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.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Eagles reuse their nests

I live on Hood Canal in Seabeck, WA. The photo I attached was taken on our beach June 1, 2014. We have a breeding pair of eagles that remain here on the property all year. Last year they had two babies and I could swear they are still here or at least nearby. They will be a year January 2015.

We are on a migratory hunting route for Bald Eagles, hence the photo. My question is will our eagle pair use the same nest each year? I see their droppings and a piece of the nest fell so I could see what it is made of (very interesting) some folks down the road think that they are nesting in one of their trees. I still here them almost daily here but could they be moving their nesting location after all of these years?

Our pair are territorial when all the eagles show up in Spring. Our eagles do not let other eagles hunt from our trees, so they have to go to other people’s trees at night. I was just curious. I have many great photos of the eagles here, in case you are interested.   Ky

If an eagle's nest was successful they will probably reuse their nest. It just becomes larger each year as the eagles return to breed and add new nesting materials to shore up the old nest. Eventually, some nests reach sizes of more than 10 feet wide and can weigh several tons.

Both sexes bring materials to the nest, but the female is usually in charge. They weave together sticks and fill in the cracks with softer material such as grass, moss, or other soft plant materials. The inside of the nest is lined first with lichen or a fine woody material, then with downy feathers and sometimes sprigs of greenery.

Female Bald Eagles seem to be the ones who choose the territory and the nesting tree. Bald eagles mate for life, but when one dies, the survivor will not hesitate to accept a new mate. If the female that nested in your tree died, the male could have found a new mate and moved next door.

After fledging, young eagles stay near the nest for six to nine weeks practicing their ability to fly and hunt. Juveniles have to learn how to hunt by watching the parents and practicing. During this time, they seem to spend more time looking at prey than they do actually attacking it.

Until the first winter after they fledge, young eagles live near the nest are often still fed by their parents, but have little other interaction. Although a young eagle has the instincts to hunt, it lacks the skills. Eventually, they begin to soar, spot prey and hopefully survive and thrive for many years. 

Related Articles:
Bald Eagle Information http://t.co/o4ugzs2
Nesting Eagles http://t.co/vpj99ZV
Terrified Geese Have Eyes on the Sky http://t.co/pqsWQqE
Amazing moment bald eagle chases down and catches a starling in mid-air http://t.co/U3CT5Sh
Michigan DNRE asking drivers to watch out for bald eagles http://t.co/A9R33zI
A closer look at the National Bird of the USA http://goo.gl/tfpR9Y

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Photo Share: Cardinal that reflects the season

A shot of a cardinal that reflects the season. Wishing you a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year. - Photo by Rodney Campbell
According to allaboutbirds.org "The Northern Cardinal is perhaps responsible for getting more people to open up a field guide than any other bird. They’re a perfect combination of familiarity, conspicuousness, and style: a shade of red you can’t take your eyes off. Even the brown females sport a sharp crest and warm red accents. Cardinals don’t migrate and they don’t molt into a dull plumage, so they’re still breathtaking in winter’s snowy backyards."

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

Friday, December 19, 2014

The cats are dog-tired!

Birder hosts a great Open House
The phrase dog-tired comes from an old English tale about the Anglo-Saxon king Alfred the Great. The story recounts how Alfred sent his sons out for a game chasing after hunting dogs. Whichever son caught the most dogs would win a place next to their father at the dinner table. The boys were described appropriately as coming home from the chase dog-tired.

Dolly just might be too tired to carry on...
December is the month with the highest number of customers coming in to the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI. I send the cats out to chase after customers and they are exhausted. I just found Dolly tucked under her bed with the covers pulled over her head.

Eli Birder is trying to help out too. He had great fun at the Open House and has been trying to help Dolly out as much as possible.

JB's duty is the hardest. He has to keep me calm. I turn to him when I'm stressed and he tells me to sit down and cuddle.
JB listens to my heart: Keep Calm and Purr On
Related Articles:
My Favorite Weed: All About Catnip http://goo.gl/txqoL
The Trials of Living in a Bird Store http://goo.gl/1hzvES
Cats Indoors! http://goo.gl/B64Go
Do You Take Your Cats Home at Night? http://goo.gl/gm8mP
A window feeder is the best way to entertain indoor cats http://goo.gl/iWHHo

Black cats are good luck  http://goo.gl/l4W230

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Fun with Squirrels

People tend to react to squirrels in one of two ways, either they see them as cute and entertaining, or they make it a lifelong quest to keep the critters out of their bird feeders. Songbirds and squirrels have similar tastes in food, so it’s no surprise that they are constant companions to backyard bird feeding.
However, squirrels can be accommodated by setting up a squirrel proof feeder and then having a separate feeder for the squirrels. This approach helps pull squirrels away from bird feeders and gives them an area of their own.

The Wild Birds Unlimited Interactive Squirrel Feeder is a pine feeder that provides you with the opportunity to witness the problem-solving skills of those furry little critters in action.

Squirrels must push on the weight-activated paddle to open the lid and allow them access to those tasty treats like our specially developed Wildlife Blend that squirrels crave.

Related Articles:
- How do I keep squirrels off my bird feeders? http://bit.ly/yiZsML
- Squirrel proof bird feeder reviews http://bit.ly/waJs9o
- Why are Squirrels Called Squirrels? http://bit.ly/yhktkr
- Black Squirrel History & Facts http://bit.ly/AxiqPz
- "Frisky" Fox Squirrels http://bit.ly/AndeTw
- Why squirrels chew http://bit.ly/AjVzFW
- How many species of squirrels are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/yYt6Nb

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A closer look at the holiday wreath tradition

The word wreath comes from the word writhen that was an old English word meaning “to writhe” or “to twist.”

Wreaths, a common household decoration today, are a custom from before written history. Harvest wreathes in Ancient Greece consisted of wheat or other harvested plants woven together with red and white wool thread and hung it on the door to protect against crop failure and plagues.

Ancient Europeans often used evergreen wreathes to symbolize strength and fortitude, as it stays green even through the harshest of winters.

Christmas wreaths in the Catholic tradition were a circle of evergreens with four candles – Three purple, to symbolize penance, and expectation, and one pink to represent the coming joy. The circle shape of the wreath is made to represent Christ’s eternal love, his strength, and the creation of new life.

Related Articles:
Edible ornaments for the birds http://bit.ly/tXDnSB
Decorate a Tree for Your Birds http://bit.ly/t3QtGV
Let's all share Nature's bounty http://bit.ly/syPNzh
The Tradition of feeding the Birds at Christmas Time http://goo.gl/7ODaQ
When did Reindeer Learn to Fly? http://bit.ly/veTLpT
How the Christmas tree tradition started http://goo.gl/r92VN

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winter blues are always welcome

Photo by Rodney Campbell
The hard landing of the Blue Jay at my window feeder is a welcome interruption from working at my desk. Blue jays are highly adaptable and intelligent birds. Their noisy presence around my bird feeders is always fun to watch on cold, dreary days.

Their migration is a bit of a mystery to scientists. We have Blue Jays year-round in Michigan but some individual birds may migrate south one year and not the next. It is unclear what factors determine whether a blue jay or family decides if they want to spend the winter in the north or south.

Blue jays have a bad reputation (unfounded in my book) as bully birds. In fact, they are largely vegetarian with a diet composed of a lot of nuts and seeds with the occasional bug or suet on the side. Their poor flight makes it hard for them to stick a landing at the feeders and sometime that might "accidentally" push off smaller birds. Unfortunately their slow flight, also makes them easy prey when flying in open areas.

This may be why they are fairly social and are found typically in pairs, family groups or small flocks. Jays have a lookout bird to watch for hawks, owls, or another predators while at a feeding area. If danger is close, you and all the surrounding wildlife will know it as they give the warning Jay! Jay! call. Other jays will then join in to help make noise to drive the predator away. Smaller birds go quickly into hiding, letting jays do the dangerous work.

Related Articles:
- Why do Birds Scatter Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/w4vRPP
- Blue Jays aren't blue http://bit.ly/roVPVX
- What Feeder Do You Recommend for Blue Jays? http://bit.ly/txd8ja
- Blue Jay Fun Facts http://goo.gl/wJgMmJ
- Do birds know winter is coming? http://goo.gl/EilIa6
- Why Blue Jays go bald in the fall http://goo.gl/gAX3x 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Goldfinch Winter Plumage

Photo by Rodney Campbell
Goldfinches are found year-round at Michigan bird feeders, but sometimes people don't realize our bright yellow and black goldfinches grow duller feathers for the winter months.

Unlike many birds, goldfinches molt their body feathers twice a year, bright, attractive yellow feathers in the spring before breeding and much denser olive brown feathers after nesting in the fall. Both male and female American goldfinches look similar in winter without the males’ bright breeding colors to help differentiate between the sexes.
Related Articles:
Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Goldfinch Migration http://bit.ly/MzGSPD
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a
European Goldfinches http://bit.ly/Q2Cu37
Goldfinches: The Last Birds Nesting http://bit.ly/PZuejj

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Red-headed Woodpeckers occasionally visit

Red-headed Woodpeckers will eat suet, seeds, corn, acorns, beechnuts, pecans, and many kinds of fruits (including apples, pears, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, mulberries, and poison ivy fruits). 

Look for Red-headed Woodpeckers in scattered, open woodlots in agricultural areas. They like to live in mature stands of forest, especially oak, oak-hickory, maple, ash, and beech. 

Red-headed Woodpeckers are fairly easy to identify thanks to their large blocks of solid color. Adults have bright-red heads, white underparts, and black backs with large white patches in the wings, making the lower back appear all white when perched. 

Red-headed Woodpeckers give all kinds of chirps, cackles, and other raucous calls. Their most common call is a shrill, hoarse tchur, like a Red-bellied Woodpecker’s but higher-pitched and less rolling. To read more and listen to a call go to: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/red-headed_woodpecker/sounds

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
- Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/tQ5lwt
- How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Source of peanuts for the birds

Hello! I'm so grateful to have found your site that helps me understand what to give the outside birds we so love to have in the garden. Thank you! You mentioned peanuts as being desirable & I would like your input on a source for them for the birds. I have some in shells which the blue jays love but for the smaller birds? We are on the west coast and would like to attract the smaller birds. I did not know they also love the sunflower seeds! I've got some bird seed that has millet but a lot of cracked corn (okay for the birds? I thought it was mostly for chickens & ducks) and sunflower seeds. I'd be glad to buy bird food if it's not the cheap junk most local stores sell. Any advice is most wanted! Thank you.

There are almost 300 Wild Birds Unlimited stores in the US and Canada. To locate your nearest store go to: https://maps.wbu.com/

Each store is individually owned. They have a lot of the same feeders and pole systems but we vary in certain local items and seed blends that we offer.

The franchise also runs an online website which can deliver seed at: http://shop.wbu.com/

There are several types of peanuts. Each of the peanut types is distinctive in size, flavor, and nutritional composition. The birds will appreciate any raw unsalted peanut in or out of the shell as long as it’s still fresh and full of oil.

Birds look for the very best food. Fresh and heavy seeds full of oil are chosen over the dried up older seeds. Blue Jays and other birds will shuffle through the seeds until they find what they are looking for. They'll pick a seed up in their bill to test the weight. If it's not heavy enough they'll pick up another to compare the weight of of the seeds. It's not worth their while to eat or cache seeds that are dried out or bad.

Also, certain seeds are preferred over others. Nuts and sunflower seeds are chosen most often by backyard birds for their high calorie/ounce ratio due to its high fat and protein content. The National Wildlife Federation did a 2005–2008 study on which foods attract the most birds and keep them the healthiest. Fresh sunflower seed, peanuts, white proso millet, safflower, Nyjer thistle seed and high quality suets are some of the best choices.

Cracked corn doesn't have as high an oil content as sunflower seed or peanuts. This makes it a less preferred food during stressful times like nesting or bad weather. Generally it is kick to the ground where it attracts different types of backyard wildlife, including deer, squirrels, chipmunks and raccoons. I hope this helps.
Thank you so much for this information! Most helpful and lots to look in to. I do appreciate it, and you explained the blue jay behavior when I have a scatter of peanuts out for them, taking one, then another, deciding after a while on a certain one. Thank you, your information is very helpful.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Quick Reminder: Party at East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited

Sat- Dec. 13, 2014 from 3-5pm, the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store is going to have a Holiday Open House!

Where: Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, Michigan

Free: There will be goodie bags for the first 50 families as well as discounts, coupons and yummy food for all to enjoy!

The party is at the Coolidge Rd store only:

Wild Birds Unlimited
2200 Coolidge Rd.
East Lansing, MI 48823

I hope to see you there! This Holiday Open House is our small way of saying thank you for a great year! 

Related Articles:

Photo Share: Cedar waxwing with holly

Holly has long been associated with winter holidays. Early Europeans used holly as ornamentation during their winter solstice celebrations. The winter solstice, which occurs in late December in the northern hemisphere, was the longest night of the year and signified the gradual lengthening of days and coming spring — a cause for celebration. Holly's symbolism of the new season made it an appropriate and colorful ornament for winter festivities.

For birds Holly is one of the most versatile and useful plants with more than 400 species that range in size from creeping shrubs to trees 100 feet or more tall. Waxwings, woodpeckers, catbirds, thrashers, mockingbirds, bluebirds, robins and other thrushes all appreciate snacking on berries during the short days of winter.