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.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How Do I Know If It's a Baby Hummingbird?

Oooh, there are lots of things to tell you if the hummingbirds you see are young and just off the nest.

Young hummingbirds will look similar to a female, but as young males begin to mature in late summer look for a few random red iridescent feathers on the throat. And the young are very healthy looking. Their feathers are full and shiny whereas the parent birds look a little haggard. The parents have been through a lot and are now going through a molt to get ready for fall migration.

Only 20% of newly fledged hummingbirds live to be one year old. Once immature birds leave the nest they blunder about checking everything as they try to recognize the shapes and color patterns of blossoms or feeders that have nectar. This information is stored away in BB sized brains for the rest of their life. If they survive, they will continue to remember the exact location of gardens and feeders for years to come.

Immature hummingbirds also tend to be more vocal, calling out when distressed. And they have to learn a lot about social order. It's not unusual for more mature birds to use physical rebukes to punish young upstarts.

Finally the largest number of hummingbirds buzzing through our yards during late summer are immature birds that have only hatched recently. They can stay around mid-Michigan as late as October or November until all of a sudden they can't resist the urge to migrate south.

So keep those feeders full and clean! A hummingbirds' high metabolic rate requires them to refuel with nectar constantly while they search for bugs. They prefer flowers with a sugar concentration of 20 percent sucrose. This translates to a mixture of four parts water to one part white table sugar. Click HERE for more detailed nectar recipe instructions.

Source: Wild Birds Guides: Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Robert Sargent available at Wild Birds Unlimited

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is it too late to put up a hummingbird feeder?

While the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds have settled into their territories to nest by now, every bird is always foraging and may appreciate a new reliable backup feeder.

You may also notice in late June newly fledged hummers have to check out everything to see if it's food, so you may catch them with new feeders.

Then starting in the middle of July males begin to wander widely, and some are already heading south. So, before you know it you'll have hungry southbound migrants to feed!

Migration continues through the middle of October so there are plenty of opportunities to see hummers feeding. The migration south is a more leisurely trip than the race north. So you may see these new hummers at your feeder for a couple weeks before they catch a good wind to move further south.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Should I Move My Birdhouse?

Hi, I have a birdhouse with 3 baby wrens in it. They are just about ready to bust out and go with their parents. My problem is, the house is right over the porch where my cats lay all day. Is it possible to move the house about 40-50 ft off to the side of the house where they could have more privacy for the leaving of the nest? This is stressing me out! Thanks, Kellie

I would leave the nest alone. About two weeks after hatching, the fledgling wrens leave the nest and don’t return. They usually fly straight and fast out of the entrance into nearby trees or bushes.

One day you’ll see the parents stuffing hungry mouths with juicy caterpillars and the next day the nest will be empty. So don’t stress and enjoy the show while it lasts or bring your cats indoors.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

How Do You Tell a Female Indigo Bunting from a Female Cowbird?

I think I had a female Indigo Bunting in my yard but it might be a cowbird. How can I tell? Patrick ~ East Lansing, MI

Little brown birds can sometimes be hard to identify when you just get a quick glance.

Both Indigo Buntings and Brown-headed Cowbirds live in similar habitats. The cowbird parasitizes or lays its eggs in indigos’ nests as well as other “host” species.

Both eat similar food and can be spotted at bird feeders.

Size is a good indicator. The Indigo Bunting’s shape and size (5 inches) is closer to a goldfinch, and the Brown-headed cowbirds’ (7 inches) is a little larger than a House Sparrow.

Color can sometimes help. Both females are a dull brown but the indigo is usually lighter. And if you look close you’ll see the indigo also has a two tone bill. The top is black and the bottom is a grey or tan. The cowbird has a black bill top and bottom.

Finally notice what birds are hanging around the bird you are trying to identify. Do you see a more distinguishable mate nearby? Cowbirds can also flock with blackbirds and starlings whereas indigos feed alone during the breeding season and with other indigos in the fall and winter.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Do We Have Indigo Buntings in Michigan?

That Scott's birdseed commercial talks about getting more birds like indigo buntings. Do we have those birds? I feed Wild Birds Unlimited Safflower and Thistle. Will they come to that? Susan ~Williamston, MI

Location, location, location. The Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea can be seen all over Michigan during their migration in spring and fall and like to nest in a dense growth of shrubbery or weedy habitats between woods and old fields.

Similar in size to a goldfinch, the male Indigo buntings look blue with black wings, tail, and beak. The diffraction of light through their feathers makes them look blue. The females are a soft brown with brown streaks on the breast and a light throat. The young look similar to the female.

At certain times of the year I spot indigos at my feeders eating Nyger Thistle and the Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess blend which has the sunflower chips, peanuts, and millet without the hulls. Some customers enjoy them all through breeding season because they have the right habitat.

These small bright birds make their way to Michigan from Central America during the spring, and settle in woodland edges and farmlands to nest in the spring and summer. While in Michigan, the birds live a solitary life defending their territory and hunting alone or with a mate.
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The female does most of the feeding and caring for the young, while the male defends the nest against intruders. Once the young have fledged the males will teach them to forage, while the female is busy building a new nest for the next brood. Together each pair usually raise one or two broods before they head down south again to winter in huge flocks that forage together in the day and roost together at night.

Indigos like a variety of food, including small seeds, nuts, berries, insects, mosquitoes, flies, aphids, small spiders, buds, goldenrod, thistle, grasses, and herbs. At your feeders you should spot them eating your Safflower and Nyger thistle. You can also feed them apple slices, suet, millet, peanuts, or berries.

Source:
Payne, Robert B. 2006. Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:
http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/004
doi:10.2173/bna.4

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tree Frog in Birdhouse


"I'm moving in. 'Nuff said."


Tree frogs are notorious for birdhouse squatting.

The first time I saw a frog in a birdhouse, that had been full of baby birds just a couple weeks before, it gave me quite a start.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How to Stop Your Hummingbird Feeder from Dripping.

I've got a silly question. How do I stop my hummingbird feeder from dripping. I didn't buy the feeder from you. It was a gift but it's just a sticky mess! I get more ants than hummingbirds. ~Frustrated in Charlotte, MI

Glass hummingbird feeders with stoppers are beautiful in the garden among the flowers. There are some tricks I can suggest, but because these feeders utilize a vessel filled with water resting on top of a small column of air, they may occasionally drip. Some recommendations to minimize dripping, so that you can truly enjoy your feeder are as follows:

1. Always fill the feeder completely full with cool nectar. Push the stopper in and invert quickly to avoid any air entering the feeder. Tube feeders operate on a vacuum principle. Only if the feeder is initially filled completely full will the vacuum form!

2. Only hang your feeder in the shade or partial shade. The cooler the feeder, the less likely it is to drip. If that isn't convenient Wild Birds Unlimited does have hummingbird shades.

3. Make sure to keep the feeder very clean by regularly cleaning the vessel with hot water and a bottle brush. Do not use soap as its residue may cause your feeder to drip. Try periodically using a vinegar rinse to thoroughly clean your feeder and then rinse well with hot water.

4. Last resort: place stopper assembly in very hot water to soften the tube. You can bend it slightly to increase the angle. This will stop dripping, but might make it more difficult for nectar to come down the tube.

5. If you've tried all these tips and it still drips try a different feeder like our best selling saucer feeders.

And if you have an ant problem we have an easy solution. There are ant moats you can add to any feeder. Simply fill the little container with water. Ants can't cross the water moat to reach your hummingbird feeders' nectar.

Good luck!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Greater Lansing Housing Coalition (GLHC): Garden Tours Galore 2010

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition is hosting its annual garden tour June 26 and 27, 2010. This is where you can snoop in spectacular local residents' gardens to get lots of fun gardening ideas. There will also be "Experts" on hand and a fun mini plant sale.

This year the Tour will feature artists and their garden-centered artwork in the greater Lansing area. Advance information about the Gardens Galore Tour is available by calling (517) 372-5980, by email at info@glhc.org, or online at http://www.glhc.org/.

Tickets are available for $20 at Wild Birds Unlimited with cash or check. To purchase by credit card, please call GLHC office at (517) 372-5980. Tickets are good for both days and for repeat entrance at all of the gardens.

What is a Slug?

Most of our native Michigan slugs feed on fungi, lichen, carrion, and plant materials in wooded areas and are very important for nutrient cycling. The non-native invasive slugs, however, can be very destructive, feeding on flowering and leafy garden plants, as well as crops such as wheat and corn.

Slugs belong to the Phylum Mollusca (the mollusks, which also includes squid, octopi, snails, clams, and oysters). Slug parts up close are very interesting (see diagram). Their skin is sensitive to water loss so they prefer cool, dark, moist habitats. If you’re not into looking under rocks and leaves, the best time to hunt slugs is just after sunset and in the early morning hours before dawn.

Slugs produce two types of mucus: one which is thin and watery, and another which is thick and sticky. The thin mucus is spread out from the center of the foot to the edges to help prevent the slug from slipping down vertical surfaces. The "slime trail" that a slug leaves behind helps other slugs find mates. The thick mucus spreads out to coat the whole body and provides some protection against predators by making it hard to handle. There are many predators of slugs including birds, reptiles, amphibians and ground beetles.

The Gray Field Slug Deroceras reticulatum is not native to North America, but has been in Michigan as long as the earliest European settlers. Their skin color can vary greatly and they can grow to be 5cm. Take a peek under your hosta plant leaf tonight and get up close to a slug. Fascinating creatures!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Top 10 Frequently Asked Bird Questions

My neighbor told me not to feed in the summer. We just got back from Florida and won't be here in the winter. She also said birds won't use a swinging birdbath. Susie~ East Lansing

I hear this all the time. If you enjoy watching the birds up close go ahead and feed the birds while you are in Michigan. Typically, feeders serve as a supplemental source of food for birds in your yard. Bugs, fruit and nut bearing bushes and trees supply a natural food source as well as native flowers, such as coneflowers, black eyed Susan’s, and cosmos that are allowed to go to seed and stand through the winter. Don't worry that you can only feed part of the year. Birds are very savvy and always have several sources of food and are really fun to observe.

Now "birds don't use swinging baths" is a new one to me. Water will actually attract more species of birds than feeders and we sell lots of hanging birdbaths at Wild Birds Unlimited. Make sure the bath has a nice edge, is shallow and deepens gradually to no more than 3 inches in the middle. Place the bath in a safe location where predators can't sneek up on unsuspecting bathers. Birds are vulnerable when their feathers are wet and heavy, but a slightly swinging bath shouldn't concern the birds.

Now you've got me thinking about some of the other questions I often hear from customers at our stores:

1. Do I Add Red Dye to my Hummingbird Nectar?: You don't need to add red food coloring to hummingbird nectar! In fact Wild Birds Unlimited recommends a simple 4:1 water to white sugar recipe. Click here for a more detail instructions.

2. Do I Have to Clean my Feeder?: Please keep your feeders clean! Nectar feeders need to be cleaned at least once a week and seed feeders at least once a month. Click here to read more on cleaning feeders.

3. If I Touch a Baby Bird Will the Mother Abandon Him?: If you find a baby bird that is too young to fly, put it back in the nest. The mother will appreciate the help and not abandon the baby. If you're not sure if the baby is hurt call for help before you do anything. For a list of licensed rehabilitators click here.
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4. Is it OK to Feed Suet in the Summer?: Commercially prepared suet cakes are safe for year round feeding. If it is hung out in the sun use a suet dough with a high melting point or a seed cake available at Wild Birds Unlimited. Besides the usual woodpeckers, nuthatches and chickadees, during the spring and summer you may even attract orioles, warblers and more with suet. And the reason I feed suet in the summer is to watch as harried parent birds bring their babies up close and try to convince them to feed themselves. Click here to read more on feeding suet in the summer.

5. Can Birds Choke on Peanut Butter?: There are no documented cases of birds choking on peanut butter. If you smear peanut butter on a tree trunk you’ll be surprised how many cute birds this will attract up and down your tree. Or spread Peanut butter on pine cones, old bread, or cookies and roll them in seed for bird treats. Click here for more fun ideas.

6. Do Birds Explode After they Eat Rice?: June brides don't worry about the birds eating wedding rice. There are no documented cases of birds suffering from eating rice probably because it’s a natural food grown all around the world. It's really no different than the birds eating any other grain like millet or wheat. Click here to read more on this wedding ritual.

7. Should I Stop Feeding the Birds to Encourage Them to Migrate?: In the fall there is an instinctual clock that tells certain birds when to head south. People still disagree over the precise mechanism within the bird that causes this. Most sources say that that food supply is not a factor and there is no reason to take down feeders to stimulate migration. Click here to read more on migration.
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8. Do Any Birds Stay in Michigan During the Winter?: Not all birds migrate south. There are a lot of birds that that are permanent residents and some birds from Canada that think Michigan is the perfect wintering ground. Click here for a list of some common feeder birds you might see in the winter.

9. Do Birds Feet Freeze To Metal Perches?: Unlike humans, birds don’t have sweat glands in their skin to produce any moisture to freeze to metal in the winter. Heat and moisture are accumulated in sacs, transferred to the lungs and eliminated through the mouth. To read more click here.

10. Do Hummingbirds Migrate on the Backs of Geese?: I hear this question so often in the fall that it actually inspired me to start this blog. To read my very first blog about how hummingbirds make their journey down south all on their own click here.
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Do you have a question about birds, bird feeding or about the store? If your question isn't answered on our web log http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/, please e-mail us at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Do Ostriches Bury Their Heads in Sand?

The expression "burying your head in the sand" usually refers to someone trying to ignore a problem. As in “BP is burying its head in the sand and refusing to give details about the magnitude of the oil flow in the Gulf of Mexico."

However, contrary to popular belief, ostriches don’t bury their heads in sand when they are frightened. They are not timid birds.

The main defense of an ostrich is to outrun or kick predators. If that isn’t possible, like when sitting on a nest, the ostrich may hunker down and pretend to be a bush and hope her sandy colored head blends in with the ground. So it may just look like the ostrich has buried its head in the sand, because only the body is visible.

Another possibility of why this myth continues is because ostriches eat mostly roots, leaves, and seeds, as well as insects and small animals on the ground. To help grind up food in the gizzard, these big birds also swallow sand, pebbles, and small stones. People may have noticed them picking up pebbles in their mouths or foraging for a meal and believed that the ostriches were burying their heads instead.

So the story is based on the supposed stupidity of ostriches or of birds in general, but in reality reveals man’s lack of knowledge.

Thank you Genny that was a very interesting question!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father Birds Role in Raising Young

This month, your yard will become home to a new generation of birds. But as you're watching fledglings chase their parents, beg for food and learn the necessary skills to survive their new world, look for the presence, or absence, of father birds.

Adult male birds' roles in raising their young differ greatly from one species to another. For example, male hummingbirds do nothing to help raise the young; their only contribution is to mate with the female and guard his territory. While the chickadee and nuthatch males feed their mates when they are incubating and brooding, and both adults feed the young.

But the Bird Father of the Year goes to the Downy Woodpeckers which have only one brood in the north. Downys nest in tree cavities that the male excavates. Then after 3 to 6 eggs are laid, both male and female share daytime nest duties. The males also incubate and brood at night and roost in the nest until their offspring fledge after two weeks. Once fledged, Downy males will also help feed the young and assist in leading them to food sources such as backyard bird feeders for the first few weeks.

Downy Woodpeckers are fascinating to watch as they propel themselves up the side of a tree, using their tail as a spring, hopping along, stopping from time to time to investigate a nook or cranny that may hide a juicy insect. Their bill is less chisel-shaped than that of other woodpeckers, and they use it like a pick for dissecting insect tunnels just under the bark. The bill is also used like a pair of tweezers to pick tiny insect eggs from the surface of leaves and bark.

To attract downys to your feeder, you can offer sunflower seeds, peanuts, suet, seed cylinders or mealworms. These energy-packed foods will entice your birds and their young to your yard for an up close view.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cleaning & Placement of Wren Bird Houses

Hi
I left my birdhouse up with the old nest from last year. I will be upset if I don't get a wren this year. Do they not use old nests? What should I do?
Thanks. ~ Ellen


Actually, the presence of an old House Wren nest may encourage the wrens to re-nest in the same spot. A male House Wren may lay claim to a nesting cavity by filling it with more than 400 small twigs. If the female likes what she sees, she will then take over, adding the nest cup and lining it with grass, inner bark, hair, and feathers. Wrens will usually lay 2 broods in the nesting season from May to July.

The male House Wren builds several starter nests and the female is the one that chooses which she prefers. The other nests may be used by the male to raise a second brood with another female or remain in place to discourage other male wrens from nesting in the same territory.

So what should you do? If you don’t see any wren activity, I would clean out the nest but leave a few starter twigs. Hopefully this will encourage a bright young male to start building.

Sarah,
Thanks for your reply. It was the middle of June last year when the Wrens came. I decided to clean out the nest as I have not seen any activity. I leave the birdhouse up all year round; it's hanging under my front porch. I still have the old nest twigs, so I'll put a few inside of it. Should I push the twigs inside or leave them sticking out? Here is a photo of last year's bird.

I got a few inexpensive bird houses at a crafts store; one is in the shape of a bird with a larger opening, about 1 3/4 inches wide. Is there any special place to hang them?


When you clean the house leave a couple sticks poking out the door. House wrens prefer their houses hanging from a small tree in the middle of a yard, or along the border of an open yard. They often choose houses closer to ground (5-10 feet) in open woodland close to twiggy bushes to give them cover and nesting material.

Birdhouses can be stationary or left swinging. The entrance hole should be 1 ¼ inch in diameter to keep out House Sparrows. If you purchased a house with a larger hole or it has been expanded by squirrels or other birds, we have metal portal protectors. Wild Birds Unlimited’s round 1-1/8" and 1-1/4" metal portals are suitable for the chickadee and wren houses and prevent sparrows from entering the house. Also avoid perches because wrens don't use them and they could be used to help predators gain access to the nest.

Thanks for the photo. I hope you have success.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Christopher Robin's Bob-bob-bobbin' Along!

For those of you worried about Deb's baby robin, she sent us an update. Or click HERE for the original story.
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Raising a baby bird is no small feat ... It's time-consuming, messy and nerve-wracking. I don't know how birds can have so many babies in a season and still manage to find time to preen their feathers!
This past week, while tending to Christopher Robin, the laundry has gone undone, we've become sleep-deprived, and often find ourselves hurrying home from running errands just so we could be back in time to "feed the baby".
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Pippin Starling, Kiwi Senegal and our two (until now) spoiled pooches have become more than a little jealous, and my husband gets less to eat than Robin (unless he wants to make it himself). My most comfortable white shorts and favorite T-shirt are now permanently stained with blueberry-colored poop and there are countless cups sitting on the kitchen counter with various blends of "baby food" in them.
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Today, for the first time, Robin ate TWO WHOLE (albeit small) earthworms for breakfast! That's definitely a step in the right direction ... OUT THE DOOR. I made sure he/she got a good, long look at them before swallowing. I intend to take him/her on my next earthworm excavating excursion. Maybe instinct just kicks in when they get out on their own, but a little instruction couldn't hurt.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Attract Birds- Not Mosquitos!: New Solar Water Wiggler

The Water Wiggler’s unique agitator action creates continuous ripples in the bath water, preventing mosquitoes from laying eggs. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water, and the larvae hatch in 2 to 3 days. The Water Wiggler™ effectively creates surface water movement so mosquitoes can’t lay their eggs, braking the breeding cycle.

Moving water also attracts more birds because the rippling motion catches their eye and they can hear the tiny splashes.

It operates silently on two D-cell batteries for up to two months of continual use. Just place in bird bath and go; no wiring and no plumbing.

You can use it with our heated bird bath in winter, too. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing sells the Aurora Water Wiggler.™ which will light up at dusk and slowly shift through the color spectrum. A sensor on the underside turns the unit on at dusk. The lights will shut off after three hours and come back on the following evening.

And now there is a NEW Solar Water Wiggler.™ If you place your bath in full sun, the wiggler can store enough energy in a rechargeable battery to run the motor during the nighttime hours.

It's also available at both our Wild Birds Unlimited stores and would make a great Father's Day gift. Or click HERE for more gift ideas.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Green Day: Plant a Tree Program

Odwalla is a juice company that is planting trees in state parks, and will plant one for you too! All you have to do is click on the link below and choose Michigan.

The plant a tree program is going on through December 31, 2010. When you choose a participating park system Odwalla will donate $1.00 towards the purchase of a tree to the state parks in that state on your behalf. Click on the link below and then pass this information to a friend. Go to: http://www.parkvisitor.com/odwalla/. No purchase necessary, just a click.

The Value of Trees
Trees are the longest living organisms on the planet and one of the earth’s greatest natural resources. They keep our air supply clean, reduce noise pollution, improve water quality, help prevent erosion, provide food and building materials, create shade, and help make our landscapes look beautiful.

Studies prove that trees have a positive effect on many aspects of people’s lives, including their health, homes, businesses, communities, drinking water, and air quality.

An average American uses about 750 pounds of paper every year, and 95% of homes are built using wood. That means each person uses the equivalent of one 100 foot tall, 16 inch diameter, tree every year for their paper and wood product needs.

The amount of oxygen produced by an acre of trees per year equals the amount consumed by 18 people annually. One tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

When am I supposed to clean out a birdhouse?

If the birds have been successful in raising their young in a nest box, the babies will fledge and then there is at least a two week break before they might begin to raise another brood. I always call it their family vacation time. You can clean the nest box at this time while the baby birds are shown the territory and taught how to forage on their own.

If something happens to disrupt the success of the first batch, the birds might begin a new nest within a week. You don’t have to remove the nest in this case but broken eggs or dead nestlings should be removed immediately. If they want to try again in that box, it will give them a head start to have an existing nest. Also try to determine why there was a failure and how to prevent further tragedy.

By cleaning out a nest box you help deter parasite infestation and a predator’s ability disturb a nest that is built on top of old nests making it closer to the entrance hole.

To clean the nest box I usually place a plastic bag over the nest and just sweep it all in and twist the bag shut. You can rinse out the house with a water hose or diluted bleach spray. Make sure the drainage holes are unplugged and leave the house open to dry for a couple days. Finally dispose of the old nest in the trash and wash your hands thoroughly.

Taking care to clean your feeders and nest boxes makes you a responsible steward of nature. Thanks to Barbara S. for a very good question.

Monday, June 14, 2010

How to Care for a Baby Robin

Sarah ~ an owl killed  this baby's siblings and mother. My owls do this regularly, so I don't understand why robins continue to build nests in the neighborhood! Anyway, this baby was lying in the road (maybe the owl dropped it). He/she is growing amazingly quickly, as baby birds will. ~ Deb

Records show that only 25% of young Robins survive their first year.
To protect its young, adult robins give alarm calls and dive-bomb predators that come near the young birds. And fledglings are able to fly short distances after leaving the nest and hide in bushes for protection.

Another thing, judging by the number of calls we receive each spring, unofficially some robins use humans as a form of protection. They like to nest in inappropriate places close to people in hopes that we'll scare away potential predators. And in this case one lucky, little guy found its way into your caring hands.

If you find a baby bird and don’t know what do, CALL FOR ADVICE! The best course may be no interference. The following is a small list of the local rehabilitators:
  • East Lansing, MI ♦ 517.351.7304 ♦ Cheryl Connell-Marsh ♦ birds and small animals
  • Lansing, MI ♦ 517-646-9374 ♦ Tiffany Rich ♦ white tailed deer, squirrels, raccoons; Vet. Tech. on center.
  • DeWitt, MI ♦ 517.930-0087 ♦ Wildside Rehab & Education Center ♦ birds and small animals
  • Eaton Rapids, MI ♦ 517-663-6153 ♦ Wildside Rehab & Education Center ♦ birds and small animals
  • Holt, MI ♦ 517-694-9618 ♦ Carolyn Tropp cctropp@aol.com ♦ Waterfowl, small birds and mammals
  • Howell, MI ♦ 517-548-5530 ♦ Howell Conference and Nature Center ♦ All wild animals except bats, skunks, starlings, raccoons, pigeons, or house sparrows.
  • Bath, MI ♦ 517-819-0170 (day) 517-641-6314 (evening) ♦ Denise Slocum ♦ Small mammals

    For a complete list of Michigan Licensed Rehabilitators visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at: http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/
Or to search for a local wildlife rehabilitation group: http://www.wildliferehabber.org/

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cedar Waxwing: The Older the Bird, the Showier the Wax Red Tips

Hi Sarah,
Saturday morning I noticed some birds in the juneberry tree outside my son's room. When I investigated, I saw a couple of Cedar Waxwings
harvesting berries and immediately grabbed my camera. Here are a couple of shots.
~Mike Grimm, Fowlerville

Beautiful! 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. The high pitched screeech is hard to forget. Thank you for sharing. I enjoy all your photos.

The Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) is mostly frugivorous. That means it is a fruit eater. 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 they will hover in the air and grab berries.
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The name "waxwing" comes from the waxy red secretions found on the birds wingtips. The red waxy drops 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 but only after their second fall. The older the bird, the more showy the red tips.
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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.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

How to Protect My Bluebird House

My neighbor put up my new bluebird house and the birds started to build a nest immediately. I want to change the direction of the house because I think he put it up in the wrong way. Also I bought a baffle for my pole. Do you think it would be okay to take the house off for a few minutes to put on the baffle. I also bought the bird guardian. Can I put that on now? I've been checking the nest and there are no eggs yet. Are there any rules on checking on the nest too much? Bonita ~Charlotte, MI

Wow you're going to have some very well cared for birds! You've asked a lot of questions so I'll just go down the list.

  1. What direction should the house face? In the northern states like Michigan, the birds prefer the early morning sun coming in the front of the house as it faces the east. However Eastern Bluebirds can nest in a bird house that faces in another direction. It's just not their 1st choice.
  2. Should I change the direction of the house? No, if the bluebirds have accepted the nest box and started to build, don't disturb the nest.
  3. Can I put a baffle on the pole? Wild Birds Unlimited has wrap-around baffles that go around 4"x4" poles or metal poles that wrap around pole without disturbing the house. If you already have a baffle, it would be alright to remove the house and put it back the way it was as fast as you can.
  4. When do I attach the Bird Guardian? The Guardian can be put on after the eggs have been laid. The instructions recommend monitoring the nest after you've attached the guardian. If the birds haven't re-entered the nest within 30 minutes, remove and attach it the next day, repeating as needed with continued observance. Once the pair have both been seen entering the box, you have success.
  5. How often can I check on my birds? I can tell you are a very caring landlord but let's not be too nosy. The bluebirds are tolerant of humans but it's best check on the nest no more than twice a week during active nesting season until the nestlings are 12-14 days old. After that leave the birds alone. We don't want the babies to fledge too early by accident. If you do find a fledgling on the ground, scoop it up and plop it back in the nest.

For much more information go to the Michigan Bluebird Society website at: http://www.michiganbluebirds.org/nestbox-basics#nest

Friday, June 11, 2010

Rare Corpse Flower Blooms at Michigan State University!!

Sarah,
You may want to put this in the blog or on twitter. In the MSU butterfly garden they just moved the flower titan arum because it is about to bloom. It is considered the largest flower in the world and stands about 5-6 feet tall. It smells like rotten meat but it only stays open for a day or 2 but even closed it is an impressive flower.


The plant is fairly rare although there have been a few other blooms by other plants in the midwest in the last few years. Here are a couple of pics. ~Daniel

Dan, I found a little YouTube video of another titan arum or Amorphophallus titanum and I did check the web cam. The flower has already started to bloom! I took the picture below over the web.

So to experience a "Corpse flower" in person you better hurry over to:
For more detailed information about the flower go to:

Unfortunately, the Beaches Don't Clean Themselves.

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill – Stay Informed
You can visit the Deepwater Horizon Response site for more information regarding the situation. This is the official web site for the unified command of agencies involved in the response to the oil spill.

You will also find links to the many government agencies involved and ways to volunteer.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon encourage birders to mobilize and help survey Gulf Coast birds at their eBird site.

Source: Go to http://ning.it/aXRHnw for 11 powerful environmental messages
from various ad campaigns around the world.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tips on How to Keep Your Seed Dry

If you are having trouble keeping your seed dry and fresh with all this rain, two products that I recommend are weather guards and feeder fresh.

A WBU Weather Guard is designed to keep bad weather from spoiling your seed in the tube. This is a clear plastic dome that slips on top of most of our WBU 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.

Feeder Fresh is added to the seed when you fill a feeder. It absorbs water and humidity, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand. Feeder Fresh keeps the seed in the feeder dry, keeps molds from forming, and thus reduces the chance of Aflatoxin and other mycotoxins.
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Once the Feeder Fresh absorbs its own weight in water it will discontinue absorbing, and be identical to the silica grit that birds normally ingest. Made in the USA.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Why Do Birds Like Peanuts?

The greater variety of foods you offer, the more your birds will enjoy visiting your yard.

Did you know that a lot of birds like peanuts? Nuts at the feeders attract some of the most interesting birds. The crazy antics of the woodpeckers, titmice, chickadees and nuthatches alone make it worthwhile to try feeding peanuts.

The peanut probably originated in South America and spread throughout the New World as Spanish explorers discovered the peanut’s versatility. It's a high fat, high protein food that makes a very nutritional treat. In fact peanuts are so popular with birds that several feeders have been invented for just peanuts. And I especially like the birds that come to my peanut bells.

Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing also offers four seed blends that have peanuts. Even our most popular no-mess blend has peanuts in it to attract cardinals, titmice, jays, chickadees, wrens, woodpeckers, robins, nuthatches and more.

Whether it's straight peanuts, peanut bells, peanuts in a seed blend or even peanut butter suet, it's fun to watch the birds attack feeders with peanuts.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Is There a Way to Attract More Goldfinches to My Yard?

What feeders or flowers do goldfinches like? Can I put up a bird house for them? Patricia~ East Lansing, MI

Attracting more goldfinches is a lovely plan. Goldfinches are bright, cheery songbirds that the great state of Michigan is lucky enough to have year round!
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Feeders
Feeders are the easiest way to attract the American Goldfinch. We sell a variety of finch feeders. My favorites are the Mesh Finch Feeders. They not only let the finches land and feed in whatever position they choose, but they also allow air circulation to keep your Nyjer Thistle as dry and fresh as possible; something that's very important to these picky eaters. (Nyjer thistle is the common name used to identify a tiny black birdseed cultivated in Asia and Africa but is not related to the purple, prickly, Canada Thistle weed.)

Seed
Goldfinches eat a variety of seeds. Sunflower and Nyjer thistle are two of their favorites, but it has to be fresh. One way to check your seed is to pinch it with your fingernails and see if any oil comes out. The finches use their bills to twist the seed and sip the oil and then drop the shell. If your seed has dried out, your feeder will be skipped. (Wild Birds Unlimited receives a fresh load of seed each week).

Gardening Trick for Goldfinches
Habitat can be a key to attracting Goldfinches. In this case you do less work, not more. Don't worry about dandelions and don't cut off the tops of your Marigold, Zinnias, Cosmos, or Coneflowers...Goldfinches love them. The birds make the flowers dance as they flit from flower to flower looking for seed heads.

Nesting
The American Goldfinch begins its breeding season in late July. They don’t use bird houses but you can provide nesting material like cotton or pet hair. The female alone builds a bark, weeds, vines, and grass nest held together with spiderwebs 30 feet up in a deciduous tree. Finally she lines the nest with soft cottons, hair, milkweed, thistle, or cattail fluff.

Then it's my favorite time of year. At the end of August, after a couple weeks of incubating and a couple weeks in the nest, the goldfinch babies visit the feeder with their fathers. Their high squeaky baby calls are so adorable, but also a little sad because it marks the end of nesting season.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Very Tiny Hummingbird (Moth)?

We have Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, but my husband and I also spotted a dark hummingbird that was smaller than the ruby-throated. What is it? Betty~ Laingsburg, MI

Oh a mystery! If you remember my June 1, 2010 post, I talked about how only five species of hummingbirds have been spotted in Michigan. And of those five, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is the smallest bird. In fact it’s the smallest bird found in Michigan at 2.8–3.5 inches long and weighing 0.1–0.2 oz.

So what did you see? I suspect that it was a hummingbird moth also known as Sphinx Moth. There are many species of sphinx moths, that usually have heavy, football-shaped bodies and relatively narrow wings for a moth. The moths’ fast beating wings give them the appearance of small hummingbirds as they buzz flowers to drink nectar.

For more information on these mysterious moths go to: http://ning.it/bBN8cx

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Are Bluebirds Attracted to Blue?

I have a question... We have eastern blue birds that love to perch on the blue plastic on our trampoline. What gives?

Bluebirds may be attracted to the colors of their species but it's more likely that it’s a good place to hunt. A bluebirds' diet is made up primarily of bugs, usually spied from a perch. It’s characteristic behavior of bluebirds to fly down, catch prey and then return to their perch to eat. Do you have a lot of bugs in that area; maybe not with the bluebird on patrol?

If you don’t have a trampoline in your yard you can also place a couple 4 foot wooden stakes or “hunting perches” in your bluebird habitat. Bluebirds, as well as other birds, welcome a low perch to hunt insects on the ground. You may also notice bluebirds taking advantage of fence posts or garden statues.

Along with bugs, Eastern Bluebirds eat fruit from flowering dogwood, holly, mulberry, wild grape, Virginia creeper, pokeweed and Viburnum. If any of these plants are nearby, hungry bluebirds might stay close.

It’s hard to understand why birds do a lot of things. He may be attracted to the color, bugs, plants or if they are nesting close by, the bird may find the trampoline the perfect spot to patrol his territory. Whatever the reason, it’s a good observation. If anyone else has a different theory let us know in the comments below.

More information on the management of bluebirds can be found at the Michigan DNR: http://ning.it/b8Pg9Q

I Have a Great Crested Flycatcher in My Yard!

I was so surprised to have a Great Crested Flycatcher in my yard this year. JT ~St. Johns, MI

That's great! The Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) is often hard to spot even though it's one of the most colorful of flycatchers, with a bright yellow belly. They spend much of their time perched on treetops making a loud, insistent "wheep!", "prrrrrrrrrreeeet", "wheeep" calls.
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These cavity-nesting birds are found in Michigan from early May to mid-September. They will nest in old woodpecker nests, natural tree cavities or birdhouses. According to the Birds of Michigan book by Ted Black, the Great Crested Flycatcher has an interesting practice of decorating the entrance of its nest with a shed snakeskin or a clear plastic wrapper, perhaps to scare away predators.
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They can flycatch from mid-air, on branches, or the ground. They will eat a variety of large insects, including beetles, crickets, katydids, caterpillars, moths, and butterflies. They also eat fruits and berries. At your feeder they may be looking for mealworms.
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Thanks for sharing!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Hobby for All Seasons: Bird Feeding in the Summer

Bird feeding isn't just a winter hobby.
Feeding your birds in the summer will not make them too lazy, too dependent or keep them from migrating at the appropriate time. All of these old myths have been dispelled by modern research and observation.

Birds with access to backyard bird feeders are able to spend less time foraging for food and more time engaging in activities that positively impact their survival and well-being. This additional time can be used to be more aware of threats from predators and to preen their feathers for flight and insulation.

Studies have also shown that birds with access to feeders during nesting season spend less time away from their nests looking for food. These birds will lay their clutch of eggs earlier and fledge one more chick per clutch than birds without access to feeders.

Summer bird feeding will bring new birds to your yard with interesting behaviors to observe and enjoy. Summer is actually the most heavily bird populated season in most of North America. Contrary to popular belief, recent research also shows summer to be the most abundant season for birds to visit feeders.

The summer visitors at your feeders will be featuring their brightest breeding plumage, and they will often be accompanied by their young offspring with duller feathers. Summer provides a fascinating opportunity to see adult birds feeding and interacting with their young, and it is an experience that you do not want to miss.

Source: WBU Nature News

Friday, June 4, 2010

Big Bird on Diet

An Australian kookaburra bird is undergoing personal training after growing too fat to fly. The kookaburra got into trouble with her weight when residents at a Sydney park began feeding her sausages at barbecues.

"Out in the wild she'd eat a whole small animal such as a mouse or skink, but butcher's sausages are just too much of a good thing," said Gemma Watkinson, Sydney's Taronga Zoo wildlife hospital nurse.

Following a rigorous exercise regime, the kookaburra is winning her battle of the bulge, but still has to lose a little more before returned to her native habitat.

For the full story by Pauline Askin, Editing by Michael Perry go to http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6513ZJ20100602

Thursday, June 3, 2010

International Migratory Bird Day & Be a Tourist in Your Own Town

Location: Potter Park Zoo
Saturday,
June 5, 2010 - 9:00am - 6:00pm
Price: General Admission
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Get a Be A Tourist passport, and admission is FREE! http://www.lansing.org/batyot

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) is a celebration! It celebrates spring, and with it the return of millions of migratory birds to their breeding areas. Nearly 350 species of migratory birds travel between nesting habitats in North America and non-breeding grounds in South and Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Come on out to the Zoo to celebrate IMBD and Be A Tourist In Your Own Town. Potter Park Zoo in Lansing will have stations set up to teach you about mid-Michigan's migratory birds, and will have fun activities for the whole family!

To learn more about IMBD go to http://www.birdday.org/.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Are There Nectar Feeding Bats in Michigan?

Bats comprise one-fourth of the world's 4,000 species of mammals. Forty-three bat species are currently found in the United States. Of the 43 species of bats that live in the U.S., nine insect-eating bat species live in Michigan. All are nocturnal (active at night), and feed nearly exclusively on flying insects, including moths, beetles, and mosquitoes. None drink nectar.

Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas are home to three nectar-feeding bats (the lesser long-nosed bat, Mexican long-nosed bat and Mexican long-tongued bat) that are extremely important to the pollination and life cycle of agaves, saguaros and cacti.

For more information on the benefits of bats and how we depend on them for pest control, seed dispersal and to pollinate commercial products including bananas, avocados, dates, figs, peaches, mangoes, cloves, cashews and carob go to the Bat Conservation International (BCI) website: http://ning.it/dpjiDm.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How Many Species of Hummingbirds are There in Michigan?

Do we only have the one kind of hummingbird in Michigan? Tom~ Albion, MI

Actually five species of hummingbirds have been sighted in Michigan. The most common hummingbird at Michigan feeders and gardens from April until October is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Ruby-throated get their name from the male's ruby-red feathers on the throat. The Ruby-throated male also has a forked tail that is not found generally on any of the other species of hummingbirds in Michigan. Both male and female have emerald colored backs and the female's neck and breast is white.

Although seen rarely, the other hummingbird species that have been sighted in Michigan are the Rufous Hummingbird, the Broad-billed Hummingbird, the Green Violet-eared Hummingbird and the White-eared Hummingbird.

To attract hummingbirds you can use a feeder filled with sugar water. I talked earlier about the best hummingbirds feeders HERE.

You can also enhance your garden. Just a few of the flowers that hummingbirds like are:

  • Bleeding heart
  • Cardinal Flower
  • Columbine
  • Coral Bells
  • Daylily
  • Delphinium
  • Foxglove
  • Fuchsia
  • Hollyhocks
  • Hosta
  • Honeysuckle
  • Larkspur
  • Lilac
  • Mint
  • Milkweed, Butterfly
  • Monarda
  • Morning Glory
  • Obedient plant
  • Sage
  • Salvia
  • Snapdragon