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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Which seeds are preferred by wild birds?

When it comes to wild bird food, there are lots of choices. Different seeds as well as feeders will attract different bird species. The more you know about seed preference, the easier it will be to attract specific birds.

For birds in Michigan studies indicate that Black-Oil Sunflower, Fine and Medium Sunflower Chips, Peanuts, White Proso Millet, Safflower, and Nyjer® Thistle are among the most preferred seed types.

For the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store, customers’ preference by far is WBU No-Mess Blend. Our unique 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 make for a tidier feeding area, since 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.

Each of our blends is regionally formulated to attract the birds that live in our area. We do not include cheap filler grains like oats, wheat and milo that decrease the price per pound of a mix but aren't eaten by the birds in Michigan. Therefore, there is no wasted seed. Wild Birds Unlimited blends actually end up costing less to use while attracting more of the birds that you want to watch.

Monday, September 29, 2008

When was the tube feeder invented?

There were some great inventions in 1969:
  • First transplant of human eye
  • First automatic teller machine ATM is installed in the United States
  • Creation of ARPANET, the predecessor of the Internet
  • First Manned Moon Landing
  • Battery Powered Smoke Detector
  • First tube feeder invented 1969


In 1969, Peter Kilham developed the first tubular bird feeder, leading to a new and exciting approach in bird feeding. As an artist, engineer and inventor, he cared about using quality materials and innovative design to create a feeder that birds loved and people found easy to use.


Kilham wanted his new feeder to have multiple feeding stations, discourage squirrels, protect the seed from weather, prevent larger birds from feeding, and the ability to use a variety of seeds for feeding. Today, they are one of the most popular feeders.

Wild Birds Unlimited tubular feeders feature a revolutionary removable base. The WBU Quick-Clean™ Seed Tube Feeders are a snap to clean. A quick press of two buttons and the base pops off for easy access.

The feeder attracts birds such as finches, nuthatches, chickadees and woodpeckers. It comes with a lifetime guarantee that includes raccoon and squirrel damage which is surely a testament to the quality of our feeders. The tube of the feeder is a UV-stabilized, clear polycarbonate that protects the food from the sun's rays and won't yellow with age. Also as with most of the Wild Birds Unlimited products it’s made in the USA!

There are also a variety of accessories including trays and weather guards that can be added.
The invention of the tube feeder helped make bird watching one of the most popular pastimes in the US and one that continues to grow in popularity.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

No Child Left Inside...

Wild Birds Unlimited stands behind its mission to bring people and nature together through its conservation fund, Pathways To Nature.


All Wild Birds Unlimited stores donate a portion of proceeds to this fund to support education, conservation and wildlife viewing projects at wildlife refuges, parks, sanctuaries and nature conservancies throughout North America

Green Hour - Discover the Wonder of Nature

A growing wave of research indicates that people who spend time outdoors are healthier, overall, than their indoor counterparts.

Has your child had a Green Hour today?

By giving our children a "Green Hour" a day -- a bit of time for unstructured play and interaction with the natural world -- we can set them on the path toward physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Green Hour is a National Wildlife Federation program supported by Wild Birds Unlimited. For more ideas, visit http://www.greenhour.org/




Friday, September 26, 2008

Photo Friday

Let nature nurture.

Send me your photographs related to nature and every "Photo Friday" I'll select a few to share on my web log.
















To start off I'm publishing a few personal photos of me as a kid with my family as we appreciate nature. Feed the birds!



















Thursday, September 25, 2008

Are Goldfinches here in the winter?

Not All Little Brown Birds Are House Sparrows

Many customers think that the American goldfinch disappears in the winter. Actually, in the fall, the male goldfinch molts into its yellowish brown winter plumage looking just like the female. During the winter months both male and female goldfinches are actively feeding in our area.

Another finch that people commonly mistake for a sparrow is the female house finch. The male is easily distinguished by the reddish color on his head. The female, a small, brown bird with stripes down her chest, is usually found at the side of the male house finch. Other brown birds you might have seen last winter were the pine siskins and redpoles.

This summer, more than one customer commented to me about a sparrow that built a nest in a flower pot or hanging plant. After more discussion it was revealed that the "sparrow" was a Carolina Wren. A small brown bird that is common to our area year round.

Now some small brown birds are sparrows. Take a good look this fall under your feeders and see if you can pick out the white-throated sparrow, the white-crowned sparrow, the tree sparrow, the fox sparrow, or the Dark-eyed Junco. Even though they are all sparrows they each have their own distinctive behavioral traits and songs.

Take a minute to look up all these species in your field guide and see if you can appreciate the diversity of our little brown birds in mid-Michigan.
If you're looking for a new field guide, the new Backyard Birdsong Guide is very popular! It allows you to enjoy bird songs at the touch of a button while reading vivid descriptions of their songs, calls, and related behaviors.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What do I do with an injured bird?

What You Can Do:

1. CALL FOR ADVICE! The best course may be no interference. The following is a small list of the local rehabilitators:

  • East Lansing, MI ♦ 517.351.7304 ♦ Cheryl Connell-Marsh ♦ birds and small animals
  • Lansing, MI ♦ 517-646-9374 ♦ Tiffany Rich ♦ white tailed deer, squirrels, raccoons; Vet. Tech. on center.
  • DeWitt, MI ♦ 517.930-0087 ♦ Wildside Rehab & Education Center ♦ birds and small animals
  • Eaton Rapids, MI ♦ 517-663-6153 ♦ Wildside Rehab & Education Center ♦ birds and small animals
  • Holt, MI ♦ 517-694-9618 ♦ Carolyn Tropp cctropp@aol.com ♦ Waterfowl, small birds and mammals
  • Howell, MI ♦ 517-548-5530 ♦ Howell Conference and Nature Center ♦ All wild animals except bats, skunks, starlings, raccoons, pigeons, or house sparrows.
  • Bath, MI ♦ 517-819-0170 (day) 517-641-6314 (evening) ♦ Denise Slocum ♦ Small mammals

For a complete list of Michigan Licensed Rehabilitators visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at: http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/

2. Avoid stressing the bird further by eliminating any distractions. If you have other animals, or children keep them away so as not to harm the bird.

3. Find a cardboard box to hold the bird. Scoop up the bird in a towel and very gently place it into the box, towel and all. Keep the box in a dark, warm area where there are no loud noises. If you have to take the bird in yourself to the rehab center, do not have a radio on in your vehicle- noises will frighten the bird.

4. Do not attempt to feed the bird or perform any first aid. Birds are very easily stressed by handling and need an experienced veterinarian to care for them.

5. It is illegal (in the USA) for unlicensed individuals to possess any wild bird for any reason beyond overnight care before transporting to a rehabilitation site. Birds have diverse requirements for diet, care and wild birds do not adapt well to captivity.

6. Ask the rehabilitation expert if you can release the bird if he is able to get well again. Often birds should be released near where they were found. That is the best reward for the kindness of rescuing an injured bird!

National Public Radio did a story on finding exhasted migratory birds. Click on the link for the full story. A Lost Bird

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How do I prevent birds from hitting the window?

How many times have you been eating breakfast peacefully when you hear a dull thump of a bird striking your window? Hopefully you're only left with a ghostly image on your window and not a dead bird below. Now think of all the windows in your neighborhood and then all the windows in the world. It is estimated that between 100 million and one billion birds are killed every year in the United States when they crash into glass windows. And even one billion deaths might be a conservative estimate, says ornithologist Daniel Klem Jr. of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa.

Dr. Klem actually studied window collisions by conducting several experiments in which he hung clear panes of glass, mirrors, and picture windows adjacent to one another in a woody thicket facing an old field habitat. A strike was registered when a specimen was found beneath a window or a feather, body smudge or blood smear was found on the glass.

A copy of his study can be found on the following link: http://www.birdsandbuildings.org/docs/WB1989BirdWindowCollisions.pdf

I've also included a link to an interview he did on NPR
Windows: A Clear Danger to Birds
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5076012


Right now there are still young birds around learning the ropes and unfortunately, many times it's the inexperienced birds that fall victim to window strikes. Birds also strike windows as they quickly try to escape predators, hitting glass in a moment of panic. And during spring and fall migration, window strikes increase as birds unfamiliar with the area pass through.

Window strikes are hard to totally eliminate, but there are ways to reduce them and/or reduce their severity:
  • Locate feeders and birdbaths about 20-30 feet from windows so birds have time to change direction or within 1-2 feet of them so they can't gather enough speed to cause significant injury.
  • Window screens will reduce injury even if a bird flies into it. Use them where practical.
  • Decals like Window Alert placed on the outside of windows have had the most positive feedback from customers. Each decal contains a component which brilliantly reflects ultraviolet sunlight. This ultraviolet light is invisible to humans, but glows like a stoplight for birds. It takes multiple decals on the window surface; one stuck in the middle won't make a difference.
  • Mylar reflective strips hanging loose in front of the window will move in the breeze and alert birds flying too close to a window.
  • Use a yellow highlighter to draw X's on the inside of a window. The fluorescent highlighter is visible to birds, because the fluorescent ink will simultaneously absorb UV and release visible light. However it works best in sunlight, and worst in low light or on overcast days. This last suggestion comes from an experiment conducted by David Sibley, author of the Sibley Guide to Birds. http://sibleyguides.blogspot.com/search/label/bird-window%20collisions

Monday, September 22, 2008

How do you deter hawks from your bird feeding stations?

Hawks At Bird feeders

You either love them or you hate them. However, if you feed birds long enough, a Hawk will likely show up staking out a perching site or hovering overhead.

Sometimes the hawk settles in for a while. It is on those occasions that the phone starts ringing: "How can I get rid of this thing? It's killing my birds!" Well, yes it is. That is what certain kinds of hawks do.

The most common neighborhood hawks are the sharp-shinneds and Cooper's hawks. They are usually woodland hunters, and with their habitat shrinking more sitings have been reported at well-stocked feeding stations.

Hawks have to eat, too, and whether they are hunting around your feeder or off in the woods, they are going to catch about the same number of birds each day. Consider yourself lucky that you have a front row seat to one of nature's more dramatic dances.

However, most people do not put up feeders with the intention of attracting hawks. They want sparrows and chickadees and the occasional woodpecker. Having a hawk blast through, scattering the birds and perhaps carting one off, is not the experience most bird watchers want.

What Steps Can I Take?

  • First and foremost, federal and state laws prohibit the capture, killing, or possession of hawks and owls. Raptors at bird feeding stations are a problem only when they perch nearby all day. The birds return as soon as the Hawk flys away. So rather than get upset, enjoy a close-up look at these magnificent birds while they are in your yard.
  • Place your feeders where there is ample natural protection. Evergreen shrubs and trees can provide an easy escape for the birds. If there is none available, consider planting a few varieties this spring.

  • Lastly, acknowledge that a few birds and squirrels will be caught by Hawks at your feeders. This is part of the cycle. Raptors play an important role in controlling the populations. Also keep in mind; songbirds are difficult for hawks to catch. Few are caught by birds of prey.

  • Ultimately, the only thing you can do when a hawk comes to dinner is wait it out. Most hawks that settle in at feeders do so for two or three weeks and then they are off again to different territory.The presence of hawks at your feeders should in no way cause you to discontinue feeding birds. Just take a few simple steps to protect them and enjoy a season of bird feeding.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

When do I take down my hummingbird feeder?

The rule of thumb is: if you haven't seen a hummingbird for two weeks in the fall it's safe to take your feeder down. Depending on where you live it is usually at the end of September to the middle of October.

In the fall there is an instinctual clock that tells the hummingbirds when to head south. People still disagree over the precise mechanism within the bird that causes this. Most sources say that that food supply is not a factor and there is no reason to take down hummingbird feeders to stimulate migration. Birds that are born late in the season are vulnerable. Leaving your feeders up may provide a critical opportunity for these hummingbirds to build reserves and “catch up.”

Just before they answer the call to travel south, they eat in excess and build a layer of rich fatty fuel just under their skin. You can notice the extra fat along the back, belly, and throat. A hummingbird gains 25 – 40% extra body-weight to have enough fuel to travel 1,400 miles – with no wind of any kind. A headwind of only 10 miles per hour will cut that distance down to 600 miles and more than 20 mph will push them backward. However the ruby-throated hummingbird does take advantage of tail winds constantly. Southbound ruby-throats rebuild their reserves in the early morning, travel about 23 miles during the day and forage again in the late afternoon to keep up their body weight.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Do Hummingbirds migrate on the backs of geese?

...No.

This nice story has been passed down from generation to generation. Maybe people originally thought it was impossible for the tiny hummingbird to migrate south on its own and believed that hitching a ride under the wings of geese was the only way hummingbirds could make the long journey south.

However as nice as this story is, it does a disservice to the mighty hummingbirds' abilities.

Hummingbirds migrate thousands of miles south every fall to reach their winter homes in Mexico and Central America under their own power. Migratory geese don't even end up as far south as the tropics. Also, Hummingbirds leave earlier than Geese. They start migrating in mid-July and are mostly gone by mid-October. Geese don't start migrating until mid-September and are not gone until early November.

Many hummingbirds migrate around the Gulf of Mexico, through Texas and northern Mexico to winter in Central America. Others will fly from Florida across the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula.
Regardless of which migration route they take it's inspirational.