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, November 18, 2019

Best Winter Bird Food

There are a lot of people beginning to bird feed right now. I am asked all the time about the best bird food blends. For mid-Michigan, sunflower seeds and nuts are a favorite for feeder birds. The sunflower seeds, peanuts or tree nuts can be served with or without of the shell, loose or in seed cake form. Lately I've been using a lot of seed cylinders because they are so easy to offer, less messy, and last longer.

I also offer Nyjer Thistle for my finches. Nyjer® (pronounced NYE-jer) is a trademarked name for a little black seed used by the wild bird feeding industry that is favored mainly by the finches. Like most feeder birds, finches also eat sunflower but a separate area with a finch feeder lets flocks of these little birds eat in peace.

And while woodpeckers eat nuts, once again, if I offer a separate area for suet. This allows woodpeckers a place to eat comfortably. Peanut butter suet is my favorite suet. To choose a suet that attracts the widest variety of birds, the first ingredient should always be rendered beef suet. Some people feed straight suet only. If you want to offer more protein and flavor, the next ingredient should usually be peanuts or tree nuts.

Then sometimes I like to treat my birds to some mealworms. Insects like mealworms are naturally a part of many songbirds’ diets. You can feed them separately in a tray feeder or just mix them in with your loose seed blend. Serving dried mealworms with your seed may even attract new species that aren’t attracted to seed alone like bluebirds and robins.

Or if you’d like the benefits of dried mealworms without the extra step of mixing them in with seed, you can also try serving a Wild Birds Unlimited Bugs, Nuts & Berry or Flaming Hot Feast Seed cylinders. These cylinders offer wild bird visitors a bountiful variety of enticing seeds, nuts, and worms to attract a number of species. The ingredients are bound together safely and compactly with gelatin and easily slip on to the Seed Cylinder Feeder. The birds can't scatter the seed and there is no waste or mess to clean up on the ground.

Watch the video: https://youtu.be/bluebird feast


 

Related Articles:
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods http://bit.ly/xbZ9lR
- All-in-one seed cylinder food for the birds! https://Bugs nuts and berries.html
- 10 Winter Finches in Michigan: http://bit.ly/oL3iCF
- 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 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Old world Christmas bird ornaments

I just finished unboxing this year's bird ornaments. Wow, they are gorgeous! I know these beautiful blown glass bird ornaments from the original artwork of the Cobane Studio, in Lake Orion Michigan will disappear fast. I only bring them in once a year.

Birds are considered a universal symbol of happiness and joy and are regarded by many to be a necessity on the Christmas tree. Because bird ornaments were difficult to create, few glassblowing families in Germany specialized in the making of these special pieces. Birds represent messengers of love and are the harbingers of good things to come.

Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing store has a limited selection of hand-blown glass bird ornaments designed by Margaret Cobane, a Nationally recognized Michigan artist. She says, "My fascination with Christmas, nature, gardening and Santa is a recurring subject in much of my work. My designs are created from my love of the season and all of the traditions that are dear to our hearts."

Related Articles:
- How the Christmas Tree tradition started http://goo.gl/hpYcTZ
- Edible ornaments for the birds http://bit.ly/tXDnSB
- Decorate a Tree for Your Birds http://bit.ly/t3QtGV
- The Tradition of feeding the Birds at Christmas Time http://goo.gl/7ODaQ
- When did Reindeer Learn to Fly? http://bit.ly/veTLpT

- Why green, red, and white are Christmas colors http://goo.gl/Swgzv6
- Why do people kiss under the Mistletoe and what is the plant's connection to birds? http://goo.gl/Cmqwvg

Friday, November 15, 2019

Photo Share: Cold robin

Maintaining fluffy feathers, foraging, and eating are the main winter activities of birds that stay in the colder north. For American Robins, fruit, nuts, and berries left on trees and bushes are a welcome sight. Their beaks also poke in leaf litter to find any insects or overwintering larvae. Robins are wanderers in the fall and winter months. They go where there is food and water available. That could also mean heated bird baths or bird feeding stations that offer nuts or mealworms.

Related Articles:
- All-in-one heated bird bath http://heated-birdbath.html
- What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/tfT7Ca
- Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw
- Help Birds Beat Their Winter Woes http://goo.gl/ZlDTw

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Mob of big black birds at the feeder

I've had a lot of comments about big black birds descending on the feeders after the recent snow. They are starlings in their winter wardrobe. The European Starlings are year-round residents in Michigan. In the winter you may notice them lining up on the power wires while you drive or thousands of them doing mesmerizing synchronized dances in the sky before dark.

I often get questions on starlings in the winter because they look different with their spots. In the fall after they molt, their new plumage is a glossy iridescent black with white tips, giving the appearance of many stars. By spring the white feather tips have worn away, so that they are a more uniform dark bird. And the Starling in winter has a dark brown beak that changes into yellow as breeding season approaches.

In the winter a starling’s diet switches from bugs and suet to more fruits, nuts, berries and seeds. Their intestines actually lengthen, and the wall of the gizzard increases in thickness to better absorb the nutrients. Like the robin and bluebirds, feeder visits are less frequent for most people in the winter unless there is a winter storm that covers their natural resources.

To deter starlings you can switch up your bird food choices:

- Use pure beef suet with no seeds
- Switch to straight safflower seed: Start by offering safflower gradually, mixing it with the seed you currently use. Over time increase the amount of safflower until you are feeding straight safflower. The seed looks and tastes different from other bird seed, so it may take your birds some time to adjust. Safflower is a small, white seed that is high in protein and fat. Many favorite backyard birds - including cardinals, chickadees, finches, doves, woodpeckers, titmice and nuthatches- savor safflower. Blackbirds, starlings, and squirrels typically refuse to eat safflower seed.

Related Articles:
- Do birds warm their feet on telephone wires? http://bit.ly/t7k91r
- Fun Facts About European Starlings http://bit.ly/rSQtFD
- How do thousands of European Starlings fly without colliding? http://bit.ly/vwM3Ra
- Amazing moment bald eagle chases down & catches a starling http://bit.ly/tnPo6z
- Starlings stealing shiny money from machine http://bit.ly/uKaP8b

Rule for hanging bird feeders

The magic numbers in hanging a bird feeder is 3 and 30. Windows that reflect the sky and trees around them or that are very transparent can confuse birds, causing them to see a clear flight path, rather than an obstruction.

Prevent collisions by placing feeders either closer than 3 feet or more than 30 feet from a window. A feeder that is 3 feet prevents a bird from building up enough momentum for a fatal collision, while one within 30 feet or more from a window is a safe distance from confusing reflections.

Breaking the reflection of your window helps, too. On the outside of the window place static-cling Window Alert decals that reflect ultraviolet light that is visible to birds, but not to humans—about four inches apart.

Birds are most likely to eat where they feel safe from predators, including free-roaming cats. Place feeders near a brush pile, evergreen tree, or bush. Birds can fly quickly a few feet to reach the safe cover, yet predators cannot use it to hide within striking range of the feeder.


Related Articles: 
- What Month Do You Stop Feeding The Birds? http://goo.gl/wuKbTI
- Keep your feeders clean http://goo.gl/UGfVGT
- Would the birds starve to death if I stopped feeding them? http://bit.ly/xOFgb9
- How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://goo.gl/AdJPBO
- Choosing a seed blend to feed wild birds http://goo.gl/vsBxVs
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/rTCbHB

Check your seed after snowstorm

What do you do if you have frozen seed in your bird feeder?

I'm sure the sudden 5 inches of wet snow resulted in a lot of frozen seed in Michigan bird feeders. Make sure to always check your feeders after bad weather. Give it a good shake to toss the seed around. If it is too frozen, bring in the feeder, clean it and fill it with new seed.

To prevent the seed from freezing again add Feeder Fresh to the seed. It is a desiccant that absorbs any water that gets into the feeder. The seed flows freely and the birds are happy. You can also add a weather guard to cover the feeder. This also shelters the feeder as well as the birds that are feeding from bad weather.

Related Articles:
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/umlwXg
Prepare Your Yard for Fall Bird Feeding: http://bit.ly/pkJUmW
Do I need to clean my bird feeder?: http://bit.ly/nYKz40
Best foods for birds in winter http://bit.ly/6fkng
How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://bit.ly/tRYvG9

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Backyard Birdsong Guide

I’m so excited one of the most innovative bird books is back in print! The Backyard Birdsong Guide by Donald Kroodsma is the book for any nature lover, both new and experienced. This book is also great in forming a love of birds and bird songs with young people.

So what is so great about this guide? It not only gives you vivid descriptions of birds, their behaviors, and exquisite illustrations and range maps, it also has digital audio of the birds’ calls and songs! It is an audio field guide. Listen to the songs of the most common birds in your area while learning about their habits and hang outs.

Find out what Black-capped Chickadees are thinking as they give their unmistakable namesake call, or why many songbirds have dialects that vary from region to region. Or what about the common House Sparrow? Most human listeners might call their cheep monotonous and tiresome. Yet listen closely and you’ll hear a subtle but treasured variety of cheeps there.

The author Donald Kroodsma discovered birds in a local Michigan marsh during his last semester at Hope College. That summer he attended University of Michigan “Bug Camp” at Pellston, taking both “baby birds” and “big birds” courses simultaneously. He was asked to record a few birds for Cornell’s Library of Natural sounds which started him on a life-long journey to understanding birdsongs.

And as with all Cornell Lab Publishing Group books, 35% of the net proceeds from the sale of Backyard Birdsongs supports projects at the Cornell Lab, such as children’s educational and community programs.

Related Articles:
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/Cfgc6b
- How do you become a birdwatcher? http://bit.ly/rquunU
- Best field guide for Michigan birds http://bit.ly/vPOMx1
- What are the Best Binoculars: How to Choose Optics http://bit.ly/vZW26j
- Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/vUZynL

Monday, November 11, 2019

#VeteransDay: Thank You For Your Service

Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served have sacrificed and done their duty.

We Honor and Thank Veterans for your service.

Related Articles:
Patriotic Red, White and Bluebird http://goo.gl/OQrUY 

National Birds http://bit.ly/tCORyh  
War Pigeon Remembered http://t.co/5yiXSNS
Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://t.co/Br4EnlB
War Birds http://t.co/t7WJp99

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Birds flock to feeders when snow flies

Watch for birds flocking to the feeders during bad weather. Our first fall cold front is coming in heavy. Studies show the average bird forages for food about five hours per day to meet their energy requirements. In severe weather bird feeders can be important. High on the list of best choices to meet the nutritional needs of birds is suet and certain seeds like peanuts, sunflower seeds and nyjer seed. Our most popular Wild Birds Unlimited No Mess Seed Blend is filled with many of these high fat seeds and nuts making it an ideal food, along with suet, to offer your birds.

The Wild Birds Unlimited Seed Cylinders are another way to offer sunflower chips, peanuts, tree nuts, and fruit to all the seed, nut and fruit loving birds. Cylinders are a tidy dining option that a lot of birds will enjoy.

Also if there is an available source of open water, birds can conserve their energy for heat and survival during cold winters. Besides helping birds digest food properly, water helps birds keep their feathers clean and in top condition for effective insulation.

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

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Mourning dove migration

While mourning doves are common at the bird feeder all year-round in Michigan, the doves you see in winter may not the same as the ones you see in summer. Mourning Doves begin to move south from September to November, with immature doves moving first, followed by adult females and then by adult males. Doves that breed in Michigan migrate to wintering grounds in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi or to wintering grounds in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Mourning doves that breed further north migrate through Michigan. Some of these doves winter in Michigan.

They like to feed early in the morning along with the cardinals in the winter and are also usually the last to feed at dusk. They eat a variety of seeds, insects, and berries. They especially like safflower seeds. They stuff their crop until it bulges and then fly off to digest slowly. They'll pick up seeds from the ground unless your feeder has a large perching area for them to feed comfortably.

If a hawk flies by, you see the doves blast off into the air making a whistling sound as it goes. This high-pitched whistle comes from the bird’s powerful wings. It is believed that the whistling is a built-in alarm system, warning others that danger may be near, while simultaneously startling a would-be predator.

Related Articles:
Types of Bird feathers http://bit.ly/w0U1M6
Dirt baths help birds stay clean http://bit.ly/rJR7Ex
Why birds molt http://bit.ly/rGaqRL
Why do bluebirds bathe more than cardinals? http://goo.gl/ZdYRS
Birds Don't Sweat: http://goo.gl/zerp7

Friday, November 8, 2019

Squirrels furiously preparing for winter

There are several theories about squirrels’ behavior in the fall and the upcoming winter weather. For example, an abundance of overly plump squirrels is alleged to indicate a tough winter to come. A couple other theories indicating exceptionally harsh temps on the horizon include seeing squirrels furiously gathering of food or building nests higher in trees than usual. Unfortunately there is zero hard evidence to back up any of these theories.

But according to the Farmers’ Almanac’s famous long-range weather outlook, it’s going to be a long, cold winter, with plenty of snow.

At a glance:
- Colder-than-normal conditions are predicted with above-normal snowfall predicted for Great Lakes.
- The coldest weather will arrive end of January, with blustery and bitter winds, and widespread snow showers.
- Stormy winter conditions will hang on even through the official start of spring, especially for the East.

Winter food for squirrels include apples, nuts, berries, pinenuts, fungi, as well as food they've put in storage. Some food is cached for short periods, especially those made near the site of a sudden abundance of food which can be retrieved within hours or days for reburial in a more secure site. Others are more permanent and are not retrieved until months later.

Squirrels have very accurate spatial memory for the locations of these caches, and use distant and nearby landmarks to retrieve them. Smell is used partly to uncover food caches, and also to find food in other squirrels' caches. However, scent can be unreliable when the ground is too dry or covered in snow.

If you want to give your squirrels a treat Wild Birds Unlimited makes it easy with a special Wildlife Blend made to feed squirrels in a platform feeder or nut box. Or we have cracked corn, whole corn, corn on the cob, as well as peanut pieces and peanuts in the shell.

Related Articles:
- Squirrel proof bird feeder reviews http://bit.ly/waJs9o
- How do I keep squirrels off my bird feeders? http://bit.ly/yiZsML
- Why are Squirrels Called Squirrels? http://bit.ly/yhktkr
- How many species of squirrels are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/yYt6Nb
- How high can squirrels jump to bird feeders? http://goo.gl/XuvwNe

- How squirrels remember where they've buried nuts https://goo.gl/65ESYa