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, September 21, 2014

Several species of warblers spotted

American Redstart female photo from Wikipedia Commons
September is a great time to see a wide variety of birds as they swing through our area. Several species of warblers have been spotted in mid-Michigan the last few days. Several customers have spotted American Redstarts. They are identified easily by the two white or yellow spots on the tail.
Pine Warbler
And I saw a Pine Warbler last night in the bird bath. Many warblers that we see are similar in size and coloring to a female goldfinch. They are seen mainly in the bushes trying to flush out bugs, at the bird bath and occasionally at the suet or seed feeder that offers nuts.

Related Articles:
- The Journey North: Bird Migration Maps http://bit.ly/pbk4Eb  
- How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d
- Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/ow20ZD
- Birds only in mid-Michigan during the winter http://bit.ly/ojcyP7
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/qa0CVU

Saturday, September 20, 2014

5 tips to attract migrating warblers to stopover

It can be an exciting time for Birdwatchers during the fall migration! Mid-Michigan gets a lot of traffic as birds make their long journey South for the winter. If you're not sure when the birds will make it to your area, BirdCast is a new website that has real-time predictions of when birds migrate, where they migrate, and how far they will be flying.

When you think about migration you may not realize that a majority of small song birds begin their journey at dusk and fly throughout the night. There is no set date for migration, but birds are sensitive to weather conditions. They can literally be blown in your yard for a pit stop and then ride out on the next good wind.

Black and White Warbler
To provide a safe habitat that will encourage migrating birds to stop at your yard, you just have to follow five easy steps:

1. Keep Your Feeders Full
Food is the most essential element, providing birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition they need. To stay warm, birds will expend energy very quickly, some losing up to 10% of their body weight on extremely cold nights, and this fat must be replaced every day. The busier the feeders, the safer your yard will appear to passing birds, which will result in more birds stopping to investigate. Most visiting warblers are bug eaters so you might see them at feeders that have suet or nuts.

2. Provide a Source of Water
Birds continue to need a source of water for drinking to maintain their metabolism during dry or cold weather. Clean feathers help birds stay warm, and a bird bath is often the only way for some birds to drink and keep their feathers in top condition when it’s cold. Warblers and other birds that aren’t normal feeder birds will also be attracted to a clean water source.

3. Protection from the Elements
As the sun goes down, some birds head for a perch in leafy bushes, evergreens, vines or dense brush piles for the night. You can also put up roosting and nesting boxes to give birds a warm, dry place to stay overnight. Shelter is also necessary for protection against natural predators, such as birds of prey and cats.

4. Keep feeders and feeding areas clean
Ovenbird
To help reduce the possibility of disease transmission in birds, clean feeders and feeding areas at least once a month. You can purchase professional cleaners like Scoot at Wild Birds Unlimited, or use a mild one part vinegar to nine parts water solution to disinfect all of your feeders. Keep seed and foods dry by adding Feeder Fresh; discard food that is wet or looks moldy. Birdbaths also need to be scrubbed with a brush and water should be replaced every three to days to discourage mosquito reproduction. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned every three to five days, or every other day in warm weather.

6. Reduce window collisions
It is estimated that between 100 million and one billion birds are killed every year in the United States when they crash into glass windows. And even one billion deaths might be a conservative estimate. Decals like Window Alert placed on the outside of windows have had the most positive feedback from customers. Each decal contains a component which brilliantly reflects ultraviolet sunlight. This ultraviolet light is invisible to humans, but glows like a stoplight for birds.

And to help enjoy the full benefit of songbirds passing through, consider getting a good field identification guide that contains color pictures or illustrations and a quality pair of binoculars.

Related Articles:
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/H42e6s
- What seeds wild birds eat http://goo.gl/Un35yR
- What to do if you have soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
- How to get rid of weeds under the bird feeder without using poisons http://goo.gl/fHlsE0
- Cats Indoors! http://goo.gl/YIOUpI
- How to Prevent Window Strikes during Migration http://goo.gl/KZRzKb

Friday, September 19, 2014

Photo Share: Charming Chickadee

Thought you might like this Chickadee for your website,  it was so tame I believe it would have eaten from my hand. All the best, Rodney 
I like it a lot! While I fill feeders they either encourage me to hurry up or just disregard me entirely and to do their own thing. They are at the bottom of the bird pecking order. Maybe even so low that a lumbering human might be seen as a potential ally.
  
You can see more of Rodney Campbell’s work at: http://rodney-campbell.artistwebsites.com/art/all/birds/all 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, September 18, 2014

Unique new bird food available for a very short time

Long worshipped by humans, long feared by birds...All are happy with the New Cat Seed Cylinders!
A bird's revenge!
They’ve finally arrived! Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing, MI just received the first shipment of Seed Cylinder Characters. Seed Cylinders are tidy, long-lasting, tightly packed seed shapes held together with gelatin that slip on a cylinder feeder.

Bird food cylinders are a win-win for you and your birds. The birds stay longer eating at the feeder instead of grabbing a morsel and flying quickly away to eat it elsewhere. And the cylinders are packed with high-calorie nuts to provide birds with enough energy stay warm. They can help attract many of your favorite birds, including cardinals, chickadees, woodpeckers and goldfinches.

This year we have two new cat characters to join Rascal Racoon, Preston Penguin, Hoot Owl and Buttons the Snowman Seed Cylinders. While only here for a limited time, you can replace the fun-shaped cylinder with our exclusively-formulated Cranberry, Supreme Fare and Safflower seed cylinders here year-round. The Cranberry and Supreme Fare cylinders have pecans as the first ingredient. After I put out one of these pecan rolls, I like sit back and watch the action. Why pecans? Pecans are a very high energy food and the birds appreciate a good meal during this stressful time.

If you don't have a baffled Wild Birds Unlimited Advanced Pole System and worry about the squirrels, you can choose to use the Safflower cylinder to keep squirrels away and draw in more red birds.

I can tell you that Seed Cylinder feeders are undemanding. They are easy to clean, easy to fill, leave very little mess and attract a wide variety of birds. The feeders are popular with beginners and for people like me who have been feeding birds for over 40 years. They also makes great gifts and it is a nice way to introduce someone to feeding birds. 
Related Articles:
Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
Exciting New Bird Food at Wild Birds Unlimited Stores http://goo.gl/LpVQne
Why don't chickadees stay to eat at the feeder? http://bit.ly/AkKThH
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/rCdQqM
Holiday gift ideas for nature lovers: http://bit.ly/v8L2va
Feeding the birds will not make them dependent. http://goo.gl/dqYQu

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bacon fat bad for birds' health

I was reading about suet in one of your articles and it said birds like bacon but it's not good for them with the added stuff in it.  I bought a box of uncured ends and pieces that has no nitrates or nitrites (except what is naturally in the added sea salt and celery powder).  The ingredients are pork, water, sea salt, turbinado sugar, black strap molasses, apple extract, and celery powder.
 

We started buying uncured, nitrate/trite free bacon for ourselves to be healthier.  It's been great but this box of ends and pieces was a bust.  It's luck of the draw...almost half of it was fat this time.  So instead of tossing it I though of the birds.  We usually feed suet in the winter and thought it might be fun to make our own since I  have all this fat.  Do you think this type of fat would be ok for them? - Thanks, Juliette

Every backyard birder wants to offer their feathered friends a healthy, nutritious buffet, and the key to attracting more birds is to use a variety of different foods high in protein and fat. Wild Birds Unlimited’s Suet is made with only the highest quality processed beef kidney fat. It is the most concentrated source of energy you can offer wild birds.

In spring, suet meets the increased energy demands of nesting birds. In the summer months, it provides a good substitute for insect-eating birds, especially in years when insects are not very plentiful. In fall, suet helps wild birds store fat to prepare for migration. And of course, in winter, suet replenishes depleted stores of energy and nutrients, to help birds survive the long, cold months.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, most bacon always has detectable amounts of nitrosamines, carcinogenic compounds formed from some of the preservatives used in bacon. In particular, the very high cooking temperatures used to fry bacon are conducive to nitrosamine formation. So despite the fact that birds love it, bacon and bacon fat pose too much of a risk to the long-term health of birds to warrant using it.

Turbinado sugar and black strap molasses also contain more iron and other minerals than a bird’s natural diet requires. The excess could result in a buildup in their organs. 

And foods high in salt are not good birds. While birds can process small amounts of salt without difficulty, large quantities are dangerous. Avoid offering birds any foods high in salt, such as salty meats, chips or other animal foods that include salt for nutritional value.

Having said that, a bird’s diet is varied and though I wouldn’t offer them the box of uncured ends, I don’t think a little would harm them.
  
Related Articles:
- What birds eat suet? http://bit.ly/q2Sfje
- Can I make my own suet? http://bit.ly/rsc1JT
- How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods: http://bit.ly/ob0NIq 
- Can I feed suet year-round? http://bit.ly/I4Ow8l

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How to attract more chickadees

I think the chickadees are so cute!!! How do I encourage them to visit my feeders more often? - Jinny

New Cat Seed Cylinder available at Wild Birds Unlimited!
Lucky for birdwatchers, mid-Michigan's chickadees are non-migratory and will be around all winter. New fall and winter flocks have been forming for awhile. Flocks can consist of 2 to 18 birds. Normal suburban flocks range from 6 to 10 birds over a territory of 20 to 50 acres.

Young chickadees leave their parents about a month after they’ve hatched. They leave their natal territory and individually take up residence with other non-related chickadees several miles away. These first year chickadees have the lowest status in the group and try to pair up with a mate they can be with next breeding season and move up in rank as dominant birds die.

The average lifespan of a chickadee in the wild is 2.5 years. Keeping their little half ounce body working efficiently requires a lot of fuel. And the worse the conditions the more the chickadees need to eat.

Inquisitive, energetic, and strikingly marked, the Black-capped Chickadee is regular visitor to Michigan feeders especially in the fall. They may seem to be in a little bit of a frenzy. Attracted to sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suets at a bird feeding station, they are collecting food and hiding it for later just like squirrels. Read MORE on how chickadees cache their food.

At my feeding station I offer Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess Seed Blend in a squirrel proof feeder, Peanutbutter Suet, and Seed Cylinders. I have offered them every seed cylinder flavor and I they give no complaints, just very polite thank yous. I also think they are not only one of the cutest birds but one of the sweetest birds to feed.
Related Articles:
- How to get the chickadees to stay at the feeder longer http://goo.gl/2lwK5I
- Quiz on Chickadees http://goo.gl/0cI03 
- Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://goo.gl/jAtN5 
- Fun Facts about the different Chickadees in North America http://bit.ly/zIDkCi 
- Not a Shy Bird: How the Black-capped Chickadee Communicates http://goo.gl/1rlnh

Monday, September 15, 2014

Birds change into a Superbird state in the fall

As many of you have noticed, birds have been attacking the feeders like there is no tomorrow. And there won't be if they don't bulk up now to prepare for a harsh Michigan winter or a long journey south. Birds change into a “superbird” state when their internal clock is triggered by shorter days and cooler weather at the end of summer.

Right now a bird needs to increase its fat reserves by as much as 1-10% per day. This feeding frenzy is called hyperphagia. In human terms, this would mean I would have to gain 12 pounds per day. That gives "eats like a bird" a whole new meaning. But remember that their fat increase is vital for the extreme energy required to survive the coming months.

Keeping your feeders filled with high energy, high fat foods can provide your birds with the critical nutrition they need to survive. High on the list of best choices to meet this nutritional need is suet.
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Seeds also provide fats, but in varying degrees. High on the list are peanuts, which provide 412 fat calories per 100 grams. Other high fat seeds include sunflower chips (429 fat calories per 100 grams) and nyjer (thistle) seed (342 fat calories).
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Wild Birds Unlimited is dedicated to offering fresh, top-quality seed. 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.

Our most popular Wild Birds Unlimited seed blend is No Mess because it is filled with many of these high fat seeds and nuts making it an ideal food, along with suet, to offer your birds this fall.
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Source:
Zoological Society of Milwaukee Bird Migration Facts by Kerry Scanlan, Vicki Piaskowski, Michelle Jacobi and Steve Mahler 

Related Articles:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Goldfinch Interplay

Hello, I have noticed that goldfinches have been extraordinary playful by my niger seed feeders. They flutter up and down, mid-air, in close range to each other. I have also noticed one goldfinch on a tree next to the feeder chirping and fluttering non-stop while the others are eating. Any significance with these behaviors? Jim
If you love watching bird behavior, there is nothing more fun than the American Goldfinches. These small bright yellow and black birds have a roller-coaster flight and a lovely song. 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.

While most birds have finished nesting and some are flying south, the goldfinches delay the start of their nesting behavior until the thistles and other flowers come into bloom so they can anticipate an abundant and reliable supply of seeds for their young.

The immature American goldfinch has a dull brown back, and the underside is pale yellow. The shoulders and tail are dull black with two buff-colored wing bars, rather than an adult’s white. This coloration is the same in both male and female.

If you still aren’t sure if it is a baby or a female goldfinch, look at the feathers. Young American Goldfinches have fine, clean feathers and the adults will look worn out as they molt their feathers for winter. Babies are also very noisy begging and fluttering their wings constantly for their parents to feed them.

With the incessant demands of the little ones for food, there are often squabbles at the feeders for perches. I have 5 finch feeders, regular feeders full of Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess blend and a lot of natural foods like coneflowers and they still are pecking for positions. They are one of my favorite birds.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

“State of the Birds” Report Assesses the Health of the Nation’s Birds


The Bad News: Populations Are Down in Many Key Habitats
 The Good News: Conservation Efforts Work When Applied
One hundred years after the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the nation’s top bird science and conservation groups have come together to publish State of the Birds 2014—the most comprehensive review of long-term trend data for U.S. birds ever conducted. The authors call the results unsettling. The report finds bird populations declining across several key habitats, and it includes a “watch list” of bird species in need of immediate conservation help. The report also reveals, however, that in areas where a strong conservation investment has been made, bird populations are recovering. The full report can be found at http://www.stateofthebirds.org/.