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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What is the Best Squirrel Proof Feeder?

I like the Brome Squirrel Buster Plus and so do our customers. It is our number one selling feeder at the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store. I’ve had mine for over four years now and I’ve never had a problem.

Squirrels can’t figure out how to open the feeder. It has a lock top you push down and turn to fill. The tube will hold a lot of seed and is long enough so that squirrels can’t hang upside down to reach the feeding ports. The Squirrel Buster also has a cardinal ring so cardinals can sit and eat comfortably or if you just want smaller birds, the ring can be removed.

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.

The best thing about the feeder is that it is easy to disassemble for cleaning because there are no tools required and this beautiful feeder comes with a Lifetime Factory Warranty.

You can fill the Squirrel Buster Plus with any quality seed and hang it from a pole or tree. I like to use the Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess seed blend and I have mine hanging on a tree hook. The feeder attracts a variety of pretty birds that I can watch when I come home from work and no squirrels. The poor squirrels don’t understand that the seed you put out isn’t for them.

You’ve probably noticed the squirrels have been acting more squirrely than usual as fall approaches. They are darting out in front of cars, destroying feeders, stockpiling nuts in secret hideaways and being all around crazy! Squirrel proof feeders are the easiest way to keep them out of your “bird” seed and the Squirrel Buster Plus is one of the best feeders guaranteed!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Do Hummingbirds Sing?

Anna's HummingbirdImage by chuqui via FlickrSome hummingbirds sing, but most like Michigan’s Ruby-throated Hummingbird just chip and hum.

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.
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Saturday, August 28, 2010

How to Prepare Your Yard for Winter Birdwatching

I hope everyone enjoys this upcoming Labor Day Weekend. I usually take advantage of the extra day to do some fall cleaning in the yard. I want the birds that winter in Michigan to find a refuge in my backyard during the harsh winter months. I prepared a checklist to help you make sure your yard is ready too.

Preparing Your Yard for the Fall and Winter Checklist:
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Provide Roosting Spots - Nest boxes turn into roosting boxes in the winter for bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, sparrows, and other birds that might stay all winter in mid-Michigan. Clean out old nests from houses to allow birds the opportunity to roost in a warm, clean house when winter winds blow. You can also plant natural shelters like bushes or buy roosting pockets woven of all-natural grasses available at Wild Birds Unlimited to offer essential protection in the winter.

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

Make Sure You Stop and Enjoy the Day.

Squirrel resting on power line that crosses the backyard.
Time is Flying!

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 You Take Your Cats Home at Night?

Everybody is always so worried about my babies at the East Lansing, MI Wild Birds Unlimited store. The cats don't go home with me at night because the store is their home. I'm with them about 10 hours a day every day and they are so exhausted by closing time that they are glad to have the lights out and get some much needed rest.

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.
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Do they do a lot of damage in the store?
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

What Weighs More, Bird's Feathers or Bird's Bones?

ChickadeeImage by Carly & Art via FlickrBirds have evolved many unique adaptations to survive, including pneumatic or hollow bones. In fact the skeleton of most backyard birds only comprises about 5% of its total body weight. That means that in some species of birds, their bones are so lightweight that the bird's feathers weigh more than their entire skeleton.

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.



More information:
1. Bird Anatomy:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_anatomy
2. Avian Respiration: http://people.eku.edu/ritchisong/birdrespiration.html
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Hummingbird Nests

Do hummers reuse nests? I know where an old nest is and I'd like to keep it if they're done using it. Todd in Owosso, MI

Attleson Farm: Hummingbird NestImage 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.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Old vs.Young: Do American Goldfinches Migrate?

I am watching the American Goldfinches tonight along with the hummingbirds feasting on the feeders outside the dining room window. The hummers are bopping all the birds that they think are looking at them funny and the goldfinches are doing something I've never seen before.

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

The Hummingbirds Are Very Hungry!: When to Take Down Your Hummingbird Feeders

If you’ve never fed Ruby-throated Hummingbirds before, you must, must, must get a feeder out there today! We still have a wide selection to choose from at our Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI store.

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.
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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.

Enjoy!
For much more information on hummingbirds visit: http://www.hummingbirds.net/

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fun Facts on Owls

From their wings to their eyes, owls have adapted to be some of nature's best hunters.
Great Horned Owl FamilyImage by Beth Sargent via Flickr• The adaptive Great Horned Owl can be found virtually anywhere in North America. Its habitat includes forest, field, tundra and desert and highly-developed suburban areas.
• 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 can fly and hunt during the daytime as well as at night. However most of them are best adapted for nocturnal hunting.
• 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.
Source: BOTM WBU.com
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Saturday, August 21, 2010

When do Orioles Migrate South?

I haven’t seen my orioles since the end of July. Where did they go? Isn’t it too early to migrate south? Should I take my oriole feeder down?

Dream Weavers
oriole female nestDSC_0157Image by ben_long_hair via FlickrBaltimore Orioles arrive at their mid-Michigan breeding grounds near the end of April. Soon after the female alone begins to build a nest. This consists of weaving and tying thousands of stitches and knots with her beak into a woven hanging-basket.
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It can take as many as 15 days for her to weave a nest and the result is an engineering masterpiece of plant fiber, grasses, vine and tree bark. Orioles build the nest on small branches 6 to 45 feet in the air, to keep them safe from predators. Female orioles are also in charge when it's time to incubate the eggs and brood the young in the nest. Then both parents feed the young which fledge about 30 days from egg laying.

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
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Friday, August 20, 2010

A new species of orange-headed bird found in Ireland?

Calls were coming in to the BirdWatch Ireland headquarters about several new bird species with orange crowns. These new birds were hanging around with the old Irish bird regulars like the House Sparrows and Starlings but not in any field guides.

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.

A New Zealand Tui eating the nectar from the f...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.”
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The Luckiest Butterfly

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, VirginiaImage by Va bene! via FlickrFrom: mjshaber August 2010

A dragonfly attacks a butterfly midair, and they land in the creek. As the butterfly struggles to escape, a nearby snapping turtle notices the two and comes in for a closer look...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I Have Baby Goldfinches!: The Best Finch Feeder Ever


I come home after a long day and heard baby goldfinches. My 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.



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The babies are just starting to come to my feeders and their happy calls remind me of a squeaky dog toy. "♪ High, low...♪ high, low, low." They have very clean olive colored feathers similar to a female or a goldfinch in the winter.

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

The Worlds Smallest Flowering Plant

English: The smallest flower species in Europe...Image via WikipediaWater-meal, or Wolffia globosa is the name of one kind of duckweed in the family Lemnaceae that produces the smallest and simplest flowers.

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.

red-legged frog under cover of duckweedImage 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.
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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

3. Duckweed Quacks Volumes of Potential

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why do birds face the same direction on power lines?

I saw hundreds of birds land on a telephone line and it seemed all were facing in the same direction. Is anyone aware of a reason why? Thanks!
birds on wiresImage by mikelietz via Flickr
Scientists believe the main reason that birds face the same way on a wire is due to the direction of the wind. Birds have an easier time taking off and landing facing the wind.

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

Pre-Google Earth: A Real Bird's Eye View

Spy PigeonsImage by Acid Zebra via FlickrWell in the olden days kids, to get a bird's eye view you literally went to a bird photographer.
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After the invention of photography, primitive aerial photographs were made from manned and unmanned balloons, starting in the 1860s, and from tethered kites in the 1880s.
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Then in 1907, Julius Neubronner experimented with pigeons in aerial photography. The pigeons carried small cameras with timers strapped to their chest that snapped a series of aerial images.
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Soon after, rockets, airplanes, and satelites were developed to give us a bigger picture of the world.
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And now Google Earth and Google Maps, display satellite images of the Earth's surface to allow everyone a bird's eye view of the world.

(left) Neubranner's pigeon with camera.
(center and right) Aerial photographs taken on pigeon photo flights. Note the wingtips showing in the center top image of the castle.

Related Articles:
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

What is the Heaviest Hummingbird?

Giant Hummingbird - Patagona gigas peruvianaImage by Fabrice Schmitt via FlickrThe world's heaviest hummingbird is the South American Giant Hummingbird (Patagona gigas). Its size makes it unmistakable.
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It weighs an astounding 18-20 g and is 8 1/2 inches long. The bird's upperparts are dark green with a white rump and its underparts are brownish on the male and grayish on the female.
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Giant Hummingbird (Patagona gigas) 9Image by Yogurt75 via FlickrGiant Hummingbirds have dull plumage compared to many other varieties but can still fly and access trumpet-like blossoms with its long bill.
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They are native to the western South America and in the Andes, specifically, ranging from Ecuador to as far south as northwestern Argentina.
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Making the Most of Late Summer

Though this month marks the beginning of the end of summer, there are still plenty of opportunities to help birds and maximize your backyard enjoyment.

Hummingbird Migration
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.
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A high-calorie diet is important to build fat reserves for their trip, so be sure to have your hummingbird feeders ready.

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.

Offering Water
Male House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) at a lo...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.
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Birds must be ready to fly at all times, especially during migration. Bathing is a critical part of keeping their feathers in top-flight condition.

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.

Ruby-throated hummingbirdImage by Jason Paluck via FlickrNectar Feeding Solutions
Easy to clean and fill, the saucer style hummingbird feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited are the most popular. They have a lifetime guarantee, built in ant moat and don't leak. Bees usually leave these feeders alone but bee guards can be added to the ports to prevent bees, wasps and ants from becoming a nuisance.

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.
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Offer safflower, and keep starlings and grackles from eating all your bird food and crowding your feeders. Safflower is a small, white seed that is high in protein and fat. Most song birds eat safflower, however, starlings, grackles and squirrels typically do not.
There are many ways to keep squirrels away from your existing set up. Using squirrel proof feeders, safflower seed and baffles can prevent squirrels from eating your bird food.
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Visit Wild Birds Unlimited soon because have everything you and your birds need to make the most of late summer.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Chicken or What?

Do you have any idea what this creature is. It looks like a chicken, or a quail, or a bob white, but no consistent features - and look at the length of those toes?

Thanks for any information you can provide. Betty
~Grand Rapids, MI


Hello, I'm sorry I've never encountered this bird before. It doesn't look like it has spurs on its feet or a long tail. That probably means it's a hen of some sort. It could be a young bird from several species including chicken, grouse, partridge or pheasant. I will post it on the blog and see if someone can identify the bird. Sarah
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Anybody have any ideas?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How did the Northern Cardinal get its name?

In 1758, the Cardinal was one of the many species originally described by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature. Based on appearance, Linnaeus thought the Cardinal was related to the Red Crossbill and gave it the genus Loxia cardinalis. Loxia is derived from the Greek loxos which means crosswise..
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However taxonomists found the two species were not closely related. Subsequently in 1838, it was changed to the genus Cardinalis and given the scientific name Cardinalis virginianus, which means "Virginia Cardinal" because there were a lot of Cardinals in Virginia.
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Then in 1918, the scientific name was changed to Richmondena cardinalis to honor Charles Wallace Richmond, an American ornithologist. But in 1983 that was changed again, to Cardinalis cardinalis and the common name was also changed to "Northern Cardinal.”
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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.
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Whatever the name, Cardinals are beautiful birds that are a favorite to watch at mid-Michigan feeders.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I'm going to huff and puff and blow the aphids away!

Acyrthosiphon pisum Harris Host: clover Trifol...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.

Goat eating leevesImage 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.

Journal Reference:
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
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