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.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Downy woodpeckers are confused commonly with Hairy woodpeckers

At about 6 inches, the Downy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker in North America and the most frequent visitor to backyard feeders year-round. They like to eat peanuts, suet, mealworms, sunflower and safflower seeds.

Downys have a white belly and back and their black wings have white bars. Only the males have a red patch on the back of the head. And they are called downy because of the soft white feathers on their back.

Downy woodpeckers are confused commonly with Hairy woodpeckers, which have similar plumage, but are around 9 inches. However tests revealed that these two birds aren't as closely related as was first thought. A new theory is that the Downys mimicked the markings of the larger Hairys to fool other species into thinking they are the bigger bird. Because if you were a cardinal (twice the size of a downy) and thought you saw a Hairy Woodpecker flying toward you, you might be very quick to get out of the way.

Related Articles:
-How do I stop woodpeckers from pecking on my house? http://bit.ly/KGItqF
-What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
-Hairy Woodpecker vs. Downy Woodpecker http://goo.gl/WMH31
-How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://goo.gl/P2qRv
-How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLq

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Rescue hummingbird out of garage

With baby and migrating hummingbirds passing through the area it is not uncommon for a one of these curious birds to get drawn in to investigate something red in your garage. Once inside the birds panic and instinct tells them to fly up, up, up to get out. These amazing birds that can fly forward, backward, up, down and sideways can’t always figure the way out.

I have an awning in front of the Wild Birds Unlimited store that traps birds all the time. A giant pool skimmer was my solution to encourage the stuck birds down and out. And this week a customer called and said they were successful rescuing a hummingbird from the garage with a butterfly net.

Hummingbirds.net suggests: First, keep pets and kids away so they won't make the bird more anxious, and try hanging your most popular hummingbird feeder in the door opening and stand back. Sometimes this will bring a hungry bird to feed, and it may fly off in the correct direction when it's finished. But this doesn't always work, and you shouldn't waste too much time - the bird's clock is ticking. If the hummer isn't gone within 10 minutes or so, turn on the inside garage light, close the overhead door, and get a flashlight. When the hummer flies over a clear section of the floor, turn off the light. Hummingbirds have poor night vision and don't like to fly in the dark, and the bird will flutter gently to the floor. Turn on your flashlight, find the bird, and scoop it urgently in your cupped bare hands. Have an assistant open the door, and carry the hummer away from the garage. Offer the bird a drink by holding it close to the feeder, but don't try to force it. After it drinks, or refuses to drink, open your hands, and when the bird reorients itself, it will fly away - probably straight up. It may lie still in your hand for several minutes, or it may leave immediately. Hummingbirds don't usually carry parasites, but wash your hands afterward anyway.

Note: if your garage has windows and cannot be darkened, this rescue technique won't work. Instead, hang a feeder high up, inside the garage, so the bird can feed itself and rest comfortably. Leave it alone, and leave the door open in case it calms down enough to figure out how to leave. Near dusk, the flashlight technique will work better.

Thriving Home Blog suggests: Use a sweep-type garden rake (the kind used to rake leaves, with long flexible tines) or hummingbird feeder on a pole. Then stand below the hummer, slowly raise the rake up near the bird and offer the tine end. If the hummer is tired enough it will seek a perching spot. With the hummer perched on the rake, gently carry it toward the open door, moving slowly and carefully so you won’t spook it off its perch. As soon as the hummingbird sees the open sky it will fly out of the garage.

Should this ever happen to you, good luck I hope these methods work.

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

Monday, September 16, 2019

Where are the hummingbirds now?

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Abundance Animation Map: 
In mid-Michigan, you can leave your hummingbird feeder up until the end of October. The rule of thumb is if you haven't seen a hummingbird for two weeks in the fall it's safe to take your feeder down. Depending on where you live it is usually at the end of September to the middle of October. But make sure to keep your feeders clean and full of fresh nectar by washing and refilling at least twice a week.
While some birds like blackbirds travel in large flocks, the smallest intercontinental migrant, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, migrates alone. First the males leave us and then the females begin migration. The young birds born this season begin their journey south for the first time after all the adults have departed.

Like other birds that fly solo, they have to depend on a genetically inherited mental map to find the favorable winter grounds hundreds or thousand of miles away from Michigan.

Young hummingbirds are what you see mainly at the end of September. They 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 looked a little haggard.

Birds that are born late in the season are vulnerable especially during a drought. Leaving your feeders up may provide a critical opportunity for these hummingbirds to build reserves and “catch up.” If you keep your feeders filled and fresh you should have hummers visiting from April until usually the end of September or even October. There is no need to force hummingbirds to go south by taking the feeders down too early. Hummingbirds wait until they have gathered enough calories and the winds are blowing in the right direction before they leave.

Watch a First Year Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird Feeding (video courtesy of Wild Birds Unlimited Barriehttps://youtu.be/w2XsuNLYkpQ

Related Articles:

Getting a hummingbird out of a garage https://hummingbird-out-of-garage.html
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

Why do we call it fall?

The word fall comes from the Old English word feallan which means “to fall or to die.” When there were more people with gardens, the time between summer and winter was referred to simply as “harvest,” the time to gather food for winter storage. Astronomically, the season lasts from the end of September until December, between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.

My mom took a picture of a tree in the neighborhood that is always the first to display its fall color. Deciduous trees shed their leaves annually, unlike evergreen trees that stay green year-round. The meaning of of deciduous is "transitory," and stems from the Latin deciduus meaning "falling down, falling off."

Throughout the growing season, most leaves appear green because of a pigment called chlorophyll. In the fall, trees slow down their metabolism (the production of chlorophyll) in order to conserve energy for the winter. As less chlorophyll is produced, underlying pigments that have been hidden underneath emerge. Xanthophyll is what gives leaves a yellow color; carotenoid an orange color; and anthocyanin a red color. All three of these pigments are always present in leaves, but in the summer they’re covered by the large amount of chlorophyll. In the winter, when both water and sunlight are harder to come by, producing so much chlorophyll takes more energy than it’s worth.


Related Articles:  

Fall Checklist for your yard: https://Fall Checklist for birds
Mother Nature Puts on Her Fall Wardrobe http://bit.ly/vSLJcA
Do birds know winter is coming? http://bit.ly/uVAtWL
Why are the birds eating so much in the fall? http://bit.ly/v0OC23
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/vSdpFt

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Small gray wood-warbler with yellow throat

Photo via Deborah Grimes
Northern Parulas are small gray wood-warblers with bright yellow throats that extend through the breast. We only see them in mid-Michigan during the spring and fall migration. They breed above and below us.

Northern Parulas forage by gleaning leaves and branch tips for insects and spiders. They fly with rapid wingbeats and hop quickly through branches. When acting defensively, parulas may demonstrate a wing-droop display, during which wingtips are held below the base of the tail as the bird calls.

Related Articles:
Michigan warblers begin migrating http://goo.gl/37QhV
Yellow warbler eating bird seed http://goo.gl/pbGV8W
Small 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

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Tennessee Warbler migration

Keep your eyes open for warblers passing through our area as they migrate south August to October.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
The Tennessee Warblers have a white eye-stripe above a dark line through eyes. Their back, wings, and rump are a bright olive-green. These warblers migrate through mid-Michigan from mid-August to October on their way south. They like to winter in open second growth forests and agricultural habitats, like shade grown coffee plantations in Mexico to Venezuela.

They are active birds, flitting among foliage and making short flights to reach leaf tips while searching for food. The birds eat a lot of bugs and berries and at your feeder might enjoy suet and fruit.

Donald and Lillian Stokes have a wonderful Field Guide to Birds of North America or Eastern Region that we now carry at the Wild Birds Unlimited store that I turn to when identifying confusing warblers, thrushes and sparrows. What I like the most about the book is that each bird species is identified with several clear photographs that show all feather coloration of each species of bird, including male, female, summer, winter, immature, morphs, important subspecies, and birds in flight.

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 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Learn to recognize common bird songs

If you thought you were too old for board books, think again! These books come with sound buttons to help you learn to identify garden birds by their songs. You'll learn how to differentiate between the songs of a house finch and a goldfinch with just a touch of a finger.

The Little Book of Backyard Bird Songs has recordings of twelve bird songs. In addition to the easy to use sound bar, there is a general introduction to each bird that highlights its key characteristics, an informative data profile, and a fun fact. By the end of the book, you'll not only have a much greater understanding of these incredible creatures, the sounds you hear outside will be transformed into a 12-part orchestra. Keep it on your windowsill for the whole family to enjoy and see who becomes the bird song expert first.

The bird songs featured are: House Wren, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, Great Horned Owl, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, American Crow, Song Sparrow, American Goldfinch, Killdeer, American Robin, and Mourning Dove.

The Little Book of Woodland Bird Songs is partner to The Little Book of Backyard Bird Songs and is sure to become another family favorite. Beautiful lifelike illustrations aid in identifying the birds and a descriptive paragraph and facts panel provide information such as the time of day the bird is likely to sing, what it eats, behavior traits and how it constructs its nest.

All twelve birds featured: Red Crossbill, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Hermit Thrush, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Black-capped Chickadee, Purple Finch, Common Loon, Barred Owl, Red-eyed Vireo,Wild Turkey, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Downy Woodpecker.

Birds can be hard to spot at the best of times but once you learn to recognize these bird sounds, a walk outdoors will never be the same. Both of these charming books are a fun way for all ages to delight in nature's winged singers. It's a winning gift for any occasion, from a child's birthday to a hostess gift.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

How long baby red squirrels nurse

Oh, Momma!
Boy did we have a turn in the weather. One reason this squirrel is flat out is the hot weather. The increased amount of a body’s surface area that is in contact with a cool surface reduces the body temperature.

Another more likely reason is this momma needed a little cool pressure on the chestal area after nursing her toothy babies!

Most female American Red Squirrels produce one litter per year, but in some years reproduction is skipped, and in other years some females breed twice. Litter sizes average three or four offspring. The pink, hairless babies weigh less than 2 nickels or about 7.08 g. Mothers feed milk to their young for the first 70 days. And by the time they are 125 days old, young red squirrels are full size and have all of their teeth.

Source: http://www.umich.edu/
Related articles:
Why Chickadees Sunbathe http://why-chickadees-sunbathe.html
Dove flaked out in the sun http://dove-flaked-out-in-sun.html
Why are Squirrels Called Squirrels?: http://bit.ly/n5x4Wf
Squirrels Like to Work for Their Food: http://bit.ly/nhAAkK 

How Many Species of Squirrels are in Michigan?: http://bit.ly/ptcjzi

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Lots of teeny little yellow birds

Photo of Daddy finch feeding baby by Kisa Weeman
The immature American Goldfinch has a dull brown back, and the underside is pale yellow. The shoulders and tail are dull black with two buff-colored wing bars, rather than an adult’s white. This coloration is the same in both male and female.

If you still aren’t sure if it is a baby or a female goldfinch, look at the feathers. Young American Goldfinches have fine, clean feathers and the adults will look worn out as they molt their feathers for winter.

American Goldfinches are in mid-Michigan all winter, so if they find your feeder now you can enjoy these sunny sounding birds even during the bleakest winter months. To watch a little video of the finches eating No-Mess Blend at the Squirrel Buster Squirrel-proof feeder click HERE.
Related Articles: https://www.youtube.com/
Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Goldfinch Migration http://bit.ly/MzGSPD
Are Goldfinches here in the winter? http://bit.ly/PZu5ML
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

How to tell a juvenile downy woodpecker

Downy growing up and losing his baby red cradle cap and putting on his big boy red nape-patch
Downy Woodpeckers seem like thoughtful birds. One reason is their most common defense mechanism is to stay stationary for a long time as they hide in plain sight. Since woodpeckers aren’t fast flyers, a downy’s best defense is to freeze in place to escape a predator’s notice if he can't make it safely to an evergreen shrub.

Baby with red crown
There are also a lot of young birds just a few week's off the nest in late summer taking in all the different sights and sounds. Young male Downy Woodpeckers usually have a red patch on the forehead instead of their neck. Wisps of red on the top of the head can also occur on females but only adult males grow a red patch on nape. The downy in the photo is graduating to big boy feathers as the red on top is pushed out by new black feathers and a new red patch is growing in on the back of the head.

At about 6 inches, the Downy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker in North America and the most frequent visitor to backyard feeders year-round. They have a white belly and back and their black wings have white bars. The males have the red patch on the head. The downy’s name refers to the soft white feathers of the white strip on the lower back, which differ from the more hairlike feathers on the Hairy Woodpecker.

Put your peanut butter suet out now to watch them up close. Nuts and seed cylinders are also a great source for protein and fat and are great for attracting woodpeckers to your feeding station. 

Related Articles:
How do I stop woodpeckers from pecking on my house? http://bit.ly/KGItqF
What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX
Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/tQ5lwt
How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI
How to choose a suet https://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2017/09/how-to-choose-suet.html

Monday, September 9, 2019

Why Friday the 13th will be a very Lucky Day, knock on wood!

Why does Wild Birds Unlimited keep asking for donations? Probably because birdwatchers are some of the most caring and generous people around.

Nottingham Nature Nook is a non-profit 501(c)(3) wildlife rehabilitation center that cares for injured and orphaned birds and other wildlife. Food, medicine, housing, and labor are all factors which contribute to costs. Today they are looking for donations to improve the conditions at the Nook.

SAVE THE DATE: September 13, 2019 Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI will donate all the proceeds from every $20 FEEDER WASH CARD purchased Friday to the Nook.

WHAT IS IT: A Feeder Wash Card is a card good for 5 bird feeder washes. You will have up to a year to redeem the card.

HOW DOES IT WORK: Bring your Feeder Wash Card in with a dirty feeder and I will cross off one square. Then I will disassemble, soak, scrub, disinfect, and reassemble your feeder and have it ready for you to pick up the next day we are open.

WIN/WIN: You get a card that you can use over the next year for 5 bird feeder washes and Nottingham Nature Nook gets $20. Your birds get clean feeders and the Nook gets money to use in the care of injured and orphaned animals.

The Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, Michigan store is also collecting cash and check donations to help. Nottingham Nature Nook. If you want to donate directly checks can be made to Nottingham Nature Nook 16848 Towar Ave, East Lansing, MI 48823.
Thank you.