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 19, 2014

The Easter egg bird

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Todies’ general shape and colorful plumage remind me of an Easter egg.

They are Caribbean birds in the forests of the Greater Antilles: Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Cuba, and the adjacent islands, Hispaniola, has two, the Narrow-billed Tody in the highlands and the Broad-billed Tody in the lowlands.

The Broad-billed Tody (Todus subulatus) has bright green plumage above, with a red throat and washed out yellow on the breast. Todies eat small prey insects like grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, bugs, butterflies, bees, wasps, and ants and they also eat lizards. They nest in tunnels, which they dig with their beaks and feet in steep bank or rotten tree trunks. 

Related Articles:
- Spotted Wren-babbler http://goo.gl/AvNc98
- Superb Fairy-wren http://goo.gl/7iTmNc
- Eurasian Jay http://goo.gl/TR5HM3
- Indian Robin like our robin in some ways http://goo.gl/3rqV2r
- Violet-backed Starlings http://goo.gl/sJTPIo

A closer look at Hoppers

Can you explain what are Hopper Feeders? – Abernant, Alabama
Hopper bird feeders look like a house and attract a wide range of seed eating birds, big and small. It is called hopper because when you lift the roof, you pour seed into the “hopper,” a container for a seed that tapers downward and is able to dispense its contents at the bottom.

The first hoppers were built for farm animals. Wild Birds Unlimited took the original idea and built a better hopper for the backyard birds. In fact, it is so much better there is a patent on our design.

From a functional point-of-view, the following characteristics are built into The Wild Birds Unlimited Classic Hopper bird feeders: 

• Curved sides so birds can be viewed at all angles
• The removable screen bottom is treated with EcoClean® Antimicrobial Product Protection and makes it easy to keep the feeders clean.
• Patented removable seed tray also has a seed diverter to keep seed flowing and provide excellent drainage to keep the seed dry.
• Angled perch lets empty seed hulls be blown away by the wind
• Large roof protects seed but is easy to lift to fill hopper with loose seed
• It may be hung or pole-mounted easily
• Clear acrylic panels allow easy view of seed level
• It is sturdy and weathers well
• Classic EcoTough feeders are environmentally friendly, high quality products that are made from recycled plastic milk jugs.
• They are all made in the United States of America

All Wild Birds Unlimited bird feeders are built with quality materials using patented designs that keep birds safe, protected and well-nourished. Our innovative feeder designs look good but are built to attract more birds to your yard.

The EcoTough bird feeders, built with poly-lumber, made proudly from recycled plastic and milk jugs, carry a lifetime guarantee to never crack, split or fade and are constructed with stainless steel screws.

Our wood hoppers are constructed with 7/8" inland red cedar for long lasting outdoor use and all-screwed construction using weather-resistant plated deck screws. Both the recycled and wood hoppers have fully routed edges, aluminum rust-resistant hinges and thick heavy-duty acrylic panels.

Wild Birds Unlimited is the first name in the best bird feeders ever built.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Photo Share: Woodpecker eating on the ground

Greetings from Shelby Township. I saw this bird feeding along the banks of the lake I am on. Can you help in identifying? Exciting to see new arrivals!

Hello, You've captured some great shots of a male Northern Flicker. Unlike other woodpeckers they spend about 75% of his time foraging on the ground for ants, termites, caterpillars, crickets, grasshoppers, other insects, and spiders. They also like peanuts and suet at the feeders.

Northern Flickers are medium sized woodpeckers with black-barred brown back, white rump, and black tail. Flickers in mid-Michigan have black polka dots on the belly and a black bib under their long bill. The males also have a black “mustache.” And as your top photo shows the birds have a gray crown with a red chevron on the back of the head and have yellow underwings and undertail. Females resemble males but lack mustache stripes. 

Thank you Greg for sharing your photos with us! If anyone would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com and I'll put it on the Friday Photo posts.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bird ID decals for the window

Have you seen the Birds iView Window Clings? These individually die-cut window clings help you quickly identify backyard birds. They are easy to apply and remove. You simply peel the backing from the decal and place it on your window, refrigerator or wall.

These decals won’t leave a residue and they can be rearranged easily. No need to search for your field guide to identify your backyard birds. Just glance at the decals on your viewing window.

This collection of window clings includes 31 eastern backyard birds, detailed illustrations, and names all on one 8 1/2" x 11" sheet - each bird decal is approximately 2"-3" in size. On the back of the sheet is each bird's favorite food and feeder type which will help you learn how to attract new species.

Window clings can also protect birds because they make the windows more visible for the birds and reduce collisions.

Birds iView Window Clings make a great gift for any occasion. Friends and family of every age will have fun identifying and attracting new birds to the yard.

Related Articles: 
-How to stop birds from hitting the window http://goo.gl/SkwnYE
-Emergency Numbers: Who to call if you find a injured animal http://bit.ly/KLhavK
- Have you noticed more birds in the road? http://bit.ly/KLhtXz
- How to stop the Mad Cardinal Attacking My Window. http://bit.ly/KLhESM
- Baby Bird ID http://ning.it/Msgj1p

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

White nose syndrome in Michigan bats

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced in the beginning of April 2014 that the fungus known to cause significant rates of illness and death in North American bats has been detected for the first time within the state's borders. White-nose syndrome (WNS) has been found in three Michigan counties: Alpena, Dickinson and Mackinac.

MI DNR has answered some Frequently Asked Questions 
on White-Nose Syndrome in Bats 
Photo by Wikimedia Commons
What is white-nose syndrome?
White-nose syndrome (WNS) was first documented in bats in New York in winter 2006-2007. The syndrome was named for the white fungus that sometimes develops on the muzzle of the bat, giving the appearance of a white nose.  

What does WNS do to bats?
WNS primarily affects bats during hibernation. Many insect-eating bats survive winter by going into hibernation, during which their body temperatures are lowered and fat deposits collected during summer months are utilized. WNS is believed to disrupt this cycle, causing bats to prematurely and repeatedly awaken from hibernation, quickly depleting their fat reserves and losing body condition. Entire populations and endangered species of bats are at risk. Scientists across the country are working vigorously to understand more about this disease.  

How is WNS spread?
Transmission of the fungus associated with WNS is believed to occur in two ways: 1) through bat-to-bat contact and 2) by humans visiting caves and mines.  

How do we prevent and control WNS?
Many questions about WNS remain unanswered, and there are currently no effective or practical treatment options available. Some states have restricted access to caves and mines to prevent humans from spreading the fungus from cave to cave.  

Why is WNS a significant threat to bats?
Conserving bats is important. Bats make up one-fourth of the world's mammalian species. They consume large amounts of insects and are one of the primary nighttime predators of insects. As WNS continues to spread throughout the US, we are at risk of losing entire bat species.  

Can WNS affect humans?
There is no evidence that WNS is infectious to humans. The fungus does not grow at temperatures above 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which is much lower than human body temperature. The loss of large numbers of bats may have an indirect impact on human health. Bats are a primary predator of nighttime insects, and large-scale losses of bats may lead to an increase in insect populations.  

What symptoms should I look for, and where do I report my sightings?
Please use the online reporting form at www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases if you observe bats displaying any of the following:
-flying during the daytime in the winter;
-difficulty flying;
-large numbers (six or more) of dying or dead bats, especially at the opening of a cave or mine;
-hibernating bats with white fungus on the face or wings observed during winter (fungus on the body of bats has not been observed at any other time of year, although wing scarring from the fungus may be visible year-round). Watch the video: A Million Bats Dead from Mysterious Disease.ogv
Related Articles:
- What Bats Live in Michigan? http://bit.ly/sQFMtq
- Where do you hang a bat house? http://bit.ly/rRivKw
- Are there Nectar Feeding Bats in Michigan? http://bit.ly/vYPpZ1
- Do Birds have Thumbs like Bats? http://bit.ly/tjpL2T
- When do bats hibernate? http://goo.gl/egsZGk

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The origin of the Easter Bunny

Photo from Wikipedia Commons
Have you ever wondered about the Easter bunny? How is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus connected to a rabbit with a basket full of colorful eggs? We know many Christian holidays incorporated the rites of ancient holidays.

The Easter bunny evolves from a mythic German goddess named Ēostre or Ostara who was the Germanic Goddess of Springtime. According to the Encyclopedia Mythica, "In ancient Anglo-Saxon myth, Ostara is the personification of the rising sun. In that capacity she is associated with the spring and is considered to be a fertility goddess. She is the friend of all children and to amuse them she changed her pet bird into a rabbit. This rabbit brought forth brightly colored eggs, which the goddess gave to the children as gifts. From her name and rites the festival of Easter is derived."

However recent research suggests that the Ostara was potentially invented by the monk Venerable Bede in 750 A.D. According to Wikipedia, “Ēostre is only found in writing by Bede in De temporum ratione, where Bede states that during Ēosturmōnaþ (the equivalent to the month of April) feasts were held in Eostre's honor among the pagan Anglo-Saxons, but had died out by the time of his writing, replaced by the Christian "Paschal month" (a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus).”

Today Christianity uses Easter eggs to symbolize the empty tomb from which a bird hatches alive; a reminder that Jesus rose from the grave, and that those who believe will also experience eternal life.

Related articles:
- How birds color their eggs naturally http://bit.ly/IBMw69
- A look at the Easter Egg Tradition http://goo.gl/CpUvg
- Bird of the Week: The Peep http://goo.gl/Hw0icC
- When do birds begin nesting? http://bit.ly/GGuobs
- How Do Birds Lay Eggs? http://bit.ly/H8omO0
- Do birds have belly buttons? http://bit.ly/GVqhpT

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sparrow with racing stripes on head

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Most birds that winter in southern locations wait for just the right conditions and then migrate at night to their nesting grounds in the north. I’ve found that after breezy spring days, I’ll often see new birds have ridden he winds to my yard. When they arrive in the early morning hours these birds are cold, tired, and hungry. The first thing they will do is look for food.

This morning I saw my first White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis). They always pass through mid-Michigan right before the warm weather arrives. Zonotrichia means “hairlike,” in reference to the striped heads of birds in this genus; albicollis is Latin for “white neck” in reference to the bird’s white throat.

You will see them in the leaf litter looking for bugs or under the feeders looking for sunflower seed or millet. He was actually a little early. I don’t usually see White-throats until the end of April. 

Related Articles:
-White-throated Sparrow fun facts http://goo.gl/Ju27MJ
-Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/oy9XGz
- 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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Whip-poor-will is a member of the goatsucker family

In Michigan from April to early November, the Whip-poor-will is heard throughout many of the open woodlands in Michigan, but is rarely seen. Their camouflaged plumage, nocturnal hunting, and secretive nesting behavior make them hard to find.

The Whip-poor-will is a member of the nightjar or “goatsucker” family. The name goatsuckers comes from the ancient folk tale that they sucked the milk from goats, causing the goats to go blind.
ARKive video - Eastern whip-poor-will - overview

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Why a cardinal might chirp at night

Hello. Have been enjoying your blog and thought I'd share today's bird experiences. Visited WBU store in Mobile, AL (closest one to Pensacola, FL) to purchase birdseed. It's always a pleasure to go there! After arriving home, I spotted a male indigo bunting on the birdbath. Breathtaking vibrant blue and first one seen this year. Could also hear whistling cedar waxwings before they finally flew in; only counted three before they flew off. Usually both of these appear before this time of year. Perhaps they've been in the area, just not observed in my backyard until today. 

Anyway, late this evening, close to midnight, I hear soft chirping notes from a female cardinal who's nesting in a shrub not more than ten feet from my front porch. I suddenly begin to see her flying around my very small covered stoop.  She would circle around at different heights, clinging to the brick sides or perching on porch light fixture and even on the "steeple" of decorative wooden birdhouse. I slowly made my way to the sidelights to get a closer look at her.

She flew around a few more times and then darted out into the night. I went outside, hoping she had flown back to the nest, but soon heard fluttering wings and chirps several feet above my head as I caught a glimpse of her flying up to an oak tree branch. I have never witnessed this type of behavior from cardinals or any other bird for that matter doing this, especially at night.  All I can surmise is that she must have been getting insects attracted to the light, even though I didn't actually see her catching/eating any bugs.

This was just the strangest behavior to me.  Last time I checked, she had laid 3-4 eggs in the nest and had been sitting on them during the day. 
Wouldn't she normally be sitting on the nest since there are eggs, especially on a cool night? Can she see to fly back to her nest at night? I hope all will be safe and well in the morning light. I am just perplexed by this odd sight and wondered if you've had any similar experience. Thank you for your informative blog. Happy birding!

It sounds like she was defending her nest. If a cat, raccoon or some other threat comes within five to ten feet of the nest, the female cardinal will typically move away from the nest at a ninety-degree angle from the predator’s approach and give a series of chip calls.

Unlike other bird species like blackbirds or bluebirds, cardinals don’t attack or dive bomb predators. Instead their tactic is to distract or re-nest as quickly as possible if the nest is attacked. If she is back on her nest this morning her tactic or perhaps your check on her, made it a safe night.

Thank you for sharing your great observations, Sarah

Related Articles:
- Common Backyard Bird Nest Identification http://bit.ly/ACMDcf
- Why Birds Keep Attacking the Window? http://bit.ly/z0Z8Va
- When do Northern Cardinals Nest? http://bit.ly/xR7hxz
- How to Attract Cardinals http://bit.ly/zdXWDV
- Why Cardinals Flock http://bit.ly/zocRzC
- How Birds Mate http://bit.ly/zRvpJ1