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, April 30, 2016

Photo Share: New faces at the bird feeders

Hi Sarah, Everyone appears to be a week early here for us;) The chipping sparrow’s were first sometime last week we have 4 running around at the bottom of the feeder. They are not afraid of humans much like the pine pine siskin’s. We still have a couple siskin’s as of yesterday. Song Sparrow came last week also.

I know Mark was in and told you we had 2 male Orioles come on Monday. I had the jelly and worms out just in case and they decided on both when they arrived. We are awaiting the rest of the Oriole gang. 

The Hummingbird showed up Monday evening in and out so quick I missed getting his picture, he must of been a traveler as I haven’t seen him back yet. Tuesday the white-crowned Sparrow and Wed the male Grosbeak arrived. Just wanted to share what we are seeing so far. The bluebirds have 2 eggs as of yesterday I expect to see a third today. Busy exciting spring. We say goodbye to our Juncos and most Siskins our Red Breasted Nuthatch and Welcome all our summer residents. -Holly
Thank you Holly for sharing your photos! 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.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Photo Share: Flying jewels

These are a couple left over from last year. I have like a kazillion but a lot are blurred and out of focus. Hope to do better this year. - John
Excellent photographs! Hummingbirds are amazing little creatures, capable flying of up, down and backwards with their wings flapping between 15-200 times per second! You must have a great deal of patience to capture these flying jewels.

Thank you John for sharing your photos! 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, April 28, 2016

Mystery of migrating monarch navigation solved

A new study suggests how Monarch Butterflies may process information to determine which way to migrate in the spring and fall. Each fall, monarchs migrate over 2,000 miles to the relative warmth of central Mexico. This journey, repeated instinctively by generations of monarchs. “Their compass integrates two pieces of information — the time of day and the sun’s position on the horizon — to find the southerly direction,” said Eli Shlizerman, a University of Washington assistant professor.

Shlizerman, partnered with colleagues at the University of Michigan and the University of Massachusetts to model how the monarch’s compass is organized within its brain.

Monarchs use their large, complex eyes to monitor the sun’s position in the sky then combine that information with an internal clock in their antennae to help them navigate in the southwest direction.

Their model also suggests a simple explanation why monarch butterflies are able to reverse course in the spring and head northeast back to Michigan. The four neural mechanisms that transmit information about the clock and the sun’s position would simply need to reverse direction.

“And when that happens, their compass points northeast instead of southwest,” said Shlizerman. “It’s a simple, robust system to explain how these butterflies — generation after generation — make this remarkable migration.”

In addition to Reppert, other co-authors on the paper were James Phillips-Portillo at the University of Massachusetts and Daniel Forger at the University of Michigan. Shlizerman’s work was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Washington Research Fund. Additional information can be found at the project’s blog.

Related Articles:
- Do Monarch Butterflies just wake up in the spring? http://goo.gl/5tkUk
- Monarch migration route http://goo.gl/L66ty
- Punctuation Butterflies: The First Butterfly of Spring! http://bit.ly/JHUpG1  
- How Fast Does a Monarch Butterfly Fly? http://bit.ly/ywhpZr
- Did you know butterflies have ears on their wings? http://bit.ly/x04qEi

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hand blown glass hummingbird feeder

Parasol Hummingbird feeders are unique to many feeders on the market. They work hard to be environmentally friendly, while also being beautiful in design. They make the perfect gift for family and friends, and look fantastic in gardens, yards, and porches. Here are two of my favorite hummingbird feeders offered by Parasol.

Little Droplets a new feeder by Par-a-sol

Cute Droplets™ are perfect little hummingbird feeders for any garden. It holds 6-ounces of nectar, includes an "S" hook for hanging and hummingbird feeding information. The many colored designs are an adorable addition to your hummingbird feeder collection. The recycled glass has an opening with a vibrant red feeding flower from which the hummers feed. The top placement design of the flower prevents leaks and drips, so bees and wasps aren’t attracted to the feeder.

Parasol Pixie Hummingbird Feeders by Par-a-sol

Add a storybook look to your backyard with the Parasol Pixie Hummingbird Feeders. The enchanting feeder lends whimsy to your backyard with its rounded shape and two wing shapes extending from the back. It holds 4 ounces of nectar, and a red, glass feeding flower inserts into the neck. Made from recycled glass, this hand blown vessel and flower add environmental awareness to your garden along with style. Each Parasol Pixie Hummingbird Feeder is individually hand-blown and will vary slightly in size and shape, demonstrating the individual artisan-ship of the creator. Measures approximately 4-5/8" x 2-3/4" x 3-3/4" high*. 3 oz capacity.

* Artisanal hummingbird feeders made from hand-blown recycled glass
* Whimsical nectar feeder attracts hummingbirds and compliments
* Great gift at a great price for any hummingbird or wild bird lover

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators for Lansing, Michigan

Remember to leave Michigan’s wildlife in the wild

baby rabbit in the grass
With spring in full swing, Michigan residents may be noticing an increase in sightings of nestlings and baby animals. For example, baby cottontail rabbits, squirrels and raccoons are a common find this time of year.

DNR wildlife technician Hannah Schauer explains, "A nest full of young rabbits may look helpless, but staying in the nest is their best chance for survival. However, we appreciate the good intentions of those who want to help.” If you find an animal that seems to be abandoned or injured, call for expert advice first!

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 ♦ 517.351.7304 ♦ Cheryl Connell-Marsh ♦ birds and small animals
  • Lansing, MI ♦ 517-646-9374 ♦ Tiffany Rich ♦ white tailed deer, squirrels, raccoons; Vet. Tech. on center.
  • DeWitt, MI ♦ 517.930-0087 ♦ Wildside Rehab and Education Center ♦ birds and small animals
  • Eaton Rapids, MI ♦ 517-663-6153 ♦ Wildside Rehab and Education Center ♦ birds and small animals
  • Holt, MI ♦ 517-694-9618 ♦ Carolyn Tropp cctropp@aol.com ♦ Waterfowl, small birds and mammals
  • Howell, MI ♦ 517-548-5530 ♦ Howell Conference and Nature Center ♦ All wild animals except bats, skunks, starlings, raccoons, pigeons, or house sparrows.
  • Bath, MI ♦ 517-819-0170 (day) 517-641-6314 (evening) ♦ Denise Slocum ♦ Small mammals 
And if you are outside of Michigan:

Monday, April 25, 2016

Brown-headed Cowbirds scout for nests

Adult female and male Brown-headed Cowbird

I saw a male and female cowbird scouting my yard yesterday. Brown-headed Cowbirds parasitize the nests of other birds. It looked like the ones I spotted had their eyes on a cardinal couple. The female Cowbirds wander about, laying up to 40 eggs per season (April to June) in as many nests of different bird species as they can find. They lay one egg per nest, each day for about 7 days, then rest for several days before another egg-laying sequence.

Human development of the land has caused fragmentation of forest habitat and resulted in a great increase in the edge habitats favored by Brown-headed Cowbirds, and a reduction of forest-interior habitats where they don’t like to venture. As a result, a number of forest birds' nests are now being used by Brown-headed Cowbirds at an increased rate.

There are 144 different host species documented that raise Brown-headed Cowbird young. Several published studies on the subject have found adult cowbirds check in with young cowbirds while the youngsters are still living with other species. The adult cowbirds help teach fledglings cowbird-specific behaviors before they leave their foster homes.
Eastern Phoebe nest with 5 phoebe eggs & 1 Brown-headed Cowbird egg via Wikimedia Commons
In late summer cowbirds flock together with other cowbirds. Chatter calls, as well as other visual cues help with recognition of their own species. The theory is that cowbirds and other parasitic birds possess a simple behavioral trait or cue that is species specific and helps them recognize themselves as cowbirds. 
Related Articles:
- How Do Cowbirds Learn to Sing? http://goo.gl/n6kYS 
- How Do You Tell a Female Indigo Bunting from a Female Cowbird? http://goo.gl/SpQUX

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Black white bird red chest

Look who’s showing up at the bird feeders!
If you don’t fill the feeder in the spring and summer you are going to miss seeing some really neat birds up close. I can't wait for the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks to arrive!

A relative of the Northern Cardinal, the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks migrate north in April and May in search of breeding grounds in Michigan, southern Canada and the northcentral and northeastern United States. They are a Neotropical migrant, and will return to Mexico, Central America, and South America as early as August.

The name “grosbeak” is from the French word grosbec and means “large beak.” Most are very hungry during migration and take advantage of food offered at feeders. It's quite a sight to see the distinctive black and white male bird with a bright red chest. The females resemble a large brown sparrow with a white eyebrow.

They are very common feeder birds at the beginning of spring preferring sunflower, safflower, suet, fruit, and nuts. I usually find them at my Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Blend. As the bird establishes its nesting territory and the weather changes, over half of their diet is made up of insects. But they always are attracted to the water in a bath.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak nests in deciduous and mixed forests. But the bird is still a bit of a mystery. Its life history has not been well-studied and little is known on their migration routes, dispersal, habitat use, and nutrition during migration and on wintering grounds. Even the species name ludovicianus which means "from Louisiana" doesn't make sense because it is just a migrant there.

If you don’t see them at your feeder keep your ears open. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes the Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) song like that of the robin, only as sung by an opera singer, being mellower and more sweetly melodic.
Related Articles:
Large brown sparrow-like bird http://bit.ly/IrwgVk
Juvenile Rose Breasted Grosbeak http://bit.ly/IoVuSG
Average dates for birds return to Michigan the in Spring? http://bit.ly/IMYNQe
When is bird migration over? http://bit.ly/IMZ7OQ
What to know about feeding birds in the spring http://bit.ly/I5s6h9

Saturday, April 23, 2016

How to make hummingbird nectar

Hummingbird and oriole nectar recipe
To make nectar that is a little bit stronger than flower nectar, use a ratio of 4:1. That would be four parts water to one part plain white sugar. You may be tempted to use honey, turbinado sugar, drink mixes or brown sugar, but this is not a good idea. These sugars contain too many minerals for the hummingbird's system and can cause illness or death.

Powdered or confectioners sugar should not be used either. Powdered sugar has cornstarch added to it and that will cause the nectar to ferment.

Color isn’t required. There have never been any scientific studies done to prove red dye harms hummingbirds, but they come to clear nectar (sugar water) so leave it clear just in case the red is bad for the birds.

Nectar (sugar water) recipe
1 cup granulated sugar
4 cups water

1. Pour sugar in hot water. It's not necessary to boil the water. The microorganisms that cause fermentation don't come from the water; they are transported to the feeder on hummingbird bills.
2. Stir or shake the mixture until dissolved.
3. Remove from heat and let it cool.
4. Fill your hummingbird feeder and refrigerate any unused nectar for up to 2 weeks.
5. If the hummingbirds do not come to the feeder within a few days, you can try moving it to another location near plants that have brightly colored flowers.
6. Be sure to replace the nectar and clean the feeder thoroughly once every three to four days. If you leave it out longer the sugar water could go bad and hummingbirds will boycott your feeder for a long time.

If you don't want sugar in your house or you want an easy to dissolve sugar Wild Birds Unlimited has Best-1 instant nectar. It doesn't have any coloring or preservatives. Or if you are recipe challenged we also have premixed sugar water.

Related articles:
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/II4RQ4
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/H2U4P4
Hummingbird Information on Habitat and Habits http://bit.ly/H2Ua9s
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/H7xvp3
Fun Facts About Hummingbirds http://bit.ly/II5sBl
Photo Share: Strange visitor at the high-perch hummingbird feeder http://bit.ly/II7dyy

Friday, April 22, 2016

Photo Share: The lunch table where all the cool orioles hang out

Spiral Three Cup Feeder This is a versatile three-cup feeder with a durable a powder coat finish. You can use the cups for orange halves, chopped fruit, nuts, mealworms, jelly and more.

You will want to have your feeders out early so when orioles are in the area, they will stay around. Orioles are insect and fruit eaters. They usually stay hidden in the trees eating and singing out their beautiful whistling notes. They can be drawn down from their perches with foods like orange slices, BirdBerry™ Jelly, mealworms and occasionally nectar feeders.

Related Articles:
Best place to hang oriole feeder http://goo.gl/InLH8p
Facts on the Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GzSTbi
Close-up of Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GAf6T7
Tips and tricks to make your suction cups stick. http://t.co/a3wv0x0
Favorite Oriole feeders http://t.co/OjG4Lz4

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Calling for Old Sam Peabody

I heard a White-throated Sparrow today! You may hear the birds before you see them. I always think White-throated Sparrows have a song that sounds like a chickadee yodeling. Birders describe their song as "Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody" and "poor-wet-wetter-chee-zee".

They are the one bird I watch for to tell me when the weather is about to turn. They show up in mid-Michigan right when the weather is going to stay above freezing. They can be spotted hanging around for a couple weeks before they continue to their nesting grounds in upper Michigan and Canada.

The White-throated Sparrow is medium sized sparrow with brown streaked upper parts, plain gray underparts, and has a conspicuous white throat and yellow lores above the eyes between black-and-white or black-and-tan stripes on the head.

White-throated like to scratch on the ground with a series of quick kicks when they feed and remind me of chickens. Our regular no-mess blend would be a good choice of food to attract these sparrows as they migrate.

Be on the look-out for the White-crowned Sparrows too. They usually pass through around the same time as the White-throated. Their visits to feeders tend to be early and late in the day.
Related Articles:
White-throated Sparrow fun facts http://white-throated-sparrow-fun-facts.html
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/oy9XGz
Which one of these birds is not like the others? http://bit.ly/qM1LQt
What birds winter in Michigan? http://bit.ly/rqQgU2

Edible bouquet for mom birds

Delicious and delectable premium bird seed coat these wooden houses. Then they are hand decorated in the USA with sweet spring fruits. A delightful treat for your favorite backyard birds and a thoughtful gift for any bird-lover. There are assorted styles, but I only brought in a couple dozen for the season. Only the early birds will be able to take home these adorable edible bird houses!

Each house might contain a mixture of Millet, Black Oil Sunflower, Safflower, Canola, Strawberry, Papaya, Kiwi, Apricots, Mango, Blueberries, Talloberries, & Gelatin.