Tuesday, August 31, 2010
When a squirrel tries to eat from the feeder his weight closes off the feeding ports to deny him access to the food. You can also adjust the tension to make it sensitive enough to shut down on the large starlings or blackbirds. Backyard birds average 0.3 – 2.0 ounces while blackbirds are about 4 ounces and squirrels are about a pound.
Monday, August 30, 2010
North America's only singing hummingbird is the Anna's Hummingbird, a medium-sized hummingbird that is common in the far western U.S. Their song during breeding season is a series of buzzy, scratchy, squeaking phrases along with some chip notes.
And if that isn't impressive enough they also fly 30 meters up in the air to complete a dive in front of females. The dive is so fast that it ends with an explosive chirp made by their tail feathers.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Preparing Your Yard for the Fall and Winter Checklist:
Prepare Bird Baths - Birds also need a source for water in the winter. In our area, weather can turn cold fast and freeze the water in bird baths. It is always good to cover ceramic bird baths or bring them in for the winter. It’s best to place a plastic or metal bath out with an added heater or a buy a heated birdbath. If you’re not sure what you need, Wild Birds Unlimited will give you accurate information on how to support our local birds.
Clean Feeders - Feeders should be cleaned at least once a month, year round. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing - will clean your feeder for $5.00. Or you can purchase professional cleaners like Scoot or Poop-Off at Wild Birds Unlimited, or use a one part 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. Also clean the area around the feeders to help eliminate the build up around the feeder.
Feeder/Hardware Maintenance - Check you feeders to see if there are any repairs that need to be done. Make sure feeders are hung so they are easy to reach and fill. If you are going to need a new Advanced Pole System to hang your feeders this winter now is a good time to get in the ground before it freezes.
Fill Feeders - Wild birds are already making decisions about which back yards they will visit this winter. Even though natural food sources are plentiful right now, birds are definitely taking note of which yards have food available. What you do as the days grow shorter lets the birds know where to go when that first storm hits. And beautiful, hungry, thankful birds can brighten any dreary winter day.
Leave Gardens Standing - Don't cut off the tops of your Marigold, Zinnias, Cosmos, Coneflowers... Goldfinches and other birds love them. The birds make the flowers dance as they flit from flower to flower looking for seed heads.
Friday, August 27, 2010
|Squirrel resting on power line that crosses the backyard.|
Fall is just around the corner.
Make sure you take a moment from your busy schedule to enjoy the end of Summer.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Do they catch mice in the store?We've never had mice in the store. My boys (J.B. and Eli) wouldn't know what to do if they saw a mouse. Dolly on the other hand, came into the store with fierce hunting skills that have disappeared gradually. Now that she has relaxed and knows a bowl of food and water will always be available she hardly even plays with her pet rock anymore.
I'm afraid I do more damage than the cats. Dolly likes to pick up the occasional price sticker on her tail and J.B. likes to push the "no tax" button on the cash register but that's about it. Now that Dolly is with us, Eli has pretty much given her the "Greeter Duty" and likes to flake out in the back office more and more.
I want to thank everyone for their concern and also for the occasional cat gifts. My babies are only a little spoiled and much loved.
Read more about them: Store Cats
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The bones also contain hollow chambers, or air sacs, that act as a kind of secondary lung system. The air sacs move air through the almost completely rigid lungs in a unidirectional flow instead of the in and out breathing of mammals that mixes old and new air. That means the birds have more oxygen available to them to enhance their efficiency and maintain their normal body temperature.
1. Bird Anatomy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_anatomy
2. Avian Respiration: http://people.eku.edu/ritchisong/birdrespiration.html
Image by elisfanclub via FlickrHummingbird nests are fascinating. Female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds alone construct cup shaped nests with a diameter about the same size as a quarter. They start to build with bud scales and spiderwebs and then camouflage the outside with lichen. To cushion the inside of the nest they use cotton or some other plant fluff like dandelions.
Some hummingbirds do fix up their old nest and reuse it. So I would just leave the nest you found alone but check it next spring to see if you are lucky enough to have the hummer return.
Also many people do not know that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act does make it illegal to collect nests of any native bird without a permit.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
The baby goldfinches that have graduated to feeding themselves are on one finch feeder and the the adults are feeding on the second finch feeder hanging right next to it. Even though the one feeder is packed with adult birds, none want to move over to the less busy children's table.
You can tell the babies by their sleek, sharp new feathers and dark bill. The parents look ragged as they molt from their bright summer feathers to their drab winter wear. The babies are going to be here all winter, so if they find your feeder now you get to enjoy these sunny sounding birds during the bleak winter months.
I did know that in October the Goldfinches separate into two groups based on age. Studies show that the birds hatched this year will stay in Michigan for the winter but their parents will go further south to winter. One thought is that the first year finches didn’t have to go through a molt and have more energy to survive a winter. But I didn't know they were feeding at separate feeders.
Have you noticed the same or are my birds just doing something special tonight?
Monday, August 23, 2010
Right now the birds are hungry! It’s fascinating to watch hummingbirds bulk up for the journey south. They are feasting on aphids, spiders and nectar especially. They need to increase their weight to about 2 pennies or about 1/5 of an ounce to survive the long flight.
I am watching my slim little birds turn roly poly right before my eyes! You can notice the extra fat along the back, belly, and throat. A hummingbird gains 25 – 40% extra body-weight to have enough fuel to travel 1,400 miles – with no wind of any kind. A headwind of only 10 miles per hour will cut that distance down to 600 miles and more than 20 mph will push them backward. However the ruby-throated hummingbird does take advantage of tail winds constantly.
Southbound ruby-throats rebuild their reserves in the early morning, travel about 23 miles during the day and forage again in the late afternoon to keep up their body weight.
The first to go south are the older males, then the females and finally the first year hummingbirds. Newly hatched hummers have no memory of migration, just an urge to eat and move south. This urge is inborn so there is no reason to take your feeders down to force birds to migrate. That just forces them to look for food in another area until they feel fat enough and may not bother to return to your yard next year.
Feeders can have a real positive impact on the number of birds that survive so please keep them clean and fresh. I recommend you continue to maintain feeders until you haven’t seen a hummingbird for two weeks; depending on where you live in Michigan that can be anywhere from the end of September to mid-October.
For much more information on hummingbirds visit: http://www.hummingbirds.net/
Sunday, August 22, 2010
• Owls' feathers are especially soft and muffle wind noise. Many owls also have special comb-like fringes on the leading edge of their wings to help channel air, thereby reducing noise. These adaptations allow owls to make a soundless approach towards their prey.
• An old southern legend states that if you hear a Great Horned Owl’s call coming from your left side it is forecasting bad luck for you.
• Many owls can turn their head around about 270 degrees, allowing them to look directly behind themselves. This adaptation has developed to compensate for the fact that their eyes are fixed into a boney socket in the skull and are virtually unable to move.
• Owls' eyes are unique among birds as they are located on the front of the head, instead of on the side. This not only gives them a very human appearance but also enables them to match our level of depth perception that is created by the overlapping vision from each eye.
• Owls' ears are located asymmetrically on their head, with the right ear being higher than the left ear. Each ear hears the same sound with a slight difference, creating a form of audible “depth perception” which can be used to track the location and movements of their prey.
• When fully spread out, the talon of a Great Horned Owl can span up to eight inches wide.
• After digesting their most recent meal, owls will form a pellet of the undigested remains of their prey and regurgitate it. Made up primarily of fur, feathers and bones, it is egested approximately 13-16 hours after eating.
• The Great Horned Owl nests earlier than any other bird of prey in North America.
• When listening to the calls of Great Horned Owls you can distinguish the male from the female by his lower pitch and slightly slower call.
• The Great Horned Owl is probably the longest-lived owl in North America. Banding records confirm numerous owls living into their twenties, with the record lifespan being more than 27 years.
For more information about owls, visit http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/search - our online bird guide.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Orioles make only one nesting attempt per year. So depending on the success of the birds in finding mates and a nesting site, they may be done raising a new family anytime from mid-June to mid-August. That means they’re free to move around after that. Some may start down south and some adult orioles are just secretive at the end of July when they begin their fall molt and may not visit feeders.
Usually, there are a few early individuals that start migration. These are followed south by a much larger volume of migrants. Finally the peak tapers off gradually to a few lingering stragglers. Most of the bird books will tell you that they leave Michigan by mid-September but there is no set schedule and I'd leave your feeder up a little while longer, just in case.
Related article: Migration of Birds: When Birds Migrate http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/birds/migratio/when.htm
Friday, August 20, 2010
BirdWatch Ireland wrote about their findings in a recent publication:
“Rather than being some exotic new visitor, these in fact ARE Starlings and House Sparrows that have been feeding on a plant called New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax). Though native to New Zealand, this species has been planted commonly in gardens around the country and has even become naturalized in the wild in many areas. Its high antler-like flower-stalks which grow out from the centre of a fan of long, narrow leaves are highly distinctive and will be familiar to many people.
We are used to plants being pollinated by insects and even by the wind, but New Zealand Flax uses another method: it is pollinated by birds. The tubular flowers produce rich, sweet nectar that many birds find irresistible. As they stick their beaks down into the flowers to feed, a small brush-like appendage dusts the tops of the birds’ heads with brightly colored pollen, staining it a vivid orange or red color. When they move on to feed from another flax flower, these birds bring the pollen with them, helping the plant to reproduce.
Image via WikipediaIn New Zealand the main pollinator is a unique native bird called the Tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae), which has even evolved a beak with exactly the same curvature as the flax flower to allow it to feed more easily. We don’t have any Tuis in Ireland, so the plants have to make do with the Irish birds, mainly Starlings and House Sparrows, that have learned that flax nectar is a good source of food.
The staining on the bird’s crown feathers is only temporary and doesn’t cause them any discomfort or harm: they are probably completely unaware of how odd they look to our eyes. It is not at all surprising that people think they have seen a new species of bird, as the addition of such a vivid splash of colors to otherwise rather drab and muted species really catches the eye and stands out as something unusual. It will be interesting to see whether this feeding behavior spreads to other bird species and whether it aids the spread of this invasive plant species in Ireland.”
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Wild Birds Unlimited mesh finch feeder attracts so many goldfinches! Click HERE to read more about my favorite finch feeder and how to attract more finches to your yard.
Obviously if you watch my video below, you'll see I’m very quiet and that's because I’m listening for the cheeps of the baby goldfinches.
At the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, I also see adult goldfinches eating from my sunflower plants as some fledglings watch from a nearby apple tree.
I know that they'll soon have it all figured out including a grown up song and I'll miss their little "Ma me...Da de de" in the morning.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
About the size of two grains of salt, each Wolffia flower consists of a single pistil and stamen in the upper part of the plant body. A bouquet of a dozen blooms wouldn’t cover a pinhead. And as you might guess, the smallest flowering plant also holds the record for the smallest fruit called utricle.
Image by matt knoth via FlickrEven though these plants are small they are also mighty. Duckweed is being used to extract nitrogen and phosphate pollutants from agricultural and municipal wastewater. They can reduce algae growth, coliform bacterial counts, and mosquito larvae on ponds, while concentrating heavy metals, capturing or degrading toxic chemicals, and encouraging the growth of other aquatic animals such as frogs and birds.
Duckweed also produce biomass faster than any other flowering plant, serve as high-protein feed for animals, and show clear potential as an alternative for biofuel production.
So take a second look at the local pond. After a little more research, the unassuming and fast-growing duckweed has tremendous potential to clean up pollution, combat global warming, and feed the world.
Related Web Sites
1. Duckweed pictures
2. World’s Smallest Flowering Plant - by Wayne P. Armstrong
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Birds sit on power lines, trees, roofs or any perch, facing into the wind. Any other direction would ruffle their feathers. It's also easier to communicate.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Millions of hummingbirds are preparing to fly back to their winter ranges. Hummingbirds have been migrating between North and Central America for hundreds of years, some traveling thousands of miles each way.
Studies show that most of the hummingbirds you see at your feeders in the fall, are replaced by a new wave of migrants within 24 hours.
Image via WikipediaWhether they are feeder visitors or not, birds need water for drinking, bathing and preening. Offering a dependable source of water is the simplest and most important step you can take to increase the variety of birds in your yard.
Deter Unwanted Visitors
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in still water, so open sources of water can cause a potential mosquito problem. Use a Water Wiggler™ to create ripples and prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in your bird baths. Water in motion is also more attractive to birds.
Image by Jason Paluck via FlickrNectar Feeding Solutions
Aggressive male hummingbirds can bully others from visiting a feeder. By hanging multiple hummingbird feeders around your yard, you make it difficult for a territorial male to defend the area, allowing other birds to visit the feeders.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Thanks for any information you can provide. Betty ~Grand Rapids, MI
Thursday, August 12, 2010
There are actually several bird species in the world with the name Cardinal. The term "Northern" in the common name refers to its range, as it is the only cardinal found in the Northern Hemisphere.
And the “Cardinal” name was derived from the vivid red plumage of the male, which resembles the robes of the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Image via Wikipedia"Tiny insects like aphids are not helpless when facing large animals that rapidly consume the plants they live on," said Moshe Inbar, professor of environmental and evolutionary biology and coauthor of a report in the Aug. 10, 2010 Current Biology. "They reliably detect the danger and escape on time."
A new study finds the aphids are able to detect the breath of animals including humans as they approach a plant allowing them enough time to flee. Researchers at the University of Haifa at Oranim, Israel first noticed this phenomenon when they allowed a goat to feed on aphid-infested alfalfa plants— "Strikingly, 65 percent of the aphids in the colonies dropped to the ground right before they would have been eaten along with the plant," the researchers write.
Image via Wikipedia"As soon as we started to work on this problem, we suspected that the aphids responded to our own breath," he said. "We predict that this sort of escape behavior in response to mammalian breath may be found among other invertebrates that live on plants and face the same threat."
The researchers later used snorkels to keep their own breath from ruining their experiments.
To read the full ScienceDaily article click HERE.
Moshe Gish, Amots Dafni, Moshe Inbar. Mammalian herbivore breath alerts aphids to flee host plant. Current Biology, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.06.065