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, September 22, 2018

Photo Share: Cardinal eating fall berries

A vigorous and fast growing vine, Virginia creeper

Read more at Gardening Know How: Virginia Creeper Maintenance: Growing Info And Virginia Creeper Plant Care https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/vines/virginia-creeper/virginia-creeper-maintenance.htm
A vigorous and fast growing vine, Virginia creeper

Read more at Gardening Know How: Virginia Creeper Maintenance: Growing Info And Virginia Creeper Plant Care https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/vines/virginia-creeper/virginia-creeper-maintenance.htm
Along with bird feeders, it is always good to think about landscaping with native plants for birds to find food naturally. A vigorous and fast growing vine, the Virginia Creeper attracts a variety of fruit eating birds in the fall through the winter. Cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, mockingbirds, catbirds, finches, flycatchers, tanagers, swallows, vireos, warblers, woodpeckers, thrushes and more will enjoy the fruit and shelter the vine provides.

The leaves provide early fall color, turning brilliant mauve, red, and purple, while the small flowers ripen into bluish fruits. This perennial vine grows in a variety of conditions from full sun to shade, and moist, well-drained soils.

With the right native plants, arranged to mimic natural ecosystems, you will provide birds with food, water, shelter, and nesting places. Instead of just visiting your garden to snack, birds will call it home.

You can find more native plant on the National Audubon Society’s Plants for Birds website: https://www.audubon.org/native-plants

Related Articles:
Gardening for birds http://bit.ly/z095kL
Attract More Goldfinches to the garden: http://bit.ly/wNj67F
Flowers that attract hummingbirds: http://bit.ly/wkhlJn
A Closer look at Dandelions http://bit.ly/zkq0yL
Benefits of a Clover Lawn http://benefits-of-clover-lawn.html
What are slugs good for? http://bit.ly/zWTcMz

Friday, September 21, 2018

Gray brown bird with light stripes on breast

Do Indigo Buntings travel in flocks? We have 4 on the feeder now and more in the lilacs.

From Wikimedia Commons
Flocks of Indigo Buntings fly through mid-Michigan from September to October as they migrate south for the winter. But they might be hard to identify because they are sporting their winter colors. Female Indigo Buntings are slightly smaller than a House sparrow and have an overall brown or grayish color, with faint streaking on a tan breast. They have short, conical beaks and their legs and feet are black or gray. Males molt their bright indigo blue feathers in late summer and grow irregular, patchy blue and brown feathers.

You are a big help if you create bird friendly “stopover site” in your yard with plenty of food, water and shelter. They like the Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess blend of sunflower chips, peanuts, and millet as well as the Nyjer Thistle in finch feeders. They also forage for wild seeds, nuts, berries, insects, mosquitoes, flies, aphids, small spiders, buds, goldenrod, thistle, grasses, and herbs.

Research reveals that Indigo Buntings migrate at night in flocks, using the stars for guidance. The birds possess an internal clock that enables them to continually adjust their angle of orientation to a star—even as that star moves through the night sky. Some buntings stop to winter in Florida and south Texas but most go to shrubby, weedy field areas in Mexico and mix in with other buntings like the Painted, Lazuli, Varied, and Orange-breasted Buntings.

Animated migration map of Indigo Bunting from https://ebird.org/

Related Articles:
- The Journey North: Bird Migration Maps http://bit.ly/pbk4Eb
- Great Horned Owl Singing at Night http://bit.ly/qKeKDM
- Are Horned Larks Common in Mid-Michigan? http://bit.ly/qmAbt7
- How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/qa0CVU

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Friendliest birds coming down from Canada

The small Red-breasted Nuthatch is one of the friendliest birds that comes down from Canada to spend the winter with us in mid-Michigan.
Nuthatches are small, short-tailed birds with pointy black beaks and strong feet. They are fun to watch especially as they forage down tree trucks, often head-first from the top to the bottom, picking insects and grubs from the under the bark. We have the larger White-breasted Nuthatch year-round visiting the sunflower, suet and nut feeders. The red-breasted join them from September to May.

They have a blue-gray back, a rusty red breast and a black cap with a white stripe above the eye. They are about 4 ½ inches long and weigh less then ½ an ounce. Male and female red-breasted nuthatches look alike, except the female has a bluish black cap and paler underparts.

Red-breasted nuthatches are native throughout the nearctic region and are the only species in the nuthatch (Sittidae) family that migrates south in the fall. They make it a treat to fill the feeders on cold mornings when they perch just above your shoulder and cheer you on.

The nuthatches don’t stay long at the feeders though. They prefer to grab a seed and hide or cache their food to retrieve and eat at a later time. They hide hundreds of seeds all over their territory, in a behavior known as scatter-hoarding to keep their stash a secret from competitors and help them survive during bad weather and when food sources are low.

Related articles:
Birds Move Trees http://bit.ly/oPqFgG
Screech Owls cache uneaten prey items in cavities http://bit.ly/pJ7jCP
Red-Bellied Woodpecker stores its food in the barks of trees http://bit.ly/nqYS7j
Mine! All Mine: Why Squirrels Hoard http://bit.ly/qFANnl
Michigan’s Top 20 Winter Backyard Birds http://bit.ly/qq5xu1
What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/ngkPX3

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

How to recognize warblers

September is a great time to see a wide variety of birds as they swing through our area. Many warblers are similar in size and coloring to a female goldfinch. I'm usually alerted to visiting warblers in the yard mainly because of their behavior. Most warblers are jittery, bouncy birds in the bushes as they try to flush out bugs or at the bird bath re-hydrating and preparing their feathers for migration.

Pine warblers are active during the day, hopping, climbing tree trunks, and cleaning their feathers. Like many other warblers, their wings beat in an irregular pattern when they fly. They are partial migrants. Pine Warblers from the northern U.S. and Canada migrate to wintering grounds in the southeastern U.S. but the ones that breed in the Southeast stay there year-round.

Besides bugs and water, the Pine Warbler will also regularly eat millet, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet from elevated feeders. And fruits from bushes and vines, like bayberry, flowering dogwood, grape, sumac, persimmon, and Virginia creeper.

Related Articles:
- The Journey North: Bird Migration Maps http://bit.ly/pbk4Eb  
- How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d
- Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/ow20ZD
- Birds only in mid-Michigan during the winter http://bit.ly/ojcyP7
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/qa0CVU

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Hummingbird will migrate south when the winds are favorable

While some birds like blackbirds and geese travel in large flocks, the smallest intercontinental migrant, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, migrates alone. First the male and then the females begin migration. The young birds born this season begin their journey south for the first time after all the adults have departed.

Like other birds that fly solo, they have to depend on a genetically inherited mental map to find the favorable winter grounds hundreds or thousand of miles away from Michigan.

Young hummingbirds are what you see mainly at the end of September. They will look similar to a female, but as young males begin to mature in late summer look for a few random red iridescent feathers on the throat. And the young are very healthy looking. Their feathers are full and shiny whereas the parent birds looked a little haggard.

Birds that are born late in the season are vulnerable especially during a drought. Leaving your feeders up may provide a critical opportunity for these hummingbirds to build reserves and “catch up.” If you keep your feeders filled and fresh you should have hummers visiting from April until usually the end of September or even October. There is no need to force them to go south by taking the feeders down too early. Hummingbirds wait until they have gathered enough calories and the winds are blowing in the right direction before they leave.

Watch a First Year Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird Feeding (video courtesy of Wild Birds Unlimited Barriehttps://youtu.be/w2XsuNLYkpQ
Related Articles:
Hummingbird Information on Habitat and Habits http://bit.ly/It2WwE
Where have my Hummingbirds gone? http://bit.ly/IHzxy3
How Do I Know If It's a Baby Hummingbird? http://bit.ly/IHzCSh
Gardening for birds http://bit.ly/It58nR
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/FQ9kxU

Monday, September 17, 2018

Wild Birds Unlimited's patrons help wildlife thrive

Wild Birds Unlimited's fundraising drive helped raise over $1500 for Nottingham Nature Nook. The proceeds from the sale of Feeder Wash Cards plus extra cash donations resulted in a generous amount of money!

Cheryl Connell-Marsh, the certified wildlife rehabilitation specialist, was kind enough to come to the store Saturday for a couple hours with two adorable baby fox squirrels that she is caring for. I don’t know how she manages to save so many birds, squirrels, rabbits, foxes and many other critters in need each year. It is a huge job (not only in time but also emotionally and financially) that she takes on voluntarily in addition to running her own business.

The way people come together to protect nature is very heartwarming! If you weren’t able to make it in on Saturday you can still donate directly with checks to Nottingham Nature Nook 16848 Towar Ave, East Lansing, MI 48823. The Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, Michigan store also has a donation box on the counter or go to the Nottingham Nature Nook's Facebook page: https://goo.gl/EJoKWS

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Swainson’s Thrush passing through Michigan

Some birds passing through in the fall, as they migrate south, may look similar to our common little brown House Sparrows. But keep your eyes open. Many birds migrate at night. If you provide a nice rest stop you may wake up to see some different birds, that were riding the winds all night, stop by to rest and recuperate under the feeders or at the bath. Yesterday I came to the Wild Birds Unlimited store and found a Swainson’s Thrush stuck in the awning. I dragged out my ladder and pool skimming net and thankfully was able to scoop the bird out.  

Swainson’s Thrushes breed way up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and even further north in Canada. They winter way down in Central and northern South America. Swainson’s Thrushes are a common species, but their population has declined about 38% between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. During spring and fall migration, significant numbers of Swainson’s Thrushes die from collisions with windows, radio and cell-phone towers, and tall buildings. (For more on the dangers of lights to migrating birds, visit the Fatal Light Awareness Program.) Studies of bird deaths at communications towers in Minnesota, Illinois, and West Virginia revealed that Swainson’s Thrushes were killed in greater numbers than any other bird species.

My thrush just got a little confused in the awing but was fine after I brought him down. But if you find a bird that needs help, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. A list of licensed rehabilitators can be found by visiting http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/ or by calling your local DNR office.

And if you are outside of Michigan:
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

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Wagging Warbler

The Palm Warbler breeds farther north in Canada than most other warblers. In the fall they may join flocks of other warblers, chickadees, juncos, and sparrows. They are a common migrant through mid-Michigan from mid-August to mid-October.

In the winter when the Palm Warbler hangs out in "palm country" they seem to prefer to feed on the ground in a variety of woodland and thicket habitats. They were named from a specimen taken during the non-breeding season on a Caribbean island. A better name for this species might be the "Wagging Warbler" because of the tail-wagging habit that shows off its yellow undertail.

Related Articles:
Michigan warblers begin migrating http://goo.gl/37QhV
Small Mysterious Black & White Bird Visits Mid-Michigan http://goo.gl/VOl3s
When is bird migration over? http://goo.gl/1Fiq6
Blackpoll Warbler: Greatest warbler migrant http://goo.gl/GcSTE

Friday, September 14, 2018

Scam Revealed! Downy Woodpeckers fool other birds

At about 6 inches, the Downy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker in North America and the most frequent visitor to backyard feeders year-round. They like to eat peanuts, suet, mealworms, sunflower and safflower seeds.

Downys have a white belly and back and their black wings have white bars. Only the males have a red patch on the back of the head. And they are called downy because of the soft white feathers on their back.

Downy woodpeckers are confused commonly with Hairy woodpeckers, which have similar plumage, but are around 9 inches. However tests revealed that these two birds aren't as closely related as was first thought. A new theory is that the Downys mimicked the markings of the larger Hairys to fool other species into thinking they are the bigger bird. Because if you were a cardinal (twice the size of a downy) and thought you saw a Hairy Woodpecker flying toward you, you might be very quick to get out of the way.

Related Articles:
-How do I stop woodpeckers from pecking on my house? http://bit.ly/KGItqF
-What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
-Hairy Woodpecker vs. Downy Woodpecker http://goo.gl/WMH31
-How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://goo.gl/P2qRv
-How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLq

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Bird coloring book for adults

Need to keep your mind and hands active? Coloring enthusiasts, bird lovers, and gardeners will all delight in an exciting new coloring book, featuring glorious backyard birds with flowering annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, and vines.

page from Backyard Birds and Blossoms
Each coloring page is intricately designed with scientific accuracy to create real and true connections with nature at home. Throughout the pages you will learn more about bird behaviors, plants that can attract new birds, and fun snippets of biology.

Backyard Birds and Blossoms was created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. As with all Cornell Lab Publishing, 35% of the net proceeds goes directly to projects that support education, and community programs.

Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, Michigan also has America's Favorite Birds. This gorgeous book features North America's top 35 most popular wild birds. The perforated pages make each finished page easy to save, share, and display.

Related Articles: 
Who Invented Wind Chimes? http://goo.gl/1AFFz8
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
Top 10 Gifts for Birdwatchers: http://bit.ly/uZojYY
How can Wild Birds Unlimited have unlimited birds? https://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2018/05/how-can-wild-birds-unlimited-have.html 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Help Nottingham Nature Nook: Bird Feeder Cleaning Event

This Saturday please help Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing raise money for Nottingham Nature Nook. In April, a little grey fox kit was brought in to the Nook in need of rescue. After months of hand feeding she is now ready to learn how forage for herself. In order to learn the skills required to manage on her own she needs a safe area with natural resources and less contact with humans. A separate large outdoor fenced in area needs to be built to allow her time to grow and eventually be  released in back in to the wild.

This outdoor area can remain a gray fox enclosure for other injured or orphaned kits in the future. The goal is $7000. Any size donation is welcome. Nottingham Nature Nook is a non-profit 501(c)(3) wildlife rehabilitation center that cares for injured and orphaned birds and other wildlife.

SAVE THE DATE: September 15, 2018 Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI will donate all the proceeds from every $20 FEEDER WASH CARD purchased Saturday to the Nook.

WHAT IS IT: A Feeder Wash Card is a card good for 5 bird feeder washes. You will have up to a year to redeem the card.

HOW DOES IT WORK: Bring your Feeder Wash Card in with a dirty feeder and I will cross off one square. Then I will disassemble, soak, scrub, disinfect, and have your reassemble, clean feeder ready for you the next day we are open.

WIN/WIN: You get a card that you can use over the next year for 5 bird feeder washes and Nottingham Nature Nook gets $20. Your birds get clean feeders and the Nook gets a new fenced area to hold injured or orphaned grey foxes.

The Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, Michigan store is also collecting cash and check donations to help. If you want to donate directly checks can be made to Nottingham Nature Nook 16848 Towar Ave, East Lansing, MI 48823.

BONUS: Cheryl Connell-Marsh, the certified wildlife rehabilitation specialist, will come to Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing at 4pm Saturday September 15, 2018 with orphaned squirrels and will be able to answer any questions.