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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Please, DO NOT Collect Dryer Lint for the Birds!

Offering birds construction material to build a nest is just one more way for you to attract a wider variety of bird activity to your yard. But I’ve been hearing several people say that they are saving their dryer lint for nesting material this spring.

I’d like to say that we DO NOT recommend dryer lint. There may be perfumes and soap residue, but more important it isn’t a good nest building material. Lint hardens after getting wet providing a poor nest for baby birds.

There are several different nesting materials that we DO recommend. Birds generally line the inside of their nest with a soft lining. Clean pet hair or cotton yarn cut no longer than 3 inches can be stuffed into an old mesh onion sack or an unused suet cage and hung from trees and bushes for birds to use in nest building. (I know it’s not hard to collect a handful of cat hair right now as the cats are switching to their spring coat!) You can also purchase natural cotton balls and Birdie Bells full of feathers, straw, and cotton at our Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI.

Dusty the Squirrel by Heidi Hooper
In the end, whether the birds are collecting twigs, leaves, feathers, cattail fluff or cottonwood down, moss, bark, pine needles, mud, or spider webs from the yard or the nesting material we offer, it's fun to watch as different birds collect different construction materials in the spring.

So what do you do with all that dryer lint you collected? How about making dryer lint art? Visit Heidi Hooper's website for more inspiration: http://www.heidihooper.com/lint.htm
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What Triggers Birds to Sing?

There is still a lot of snow on the ground but you may have noticed that as the days get longer, the birds are beginning to sing more. What triggers this change in behavior?

A key part of a bird’s brain is affected by seasonal change. When birds are exposed to longer days, the cells start to release a thyroid-stimulating hormone, previously associated only with growth and metabolism. It indirectly stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete further hormones called gonadotrophins, causing male birds' testicles to grow and, results in increased singing during breeding season.

So now is the time to be thinking about providing nesting material and nesting boxes to attract wild birds in your yard because there is nothing like birds’ songs to herald the approach of spring.

Related Articles:



Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Are Horned Larks Common in Mid-Michigan?

Hi, I was in the East Lansing location this afternoon and was trying to describe the new bird at my house. Hope these pictures can aid in his identify. Thanks for your help. I live in Charlotte.

The tinkling songs of the Horned Larks on the side of the road and fields are a sure sign that another spring has arrived. Horned Larks are among the earliest arrivals in our region, settling on the fields long before the snows are gone.

More information can be found at http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Horned_Lark/lifehistory.

I'm so glad you took photos. Sarah

Do you really think it is a horned Lark? Are these common around here. Jean

These yellow-faced birds with black masks and collars are definitely Horned Larks. In the winter, the larks' “horns” aren't as noticeable.

In mid-Michigan it’s common to see large nomadic flocks forage for food together during the non-breeding season. Horned Larks often join mixed flocks of Lapland Longspurs, Snow Buntings, Dark-eyed Juncos, or American Pipits, too.

They feed on mostly seeds of grasses, weeds, and bird seed while walking and running on the ground. In the summer they feast on insects too.

The only true lark native to the New World, this is one of our earliest nesting birds. In some states, nests may be found in February. This can mean that the first set of eggs is often destroyed by snowstorms. It’s more common for them to begin breeding in June.

The males’ courtship can be very impressive. You’ll see him circling high above the ground singing. When the song ends he closes his wings and dives towards the ground. At the last second he opens his wings right before he would crash and pulls out of the dive.

Females build nests on the ground with dry grasses and plant fibers near stones or under small plants in open, sandy areas. Once mated, the female lays 3 to 4 glossy eggs that range from gray to greenish white with light brown spots. Incubation lasts 10 to 14 days and with the help of both parents, the chicks fledge in 9 to 12 days.

In Europe and Asia, where this species occurs from the Arctic south to north Africa, the Horned Lark is known as the Shore Lark.

Thank you for sharing. You've given us a very good bird of the week.
Sarah


Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, February 25, 2011

How to get the perfect photograph of a bird's nest

Cherry Kearton standing on his brother Richard's shoulders and taking a photograph of a bird's nest in 1890.
Cherry Kearton (1871-1940); Richard Kearton (1862-1928)

The brothers were pioneers of wildlife photography. In 1899 they published 'With Nature and a Camera' illustrated with 160 photographs. Richard went on to develop several techniques to take nature photographs including hiding in a stuffed ox in order to obtain better pictures.

With the advent of moving pictures the Kearton brothers went their separate ways and Cherry moved into the field of wildlife documentary film making.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Do I need to clean my bird feeder?

Imagine you're going out to your favorite restaurant. When you first went there the it was brand new and clean. Now you go in and they give you a water glass that's dirty, and when you peek into the kitchen you see the chef cut up a moldy tomato for a salad.

Hopefully you've notice the change in the place before you've actually eaten something to make you sick. You realize they're not maintaining the place and walk out and never come back. Now imagine your regular birds coming to their favorite feeding station and see a filthy feeder. When was the last time you’ve cleaned it? You don't want to make your birds sick.
 
It can be detrimental to the birds if you don’t clean your feeders regularly. In order to keep healthy birds at your feeders, consider the following:

1. 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 mild 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. 
2. Check your feeders after a rain and snow 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.
.If you keep these measures in mind, you can keep this hobby enjoyable for your family and safe for your birds. Bon appetite!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What is the Largest Recorded Snowflake?

Mother Nature gave us a taste of spring and then dumped 10 inches of snow on everyone in mid-Michigan. The flakes in my area were quite large and made me wonder how large can a snowflake grow?

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest snowflake ever recorded was 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick! It was reported by ranch owner Matt Coleman at Fort Keogh, Montana, on January 28, 1887.

Before you discount the rancher’s finding, you should know that according to a NY Times article “weather officials in Berlin reported a winter storm of January 1915 that produced snowflakes up to four inches wide. The big flakes not only fell more rapidly than the small flakes, but also did not swirl about to the same extent. The officials added that most were shaped like round or oval bowls or dishes with upturned rims. They did rock to and fro in the wind but at no time were they observed to turn over completely so that the concave side would face downward.”

The article goes on to say that “theorists, weather historians and field observers are concluding that most of the reports are true and that unusually large snowflakes two to six inches wide and perhaps wider fall regularly around the globe, surprisingly big and fluffy, if seldom witnessed or celebrated…The laws of physics suggest no obvious restrictions on the size of very large flakes.”

Dr. Kenneth G. Libbrecht, Chairman of the physics department at the California Institute of Technology and a snowflake devotee, was quoted in the article and has written several books. His website explains everything you want to know about snowflakes at http://www.snowcrystals.com/.

Source:
NY Times: Snowflakes as Big as Frisbees?

For more information "like" our Facebook page
Related Articles:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Can Squirrels and Birds Eat Together?

Hi! I love your blog :) I have a question about squirrels and birds. I have one big bird feeder and several smaller ones in my backyard. They are placed apart (2 are on the same tree). It is a smallish yard. However all I get are squirrels! I counted 7 yesterday. I really don't mind feeding them and the bunnies that come at night, especially when it gets down to -30 here (I'm in north Iowa now but I'm a native Detroiter). I used to get flickers, downys, cardinals, sparrows and crows. Now they all skip over my yard because the squirrels are always there. I can't put up any new poles to hold feeders with the ground frozen. Do you have any ideas how to get the birds back with the squirrels there? Thanks so much! Amanda, olivetto.wordpress.com, olivetto.etsy.com

Hello, I like the squirrels too. They are awake way before the birds on these bitter cold mornings. I was just saying today that the early squirrel gets the nut.

I have one fly-thru feeder designated for the squirrels or any bird that can squeeze in a turn. I fill that with sunflower chips and peanut pieces. And believe me, when a Blue Jay, Red-bellied Woodpecker, or a Carolina Wren want a nut, the squirrels better move or they'll get pecked.

Then I have several Nyjer thistle feeders. Squirrels will avoid these feeders. The Nyjer seed is a lot of shell filled with a tiny bit of oil that usually only the finches adore.

The best suet for the birds should have a high percentage of crude fat (~40%) and little or no seed. My squirrels don’t bother my suet feeders, but if they did, I would recommend using our Hot Pepper suet. Mammals don’t like hot pepper but the birds do.

My most popular bird feeder is the Squirrel Buster Plus. That’s our number one selling feeder that accommodates the largest variety of backyard birds and will close when a squirrel attempts to feed.

I also have a safflower feeder. Feeding safflower seed has become the solution to attracting specific birds to your feeder and repelling others. The shape of the shell and the bitter taste makes this seed unattractive to blackbirds and mammals like squirrels. However, popular backyard birds including cardinals, chickadees, House Finches, Mourning Doves, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmice, and nuthatches, savor safflower.

Also baffles will make it harder for the squirrels to reach the seed. Squirrels can jump 4-5 feet high and across 5-10 feet. There are several types of baffles that you can use too. You can put a baffle around a pole to stop them from reaching your feeder. Or you can buy a baffle that goes over your feeder that protects it from squirrels dropping down from the trees.

Next, make your yard bird friendly. I have lots of evergreens for the cardinals and chickadees to hang around, trees that produce fruit at different times of the year and flowers that produce seed heads. We also have a pond and a variety of bird houses. A heated birdbath and a brush pile would also help the birds.

Finally, keep your feeders clean and full of fresh seed. Before you fill the feeder, put some seed on a piece of paper and crush it. You should see oil stains on the paper. If your seed is dried out your feeders will be skipped.

And everyone should clean their feeders about once a month, especially when migrating birds begin to pass through. When birds are stressed they are susceptible to diseases and so it’s best to serve them on a clean plate.

Thanks for writing. I hope one of these suggestions helps.
Sarah
Store location:
Wild Birds Unlimited
2200 Coolidge Rd. Ste.17
East Lansing, MI 48823


email:  bloubird@gmail.com
web:     http://lansing.wbu.com/
blog:     http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/birdsunlimited
Facebook: Wild Birds Unlimited Mid-Michigan http://tiny.cc/QmIv5

Great! Thank you so much :)
I'll give those a try. Amanda

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Bald Eagle is the National Symbol of the USA: What are some other Countries' National Birds

The United States started the trend for national birds when it made the Bald Eagle its avian representative over 200 years ago. Eagles are symbols of power and majesty. Is it any wonder that our national bird is the Bald Eagle?

Have you ever wondered what are the national birds of other countries? Some chose bold fierce birds of prey, others more colorful pretty birds, or sometimes it's just the most common bird in the land.

European Robins Erithacus rubecula are one of the only UK birds to be heard singing in the garden on Christmas day. This is because they hold their territories all year round, defending against intruders with song. Their melodious voices, along with their cocky little attitudes, have endeared robin red breasts to the British public, and in 1960 they were crowned the UK's national bird.

The Coq Gaulois or the Gallic Rooster is the unofficial national bird of France. Its association with France dates back from the Middle Age and is due to the play on words in Latin between Gallus, meaning an inhabitant of Gaul, and gallus, meaning rooster.

The Red-crowned Crane is still being considered China's candidate for national bird after years of expert analysis and public polls. It is a bird that Chinese associate as a symbol of luck, longevity and fidelity but its species name Grus japonensis translates into Japanese Crane. So the decision of a national bird has been deferred.


Peacock (Pavo cristatus), displaying his tail,...Image via Wikipedia
 The Indian Peafowl or Blue Peafowl Pavo cristatus is the national bird of India. Once bred for food, peacocks have now been given full protection. It is believed that when the peacock extends its tail erect like fan, it indicates that rain is near. On seeing the dark clouds, a peacock spreads its tail and starts dancing in rhythmic fashion. Its dance movement has been incorporated in most of the Indian folklore.

The poor DoDo Raphus cucullatus is the national bird to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. The dodo has been extinct since the mid-to-late 17th century. It's often used as the archetype of an extinct species because its extinction occurred during recorded human history and was directly attributable to human activity.

In 2008, Israel declared the pink, black and white-crested Hoopoe Upupa epops its national bird. Environmental groups promoted the bird to draw attention to endangered birds and their habitat. According to Wikipedia Hoopoes are distinctive birds and have made a cultural impact over much of their range. In the Bible, Leviticus 11:13-19, they were listed among the animals that are detestable and should not be eaten. The diet of the Hoopoe includes many species considered to be pests by humans; for example the pupae of the processionary moth, a damaging forest pest. For this reason the species is afforded protection under the law in many countries.

The Harpy Eagle Harpia harpyja is the national bird of Panama. The world's largest eagle by weight, Harpy Eagles are a wonder to behold. They are endangered in Panama and environmentalists are working to save the species. The scientific and common names come from the Greek word, harpe, referring to a bird of prey mentioned in Greek mythology, as winged creature with sharp claws, a woman’s face, and a vulture’s body.

For a list of other national birds, most official, but some unofficial go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_birds
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Is the Northern Goshawk Rare in Michigan?

Hello Sarah, I had a weird bird in my yard too. It was bigger than a Cooper’s Hawk and had a flat head. I’ve never seen it before and I pulled out my Birds of Michigan field guide. I think it’s a Northern Goshawk. It’s a large, dark hawk with a black hat or crown of feathers. The belly is light gray and the back is dark gray. I think what convinced me was the white eyebrow. I haven’t seen it again. Did I see a rare bird? ~Bath, MI

Northern Goshawk ad M2Image via Wikipedia
The Northern Goshawks utilize a wide range of forested habitats ranging from boreal forests to northern hardwoods and occasionally pine plantations of the northern hemisphere. They can winter in mid-Michigan and the most common time to see this secretive forest bird is at the end of February to the fourth week of March as the hawks migrate to their nesting grounds.

The name "goshawk" comes from the Old English words gos, meaning goose, and hafoc meaning hawk. But even though it's the largest North American Accipiter, their most common prey are small mammals and birds found in forest habitats and not geese.

However, Goshawks have been prized for many centuries as a falconry bird for their speedy pursuits of prey and fearless demeanor. And records of traditional Japanese falconry, describes how the hawks were used regularly to hunt goose and crane species.

The United States Forest Service (US Dept of Agriculture) has listed the goshawk as a "sensitive species", primarily on the basis of historic and ongoing nesting habitat loss, specifically the loss of old-growth and mature forest stands throughout the goshawk's known range.

I've never seen a goshawk. In recent years, several states such as Michigan, Washington and Idaho have listed the birds as a "Species of Concern" and have increased conservation efforts focused on these birds. I think it is rare to see a goshawk in the suburbs of mid-Michigan. Thank you for letting us know about your sighting.

Further Information:
1) University of Michigan Museum of Zoology- Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis
2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Northern Goshawk
3) Wikipedia- Northern Goshawk
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How can small birds fly in strong winds?

The stronger the winds, the more energy the bird expends in flying. When the high winds hit like they did yesterday in mid-Michigan, a bird can exhaust itself fighting the turbulence. But they can't afford to stop on every windy day or they would starve to death.

These are the days your feeders may be empty for long periods of time and then covered in birds when there is a little break in the weather.

Birds are going to stick close to home in bad weather but when they finally have to venture out for food, you will see a lot of gliding. They don’t want to fly too fast with the wind or waste energy going against the wind. They sort of get where they’re going by riding the winds and then making a couple flaps for course correction. It's not easy.

Thanks for the really good question!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) Instructions

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual 4-day event during the third weekend of February that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of the bird population. You may find it helpful to print a regional tally sheet so you have a list of birds you’re likely to see in your area in February. Get it here: http://gbbc.birdsource.org/gbbcApps/checklist 

COUNT THE BIRDS:
  • WATCH: Count birds at any location for at least 15 minutes—or more if you wish.
  • TALLY: Write down only the highest number of each species you see at any one time to avoid counting the same birds more than once. For example, if you see 8 cardinals as you start your count period, then later you see 12, and later still you see 3, you’ll only report 12--the highest number you saw together at once. Please do not add the numbers together.  
  • SUBMIT: Go online to submit your data. It’s OK if you count at the same location each day—submit a new list for each day. Submit a new checklist for each new location. You can submit more than one checklist on a given day if you count at more than one site.
ENTER YOUR CHECKLIST(S):
When you’re ready to enter your checklist(s), go to the GBBC website at http://www.birdcount.org/ and click on the big “Submit your checklists” button at the top. You won’t see this button until 7:00 AM the Friday the GBBC begins. Everything you need to know will be clear on the web page as you enter your information. Some of the questions asked when you submit a checklist are:
  • LOCATION: Enter the zip code where you did your count or the town name & state.
  • DETAILS: Fill in the online form.
  • CHECKLIST: Fill in the boxes next to each bird species name with the highest number of that species you saw together at one time during your count. You can arrange the list in taxonomic or alphabetical order. If you don’t see a species listed, click the button that says “show rarities.” If it’s still not there, enter the species in the “comment” box for later reference, but note that it will not go into the GBBC database.
If you do see something unusual, it’s VERY helpful if you can take a digital photo just in case confirmation of the sighting is needed.

If you want us to send you an email of your report, be sure to click the box for that and hit the “submit” button at the bottom of the final page—and you’re done! Follow this procedure for each checklist.

There are answers to many other questions in our FAQ section!

Thank you for joining the Great Backyard Bird Count!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why does that Bird Keep Flying into the Window?

Smack! I have a cardinal that is battling his reflection on my windows. It started last spring when I’m sure his hormones compelled him to defend his territory against the rival spotted in the glass.

I kept the shades down a lot, and that helped. I had this happen once before but it usually stops after a few days.

When winter came, the cardinal continued wrestling with his rival, though less violently than before. I have never seen a bird fight its reflection in winter time, and I was curious why this cardinal was doing such an odd thing. ~ Webberville, Michigan

The attacks on your windows likely began when the bird interpreted its reflection as an intruder on its territory in the spring. Cardinals are highly territorial and defend their nesting area vigorously from other male cardinals. Both robins and cardinals are well known for this type of behavior but it can occur with any bird.

When you see a bird take offense at seeing his reflection in your windows or car mirrors take action immediately! His domineering behavior should be curbed before it becomes just a bad habit. The objective is to shock the bird out of its pattern of territoriality.

Most birds do stop after a couple weeks of window pounding in the spring, but it's better to try and deter the birds just in case it turns out to be an action that is performed so often that it becomes almost an involuntary response.

Some tips to deter bird window attacks:
• Cover the window with screens
• Shut the blinds on your windows when you are not at home and at night.
• Rub the window with a bar of soap to decrease the reflection.
• Hang balloons or Flutter Scare tape.* Anything that moves and repels the bird from that area will be effective.
• Post a hawk silhouette outside a window.* Hawks prey on birds, so their images will keep birds from flying towards your window.
• Install a window feeder.* This breaks the reflection and other birds interrupt the birds battles with himself.

*Available at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How Do Birds Lay Eggs?

Bird courtship is generally the male’s responsibility and usually entails singing but can also consist of many other activities like drumming or dancing.

During breeding season, the male's testes which lie within their body at the end of each kidney become several hundred times larger than normal to produce sperm which moves to the cloaca where it is stored until insemination (the act of sex). In bird anatomy, a cloaca is the posterior opening that serves as the only opening from which they excrete both urine and feces, unlike mammals, which possess two separate orifices for evacuation.

The female bird's ovaries are also enlarged during breeding season to produce the ovum. The ovum is a single cell that we recognize as the yolk of an egg. The female bird unfans her tail, moves it to one side while the male climbs up onto her back or gets close to her. Their cloacas are pressed together and the sperm moves from the male to the female. This act is called a cloacal kiss.

The ovum is fertilized in the female bird's oviduct by a sperm cell from the male bird. The oviduct is a tube that transports the egg from the ovary to the cloaca and where the white of the egg and shell are formed. In most birds, the ovary releases an ovum at daily intervals during the breeding season until a complete clutch of eggs is laid. Once fertilized, the ovum becomes the nucleus of the egg. The egg will be laid by the female into her nest, incubated, and then the baby bird will hatch.

Sperm is stored by the female for at least a week, in some species over a hundred days. Then as each ovum from the ovary moves into the oviduct, it gets fertilized with the stored sperm, producing a clutch of eggs, all with the sperm from that one cloacal kiss.

There are a few species of birds where the males do possess a retractable penis that can be pulled back into the bird. These birds include ostriches, cassowaries, kiwis, swans, geese, and ducks. Since waterfowl sometimes make love while in the lake or pond, the penis helps ensure that the sperm is not washed away by the water.

And, although it is not necessary to copulate frequently since the sperm is stored within the female, remember those hormones are still making the birds excited. Many pairs of birds will mate numerous times within a few days.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Is it “Titmice” or “Titmouses”?

How do you spell the plural of Titmouse. Google shows it both ways-- which is correct? ~ Boston, Massachusetts

Tufted Titmouse on Seed Cylinder Feeder
Interesting, I’m not sure if there is a correct answer. Tit is an old English word meaning little and mase meant small bird. The name titmase morphed eventually into titmouse. This was probably because the bird's coloring does sort of remind people of a small mouse. But actually the meaning of the name Titmouse is small, little bird.

Titmice as the plural is the most accepted use even though is not etymologically consistent. I went to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Tufted Titmouse webpage at http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Tufted_Titmouse/id and they use titmice repeatedly.

I would use titmice but I can’t see that using titmouses would be wrong. Any bird or word experts want to chime in and make a comment?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love and the Birds: The Origin of St. Valentine's Day

On February 14, Americans celebrate love and friendship by exchanging cards, flowers, and candy. Although the origins of Saint Valentine's Day are murky, the romance we associate with the day may spring from the medieval belief that birds select their mates on February 14.

" For this was on seynt Volantynys day, Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make."
[Translation "For this was Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."]
from Parlement of Foules (1382) by Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?-1400)

Source: Wikipedia's Saint Valentine's Day

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What are Lovebirds?

Peach-faced Lovebirds (also known as the Rosy-...Image via Wikipedia
Rosy-faced Lovebird eating from a
seed-block in Scottsdale, Arizona
There are nine species of small and stocky parrots called Lovebirds. Eight are native to Africa and one species lives in Madagascar. But you may also recognize them as one of the most popular pet birds. These brilliantly colored small parrots are very sociable and will try to mimic the noises of the humans.


A feral Peach-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseic...Image via Wikipedia
A feral Rosy-faced Lovebird
eating seeds in Chicago
 The first Lovebird to be described in detail was the Rosy-faced Lovebird in the early 1600s. Soon after the birds were imported into Europe and “Lovebirds” became very popular as wedding gifts because of their loving ways and their passion to groom each other. Their habit of sitting beside another and cuddling led the ancient Greeks to believe the birds would die if they lost their mates.

Wild Birds Unlimited is a backyard bird feeding store. We don’t sell birds but that was a good question especially so close to Valentine’s Day. And if you live in Arizona you may actually see some of these birds visit your backyard feeders. Lovebirds have escaped from captivity in many parts of the world and there is a large feral population that dwells in Arizona.

Source: Lovebird by Wikipedia
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Birdwatching: How to Prepare Your Yard for Spring

my nemesisImage by looseends via Flickr
Even though there is a foot of snow still on the ground I’m seeing some clues that spring is just around the corner. If you listen you might hear some birds practicing their mating calls. The starlings and some other birds are scouting out nesting sights and so are the squirrels. Red Squirrels can enlarge the holes on bird houses to turn them into squirrel houses.

Pregnant right now, female squirrels already have a nest but I’ve seen them gnawing away at my unprotected bird houses. Squirrels make several back-up nests in case they are threatened and need to move the family in a hurry. In my neighborhood a bluebird box looks like a very good second home to a red squirrel. If it’s the same where you live, Wild Birds Unlimited has round 1-1/2”, 1-1/8" and 1-1/4" metal portal protectors that you can add to bluebird, chickadee and wren houses to prevent squirrels from expanding the entrance hole.

I have two unprotected houses in the yard right now. One is a decorative house that the squirrel can use in an emergency but the other is going to have a portal protector added real soon.

List of things to do before spring:
Make Repairs on Birdhouses- Clean out all houses, make any repairs or replace old houses, add portal protectors where needed.
Clean All Feeders and Baths- Make sure everything is sparkly clean and ready for migrating birds. Use a 1 to 9 diluted solution of vinegar to water to disinfect feeders or use the enzyme cleaner Scoot available at Wild Birds Unlimited.
Keep Feeders Full of Fresh Seed- When wet weather approaches make sure you have Feeder Fresh on hand to add to your seed to prevent mold.
Add Window Alerts- Lots of new birds unfamiliar with the area are going to be passing through soon. Put up window alerts to prevent window strikes.
Keep Rehabilitators Numbers' Handy- Go to “What do I do with an injured bird?” for local information.
Clean bird feeding area- After snow melts, rake area under feeder or throw down fresh mulch
Start Collecting Nesting Material from the Cats- Clean pet hair or cotton yarn cut no longer than 3 inches can be stuffed into an old mesh onion sack or an unused suet cage and hung from trees and bushes for birds to use in nest building. Wild Birds Unlimited also sells natural cotton balls and Birdie Bells full of feathers, straw, and cotton.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, February 11, 2011

Northern Flicker Stops by for a Surprise Visit

Hi Sarah; For the first time ever I have seen a flicker at my suet feeder. He watched a red-bellied woodpecker for a while and figured out how to hang upside down and munch. I thought they flew south although we have our share of doves and other birds that are supposed to fly south.

I am in Livingston County right on the county line in Iosco Twp. Mr. flicker has been hanging around for a few days. Oh, I almost forgot, I had a small hawk hanging around. He flew into my door wall twice and liked to sit out on my deck. Luckily for the birds he moved on about two weeks ago. I have a lot less mourning doves hanging around now than I did before he was here.

You’re very lucky. The Northern Flicker is a rare winter resident in southern Michigan. It is native to most of North America, parts of Central America, Cuba, and the Cayman Islands. The northern birds migrate to the southern parts of the range while the southern birds are often permanent residents.

They’re considered a medium sized woodpecker but at 12-13 inches, I think they’re pretty big. Flickers like open habitats near trees, including woodlands, edges, yards, and parks. They eat fruits, berries, seeds and nuts, but their primary food is insects or suet. Strangely enough they prefer to forage on the ground, however, as you saw, they can figure out feeders.

For more information on the bird go to: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Flicker/lifehistory

Also make sure you get involved with the Great Backyard Bird Count this year to report what birds you have in your yard. You can send in photos for a chance to win prizes. Go to http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/ for more information.

Thank you for the email, Sarah