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, July 21, 2018

Photo Share: Typical kid sticking her tongue out at the camera

I was so pleased this morning to see a daddy Red-bellied Woodpecker feeding his little gray chicklet in the tree outside the Wild Birds Unlimited store! I put a peanut butter suet in the microwave for ten seconds to soften it to cookie dough consistency and then filled all the knots in the tree for them to find.

I took a picture of her first taste of peanut butter suet. Her tongue was in and out, in and out. I think the final verdict was yummmm.

Male and female Red-bellied Woodpeckers both spend a lot of time and energy taking care of their young. They both excavate the nest, incubate the eggs and feed the chicks for up to 10 weeks after they leave the nest.

Red-bellied woodpeckers hunt for food on tree trunks and limbs. But Males forage primarily on trunks, while females forage higher on the trees than males primarily on tree limbs.

Related Articles:
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
- Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX
- How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/tJ7e6S
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Red-Bellied Woodpecker stores its food in the barks of trees http://bit.ly/nqYS7j
- How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI

Thursday, July 19, 2018

IMPORTANT! Please share with all your friends: Emergency numbers

Recommended Wildlife Rehabilitators

Cheryl at Nottingham (517) 488-7451 or (517) 351-7304
Carolyn Tropp (517) 927-7578
Wildside Rehab. Center (517) 663-6153

Well Dolly (cat) had a day today. Someone from the shop down the way from Wild Birds Unlimited said a bird with one leg was sitting on the sidewalk and other than "taking a shovel to its head" she didn't know what to do. Well once I picked my chin up off the ground, I took a little trot down there to find a baby robin. It had both legs but looked like it was less than a week off the nest. Ordinarily I would suggest you just leave baby robins alone. 

When American Robins first leave the nest they can't fly. They are nurtured in their nest until they are about 2 weeks old. Then their parents begin a 2 week basic training course to teach their offspring to hop, sleep on sheltered branches at night, forage for food, and learn how to fly.

But this baby had been on the sidewalk for awhile, it was panting, it looked like it had a bump on his head, there was no greenery nearby, and I didn't want anyone with a shovel to happen by. I brought it back to the store. Dolly heard it crying. We put it in a box and sent it over to Nottingham with 5000 mealworms to recover.

What to do if you find a Baby Animal or Bird (information from Nottingham Nature Nook)
  1. Call an experienced Wildlife Rehabilitator Immediately!
  2. Keep the baby in a quiet, dark, warm and safe location to avoid further stress.
  3. Do Not Attempt to Feed or Give Liquids of Any Kind to the Baby! Do not ever give cows’ milk to any baby – this can cause diarrhea and Aspiration Pneumonia if done incorrectly!!

Birds:

  • Replace an infant bird back in the nest if you can find the nest and reach it safely.
  • Bird nests that have fallen can be wired back in the tree as close to the original site as possible.
  • Fledgling birds are learning to self-feed and fly, and are usually on the ground for long periods of time with parents nearby. Children and pets should be kept away from fledglings. Do Not pick them up!

Mammals:

  • Young animals will explore away from their nest or den. If you see a young animal on the ground moving and crying, observe them quietly from a safe distance (for less than an hour) to see if a parent retrieves them.
  • Wild babies only need help if they are cold, injured, dehydrated or emaciated. However, mother squirrels will rarely retrieve a baby that has fallen from the nest.
  • If you find a nest of baby bunnies pour a ring of baking flour around the outside of the nest and wait 10-12 hours to see if there are footprints in the flour. If you do not see footprints contact a wildlife rehabilitator.
  • If you find a fawn, do not approach it or attempt to touch it. Does’ will leave their fawns in a safe hideaway during the day and will not return until night. If a dog or person scares the fawn, it will usually run and hide in a different location. When the mother returns at night, she will call out to the fawn until she locates it. Fawns may lie in the same location for several days. As long as the doe feels it is safe, she will not move her fawn. Please contact us before doing anything with what you believe is an injured or abandoned fawn.
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. Below are a few local numbers to call for help:
  • East Lansing, MI ♦ 517-488-7451 ♦ Cheryl Connell-Marsh ♦ birds and small animals
  • Holt, MI ♦ 517-694-9618 ♦ Carolyn Tropp ♦ Birds and mammals except raccoons.
  • Eaton Rapids, MI ♦ 517-663-6153 ♦ Wildside Rehab Center ♦ birds and small animals
And if you are outside of Michigan:

Help birds develop healthy feathers with the right foods

More Colorful Birds -The Northern Cardinal, one of the most colorful birds, needs to eat the right foods now to acquire bright plumage coloration next year. At the feeders they are looking for nuts, sunflower, or safflower seeds. Their new feathers don’t come in bright. The tips of the new body feathers are brown/gray and make the cardinals appear a bit dull or more camouflaged in the winter. These dull colored tips wear off in time to leave them more colorful for breeding season in the spring.

Territories are forming - Birds are staking out their winter territories right now. Young birds like chickadees, woodpeckers, and titmice find new territories to hook up with other young birds at the end of summer and join local adults to form winter flocks. If you are feeding a good bird food you will attract lots of birds that will remain in the same general area for the rest of their adult lives.

Related Articles:
What seed is best for attracting the colorful birds? http://goo.gl/SAA35
Wild Birds Unlimited seed blends http://goo.gl/lF0rr
What seeds do wild birds eat? http://goo.gl/MjUCA
When should I feed the birds? http://goo.gl/IvocS

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

What birds eat bugs

In mid-Michigan most songbirds eat bugs like caterpillars, beetles, grubs, other flying or creeping insects and spiders. The exception is the finches. American Goldfinches eat seeds almost exclusively. Main types include seeds from plants in the family Asteraceae: sunflowers, thistle, asters, etc., as well as grasses, and trees such as alder, birch, and elm. At feeders finches prefer Nyjer® and sunflower seeds.

To attract bug eaters in to your yard you can offer mealworms, suet, and seed cylinders.

Bug Eaters

Below is a list of common backyard birds and some of the insect pests they eat. Next time you see or hear a bird in your yard, you can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that they're foraging for bugs and keeping your garden healthy.
https://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2017/01/what-to-feed-bluebirds-in-winter.html

- Bluebirds: grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, larvae, moths, flies
- Cardinals: beetles, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, stinkbugs, snails
- Chickadees: aphids, whitefly, scale, caterpillars, ants, earwigs
- Grosbeaks: larvae, caterpillars, beetles
- Nuthatches: tree and shrub insects such as borers, caterpillars, ants and earwigs
- Orioles: caterpillars, larvae, beetles, grasshoppers
- Sparrows: beetles, caterpillars, cutworms
- Swallows: moths, beetles, grasshoppers
- Titmice: aphids, leafhoppers, caterpillars, beetles
- Warblers: caterpillars, aphids, whitefly
- Woodpeckers: larvae, beetles, weevils, borers

Related Articles:
What birds are attracted to mealworms besides bluebirds? http://bit.ly/M19jqc

What birds eat suet? http://bit.ly/q2Sfje
Can I feed suet year-round? http://bit.ly/I4Ow8l

Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Which seeds are preferred by wild birds? http://bit.ly/zchLgB 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Birds grow new feathers

Have you ever tried to get your hair to stand on end to style it? I watched a bird outside the Wild Birds Unlimited store this morning poof up his feathers in order to preen them. The control of every feather was amazing. Feathers are dead like our hair but birds can control the muscles at the base of each follicle which is connected to network of tiny muscles in the skin.

Feathers allow birds to flirt for mates, communicate or camouflage, as well as fly and protect them from the elements. Fossil evidence suggests that feathers probably evolved from scales. Birds still have scales on their legs.

A bird's feathers undergo wear and tear and are replaced periodically during the bird's life through molting. New feathers, known when developing as blood, or pin feathers, depending on the stage of growth, are formed through the same follicles as the old ones were fledged. Although feathers cover most parts of the body of birds, they arise only from certain well-defined tracts on the skin.

It takes a lot of energy to build new feathers. So many North American songbirds wait until after migration and nesting is completed, to grow new feathers. You can offer quality suet, seed, seed cylinders, or mealworms to help birds grow strong, colorful feathers critical to their next year of survival.

Related articles:
- Types of Bird feathers http://goo.gl/W9rzP
- Why Birds don't Freeze After They Take a Bath in the Winter: http://bit.ly/mPa0Y8
- How small birds stay warm in the winter: http://bit.ly/q3dDqj
- Why birds molt: http://bit.ly/ox5Hwi
- Blue Jays aren't blue: http://bit.ly/pMN37k
- Fossils of colored feathers: http://bit.ly/nc2UeA

Monday, July 16, 2018

Bird Weight

How do the weight activated squirrel proof feeders work? Why don’t they shut down when 4 birds sit on the feeder?

Most birds have hollow bones with internal struts that make them very strong. (Exceptions include swimming birds, like loons, which have solid bones to help them dive up to 150’ for food.)

Birds also have a smaller total number of bones than mammals. This is because many of their bones have fused together, making the skeleton more rigid. Birds do have more neck vertebrae than many other animals to help them groom their feathers. But overall it takes over 65 chubby chickadees to equal the weight of one medium squirrel.
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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Birds with wings spread out in sun

Right now a group of baby birds with new plumage and in late summer adult birds that are growing new outer feathers, often sun themselves. Like ironing our clothes, the heat of the sun might help make it easier for birds to shape their new feathers. And along with easing discomfort associated with molting, the sun may also help dislodge parasites so the bird can preen them off more easily.

Some ways birds maintain feather quality is through water, dust, and sun bathing. Instinct to sunbathe is not always to warm the body. Like humans they probably enjoy a few rays but their main reasons for sunning is probably to keep their feathers in top shape.

Most birds have a preen gland or uropygial gland at the base of the tail. With their beak, birds realign the barbs correctly, remove any dirt or parasites and apply preen oil. If the bird sunbathes the oil is exposed to the ultraviolet light from the sun. Then the uropygial gland secretions convert to an active form of vitamin D which is ingested with the next preening. This may explain in part why some birds sunbathe.

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

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Photo Share: Beautiful bee on my sunflower

Incredibly the squirrels have left me some sunflowers in front of the Wild Birds Unlimited store. I've enjoyed watching birds, butterflies, and bees as they stop by to see this giant yellow flower.

The bright, large flower heads of sunflowers present a nectar and pollen mother lode for pollinators, like bees. Each flower head's central disc contains many smaller tubular disc flowers, each with its own supply of nectar and pollen. The showy outer ray petals help attract the pollinators. Bees go from flower to flower within the disc, becoming covered with pollen. They then pollinate other sunflowers as they go from plant to plant. The success of sunflower as a crop for seeds and oil depends on bees. 

Related Articles:
Sunflowers Up-close: The Strange Journey of an American Plant http://bit.ly/uFlz65
Which seeds are preferred by wild birds? http://bit.ly/zchLgB
How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://bit.ly/rTLSqJ
Seed Storage Cans and WBU Seed Scoops http://bit.ly/uBaSwO

Sunflower seeds benefits http://sunflower-seeds-benefits.html

Friday, July 13, 2018

Good luck bird superstitions

Birds have long been related to the supernatural as they spend their lives between the earth and the heavens. In honor of Friday the 13th, here are 13 bird superstitions.

1. When you hear a Cardinal sing, your sadness will soon be lifted. When a red bird shows up, help is on the way. When you see a red bird in winter, you will prosper in spring.
2. If a bird poops on you or anything you own, it’s said to be good luck.
3. Ancient Romans believed birds flying to the right meant good vibes. A bird flying toward you meant good luck. The higher the birds flew, the better the future.
4. Sailors believe that seeing an albatross while at sea is a sign of good luck.
5. Birdcalls from the east are good for romance, while calls from the west offer all-around good luck.
6. It is good luck if a blackbird makes a nest on your house.
7. A robins sighted near a house foretells good fortune for the inhabitants of the house.
8. To hear a duck quacking is a most fortunate omen, indicating the coming of prosperity.
9. If a feather falls in front of you where no birds are present, it is a gift from your guardian angel.
10. In Ireland, sparrows are thought to be on friendly terms with the fairies.
11. Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet that the cock crows through Christmas Eve until Christmas morning so no evil spirits will spoil the holy day.
12. Seeing a yellow bird in flight means you will be free.
13. If you see a blue bird early in the morning you will have a happy day!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Where to place finch feeder

The most important place to hang a feeder is where you and your family can watch it easily. That said, I’ve found the goldfinches feel more comfortable with the feeder in or near trees. These tiny social birds can be skittish about predators around a feeder. They perch at the top of a tree, check out the area and then filter their way down to a feeding station when it appears safe.

American Goldfinches like feeders that have Sunflower seed or Nyjer® (thistle).  I prefer to feed the straight Nyjer® (thistle) in my finch feeder for a couple reasons. First it does not grow weeds and has been heat treated to prevent the growth of any noxious seeds. Second, it is a seed that attracts goldfinches mainly, while other birds as well as squirrels and raccoons avoid feeders full of only nyjer.

My favorite feeder is a Mesh Finch Feeders. Several birds can feed at a time, the seed airs out, it's easy to clean, easy to fill, has a lifetime guarantee, and is made in the USA. However if you're thinking of switching feeders remember that it may take several days for Goldfinches to accept a new feeder. If you don't see any action, shake the feeder and check the seed to make sure it's still fresh. You may have to change the seed if they haven't found it in a month's time.

But this is a very good time to feed them! Goldfinches nest in late summer and early fall. This is when you will see a dramatic increase in the number of finches in your yard. It's a joy to see a flock of goldfinches raining down to the feeder or dancing in the flowers in search of seeds. And the happiest sound in the late summer is the call of baby goldfinches!

Related Articles:
Prevent soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a
How to Attract Goldfinches http://bit.ly/A6CwjB
How often do you clean a bird feeder? http://bit.ly/wTk0c7 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Why there are so many blackbirds

This has been a particularly bad year for blackbirds. The late spring and dry summer didn't produce as many bugs as normal. Many have had to supplement their diet at the feeders.
I’m watching the Common Grackles bringing babies up to the store window. One more week and they will be gathering in flocks to go back south. A big black bird about a foot long with yellow eyes, grackles can frighten other birds with their intimidating look. They can also be quite beautiful when the sun hits and their feathers. Up close these blackbirds have highly iridescent feathers, with varying colors from blue to purple to green to bronze, depending on the light. Females generally lack the strong iridescence shown by males and juveniles are a dark brown all over. Those dull baby feathers will be replaced by black adult feathers in the next several weeks.

Common grackles migrate in mixed-species flocks with red-winged blackbirds, European starlings, and brown-headed cowbirds. They need a lot of food right now for their young ones and also for them to complete a full molt of feathers.

Related Articles:
- How Grackles got their name http://goo.gl/zGBBaO
- Common Grackles facts http://bit.ly/OzgUjw
- How to keep grackles away: http://bit.ly/Q1q0GI
- Why is the blackbird associated with evil and ill omens? http://bit.ly/OzhBtb
- When black birds fly south http://bit.ly/Q1qDAk