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.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Kinglet arrives!

Make sure to keep your suet feeders full and baths full of clean water. May is the month for warblers, kinglets, grosbeaks and more! Keep your eyes and ears open for new birds.

He looked something like a goldfinch until, ta-dah, he showed his ruby red crown of feathers. Ruby-crowned Kinglets have olive-grey plumage with a conspicuous broken white eye ring, a thin black bill and short tail. The males have a small ruby, red crown of feathers which gives the bird its common name kinglet, Latin for 'little king'. At 4 inches they are about an inch shorter than a chickadee and weigh 5 to 10 grams or the same as one or two nickels.
 
Little groups of kinglets usually migrate by night, so you may wake up to discover your yard is a migratory stopover for the birds to rest and feed in evergreen tangles during the day. They are well camouflaged but sometimes betray their presence with lovely alto songs and flashing wing movements and hops like they are buzzing on caffeine.
 
The Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) nests mainly in the northern evergreen forests of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and further north into Canada. We will see them again in October when they pass through mid-Michigan again as they migrate to the southern United States and Mexico. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The most brilliant blue bird

A common migrant and breeder in Michigan from May until September, the Indigo bunting can look almost black until the sun hits and you view the most brilliant blue bird.

Indigos like a variety of food, including small seeds, nuts, berries, insects, mosquitoes, flies, aphids, small spiders, buds, goldenrod, thistle, grasses, and herbs.

At my feeders they like the Nyger Thistle and the No-Mess blend which has the sunflower chips, peanuts, and millet without the hulls.
The only way to get them to stay the whole summer is if you live in an area where they like to breed. Indigo buntings nest in brushy and weedy habitats along the edges of farmland, woods, roads, and railways.

Female Indigo Bunting at nest
According to allaboutbirds.com: Male Indigo Buntings whistle a bright, lively song of sharp, clear, high-pitched notes that lasts about 2 seconds. They are voluble, singing as many as 200 songs per hour at dawn and keeping up a pace of about one per minute for the rest of the day. Notes or phrases are often repeated in pairs: "what! what! where? where? see it! see it!" This pattern is recognizable, although the precise tune varies from place to place. Young Indigo Buntings learn their songs from males near where they settle to breed, and this leads to “song neighborhoods” in which all nearby males sing songs that are similar to each other and that are different from those sung more than a few hundred yards away.

Related Articles: 
Gardening for birds http://bit.ly/K5IG0T 
Blue Jays aren't blue http://bit.ly/zlNPHx 
How birds and bees see UV light http://bit.ly/wLilkP 
Types of Bird feathers http://bit.ly/J8aZMh

Saturday, May 2, 2015

How to Participate in Global Big Day Bird Count

World's Largest 24-Hour Bird Tally, May 9
Can bird watchers find half of the world’s bird species to raise awareness for conservation?
 
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is challenging bird watchers around the world to generate a gigantic collective bird tally on a single, crazy day—May 9, 2015.

The goal? To tally as many of the world’s 10,000+ bird species as possible while raising awareness and funds for conservation. How many different birds species do you see in your yard each day?

“We’re inviting anyone who sees birds on May 9 to join us as part of the world’s biggest birding team,” explains Chris Wood at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Just find as many birds as you can, watching for any length of time on May 9, and enter your tally at ebird.org.”

Wood hopes the effort will inspire more donations than ever before to support bird conservation. To make a gift toward the $500,000 goal, visit birds.cornell.edu/bigday.

“We hope people will think it’s a lot of fun and that they’ll continue to observe birds and report what they see even beyond this one day,” Wood says. “For all the environmental challenges that birds face, it’s good to remember there’s a lot of beauty in the world. Global Big Day provides the opportunity for us to be outside and to pause and reflect on that beauty—and gain the inspiration to keep on protecting it.”

Friday, May 1, 2015

Can you find the face in this photo?

Raccoon living in tree hole (we call him coony;) he no longer fits in the hole lol!
Thank you Holly for sharing your 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, April 30, 2015

Treat Trays for specialty bird food

We have a lot of "treat trays" to feed specialty food like mealworms, fruit, or jelly to choose from at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI. Two of our most popular are the orange flower feeder and the blue flower feeder.

The Oriole Flower Feeder shows elegance with a purpose to attract birds. The feeder has a dual purpose. It has a small bowl to hold treats and two pegs to stake fruit. Then you can just sit back and watch the birds flock your feeder.
The elegant cobalt blue and metal flower design makes this feeder attractive to birds that like mealworms, bluebird nuggets or seed.

High points:
  • Small, lightweight feeder to hang anywhere
  • Wire is powder coated black with an hanging ornamental jewel
  • Looks like a flower but serves as a feeder
  • Cup will hold jelly, fruit, suet nuggets, or mealworms
  • Pegs to stake fruit on orange feeder

Related Articles:

- Wild Birds Unlimited has the best Oriole feeders http://goo.gl/Ljeowr
- 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 leave? http://goo.gl/OHrCc

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Skunk Cabbage is one of the earliest plants to flower in the spring

Photos from Wikimedia Commons
Skunk cabbage is an early blooming wild flower with a skunky odor to attract flies and carrion beetles to enter and pollinate the flowers. It emerges from late February through May in mid-Michigan in woodlands, wetlands, or near streams.

Skunk cabbage has a remarkable ability to produce heat that allows it to emerge and bloom even when the ground is still frozen. During the winter when temperatures are freezing, the flower buds can warm up to 70 degrees, which melts the snow around the plant. Pollinated flower heads develop berry-like fruits containing seeds which germinate into new skunk cabbages next growing season.

Source: 
National Wildlife Federation  http://www.nwf.org/wildlife/wildlife-library/plants/skunk-cabbage.aspx

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 fascinating folklore and practical uses. http://goo.gl/XEyWf
Good year for Adder’s Tongue: http://goo.gl/qarRfT

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Baltimore Oriole was named in the early 1600s

I finally put up my Baltimore Oriole feeder. Now I can relax and await my handsome gentleman caller. Of the nine species of orioles, the Baltimore is common and widespread in the east while the Bullock’s Oriole is common in the west.

The Baltimore Oriole (7-8.25”) is bright orange bird with black hood and back. Wings are black with orange shoulder patches and strongly white-edged feathers that appear as bars. Female has an olive brown back, yellow/orange underparts and white-edged feathers on the wings. Juvenile is paler overall and has gray belly and the first year male has black throat patch.

The name “oriole” is from the Latin aureolus, which means golden. The Baltimore Oriole was named in the early 1600s for George Calvert, Baron of Baltimore, whose livery stable was painted bright yellow and black. The Baltimore Oriole’s range overlaps with that of the similar Bullock's Oriole in the Midwest, and the two species are sometimes considered to be conspecific (belonging to the same species) under the name Northern Oriole because they form fertile hybrids.

Orioles usually stay hidden in the trees eating insect and fruit and singing their beautiful whistling notes. They can be drawn down from their perches with foods like orange slices, grape jelly, mealworms, suet, peanuts and nectar feeders.They are common in some suburban landscapes due to their preference for open settings that are bordered with mature trees used for nesting.

The Oriole’s hanging-basket nest is an engineering masterpiece woven with plant fibers, grasses, vine and tree bark and sometimes string or yarn 6-45 feet in the air. This keeps them safe from most predators. Oriole nests are woven with thousands of stitches and the tying of thousands of knots, all done solely with its beak. The female builds her nest and incubates the eggs with little or no help from its mate, but both feed the young. Orioles will lay 4-5 eggs anywhere from May to June and the young will fledge as late as 30 days from egg laying.

You can help to supply them with additional nesting materials by providing natural fiber yarn, twine or string pieces in lengths of less than six inches. And for my favorite oriole feeders click HERE.

 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

Monday, April 27, 2015

How hummingbirds nest

Where do hummingbirds nest?

There is no particular tree species in which hummingbirds prefer to nest. They first look for a territory that supplies enough bugs and nectar to support them and their babies. Next they look for a tree that provides proper camouflage and protection from predators.

Hummingbirds usually return to the same general area they were hatched. Female hummingbirds build their nests all alone even before they mate. Male hummingbirds take no part in raising the young. Older females can even return to the location of last year’s nest and rebuild it if the nest has survived the winter.

An attractive nesting tree will have some pencil thin flexible branches that slope downward slightly. The tiny golf ball sized nest, constructed below a leaf canopy and above a fairly open area, starts with spider silk to attach the nest and make it flexible. Lichens camouflage the outside, and the inside is lined with cotton from nesting material, dandelion, cattail, or thistle down.

Courtship is very brief and then two white, pea-sized eggs are laid two or three days apart, which the female will incubate from 60 to 80 percent of the day for 10-14 days. After the babies hatch, the nest stretches to contain the growing nestlings. When they leave the nest, 18-22 days later, the chicks are twice as large as their mother which was stressed by raising them.

If a Ruby-throat nests near your feeder she may appreciate quick bites to eat while incubating eggs. When the chicks hatch, they need lots of protein, so their mother spends a lot time foraging for small insects and spiders. Throwing old banana peels in the garden as compost will attract fruit flies for the hummingbirds and fertilize your garden.

After the chicks leave the nest, mommas will bring these newly fledged hummers to feeders and you can watch them check out everything to see if it is food. It usually takes them awhile to figure out what’s food so fledglings are fed by their mother for another 10 days.

Young hummingbirds will look similar to a female, but as young males begin to mature in late summer look for a few random red iridescent feathers on the throat. And the young are very healthy looking. Their feathers are full and shiny whereas the parent birds look a little haggard.

If you keep your feeders filled and fresh you should have hummers visiting from April until usually the end of October.

Related Articles:
Hummingbird Information on Habitat and Habits http://bit.ly/It2WwE
Where have my Hummingbirds gone? http://bit.ly/IHzxy3
How Do I Know If It's a Baby Hummingbird? http://bit.ly/IHzCSh
Gardening for birds http://bit.ly/It58nR
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/FQ9kxU

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Common Yellowthroat comes home

The Common Yellowthroat winters in Central America. In the spring they fly across the Gulf of Mexico and head north to nest in open habitats like marshes, wetland edges, and brushy fields in Michgan and across a lot of North America.

Adult males are bright yellow below, with a sharp black face mask and olive back feathers. Females are a plain olive brown, usually with a brighter yellow throat and under the tail.

The male sings a distinctive witchety-witchety-witchety song, about 2 seconds long, to defend the territory and attract females. They give these songs very frequently during summer, averaging as high as 125 songs per hour and sometimes reaching 300 songs per hour.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

What birds do in a cold spring

We may grumble about the temperature, but the cold is actually not a big problem for birds. They are equipped with several layers of fluffy, insulating down to trap heat, so you won’t see your local robins and blackbirds shivering!

Birds appreciate a warm welcome this cold spring
It is finding food and ensuring they eat enough of it to build - and maintain - adequate fat supplies to store on the body and ‘burn’ for energy that are the greatest tests for wild birds in the cold weather.

During cold snaps, you will notice more birds coming into your yard to seek sanctuary and food. Finding a regular source of high-energy food and water can potentially be a real lifesaver. High on the list of best choices to meet this nutritional need is suet and certain seeds like peanuts, sunflower seeds and nyjer seed.
 
Our most popular Wild Birds Unlimited seed blend is No Mess Blend is filled with many of these high fat seeds and nuts making it an ideal food, along with suet, to offer your birds this cold spring.

The Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Seed Cylinder is another way to offer sunflower chips, peanuts, tree nuts and fruit to all the seed, nut and fruit loving birds.

No-Mess Seed Cylinder is a tidy dining option that a lot of birds will enjoy. No shells means no mess and no wasted food, making this seed cylinder a great value. This 100% edible cylinder is great near flower beds patios and decks.  
 
Related articles:
- Why Don't Birds Freeze After They Take a Bath in the Winter? http://goo.gl/5ydpvy
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/z7Eurx
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods http://bit.ly/xbZ9lR
- Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
- Choosing the best bird seed http://goo.gl/jrpDX
- How can birds survive this cold weather? http://goo.gl/4v2d4

Friday, April 24, 2015

Photo Share: Ruby-throated Hummingbird Female resting

Thank you Holly for sharing your 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.