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.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Do Birds Sip or Slurp?

Mourning Dove at the bird bath.Image via WikipediaIf you have a bird bath I’m sure you’ve noticed a lot more activity this month. (I can’t believe it’s still so hot!!!!) I was backyard birdwatching last night when a lone dove sat in the middle of the bath, and love them or hate them, Mourning Doves have presence. My dove was just sitting there with its eyes closed and his crop bulging visibly with the best Wild Birds Unlimited bird seed.

After he quietly digested for about 10 minutes, a beautiful yellow goldfinch slipped in and took a quick sip and flit off. Lots of little birds like shallow waters that they can dip their bill, then tip it up to let the drops fall down their throat. Most birds use this dip and sip technique to drink.

After the goldfinch left, the dove perked up a little and stuck its bill in the water for several seconds. Mourning Doves and Pigeons like to suck up their water using a muscular pumping mechanism in their throat that draws liquid up. He took a couple of long drinks before he decided to move along. .

Right next to the bath is our hummingbird feeder. Now the long bill of a hummingbird looks like it’s made for sucking up water like a straw, but they actually lap up sugar water (nectar). The hummingbirds' tongues have grooves on the sides that collect nectar, and when the bill constricts, the hummingbirds can swallow the nectar from flowers or feeders. You may not have noticed this at your feeder because, as with everything else about the hummingbird, that tongue is fast, moving in and out 13 times a second.

So take the time to watch your birdbath today and notice if your birds sip or slurp?

Source: Secret Lives Of Common Birds: Enjoying Bird Behavior Through The Seasons by Marie Read
Related Articles:

1. Working Together: Pigeons Take Turns at the Water Fountain

2. Birds Don't Sweat: The Importance of Birdbaths

Friday, July 30, 2010

Unintentional Optical Illusion: Mini Raven



Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. ~Albert Einstein

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why Do Goldfinches Nest So Late?

American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis
Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Finches (Fringillidae)
The male goldfinch is a small, bright yellow finch with a black cap, wings, and tail, and white rump and undertail coverts. Females are duller with olive back and lacks black cap. Winter males will turn olive-brown with yellow shoulder bars, white wing bars, dark bill, and may show black on forehead and yellow on throat and face. Winter females are duller with buff wings and shoulder bars, and lack yellow and black on face and head. Juveniles resemble winter females but have a yellow wash on throat and breast.
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The American Goldfinch is a bird of many aliases: wild canary, yellowbird, lettuce bird, and thistle bird, just to name a few. Ask a gardening enthusiast and you might hear the name “lettuce bird” due to the bird’s practice of nibbling at the tender young leaves of this vegetable. The American goldfinch looks similar to a canary at a pet store and so sometimes is called "wild canary" or "yellowbird".
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Another descriptive name, is “thistle bird.” It has long been known that thistle plants and goldfinch are almost inseparable, and even its genus name, Caruelis, is from the Latin word carduus, meaning “thistle.” Goldfinches rely heavily on thistle plants as a source of food and for nest-building materials. A research study in Michigan observed Goldfinches always liked to nest near an abundant supply of thistle seed. If you want goldfinch to nest in your yard you can offer cotton nesting material too.

American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis, Fort Eri...Image via Wikipedia

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



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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Are Earwigs Dangerous?

I was cleaning out a birdhouse and there were some earwigs inside. Are they dangerous to the birds or me? Lorraine~ Lansing, MI

A common earwig with large cerci in the backgr...Image via Wikipedia

Their scary name and appearance makes you think earwigs are ferocious. According to The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, the common term, earwig, is derived from the Old English Δ“are, which means "ear", and wicga, which means "insect". The name may be related to the old wives' tale that earwigs burrowed into the brains of humans through the ear to lay eggs. But Common Earwigs are not parasitic. They do not attack humans and prefer to be left alone.
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The earwig is a scavenger and likes to eat a variety of things like algae, fungi, insects, and plants. Native to Europe, western Asia and probably North Africa, the Common earwig was introduced to North America in the early twentieth century and is currently spread throughout much of the continent. Earwigs make great hitch hikers and have spread throughout the country by hiding in lumber, dirt, plants, and produce.
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When winter comes to Michigan earwigs will dig deep to escape cold temperatures. In other areas with a warmer climate, earwigs will remain active year-round. They prefer to hide in dark, moist places and come out only at night.

Earwig life cycle: 5 instars in svg going side...Image via Wikipedia

Earwigs start from eggs. The female will lay up to 50 eggs underground and then care for her hatchlings until their first molt. As soon as the young become old enough to leave the nest they will begin to fend for themselves.

Bluebirds, chickadees, wrens and other birds that use nestboxes are not at any risk from earwigs. In fact it’s the other way around; bug eating birds will devour the insects like candy if they are uncovered. And if an earwig is found in your home, it probably wants to get outside as much as you want it outside.

Read more about earwigs at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earwig

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

They're eating me out of house and home!

“The kiss of the sun for pardon. The song of the birds for mirth. One is nearer God’s heart in a garden, than anywhere else on this earth."—Dorothy Frances Gurney

Working at Wild Birds Unlimited I hear how hungry the birds are all the time. So first I would like thank you and everyone that supports our small business. People who shop here are the best!

Backyard bird watching is a fascinating activity that increases our awareness and appreciation of nature. It also helps us forget about the hectic day-to-day craziness and just sit back and relax.

We are now moving in to my favorite time of year. The heat has finally broken (I hope!!!!!). The wind is blowing and the leaves are rustling. Make sure you take time to smell the roses and watch all the baby birds mature.

Baby Bird 08                    (Your photostr...Image by Allie's.Dad via Flickr
And just a little reminder that Tuesdays are seed delivery days. If you would like to load a few bags directly into your car, that would be much appreciated. I know I keep running out of No-Mess blend but there is a couple tons waiting outside the store right now! Come in early to pick up your supply because the sale on our most popular blend ends this Saturday at the Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing, Michigan.
Thank you all!
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Monday, July 26, 2010

What is the Difference Between a Bird Call and a Bird Song?

The Cedar Waxwing: A Songbird Without a Song

Cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) passing a...Image via Wikipedia

There is still so much we have to discover about birds. As far as I know there are no hard and fast rules defining a call from a song.

Bird Calls are usually short inborn sounds both male and female birds make throughout the year. Birds use calls in a variety of contexts, such as to announce their location, to warn if there are predators nearby, to spread the word about a food source, and as a basic form of communication.

Bird Songs have two main functions: to defend a territory and to attract a mate. Usually heard in the spring, songs tend to be longer, and more complex then calls. Most songs are sung by males that inherit a basic unstructured song that they can improve on based on what they hear from their father’s song or close male neighbors. And just as our love songs have changed over the years, scientists have shown that birds also update their songs.

But not all songbirds sing songs. Blue Jays might imitate a squeaky gate. Starlings can produce a string of songs from different birds as well as other noises. And the Cedar Waxwings seem to have lost their ability to sing any song at all.

According to Donald Kroodsma in The Backyard Birdsong Guide, Cedar Waxwings make two basic types of calls: a high, thin seee and a more buzzy bzee but no song. In fact during breeding season the waxwings tend to be noticeable more quiet which seems to be an evolutionary reversal for birds.
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However, they may not need songs because Cedar Waxwings are social birds that form large flocks and often nest in loose clusters with over a dozen nests close together. So with no need to defend a territory through song, the males may use the wax on their wings to impress females as well as their wonderful courtship dances.

Still, there are a lot of unanswered questions for ornithologist, young or old, to answer in the future.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Birds You See at Michigan Bird Feeders

Will I see different birds in the winter at my birdfeeder than I do in the summer? Barbara A- Lansing, MI

It's funny I'm always asked this question during the hottest part of the summer. But once nesting is done some birds don't even wait for cold weather before they slowly journey south to areas that can sustain them through the winter.

As cold weather approaches and the lakes freeze most shore birds move south to find food too. And south doesn't necessarily mean South America.

South to some birds nesting in Canada is Michigan. Some Dark-eyed Juncos, Red-Breasted Nuthatches, Pine Siskins, Redpolls, Crossbills, and Snow Buntings are just a few birds only seen here during the winter. The White Throated and White Crowned Sparrows are common migrants in mid-Michigan from mid-September to mid-November.


A few other feeder birds that you will see during the winter are the Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, and of course the House Sparrow to name a few.

As winter approaches, many birds change some of their eating habits and you may see an increase in traffic at your feeder. Birds that usually eat insects may start to add rich, high energy foods such as fruit, nuts, seed or suet to supplement their diets.

And don't forget just like in the summer, birds also need a source for water in the winter. When the weather turns freezing, a heater or heated birdbath can keep an open water source for birds to bathe and drink.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ancient Birds from North America Colonised the South

Despite their ability to fly, tropical birds waited until the formation of the land bridge between North and South America to move northward.
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Scientists studying ancient species migration believe northern birds had the ability to colonise continents that southern species lacked. The research, published in Ecography, reveals how the ancient ‘land bridge’ of Panama, which first connected North and South America, caused an uneven species migration, leading to a new understanding of species diversity today.
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The continents of North and South America were historically isolated until they were abruptly joined three million years ago through the tectonic uplift of Central America and the formation of a land corridor in modern day Panama, creating a land bridge.
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"This connection allowed an unprecedented degree of intercontinental exchange between species that had been isolated for millions of years," said lead author Brian Tilston Smith from the University of Nevada. "However the relatively poor fossil record has prevented us from understanding how the land bridge shaped New World bird communities."
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Using molecular data and phylogenetic evidence from 11 orders, 34 families, and over 100 genera of bird species the team applied a ‘molecular clock’ to estimate the historical timing of the migration, giving a unique insight into how the ancient history of American bird migration led to present day species diversity across the equator.
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The results reveal that while ancient birds could fly most species did not cross the water between the two isolated continents, so were subject to the same constraints as their land based mammalian counterparts. The land bridge was therefore crucial in facilitating cross continental migration.
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"This inter-continental migration was far from even. While within the tropics around the equator exchange was equal in both directions, between the temperate zones of North and South America it was not," said Smith. "Avian lineages from the northern Nearctic regions have repeatedly invaded the tropics and radiated throughout South America. In contrast, species with South American tropical origins remain largely restricted to the confines of the tropical regions."

Examples of new species of the Great American ...Image via Wikipedia

Existing studies show that in mammals 50% of modern South American species have Northern origins whereas only 10% of species from the North originated in the South. The team found that this pattern is also reflected in birds. When considering the perching birds oscine and suboscine the team found that despite having northern ancestral origins, 55% of New World oscine species now breed in South America, many of them in tropical habitats. In contrast, only 2.4% of suboscines have secondarily adapted to North American temperate zone habitats."
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Our study suggests the formation of the panama land bridge was crucial for allowing cross continental bird migration," concluded Smith. "We believe that the ability of species to colonise and radiate across this area represents an important and underappreciated factor to the distribution of species around the equator."

Source: Press release provided by Wiley - Blackwell http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/PressRelease/pressReleaseId-78217.html

Journal Reference: Brian Tilston Smith, John Klicka. The profound influence of the Late Pliocene Panamanian uplift on the exchange, diversification, and distribution of New World birds. Ecography, 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0587.2009.06335.x
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Submit a Photo to the Blog

A family of 5 yes 5 has come calling and they are beautiful. ~Stephen Boskin

This is a fabulous shot, and the bird is gorgeous! Do you want us to use the photo for Friday Photo this week?
Sarah

I would be thrilled if you would post it on your blog. I have not put it up on my website as yet, http://www.stephenboskinphotography.com/. I do have some birds on the web as well as other things.
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Can you tell us the background story of the hawk?
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I live in an area of Los Angeles that was once bean fields. Housing was developed in 1951. Many Sycamore and Magnolia trees and an occasional California Redwood still exist.
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I have had many types of finches, Jays, Phoebes Etc. visit our small backyard. My next door neighbor said she saw Hawks mating in her Redwood tree either late may or early June.
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We have seen three Juvenile Hawks as well as the parents daily. I would love to get a shot of multiple Hawks, if so I will forward it to you.
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I forgot to mention that we have seen the Hawks working in tandem to corner baby squirrels and you know the rest. I do believe that they normally hunt as individuals.
Stephen

Thank you so much for sharing! For more info on Cooper's Hawks go to: University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Accipiter_cooperii.html

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Feeder Fresh: How to Keep Your Birdseed Dry

If you've been having trouble keeping your seed dry during this impossibly hot and humid summer in mid-Michigan, remember Wild Birds Unlimited has Feeder Fresh. I usually use it only in the rainy spring and fall but because of the liquid heat we've been experiencing I've had to use it all summer.

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 and feeder dry, keeps molds from forming, which reduces the chance of Aflatoxin and other mycotoxins.

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.

To use: Start with a clean feeder, and pour a couple teaspoons of Feeder Fresh into a scoop of seed and fill your feeder. Repeat as needed each time you fill or maintain your feeder. Use more during high humidity and rain or less as the weather drys and cools.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Squirrels Like to Work for Their Food

Many animals prefer working for their food, rather than getting it for free, defying standard economic theory.

I just finished a couple of fascinating books by Dan Ariely that explain some of the positive effects irrationality has on our lives based on several old and new psychological experiments.

The following is adapted from The Upside of Irrationaity: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home by Dan Ariely, HarperCollins (2010).

"Contrafreeloading," a term coined by the animal psychologist Glen Jensen, refers to the finding that many animals prefer to earn food rather than simply eating identical, but freely accessible, food found in a dish nearby.

To better understand the joy of working for food, Jensen first took adult male albino rats and tested their appetite for labor. Imagine that you are a rat participating in Jensen's study. After a few days of having a nice man in a white lab coat giving you lab crackers precisely at noon, you learn to expect food at noon every day, and your rat tummy begins rumbling right before the nice man shows up -- exactly the state Jensen wants you in.

Once your body is conditioned to eating crackers at noon, things suddenly change. Instead of feeding you at the time of your maximal hunger, you have to wait another hour, and at one o'clock, the man picks you up and puts you in a box with bar that you accidentally press, and immediately a pellet of food is released. Wonderful! You press the bar again. Oh joy! -- another pellet comes out. You press again and again, eating happily, but then the light goes off, and at the same time, the bar stops releasing food pellets. You soon learn that when the light is off, no matter how much you press the bar, you don't get any food.

Just then the man in the lab coat opens the top of the cage and places a tin cup in a corner of the cage. You don't pay attention to the cup; you just want the bar to start producing food again. You press and press, but nothing happens. As long as the light is off, pressing the bar does you no good. You wander around the cage, cursing under your rat breath, and go over to the tin cup. "Oh my! It's full of pellets! Free food!" You begin chomping away, and then suddenly the light comes on again. Now you realize that you have two possible food sources. You can keep on eating the free food from the tin cup, or you can go back to the bar and press it for food pellets. If you were this rat, what would you do?

Assuming you were like all but one of the two hundred rats in Jensen's study, you would decide not to feast entirely from the tin cup. Sooner or later you would return to the bar and press it for food.

Jensen discovered that many animals- including fish, birds, gerbils, rats, mice, monkeys and chimpanzees-tend to prefer a longer, more indirect route to food than a shorter, more direct one. That is, as long as the animal doesn't have to work too hard, he'll frequently prefer to earn his food. In fact, among all the animals tested so far the only species that prefers the lazy route is the commendably rational cat.

The general idea of contrafreeloading contradicts the simple economic view that organisms will always choose to maximize their reward while minimizing their effort.
Watch the video: http://youtu.be/nWU0bfo-bSY
For more information:
3. NPR interview of behavioral economist Dan Ariely about his new book, The Upside of Irrationality.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How Do I Keep Wasps from Building Nests in my Birdhouses?

Bees and wasps usually use unoccupied houses, but it’s best not to spray the house with any poisons. If you have one of our Wild Birds Unlimited easy clean out houses, I would leave the door open so there is a lot of light in the box. If there is no easy clean out you can plug the hole for a couple days until they get the idea.

If they have already established a nest it is best to let them be and not take any active measures to exterminate them. Instead, wait to clean them out in the fall when the weather is cooler and their activity has halted.
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To stop this from happening again, rub a thin layer of bar soap on the inside surface of the roof. The slippery surface prevents the insects from attaching the nest to the wood. Don’t use any oils like Crisco which could melt and get on bird feathers. A little Ivory Bar Soap rubbed on the inside of the birdhouse roof doesn’t hurt the birds and deters any insects from attaching a nest inside. Good luck!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Quick Fun Facts on Wrens

• You can increase your chances of attracting Carolina Wrens to feeders by providing a brush pile close to your feeding area. They feel more secure with a place to seek refuge nearby.

• A single male Carolina Wren can sing up to forty different songs – up to 3,000 times in a single day.

• A female Carolina Wren is unable to defend her territory alone if her mate dies, so she spends much of her time watching for predators as they forage together.

• A pair bond may form between a male and a female Carolina Wren at any time of the year, and the pair will stay together for life. Members of a pair stay together on their territory year-round and forage and move around the territory together.
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• Breeding from Canada southward to the southern tip of South America, the House Wren has one of the largest ranges of any bird found in the New World.

• 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.

• The stick-filled cavity of the House Wren nest provides “stilts” for the nest cup which allows rainwater to collect in the bottom of the nesting cavity without endangering the eggs or young.

For more information about wrens, visit http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/search - our online bird guide.
Source: WBU BOTM

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Scientist Fits Robin with Goggles

Birds navigate by being able to SEE Earth’s magnetic field with their right eye.

Researchers led by Katrin Stapput of Goethe-Universitat in Frankfurt, Germany, put goggles on the European Robins and found that if the right eye was covered by a frosted goggle, the birds could not navigate effectively. The scientists think the migrating birds actually see the magnetic fields with their right eye giving information to the left side of their brain.

It has been known since 1968 that birds were able to sense magnetic fields and use them to navigate when migrating south for the winter. Now this new study shows that the internal compass also depends on the birds having clear vision in their right eyes.

The ability is believed to be linked to specialized molecules in the birds' retinas that allow them to literally see the magnetic fields, which appear as patterns of light and shade superimposed over the regular image from light. The shadings change as the bird turns its head, giving it a visual compass.

Read more: http://www.physorg.com/news197872356.html
Study information: Magnetoreception of Directional Information in Birds Requires Nondegraded Vision, Katrin Stapput et al., Current Biology, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2010.05.070

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fledglings Make Family Life Fun

I came home last night and watched a juvenile Blue Jay, Cardinal, Downey Woodpecker and Starling all try to figure out how a feeder worked and what they were supposed to do with the food in front of them. It reminded me that this summer, parents across the country will spend countless hours with their children, taking them to places they’ve never seen before...like the bird feeders in your yard.

This is the time of year when fledglings leave the nest and are taught how to forage for food by their parents. It's a fascinating interaction that is fun to observe.

The fledglings follow their parents and either wait quietly or call incessantly and flutter their wings until fed. After one to three weeks, the parents will stop feeding their fledglings and may even peck at them if they persist in begging for food. Even birds have dysfunctional families.

You can make your backyard "bird family-friendly" by continuing to offer high-protein bird foods, such as WBU No-mess blend seed, Nyjer® (thistle), peanuts, suet and mealworms. These energy-packed foods will entice birds and their young back to your feeders so you can watch them up close.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Daddy and Baby Red-Breasted Grosbeak

I started keeping a Life List one year ago when I bought my iPhone and installed iBird Explorer Pro (an expensive app at $29.99). Since then, I've identified 32 species of birds, 27 of which I sighted in my front yard. A few of the species were victims of a large picture glass window, but thankfully there were no fatalities. To ameliorate the window crashes I have since installed decorations to make the glass more visible, which has helped greatly.
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Now that I have identified the majority of the feeder birds, it's rare to see new species. But I was amazed yesterday to see a male Red-breasted Grosbeak feeding at the seed dish, and even more amazed when I saw his offspring perched at an adjacent birdbath. And even MORE amazed when I saw the dad feeding his son mouthfuls of seed. I quickly grabbed my camera and shot about 150 images which resulted in what you see here.
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So keep your eyes open and a camera nearby. Because you never know what you'll see!
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Thank you very much for sharing. You captured some great moments! I'm so glad you had a camera ready. Please feel free to share with us at any time.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Important Backyard Birding Tips

Summer just seems to be flying. If you can believe it, some birds have finished nesting and are already starting to fatten up in anticipation of the journey south. As we approach August and September you will see an increase in feeder activity.

Make sure to keep your feeders clean. It can be detrimental to the birds if you don’t clean your feeders regularly. In order to keep healthy birds at your feeders, remember the following:

1. Feeders should be cleaned at least once a month. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing - will clean your feeder for $5.00 and it is ready the next day. Or you can purchase professional cleaners like Scoot or Poop-Off at Wild Birds Unlimited, or use a mild one part bleach or vinegar to nine parts water solution to clean all of your feeders. Disassemble feeders and immerse them completely for three minutes. Scrub with brushes (we have these too), rinse thoroughly, and let air dry.
2. Check your feeders after a rain to make sure the seed is dry. If not, replace it.
3. Store seed in a cool dry location. Wild Birds Unlimited has closed steel containers that work well to protect seed from unwanted seed thieves or bad weather.
4. When choosing a new feeder look for something easy to clean and fill.

Also right now there are still young birds around learning the ropes and unfortunately, many times it's the inexperienced birds that fall victim to window strikes.

Birds also strike windows as they quickly try to escape predators, hitting glass in a moment of panic. And during spring and fall migration, window strikes increase as birds unfamiliar with the area pass through your yard. Window strikes are hard to eliminate totally, but there are ways to reduce them and/or reduce their severity:
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1. Locate feeders and birdbaths within 1-2 feet of windows so birds can't gather enough speed to cause significant injury or about 20-30 feet from windows so birds have time to change direction.
2.Window feeders also alert birds to a window.
3. Window screens will reduce injury even if a bird flies into it. Use them where practical.
4. Decals like Window Alert placed on the outside of windows have had the most positive feedback from customers. Each decal contains a component which brilliantly reflects ultraviolet sunlight. This ultraviolet light is invisible to humans, but glows like a stoplight for birds.
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If you do have a window strike and the bird is injured CALL FOR ADVICE! The best course may be no interference. For a list of licensed rehabilitators click HERE. Or visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at: http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sounds of Summer: Michigan Cicada

Almost everyone notices the buzzing sound as the sun goes down in the summer. Cicadias' songs trigger memories of long, hot nights and family camping trips. But I didn't know there was so much I didn't know about the bugs.

According to Wikipedia there are 2,500 species of cicada around the world, and each species sings a different song. Michigan has 10 species of cicadias identified.

They stay high up in the trees and are seen rarely. The males produce sound by vibrating abdominal drums called timbals. The noise is among nature's loudest sounds at 100 decibels or more at a distance of one inch.

After mating, females lay eggs in the bark of a tree. The eggs hatch after six to seven weeks and the cicada juveniles or nymphs burrow underground and begin feeding on roots. Their life cycles are long. Depending on the species of cicadia, they can spend 2 to 17 years underground as juveniles and then about 2 to 6 weeks as adults singing and mating.

When the 1-1.5 inch nymphs emerge from the ground, they climb a tree, puff up their exoskeletons until it splits lengthwise down the back and the adult cicadas slowly emerge. You can often find these ghostly shed skins still intact at eye level on tree trunks.

Cicadas do not sting, bite or carry diseases and they don't hurt the trees. In fact the presence of cicadas is usually a sign of a robust forest. To look at the species found in Michigan and listen to their different songs click HERE to go to The University Of Michigan-Museum of Zoology-Insect Division-Cicadas of Michigan website.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How to Attract Mourning Doves

I have a Morning Dove that stops by my yard for a drink from my bird bath every evening of every other day when ever he or she is in the area. I would love to entice it to stop in and stay around a little longer... What must I do to encourage it to visit and stay awhile.

The Mourning Dove's large size and gentle "coo-ah, coo, coo, coo" vocalization makes it one of the most recognizable birds in the backyard. It’s unusual to see only one Mourning Dove though. They usually have a mate with them and in the fall they can gather in large numbers as they migrate south.

Water from a birdbath is a good way attract birds, as well as running streams or ponds. You are also likely to get more birds if you have trees, and shrubs for cover. In my yard doves are very popular dinner choice for the hawks. Pine trees can provide shelter, nesting sites, and food.

Mourning doves are not picky eaters but to feed comfortably, their large size requires a large perching area. Ground feeders or tray feeders allow lots of birds to feed. They eat a variety of seeds, insects, and berries. Any bird seed blend with a lot of sunflower seeds would be a good choice.

After they feed, swallowing lots of seeds and storing them in an enlargement of the esophagus called the crop; they fly to a safe perch. They like to gather every evening on our power lines to coo and digest their meal.

I hope that helps, Sarah
Read more at: http://ning.it/9kXDYw

Thank you so much for the information and the link on Morning Doves...Now I know how to make my yard a little more Dove friendly and the difference between the male and female.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Unique Bird Feeders

Some people may call it lazy, but I call it conserving energy: My experience with the Seed Cylinder Feeder.

I’ve been feeding birds for decades and after I started using my mesh finch feeder and the Squirrel Buster Plus and No-Mess seed, I thought there was no new feeder or seed that could make me happier. I was so satisfied with my bird feeding set up I wasn’t even tempted to try other feeders (well maybe just a little tempted, I work at a bird feeding store after all).

But customers would keep coming in raving about the seed cylinder feeders. So after about the millionth time a customer came in to tell me it's one of the easiest feeders to maintain and attracts a wide variety of birds, I finally broke down and bought a seed cylinder feeder.

I chose the WBU Dinner Bell feeder because if the seed cylinder didn’t work in my yard I could still use the feeder in a different way. It's also made in the USA and has a lifetime guarantee.

I slipped a fresh cylinder packed with pecans, sunflower chips and cranberries on the feeder and hung it where the squirrels couldn’t reach it and waited. It looked good. It kind of reminded me of the pecan log rolls my neighbor gives me every Christmas. Yummy!

Word went out fast. The birds thought it looked good too; no question about that. Cardinals, chickadees, wrens, nuthatches, woodpeckers, finches, jays, grosbeaks and even a pair of titmice came to feast on this delicacy. I was sure it would be gone by the time I got home the next day.

But it wasn't. And it was still there the next week. And the next. Every night I sat in a chair with a cat on my lap watching the birds dine at the seemingly bottomless seed cylinder.

That was four weeks ago, and there’s still a ring of seed remaining. Depending on the bird activity in your area, a seed cylinder can last for weeks. Why didn’t I listen to myself years ago when I told everyone what a great feeder this was!

Cleaning the feeder is super fast and easy and I don’t have to refill the feeder every day. Not that I'm lazy but bird watching is supposed to be a relaxing hobby and this feeder really lets me relax. I'm sold on these seed cylinders.

There are lots of flavors to choose from to attract a wide variety of birds, and they're very versatile. Each cylinder comes with a mesh bag which can be hung from a tree limb, or can be placed on the variety of feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited. Now I can have weeks of enjoyment with very little effort. If you don't believe me check out my video evidence.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Do we have Cuckoo Birds in Michigan?

Yes, the Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoos both nest in Michigan.

According to Birds of Michigan by Ted Black, “shrubby field edges, hedgerows, tangled riparian thickets and abandoned, overgrown fields provide the elusive Black-billed Cuckoo with its preferred nesting haunts. Despite not being particularly rare in Michigan, it remains an enigma to many would-be observers.

Arriving in late May, this cuckoo quietly hops, flits and skulks through low, dense, deciduous vegetation in its ultra-secret search for sustenance. Only when vegetation is in full bloom will males issue their loud, long, irregular calls, advertising to females that it is time to nest. After a brief courtship, newly joined Black-billed Cuckoo pairs construct a makeshift nest, incubate the eggs and raise their young, after which they promptly return to their covert lives.

The Black-billed Cuckoo is one of few birds that thrive on hairy caterpillars, particularly tent caterpillars. There is even evidence to suggest that populations of this bird increase when a caterpillar infestation occurs.

This cuckoo is reluctant to fly more than a short distance during nesting, but it will migrate as far as northwestern South America to avoid the North American winter.”

Similarly, “the Yellow-billed Cuckoo skillfully negotiates its tangled home within impenetrable, deciduous undergrowth in silence, relying on obscurity for survival.

Then, for a short period during nesting, the male cuckoo temps fate by issuing a barrage of loud, rhythmic courtship calls. Some people have suggested that the cuckoo has a propensity for calling on dark, cloudy days in late spring and early summer. It is even called “Rain Crow” in some parts of its North American range.

In addition to consuming large quantities of hairy caterpillars, Yellow-billed Cuckoos feast on wild berries, young frogs and newts, small bird eggs and a variety of insects, including beetles, grasshoppers and cicadas.

Though some Yellow-billed Cuckoos may lay eggs in the unattended nests of neighboring Black-billed Cuckoos, neither of these cuckoos is considered to be a “brood parasite.”

Some Yellow-billed Cuckoos migrate as far south as Argentina for the winter.”

Sources:
1. Birds of Michigan: by Ted Black
2. Photos from Wikipedia: Black-billed Cuckoo and Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What Do Baby Birds Do In This Heat?

If water is so important for birds, what do the babies do in the nest? Just curious in Lansing.

Well that's a very thoughtful question. Water is also important to baby birds and they are dependant on their parents to supply liquids.

Some babies are brought nice juicy bugs or berries. Many seed-eating species of birds provide some regurgitated seed and water.

Crows and ravens are known for washing their food before eating. Dipping road kill or the variety of other foods they eat in water allows the babies a way to get sufficient water to meet their daily needs.

Birds Don't Sweat: The Importance of Birdbaths

It’s Time to Provide Water

During the hot and often dry conditions that make up the “dog days of summer," you will be doing yourself and your birds a big favor by providing them with a reliable source of water.

Water is very important to birds. Whether they are feeder visitors or not, birds need water. Offering a dependable source of water is probably the simplest and most important step you can take to greatly increase the variety of birds in your yard.

It can also significantly increase your enjoyment of your birds by allowing you to watch their often comical antics as they drink, bathe and preen.

However, as entertaining as it is for us, water (or the lack thereof) can be deadly serious for birds. Birds must be ready to fly at all times, and bathing is a critical part of feather maintenance and staying in top-flight condition.

Water is also vitally important when it's extremely hot and a bird’s ability to regulate its body temperature can become stressed. Birds do not sweat and must remove excess body heat through their respiratory system. So when temperatures rise, a bird's respiration rate increases, sometimes to the point that it can be seen panting like a dog. This activity dehydrates birds and increases their need for a reliable source of water to replace lost fluids.

So, while the addition of a bird bath, fountain or mister to your yard can supply hours of enjoyable bird watching entertainment for you, it may also be providing a lifesaving necessity.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sweet Days of Summer

Emily Dickinson~
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I taste a liquor never brewed,
From tankards scooped in pearl;
Not all the vats upon the Rhine
Yield such an alcohol!
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Inebriate of air am I,
And debauchee of dew,
Reeling, through endless summer days,
From inns of molten blue.
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When landlords turn the drunken bee
Out of the foxglove's door,
When butterflies renounce their drams,
I shall but drink the more!
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Till seraphs swing their snowy hats,
And saints to windows run,
To see the little tippler
Leaning against the sun!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Birds-eye View: Are Hummingbirds Attracted to Red Feeders?

Some hummingbirds are attracted to red feeders as much as some humans are attracted to the “Golden Arches”. But just as we realize McDonald’s isn’t the only restaurant in town, hummingbirds can find nectar feeders of various colors too.

Scientists have confirmed that most birds see colors. Humans’ eyes have three types of color-sensitive cones that allow us to see three primary colors in terms of light are red, green and blue. Birds' eyes have four types of color-sensitive cones which allow many birds to also perceive ultraviolet (UV) light.
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Being able to see a broader spectrum of light can make as big a difference as watching black & white verses color television.
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Although unsure how birds benefit from their enhanced visual perception, you can assume from the way UV light reflects from their feathers that it might play a part in mate selection. And for nectar eating birds like the hummingbirds, a flower’s secret pattern on the petals act as arrows, to guide the pollinating birds and insects to the right spot.
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So there is no need to worry if you received a blue hummingbird feeder as a gift and there is no need to color your nectar (sugar water) with red food coloring. Click HERE for a more detailed sugar recipe.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Do you have feeders specifically for Squirrels?

I think squirrels believe most feeders are specifically made for them. But yes, Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI has a variety of squirrel feeders to choose from. There are a couple box styles that hold loose seed (Interactive Squirrel Feeder and Munch Box) and several that hold corn on the cob (Twirl-a-Squirrel, Squirrel Chair, Squirrel Bungee, and more).

If you are thinking about using a squirrel feeder to divert the little beasties away from your bird feeders, I get mixed feedback from customers on that tactic. Personally, I have one WBU hopper feeder in the middle of the yard for the squirrels and big birds to share and then Squirrel Proof, Hummingbird, Finch and Suet feeders in a different location. The squirrels go over to the bird feeding area occasionally, but tend to stick to their easy feeder.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Defy the Doldrums with Goldfinches

Many outdoor activities may fall prey to the “summer doldrums” during these warm and steamy months…but backyard bird feeding is not one of them.

If you don't feed the birds in the summer, you will miss out on a growing cast of birds that are displaying their most dazzling plumage and interesting behaviors. High on the list for entertainment value is of one of our most luminous backyard birds — the goldfinch.

During July, long after most birds have started their families, the American Goldfinch is just beginning its nesting process for the first and only time of the year. You do not want to miss this exciting time of vibrant song and fascinating courtship behavior.

Goldfinch nesting coincides with the availability of plant down for nest construction and the abundant supply of their preferred food to feed their young.

Young goldfinches are dependent on their parents for at least three weeks after fledging. Their energetic begging, chasing and harassment of their parents for food at your feeders are truly some of the biggest payoffs of participating in the bird feeding hobby.

Goldfinches love to eat fresh, dry Nyjer® (thistle), and they also enjoy sunflower chips. Make sure you have plenty on hand to take advantage of one of the most exciting times of year to feed birds…it’s a sure cure for the summer doldrums!

Source: WBU Nature News