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 30, 2016

Weird Cardinal with black bill

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Young kids today! The spiked hair, black lips, and all around strange ensemble. This is the normal (or abnormal) look of an immature Northern Cardinal. There is nothing wrong with them.

Young Northern Cardinals have ashy brown feathers and black bills rather than the orange-red of the adults. They change gradually to their adult coloration three to four months after hatching.

Related Articles:
- Baby birds at the feeders http://goo.gl/UGCokz
- Cardinals mate for life http://goo.gl/Fz1CSR
- Cardinal Fun Facts http://bit.ly/twE6NV
- Cardinal Bird Feeders: http://bit.ly/qXJPFM
- How the Cardinal was named http://bit.ly/tSKZYs 

- What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/rAArXw

Friday, July 29, 2016

Photo Share: Trumpeter Swan in flight

Early settlers and explorers in Michigan noted that Trumpeter Swans were found here in abundance. Starting in the late 1800s, however, an increase in European settlement brought with it the conversion of wetlands to farmlands. It also brought market hunters, who harvested swans to sell their meat to restaurants, fluffy down for pillows, feather quills for pens, and skins and feathers for the fashion and hat trade. Unlike today’s hunters, who provide conservation funding through their hunting license and equipment purchases and only take as many animals as can be replaced through reproduction, market hunters had few regulations and little care for ensuring the future of the species that they decimated.

Thanks to the passage of federal wildlife protection laws in the early 1900s, this unrestrained harvest was curtailed, but the bird’s habitat still was imperiled. By 1933, only 66 trumpeter swans remained in the United States. Through careful stewardship, the trumpeter’s numbers slowly increased. Today, over 750 trumpeter swans can be found in Michigan alone and 35,000 swans across the entire United States!

If you venture out to capture the magic of trumpeter swans, respect their privacy and enjoy them from a distance. These are the largest waterfowl in the world and can weigh more than 25 pounds. They are 4 feet tall and have a wingspan of over 7 feet – all in all, an intimidating bird. And adults are very protective of their young cygnets and may attempt to chase off or attack a person that they think may pose a danger.

The trumpeter swan remains in Michigan year-round and are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. To learn more about the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial, visit www.fws.gov/birds/MBTreaty100.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Birds of Michigan Field Guide & CD set

You enjoy watching the birds and now you can enjoy listening to them too once you can name their tune. Birds of Michigan Field Guide and Audio CD set is a great tool for learning more about the common birds in our area.

The small compact book has full-page, color photos of birds. They include insets of winter plumage, color morphs and more. You don't need to know a bird's name or classification. The book is organized by the color of the bird. This is great for beginners. The CD in the collection will help you start recognizing birds by sound when you listen, featuring the highest quality digital recordings and approximately 120 minutes of bird calls.

The two best tools for enjoying birds in Michigan in one great, field-friendly package! This set is a must-have, and it makes a perfect gift!

Related Articles:

Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/rZG7mw
Why Wild Birds Unlimited has the best seed. http://bit.ly/uER81k
The best bird feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited http://bit.ly/rzl7RQ
What seed is best for attracting the colorful birds? http://bit.ly/vKhfMl
What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/rTCbHB
The best heated bird baths http://bit.ly/rGLQCm

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Photo Share: Sharp-shinned vs Merlin

Merlin Falco columbarius
This merlin seemed to know he was being photographed.- Mark

What a very handsome hawk! I think it is a Sharp-shinned hawk. Thank you very much for sharing your wonderful 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.

The Merlin is similar in size, but it’s a falcon—it has pointed wings and a shorter tail. Merlins are dark, streaky birds and they behave differently, flying powerfully and usually hunting out in the open. They also nest in the upper peninsula in Michigan.

Related Articles:
Sharp-shinned vs. Cooper’s Hawks http://goo.gl/sBHwDY
Birds of prey: Hawk vs. Falcon http://birds-of-prey-hawk-vs-falcon.html
Hawks at Feeders http://bit.ly/zfOiVV
Cooper's Hawk http://bit.ly/ylsupp
Sharp-shinned Hawks http://bit.ly/zhi4Ng

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Now is the time to feed the birds to help with feather growth

A regular resident of mid-Michigan backyards, the Northern Cardinals form one of the bird world's most faithful pair bonds. The male and female remain in close contact year-round, singing to one another through the seasons with soft, bubbly whistles. The female is known to sing while on the nest, and it is believed that she is informing her partner whether or not she or the young need food.

The red color of the cardinal’s feathers is the result of pigments called carotenoids. The amount of the pigment ingested, and then deposited in the feathers as they molt in the fall, influences the quality and depth of their red coloration. A study done by the Ohio State University found that juveniles, less efficient foragers than adults, often have a duller red feather coloration.

At the feeding stations the birds tend to prefer seeds that provide the most nutrients. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a landmark study of bird food preferences in 1980 for several bird species and found cardinals exhibited the greatest preference for fresh sunflower, peanuts, safflower, and millet. They avoid buckwheat, cracked corn, milo, oats, wheat, canary, flax, rapeseed, and rice.
Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess Blend is our best selling blend. It has everything the birds want and leaves no messy shells behind. The first ingredient is sunflower seeds with the black shells removed. You only pay for seed not the shells. Birds don't eat the shell. Those are just discarded below the feeder as waste. Because there is no shell, there is about twice as much seed in the bag. Pound for pound it is the better deal and it also should go down twice as slow in the feeder.

Whatever seed, seed cake, or suet you choose at Wild Birds Unlimited, we guarantee it will be fresh and a healthy choice for our local birds.

Related Articles:
- Northern Cardinal Fun Facts http://bit.ly/twE6NV
- How the Northern Cardinal bird was named http://bit.ly/tSKZYs
- Cardinal Bird Feeders Made in the USA: http://bit.ly/qXJPFM
- How to Attract Cardinals: http://bit.ly/pjh7mO

Monday, July 25, 2016

Hummingbird moth on milkweed

These beautiful White-Lined Sphinx Hummingbird moths are sipping nectar with a formidable proboscis dipping deep into the flower of the milkweed.

National Moth Week, the last full week in July, provides a much-needed spotlight on moths and their ecological importance as well as their incredible biodiversity. Read more at: http://nationalmothweek.org/

Related Articles:
-Tiger moths: What is that white moth with black spots?: http://bit.ly/rtneuz
-A Very Tiny Hummingbird (Moth)?: http://bit.ly/qtrAaV
-Moth With Twelve Inch Tongue: http://bit.ly/pcs0TV
-Why did I take a picture of bird poop?: http://bit.ly/o9APHb
-Where does the Woolly Bear go in the winter?: http://bit.ly/pB5L4V

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Eastern kingbird facts

The Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) is a large tyrant flycatcher native to North America. Adults are grey-black on the upperparts with light underparts; they have a long black tail with a white end and long pointed wings. They have a red patch on their crown, seldom seen.

The scientific name Tyrannus means “tyrant, despot, or king,” referring to the aggression kingbirds exhibit with each other and with other species. When defending their nests they will attack much larger predators like hawks, crows, and squirrels. They have been known to knock unsuspecting Blue Jays out of trees.

Eastern Kingbirds are Common and widespread in Michigan from May until early September. They are most likely seen on the golf courses or in the country perched where they can wait for insect prey to fly by.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

How to keep yellow jackets away from hummingbird feeder

The only sure defense against bees and yellow jacket wasps is to deny them any access to the nectar. I have replaced all my hummingbird feeders gradually with the problem free Wild Birds Unlimited saucer style feeders. The bees don’t like the flat style hummingbird feeders because the nectar is down low, there is no leaking or dripping, they have a built in ant moat and they are easy to clean and fill. There are also optional bee guards you can attach to allow only hummers and no bugs access.

There are different styles and sizes of the saucer style hummingbird feeders, even a window feeder! They all have perches (I love it when they stop to drink) and bright colored tops to attract the birds naturally. Both the cover and the clear bowl are constructed with UV stable poly carbonate, the most durable plastic available, are dishwasher safe, come with a lifetime guarantee, and are made in the USA.

If you choose not to try a new feeder right now, I have three tips to stop bees:

1. Deter Bees and wasps: I discovered bees don't like the smell of cherries. If you swab the ports with real almond or cherry extract (purchased at any grocery store baking isle), the bees will avoid the feeder. This really works but it wears off fast and you have to reapply the extract every day.
2. Distract Bees and wasps: Use a super-concentrated sugar water mix (two parts water, one part sugar), and pour it into a shallow plate, preferably a big yellow one (bees seem to be attracted to that color). Put the plate on a ladder or stool near the hummingbird feeder and they will probably move over to the plate. Once the plate is empty the bees should disperse.
3. Disinterest Bees and wasps: Reduce the sugar concentration to 1 part sugar in 5 parts water instead of the usual nectar recipe of 1 part white sugar to 4 parts water. This will make it less attractive to insects, but probably won't make the hummingbirds lose interest.

Related Articles:
Do Honey Bees Migrate in the Winter? http://bit.ly/KIuKKv
When did people start to feed hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/KIuSK6
What’s the best bee-proof hummingbird feeder? http://goo.gl/PcLeyD
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/H2U4P4
Examining The Hummingbird Tongue http://bit.ly/HoaxsI
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/H7xvp3

Friday, July 22, 2016

Photo Share: Ruby-throated hummingbird fluffed

Nesting season is over for the hummingbirds in Michigan by the end of June. Once breeding territories no longer have to be guarded, hummingbirds wander widely. This is a really good time to put out a hummingbird feeder.

Just before they answer the call to travel south, hummingbirds eat in excess to build a layer of rich fatty fuel just under their skin. You can notice the extra fat along the belly, back, and throat. A hummingbird actually gains 25 – 40% extra body-weight to have enough fuel to migrate thousands of miles south. You will notice them getting fatter and fatter and then one day they fly to their wintering grounds.

Photo by Ken Thomas. 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, July 21, 2016

Decorative yet functional hummingbird feeder by Droll Yankees

Droll Yankees new Ruby Sipper® Hanging Hummingbird Feeder, is a perfect pairing of whimsical fun and practical performance, all in one stylish saucer feeder. The 5 ounce capacity of the Ruby Sipper makes it an ideal feeder for establishing multiple feeding zones for territorial hummingbirds. Every hummer can have its own feeder!
  • Leak-proof design!
  • Floats on a graceful stainless steel wire
  • Eye-catching ruby red attracts hummingbirds instantly
  • Lavender dish keeps the nectar level visible
  • Three feeding ports are easy for hummers to use
  • Holds 5 ounces of nectar
  • Nectar recipe is engraved on the feeder cover
  • UV stabilized polycarbonate construction- strong and reliably long lasting
  • Easy to fill and clean
  • Our Perfect Little Brush is included to keep feeder ports clean – replacement brushes may be purchased
  • Lifetime Warranty covers defective parts
  • Made in the U.S.A.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What bird sings cheeseburger?

“What bird says Cheeseburger?” My mom asked me that question a couple weeks ago. Chickadee is the answer. We were joking that Mrs. Chickadee was literally calling her mate a meathead. In the spring it is all, Sweetie, hey, sweetie as they choose mates and defend territories and now it has turned into name calling. I think the bloom is off the rose.

When I’m filling the feeders the chickadees sometimes give what seems like a friendly chick-a-dee-dee-dee which I always interpreted as a “hurry up, food is here”. Then when a Chickadee stops by my feeder they make a tseet, tseet “hello”, picks out a seed and zips away. And the soulful sweeeties chickadee parents call to gather their fledglings is one of the sweetest sounds of summer.

Black-capped Chickadees have a lot of vocalizations, adults can produce at least 16 different calls. Young chickadees usually produce 3 types of calls to beg for food, to talk to their parents, or alert them they are in distress.

Chickadees are well known for their distinctive calls which sound like chick-a-dee-dee-dee. Scientist are just beginning to decode some of the meanings. They increase the number of dee notes when they are alarmed, give a gargling call, often aggressively, when a lower-ranking bird gets too close. And a high pitched see is a serious alarm call, often when a fast-approaching predator is detected. When chickadees hear this call, they freeze in position until they hear a chickadee-dee call signifying “all clear.”

Further studies in communication in birds may provide insights into the evolution of structural complexity of human language.

Related Articles:
What the 'dee' in Chick-a-dee means http://goo.gl/8rde3a
A closer look at the fee-bee song of the chickadee http://goo.gl/X4qLRV
Why don't chickadees stay to eat at the feeder? http://bit.ly/AkKThH
After chickadee babies have fledged http://bit.ly/yAYbP4
Fun Facts About Chickadees http://bit.ly/zIDkCi
Birds have evolved alarm signals to warn of danger http://birds-have-evolved-alarm-signals-to.html