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.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving treats for birds

If you come into the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI store you will see a lot of new items that will decorate your yard and make a great treat to serve your birds.

Fun Holiday Bird Food Treats
Cedar Birdhouse Dipped in Birdseed 
We have functional bird houses that are decorated with a mixture of fresh bird seed and dried flowers. Birds will flock to the sides to eat during the winter and then a bird couple can use the cedar house for nesting in the spring.

Solid Seed and Nut Ornament 
Give your backyard friends a gift they'll really enjoy. Extra-large wild bird seed ornaments are solid, compact balls of mixed birdseed and pecans. They can be hung on outdoor trees, porch hooks, or shrubs as a treat for clinging birds. Features red raffia bow and jute hanging loop. Each ball measures approximately 4" dia. This is a perfect gift to have on hand to pass out to teachers, hostesses, unexpected guests and other friends and family.
 .

Buttons the Snowman Seed Cylinder
Available for a limited time only, our Snowman Seed Cylinder is a seasonal mix of safflower, sunflower chips, peanuts, cherries, blueberries and papaya to attract a variety of birds. Simply slide the Snowman Seed Cylinder onto our WBU Seed Cylinder Feeders or WBU Dinner Bell™ feeder and enjoy the feathered holiday visitors. This is an adorable and unforgettable treat birds really love! 

WBU Cranberry Fare Seed Wreath
The Seed Wreath does double duty during the winter season. Not only is it a dining delight for birds, but it also adds festive cheer to any yard. This wreath is full of seasonally-appropriate ingredients including sunflower seeds, peanuts and pecans.

It makes the perfect gift for friends that love nature but might not need another feeder. The wreath is 100% edible. Birds will eat this treat until it disappears completely.

Each wreath comes in a clear wrapped gift box and includes a red hanging ribbon and seed net. 

Related Articles: 
- Let's all share Nature's bounty http://bit.ly/tgPkrv 
- Edible ornaments for the birds http://bit.ly/tXDnSB
- Decorate a Tree for Your Birds http://bit.ly/t3QtGV
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods http://bit.ly/tUElnw

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Take a closer look at your bird seed blend



You probably get this question all the time, but where are all the birds. I have no birds at the feeder. - Okemos, MI

If you use fresh seed there should be lots of hungry birds feasting at your feeders. But when every meal counts, birds can't waste their time on filler seeds or stale food that isn't full of fat and protein.

It's estimated that only about 20% of a backyard bird's daily energy intake comes from feeders and because we haven’t had a lot of snowfall in Michigan, there still might be a lot of natural food sources available.

Here is a checklist of to help you attract more birds:

1. Make sure your seed is fresh. One way to do this crush your seed with a spoon on a piece of white paper and see if any oil comes out. On cold days where every meal counts, if your seed has dried out your feeder will be skipped. (Wild Birds Unlimited receives a fresh load of seed each week).

2. Take a closer look at your bird seed blend. All our blends are made of the stuff birds like to eat! We learned long ago the better the blend, the better your bird watching! Bargain bird seed may have inexpensive seeds like milo and wheat mixed in to bulk up the bag. However, in most regions these seeds are not eaten by bird feeder birds and is left to sprout or rot on the ground. We also stock all the non-blended bird seeds like WBU Premium Oil Sunflower, sunflower chips, safflower, Nyjer® (thistle), peanuts, and ear corn.

3. Make sure there is no mold in the bottom of your feeder. This can be dangerous to the birds and they will avoid your feeder again. To prevent mold in bad weather use Feeder Fresh™ (a silica grit that absorbs water and humidity, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand). You can also shelter your feeder from the elements by using something like WBU Weather Guard.

4. Look for predators. Hawks or cats can deter birds from feeding in your area.

5. Check with local birding groups. Call your local Audubon or go in to a Wild Birds Unlimited to see if you are the only one reporting fewer birds.

You'll probably notice that the bird activity was very high at the feeders before the last storm and I think more birds will visit when the snow begins to fly.
Related articles:
- 2014-2015 Winter Finch Forecast: http://goo.gl/orI7dK
- Feeder Fresh: Prevent your seed from becoming moldy http://bit.ly/vLY9jU
- Will the hawk eat all my birds? http://bit.ly/v3XkTF
- Millions of Birds Die Each Year at the Hands of Mr. Puddy Tat http://bit.ly/tG9cXO
- Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/txkFqX

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Domestic turkey vs. Wild turkey

Although wild and domestic turkeys are genetically the same species, that’s about where the similarity ends.
President Barack Obama Officially Pardons The Thanksgiving Turkey
The wild turkey in a sprint can outrun a galloping horse and fly distances of more than a mile, sometimes at speeds of 55 miles per hour. The domestic turkey lost its ability to fly through selective breeding that created heavier, broad-breasted birds, a feature much desired by chefs and commercial turkey producers. The shorter legs of the domestic turkey also mean it can’t run as well as its wild cousin.

In contrast to the heavier domestic bird, the wild turkey is slim, tall and long-legged. Factor in its keen eyesight and native cunning, and the wild turkey makes a difficult target for human and animal hunters alike.

Reintroduction of the wild turkey in Michigan is one of the state’s most noteworthy conservation success stories. Due to habitat loss and over-hunting, turkeys were once on the way to extinction until conservation organizations were established to preserve and expand their populations.

The separation of the wild and domestic turkey began hundreds of years ago. Turkeys were being raised in Mexico and Central America for more than 500 years before the Spanish traders arrived. They took Mexican wild turkeys, domesticated by the Aztecs, home to Europe in about 1519. The turkey then spread rapidly through Europe and was introduced in England between 1524 and 1541, where they were highly sought after for gourmet dinners.

After the domestic turkey spread across Europe in the 1500s, the colonists who settled the New World brought these tasty birds with them across the Atlantic to the land of their origin. Imagine the pilgrims’ surprise to find the turkey already one of the most plentiful foods of the American Indians.

Domestic stock from Europe was eventually crossbred with the wild turkeys of North America, leading to the six standard domestic varieties in the United States: Bronze, Black, Narranganset, Bourbon Red, Slate and White Holland.

Related Articles:
Fun Facts on Wild Turkeys http://bit.ly/rI3Ki7
Why is a Turkey Is Called a Turkey? http://bit.ly/uKNZe5
Wild Turkeys came close to extinction in the 1930s: http://bit.ly/rgjosF
What do Turkeys Eat? http://bit.ly/uUiDsN

Monday, November 24, 2014

Some fun trivia about turkeys, the all-American bird

Next Thursday may officially be called Thanksgiving, but it is also Turkey Day! I've put together 5 fun facts for you to use to impress your family at dinner.
1. The Wild Turkey’s popularity at the table led to a its near extinction by the early 1900s, but restoration programs have help the population recover and now turkeys occur in every state except Alaska and Hawaii
2. The turkey is covered by about 6,000 iridescence feathers of varying colors of red, green, copper, bronze and gold. The gobbler, or male turkey, is more colorful, while the hen is a duller color to camouflage her with her surroundings.
3. Wild turkeys have very powerful legs and can run faster than 20 miles per hour and fly up to 55 miles per hour.
4. The adult males, known as toms or gobblers, normally weigh between 16 and 24 pounds while the females, known as hens, usually weigh between 8 and 10 pounds. Very young birds are poults, while juvenile males are jakes and females are jennies. A group of turkeys has many collective nouns, including a "crop", "dole", "gang", "posse", and "raffle" of turkeys.
5. There are a few explanations on how Turkeys were named. One is that in the days when geography was a little sketchy, Europeans sometimes referred to any exotic import as Turkey (i.e. Turkey Bird, Turkey rug, Turkey bag).

Related Articles:
· Will a turkey drown if he looks up in the rain? http://bit.ly/rWtgr5
· Why is a Turkey Is Called a Turkey? http://bit.ly/uKNZe5
· Wild Turkeys came close to extinction in the 1930s: http://bit.ly/rgjosF
· What do Turkeys Eat? http://bit.ly/uUiDsN

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Let's talk turkey: a look at the possible origins of the phrase


Wild Turkey male and female talking turkey
If there was ever a week to talk turkey this is it. Where did the figure of speech to "talk turkey" start? The following are some explanations from http://www.worldwidewords.org.

"We do know that it’s a US term. It’s first recorded in 1824, but is probably much older; one suggestion is that it goes back as far as colonial times. What the explanations have in common is real turkeys.

But the meaning of the phrase seems to have shifted down the years. To start with, it meant to speak agreeably, or to say pleasant things; nowadays it usually refers to speaking frankly, discussing hard facts, or getting down to serious business...

The most prosaic answer is that the “to talk pleasantly” sense came about through the nature of family conversation around the Thanksgiving dinner table. It is also suggested that it arose because the first contacts between Native Americans and settlers often centered on the supply of wild turkeys, to the extent that Indians were said to have inquired whenever they met a colonist, “you come to talk turkey?”

The most complicated explanation is a story about a colonist and a native who went hunting, agreeing to share their spoils equally. At the end of the day, the bag was four crows and four turkeys. The colonist tried to partition the spoils by saying “here’s a crow for you” to the Indian, then keeping a turkey to himself, giving another crow to the Indian, and so on. At this point the Indian very reasonably protested, saying “you talk all turkey for you. Only talk crow for Indian.”


Source:  Talk Turkey

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Some birds to watch for this winter

While many birds fly south to escape Michigan winters, a fair number stick around and brave the snow and cold.


Feeding wild birds in the backyard can be as simple as hanging up a feeder with some good seed like black-oil sunflower, thistle, safflower, white proso millet or peanuts. Then as you learn more about the birds in your area, you can always add different feeders to attract specific birds to your yard.

More than 55 million adults in the United States feed birds around their home, which makes bird-feeding the second most popular hobby in the country after gardening. At this time of year it’s fun to get other people interested in bird feeding too. Your family and friends will benefit by bringing nature’s most beautiful sights and sounds to their backyard.

I’ve listed some of the most common birds you’ll see in mid-Michigan and the food they like at feeders.
1. Northern Cardinal - Sunflower seed, Safflower, Peanuts, White Proso Millet
2. American Goldfinch - Nyjer Thistle, Sunflower Seeds
3. House Finch - Safflower, Nyjer Thistle, Sunflower Chips, Oil Sunflower Seed
4. House Sparrow - White Proso Millet, Oil Sunflower seed, Sunflower Chips
5. Dark-eyed Junco - White Proso Millet, Sunflower seed, Nyjer Thistle
6. Mourning Dove - Sunflower seed, Peanuts, Safflower, White Proso Millet, Nyjer
7. Tufted Titmouse - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
8. Black-capped Chickadee - Nuts, Sunflower, Safflower, Nyjer Thistle, Suet, Mealworms
9. Carolina Wren - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
10. Red-breasted Nuthatch - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
11. White-breasted Nuthatch - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
12. Downy Woodpecker - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
13. Blue Jay - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Suet
14. Red-bellied Woodpecker - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
15. Northern Flicker - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
16. European Starling - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Suet, Mealworms
17. Cedar Waxwing - Mealworms, Suet Nuggets, Berries and Wild Fruit
18. Eastern Bluebird - Shelled peanuts, Suet, Suet Nuggets, Mealworms
19. American Robin - Shelled peanuts, Suet, Suet Nuggets, Mealworms
20. American Crow - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Suet
21. Cooper’s Hawk - Songbirds, Squirrels, Suet

Of course there are a lot more birds in Michigan during the winter and they don't just eat from feeders, but this gives you a start. For more information we have Birds of Michigan Field Guides or you can visit our online Bird Guide to identify birds at http://www.allaboutbirds.org/.
Related Articles:
- 10 Winter Finches in Michigan: http://bit.ly/oL3iCF
- Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/pXv5ZN
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/nImz5g
- How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh
- How to Prepare Your Yard for Winter Birdwatching http://bit.ly/q93Men
- What is the best bird feeder? http://bit.ly/qVr7i8

Friday, November 21, 2014

Photo Share: Cardinal at seed cylinder

You were right. The cylinder feeder has been a wonderful! When I told you that I moved to a condo and didn't want a mess I was skeptical about putting out a block of seed. But I have so many birds and so little mess. Thank you for your wonder advice. - Bath, MI

Related Articles: 
Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
Exciting New Bird Food http://goo.gl/LpVQne
Why don't chickadees stay to eat at the feeder? http://bit.ly/AkKThH
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/rCdQqM
Holiday gift ideas for nature lovers: http://bit.ly/v8L2va
Feeding the birds will not make them dependent. http://goo.gl/dqYQu

 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Great handcrafted bird seed wreaths for the holidays

The seed wreaths have arrived and you’re in luck because they are on sale! When you buy 2 you get 1 free at the Wild Bird Unlimited store in East Lansing. So you can keep one and give away the other two.

These make perfect gifts for the hosts of all the parties you get invited to in November and December. Our pecan packed WBU Seed Wreath is a dining delight for birds, and it can add festive cheer to any yard. Use it as a decoration, or hang it near your existing feeders that are busier than ever these days. The wreaths are made out of the best seed to attract all the colorful songbirds to your yard.

Related Articles:
- Who Invented Wind Chimes? http://goo.gl/1AFFz8
- Top 10 Gifts for Birdwatchers: http://bit.ly/uZojYY
- Unique gifts for someone that has everything http://goo.gl/MBsT2V
- Gifts perfect for nature lovers: Bird feeders made in America http://goo.gl/PUhlRE

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Feather coats are a must for birds

While birds are equipped to withstand most winter weather, they obviously can't turn up the
thermostat, throw on an extra blanket or whip up a warm cup of cocoa. Most birds will adjust their feathers to create air pockets that will help them keep warm. You will often notice the birds look fatter or "puffed up" during cold weather. This is because the birds are fluffing up their feathers; the more air space, the better the insulation.

The Importance of Keeping Your Feeders Full
Food is the most essential element, providing birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition they need. To stay warm, birds will expend energy very quickly, some losing up to 10% of their body weight on extremely cold nights, and this fat must be replaced every day.

The Importance of a Reliable, Open Source of Water
Birds continue to need a source of water for drinking to maintain their metabolism during dry, cold weather. Clean feathers help birds stay warm, and a bird bath is often the only way for some birds to drink and keep their feathers in top condition when it’s cold.

Research has shown that a chickadee with well-maintained feathers can create a 70° (F) layer of insulation between the outside air and its skin.

Protection from the Elements
Birds need a place to escape the elements. Installing roosting and nesting boxes in your backyard can give birds a warm, dry place to stay overnight. Shelter is also necessary for protection against natural predators, such as birds of prey and cats.

Help Chickadees Feel at Home
Chickadees are among the easiest birds to lure into your yard, especially during winter. Here are a few tips to help attract them:
1. Chickadee food: Put out fresh sunflower seeds, peanuts, seed cylinders or suets.
2. Chickadee feeder: Almost any bird feeder will attract chickadees if it offers good food. I like to use the no-mess blend which has sunflower chips and peanut halves.
3. Chickadee habitat: Chickadees like natural cover near feeders to pop into and avoid predators or harsh weather.
4. Chickadee house: Roosting pockets or a small birdhouse with a 1 1/4-inch entrance hole, placed in heavy natural cover, will provide a winter shelter for the birds.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Flocks of American Robins

My husband and I were walking around 4:00 p.m. yesterday and were delighted to see birds in migration.  They seem to be robins and there were at least 3 different flocks, with hundreds in each.  They were heading south/south west and only made a small amount of noise.  Were we right to assume these were robins.  We stood in the middle of a road and watched until they had flown over and were thrilled we were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Any info you could provide would be wonderful. Thank you, Owosso, Michigan
Photo from Wikimedia Commons
After nesting is completed in late summer and up until the breeding season begins next spring, robins form flocks that roost together at night and feed together by day. Robins are nomadic, and wander irregularly. The same individual robin may winter one year in Florida and remain in mid-Michigan the following year.

American Robins go where there is food. Flocks can move around to different nut or fruit trees as they ripen and avoid bad weather when it blows through. I have a pond that is always flowing in my yard and they hit it occasionally throughout the winter to take baths or stop by to devour berries on a nearby mountain ash or crab apple tree.

Robins ARE territorial on their summer breeding territories, but not at their roosts, or in feeding trees. Flocking is a behavior that gives the birds more eyes and ears to search for food sources and be watchful for predators.

So the robins you saw may be flying south or to a local pond or just out foraging for a tree full of fruit. Some America Robins migrate but if you look at the range map you’ll see that there are winter populations of robins in most states year round. Robins are surprisingly hardy birds, capable of surviving temperatures well below zero. But that doesn’t mean sightings are common.

Related Articles:
- Why Robins are Attracted to Water http://bit.ly/qP9aTs
- Bird of the Week: American Robin http://bit.ly/pnUKqk
- Fun Facts About The American Robin http://bit.ly/n9CSni
- Why robins are called Robin Redbreast and not orange breast http://goo.gl/OB4iT

Monday, November 17, 2014

Best Seed Storing Tips

I purchased a couple more Wild Birds Unlimited feeders this year so I can watch the birds from every window. As a result, I have more seed. Is there a better way to store my seed than just in the garage in its original bag? ~ Lansing, MI

Under optimal conditions, in a cool, dry place, out of the sun, bird seed can be kept for up to three months. One excellent way to store bird seed is to leave it in the original bag and put it in the freezer. Suet and seed kept in the freezer can be kept up to 3 months.

If don’t have freezer space, Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing has galvanized steel containers with locking lids to keep out water and unwanted guests. If the container is kept outside in the winter it will keep out moisture from the air and also keep out the drying sunlight. I always leave the seed in their original bags so you are never dumping old seed on top of new.

It is never good to store seed for too long. Birds know the difference between fresh seed and older, stale or moldy seed. In a world where every meal counts, fresh seed is sought after for its higher oil content which makes it much more nutritious for the birds.

These few steps when storing bird seed and suet will extend the shelf life of the food and also attract more birds!

Related articles:
- What is No-Mess Bird Seed?: http://bit.ly/pl516I
- What birds like peanuts?: http://bit.ly/qKbHT0
- Seed Storage Cans and WBU Seed Scoops: http://bit.ly/q6th9R
- Do I need to clean my bird feeder?: http://bit.ly/nYKz40
- The best bird feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited: http://bit.ly/pv36W6