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 25, 2014

Tufted Titmouse: Not shy but introverted

As cold weather moves in and the active bug population decreases we get to see more sightings of the Tufted Titmice at the feeders! This self-contained little bird is often found foraging with flocks of chickadees during the winter months. They do not migrate extensively. In fact most live their entire lives within a few miles of their birthplace.

The big black doll eyes of this small gray bird make them irresistible. They are attracted mainly to feeders that offer suet, nuts or sunflower seeds. If you have sharp eyes you may spot them as they slide by unnoticed among the branches of the trees and hanging upside down while searching beneath twigs for insects.  

Males are dominant over females and they form pairs that persist until the death of one of the mates. The titmouse family bond is so strong that the young from one breeding season will often stay with their parents long enough to help them with nesting and feeding duties the following year.

Tit is an old English word meaning little and mase meant small bird. The name titmase morphed eventually into titmouse. This was probably because the bird's coloring does sort of remind people of a small mouse. But actually the meaning of the name Titmouse is small, little bird.

Related Articles:
Bird of the Week: Small gray and white bird with tuft http://goo.gl/6dRVfF
Tufted Titmouse’s song is a fast-repeated, clear whistle http://goo.gl/cF55yP
Titmice Fun Facts http://goo.gl/nggZtM
Why offer peanuts to birds http://goo.gl/QK4t7K

Friday, October 24, 2014

How bug eating birds survive the winter

Chickadee rides a flower head while examining it for seeds
From sunrise to sunset, the chickadee spends most of its time feeding. The natural diet of the Black-capped Chickadee consists of 50% insects, insect eggs, larvae and pupae, as well as spiders, and 50% seeds and berries in the winter. Every time I fill the feeder, little woodpeckers, nuthatches and chickadees are around to let me know they are doing their best to reach the end of my bottomless buffet of birdseed.

Goldenrod Gall
Birds are excellent food foragers. They don’t need a feeder to survive normally, but I enjoy watching them up close, so I provide them with ample seeds and suets. I also provide them with lots of trees, bushes, flowers, and vines that produce fruits, nuts and berries.

Bugs and bug larvae are also hidden but available if you know where to look. Sometimes they are buried in the fallen leaves or in the crevices of tree bark. Another tasty treat for bug eating birds is the Goldenrod Gall Fly larva. You may have noticed golf ball sized growths on dried goldenrod stems. Did you think maybe it was some weird seed pod development? It’s actually a spherical gall bed for larva to develop.

The female Goldenrod Gall Fly lays her eggs on young goldenrod stems in the spring. In about 10 days the eggs hatch and larva burrows down into the plant stem. The larva's saliva, which is thought to mimic plant hormones, results in the plant producing exaggerated plant growth or galls to provide the larva with both food and protection over the winter.

Woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice and nuthatches can peck into the galls to extract the tasty and energy rich larva inside. In some areas, it can be a very important food source for birds.

Related Articles:
- Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/pXv5ZN
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/nImz5g
- How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh
- How to Prepare Your Yard for Winter Birdwatching http://bit.ly/q93Men 
- What is the best bird feeder? http://bit.ly/qVr7i8

Photo Share: Eastern Bluebirds and the last hummingbird



Here are some pics for you...

Thank you for sharing. If anyone would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Photo Share: Fall Colors

We went on a canoe ride in Lansing, MI last Sunday. The colors were beautiful! We also saw wood ducks, herons, turtles, deer, salmon and lots of other stuff.

Thank you for sharing. If anyone would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How to select the best bird seed

I'm feeding No-mess bird seed. Is that the best blend for winter?

No-mess is the only blend I use personally and Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess bird seed is our most popular blend with our customers by far. I have to order so much that it is sometimes hard to find a place to stack the extra tonnage on the floor.

No-Mess Blend is unique because it features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds make for a tidier feeding area, since there's no debris on the ground to clean up. The first ingredient in the No-Mess blend is sunflower seed with the hulls removed, then peanut pieces, and finally a little millet, also with the hulls removed. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything.

Food is essential to provide birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition to endure the elements. An ample supply of fresh high-calorie foods is crucial to a bird's survival. All our Wild Birds Unlimited seed blends have been formulated regionally to provide the most nutritious food for your birds.

The first ingredient in our top 4 seed blends is sunflower seed. Oil Sunflower seed is the favorite of most of the backyard seed eating birds and I always like it to be the first ingredient in my bird seed blend. Choice, Supreme, and Deluxe all have oil sunflower, striped sunflower, safflower, and sunflower chips. Deluxe also has white proso millet to attract the ground feeding birds like the juncos, sparrows, and doves.

Choice is the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing’s second most popular blend. It has peanut pieces in the mix. Now when I tell that to most people they say, “oh, no that will attract squirrels”, but the peanuts in the mix are for the birds. Lots of bug eating birds like the woodpeckers, jays, wrens, chickadees, and nuthatches love to pick out the peanuts. Peanuts have a high calorie/ounce ratio due to its high fat and protein content. Lots of interesting birds love peanuts.

Each of our blends is mixed to attract the widest variety of birds that live in our area. 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. Therefore, there is no wasted seed. Wild Birds Unlimited blends actually end up costing less to use while attracting more of the birds that you want to watch.

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Leave the goldfinch feeder up for winter finches

Am I supposed to leave the goldfinch feeder up during the winter? I thought they migrated south.
.
I love the American Goldfinches and mid-Michigan is lucky enough to have these birds year round. If you enjoyed watching them in the summer and fall, they'll also bring you joy in the winter. They do lose their bright yellow color but when they sing it's like they bring sunshine with them even on the dreariest days.

Winter also brings down some Canadian finches like the redpolls and siskins.

And for those of you that only feed during the winter and had left over Nyjer seed from last year, it's probably too dried out to feed to your birds this year. One way to check your seed is to smash it with a spoon on white paper and see if any oil spots are produced. The finches use their bills to twist the seed and sip the oil and then drop the shell. If your seed has dried out, your feeder will be skipped. (Wild Birds Unlimited receives a fresh load of seed each week).

Finally, remember not to cut off the tops of your Marigold, Zinnias, Cosmos, or Coneflowers right now because they're full of tasty seed heads that the finches love.

Related Articles:
- Goldfinch Migration http://bit.ly/pEuMKo
- House Finches: Those Year-round Red Heads http://bit.ly/opD7kb
- Bird of the week: Pine Siskin http://bit.ly/qNqIuK
- Birdwatching: Look for the Out-of-Towners http://bit.ly/q6Pkco
- Comparing House Finches and Purple Finches http://bit.ly/oOogOf
- 10 Winter Finches in Michigan http://goo.gl/C9WUqx
- Where do you place finch feeders? http://bit.ly/p4XHU4

Monday, October 20, 2014

Where birds go when it rains

I'm wondering when it is raining really heavy, where do the birds go? I don't see or hear them in the trees. Where do they shelter themselves? - Ricky

Roosting pocket make a cozy shelter
You need to look a little lower for birds when it storms. Many birds take shelter in a dense group of bushes lower to the ground or even in leaf or brush piles. I had a little finch on my front porch taking shelter behind a pumpkin.

Bird houses and roosting pockets also give protection during a storm. Wrens, chickadees, sparrows, woodpeckers and bluebirds often pop in bird houses when shelter is required from heavy rains or snow.

The small birds fly as little as possible and try to wait out storms. This is when they appreciate bird feeders the most.
During storms birds may think of your feeder as a known source of food. While not dependent on feeders, birds don't feel like foraging for food in bad weather. Feeders make it easier for wild birds to brave a storm and refuel. 


Related Articles:

How can birds fly in the rain? http://goo.gl/JOeMVM
How to Help Keep Your Birds Warm http://goo.gl/GNaFLo
Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
Why Don't Birds Freeze After They Take a Bath in the Winter? http://goo.gl/5ydpvy

Please Miss, can you spare a nibble?

After filling the feeders, I sometimes give a Blue Jay call to alert the birds that their dinner is served. However sometimes I give a little "chip, chip, chip" call to alert little ground beggers that I just might have spilled a little food for them to clean up.

Chipmunks get their name because they are often seen perched and chipping. They are solitary animals and their chipping perch is usually close to their burrow entrance to let other chipmunks know to stay away.

Eastern Chipmunks do not hibernate throughout the winter, nor do they "fatten up" before retreating to their homes. In the fall they gather large amounts of food in their burrows and build nests on top of their treasure trove. When the temperatures reach freezing, chipmunks head underground to their prepared area, where they enter torpor (short times of hibernation). They wake up occasionally eat their stored food and go back to sleep until the earth warms in the spring.
 
Related articles:
- How much food can a chipmunk hold in his mouth? http://bit.ly/yD6Bn8
- When do Chipmunks hibernate? http://bit.ly/yIfqFT
- How many species of squirrels are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/A2wG1g
- Will Safflower seed deter chipmunks? http://bit.ly/wYGDBi
- How many different types of chipmunks are there? http://goo.gl/X4Sqff

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Climate change alters cast of winter birds

A mix of birds gather around a snow-covered bird feeder during a winter day. According to UW researchers, birds typically found in more southerly regions are gradually pushing north. Photo: Martha Allen/Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Over the past twenty years, the common birds at eastern North America’s backyard bird feeders in winter have changed subtly, most likely as a result of a warming climate. In this week's journal Global Change Biology, University of Wisconsin-Madison wildlife biologists Benjamin Zuckerberg and Karine PrincĂ© document that once rare wintering bird species are now commonplace.
Photo: Carolina wrens
Carolina wrens have greatly expanded their wintering range
Photo: Michele Black/Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Using more than two decades of data on 38 species of birds gathered by thousands of “citizen scientists” through the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch, the researchers show that birds typically found in more southerly regions are moving north gradually, restructuring the communities of birds that spend their winters in northern latitudes.

“Fifty years ago, cardinals were rare in the northeastern United States. Carolina wrens even more so,” explains Zuckerberg.

The researchers measured the changes over time in the abundance of 38 bird species at feeders in eastern North America, over a 22-year period on the flocks of birds that gather at backyard feeding stations.

Zuckerberg says. “Birds have always been very good indicators of environmental change.” PrincĂ© notes that other environmental changes, such as the pervasive human impact on landscape, may also be exerting an influence on the observed changes in the composition of birds attending winter feeding stations in eastern North America. “Climate change should not be viewed as the sole driver of changes in winter bird communities, but this signal is a pretty strong,” she explains.

Journal reference: Global Change Biology
Provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison

Related Articles:
Cardinals move north: http://goo.gl/kiMcIW
Everyone can participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count http://goo.gl/WM83on
House Wren didn't migrate this winter http://goo.gl/2JlaCz
Most common winter birds in Michigan http://goo.gl/kPTb9v

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Strange looking cardinal

My mom has strange looking cardinals in her backyard. They seem to have crossbred with another variety. Some have dark beaks some have mottled red-brown feathers. Have observed a red male northern Cardinal feeding a young with a dark beak. Any ideas?

Photo from WunderPhotos
These are late season juvenile cardinals. Babies always have dark beaks and look like they've been rolled in ashes. As the baby boys mature, more colorful red feathers will appear until they look like normal adults.

Right now they are looking for a lot of weed seeds, fruits, nuts and berries in the wild. At the feeders you can provide highly nutritious and protein packed foods like sunflower and safflower seeds as well as peanuts.

Related Articles:
Northern Cardinal Fun Facts http://bit.ly/twE6NV
How the Northern Cardinal bird was named http://bit.ly/tSKZYs
Cardinal Bird Feeders Made in the USA: http://bit.ly/qXJPFM
How to Attract Cardinals: http://bit.ly/pjh7mO
What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/rAArXw
What are the different types of cardinal birds? http://goo.gl/CUI43

Friday, October 17, 2014

Photo Share: Savannah Sparrow

Not all streaky brown birds are impossible to identify. The Savannah Sparrow, an understated but distinctive sparrow, has a short tail, small head, and telltale yellow spot before the eye. One of Michigan's most common open-country birds, they are often seen and heard in open fields or on the side of highways looking for food.

The Savannah Sparrow’s name sounds like a nod to its fondness for grassy areas, but this species was actually named for a specimen collected in Savannah, Georgia.

Few overwinter in mid-Michgan. Most will move further south by the end of October.

Related Articles:
Different sparrows in Michigan http://goo.gl/Y2B5HH
Best field guide for Michigan birds http://bit.ly/vPOMx1
How do you become a birdwatcher? http://bit.ly/rquunU
Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/0qggF
How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d