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, June 27, 2016

Best suet for woodpeckers

We have one cute little customer that comes in regularly with Grandma and asks for “cupcakes” for her birds and other older customers that ask for “sliders” or “suey” cakes. Suet (so͞o′ĭt) is animal fat that birds eat. When you offer suet cakes you are giving wild birds food with the most concentrated source of energy.

Wild Birds Unlimited Suet is made with only the highest quality processed beef kidney fat. Special processes remove impurities that cause low melting points and spoilage problems. It attracts insect-eating birds such as woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and more.

You may think of suet as only a food to feed the birds in the winter months. But today rendered beef suet cakes meet the increased energy demands of nesting birds in the spring. And in the summer it provides high fat, high protein substitute for insect-eating birds, especially in years when insects are not very plentiful. In fall, suet helps wild birds change feathers and store fat to prepare for migration or the coming winter. And of course, in winter, suet replenishes depleted stores of energy and nutrients, to help birds survive the long, cold months.

The Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store’s best seller is the Peanut-butter Suet Cake, which has only three ingredients: rendered beef fat, chopped peanuts and peanut butter. There are no filler ingredients that take up space. To repel squirrels and other mammals you can also use the straight beef suet cake or the hot pepper cake. Most mammals will leave those two cakes alone.

At Wild Birds Unlimited we are dedicated to the promotion of responsible feeding. Anything we sell in the East Lansing, Michigan store is good for the birds; no fillers, no by products, just top-quality food. 

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

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Baby downy woodpeckers images

Baby downy boys have a red top instead of a red neck like daddy.
Baby woodpeckers have fledged! Their flutters and squawks remind me of baby dinosaurs. I have been watching the downy babies for a week now at the suet feeders.

Most woodpeckers in mid-Michigan only nest once a year and average a brood of three or four. I have also seen the Hairy Woodpecker babies. I'm still waiting anxiously for the Red-bellied to show up with his brood at the suet feeder. I see the adults flying away with occasional hunks of suet that I'm sure they are taking back to the nest, but no babies yet.

Males and female Downy Woodpeckers look the same, except that males have a small red patch at the back of their neck. To identify young males, look for a red patch on the forehead instead of their neck. Young females do not have any red at all. But both the male and female young will look much better with brand new clean feathers. The parents look a little ragged and will go through their annual molt soon.

Two things you can do to help woodpeckers:
1. Food: Keep your suet feeder full of high fat, high protein suet, or make sure your seed blend contains nuts. (I use peanutbutter suet and No-mess bird seed).

2. Window Decals: Make sure you have your Window Alerts in place. Woodpeckers are slower to develop than some other birds. They don't understand that they can't fly through windows. Putting up window decals to help save their necks! 

Related Articles:
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/rxU9cu
- What birds eat suet? http://bit.ly/q2Sfje
- How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods: http://bit.ly/ob0NIq
- Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX

Saturday, June 25, 2016

When to clean out wren house

We have two houses and have had wrens every year. This year we hear them singing, but I don't think they are nesting. I have heard that you don't clean the house out. Is that correct or should we clean it out?

By cleaning out a nest box you help deter parasite infestation, a predator’s ability disturb a nest through the entrance hole and it’s a good time to evaluate the house’s condition. You should definitely clean out all bird houses at least once a year. I like to clean them in September after the nesting season.

I encourage people to clean out bluebird boxes after each nesting or at least every fall because they aren’t good excavators. Bluebirds just build on top of old nests until the babies are sometimes are too close to the entrance hole and fall out before they are ready to fly.

Wrens can clean out their own box and the presence of a used House Wren nest may actually encourage wrens to re-nest. But you should check to make sure the nest doesn’t have any unhatched eggs or pests. If it’s a mess inside and the drainage holes are plugged go ahead and clean it out. You can leave some sticks below the house to help them rebuild. There is usually at least a two week window before they nest again.

To clean the nest box I usually place a plastic bag over the nest and just sweep it all in and twist the bag shut. You can rinse out the house with a water hose or diluted bleach spray. Make sure the drainage holes are unplugged and leave the house open to dry for a couple days. Finally dispose of the old nest in the trash and wash your hands thoroughly. 

Related Articles:
- Do the same House Wrens nest in the same house every year? http://bit.ly/uDBbIb
- Quick Fun Facts on Wrens http://bit.ly/v5XVoU
- Hanging & Placement of Wren Bird Houses http://bit.ly/rBLsGQ
- The best suet for wild birds http://goo.gl/yY7bGt
- Roosting Pockets: Warm Shelter from Frosty Winds http://goo.gl/QOPbMw

Friday, June 24, 2016

Photo Share: Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ showy seed head

These are the showy seed heads of the Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ at the Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI entrance.
Maybe not as colorful as the blooms we had earlier in the month but perhaps more interesting. They'll certainly last longer. In a few weeks, as these dry, they will look feathery rather than compact.

If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Modern bird bath

Water will attract all species of birds and during the hot and often dry conditions that make up the “dog days of summer," you will be doing your birds a big favor by providing them with a reliable source. You will benefit by getting a front row seat as birds drink, bathe and preen. Also, it is often the first stop for parent birds to bring their fledglings!
Hellow, my pretties. Bath time!

The simplest bird bath that we have at the Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) store in East Lansing, MI is the WBU Tall Decorative Birdbath designed to hold one of our 14" or 20" WBU plastic birdbath bowls. The black powder coated steel stand has three legs with curved ends. It is designed to sit on top of soil, grass, gravel, a deck or patio. You can choose from 3 bowl colors; sandstone, terra cotta, or dark green. These modern bird baths take into consideration everything a bird needs in a bath. The bowls have easy perching edge and a textured bottom for a secure feeling as birds travel down a gradual dip to the perfect 2" deep middle bath. It's also easy to clean and in the winter you can add a heater or switch the bowl to a heated bird bath.

Our WBU birdbaths offer you ease and flexibility and bring you many hours of enjoyment.

Related Articles:
- Why Birds Preen http://goo.gl/8hqh0W
- What kind of bird bath is the best? http://goo.gl/tXz65
- Birds Don't Sweat: The Importance of Birdbaths http://bit.ly/OjpFPn
-Why do crows and blackbirds dip their food in bird baths? http://bit.ly/zgpw2i
- Do Birds Sip or Slurp? http://bit.ly/yAHTTV

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

7 tips for creating a summertime backyard buffet

Any backyard bird watcher knows birds flock to feeders in summer especially as the babies fledge and approach the feeders with their parents. Summer bird feeding also can bring you different species that aren’t around in winter.

Studies show the average bird forages for food about five hours per day to meet their energy requirements. As the seasons change, consider the following tips to meet your summer backyard birds’ nutritional needs as well as attract some migrating visitors.

Some tips for creating a summertime backyard buffet:

1. Clean your feeders regularly
It is super important to keep your feeders clean, especially now when so many baby birds visit. The stress can make birds vulnerable to disease. Wet weather can also produce mold and mildew which can be fatal to birds. Dump out any moldy seed and disinfect your feeders with a 1 to 9 parts vinegar to water solution or bring your feeder to the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, Michigan to be cleaned for a small $5.00 charge.

2. Keep your seed dry
Hot, humid summer weather creates the potential for mold. My favorite secret weapon against soggy seed is Feeder Fresh which is available at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI. This is a desiccant that I stir into the seed to absorb the moisture.

3. Choose Food that Produces Less Mess
Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Blend features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds means there's no debris on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything happily.

4. Keep suet feeders full
By adding suet to your wild bird's summer menu, you will attract wrens, warblers, thrushes, brown creepers, brown thrashers, and blue jays. You can also attract orioles, chickadees, titmice, and the ever popular bluebird.

5. Discover Foods that Last Longer
Seed Cylinders are also a high-fat, quick-energy food source that is specially-designed to meet your birds' hearty appetites. The Wild Birds Unlimited popular no muss, no fuss Spiral Seed Cylinder Feeder holds cylinders of tightly packed seed held together with gelatin so there is no seed spray. The whole block is completely edible. And depending on bird activity in your yard, a large cylinder packed with energy rich pecans, peanuts and sunflower seeds can last weeks.

6. Attract Different Birds
Mealworms, nectar, fruit, and jelly attract many different birds. Hummingbirds and orioles, can be immediately attracted to feeders with nectar (and fruit and jelly for orioles), making summer a sweet time to feed the birds. Some birds attracted to mealworms include: wrens, robins, bluebirds, jays, sparrows, cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, and even Purple Martins.

7. Just add water
Baths not only provide clean water to quench thirst, baths also help birds maintain their feathers. A good part of a bird's day is spent just cleaning and grooming their feathers by bathing, scratching, and preening. It’s so important that it is often the first place parent birds bring their newly fledged babies.

Related articles:
Do I need to clean my bird feeder? http://bit.ly/HNX410
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/umlwXg
Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/HNZTPx
Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Baltimore orioles birds baby food

So Sarah...The Oriole babies must be in the nest...Question: Do the adults carry the jelly back to the nest and feed direct, or regurgitate? I understand that they usually feed their babies insects, but around our house they seem to be carrying jelly away? We are putting out 4 heaping tbsp, 3 times per day, more than 32 ounces a week. We also have 3 Serviceberry trees by the house and as soon as they are flying, the parents (both) bring the babies and feed / teach them. - Jack in Milford

Baltimore Orioles are primarily insect eaters in the spring and summer. When their babies hatch they know instinctively to start out with tiny bugs for their young. They start with tiny, fresh, soft, small, larvae and spiders. As the chicks grow, they gradually increase the size and toughness of the insects they offer.

My oriole parents must be feeding week old nestlings because that is when mealworms are the perfect size. I watch her line up a rows of mealworms and fly off to her nest. Yesterday we were watching outside the Wild Birds Unlimited window when one oriole arrive with a black caterpillar tucked in the back of her bill, she continued to load up her bill with BirdBerry Jelly and then topped it off with a mealworm. The customer with me thought she was preparing a bug berry sandwich for her kids. So ripe fruit, and jelly can be brought back to the nest. And once the parents bring the fledglings up it's hard to tear them away from the jelly feeder.

Thanks for the response Sarah…We’ve just been birding for about 8 years and together with our own observations and your responses to our queries, we are truly loving it.

Our Oriole feeder is on the window of our sun porch in the umbrella of an airy Serviceberry Tree (the berries are not quite ready). For the first time yesterday we saw a fledgling in the tree with the adult male feeding it JELLY…On Fathers Day.

Speaking of Serviceberry trees…we just saw a Cedar Waxwing in our tree in the front (we have three), the flock will be here in the neighborhood (there are many Serviceberries) until they clean the berries gone…about 2 or 3 weeks. I think that they are the most beautiful bird that we host…Don’t hesitate to advise your customers to consider these trees, they are native to Michigan, very hardy, clean, airy and beautiful in the fall…and, of course, provide food for a wide variety of birds for the fledgling season.

Yes, Serviceberry is the favorite of cedar waxwings, catbirds, rose breasted grosbeaks, Baltimore orioles, brown thrashers and over 30 other species of birds.

The Kroger across the street from the Wild Birds Unlimited store has them in the parking lot and when the berries are perfect for picking, cedar waxwings descend in huge numbers right next to oblivious customers. It usually takes a couple days for them to eat all the trees’ fruit. 

Related Articles:
What's the Best Way to Attract Orioles http://bit.ly/IGsyWp
Fun Facts about Orioles http://bit.ly/IGsJB4
Where are the orioles? http://bit.ly/IGuqOJ
Where do orioles winter? http://bit.ly/GAeWv5
Close-up of Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GAf6T7
Favorite Oriole feeders http://t.co/OjG4Lz4

Monday, June 20, 2016

Bald Cardinals in Summer

Now that it is Summer you should expect to see some bald birds. Just as people make seasonal wardrobe changes, many birds are beginning a transformation of their own, losing and replacing their feathers in a process known as molting. This complicated process requires a lot of energy and may take up to eight weeks to complete.

Most birds’ feather loss and replacement is gradual and you may notice they look a little ruffled. But then there are also a select few that go bald.

A bald bird at the feeder is a somewhat common sight to see from the end of June to the end of August in mid-Michigan. After the breeding season, most birds go through pre-basic molt that results in a covering of feathers, which will last until the next breeding season.

However, some Cardinals, BlueJays, and Grackles go through an abnormal molt or replacement of feathers. There are no scientific studies on why some of these birds go bald and some don’t or why it’s just the head. Whatever the reason, we know feathers are made of more than 90% protein, primarily keratins, so every molting bird needs extra proteins to grow strong feathers for proper flight and effective insulation.

For the next few months, it’s best to offer high-protein bird foods, such as Nyjer® (thistle), sunflower seed, peanuts, suet and mealworms, to ensure that your birds have a reliable source of protein to help them during this stressful time.
For the customers at the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store, we recommend feeding the No-Mess Blend. Our unique No-Mess Blend contains sunflower seeds, peanut pieces and white proso millet without the shells. No shells on the seeds make for a tidier feeding area, since there's nothing on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells and the best food for the birds because it's fresh and full of protein.

Related Articles:
There’s more to a jay than any other creature http://goo.gl/8OrUq
Common Grackles http://bit.ly/LAkwxl
Northern Cardinal http://bit.ly/LAkGoG
When is bird migration over? http://bit.ly/M2FgUD

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Interesting facts about blue jays

From AllAboutBirds.com: The female Blue Jay incubates her eggs for two week while her mate provides all her food. Once the babies hatch the father continues to bring food the mom and now the nestlings food for another 8–12 days. Both parents share food gathering after this time, but male continues to provide more food than female.

The brood usually leaves the nest together usually when they are 17-21 days old. The jays usually are no farther than 75 feet from the nest by the end of the second day out of the nest. The young remain with and are fed by their parents for at least a month, and sometimes two months. At this time they might look lost, but it is best to just leave them alone.

If you see baby bird or a bird that is injured, before you do anything, CALL FOR ADVICE! Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess abandoned or injured wildlife. A list of licensed rehabilitators can be found by visiting http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/ or by calling your local DNR office. For a list of local numbers go to: http://baby-bird-now-what.html

Related Articles:
- Why do Birds Scatter Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/w4vRPP
- Blue Jays aren't blue http://bit.ly/roVPVX
- What Feeder Do You Recommend for Blue Jays? http://bit.ly/txd8ja
- Blue Jay Fun Facts http://goo.gl/wJgMmJ
- Do birds know winter is coming? http://goo.gl/EilIa6
- Why Blue Jays go bald in the fall http://goo.gl/gAX3x 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Photo Share: Black-capped Chickadee

Photo by George Gentry
Black-capped chickadees feed on both animals and plants (the overall consumption has been measured to be about 70% animal and 30% plant). Animal foods consist mainly of insects and spiders. Caterpillars are preferred in the breeding season. Plant materials eaten by chickadees include berries, plant seeds, and nuts. They are often seed at backyard bird feeders, eating sunflower seeds, peanuts, mealworms and suet.

If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Photo Share: Northern Mockingbird

Pardon me, I'm celebrating! http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S30170694 You are welcome to use any of the pictures. - Lynn
I saw this bird twice today. The second time I was lucky enough to have a camera in my hand. At first I thought it might have been a catbird, but the white bands under the wings vetoed that. Then I thought some kind of flycatcher, due to tail-flipping. All traits observed match a Northern Mockingbird. It may have been young, a little fuzzy around head.

Thank you Lynn for sharing your photos! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.