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.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bird of the week: Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis
Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Sparrows (Emberizidae)

Description
The Dark-eyed Junco is a medium-sized sparrow with dark gray plumage on its head, breast and upper parts which contrast with the white, outer tail and white belly. The female and immature juncos are less slate colored and tend to be browner than the adult male.

Behavior
Dark-eyed juncos usually hop or walk as they move along the ground. Females tend to winter farther south away from the males. Males need to risk harsh winters farther north in order to be closer to their breeding grounds. Females do not need to compete for territories in the spring and can take their time returning. The younger males winter the farthest north and must work hard to claim a breeding spot. Dominant birds have an advantage when feeding and claiming territories and will face another bird and raise and fan their tails, revealing the white outer tail feathers. They may also rush at or peck at subordinate birds in order to chase them away. Aggressive behavior occurs mainly in winter flocks and increases with increasing flock size.

General
Dark-eyed Juncos are often called “Snowbirds,” possibly due to the fact that they are more likely to visit feeding stations during snowy periods. Many people also believe their return from their northern breeding grounds foretells the return of cold and snowy weather. Another possible source of the nickname may be the white belly plumage and slate-colored back of the Junco, which has been described as “leaden skies above, snow below.”

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Family Fun: Create a Certified Wildlife Habitat

Certify Your Habitat Get started now!

Join the thousands of wildlife enthusiasts across the country who have been recognized for creating havens for neighborhood wildlife in their very own yards. These individuals have provided the essential elements for healthy and sustainable wildlife habitats and have earned the distinction of being part of National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat™ program.

When you certify with your application fee of $20, you’ll receive all these great benefits.
  1. A personalized certificate that recognizes your NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat™.
  2. A free NWF membership which includes a full year’s subscription to the award-winning National Wildlife® magazine.
  3. A free subscription to the quarterly e-newsletter, Habitats, full of insightful tips and information on gardening and attracting wildlife year after year.
  4. Your name listed in NWF’s National registry of certified habitats…to recognize all you’ve done for wildlife.
  5. And, once you complete your application, you’ll be eligible to purchase the “wildly” popular Certified Wildlife Habitat™ yard sign that shows your commitment to conserving wildlife.

All you need to do is provide elements from each of the following areas:
Food Sources:Native plants, seeds, fruits, nuts, berries, nectar
Water Sources: Birdbath, pond, water garden, stream
Places for Cover: Thicket, rockpile, birdhouse
Places to Raise Young: Dense shrubs, vegetation, nesting box, pond
Sustainable Gardening: Mulch, compost, rain garden, chemical-free fertilizer

Click HERE for more information

Friday, November 28, 2008

Can you Help Identify this Backyard Bird in Michigan?

Can you help me out and tell me what kind of bird this is? It was taken at my girlfriends house in Jackson, Michigan.











What a treat!

The Northern Flicker is found almost everywhere in North America and year round in mid-Michigan. The eastern and Midwest United States have the Yellow-Shafted Flicker and the west has the Red-Shafted Flicker. The Gilded Flicker of the southwest is very similar to the Red-Shafted Flicker.

The northern populations of the Northern Flicker are migratory, with fall migration taking place September to November. So if this Flicker is new to the area it may see your yard as a good place to winter from its summer home in Canada.

Flickers measure 13" with a wingspan of 18"-21" and they are seen in most suburban environments and forest edges.

Unlike most other woodpeckers, Northern Flickers are mainly ground feeders, eating ants, termites, caterpillars, crickets, grasshoppers, other insects, spiders, berries, seeds, and nuts. They do come to feeders for seeds and suet.

The yellow shafts of the feathers and its habit of flicking its bill give the Yellow-shafted Flicker its name. Both males and female yellow-shafted have a gray crown with a prominent red chevron on the back of the head and a large black spot marks the breast. Only the male Flicker has a black mustache so the photos you sent (above) show a female.

Unfortunately the Flicker populations appear to be declining. Some contributing factors might be due to the loss of nesting sites in dead trees and competition with other cavity nesting birds.

For more information go to http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/northern_flicker/id

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Product Highlight: Seed Wreaths

Great gift ideas for you and the birds are Seed Wreaths, Functional Bird Seed Houses, Peanut Wreaths, Giant Pine Cones dipped in seed, and birdseed in the shape of a Snowman.

These gifts are long lasting and designed to feed a variety of different birds including the popular chickadees, finches, and Cardinals.

These are perfect hostess gifts or place them in different locations around your own yard and watch the fun and activity increase.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Nature up close: Snow Crystals

Wilson Alwyn Bentley (1865-1931) was frustrated by his inability to sketch the snow crystals that he was examining on his microscope before they melted. At the age of seventeen he decided to learn how to use a relatively new device called a camera. Finally in 1884, after two years of trial and error, Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley became the first person to successfully photograph snow crystals, which are commonly known as snowflakes.

Through remarkable determination he went on to become a true pioneer in the field of atmospheric science, as well as an innovative, talented photographer.

Over his lifetime, Bentley published sixty articles on snow, dew, frost and raindrops. In 1931, Snow Crystals, a book with 2,435 illustrations was published. Unfortunately he died that same year from pneumonia.

The black and white photos are samples of Bentleys work. The link to the Bentley Snow Crystal Collection by the Buffalo Museum of Science is http://bentley.sciencebuff.org/
Another informative website on snow crystals is Snowcrystals.com.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Question of the week: Is that Downy sleeping at my feeder?

I watched a Downy Woodpecker yesterday freeze in position against the feeder for several minutes. I'm wondering if it was snoozing? It was a most interesting behavior.

Did the feeding station suddenly go quiet? Was there any other activity at the feeders?

If a hawk was seen by the downy it may have decided to remain completely still instead of taking its chances by flying away from a predator.

It is common for birds to freeze in a position or fly away when a predatory bird flies over or lands in a tree nearby.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pine Siskins

As winter approaches, Pine Siskins become considerably plumper to help them survive. Each bird can pack sufficient seeds into its expandable esophagus to support itself through five hours of rest at -4 degree Fahrenheit temperatures.

Most years, pine siskins do not stray too far from their breeding territories in the northern tier of the United States and across Canada into Alaska. The “mast” produced by northern conifers is usually plentiful, and siskins use the seeds as fuel to survive the coldest winters.

Mast is a noun of Anglo-Saxon origin (m├Žst) that refers to the accumulation of various kinds of nuts on the forest floor that serve as food for animals. The process by which trees produce mast is known as masting. The curious thing about masting is that it is not a continuous process, but rather is cyclic. Approximately every three to five years certain trees produce prodigious quantities of nuts and in between the masts they will produce almost none.

So in years when mast production is more uniformly depressed, Pine Siskins irrupt southward looking for food.

When they do arrive, they mix in with flocks of goldfinches at Nyjer® (thistle) feeders, and brighten up a drab winter day with their loud and cheerful "zzziip" song. (The word "Siskin" is of Scandinavian origin and means "chirper".)

According to Ron Pittaway’s Winter Finch Forecast 2008 – 2009 most siskins have left Canada this fall because the spruce cone crop is poor in the boreal forest. So keep your eyes and ears open for new birds at your feeders.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bird of the week: Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin Carduelis pinus
Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Finches (Fringillidae)

Description
The adult male Pine Siskin is grayish brown with conspicuous brown striping. The wing and base of the tail have conspicuous yellow trimming. The Siskin is about 4.5 to 5.25 inches long, and weighs about 12g (1.5 oz).

Behavior
Pine Siskins eat seeds of alders, birches, spruce, and other trees. They also feed on thistle and other weed seeds, forbs, buds, insects, and spiders. They are attracted to salt licks and salt treated highways in the winter and sometimes drink sap at drill wells created by sapsuckers.

General

The Pine Siskin, a member of the finch family, is closely related to the Redpoll and the Goldfinches. The Siskin is an irruptive species that can be common in some winters throughout most of North America and even into Mexico. Even though these birds occur across North America, many have never seen this bird, or having seen it, did not realize it as a distinct species.

At a casual glance, Siskins look like plain, little, brown striped sparrows that mostly confine themselves to evergreen forests. In winter months, they congregate and move about in flocks numbering from a few individuals up to thousands of individuals. They readily visit thistle seed feeders, and are often seen feeding right along with the Goldfinches.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Family Fun: Apple head doll

Make an Apple Head

To start, choose an apple for the doll's head; the bigger the better. The carved apple will shrink to about two thirds its original size.
Step 1 Peel the apple.
Step 2 Dip it into 1 c. lemon juice
Step 3 Pat the apple dry.
Step 4 Carve or wittle out your face. Eat any mistakes or scraps or give them to the squirrels.
Step 6 Place it in a 200-degree F oven for 4 to 5 hours and then air dry for 2 days. As long as the oven is on slice up lots of extra apples to dry and eat as a healthy snack later. If you don't want to use an oven, let them air dry for 2 weeks.

Make the Doll

Step 1 Fill a soda bottle with sand or water. Screw the bottle lid tightly.
Step 2 Cut a 12-by-15-inch piece of bright fabric.
Step 3 Wrap the fabric around the bottle; allow an extra inch at the top and bottom of the bottle.
Step 4 Secure the fabric around the top of the bottle with a rubber band.
Step 5 Fold the fabric down around the rubber band, and tie a piece of ribbon or lace at the neck to hide the rubber band.
Step 6 Use cotton, wool, pet hair, or cut 10 to 15 strands of yarn for the hair.
Step 7 Glue or pin hair to apple head
Step 8 Cut a hole the size of bottle cap from the bottom of the apple. Push the dried apple gently onto the lid of the bottle.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mystery bird

I have recently been sighted at mid-Michigan feeders.
Do you know my name?
HINT: I belong to the finch family of birds and like to inhabit pines and other coniferous trees.
ANSWER: PINE SISKIN

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Product Highlight: WBU Heated Birdbaths

Birds Need Water in Winter

Water is one of the most important necessities that birds need year-round. Cold weather in northern areas can bring an additional challenge to a bird's survival due to natural water sources being frozen. Providing and maintaining a bird bath with clean water is just one small favor you can offer.

Most people understand the importance of water for drinking but many do not realize just how important it is in bathing for birds. Because feathers are critical for flight and insulation, birds keep them well-maintained. A good part of a bird's day is spent just cleaning and grooming its feathers by bathing, scratching, and preening. The feathers covering the body give the bird a water resistant, aerodynamic shape for efficient flight. The feathers also provide insulation by trapping body heat close to the skin.

Water sources in winter are an easy way to attract a variety of birds, including the American Robin and Eastern Bluebird, that don’t normally visit feeders.

Falling temperatures are no reason to keep your birds from getting their fill of water. The Wild Birds Unlimited durable, plastic bird bath provides a reliable source of water when natural sources are frozen, even to temperatures below -20° F. Easily mounted to wood deck rails, this bird bath allows visitors to drink and bathe and keep their feathers clean.It features a built-in 150 watt, fully grounded heater that is thermostatically controlled to conserve energy. It also has a full 4 year warranty and it’s made in the U.S.A.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Question of the week: What do Blue Jays like to eat?

Blue Jays eat fruit, nuts, berries, seeds, and suet. At the feeder their first choice would be peanuts in the shell. In the wild, blue jays eat lots of different foods. Though they are primarily vegetarian they also will eat caterpillars, beetles and other small bugs. Rarely do they eat eggs and nestlings.

To prepare for harsh winter weather they will collect acorns and other tree nuts and cache or hide them up to 2.5 miles from their original source and retrieve them when needed.

This behavior of burying seeds has greatly helped with the range expansion of many oak species. The rapid northward dispersal of oaks after the ice age may have resulted from the northern transport of acorns by Jays.

In one research study, 50 Blue Jays were observed selecting and caching 150,000 acorns over a period of 28 days. Each bird cached a total of 3,000 acorns by selecting and hiding an average of 107 acorns per day.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quick fun Facts: Blue Jays aren't blue

Blue Jays have no blue pigments in their feathers. The blue color is due to refraction, not pigmentation. So a Blue Jay feather will not loose its color no matter how long it is bleached by the sun, because the color is not a pigment and therfore can't fade.

Instead, each feather barb has tiny air pockets and melanin pigment crystals that absorbs all wavelengths of color except blue. That blue wavelength is reflected and scattered, resulting in their blue appearance to our eyes.

Like a blue sky, it’s a trick of the light.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bird of the week: Blue Jay

Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata
Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Crows and Jays (Corvidae)

Description
Blue jays are bright blue birds with blue head crests, black wing markings and black necklaces. They are a large songbird about 10-12 inches and weigh about 3 ounces

Behavior
Bright and bold, blue jays often travel in noisy family groups in late summer and fall. Their discovery of good feeding sight is announced to the whole community of birds. They also are very good at giving early warnings of hawk, cats, or other predators in the area.

General
Their name “Jay” has its origins from the Latin “gaius” meaning “gay or merry.” The species name cristata originates from the Latin word crista, meaning “crested.” The longevity record for banded Blue Jays in the wild is over 17 years, the longest of any of the jays.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Family Fun: Thanks Giving Trees

Make two trees and have people at your Thanksgiving gathering write down on leaf and bird cutouts what they are thankful for, and what they have found to do for others. Then have everyone read their leaves as they put them on either the "Thanks" or "Giving" tree.





















This idea was from the website: Chocolate On My Cranium

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hope is the thing with feathers


video
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

--Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Product Highlight: WBU Large Finch feeders

I've always thought the Goldfinch song has a nice southern twang to it. So when the weather turns freezing and I hear that warm, sweet voice early in the morning, it always brightens my day.

Hello Finches, Good-bye Mess!

Wild Birds Unlimited Large EZ-Clean Finch Feeders

10 perches
Capacity: 1¾ qts Nyjer® (thistle)
Dimensions: 24" x 3-5/8" x 2¾" diameter

Our Quick-Clean™ Finch Feeders are designed to make life a little simpler for you and your birds. The ports are reinforced with metal to last forever, while the removable base makes cleaning a breeze. These feeders are backed by a lifetime guarantee that includes squirrel and raccoon damage. We also offer a variety of accessories including trays and weather guards. And of course it's quality because it's made in the U.S.A.

I would recommend the yellow feeder. Goldfinch scouts are always on the look out for yellow and will find your new feeder sooner. However the feeder also comes in green and once they find it they will flock to this feeder as much as a yellow feeder.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Nature up close: African Penguins

The average lifespan of an African penguin is 15-20 years. So Pierre, a 25 year old a penguin at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, was living a good life until he had a problem with his feathers.

Bald patches appeared and began to spread. All the other penguins began to pick on him and he had to stay out of the cold water because he was missing so many of his insulating feathers.

"He was cold; he would shake," said Pam Schaller, a senior aquatic biologist at the academy.

So a custom-crafted wetsuit was made. Pierre was fitted with a neoprene vest, which allowed him to move his wings and flippers. After six weeks in the suit, Pierre gained weight, grew back feathers, and was again acting like the top penguin in the colony.

Schaller can't say for sure whether the wetsuit allowed Pierre to recover, but "certainly we were able to keep him comfortable during a period of time that would have been very difficult." With his plumage restored, Pierre no longer needs the suit.

Monday, November 10, 2008

American Goldfinch

Fun Facts about Goldfinches
  • Residential flocks of American Goldfinch roam widely during the winter and have been recorded moving over 4 miles between multiple feeding stations in a single day. Other records show movements of over 30 miles in a single winter.
  • Female American Goldfinch are dominant over males in the summer and appear to be subservient to them in the winter. See if you call tell a difference at your feeders.
  • American Goldfinch are common feeder visitors and prefer thistle (nyjer) and sunflower seeds.
  • To stay warm on a cold winter’s night, American Goldfinches have been known to burrow under the snow to form a cozy sleeping cavity. They will also roost together in coniferous trees or roosting pockets.
  • Unlike many birds, Goldfinches completely molt their feathers twice a year, before breeding in the spring and after nesting in the fall.
  • During their fall feather molting, American Goldfinches grow a new set of feathers that are much denser than their summer plumage. These soft feathers provide an additional layer of insulation to help keep them warm throughout the winter.- The color of the legs, feet and bill of the American Goldfinch change with each feather molt. In winter plumage, their legs, feet and bill are dark grayish brown. In breeding plumage they change to a buffy yellow orange color.
  • Of the more than 3 million banded American Goldfinches, the oldest one ever recaptured in the wild was at least 10 years and 5 months old.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bird of the week: American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch
Carduelis tristis Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Finches (Fringillidae)

The male is a small, noisy finch with a bright yellow body, black cap, wings, and tail, and white rump and undertail coverts. Female is duller with olive back and lacks black cap and yellow shoulder bars.

Winter male has olive-gray to olive-brown upperparts, paler underparts, yellow shoulder bar, white wing bar, dark bill, and may show black on forehead and yellow on throat and face. Winter female is duller with buff wing and shoulder bars, and lacks yellow and black on face and head.
Juvenile resembles winter female but has yellow wash on throat and breast.

The American Goldfinch 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 bird’s practice of nibbling at the tender young leaves of this vegetable. The American goldfinch looks similar to a canary at a pet store and so sometimes is called "wild canary" or "yellowbird".

Another descriptive name, is “thistle bird.” It has long been known that thistle plants and goldfinch are almost inseparable, and even its genus name, Carduelis, is from the Latin word carduus, meaning “thistle”. Goldfinches rely heavily on thistle plants as a source of food and for nest-building materials. A research study in Michigan observed Goldfinches always liked to nest near an abundant supply of thistle seed.

Goldfinches delay the start of their nesting behavior until the thistles come into bloom so they can anticipate an abundant and reliable supply of seeds for their young. So keep your WBU finch feeder filled with fresh Nyjer® (thistle) seed to welcome the American Goldfinch to your backyard refuge.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Family Fun: Turkey Poem

Turkey Poem

The turkey is a funny bird,

It's head goes wobble wobble.

And it knows but one word,

Gobble, gobble, gobble.






Hands-and-Feet Turkey
You will enjoy tracing hands and feet to create this one-of-a-kind paper turkey craft for Thanksgiving.

What you'll need:
· Colorful paper or color your own paper
· Scissors
· Glue
· Wiggle eyes (optional)

How to make it:
Step 1 - Trace your hands and feet
1. Trace two feet (with shoes on) on paper.
2. Trace your hand six times on different color paper.

Step 2 - Cut out all the the hands and feet tracings.

Step 3 - Make the Body
Put the two feet tracings together to make the turkey body and head, placing the heels together one on top of another, and spreading the bottoms apart as in the illustration. Glue.

Cut two turkey feet out of the orange scraps, then cut a diamond shape for the beak. Draw the eyes on white paper and cut them out, or use wiggle eyes. Make the wattle out of red construction paper. Glue each piece onto the body as shown.

Step 4 - Attach the tail
You're Done!

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Bird in Hand

The bald eagle was chosen June 20, 1782 as the emblem of the United States of American, because it symbolized courage, long life, great strength, majestic looks, and because it was indigenous only to the United States and to Canada.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Product Highlight: Advanced Pole System

The Advanced Pole System - Looks Great, Stays Straight!
Our patented Advanced Pole System (APS) is comprised of interchangeable hardware pieces, that lets you add or subtract bird feeders, birdhouses and other bird feeding accessories, giving you the ability to create and customize your bird feeding station with over 3,000 combinations — it is all up to you!

How Does It Work?
It’s easy! Just insert a screwdriver into the hole at the middle of the 4-foot Base Pole and twist it into the ground using the convenient corkscrew auger connected at the bottom of the pole. Next slide the Stabilizer onto the Base Pole and push into the ground. Tests show the stabilizer holds the pole straight in up to 35 MPH wind gusts. Plus, it is lawnmower-friendly.

Get Creative!
Create your own unique setup by selecting the bird feeder, birdhouse, bird bath, or bird feeder supplies you want. The APS parts fit together easily, and no special tools are required.
Birds will flock to your new APS station in no time. So, sit back and enjoy the show.

It’s Flexible!
The APS was designed to accommodate all feeders with many hanging accessories from which to choose. Suet feeder, peanut feeder, tube feeder, wooden feeder, one feeder, many feeders — the Advanced Pole System is the ultimate solution to all your birdfeeding needs.
Don’t have a yard? Use the Advanced Pole System to create a birdfeedingstation on your deck. It’s that flexible!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Nature up close: When do Chipmunks hibernate?

Eastern Chipmunks’ lifespan on average is only one year due to predators and man made dangers. They have two breeding seasons. The first begins in February and the second in June. They can have up to nine babies but average four.

Many people are frustrated by the amount of food they take away from bird feeding stations but chipmunks do have a purpose. They eat a lot of bugs and small rodents which humans can appreciate. And Mother Nature uses the chipmunks to spread plant seeds and fungi all around.

Eastern chipmunks live in shallow burrows made by digging and carrying away the dirt in their pouched mouths. These burrows can be up to 30 ft. in length with several different exits concealed with leaves and rocks.

The chipmunks’ cheek pouches also transfer food to their tunnels. They keep large stores of food in their burrows and build nests on top of this treasure. Eastern chipmunks, however, do not hibernate continuously through the winter, nor do they "fatten up" before retreating to their burrows. When the temperatures reach freezing, chipmunks go into their burrows to hibernate but wake up periodically to snack on their stored nuts and seeds.

Related Articles:
- When do bats hibernate? http://bit.ly/vvaTGn
- Do Voles Hibernate? http://bit.ly/rTcbQI
- Do opossums hibernate during winter? http://bit.ly/u4ORP6
- Migration vs. Hibernation http://bit.ly/sixWTH
- Feb. 2nd groundhogs end their hibernation http://bit.ly/vPHVtx
- Do skunks hibernate? http://bit.ly/xVKDXP

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Question of the week: How do birds learn to sing?

Birdsong is an important tool for communication among birds. Songs can announce certain territories, attract mates, or create a social bond. A bird call can alert others to danger, tell about a good food spot, ask for food, or keep in contact with the group.

Like humans, most birds are vocal learners. They inherit a basic unstructured song but within six weeks of listening to parent birds, learn their own distinctive song. While learning, they may try several variations.

Most birds raised in captivity that never hear the songs of their parents learn a different song with some inherited components.

National Wildlife Federation has a complete article on bird song and Nova Science Now has a short video on how birds learn to speak.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Quick fun Facts: How can you attract Cedar Waxwings to your yard?

Usually the first indication of Cedar Waxwings in the area is their distinct high pitched "bzeee" call. Then you’ll see flocks of about 40 birds flying in a tight group around fruit bearing plants stripping the berries in minutes.

If the berries have fermented, the birds can actually get drunk. But their digestive systems are quick and the seeds of berries are eliminated within 45 minutes.

Waxwings do not get those red waxy tips until their second fall. The red waxy drops at the end of their wings are actually flattened extensions of the feather shafts colored by astaxanthin, a carotenoid pigment. Both males and females have the red waxy tips on their wings. The older the bird, the more showy the red tips. Studies show that the birds only mate with birds within their own age range and the amount of wax on the wing may be how the birds determine who is in their mate group.

How can you attract Cedar Waxwings to your back yard? Planting native trees and shrubs that produce lots of berries can be irresistible to waxwings. However landscaping may not be an option right now so a heated bird bath or a bath with a de-icer could also attract Cedar Waxwings to your yard this winter.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Bird of the Week: Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum
Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Waxwings (Bombycillidae)

The cedar waxwing is brown on top and pale yellow on its belly. It has a crest of feathers on its head and a black mask lined with white on its face. The cedar waxwing has black legs and feet and a short black bill. It has darker gray wings with a short waxy red tip. Its tail has a yellow tip.

The cedar waxwing is mostly frugivorous.That means it is a fruit eater. Most of its diet is made up of berries, especially in the winter. Berries play a large role in the cedar waxwing's breeding, social and migratory behavior. Cedar waxwings will perch on a branch and pluck berries or it will hover in the air and grab berries. In the northern part of their range, the cedar berry is a large part of their diet.

They travel in flocks of 40 or more birds. They often will appear in a spot with a good crop of berries. When they have eaten all the berries, they move on.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Family Fun: Know your Chickadees Quiz

Getting to Know Your Chickadees:

1. A chickadee’s resting heartbeat per minute is:
a) 220 beats b) 540 c) 175

2. Chickadees have a body temperature in F degrees of:
a) 105 b) 120 c) 98.6

3. How often do your chickadees take a breath?
a) once a second b) every 3-4 seconds c) 2 times a second

4. How many sunflower seeds does a chickadee need to consume on days when temps are above zero, just to survive?
a) 50 b) 150 c) 250

5. How many sunflower seeds does a chickadee need to consume on days when temps are BELOW zero?
a) 50 b) 150 c) 250

Answers were provided and researched by Jim Williams, Star Tribune.


ANSWERS
1. 540 beats
2. 105 body temp
3. once a second
4. 150 seeds
5. 250 seeds

Harris Nature Center- Science Programs

Harris Nature Center
3998 Van Atta Road in Meridian Township
For general information, call Kit Rich at (517) 349-3866.

Science Programs
Enhance your child's science education at the Harris Nature Center once a month through programs specifically designed to introduce and reinforce science curriculum for home-schooled and public-schooled children. The programs are open to children of all ages.

The next Weekday Science Program, "Fir Evergreen" is Friday, Nov. 7 at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. and is about evergreen trees and plants.

The winter season of programs is Dec. 5, Jan. 9 and Feb. 6. The fee is $3/child/class or $7/child/season. Call (517) 349-3866 to receive a brochure and registration form.