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.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Photo Share: Walking Stick

There are over 3,000 species of stick insects, often called walking sticks, which range in size from a tiny half-inch-long to a formidable 13-inches-long. Many stick insects feign death to thwart predators, and some will shed the occasional limb to escape an enemy’s grasp. Little is known about stick insects, making it difficult to declare the vulnerability of their status in the wild.
Stick insects are among the best camouflaged of all creatures, with a body shape that mimics the branches of their home.
Source: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/stick-insect/

Thank you Holly for sharing your interesting photo! If anyone else 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, May 21, 2015

Keep mold away from hummingbird feeders

Mold is very bad in hummingbird feeders. Remember to change the nectar in your feeder every 2-4 days, regardless of whether the nectar has been used. In hot, humid weather you might even have to change the nectar every other day.

I find the more often I change the nectar, the easier it is to maintain the feeder. You won't be battling any black mold and you'll have a lot more hummingbirds and orioles.

To clean the hard to reach places you can use a pipe cleaner or we have special little brushes for cleaning feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited.

As soon as the weathers turns hot and humid, you should soak the hummingbird feeder for about 5 minutes in a Scoot, active enzyme cleaner once a week. Or use a one part vinegar to nine parts water solution to clean the feeders. Then rinse your feeders thoroughly.

Also make sure your nectar solution is the proper proportion.
 
Nectar (sugar water) recipe
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup water

 
Related articles:
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/II4RQ4
Where to hang my hummer feeders http://bit.ly/H2U4P4 
Habitat and Habits of hummers http://bit.ly/H2Ua9s
Nectar recipe for hummingbirds http://bit.ly/H7xvp3
Summer Bird Feeding Tips http://bit.ly/KIv38a

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Photo Share: Bee House

Mason Bee House
One tip for bee nest placement , don’t put by the birds we found out quickly with one nest block the woodpeckers and jays ate them ;0 -Holly
Leaf cutter bee

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Baby Bunnies not abandoned

Rabbits hide their nests in plain view, sometimes right next to the house, as well as in brush piles or long grass. They construct the nest with fur and grasses which helps to keep the babies warm in between feedings. If you come across a nest of wild bunnies, and the mother is nowhere to be seen, please DO NOT disturb them. This is normal behavior. By removing them from the nest, you are reducing their chances of survival greatly. The mom will only return at night.

Rabbit mothers nurse their babies for approximately 5 minutes a day.  Mothers will be in the nest early in the morning and then again in the evening. The milk is very rich and the babies “fill up” to capacity within minutes. Mother rabbits do not “sit” on the babies to keep them warm as do some mammals and birds. Baby bunnies don’t leave the nest voluntarily until around 4 – 5 weeks old.   

Source:  http://rabbit.org/faq-orphaned-baby-bunnies/

Related Articles: 
The origin of the Easter Bunny http://goo.gl/egBze5
How rabbits survive the winters http://goo.gl/l7ASdp

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

Monday, May 18, 2015

Why there is a dip in the numbers of birds in your yard

Where did the birds go? I was filling the feeder every day and now it seems like the birds have left me. - Haslett, MI

It’s not unusual to have birds disappear from your feeders for a time. After a long migration or harsh winter, birds are hungry and appreciated an easy meal to rebuild their energy. Feeders are very welcome in the spring when natural resources are scarce. However a lot more food sources soon became available. That doesn't mean you should stop feeding. Studies have shown that birds with access to feeders during nesting season have more success than birds without access to feeders.

Once birds settle down, claim a territory and begin nesting, activity at the feeders will drop until the birds bring their new babies up to visit. Then look out for a frenzy of activity as busy momma and papas try to teach their kids to feed themselves at the feeders.

You may again see a dip as birds take their youngsters away from the natal territory for their survival training course. But don’t worry, this is when you may see babies from other yards coming to the feeders.

The birds are very happy right now. Thankfully it looks like the cold weather is finally going to leave us for a while. The rains and now the warm weather brings a lot of bugs, a favorite food for many growing families. And vegetarians like the American Goldfinches are also enjoying soft spring leaves as well as a plethora of dandelion and grass seeds.
 .
But, don’t forget to keep your feeders clean to keep your birds healthy. And provide an area with a birdbath. Water is a powerful attractor and will increase the number and variety of birds coming to your yard. In fact parent birds will often bring babies to the bird bath as their first road trip.
Related articles:
- Can birds become dependent on bird feeders? http://goo.gl/GZYpke
- Do we stop feeding suet in the summer? http://bit.ly/GKWSRt
- Feeding Baby Birds http://bit.ly/GSHKwY
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://bit.ly/GKYw5q

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Orchard Oriole song

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
The smallest of North America’s orioles, the Orchard Oriole gleans insects from leaves and also feeds on fruit and nectar in orchards and gardens. They are not as common at feeders as the Baltimore Oriole but can be seen in open woodlands along river edges, as well as along marsh edges, lakeshores, and farms.

The Orchard Oriole males are mostly black on the head, back, wings and tail. Their breast, rump and wing epaulets are a rich chestnut. Females are greenish yellow with two white wing bars and no black. And immature males look like females, but have black around the bill and throat.

Watch for them as they hop among scattered trees. Male Orchard Orioles sing a whistled, chattering song to attract females. After they arrive in late April, they build their hanging, pouchlike nests, raise one brood of babies and then head back to Central America by the end of July.

Unfortunately their population has been in decline in the central U.S.A, possibly due to loss of habitat and pesticides used in orchards.  
Related Articles: 
- Facts on the Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GzSTbi
- Where do orioles winter? http://bit.ly/GAeWv5
- Close-up of Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GAf6T7
- When can I expect my orioles to arrive? http://goo.gl/OHrCc

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Baby goldfinches don't arrive until fall

I have a tiny yellow finch at the feeder. Is it a baby already? ~ East Lansing 

Actually American Goldfinches don’t nest until late in the summer. Michigan is lucky to see goldfinches year-round. In the spring goldfinch males exchange their dull olive green plumage for their striking yellow and black coloring. The female’s dull yellow-brown shade also brightens slightly during the summer.

Goldfinches can be hit or miss at the feeders in the spring and summer. After a long winter they can now gorge on fresh leaves and weed seeds. The American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) is a bird of many aliases: wild canary, yellowbird, lettuce bird, and thistle bird, just to name a few. Ask a gardening enthusiast and you might hear the name “lettuce bird” due to the birds' practice of nibbling at the tender young leaves of this vegetable. Another descriptive name is “thistle bird.” It has long
been known that thistle plants and goldfinches are almost inseparable, and even its genus name, Caruelis, is from the Latin word carduus, which means “thistle.”
Goldfinches delay the start of their nesting behavior until the thistles and other flowers come into bloom so they can anticipate an abundant and reliable supply of seeds for their young. The female builds a compact cup nest of fibers, grass and spider silk and lines it with plant down and hair at the end of July to September in the fork of a deciduous shrub or tree. They prefer hawthorn, serviceberry or sapling maples. 
So to keep these beautiful bright songbirds visiting your yard be sure to offer fresh Nyjer® (thistle) seed and keep your feeders clean. Goldfinches can be very finicky but their bright color and beautiful song make them well worth the effort to try and please.
Related articles:
What is Nyger Thistle? http://t.co/Gg2AxQg
Where are my finches? http://t.co/FRqa7eo
Goldfinch colors: Why aren't all the goldfinches yellow? http://t.co/c57skHi
Is There a Way to Attract More Goldfinches to My Yard? http://t.co/RB1cqWf

Friday, May 15, 2015

Photo Share: Attracting Rose-breasted Grosbeaks

Hi Sarah,  it's great to see that these birds have returned to our feeders in Michigan. - Rodney Campbell
A long-distance migrant, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks fly to North American breeding grounds from Central and northern South America winter grounds. Most of them fly across the Gulf of Mexico in a single night, although some migrate over land around the Gulf.

They often visit bird feeders, where they eat sunflower seeds as well as safflower seeds and raw peanuts. As soon as they begin nesting their diet becomes more "buggy" based and you'll see them less at seed feeders.

Thank you for sharing! You can see more of Rodney Campbell’s work at: http://rodney-campbell.artistwebsites.com/art/all/birds/all If anyone else 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, May 14, 2015

Tips to keep mealworms fresh

Mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) are used widely as a live food source for wild birds like warblers, bluebirds, orioles, chickadees, wrens, robins and woodpeckers. High in protein and fat, they bring a lot of the bug eating birds up close.

Mealworms hibernate at temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees, so they can be  stored easily in your refrigerator for lengthy periods of time if you bring them out and feed them a mixed salad every couple weeks.

Right now several customers are feeding mealworms to train bug eating birds to bring their babies up close.
Some tips to keep your mealworms at their best:
  1. Mealworms don’t like a drastic temperature changes. If it is very hot outside, leave your mealworms at room temperature. Then when you place them in the feeder they don’t go into shock.
  2. Feed mealworms at the same time. Get your birds into a routine of breakfast and dinner feeding so they know when to come and gobble up your offerings.
  3. Shade your feeder. Place your feeder in the shade or add a weather shade over the feeder to protect the mealworms from the sun.
  4. Protect the worms. Chop up some room temperature apples and place them in your feeder with the mealworms. The apples give the mealworms water and help them hide from the sun. Most birds also enjoy chopped fruit.
Related Articles:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Not too late to start feeding hummers!

I'm worried I haven't seen my hummers. Did I put the feeder up too late?

Hummingbirds are truly one of the most fascinating groups of birds on the planet and it’s not too late to put up a feeder! Hummingbirds don’t need feeders to survive, but they might appreciate a reliable source of food with this cold spring we’ve been experiencing. Also these incredible little birds are fascinating to watch and a hummingbird feeder can bring them up close.

When they aren’t at the feeder, hummingbirds find nectar from a variety of flowers as well as sap from trees. Throughout the day a hummer drinks more than half its body weight in nectar. But that pointy hummingbird bill isn’t only for lapping nectar; it’s also made for snatching bugs out of the air. They use the flexible tip of their bill to capture insects and insect eggs from the ground and on plants. They love spiders and spider eggs.

During migration hummingbirds fly about 23 miles a day by themselves, not in flocks. Individual adult males get the urge to migrate first, followed soon after by the females. It is astonishing that a bird that weighs as little as a penny with the brain the size of a BB can travel thousands of miles all alone and end up in the right place every spring and fall since the last ice age. Banding studies show that each bird tends to return every year to the same place it hatched, even visiting the same feeders.

Only about 50% of all hummers survive their first year. Cold weather takes a toll on all hummer species because their high-energy requirements don’t allow them to go without food for long.

Related Articles:
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
Fun Facts about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds http://goo.gl/jcjcr
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
Why the color on a hummingbirds’ throat flashes http://bit.ly/JZ31qX
When did people start to feed hummingbirds?: http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hissing Cardinal

Do cardinals hiss?

A lot of animals hiss, including birds, as a defense mechanism. Whether it is an imitation of a snake hiss to evoke fear or an innate reaction to a stressful situation, this distinctive noise gets hair-raising notice from humans to horses and everything in between.

While most birds hiss when they feel threatened or are trying to defend a nest, Northern Cardinals also use a whiny call or hiss frequently to show their displeasure of other birds trying to displace them from their proper place at the feeders.