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, February 7, 2010

Round III of Who's That Bird

Thank you so much for your response and advice. If you have time, I could use your help again. I am attaching a couple of photos of birds I can’t identify. I’ve looked on the internet but not sure what these are.

I think the one I named “brownbird” may be a Carolina wren or a winter wren, but can’t tell for sure. I only have one of these who flits on and off the feeder pretty fast so it’s hard to catch a good shot of him/her. He has a long beak that points downward and his tail sticks up in the air when he’s hopping. Very beautiful brown coloring.

My hubby thinks that the ones in the photo named “gray birds” are blackbirds, but they’re not really black, just a dark gray color. We also have some smaller ones that look similar and he thinks maybe they’re baby blackbirds. Do you know what these are?

As you can also see in the pics, we have changed over to a better mix of bird food based on your advice. This one has sunflower seeds and what looks like corn. We also had some with sunflower and peanuts for a while and they really loved that. They would grab a huge peanut and fly off with their treasure. ;)

We had an ice storm last weekend and it was such a joy to watch the birds flock to the feeder. It’s so heartwarming to provide them with food, especially when the weather is bad and it’s hard for them to find food on their own. We have lots of cardinals, chickadees, titmouse (or is it titmice? ;-), chipping sparrows, house finches, and goldfinches.

I appreciate your response when and if you have time, and I hope you have a wonderful week! Thanks, Angie~North Carolina


Once again thank you for providing me with great photos. Your “brown bird” is indeed the energetic and cheerful Carolina Wren. Only a few lucky residents see them in mid-Michigan during the winter. These birds are very susceptible to frigid weather with ice and snow. An otherwise healthy Carolina Wren population can be hit hard by storms and survival might depend on feeders.

For more info on the wren go to: University of Michigan Museum of Zoology-Carolina Wren or Wild Birds Unlimited: What to Feed Wrens

And your hubby is right. The “gray birds” are blackbirds. They look like female Brown-headed Cowbirds. These birds can join huge roosts with several different blackbird species in the winter, so I’m not sure if the smaller ones you described are more females or a different species. This is another bird we won’t see here in mid-Michigan during the winter.

Male Brown-headed Cowbirds have glossy black plumage and a chocolate brown head and females are plain gray/brown birds, with fine streaking on the belly, and a dark eye and bill. The juvenile looks similar to the female from June to September.

More on cowbirds can be found at: University of Michigan Museum of Zoology-Brown-headed Cowbird and Wild Birds Unlimited: How Cowbirds Learn to Sing or Wild Birds Unlimited: Cowbird Behavior

I’m glad you switched your seed to something with more sunflowers and let me compliment you on how clean your feeders look! That’s very important, especially when you have large numbers of birds flocking. Immunity is low during stressful times, and birds are bound to catch diseases from each other as they crowd to feeders. It’s important to clean your feeders at least once a month and even more frequently when migration begins.

For more on cleaning your feeder go to Wild Birds Unlimited: When I Should Clean My Feeders
Thanks for writing. Feel free to contact me at any time with your questions.

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