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, 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.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How to keep snakes out of bird houses

We just had a snake kill at least one and attempt to kill the second hatchling. I have barb wire wrapped around the pole but I allowed a nearby tree to grow too close to the birdhouse. I cut back the tree but I think that I should move the birdhouse. Should I do that right away? Any suggestions about how to keep the snakes out? 

I'm sorry you've had such a traumatic start to the nesting season. Location is very important part in protecting bluebird houses. Never locate a bluebird house near or underneath a tree limb where snakes, cats, raccoons and other predators can drop onto the house from above.

Predation of the eggs and young birds will be minimized greatly by pole mounting your house in an open, grassy field edge or lawn area away from trees. Place the box about 5 feet off the ground on a wooden or metal pole.

Our Advanced Pole System (APS) Bluebird Pole works great for most nesting boxes. Add an APS raccoon baffle and the house is protected well against most predators including snakes climbing the pole. We have baffles that also go around 4”x4” wooden poles.  

 Related Articles:
- Best bird houses at Wild Birds Unlimited http://goo.gl/A1dMF
- Product Highlight: Advanced Pole System http://bit.ly/uKRdrZ
- How to Protect My Bluebird House pole: http://bit.ly/vcPUb7
- When do birds begin nesting? http://bit.ly/A8OFNi
- 5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses http://bit.ly/x16Dqr
- When do you clean bird houses? http://bit.ly/zpTAiX

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How to feed mealworms to wild birds

Do I just dump the whole carton of mealworms out for the bluebirds?

The rule of thumb is to offer about 15 mealworms per bluebird once or twice a day, as a supplemental food, unless severe weather conditions limit natural sources. That is usually one spoonful. A hundred or so worms offered morning and evening would be adequate for a pair with a box of nestlings a week old.

Bluebirds are primarily insect eaters in the spring and summer. When their babies hatch bluebirds know instinctively that mealworms are too big for newly hatched babies. They start them out with tiny bugs for their young. Although the parent bird will appreciate your easy mealworm breakfast during a stressful time, they will not feed regular sized mealworms to their chicks until the babies are about six days old.

They don't regurgitate food. When the chicks are new and tiny, they bring them whole, fresh, soft, small, larvae and spiders to eat. As the chicks grow, they gradually increase the size and toughness of the insects they offer.
It's not necessary to feed birds but it's fun to watch nature up close, and you'll be amused at how quickly a relationship develops between you and the bluebirds! 

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Female migratory birds tend to arrive after males

I have seen a lot of male red-wings but no females. Do you know where they are?

Female Red-winged Blackbird
In migratory birds, males tend to arrive first on breeding grounds. The two most common explanations are males arrive early to compete for breeding sites and improve their prospects of mate acquisition. I saw a couple females at my feeder this week along with a female cowbird. Migration is still underway and I'm sure you'll see some female red-wings soon.

The Red-winged Blackbird male is unmistakable for most Michigan residents. The pure black bird with bright red shoulder patches edged in yellow is hard to miss. The female and juvenile are less obvious. They have heavily streaked under parts and mottled brown upperparts and can look like large sparrows.

Male & female Red-wings from Wikimedia Commons
As one of the most common, widespread, and numerous birds in North America, little is done to protect red-winged blackbirds from the effects of development. They thrive in wetland areas but it is likely that this species will begin to feed more at bird feeding stations with the loss of natural habitat.

When they are not breeding, they tend to gather in flocks of all male or all female birds. Northern populations will begin to migrate south to the southern United States and Central America as early as August.

Related Articles:
- Red-winged Blackbird facts http://bit.ly/yQPs61
- Blackbird Battle http://bit.ly/xFsHIN
- Red-winged blackbirds attack hawk http://bit.ly/yaudwu

- Watch for the Red-winged Blackbird to announce spring http://goo.gl/ADQLp3

Monday, April 20, 2015

You don’t need a hummingbird swing to attract hummingbirds

What are hummingbird swings?
Hummingbirds hover and hum around feeders and flowers about 20% of the time. The rest of the time they are perched on twigs and other suitable perches like a swing!

Where should I place my swing?
The best place to hang your swing is in an open area near a feeder. Hummingbirds like to perch on the swings and watch over their territory. Try to keep your swing at the same height or higher than the area that overlooks the hummer's food source (nearby feeders or flowering plants). If you haven't put your hummingbird feeder out, do it as soon as possible. Hummingbirds are in the area and are hungry!

Collect them all!
Besides the original swing we also have the copper and arbor swing in the collection at Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing, Michigan. Hummingbirds aren't the only ones that like to swing. Watch your hummingbirds, finches, and I even had a Blue Jay try and take his turn on the swing.
See it in action on the video: https://youtu.be/0WIhtHNGXlA

Sunday, April 19, 2015

White-throated sparrows pass through Michigan

Most birds that winter in southern locations wait for just the right conditions and then migrate at night to their nesting grounds in the north. I’ve found that after breezy spring days, I’ll often see new birds have ridden the winds to my yard. When they arrive in the early morning hours these birds are cold, tired, and hungry. The first thing they will do is look for food.

This morning I saw my first White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis). They always pass through mid-Michigan right before the warm weather arrives. Zonotrichia means “hairlike,” in reference to the striped heads of birds in this genus; albicollis is Latin for “white neck” in reference to the bird’s white throat.
You will see them in the leaf litter looking for bugs or under the feeders looking for sunflower seed or millet. He was actually a little early. I don’t usually see White-throats until the end of April. 

Related Articles:
-White-throated Sparrow fun facts http://goo.gl/Ju27MJ
-Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/oy9XGz
- Average dates for birds return to Michigan the in Spring? http://bit.ly/IMYNQe
- When is bird migration over? http://bit.ly/IMZ7OQ
- What to know about feeding birds in the spring http://bit.ly/I5s6h9

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Best oriole bird feeders

Baltimore Orioles arrive at their mid-Michigan breeding grounds near the end of April. They are orange and black birds that enjoy a variety of foods. At the feeders they enjoy suet, nuts, mealworms, nectar, grape jelly, or fruit (oranges, grapes, apples).

Wild Birds Unlimited has lots of oriole feeders:

WBU Oriole 3-in-1 Feeder
My favorite is the unique saucer shaped feeder that offers three ways to attract orioles with nectar, oranges, and jelly.

Recycled Oriole Feeder
The second most popular feeder is the Poly-lumber feeder made from recycled milk jugs. It has lifetime guarantee to never crack, split or fade, stainless steel screws, thick, heavy-duty acrylic roof to allow Orioles to see the food and protects it from rain, and two removable cups to hold grape jelly (Orioles’ favorite jelly flavor) and two pegs for orange halves. The cups also may be used to feed mealworms, peanuts, chopped fruit, suet nuggets, and a variety of other foods. 

Spiral Three Cup Feeder
This is a versatile three-cup feeder with a durable a powder coat finish. You can use the cups for orange halves, chopped fruit, nuts, mealworms, jelly and more.

Ring Dish
When looking for inexpensive but unique dish feeder, keep this ring design in mind. Versatile enough to fill with an orange, mealworms, jelly, and so much more, this piece fits anywhere and is sure to please the eye. But why just have one dish. You can hook two feeders together or three or as many as you want to build the feeding station that fits your needs!

It's SO good - You'll want to have "Breakfast with the birds!" 
BirdBerry Jelly is a human grade product that emphasizes quality. This is an all natural product with no preservatives. BirdBerry Jelly has no sweeteners and has low sugar levels which is better for birds. The unique grape & blackberry flavor attracts orioles and other birds and keeps them wanting this product "with its unique flavor".

Durable and functional 20.5 ounce squeezable jar makes refilling feeders fast and easy with no mess or waste!

Made in the USABirdBerry is made of grape juice, concorde grapes, blackberries and pure all natural granular sugar. Compare to normal grocery store labels and you'll see that BirdBerry is higher in quality - that's better for the birds. Made in the USA.

Related Articles:
- Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/w3bhs8
- 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

Friday, April 17, 2015

Photo Share: Bluebird nesting in deer neck

Last three: Cuckcoo clock, bluebird or bluebeard?, looks like the deer's bottom jaw "butt" I guess it's the bird!
I have been meaning to send you these pics since last year. Took these photos at my brothers place last July. He and his wife have this ratty old deer in their yard and one year and owl or something ripped out the throat! The bluebirds then decided to make it their home. He could get close enough to them since they are so skittish but I have a camera with a zoom so I was able to get some.

Here are a few. Just happened to catch it feeding the grub. - Juliette Carter 

Thank you Juliette Carter for sharing your photos of bluebirds in their funky nest! You should also send them in to the Funky nests in Funky places contest (read below).


Find a Funky Nest Near You!
Contest showcases unusual bird nesting sites

Using spider web to affix its nest to a single bulb in a strand of holiday lights, this tiny Anna's Hummingbird successfully hatched two chicks. 2014 entry by Kathy West, California.
The annual “Funky Nests in Funky Places” contest at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is underway.

Entries may be submitted in categories such as "cutest," "funniest," "funkiest," or "most inconvenient." Celebrate Urban Birds is offering a free, downloadable flyer showing some of the places you can look for funky nests in urban locations.

The deadline for entries is June 15.

Participants should read the guidelines for approaching nests to be sure the birds are not disturbed in any way.

To learn more about how to participate, plus terms and conditions, visit FunkyNests.org.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Easy way to have clean feeders

Can you explain how your feeder wash service works?

http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2012/05/how-to-clean-hummingbird-feeders.htmlIt is super important to keep your feeders clean, especially in the spring and fall when so many birds are migrating through mid-Michigan. The stress can make birds vulnerable to disease. Wet weather can also produce mold and mildew which can be fatal to birds.

Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing can help you make keeping your feeder clean easy. We wash feeders year round. You bring your feeder in and pay $5.00. We will disassemble, soak, scrub, and reassemble your feeder and have it ready for you the next day we are open.

We use Scoot Bird Feeder cleaner, a powerful enzyme based formula, which cleans and disinfects soiled wood, metal, glass and plastic feeders.

Our bird feeder cleaning service is so popular that we have now started a new Bird Feeder Wash Card. You just prepay $20.00 and you will receive a card that is good for 5 washes. This will give you a savings of $5.00! 

Related articles:
Do I need to clean my bird feeder? http://bit.ly/HNX410
What to know about feeding birds in the spring http://bit.ly/HOjECH
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/umlwXg
Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/HNZTPx

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Time to put out the hummingbird and oriole feeder!

April 15th, time to put out the hummingbirds feeders in mid-Michigan. If I can get it together today, my hummingbird and oriole feeders will be up by the end of the day! I don't usually see my hummies & oreos until the 1st week in May, but it is better to have feeders up too early rather than too late.

Where is the best place to hang your feeder?
  • The number one rule in hanging any feeder is to place it where you can watch the birds comfortably. The whole point in bird feeding is to watch these winged wonders up close. 
  • Since birds feed by sight, the second rule is to hang the feeder where they will be able to see it as they fly over your yard. A new feeder may be found sooner if hung near a flower garden or hanging flower basket.
  • Place your hummingbird feeders near bushes or trees to provide perching spots and protection from predators.
  • The height of the feeder is less important. Hummingbirds feed from the flowers on the ground and from the tops of flowering trees or climbing vines.
  • Part sun or shade is the best place for nectar feeders. The nectar lasts longer in the shade. Also the nectar in bottle feeders can expand in the sun and start to drip and this will call in bees and ants.
  • Make sure your nectar is fresh and the correct one part white sugar to four parts water solution.
  • In hot weather you should clean your feeder at least twice a week. Just like a restaurant, if a bird comes by to check out your new feeder and finds it filled with spoiled food, they won’t return anytime soon.
Related Articles:
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
Fun Facts about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds http://goo.gl/jcjcr
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
Why the color on a hummingbirds’ throat flashes http://bit.ly/JZ31qX
When did people start to feed hummingbirds?: http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR