby supervising the situation.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Closer look at a baby red-bellied woodpecker

A couple of Red-Bellies; the male was feeding the chick.  "The act" was taking place behind the tree, so I didn't get any pics of the actual exchange, but still the pic is interesting for a couple of reasons:  
1) you don't usually get a shot of a Red-Belly's belly, and 
2)  I found the youngster's cocoa-colored head to be kind of a surprise. 

Thank you Lynn for sharing your wonderful photos and observations! If anyone would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com

Related Articles:
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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