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.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Photo Share: Fall Sparrow

1. Man has always had a love-hate relationship with the cheeky sparrow. They have been introduced intentionally to numerous countries around the world, including both North and South America, East and South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

2. Few birds are happier in the company of man than the house sparrow, and for much of the year it is rare to find them far from human habitations.

3. The House Sparrow takes frequent dust baths. It throws soil and dust over its body feathers, just as if it were bathing with water. In doing so, a sparrow may make a small depression in the ground, and sometimes defends this spot against other sparrows.

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, September 29, 2016

No-Mess Seed Cylinder will entice a variety of birds

People have been asking for a large No-Mess Seed Cylinder ever since they came out with the medium cylinders. No-Mess Seed Cylinders entice a wide variety of birds up close and keeps them at the feeder for awhile as they work to release a seed held together with gelatin. This heavy cylinder should last a very long time; a very good thing if the Farmer’s Almanac is right about the upcoming extra snowy winter.

Benefits of our No-Mess Seed Cylinders!
*100% No-Mess!
There are no shells, so you will have no plant growth beneath your feeder from fallen seeds!
*100% Waste Free!
No shells = More Food! Every crumb will be eaten with No-Mess!
*Attracts a Wide Variety!
This seed cylinder is a mix of seed, mixed nuts and fruit to draw in all types of birds!
* It's Packed Tight!
Birds have to do a little work to pick off the seed allowing longer views of your birds!

Related Articles:
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods http://bit.ly/xbZ9lR
- How to get the chickadees to stay at the feeder longer http://goo.gl/Q9pxHq
- Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
- Keeping winter backyard birds warm http://goo.gl/a3MTcr

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Attracting Birds with Roost Houses

Now is the perfect time to put up a bird house. Certain birds like bluebirds, chickadees, wrens, titmice, nuthatches, and woodpeckers may begin to look for a place to nest as early as February, while there is still snow on the ground! Much better to be too early than too late.

Also small birds often use these same boxes for shelter at night and in bad weather during winter. Sometimes more than a dozen birds will pile into a single box to conserve heat.

You may want to offer Roosting pockets too. Wild Birds Unlimited, East Lansing has woven grass and felted wool pockets designed to prevent the birds' body heat from escaping, so unlike a nest box, it lacks ventilation holes. Also, its entrance hole is near the bottom so the rising warmth doesn't escape.

You can mount your houses on poles available at the store or on a fence post and hang roosting pockets from tree hooks in sheltered spots, out of prevailing winds. South-facing houses receive the most warmth from the winter sun.

Related Articles:
Cute Winter Bird Houses! http://cute-winter-bird-houses.html
Roosting Pockets: Warm Shelter from Frosty Winds http://goo.gl/QOPbMw
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
Poles to mount your Bird House http://poles-to-mount-house.html
Surviving Winter, the Bird Way http://goo.gl/SF0Yga

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Photo Share: Two Hummers sharing a swing

Sarah, Had to share this with you!😍 It’s been a hit all year finally i was able to get a photo. Great Selling tool for the heart swing! What a treat! -  Holly

Two hummers on one side and their is barely a tip. When the blue jay tried to sit on mine he almost made it flip.

Thank you Holly for sharing your photo! 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.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Blue Jays are hungry says Ron Pittaway’s Winter Finch Forecast 2016-2017

Pine Siskins at seed cylinder
There is some good news for backyard bird watchers, and not so good news for some birds. Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a warmer than normal winter but more snow beginning mid-November to early March. And the annual Finch Forecast reports the seed crops poor in some areas and generally good to bumper in other areas.

First you may have noticed an increase in the number of Blue Jays at the feeders. Due to the drought, there were poor acorn, beechnut, and hazelnut crops. This is pushing the jays from mid-September to mid-October down in search of food.

You should also expect to see more visiting redpolls and siskins at the finch and sunflower feeders because cone crops in the Northeast are generally poor. And more evidence of poor cone crops is I’ve already seen the little, laughing Red-breasted Nuthatches early this September at the suet and nut feeders. This indicates that Purple Finches, and White-winged Crossbills are on the move too.

Later the snow will mean a lot of natural foods will be covered and our regular winter feeder birds will be visiting more often in search of food. But while I’m excited about all the bird activity we’ll have this winter, this is just the first week in Fall and we are experiencing a variety of birds passing through right now! Each migratory species has its own characteristic route between its nesting and winter ranges. Weather conditions often affect the migratory dates, direction as well as altitude as birds may fly higher or lower to avoid or take advantage of prevailing winds.

BirdCast is a website that has real-time predictions of when birds migrate, where they migrate, and how far they will be flying. According to this week’s forecast, species on the move right now include the Northern Flicker, Eastern and Say’s Phoebes, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Marsh and Winter Wrens, Swainson’s and Gray-cheeked Thrushes, Yellow-rumped and Palm Warbler, Savannah, Golden-crowned, White-crowned, White-throated, Swamp, Lincoln’s, and FoxSparrows, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

So keep your feeders and baths full and clean and your eyes and ears open for new visitors.

Related Articles:
- 10 Winter Finches in Michigan: http://bit.ly/oL3iCF
- 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

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Early Birds Gets the Best Nest

Wild Birds Unlimited has the best selection of functional bird houses around. And new houses are coming in every week. I’ve ordered several houses this year that have real character.

New this week
I’m really impressed with the houses that just came in this month. They have all the great features that our other houses have and more:
• All cedar construction
• Easy clean out
• Good ventilation and drainage
• Appropriate design for wrens, chickadees, titmice or nuthatches.
• Outside coated with wood protector
• Made in America
• Hand painted in Michigan

What makes them really irresistible is the hand painted original artwork on the front, done by a local mid-Michigan artists. Bird lovers can't help but want these beautiful, fully functional pieces of art decorating their yard.

You can either put up the house now for the chickadees to roost in all winter and get a head start on nesting in the spring, or place it on your mantle or use it as a centerpiece during the holidays. They make and especially cute gift for that special person on your list that loves nature.

Please realize that since each birdhouse is hand painted, no two will ever be exactly alike. Warning, they are selling fast! If you see one you like, don’t wait. We’ve already had a couple people disappointed when their favorite one disappeared. When they’re gone, they’re gone.

Store location:
Wild Birds Unlimited
2200 Coolidge Rd. Ste.17
East Lansing, MI 48823

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Slow metabolism to gain weight

Groundhogs, also called woodchucks, are a member of the squirrel family that weigh between 7 and 14 pounds. They spend a good bit of the warmer months getting ready for hibernation. They eat nearly a pound of food per day in the fall to help build up their fat stores. Groundhogs are typically active until the first real frost of winter, often October or November. Then they hibernate until February or March.

As the days shorten and temperatures drop a groundhog's metabolism slows down and their body releases a hormone that helps them hibernate. Their heart rate slows to around four or five beats per minute and their body temperature falls from 98 degrees Fahrenheit to as low as 38 degrees. They don't wake up to eat like chipmunks. They survive off the fat they have built up in the summer and fall.

Related Articles:
- When do bats hibernate? http://goo.gl/IES4Bt  

- When do Chipmunks hibernate? http://bit.ly/uGhBOB
- Do opossums hibernate during winter? http://bit.ly/u4ORP6
- Migration vs. Hibernation http://bit.ly/sixWTH
- Feb. 2nd groundhogs end their hibernation http://bit.ly/vPHVtx

Friday, September 23, 2016

Photo Share: Young Cooper's Hawk

This hawk visited while I was in the backyard and stayed about 10 minutes. I froze and watched him and when he left I went in the house , sat in the sunroom, and he returned for another 10 minutes. This time I had the camera!

Thank you Mark 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.

In September and October there is a lot of hawk activity in Michigan. Although we have hawks year-round in mid-Michigan some of the northern hawks are migrating south and young hawks have just become independent.

It looks like a young Cooper's Hawk to me based on the yellow eyes, size, rounded tail and thick vertical chest streaks.

The following are ID tips from Project Feeder Watch for the Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper's Hawk:

1) The tail feathers of Sharp-shinned Hawks appear squared, whereas a Cooper's Hawks tail looks rounded.
2) Cooper's Hawks have a barrel shaped chest. Sharp-shinned Hawks are widest at the shoulder and get distinctly narrower down to the hips.
3) A Sharp-shinned Hawk's head looks small compared to the body, and a Cooper's Hawk's head looks large.
4) Cooper's Hawks are usually larger than Sharp-shinned Hawks.
5) A juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk has very thick, rufous stripes that extend down the lower belly while the Cooper's Hawk has very thin, dark vertical streaks that fade away on the lower belly.
6) Sharp-shinned have very thin toes and legs, compared to the Cooper's Hawk.
7) The color of the nape of an adult Cooper's Hawks is pale with a clear contrast to a dark cap. Juveniles of both species can show a pale nape, however.

More identification tips and challenges can be seen on Project Feeder Watch's Accipiter Photo Gallery page: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/AboutBirdsandFeeding/accipiterphoto.htm

Related Articles:
Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk comes for a visit http://bit.ly/w1fDRM
Can You Scare a Hawk Away? http://bit.ly/w3vz5B
Small birds attack hawk http://bit.ly/sH68yB
Frozen Woodpecker http://bit.ly/ubSCTR
Is it safe to feed the birds out in the open? http://bit.ly/rBErxI

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Warbler that looks like a female goldfinch

Photo via Weeks Bay Foundation
One warbler that visits my yard consistently every spring and fall on their way to nesting or wintering grounds is the American Redstart. The females are a similar size and coloration of a female American Goldfinch but then they spread their tail and ta da! The American Redstart has a distinctive habit of bouncing around in pursuit of insects, fanning their tail back and forth, and revealing two distinct bright yellow spots.

They are one of the most numerous warblers in North America, because their favored habitat is second-growth woodlands. Females and young males are gray-olive with yellow patches on each wing, on the sides of its breast, and at the base of its tail on either side. The males are black where the female is gray and orange where the female is yellow.
Male American Redstart photo via Wikimedia Commons

They like shrubby areas often near water. And you can see them pass through your yard in September to early October as they migrate to their winter home in Central America, the West Indies, and northern South America and then again in May when they migrate back to southern Canada and the eastern USA to nest.

Their supercharged pursuit of insects in the trees and flashing wing and tail patches give the birds the nickname “candelita” or “little candle” in their Central American wintering grounds.

Related Articles: 
Provide a safe habitat to encourage migrating birds http://provide-safe-habitat.html
Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/oW0XCD
Blue-headed Vireo's peak migration http://blue-headed-vireos.html
Wagging Warbler http://wagging-warbler.html
Black-and-yellow Warbler http://black-and-yellow-warbler.html
Nashville Warbler not from Tennessee http://nashville-warbler.html 
Bay-breasted warbler pictures http://bay-breasted-warbler.html 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Provide a safe habitat to encourage migrating birds

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 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.


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
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.

5. 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

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Blue-headed Vireo's peak migration through Michigan

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
The Blue-headed Vireo's peak migration through mid-Michigan is September to the first couple weeks of October. They winter farther north than the other vireos, with many remaining through the winter in the southeastern states.

Sometimes the people naming the birds see colors that I don't. Their head has a gray hood of feathers with blue tinges in the sun, white spectacles, and white throat. They are a medium-sized vireo with olive-green above, whitish below, and yellow sides. Their wings are dark gray with two white or pale yellow bars.

Their diet consists mainly of bugs, berries and small fruits. Look for them at the suet feeder and the bird bath as they migrate through in the spring and fall.

Related Articles:
Michigan warblers begin migrating http://goo.gl/37QhV
Michigan's Kirtland's Warbler Continues to Exceed Recovery Goal http://goo.gl/Q3xQ0
Small Mysterious Black & White Bird Visits Mid-Michigan http://goo.gl/VOl3s
When is bird migration over? http://goo.gl/1Fiq6
Blackpoll Warbler: Greatest warbler migrant http://goo.gl/GcSTE