About us: We own a wild bird feeding supply 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, February 28, 2009

Fenner Nature Center

Press Release
Who: Live at Fenner!
What: Educational Program Featuring Michigan Blackbirds
Where:Fenner Nature Center, 2020 E. Mt. Hope Ave., Lansing, MI 48910
When: Sunday, March 1st. Doors open at 12:45 P.M., program begins at 1:00 P.M.
Cost: $4 for adults, $2 for Friends of Fenner members and students 18 and under.
Contact: Jim or Carol McGrath at 517.483.4224 for more information
All black birds are not necessarily blackbirds, and not all blackbirds are black birds either! Find out how all this makes sense in this informative PowerPoint presentation by Fenner Director and naturalist, Jim McGrath. For anyone who has a tendency to dismiss them as "unimpressive" or as "nuisances," this overview of their unique life histories and fascinating behaviors is sure to make you view them in a more appreciative light. After the presentation, a special workshop for teachers, families or kids will be held featuring the construction of a blackbirds-in-flight, life-size silhouette-mobile that highlights the shapes of three blackbird species (red-winged, grackle, cowbird) and a starling (often mistaken for a blackbird).
Fenner Nature Center

Friday, February 27, 2009

Eastern Bluebird

"The bluebird carries the sky on his back."
- Henry David Thoreau (1817 –1862)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bluebird Houses

Because bluebirds lack a strong bill to excavate a cavity for nesting, they depend on finding the used cavities of other birds or man-made houses. Bluebird populations had declined steadily over the years due to habitat loss. But, thanks to man-made houses, they are making a comeback. Our Wild Birds Unlimited bluebird boxes are designed with the birds in mind.

The top can be lifted for viewing without disturbing the nestling and easy monitoring of the nest-(it is not recommended to open the box day 13 or after as this may cause fledglings to leave the nest too early). The side is easily opened at the end of the nest season for cleaning. It is important to clean out old nesting material that may harbor parasites.

Mounting Bluebird BoxesLocate in an open, grassy field edge or lawn area away from trees (300 ft or more apart). Place the houses at least 50 feet away from birdfeeders and your main house. Face the box away from prevailing winds (facing south) and mount boxes approximately 5 feet high. Perching areas near to the nestbox like telephone poles, stakes, small trees, etc. are preferred by bluebirds.

Have boxes up by March in mid-Michigan.

If Tree Swallows compete for the nest site, place another box near the first (15 to 25 feet from the original house). They seem to tolerate overlapping territories of other species, but bluebirds will not nest less than 100 feet from each other. Both swallows and bluebirds are dependent on cavities for nesting, but otherwise they are different in many of their survival strategies. Bluebirds feed on ground-dwelling insects while swallows feed on insects in the air. Given places to nest, they can coexist within an area quite effectively. It may even be beneficial for bluebirds to have swallows nearby to warn them of potential predators or danger.

One important item to mention is that sparrows and wrens may try to take over a bluebird nesting box. They may find the box first or they may try to force the bluebirds out. The only way to help reduce this possibility is to make sure the house is mounted away from the edge of trees or away from human dwellings and to remove the nests before they are complete (a sparrow nest is a sloppy collection of grasses or litter that fills the box. A wren builds its nest out of twigs). You can also leave the top and side of the nestbox open to make it less desirable until the sparrow relinquishes its claim on that house.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How many broods does the average backyard bird have?

The number of times a bird nests in one season varies from one bird species to another, and sometimes from one locale to another.

Downy woodpeckers in the north have only one brood, but in the south they may have two.

Cardinals can have as many as four broods between March and August, with the male helping to care for the first one while the female incubates the eggs of the next one.

Other members of the finch family, such as the goldfinch, house finch and grosbeaks may only have one brood.

Bluebirds and robins usually have two broods.

Click to enlarge the nesting charts.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Eastern Bluebird

• The name “bluebird” is actually a bit misleading. Most bird colorations are due to pigments deposited in their feathers. A Northern Cardinal is red because of the red pigment called carotenoids. Crows are black because their feathers contain a dark pigment called melanin. In contrast, bluebirds do not have a single molecule of blue pigment in any of their feathers. The top transparent layer of each bluebird feather is filled with miniscule pockets of air. When sunlight strikes these pockets, all of the other visible wavelengths of light are absorbed. Only blue escapes and it is scattered in all directions for the eye to see.
• Males will carry nesting material during courtship, but the female is the one that completes the nest alone in two to five days. Bluebirds have also been observed coming and going during several weeks before completing one nest.
• Nests are light and airy, consisting of fine grass or pine needles, hair and maybe a few feathers, with a small cup shape in the center.
• Pesticides; (pyrethrins or rotenone or any others), are not recommended as bluebirds are thin skinned and sensitive to toxins.
Studies are finding that the male from the first brood will come back to help feed the young (usually female) of the second brood.
• Swallows have been known to help bluebirds raise their young and then use the nest box once the bluebirds have fledged.

Also check out The Michigan Bluebird Society website:
http://www.michiganbluebirdsociety.org/. It is a group of individuals dedicated to helping bluebirds and other cavity nesting bird species in the state of Michigan.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis
Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Thrushes (Turdidae)

Males have bright blue heads, tails, backs, and wings. The sides, flanks, and throat are chestnut red. The underparts are also chestnut red from the chin down to the belly, but the belly is white.

Although there is much variation in their plumage, females are generally less colorful than males. They have light gray-blue heads, dull brown backs, and blue tails and wings. There is a slight white ring around the eye. In winter, the female's upper breast turns a pale reddish-brown.

Bluebirds require fairly open habitats consisting of large, short grassy areas like pastures, meadows, church yards, parks, golf courses, and farm fields. Areas which are NOT good habitats include subdivisions with small lots, densely populated suburbs, heavily wooded neighborhoods, and urban areas. All bluebirds are cavity nesters and will use artificial nest boxes. In fact, from the late 1800s to the 1960s, Eastern Bluebirds’ population declined almost 90% because of loss of habitat. However, since 1966 the population has increased 2.4% each year due to nesting boxes. When using natural cavities, bluebirds select abandoned woodpecker nests 75% of the time.

During courtship, as days grow longer, male bluebirds release hormones that stimulate the area of the brain responsible for singing behavior; unpaired males can sing between 400 to 1,000 songs per hour. Bluebird adults return to the same territory every year and are generally monogamous during breeding season.

Bluebirds love to eat mealworms, and they consume about four grams of food per day, about 12% of their body weight. Eastern Bluebirds also sit on elevated perches searching for insects. When they spot one, they’ll drop to the ground and capture it with their bill, a behavior known as “drop-hunting.”

Saturday, February 21, 2009

From our sister Wild Birds Unlimited stores in Vancouver, British Columbia

Hi, Customer sent us these great shots of Bald Eagles eating fishermen's scraps on Vancouver Island.

John & Wendy Morton
Wild Birds Unlimited
1302 West Broadway,
Vancouver, BC V6H 1H2

What is your favorite feeder?

Click the comments button below to post what your favorite feeder is and why.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Eastern Bluebird

The Bluebird

I know the song that the bluebird is singing,
Out in the apple-tree where he is swinging;
Brave little fellow, the skies may look dreary;
No real cares while his heart is so cheery.

Hark! How the music leaps out from his throat,
Hark! Was there ever so merry a note?
Listen awhile and you’ll hear what he’s saying,
Up in the apple-tree swinging and swaying.

“Dear little blossoms down under the snow,
You must be weary of winter, I know;
Hark, while I sing you a message of cheer;
Summer is coming and spring-time is near!

“Little white snowdrop! I pray you arise;
Bright yellow crocus! come, open your eyes;
Sweet little violets, hid from the cold,
Put on your mantles of purple and gold;
Daffodils! daffodils! say, do you hear?–
Summer is coming and spring-time is near!”

~Emily Huntington Miller (1833-1913)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Seed Storage Cans and WBU Seed Scoops

10 gallon Galvanized Steel Garbage can with lid

These cans are carefully manufactured in the USA from prime, heavy gauge galvanized steel, and feature deep body corrugations for superior strength and durability. The high strength handle can be raised to lock lid. Keeps seed dry and secure. Works great for up to 40 pounds of seed.
Top Diameter 15¼"; Height 17¾"

WBU Seed Scoop

It features a wide mouth for scooping and a narrow funneled end for pouring. The funnel doubles as a handle, which makes the transition from scooping to pouring quick and easy.
Capacity: 3 cups

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"The Birds and the Bees"

How do birds mate?

As I wrote about before, over 90 percent of birds are considered monogamous. Most birds keep the same mate for the entire mating season and some stay paired for their entire life. Courtship, generally the male’s responsibility, usually entails singing but can also consist of tail drumming or dancing.

During breeding season, the male's testes which lie within their body at the end of each kidney become several hundred times larger than normal to produce sperm which moves to the cloaca where it is stored until insemination (the act of sex). In bird anatomy, a cloaca is the posterior opening that serves as the only opening from which they excrete both urine and feces, unlike mammals, which possess two separate orifices for evacuation.

The female bird's ovaries are also enlarged during breeding season to produce the ovum. The ovum is a single cell that we recognize as the yolk of an egg. The female bird unfans her tail, moves it to one side while the male climbs up onto her back or gets close to her. Their cloacas are pressed together and the sperm moves from the male to the female. This act is called a cloacal kiss.

The ovum is fertilized in the female bird's oviduct by a sperm cell from the male bird. The oviduct is a tube that transports the egg from the ovary to the cloaca and where the white of the egg and shell are formed. In most birds, the ovary releases an ovum at daily intervals during the breeding season until a complete clutch of eggs is laid. Once fertilized, the ovum becomes the nucleus of the egg. The egg will be laid by the female into her nest, incubated, and then the baby bird will hatch.

Sperm is stored by the female for at least a week, in some species over a hundred days. Then as each ovum from the ovary moves into the oviduct, it gets fertilized with the stored sperm, producing a clutch of eggs, all with the sperm from that one cloacal kiss.

There are a few species of birds where the males do possess a retractable penis that can be pulled back into the bird. These birds include ostriches, cassowaries, kiwis, swans, geese, and ducks. Since waterfowl sometimes make love while in the lake or pond, the penis helps ensure that the sperm is not washed away by the water.

And, although it is not necessary to copulate frequently since the sperm is stored within the female, remember those hormones are still making the birds excited. Many pairs of birds will mate numerous times within a few days.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How many species of squirrels are in Michigan?

Michigan Squirrel SpeciesThere are eight members of the squirrel family living in mid-Michigan. They are all omnivores (eating seeds, insects, fruit, and nuts) except the woodchuck which is an herbivore (eating grasses and dandelions).
1. Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger)
Usually observed in yards or traveling electric lines. They range from 18-27 inches from head to tail, and are the largest tree squirrel to be found in our Michigan neighborhood. Their color can vary, but they are generally cinnamon colored with a tan underside.

2. Gray Squirrel (Scierus carolinensis)
This large tree squirrel measuring 16-20 inches is slightly smaller than the Fox Squirrel. Color varies but they are generally black in the East Lansing area. It spends most of its life in the trees of suburban yards and parks.
3. Red Squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
Known to many Michigan tree-stand hunters as the "Tattle-tail of the Forest", this small tree squirrel is easily identified by to its small size of 12-15 inches from nose to tail, making them slightly larger than a chipmunk. Their size might make you think that they are a juvenile fox squirrel, but this is not the case. Their color is a solid reddish brown with a whitish underbelly.

4. Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus)5. Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans)
The flying squirrel is rarely seen due to their nocturnal habits. Northern (7-9”) and Southern (5-7”) Flying Squirrels appear nearly identical but for their size and range. This species can be identified by its flattened tail and the excess web of skin that is between its front and rear legs. These squirrels don’t actually fly but glide from the top on one tree to the trunk of the next.
6. Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)
Found throughout Michigan, this small (6-8in) ground squirrel is reddish brown with a white racing stripe bordered by two black stripes down its side. Its loud “chip, chip, chip” can be heard as it forages for seeds, insects, fruit and nuts. During the winter it is a light hibernator that wakes every 2-3 weeks and eats from its stash stored in its elaborate tunnels system underground.
7. Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus)
Similar in size (6-8”) and look to an Eastern Chipmunk but has smaller ears and 13 alternating tan and dark brown stripes from nape to base of the tail. It’s also called a Federation Squirrel because the dark stripes have tan spots that resemble stars and stripes of a flag. It is a true hibernator from September to October. They like to live in pastures, meadows, prairies, and fields.

8. Woodchuck (Marmota monax)
The name Woodchuck is said to come from the Cree Indian word wuchak which means little brown animal. Common in fields, pastures, and woodlands, the woodchuck (18-28”) is the largest member of the squirrel family. The woodchuck does not like wood but eats leafy green vegetation and especially likes dandelions. It also burrows like the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel and is a true hibernator.

Mammals of Michigan Field Guide
by Stan Tekiela

Monday, February 16, 2009

Introduction of the black squirrel

Michigan State University's park-like campus of 5,000 acres is an excellent habitat for squirrels.

The black squirrel, which is actually a color variation of the common gray squirrel, is found all over campus, and may cause double-takes from visitors who aren't used to seeing them. However, few people know the true story of how such a large population of black squirrels came to live in East Lansing.

Joe Johnson, chief wildlife biologist at MSU's Kellogg Biological Station, admits to having transferred some of the critters. He caught 20 black squirrels and relocated them onto campus in the early 1960s at the request of MSU President John A. Hannah.

"President Hannah said that he wanted two things," Johnson said. "He wanted Canadian geese on the Red Cedar River and black squirrels on campus. I guess he thought the squirrels were really unique." The black squirrel is actually native to Michigan, but was almost wiped out when they were over hunted.

"Gray squirrels are a unique beauty that can live with us because they are very adaptable animals," Johnson said, explaining how the tree dwellers were able to flourish in East Lansing and beyond. Their color varies from gray with a reddish cast to their coat, to dark brown, to black, or any combination of the above.

The black-coated squirrels occur more in the northern US and Canada. Studies have shown that black squirrels have 18% lower heat loss than light colored gray squirrels allowing them to withstand harsh winters.

Sources: The State News FACT or FICTION? by Amy Davis
and University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl Megascops asio
Order: STRIGIFORMES Family: True Owls (Strigidae)

The Eastern Screech Owl has two color morphs (variations in color), reddish and gray. The gray individuals are more common in Michigan because they are better at withstanding our cold winters. The breast and belly are heavily streaked and spotted with black. Males and females look alike. They are approximately eight inches tall and weigh about 6 ounces. They have yellow eyes and ear tufts. The Eastern Screech Owls have a pale bill and make a “horselike” whinny vocalization that rises and falls.

Screech Owls are nocturnal and rarely seen hunting or feeding. Their diet is the most varied of any North American owl species, and is region-specific. They feed on insects, crayfish, earthworms, and all classes of vertebrates, including songbirds, fish, amphibians, and small mammals such as squirrels, shrews, rabbits, bats, and rodents. The owls swoop down from their perch to capture their prey. Screech Owls cache uneaten prey items in cavities.

Screech Owls do not migrate. They maintain home ranges throughout the winter. Pairs occasionally roost together during the winter in hollow trees, nest boxes, and trees with dense foliage.

All owls have exceptional hearing. They have ears right behind their face that are lopsided. This allows for exceptional depth perception and can help them locate prey items without using their eyes.

They regurgitate pellets which consist of bones and fur from prey items. They do this with the parts of food that would take a long time to digest. This helps them save energy.

A group of owls has many collective nouns, including a "bazaar", "glaring", "parliament", "stooping", and "wisdom" of owls.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Great Backyard Birdcount

Be a Citizen-Scientist for 4 days, Feb 13-16
Your Backyard Counts

When you feed the birds in your backyard, it shows that you value having a daily relationship with nature and that you are willing to take action to foster it.

Your backyard and your hobby truly count as things that are important to you. This month you have the opportunity to make them "count" even more by participating in the Twelfth Annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) which links citizens with scientists in an effort to collect important data about backyard birds.

The GBBC is a joint project of Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society and is sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited®.

It takes place February 13-16. Count the birds in your backyard, and then simply report the information online at www.birdsource.org/gbbc. If you don't have access to the web, we will submit the data for you in the store.

The extensive information data base developed over the past 12 years is analyzed by scientists to better understand important trends in deep winter bird populations, range expansions, habitat changes and shifts in migration patterns.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cardinals bathing

"Birdwatching is a sanctioned voyeurism."

Jonathan Rosen
~ The Life of the Skies

Thursday, February 12, 2009

WBU Fly-thru Ground Feeder

Attract a variety of birds with an WBU Recycled Covered Ground Feeder. The roof protects the birds and food from the elements. The perforated metal bottom keeps the seed dry and lifts out for easy cleaning.

Recycled feeders are good for the birds, good for the environment and good for you. Made from recycled milk jugs, these feeders are environmentally friendly, high quality products that are made in the USA and have a lifetime guarantee.

Cardinals like to feed on the ground and this feeder is a cleaner way to let the birds feed naturally.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What do Opossums eat?

The Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana)
What do opossums eat?
Opossums are not picky eaters. Their normal diet consists of carrion, rodents, insects, frogs, and plants including fruits and grains. They do seem to have a particular fondness for cat food, however, especially the tinned varieties.

How big can an opossum get?Most are about the size of a large house cat, from 15 to 20 inches long. They generally weigh 10 to 13 pounds.

Are opossums dangerous to pets?
Opossums will sometimes eat small critters such as mice, reptiles, amphibians. They will leave larger animals alone and, in fact, are more likely to be harmed by a dog or full-grown cat than they are to inflict injury on them. They will rarely fight, despite putting up a fearsome display if threatened, and most likely will simply attempt to flee or play dead. The only animals that should avoid exposure to opossums are horses. Strange as that may sound, if these animals ingest opossum feces they are at high risk of contracting a deadly disease known as

Opossums are nocturnal, but I saw one out during daylight. Is this normal?Opossums are generally nocturnal, foraging throughout the night. But in the winter months many opossums change their foraging habits from night to day in order to try to take advantage of the warmer weather during sunlight hours.

Do opossums carry rabies?Unlike most wild animals, opossums are highly resistant to rabies.

What kinds of noises does an opossum make?Opossums are very quiet creatures. When threatened they often will hiss, like a cat, and can make a low growling sound.

How many babies does an opossum have in each litter?Opposums are marsuipial so mothers carry their young in pouches on their bellies after a 13 day pregnancy. At birth, newborn opossums are so tiny that an entire litter, consisting of 6 to 9 babies, can fit into a single teaspoon. They are so undeveloped that it's impossible for them to survive outside the mother's pouch.

How do I get rid of a bothersome opossum?It is generally not necessary because opossums are transient animal with a territory ranging from 10 to 50 acres. They usually stay in a particular area only a few days at a time and then move on. The best way to avoid being “bothered” by an opossum is simply to make sure no food is available to them. Don’t leave out pet food or table scraps and make sure your trash cans are fully closed. With no food available in your yard, they will simply go search elsewhere.

Do opossums hibernate during winter?
Opossums do not hibernate. Their greatest challenge during winter, especially in colder climates, is simply to survive. It is not uncommon for opossums in northern regions to suffer frostbite during extremely cold periods. Their tails are particularly susceptible to frostbite as they have no fur covering to protect them.

These questions were answered by http://opossum.craton.net/

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Question of the week: Why is the cardinal attacking my window?

Cardinals and Windows

Cardinals are highly territorial of an area they have chosen for nesting. Males vigorously defend their territory from other male cardinals and will even attack their own reflection in a window or car mirror. Even females will attack windows, which can be quite distressing to people living inside the house.

If the attack on windows is a regular occurrence and not just an accidental window strike, the likely behavior is a reaction to the bird seeing an intruder on its territory. The problem most frequently occurs during the breeding season.

Both Robins and Cardinals are well known for this type of behavior but it can occur with just about any other bird. A simple solution to this problem is to cover the window with screens or rub the window with a bar of soap to decrease the reflection. Wild Birds Unlimited also sells a 48 inch by 6 inch static-cling decal called Cardinal Alert which is made to be placed across a window just above the lower edge.

To increase success, interrupt the bird’s bad behavior by going outside when the bird first attacks or even going so far as to spray it with a hose. The objective here is to shock the bird out of its pattern of territoriality. Hopefully these suggestions will be enough to stop the attacks.

Monday, February 9, 2009

From our Wild Birds Unlimited sister store in Pleasant Hills, CA

Acorn Woodpecker Situation

Rossmoor has temporarily put on hold killing up to 50 Acorn Woodpeckers at Rossmoor while the Fish and Wildlife Service studies the situation.

It is vitally important that we continue to make our opinions heard. PLEASE continue (please resend if you did so previously) sending emails to: Marie_strassburger@fws.gov and vanessa_loverti@fws.gov

Congresswoman Tauscher's office called and requested that you input your comments to http://www.tauscher.house.gov/ click on "Contact Me" in the upper right portion of the page.

You can also sign a petition on Audubon Website

Wildlife Rehabilitation

Hi, I have an american goldfinch,which was blown out of a tree new years eve during a wind storm. He could not fly. I believe he was just bruised as he showed no signs of injury.

I have had him inside since then as I was afraid a cat would get him. He now seems fine and I am afraid if I try to keep him it will be to his demise. He is however eating well and drinking also bathing and I believe he tries to communicate with my zebra finches and parakeets.

Now that he has acclimated to the inside is it too cold to release him or shall I keep him in until spring or should I let him go at all.
Please Help.
Thank You, Diane

Dear Diane,
You need to talk to a licensed rehabilitator in your state. I talked about it on my blog at http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/.

To find a rehabilitator call the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in your state. If you find an injured or orphaned wild animal you can also call a local veterinarian or a local Wild Birds Unlimited store for contact numbers immediately.
I know your heart is in the right place, but I'm afraid 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.
Good luck! I hope everything turns out OK.
Wild Birds Unlimited, East Lansing, MI

Northern Cardinal

- During the breeding season, male Cardinals may sing 200 or more songs per hour in the early morning hours. Mated pairs will often sing duets together.

- The Northern Cardinal is actually one of seven species in the world with the name Cardinal. Although it is a bird that historically called the Southern U.S. its home, the modifier Northern is appropriate because all of the other six species are located in South America.

- The Cardinal name was derived from the Cardinals (the rank above Bishop) of the Roman Catholic Church who wear red robes and hats.

- Young Northern Cardinals have black bills rather than the orange-red of the adults. It gradually changes to the adult color three to four months after hatching.

- The red color of the Cardinal’s feathers is the result of pigments called carotenoids. The amount of the pigment ingested, and then deposited in the feathers as they molt, influences the quality and depth of their coloration.

- Because Cardinals are mainly ground feeders, deep snow may severely affect their ability to feed. Winter-feeding probably helps Cardinals in their northern range to survive deep snow conditions.

- While birdfeeding may have played a small role in the northward expansion of the Cardinal’s range during the past 60 years, the steady increase in global temperatures during the last half of the 20th century is probably a more important factor. Studies show that the northern edge of the Cardinal’s range is limited to areas with an average January temperature of at least 5 degrees Fahrenheit. As this temperature gradient has moved north, so have the Cardinals.

- Another important factor in the Cardinal’s northward expansion is the change in land-use practices in the Northeast. The loss of the dense forest to agriculture and suburban uses has greatly expanded the amount of suitable habitat for Cardinals.

- The ability for Cardinals to digest food varies with the temperature; studies have shown that digestion efficiency rates are 16% higher at 77 degrees than at 32 degrees. This suggests that Cardinals must consume substantially more food during cold weather, especially when it’s below freezing.

- The size of the Cardinal’s breeding territory varies with habitat quality and population density, but generally ranges from two to ten acres.

- The oldest recaptured banded Northern Cardinal was still alive at 15 years and 9 months old.

- The Northern Cardinal is the state bird of seven states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
Order: PASSERIFORMES...Family: Cardinals and Grosbeaks (Cardinalidae)

Northern cardinals are medium-sized songbirds (8-9 in). The adult male is bright red with a black face and red bill. The adult female is buff-brown with a red tinge to the crest, wings and tail. Like the male, the face is black and the bill orange.

Backyard bird enthusiasts almost always want to attract the bright red Northern Cardinal. To landscape for cardinals plant evergreens, berry bushes, and fruit trees as part of the habitat. Cardinals nest from 4 to 8 feet off the ground in evergreens and dense shrubs and use fruit trees to provide food and shelter.

The cardinal has expanded its range greatly since the days of John James Audubon. Originally a southern bird, the Northern Cardinal began expanding its range into northern states around the 1900’s. During the early days of this expansion they would migrate back south during the winter. But in time they became a year round resident in Michigan and winter is a great time to watch cardinals.

Cardinals will eat beetles, cicadas, grasshoppers, and snails, but prefer wild fruit and berries, sunflower seeds, safflower, and nuts. They will feed on the ground or perch at hopper feeders, platform or tray feeders, and some tube feeders. Cardinals are often the first to visit a feeder in the morning and the last to stop by and grab a bite at night. In winter cardinals generally flock together but by spring they pair up for nesting season. They are famous for their display of courtship feeding. The male picks up a bit of food and takes it over and places it on the female’s bill. Also as spring approaches you may hear the male sing several different songs to attract a mate and establish and defend his territory.

The facinating video above shows a female cardinal incubating at the nest, the male singing nearby, and the female responding. It was taken by Josep del Hoyo and sent to the Internet Bird Collection (IBC) website: http://ibc.lynxeds.com/species/northern-cardinal-cardinalis-cardinalis

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Make an owl valentine

Assembly: Glue a large heart to the square of construction paper for the body and the folded heart for the head. Draw on eyes. Glue on the feet and beak. Leave room to sign the bottom of your valentine, unless you prefer to sign the back. Some Valentine sayings could be "Owl always be yours." or "Whooo will be my Valentine."  
Supplies: two colors of construction paper, scissors and glue.
Prep: Cut 2 large hearts from construction paper for the background. To make the head, simple fold one large heart in half. Cut out three smaller hearts for the feet and beak.

Tootsie Pop Valentine:
Supplies: Construction paper, Tootsie pops, and markers.
Prep: Cut out hearts or flower shapes. Draw on bugs or butterflies on the shapes.
Assembly: Push Tootsie Pop through the center of the shape to create the middle of the flower Valentine.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Black-capped Chickadee

"More and more I realize that to be bored with birds is to be bored with life."
-Jonathan Rosen Life of the Skies

Thursday, February 5, 2009

From our Wild Birds Unlimited sister store in So. Yarmouth, MA

Quality isn’t the best but it is a shot of bluebirds on my WBU Dinner Bell and my WBU heated birdbath. Feel free to use.Tom Thompson
1198 Main Street (Rte.28)
South Yarmouth, MA 02664 Phone: (508) 760-1996

Product Highlight: WBU Classic Wooden Hopper

The Classic Hopper
Two perches
Capacity: 3 qts

Since its conception more than 17 years ago, the unique design of our WBU Classic hopper feeder has been the standard for all of our wooden feeders. Its curved design gives you a better view of visiting birds.

Other features include:
Easy to fill-lift the roof and pour the seed.

Flexible-Hang or mount on a pole.

Removable seed tray-allows for easy cleaning and dry seed

Durable-Made of inland red cedar

Popular-most seed eating birds are comfortable at this feeder.

9½" x 11¾" x 13¼"

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ranchette Retreat Hopper feeder

"If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there I never really lost it to begin with." ~Dorothy, in the Wizard of OZ

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Northern Cardinal

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes." ~Marcel Proust

Monday, February 2, 2009

Origin of Groundhog Day

On February 2, 1887, Groundhog Day, was celebrated for the first time at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. According to tradition, if a groundhog comes out of its hole on this day and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather and if he doesn't see his shadow there will be an early spring.

Groundhog Day has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas Day in Europe, when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. There is an old European supposition that a sunny Candlemas day would lead the winter to last for another six weeks. Germans added to the tradition by passing along the lore that a hedgehog frightened by his shadow on Candlemas would foretell how much longer winter would last. Once German settlers came to Pennsylvania, the tradition was altered from hedgehogs to groundhogs, which were plentiful in the State.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Coopers's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii
Order: FALCONIFORMES Family: Kites, Eagles and Hawks (Accipitridae)

A medium sized hawk with short wings (2.5 foot wingspan) and long rounded tail with several black bands. It has rusty horizontal bars on the belly and a slate blue gray back. The female (17-20 inches) is larger than the male (15-17inches). Nestlings have gray eyes that become yellow at one year of age and dark red later.

Cooper's hawks are predators primarily of birds and small mammals. When hunting, Cooper's hawks usually perch in a hidden location during the day and watch for prey. They wait until their prey is unaware of their presence, then quickly swoop down and seize it. Mourning Doves, starlings, chipmunks, and squirrels are common prey for Cooper's hawks. Their short, rounded wings make them very maneuverable flyers in dense, forests and even follow prey up evergreens. These hawks also pursue prey on the ground, half running and half flying.

The Cooper’s Hawk was first described in 1828 by Charles Bonaparte, a French naturalist and ornithologist who was the nephew of Napoleon. It was named after William Cooper, who collected the first specimen. A group of hawks is called a "boil", "knot", "spiraling", "stream", and "tower" of hawks.