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, June 22, 2018

What happens to egg shells after birds hatch

The shells of eggs generally disappear from the nests of American Crows within a few hours of a baby hatching. I saw this beauty on the way to Wild Birds Unlimited.

Many birds remove eggshells from their nests soon after their nestlings have hatched. There is only speculation on why. Perhaps the sharp shell edges could injure newly hatched chicks, or interfere with mama's brooding. Hatched shells could also just be in the way, create an issue with nest hygiene, or interfere with nest camouflage.

Also an important factor affecting the evolution of eggshell removal in birds could be a phenomenon referred to as “egg-capping” where an unhatched egg gets trapped inside a hatched eggshell.

During the last two days the chick inside the egg begins to breathe with its lungs for the first time. To do this it needs an air supply inside the egg shell. At the round end of the egg there is an air space. If you examine an egg carefully with a magnifying glass, you'll see that there are tiny little holes, called pores that let the bird breathe. Egg-capping could lower hatchability by suffocating the baby or by interfering with baby being able to pecking out if an extra eggshell makes a second barrier.

Related Articles:
Types of Bird feathers http://bit.ly/GOwsuu
How Do Birds Lay Eggs? http://bit.ly/H8omO0
Do birds have belly buttons? http://bit.ly/GVqhpT
Is there a bird without feathers? http://bit.ly/Aora0F
What happens inside a bird egg https://goo.gl/544o1h

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Funny looking black and red bird

Now that it is Summer you should expect to see some bald birds. Just as people make seasonal wardrobe changes, many birds are beginning a transformation of their own, losing and replacing their feathers in a process known as molting. This complicated process requires a lot of energy and may take up to eight weeks to complete.

Most birds’ feather loss and replacement is gradual and you may notice they look a little ruffled. But then there are also a select few that go bald.

A bald bird at the feeder is a somewhat common sight to see from the end of June to the end of August in mid-Michigan. After the breeding season, most birds go through pre-basic molt that results in a covering of feathers, which will last until the next breeding season.

However, some Cardinals, BlueJays, and Grackles go through an abnormal molt or replacement of feathers. There are no scientific studies on why some of these birds go bald and some don’t or why it’s just the head. Whatever the reason, we know feathers are made of more than 90% protein, primarily keratins, so every molting bird needs extra proteins to grow strong feathers for proper flight and effective insulation.

For the next few months, it’s best to offer high-protein bird foods, such as Nyjer® (thistle), sunflower seed, peanuts, suet and mealworms, to ensure that your birds have a reliable source of protein to help them during this stressful time.

For the customers at the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store, we recommend feeding the No-Mess Blend. Our unique No-Mess Blend contains sunflower seeds, peanut pieces and white proso millet without the shells. No shells on the seeds make for a tidier feeding area, since there's nothing on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells and the best food for the birds because it's fresh and full of protein.

Related Articles:
There’s more to a jay than any other creature http://goo.gl/8OrUq
Common Grackles http://bit.ly/LAkwxl
Northern Cardinal http://bit.ly/LAkGoG
When is bird migration over? http://bit.ly/M2FgUD

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Important tips for your summertime backyard buffet

Any backyard bird watcher knows birds flock to feeders in summer especially as the babies fledge and approach the feeders with their parents. Summer bird feeding also can bring you different species that aren’t around in winter.

Studies show the average bird forages for food about five hours per day to meet their energy requirements. As the seasons change, consider the following tips to meet your summer backyard birds’ nutritional needs as well as attract some migrating visitors.

Some tips for creating a summertime backyard buffet:

1. Clean your feeders regularly
It is super important to keep your feeders clean, especially now when so many baby birds visit. The stress can make birds vulnerable to disease. Wet weather can also produce mold and mildew which can be fatal to birds. Dump out any moldy seed and disinfect your feeders with a 1 to 9 parts vinegar to water solution or bring your feeder to the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, Michigan to be cleaned for a small $5.00 charge.

2. Keep your seed dry
Hot, humid summer weather creates the potential for mold. My favorite secret weapon against soggy seed is Feeder Fresh which is available at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI. This is a desiccant that I stir into the seed to absorb the moisture.

3. Choose Food that Produces Less Mess
Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Blend features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds means there's no debris on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything happily.

4. Keep suet feeders full
By adding suet to your wild bird's summer menu, you will attract wrens, warblers, thrushes, brown creepers, brown thrashers, and blue jays. You can also attract orioles, chickadees, titmice, and the ever popular bluebird.

5. Discover Foods that Last Longer
Seed Cylinders are also a high-fat, quick-energy food source that is specially-designed to meet your birds' hearty appetites. The Wild Birds Unlimited popular no muss, no fuss Spiral Seed Cylinder Feeder holds cylinders of tightly packed seed held together with gelatin so there is no seed spray. The whole block is completely edible. And depending on bird activity in your yard, a large cylinder packed with energy rich pecans, peanuts and sunflower seeds can last weeks.

6. Attract Different Birds
Mealworms, nectar, fruit, and jelly attract many different birds. Hummingbirds and orioles, can be immediately attracted to feeders with nectar (and fruit and jelly for orioles), making summer a sweet time to feed the birds. Some birds attracted to mealworms include: wrens, robins, bluebirds, jays, sparrows, cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, and even Purple Martins.

7. Just add water
Baths not only provide clean water to quench thirst, baths also help birds maintain their feathers. A good part of a bird's day is spent just cleaning and grooming their feathers by bathing, scratching, and preening. It’s so important that it is often the first place parent birds bring their newly fledged babies.

Related articles:
Do I need to clean my bird feeder? http://bit.ly/HNX410
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/umlwXg
Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/HNZTPx
Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Cowbirds flocking

Outside my window at Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI
Brown-headed cowbirds are at the end of their nesting season and they are beginning to gather in flocks. Soon they will be joined by their babies from this season. Cowbirds are a brood parasite which means they lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species to incubate. Once hatched the young cowbird is fostered by the host parents sometimes even at the expense of their own young.

But several published studies on the subject have found that adult cowbirds don't just abandon their parental duty. They check to make sure their egg is still in place and then later monitor their youngsters while they are still living with that other species. They also teach fledglings cowbird-specific behaviors before they leave their foster homes.

Juvenile cowbirds, which fledge during the summer months, leave their foster parents after hatching to 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.

You can listen to the song of a Brown-headed Cowbird here: https://www.xeno-canto.org/267970. Its chip call can be heard here: https://www.xeno-canto.org/267956.
Related Articles:
- How Do Cowbirds Learn to Sing? http://goo.gl/n6kYS 

- Brown-headed Cowbirds http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2009/05/cowbirds.html 
- How young cowbirds know they're cowbirds http://goo.gl/hYSyUV 
- Basic Instinct: Cardinal Feeds Goldfish http://bit.ly/Kgv2Mi
- Starling and sparrow nesting together http://goo.gl/5aQftb

Monday, June 18, 2018

How do your squirrels eat, mine eat upside down

How can squirrels swallow upside down?

At first the thought of swallowing while upside down seems impossible - many people think that food just sort of 'drops' down into the stomach. In reality, food is actually pushed toward the stomach through the esophagus, a muscular tube leading to the stomach. Once food or water reaches the end of the esophagus, a valve called a sphincter closes so it can't come back up.

A lot of squirrel territory is the vertical, navigating up and down the trunks of a trees. They find a seed or nut on the ground and run to a tree trunk to eat out of the view of predators. Because they have the treat in their hands, they only have their feet to secure them to a safe perching area. Fortunately they have well-developed claws in both the front and hind feet to latch on to rough surfaces.

They also can feed comfortable headfirst down trees by swiveling their back ankle joints. Squirrels can maneuver quickly and gracefully thanks to a special adaptation where their ankles, or wrists, articulate. The squirrel may be heading down the trunk but its feet and claws point upward, enabling a good grip on the bark and a speedy dexterous descent.

Related Articles:
Squirrel Dancing http://squirrel-dancing.html
Red Squirrel facts & figures http://squirrel-funny.html
Where flying squirrels live http://flying-squirrels-live.html
Squirrels Like to Work for Their Food http://squirrels-like-to-work-for-their-food.html
How do I keep squirrels off my bird feeders? http://bit.ly/yiZsML
Squirrel proof bird feeder reviews http://bit.ly/waJs9o
Why are Squirrels Called Squirrels? http://bit.ly/yhktkr

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Photo Share: Father's Day Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks visit bird feeders frequently in early spring, where they eat Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess blend or safflower seeds and drink water. Then sightings may decrease as they move off to make nests in more wooded habitats. Both females and males incubate the eggs and feed the young once hatched.

In the next few weeks expect more visits as babies begin to leave the nest and parents show them where to find food and water. Adult males are black-and-white birds with a brilliant red heart on their chest. Females and young Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are brown and heavily streaked, with a bold whitish stripe over the eye. 

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks will stay around mid-Michigan until August-September. Then they migrate back to Panama and northern South America.

Related Articles:
Large brown sparrow-like bird http://bit.ly/IrwgVk
Juvenile Rose Breasted Grosbeak http://bit.ly/IoVuSG
When is bird migration over? http://bit.ly/IMZ7OQ
Daddy and Baby Red-Breasted Grosbeak https://goo.gl/9F19oo
Photo Share: Rose-breasted Grosbeak male and female https://goo.gl/ruJUyZ

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Watch for ducks in the road

I saw the saddest thing yesterday. It was a mama duck leading her little ducklings. The problem is they weren't near any water. They were in a parking lot with nowhere to go. The little ducklings were doing their best to keep up with mama, but they were just landlocked. I wanted to do something to help, but felt helpless. Is there any hope for this little duck family? Should I have tried to capture them and relocate them?

Mama ducks nest in seemingly inappropriate spots (not near any water) every year. But this is actually a strategy to keep the female safe from other male ducks and predators that hunt around the water's edge.

If the nest is far away from water, this first journey can be the most perilous time in a duckling’s life. In most instances it is best to leave the mother duck and her brood alone, because interference can cause extra stress and risk the mother panicking and abandoning her brood.

All the viable eggs hatch the same day and within 24 hours mama takes them to water where the ducklings can feed themselves through trial and error. They depend on their mother to keep them pointed in the right direction, safe and warm until they can fly and then become independent after 50-60 days.

Thanks for replying. I don't feel so bad now.

Related Articles:
New Bird Sighted: Hooded Merganser http://bit.ly/yI7HjD
Wood Duck Nest Box http://bit.ly/y89U1v
Mallard Nesting Behavior: Can I move the nest? http://bit.ly/xawSdh
Bufflehead: Black and white duck http://bit.ly/MjFhnm

Bird of the Week: Long Tailed Duck http://long-tailed-duck.html

Friday, June 15, 2018

Photo Share: Nottingham Nature Nook (NNN) baby updates

Dear Sarah, here are some Nottingham Nature Nook (NNN) photo baby updates.
They are doing great. Phoebes and robins are big birds now, learning to fly and looks like they are to be releases soon.

Squirrel babies are very mischievous, as they should be. Princess Aurora, grey fox baby, is growing fast and is getting more beautiful every day. Little baby mink is getting his gorgeous fur coat. He is doing great, already eating by himself and he is definitely a king.

Little chubby baby groundhog is full of surprises. She is so curious that it became impossible to take her pictures: her nose is in the camera before there is time to focus on her. Or she is running around so fast I can’t follow her with the camera. She is also a great nibbler and tries everything on her tooth. Who would think that such a chubby baby can be so hyperactive? She is the most adorable. Sorry, no usable pictures of her, though.

And the link to the new YouTube upload: https://youtu.be/Vmtk1274FE8

Also, Cheryl posted a video yesterday on her Facebook, first time Aurora is going outdoors: https://www.facebook.com/nottinghamnaturenook/videos/2107837842577714/
Thank you! Faina

Thank for all the updates! 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, June 14, 2018

Thoughts on the names of birds

Singing wren photo from Wikimedia Commons
Today I was listening to the chickadees, jays, and Chipping Sparrows while walking to Wild Birds Unlimited. It's not hard to guess how all these birds got their names. Some other local Michigan birds that have names that describe the sound they make could include the hummingbirds, crows, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Screech Owls and perhaps the Mourning Doves for their soulful song.

Goldfinches, bluebirds, starlings, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, and Red-winged Blackbirds all have names based on their looks. Even the Baltimore Oriole received its name because the male's colors of orange and black were the same as the coat-of-arms of Lord Baltimore. And of course the cardinal was named by colonists for the male's red crest, reminiscent of a Catholic cardinal's biretta and our Robin Redbreast was named because their reddish breasts reminded early British colonists of the European Robin they left behind.

While woodpeckers and nuthatches have a common name that describes the actions they are found frequently engaging.

And the House Sparrow, House Wren, and House Finch were all named house because of their association with people's homes. These birds all like to nest alongside us and even look to us to help them find food, water, and shelter.

Related Articles:
Facts every backyard birder wants know about Nuthatches http://bit.ly/tBbDbQ

Black-capped chickadee is a bird named after its own call or song https://goo.gl/78Ls58
How the Northern Cardinal bird was named http://bit.ly/syLYbe
Why are they called Blue "Jays"? http://bit.ly/sKHEDK
Why is a Turkey Is Called a Turkey? http://bit.ly/uKNZe5
How birds are classified http://bit.ly/vMmSY8
How birds are named http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2011/11/how-are-birds-named.html

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

What to do if you find an animal that looks like it needs help

Care of Orphaned Wildlife by Nottingham Nature Nook

During this extremely busy season at the Nook, it is not always possible for us to respond to phone calls and messages immediately, as much as we would like to. Please utilize the information on our website to learn more about what to do it if you find wildlife that may need help. And please rest assured that we will return your call or message just as soon as we can!

Before you try to rescue an orphaned wildlife baby, it is important to be sure that your help is needed. Here are important tips for determining if a wild baby does need your help, and how to help.


  • Most birds have a poor sense of smell. Replace an infant bird back in the nest if you can find the nest and reach it safely.
  • Bird nests that have fallen can be wired back in the tree as close to the original site as possible.
  • Fledgling birds are learning to self-feed and fly, and are usually on the ground for long periods of time with parents nearby. Children and pets should be kept away from fledglings. Do Not pick them up!


  • Young animals will explore away from their nest or den. If you see a young animal on the ground moving and crying, observe them quietly from a safe distance (for less than an hour) to see if a parent retrieves them.
  • Wild babies only need help if they are cold, injured, dehydrated or emaciated. However, mother squirrels will rarely retrieve a baby that has fallen from the nest.
  • If you find a nest of baby bunnies pour a ring of baking flour around the outside of the nest and wait 10-12 hours to see if there are footprints in the flour. If you do not see footprints contact a wildlife rehabilitator.
  • If you find a fawn, do not approach it or attempt to touch it. Does’ will leave their fawns in a safe hideaway during the day and will not return until night. If a dog or person scares the fawn, it will usually run and hide in a different location. When the mother returns at night, she will call out to the fawn until she locates it. Fawns may lie in the same location for several days. As long as the doe feels it is safe, she will not move her fawn. Please contact us before doing anything with what you believe is an injured or abandoned fawn.

What to do if you find a Baby Animal or Bird

  1. Warm the baby by cupping it in your hands until you can put it in a safe container with a heat source such as a heating pad on low or a hot water bottle. Be sure that there is s part of the container where the baby can get off of the heat source. Put a small, thin blanket, polar fleece or towel with no loose loops or strings between the baby and the heat source. Roll a hand towel into a doughnut shape to create a nest and place the baby in the center of the ring with a small piece of polar fleece both below and above the baby so that he feels as though he is still in the safety of his nest. Make sure the container has air holes for the baby to breathe.
  2. Do Not Attempt to Feed or Give Liquids of Any Kind to the Baby! Do not ever give cows’ milk to any baby – this can cause diarrhea and Aspiration Pneumonia if done incorrectly!!
  3. Keep the baby in a quiet, dark, warm and safe location to avoid further stress.
  4. Call an experienced Wildlife Rehabilitator Immediately!

Recommended Rehabilitators

Cheryl at Nottingham (517) 488-7451 or (517) 351-7304
Carolyn Tropp (517) 927-7578
Wildside Rehab. Center (517) 663-6153

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

How to tell if it is a baby chickadee

This week I’ve had a few families of chickadees (momma, poppa and kids) visit the feeders at the Wild Birds Unlimited store and at home. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish between the male, female, and juvenile chickadees. I did notice the parents were looking a little haggard while their kids were bouncy bundles of fluff. Fresh faced birds are usually the babies and another sign of juveniles is their squeaky baby call.

Before I saw the chickadee families, I heard the persistent begging calls of the fledglings. It was similar to the adult Chick-a-dee-dee-dee call but not as pronounced and higher in pitch. Their many songs and calls are learned over time from their parents. In the first 4 to 5 weeks, baby black-capped chickadees’ produce a variety of different notes and syllables that develop gradually into typical, well developed, black-capped chickadee vocalizations.

The beginning of June is usually when you will see the results of chickadees’ first nesting. They will take the young out and about farther and farther from the nest site to teach them the basics in survival. This family vacation or training period lasts for about 3 to 4 weeks and then the tight cohesive unit will disperse. The young take off suddenly in different directions to settle away from their natal territory and hook up with other young birds new to the area. Once settled in their new territory, most will remain in the same general area for the rest of their adult lives. Meanwhile the parents return to begin a second nesting.

Related Articles:

Chickadee song sounds like he has a mouth full of marbles http://marbles.html
What the 'dee' in Chick-a-dee means http://goo.gl/8rde3a
A closer look at the fee-bee song of the chickadee http://goo.gl/X4qLRV
Why don't chickadees stay to eat at the feeder? http://bit.ly/AkKThH
After chickadee babies have fledged http://bit.ly/yAYbP4
Fun Facts About Chickadees http://bit.ly/zIDkCi