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.

Monday, November 30, 2009

What Do Titmice Eat?

Most titmice eat insects, spiders, snails, various berries, acorns, and seeds. There are five species of titmice in North America: Black-crested Titmouse, Juniper Titmouse, Oak Titmouse, Bridled Titmouse, and Tufted Titmouse. The most widely distributed and only titmouse in mid-Michigan is the Tufted Titmouse. Found foraging in trees, often with flocks of chickadees, most Tufted Titmice live their entire life within a few miles of their birthplace.

Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolor
Both males and females have white undersides, gray backs, rusty-brown sides, pointed crests on their heads, and large dark eyes. The Tufted Titmouse is very appealing visitor to the feeder. They are attracted mainly to feeders that offer nuts or sunflower seeds. They are active birds often seen flitting about in trees and hanging upside down while searching beneath twigs for insects. They are active during the daytime and do not migrate extensively, remaining in residence throughout the winter.

They are fairly confident birds and can be trained to come at the sound of human voices and take food from their hands, though not as easily as their cousins, the black-capped chickadees. Males are dominant over females and they form pairs that last until death.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Do You Sell Canaries?

I want to buy my girlfriend a Canary or an Owl for Christmas. Do you have any in stock?

No, Wild Birds Unlimited doesn't sell any birds. But we do sell the best bird feeders and the best bird food in mid-Michigan. If you come in we can help you set up the best outdoor bird feeding station to attract a wide variety of birds to your yard. We also have bird houses for owls and other cavity nesting birds.

The 2009 Fall & Winter Hobby Guide provides expert advice on how to better enjoy wild birds this fall and winter right outside your window. Come in today to pick up your free guide or click here to see an online version.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Can birds predict the weather?

Most birds have a special middle-ear receptor called the Vitali organ, which can sense incredibly small changes in barometric pressure. So if the activity at feeders suddenly becomes much more intense a storm may be approaching. Birds flying low or lining up on power lines also indicate swiftly falling air pressure.

During storms, birds may think of your feeder as a known source of food. While not dependent on feeders, it may make it easier for wild birds to brave a storm.

Even so winter storms can be hard on small birds like chickadees. In severe weather chickadees fly as little as possible to reduce the amount of heat lost though flight. It also helps if there are patches of dense vegetation or roosting boxes that give protection from the wind.

Friday, November 27, 2009

What is the best bird feeder?

I want to buy the best birdfeeder as a gift. What do you suggest?
There are a lot of feeders to choose from. With over 25 years of research and experience, Wild Birds Unlimited® is proud to offer you the highest-quality birdfeeders and birdfeeding equipment on the market today.
  1. Any feeder you choose should be easy to fill and easy to clean.
  2. Look for quality. Most Wild Birds Unlimited feeders come with a Lifetime Warranty.
  3. Determine what birds you want to attract. There are certain feeders that are made for specific birds (i.e. finch feeder, hummingbird feeder).
  4. Decide where you are going to put the feeder. Is it going to hang in a tree, on an Advanced Pole System, on a window, or off a deck? The best place to put a feeder is where you can view it easily.
Some of our most popular, easy to fill and easy to clean, backed with a lifetime guarantee feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI and why:
  1. Squirrel Buster PLUS™: This is our best selling feeder. It has a large capacity and is easy to maintain. Built-to-Last Construction. Most birds are attracted to it including the cardinals. Oh and it’s SQUIRREL PROOF! Oh yes it is!
  2. WBU Recycled Hopper: Made from recycled milk jugs, these feeders are 100 times more popular than the old wooden box feeders. They look good, last forever, and all seed eating birds can use it comfortably. It’s easy to fill, it has a removable seed tray to allow for easy cleaning and dry seed, and it can be hung or pole mounted. Made in the U.S.A.
  3. WBU Dinner Bell: Fill this versatile bird feeder with seed, mealworms, or a seed cylinder and see how many different birds you can attract. The dome provides protection from bad weather. It can also be hung or pole mounted using the WBU pole adaptor. Made in the U.S.A.
  4. WBU Mesh Finch Feeder: The mesh tube not only lets finches land and feed in whatever position they choose, but it also allows air circulation to keep your Nyjer Thistle as dry and fresh as possible, something that's very important to our picky eaters.This feeder may be hung or pole mounted using the WBU pole adaptor. Made in the U.S.A.
  5. WBU Recycled Plastic Tail Prop Suet Feeder: Common birds that eat suet are downy, hairy, red-bellied, chickadees, and nuthatches. The paddle simulates a tree trunk and offers birds a place to prop their tail while they feed. It won't rot, crack, fade, or warp like wood can and are easy to fill and clean. Made in the U.S.A.
  6. WBU Hummingbird Feeder: This specially designed feeder has a red cover that is highly attractive to hummingbirds, a built-in ant moat that keeps bugs out, and feeding ports that prevent rain water from diluting the nectar solution. Bees aren’t attracted to the saucer style feeder. It may be hung or pole mounted using the WBU pole adaptor. Made in the U.S.A. This feeder is only up from April to October in mid-Michigan. Ruby-throated hummingbirds
fly south for the winter.
These are just some of the best feeders to start the hobby of backyard bird feeding. I didn’t even get to the Oriole feeders, window feeders, tray feeders, ground feeders, or other specialty feeders. But don’t be overwhelmed. Wild Birds Unlimited doesn’t just sell bird feeders and bird food. We also give you accurate information about our local birds. It is our goal for you to have the best possible experience from your bird feeding hobby. Backyard bird feeding is the most relaxing, fulfilling, educational and exciting hobby that anyone can enjoy.

At Wild Birds Unlimited, we are Your Backyard Bird feeding Specialist®, here to help bring you, and nature together. Come in and we'll help you decorate your yard with birds this winter!

Well, Well Hello, Dolly!

Well, Hello, Dolly,

It's so nice to have you here where you belong.

You're looking swell, Dolly,
We can tell, Dolly,
You are glowin', you are crowin'
You are growin' strong.
Well Hello Dolly!
Well hello, hey look there's Dolly!

Dolly will never go away. Dolly will never go away.
Dolly is goin' to stay and play, Hurray!
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Click HERE to read about the American Bird Conservacy Campaign for Safer Birds and Cats.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dinner Bell for the Birds

video

Happy Thanksgiving!
Invite birds to a delicious meal with the Wild BirdsUnlimited Dinner Bell. Fill this versatile feeder with our Peanut Harvest Blend, some Suet Snacks, seed cylinders or mealworms and see how many different birds you can attract. The Dinner Bell's dome raises and lowers, allowing you to feed only the birds you want. The dome also provides birds and food protection from nasty weather. It's easy to fill and clean and comes with a lifetime guarantee.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Wild Birds Unlimited Corporate Plane

Operation Migration, the lead organization helping to reintroduce endangered Whooping Cranes into eastern North America, has begun its 9th season of migration flights from Wisconsin to Florida. The Whooping Crane Grus americana is the tallest flying bird in North America, with a height of up to 5 feet and a wingspan as wide as 8 feet.

In the 1940s the species was reduced to just 15 birds. There are now 77 migratory Whooping cranes in eastern North America, including the first chick to hatch in the wild in Wisconsin in more than a century. The Class of 2009 is made up of 21 young Whooping Cranes.

Migration is the seasonal movement of birds, generally between breeding and non-breeding areas. However the exact techniques migrating birds use to find their way across thousands of miles varies. Certain types of birds have strong migratory instincts, while others (including geese, ducks, and cranes) must be taught the way to and from their winter homes.

After several years of careful breeding and release, a non-migratory flock of cranes was established in Florida. However, to re-introduce a migratory flock (a group of whooping cranes that spent their summers in Wisconsin and their winters in Florida) the birds would have to be taught the migratory route south.

In Operation Migration, Whooping Cranes are reared by “invisible” people dressed in baggy outfits with a crane puppet attached and played lullabies of the ultra light plane engine. That way the birds don’t imprint on humans and aren’t afraid to follow the ultra light aircraft on their first migration from Wisconsin to Florida. The birds learn the migratory route and then return, on their own, the following spring. This successful method of re-establishing migration routes was pioneered by Bill Lishman and Joe Duff.

You've helped too. With every purchase you made at our store, a portion went to Wild Birds Unlimited Pathways to Nature® Conservation Fund which helped pay for the ultra light aircraft, education materials, the enclosures where the Whooping Cranes live and a viewing blind that is used by project staff to monitor the young birds.


Follow the Whoopers
Click here to read the Operation Migration Field Journal.

Give them Your Support
Become a MileMaker sponsor and help Operation Migration get the 2009 generation of endangered Whooping Cranes chicks to Florida! Click here to learn how you can help.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why Don't Power Lines Electrocute Starlings?

When I stop at red lights I watch all the starlings balancing on the telephone wires. Why don't these birds get shocked when they sit on high voltage lines?

When birds are only in contact with one power line, they are not forming a complete circuit, so the electricity does not flow through them. Unfortunately, some larger birds, like hawks and eagles, have been electrocuted when they stretch their wings into another power line, completing the circuit.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Why is a Turkey Is Called a Turkey?

As we approach Thanksgiving (aka Turkey Day), you might be wondering why turkeys are called turkeys. There's a lot of confusion, but this all-American bird is not from the country of Turkey. The birds weren't known outside the Americas until Spanish explorers brought some from the New World to Spain in the early 1500s.

There are a few explanations on how Turkeys were named. In the days when geography was a little sketchy, Europeans sometimes referred to any exotic import as Turkey (i.e. Turkey Bird, Turkey rug, Turkey bag).

Another story is that Europeans already ate guinea fowl they imported to Europe by Turkish merchants. So when the first American settlers were presented with a similar large bird for Thanksgiving it was giving the generic name Turkey. Others say that the name turkey came from Native Americans who called the birds firkee, which sounds like turkey, and is the sound turkeys make when they are afraid --"turk, turk, turk."

Or, people may have thought turkeys, peacocks, and guinea fowl were all alike. A Latin and Greek translation of the bird's scientific name, Meleagris gallopavo, means “guinea fowl chicken peacock.”

While Turkey is the accepted name for this native American bird in the United States, now that I’ve researched a little of their history I can’t help but think The American Ornithological Union (AOU) should give them a real name. These poor birds have been a walking drumstick since the first humans laid eyes on them.

This Thanksgiving, my family and I will be dining on the lesser known Tofurky. (Keep your jokes to yourself. We had it last Thanksgiving and it was wonderful!) So what is the origin of the name Tofurky (Tofu Turkey)? The English word "tofu" comes from the Japanese tōfu (豆腐), which itself derives from the Chinese dòufu (豆腐 or 荳腐). Although in both languages the characters together translate as "bean curd," the literal meaning of the individual characters is "bean" (豆) and "curdled" (腐). Yum!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What do Turkeys Eat?

This may be a funny question to ask around Thanksgiving but, we have a Wild Turkey visiting our bird feeder and I’d like to feed her. She’s interesting to watch. What do they prefer to eat?

Turkeys are fun to observe! Wild turkeys like open areas for feeding, mating and habitat. They use forested areas as cover from predators and for roosting in trees at night. A varied habitat of both open and covered area is essential for wild turkey survival. If you live in a suitable area you may find turkeys frequenting your bird feeders in the early morning and late afternoon.

Wild Turkeys are omnivorous, foraging for nuts as well as various seeds, berries, roots, grasses and insects. Turkeys also occasionally consume amphibians and small reptiles like snakes. If you want to feed Wild Turkeys, I would recommend our Wild Birds Unlimited Wildlife Blend. It’s a nice mixture of peanuts, sunflower seed and corn. Our Choice Harvest Blend also has enough tree nuts, sunflower seeds, dried cherries, and suet nuggets to satisfy any turkey as well as a wide variety of other birds.

Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo

The birds have a naked blue/red head, dark glossy, iridescent body feathers, and a barred copper colored tail. The males are brighter than the females and have a central breast tassel and red wattles on the face and neck. The adult males, known as toms or gobblers, normally weigh between 16 and 24 pounds while the females, known as hens, usually weigh between 8 and 10 pounds.

Once common throughout Michigan, the turkey population is starting to recover from overhunting and loss of habitat in the 20th century. A group of turkeys has many collective nouns, including a "crop", "dole", "gang", "posse", and "raffle" of turkeys.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Have you seen any new birds?

All birds fascinate me and sometimes my mind doesn’t mark the significance of a particular species.

“Bird!”

That’s the first thing out of my mouth when I get a chance to sit down and watch my feeders. I know the bird feeder is there to attract birds and I probably know the bird’s name but all I really care about is “bird!” with a slight chance of “ooh BIG bird” or “aah little bird.”

My mind goes blank every time someone visits me at the Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing store and asks me if I’ve seen any new birds. So I thought I’d take a minute to organize a better answer than “I’m sure I have.”
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Over the last two months, I have seen a superabundance of birds in the mid-Michigan area. Some of the hummingbirds, orioles, grosbeaks, buntings, and wrens have already moved down south. Lots of people reported to me that these birds left a little later than usual. This was probably because we had such a cold spring, and they started nesting a little later than usual.

I’ve seen sprinkles of warblers and thrushes, and I’ve also enjoyed watching the deluge of sparrows including Song Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, and White-throated Sparrows as they passed through my yard. For some reason this year I missed the White-crowned Sparrows.

A few of the new arrivals you can watch for include the Dark-eyed Juncos, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Cedar Waxwings. Last year we had huge irruptions of Pine Siskins, but according to Ron Pittaway's Winter Finch Forecast 2009-2010 there will be no major influx of finches for mid-Michigan because of the healthy cone crops in Canada this winter. I’m happy they’ll have a lot of food but I’ll miss seeing the flurry of activity their added numbers created at the feeder.

So far it's been a fairly mild fall, but I have been noticing an increase in activity as the days get shorter and the nights get longer and cooler. I have been impressed with the numbers of woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches and hawks that have visited more frequently along with my usual feeder friends the cardinals, sparrows, finches, jays, and doves.

I probably look out the window hundreds of times a day and see a different picture every time. You can learn a lot by observing the behavior of wild birds and you can also bird watch to gain a genuine sense of happiness and inner peace as I do.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Making the Most of the Day

It's getting dark so early now I feel like the days are flying. I'm trying to squeeze as much as I can into every day but there never seems to be enough time. I've spent the whole week rushing around decorating the store, unloading new items, and assembling a variety of feeders. So today I'm going to take a minute to remind myself to slow down and enjoy the day!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What was that neat feeder in the previous post?

360 Degrees of Pure MmmmmmThe peanut wreath is our number one selling pre-wrapped feeder for the holidays. It not only makes a unique host/hostess gift, the birds love it too. Hang it in your favorite tree and watch peanut loving birds, like chickadees and woodpeckers, fly in for a meal. It's durable, yet it remains flexible so birds can pull out the whole peanuts. Multiple size openings make it possible for a variety of birds to feed. This versatile bird feeder is also great for offering fruit, corn on the cob, or nesting material.

Providing peanuts is a great addition to the choices you offer your backyard birds. Peanuts are a high-energy food and are enjoyed by a wide variety of birds such as cardinals, woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, jays and more.

I usually fill this feeder while I can sit down and watch because once the birds discover the nuts, there is a flurry of activity until it’s empty.

For a limited time we also offer seed wreaths, seed angels, seed pinecones, seed snowmen, gourmet birdseed samplers, and much more at the Wild Birds Unlimited stores in East Lansing, MI. Come on in today to see what's new!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is that woodpecker sleeping on 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 the downy saw a hawk it may have decided to remain completely still instead of taking its chances by flying away from a predator.

Yesterday I spotted a Cooper's Hawk as it swooped down and perched on a high tree branch. Birds scattered everywhere except for one Downy Woodpecker that froze in position against the feeder. I was amazed at how long this woodpecker remained completely still. When the hawk flew to another tree, the downy quickly shifted positions to the other side of the feeder. After about ten minutes the hawk flew away and the downy became animated again, the winner of a life or death game of hide and seek.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Incredible up-close experience with a huge seal in Antarctica

National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen describes coming face-to-face with deadly leopard seal only to have it take care of him.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Is Wild Birds Unlimited a Franchise?

In 1981, Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) began as a single store owned by Jim Carpenter in Indianapolis, Indiana. By 1982, the first franchise store was opened in Michigan. Other stores soon followed and today there are over 270 stores across the U.S. and Canada. They are all individually owned and operated but gift cards can be purchased and used at any WBU store. We own the East Lansing, Michigan store and work very hard to find lots of products made locally.

By providing unique products, services, expertise and atmosphere, our stores not only offer an inspiring one-of-a-kind shopping experience; we also provide quality information, excellent customer service, specially developed feeders and custom seed blends.

Together Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) stores feel it’s important that "we bring people and nature together®." With every purchase you make, WBU stores donate a portion of the proceeds to support education, conservation and wildlife viewing projects at wildlife refuges, parks, sanctuaries and nature conservancies throughout North America. Click HERE to see a list of partners that help us supporting birds and nature.

To find a store near you go to http://maps.wbu.com/. Or if you live in mid-Michigan visit us at the location listed below:

Wild Birds Unlimited
2200 Coolidge Rd. Ste.17
East Lansing, MI 48823ph.
(517) 337-9920

email: bloubird@gmail.com
web: http://lansing.wbu.com/
blog: http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/birdsunlimited
Facebook: Wild Birds Unlimited Mid-Michigan http://tiny.cc/QmIv5

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What is the largest owl in Michigan?

The largest owl in North America is the Great Gray Owl Strix nebuloa which can measure in length from 24-33 inches. It has a very fluffy dark gray body interspersed with bars and flecks of brown, pale gray, and white. Its face is shaped like a satellite dish to detect and capture the quietest rodent scurrying on the forest floor.

They are known for having some of the greatest vertical asymmetry in ear location among owls, and the right ear is higher than the left. It lacks the ear tufts of the Great Horned owl but its facial discs funnel sound through triangulation, to pinpoint the precise location of its prey.

The Great Gray Owl was first described by Johann Reinhold Forster in 1772. It’s hard to spot and has also been called the Phantom of the north and Spectral Owl. Great Grays occasionally appear in northern Michigan, usually when small mammal populations in Canada have crashed.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Are there heated birdbaths that are solar?

Sorry there are no reliable heated solar birdbaths that work in mid-Michigan at this time. The solar baths on the market today will only operate during full, direct sunlight. I've test marketed these in the sunniest location I could find in Lansing only to discover Michigan doesn't have full sun days. I expect that in the next 5 years scientists will develop a panel that can harness the sun we do see occasionally in the winter and be able to store its energy so the bath can work even on cloudy days.

So what do you do in the mean time? Water is one of the most important necessities that birds need year-round. 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.
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One option Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) offers is the durable, heated plastic birdbath which provides a reliable source of water when natural sources are frozen, even to temp. below -20° F. Mount it easily to deck rails or place it in a birdbath holder to allow visitors to drink, bathe and keep their feathers clean all winter. 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.

Another option is to place a birdbath heater in the bath you already have. WBU offers two heaters that turn on and off as needed like the heated birdbath. Our heaters are designed to be placed in concrete, plastic, resin or stone bird baths.

Or there is the birdbath de-icer. Its affordable foil construction is ideal for shallow birdbaths and stays on all the time at a low wattage to keep a circle of melted water in your bath. The 3-prong cord is fully grounded and has a one year limited warranty.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New studies offer the first hard evidence that birds use feathers for audible communication

Have you ever noticed the sound doves’ wings make when they take off flying? Scientists recently discovered that the sounds are not just an accident. They recorded several wing whistles from normal take offs and from when they flew a hawk shape over a feeding station. The sound of the wing whistle of startled birds was louder and faster and actually alerted the surrounding birds there was trouble in the area.

Another recent study of a South American songbird reveals more non vocal communication. The Club-winged Manakin can vibrate its wings at twice the speed of a hummingbird to make its special club shaped wing feathers "sing" when rubbed against a neighboring, ridged feather during a mating ritual to attract females.

Sources:
Are mourning dove wing whistles alarm calls?

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09277/1002708-140.stm
Bird "Sings" Through Feathers

Read more: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/11/091111-birds-sing-feathers-wings.html
From Feathers, a Violin
Read more: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Publications/Birdscope/violin_feather.html

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Apple core! Say No More. Who's your friend?"

Backyard Beauty & Friends
I read that you were interested in pictures. Here are a few of our "resident" chipmunks eating their daily fare.
Regards, D.D.

Too cute! I'm glad to see you share your apple cores. Everyone is welcome to send any nature photos you want posted and let me know if you want credit or stay anonymous.
Thank you, bloubird@gmail.com
Wild Birds Unlimited 2200 Coolidge Rd. Ste.17 East Lansing, MI 48823

Veterans Days is another big thank you to our men and women in harm's way.

The day turned out pretty nice. I would like to say thank you to everyone that has served and still serves to protect the US and other counties that need a helping hand.

The eagle represents freedom. Living as he does on the tops of lofty mountains, amid the solitary grandeur of Nature, he has unlimited freedom, whether with strong pinions he sweeps into the valleys below, or upward into the boundless spaces beyond.

It is said the eagle was used as a national emblem because, at one of the first battles of the Revolution (which occurred early in the morning) the noise of the struggle awoke the sleeping eagles on the heights and they flew from their nests and circled about over the heads of the fighting men, all the while giving vent to their raucous cries. "They are shrieking for Freedom," said the patriots. Thus the eagle, full of the boundless spirit of freedom, living above the valleys, strong and powerful in his might, has become the national emblem of a country that offers freedom in word and thought and an opportunity for a full and free expansion into the boundless space of the future.
--Maude M. Grant

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Moth With Twelve Inch Tongue



What helps pollinate an orchid that hides its nectar at the bottom of a long narrow tube? Darwin was ridiculed when he predicted somewhere in Madagascar there was a moth with a proboscis long enough to reach the bottom of the 12 inch nectar spur. One hundred and fifty years later an infra red camera solves the mystery.
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I first saw this video posted on the informative website by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC). Bird of the Month: Ruby-throated hummingbird http://bit.ly/4rqowq

Monday, November 9, 2009

Facts every backyard birder wants know about Nuthatches

Red Breasted Nuthatch
  • The name Nuthatch probably results from the corruption of the word “nuthack” which refers to its’ habit of hacking away at a seed with its beak until it opens.
  • Nuthatches are probably one of the easiest backyard birds to identify. Known as the “upside down” bird, it is often observed creeping headfirst down tree trunks while searching cracks and crevices for insect food.
  • The Red-breasted Nuthatch has three toes that face forward, a greatly enlarged hind toe (the hallux) that faces backward, and a stubby tail. They are able to walk head first down the trunks of trees by moving only one foot at a time while the hallux toe on the other foot holds firmly to the bark. Because the toe provides secure footing it doesn’t need tail support, and its short tail allows more maneuvering.
  • They can roost with chickadees in the winter to increase their survival.
    Most nuthatches visit feeders in ones and twos. They feast on seeds and insects found in trees, and many times will hide seeds from feeders in tree bark for a snack later in the day or breakfast the next morning.
  • Red-breasted Nuthatches are pickier than White-breasted Nuthatches, and their diet is made up mainly of conifer seeds. During years when these seeds aren’t plentiful, Red-breasted Nuthatches will move south to mid-Michigan for the winter (or irrupt) in search of food.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Red-breasted or red-bellied? Who establishes bird names in the US?

I just saw a nuthatch and I have trouble remembering if it’s red-bellied or red breasted. Now that I think about it, maybe it’s a rose-breasted nuthatch. Can you clarify the name for me?

The American Ornithological Union (AOU) has long been the accepted authority for English bird names and scientific nomenclature. Founded in 1883, the AOU is the oldest organization in the New World devoted to the scientific study of birds. They establish an order and consistency across the continent which allows birders in different states to talk about a specific bird that may have several local names.

This is a very good thing to lessen confusion in bird discussions, but the official names chosen often seem a mystery to the average backyard birder. (Especially my mom who still insists the Red-bellied Woodpecker is misnamed.) However these decisions were probably made in the 1800’s and aren’t likely to be changed now. That doesn’t mean you still can’t call birds by any nickname you want when you talk about birds with friends or family.

So what is the official name of the species of bird you spotted?

Red-breasted Nuthatch Sitta canadensis
Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Nuthatches (Sittidae)

Description
Adult Red-breasted Nuthatches have gray backs with rust-colored breasts. They have black caps and white stripes above the eyes. Females are less colorful, with a more washed-out rust color on the belly. Some additional nicknames used for the Nuthatch you observed include Canada Nuthatch, Devil-down-head, and Topsy-turvy bird.

Behavior
As they move along the trunks and branches of trees, Red-breasted Nuthatches glean bugs such as beetles, pine woodborers, and spiders. In winter, they like the seeds of fir, pine, and spruce trees. They are also common visitors at peanut, sunflower, mealworms, and suet feeders.

Unlike other nuthatches, Red-breasted Nuthatches do not always remain on their territories year round. We usually only see them in the winter in mid-Michigan but some may stay up north throughout the winter, depending on the state of the cone crop.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Let's Play "Name That Bird"

Wild Birds Unlimited has a way to identify those feathered strangers you see from time to time. It's the online field guide that makes identifying unfamiliar birds easy. It's Whatbird.com!

You provide information about the unfamiliar bird you've seen by selecting from a menu of attributes such as color, wing shape and size; rightbird will do the rest.

You will instantly see illustrations of birds that match the attributes you've selected. The more characteristics you know, the narrower the search is for the right bird. And with whatbird's audible bird call samples, you can also hear the sounds made by your stranger.

At Wild Birds Unlimited, we're happy to take the mystery out of birdwatching. Visit Whatbird.com today.

Friday, November 6, 2009

You'll Never See, Until You Look.


Why is that elephant sitting on a nest? As far as I know, elephants are not known to be tree climbers so I'm guessing it's a photoshopped image. I don't have any information about the source of this image but I thought it was cute and it reminded me of one of my favorite books Horton Hatches the Egg.
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I have a view of the parking lot at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing. And besides watching the birds and squirrels, I watch people trudge back and forth to their cars. I say "trudge" because they seem to walk mainly with their head down looking at their feet. When I watch some of the regular employees at the other stores in our complex plod in to work I feel like running outside and telling them to look up or around. The natural world is a beautiful place full of miracles and you never know when you might see an elephant in a tree.
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Enjoy the day!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How do I winterize my bird feeding station? Part 2

Okay, now that you know what to feed your birds in mid-Michigan during the winter, what about your feeders. What do I put up and what do I take down?

If you haven't done it already, it's safe to take down all your hummingbird and oriole feeders. Clean them first before you store them away. I soak the feeders for about 5 minutes in a Scoot, active enzyme cleaner. You can also use a one part vinegar to nine parts water solution to clean all of your feeders. Rinse your feeders thoroughly and put them in a special place you'll remember next spring.

Tips on how to choose the best feeders for winter:
  1. Any feeder you choose should be easy to fill and easy to clean.
  2. Look for quality. Most Wild Birds Unlimited feeders come with a Lifetime Warranty.
  3. Determine what birds you want to attract. There are certain feeders that are made for specific birds (i.e. finch feeder).
  4. Decide where you are going to put the feeder. Is it going to hang in a tree, on an Advanced Pole System, on a window, or off a deck? The best place to put a feeder is where you can view it easily.
  5. Look for a feeder you don't have to fill every day. Large capacity feeders like the Quick Clean Big Tube, Squirrel Buster Plus, and the Ranchette Retreat Hopper will all stay filled for at least a week. And our most popular winter feeders are the ones that hold our seed cylinders. I used to call it the lazy man feeder until someone took offence. For people that aren't able to get out to fill feeders often during our harsh Michigan winters this feeder is ideal. Depending on bird activity in your yard, a 2lb cylinder can last up to a month and a 4.5lb cylinder can last up to 3 months. That's almost the whole winter and it attracts the best birds!

Tips on how to winterize feeders I already have:

  1. Weather Guards are designed to keep snow and rain from spoiling your seed in the tube. It's a clear plastic dome that slips on top of most tube feeders. It will not deter birds from feeding, in fact, many enjoy feeding under the shelter and out of the wet weather. It has a lifetime guarantee and is made in the USA.
  2. Trays not only catch seed falling from feeders but they also makes it more comfortable for ground feeding birds to eat at an elevated level where we can observe them. Attach a tidy tray to your seed tube or Catch-a-Seed trays with hopper bird feeders.
  3. Feeder Fresh can be added to the seed when you fill a feeder. It absorbs moisture and is safe for birds. Made from non-toxic absorbent sand, Feeder Fresh keeps the seed and feeder dry, preventing molds from forming, and thus reduces the chance of Aflatoxin and other mycotoxins.
Wild Birds Unlimited doesn’t just sell the best bird feeders and bird food. We also give you accurate information about our local birds. If you have specific questions, don't be afraid to ask. We are Your Backyard Bird feeding Specialist®, here to help bring you, and nature together.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How do I winterize my bird feeding station?

Is there different food I should be feeding in the winter?

I am asked this question a lot as cold weather approaches. The biggest no, no in feeding birds is offering seed blends with milo, oats, groats, or other filler seeds that birds won't eat. They are going to need a lot of energy to survive our cold winter and when they stop at your feeder it should be filled with food that will help sustain them through the night.
Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) sells the best and freshest seed year round formulated especially for the local mid-Michigan birds. It does not include cheap filler grains that decrease the price per pound of a blend of seeds but is left by our birds to rot on the ground. WBU blends actually end up costing less because there is no wasted seed and it attracts more of the birds that you want to watch.

What is the best food?
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 happily.
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What about suet?
If you have never fed Suet, you have missed some great neighbors. Common birds that eat suet are downy, hairy, red-bellied, and pileated woodpeckers. Chickadees, northern flickers, nuthatches, and starlings are also avid suet eaters. By adding Suet to your wild bird's menu, you will also attract wrens, blue jays, titmice, and the ever popular bluebird.

Not all suets are created equal. We wanted to find out what kind of suet birds visiting our feeders would prefer. So we put out different kinds of suet including a high-energy suet, peanut butter suet, fruit berry suet, and one from the grocery store across the street. We weighed the suet and placed an equal amount in each of the suet feeders. After one week, we weighed the suet to see how much was left over. We found that peanut butter was by far the most popular. We concluded that the birds visiting our feeders preferred the suet that was labeled at least 40% crude fat. The suet from the grocery store had a crude fat of 25% and was eventually eaten by a raccoon.

I hope this helps. Look for how weatherproof your feeders tomorrow in part 2 of "How do I winterize my bird feeding station?"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I'm working in a maze of boxes!

Who gets all their holiday shopping done before Thanksgiving? Apparently a lot of Wild Birds Unlimited customers. I've been swamped with people buying gifts today! It's Tuesday so our seed came in this morning too. I've been going back and forth between unloading seed and unboxing the truck loads of really neat stuff and helping customers.

For everyone looking for seed cylinders, the wait is over. I'm unpacking them right now along with our traditional seed wreaths. I also ordered seed angels and seed balls and seed pine cones and so much more. I'm slowly dismantling a maze of boxes created by the laughing FedEx and UPS drivers. The cats are doing everything to help. NOT! They think it's a new jungle gym and are dancing through the bubble wrap and empty boxes.

So if you're looking for gifts I'm sure we can help. More stuff arrives every day but people seem to be shopping early this year so come in quick if you want first choice of everything. Now back to work...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Why are “black” birds considered bad by most people?

Working at Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing I hear complaints all the time about “those horrible black birds.” Sometimes it frustrates me that all birds aren’t appreciated individually for their magnificence. It also made me wonder why birds with black plumage are the subject of so many unpleasant stories and superstitions all over the world. Why is their black color so associated with evil and ill omens?

I finally came to the conclusion that it’s because a lot of these black colored birds can out smart people. Crows, Grackles, and Starlings are very clever birds and tend to work together in family groups to get what they want. And what they want is generally a lot of food. Sometimes baby birds, or small rodents and sometimes birdseed we’ve delegated for the Cardinals only. They can empty a feeder in a day and a suet feeder in minutes. But that doesn’t mean they are any less deserving.

I wonder if they were brilliant red or indigo blue if they would be more loved or excused of their “bad habits.” Most of the black colored birds aren’t beautiful songster either but they can learn to imitate human speech. They scavenge and clean up many road kills or garbage littering the roads. In the fall you can watch them gather in large roosts. This sometimes includes millions of birds that blanket groups of trees or else they fly in intricate patterns across the sky.

Now that Halloween has passed lets look again at our black feathered friends and see if we can find something nice to say about the poor maligned black birds.