About us: We own a wild bird feeding supply 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, December 31, 2011

Attracting Michigan Songbirds

Bird watching is among the most popular of all American recreational pursuits. Of the world's more than 9,000 species of birds, over 200 are known to breed in Michigan and more than 400 species spend at least some time in the state. The list includes many songbirds ranging from the common American robin to the endangered Kirtland's warbler. 

Songbirds use many different types of habitat including forests, grasslands, wetlands, and shrublands. Michigan's landscape has changed greatly since the early 1800's when the first European settlers arrived. No longer are there vast forests in southern Michigan, and we have lost over 35% of wetlands statewide. Land development continues to fragment the state. 

Many songbirds are sensitive to size and shape of their habitat. "Area sensitive" species including some warblers, flycatchers, thrushes, and ovenbirds have low tolerance to fragmented habitat. For this reason area sensitive species tend to seek out grasslands, forests, or wetlands hundreds of acres in size. 

Many of these species are declining in number as they no longer have these large unfragmented breeding areas. However, other species such as cardinals, chipping sparrows, and chickadees can tolerate fragmentation and may even thrive alongside humans. These species are most often seen in urban areas, and are fairly common. 

Your landscape determines the opportunities you have for bird conservation. The following describes some of the basic habitat needs of songbirds.
- Territory
     Territorial needs vary with each bird species. Eastern bluebirds, for instance, are territorial and need about five acres per pair. You can create a larger area for those species that are territorial by working with neighbors. 
- Water 
     Most songbirds need open water of some kind. Luckily, Michigan is home to wetlands, lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds. However, providing a water source on your property can attract songbirds up close. A small bath with shallow edges draws them to bathe, drink and help control their body temperatures.
     Birds are attracted to the noise of flowing water. Providing moving water may increase songbird usage but is not mandatory. Misters and drippers are other means to move water and draw more birds. Songbirds will use water sources year round. In winter consider providing water in a heated birdbath
- Food
      Natural foods, such as fruits, nuts and seeds provided by trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers will attract a variety of songbirds. Planting highbush cranberry, dogwoods, or other fruiting shrubs on your property may draw migrants as well as resident birds. These plants can also provide areas to sing, court, nest, rest and hide, as well as pleasing landscapes.
The homepage of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.     Providing bird feeders can also attract songbirds. There is no best time to start feeding birds. Once food is established, they will visit year round. When food supplies are scarce, such as in the very early spring or during bouts of severe weather, birds will rely on your feeders the most. However, if you have to stop feeding for a month or so, the birds will find alternate sources, even during the winter. 
     Locating feeding stations in several places reduces crowding and remember to clean the feeders frequently.
- Shelter
     Songbirds use cover for shelter, nesting, and brood rearing. Dependent on the type of species, required cover types could vary from woodlands to grasslands to wetlands. After assessing what cover types are available on your property, you can determine what species you will be able to attract. By planting trees, shrubs, grasses, and adding nest boxes, you can enhance the cover and attract more species.

Backyard Areas 
Many kinds of songbirds are attracted to balconies, decks, lawns, and ornamental shrubs and trees in both rural and urban settings. You do not even need to own property to enjoy songbirds as they may visit your condominium or apartment complex. For example the Cardinal, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, House Sparrow, House Finch, American Goldfinch, European Starling, White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, and Mourning Dove are among the many species that nest in urban habitats.

Regardless of where you live, it is helpful to maintain a diverse yard with an abundance of trees and shrubs, as well as areas with leaf cover for ground-feeding birds. Consider planting a variety of native tree and shrub species such as white spruce, hemlock, white pine, oaks, sugar maple, flowering dogwood, and juneberry. Cardinals will nest in dense shrubbery, chipping sparrows in pines and spruces, and house wrens in cavities of trees or nest boxes. Even wood ducks and screech owls will nest in town if tree cavities or nesting boxes are present. In winter, you may find pine siskins feeding on cones of your evergreens.

Other Considerations
Use native plant species for plantings whenever possible. Alien species, such as purple loosestrife, garlic mustard, autumn olive, and glossy buckthorn, should be avoided and actively removed as they displace native species used by birds as food sources and sheltered sites. 

purple loosestrife

garlic mustard

glossy buckthorn

House cats can be a major predator of songbirds and should be kept indoors. If this is not possible, securing bells to their collars when outdoors can help warn birds and small mammals of their presence, thus reducing their impact as a predator.

Feeding songbirds can be educational and fun. To enjoy the full benefit of songbirds, get a good field identification guide that contains color pictures or paintings and buy a quality pair of binoculars. You may even wish to keep a checklist of birds that visit your land in order to determine the variety of birds that you have attracted to your area.
Source:  Sargent, M.S and Carter, K.S., ed. 1999. Managing Michigan Wildlife: A Landowners Guide.  Michigan United Conservation Clubs, East Lansing, MI. 297pp.

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Photo Share: Snow Geese

Flock of Snow geese on Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge ~ Lee Karney, New Mexico

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Advanced Pole System: Best Bird Feeder Pole Attachments

My boys got me a beautiful Wild Birds Unlimited Advanced Pole System! They had it all set up and ready for Christmas morning!! They told me all about the little “extras” I can add to my set up. I won’t be able to make it in to your store for a couple weeks. Can you explain a little more about what I can add to the Basic Set-up my very thoughtful boys gave me? ~ Grand Rapids, Michigan

We had lots of customers shopping for gifts in December and some were positive about what would please their family and friends and others were a little panicked by all the choices. I’m glad you were pleased.

Wild Birds Unlimited - Advanced Pole System (APS), as you know, is a revolutionary bird feeding pole that has interchangeable hardware pieces that lets you design the perfect feeding station for your needs. You can make it as tall or as short as you want with as many arms or attachment as needed.

We have a wall of “extras” that can customize your set-up with over 3,000 combinations. We have several different arms to add as well as perching branches, suet attachments, side dishes, baffles and a choice of several finials.

To help you construct your masterpiece come in to our WildmBirds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI store or go to wbu.com/aps for more examples. 

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Is the platypus a bird?

According to Wikipedia, when the Platypus was first discovered by Europeans in 1798, a pelt and sketch were sent back to Great Britain and British scientists were convinced that it must have been a hoax.

But it isn't a bird. The Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is a semi-aquatic mammal from eastern Australia. It is one of five existing species of monotremes, the only mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. All are long-lived, with low rates of reproduction and relatively prolonged parental care of infants.

Like other mammals, monotremes are warm-blooded, but lay eggs. However, the egg is retained for some time within the mother, who actively provides the egg with nutrients. Monotremes also lactate, but have no defined nipples, excreting the milk from their mammary glands via openings in their skin.

The venomous, duck-billed, egg-laying, beaver-tailed, otter-footed platypus is the only living representative of its family (Ornithorhynchidae) and genus (Ornithorhynchus).

Scientists believe all mammals evolved from reptiles, and the animals that became platypuses and those that became humans shared an evolutionary path until about 165 million years ago when the platypus branched off. Unlike other evolving mammals, the platypus retained characteristics of snakes and lizards, including the pain-causing poison that males can use to ward off mating rivals.

Recent research took a closer look at the platypus genome to try and unravel DNA that seems to mix different classifications of animals. Then by comparing platypus genes to those of humans and other mammals, scientists hope to fill in gaps in knowledge about mammals' evolution and better identify certain species' specific traits.

Background Information
View the full article, published in Nature pp 175-183, read the news and listen to the Nature Podcast.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

When do birds begin nesting?

When is nest building season for most birds in the NE i.e., cardinals, chickadees etc?
Thanks ~ PA

Nesting season can vary depending on the species of bird, the weather conditions, food availability, and many other variables. Some larger birds like owls, hawks, and eagles may begin courting in December and nest in January and February.

Other birds that winter in Michigan or elsewhere in the northeast may begin to sing and scout for good nesting territories as early as January. Bird feeders may contribute to a bird deciding to nest early in your yard.

However, if a bird starts to nest and a cold front moves in, they may suspend their nest building activities for a couple weeks and then continue when the weather is more favorable. This may happen especially with inexperienced and excited first year nesters. Research has found that the basics in nest construction are primarily instinctive, but birds’ nesting skills improve through trial and error.

Northern Cardinals usually nest anytime from March to August. Black-capped Chickadees usually nest any time from April to July. In some areas the Mourning Doves nest almost year round because they feed their young “crop milk”. While American Goldfinches wait to nest until late July to September when the thistles and other flowers are producing a reliable supply of fluff to make their nests and seeds for their young.

You can click on the charts to see a list of other birds in the NE and their nesting schedule. 

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Do penguins make good pets?

@birdsunlimited are penguins a good pet? ~ @lyssalenee

Emperor Penguins
Penguins do not make good pets and all species of penguin are protected legally, so it’s not even an option. Penguins are best off in the wild. Zoos and Aquariums are able to provide large enclosures with filtered air, controlled temperatures, a fresh saltwater area to swim and a dry area to rest. They are also able to keep the penguins in a colony, which they prefer, and provide lots of fresh fish to eat. In the wild, penguins might live 15 to 20 years. Protected in captivity, they can live much longer.

Great Auks
According to the IPCWG Web Site: “World-wide there are 17 species of penguin, all of which breed in the Southern hemisphere. The name is believed to have originated from the Welsh "pen gwyn" which means white head. The name was originally applied to Great Auks, which are flightless birds that lived in the northern hemisphere, before being hunted to extinction in the 19th Century. Great Auks looked similar to penguins, and were also unable to fly, which is why they were killed off so easily by sailors who used them for food.”

Most penguins have the same egg shaped body and black back and white belly or tuxedo coloring. There shape is perfect for swimming and the coloring is good camouflage. Viewed from above they blend in to the water. Viewed from below they blend in with the sky. Penguins also have a much heavier and stronger skeleton than birds that fly, to allow them to dive easier for fish. And their feathers act as a waterproof shield and insulation against cold wind.

To read more about these fascinating birds go to the Web Page by Mike Bingham, Organisation for the Conservation of Penguins.
Thank you for following me on twitter @birdsunlimited and for the great question! Sarah

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Michigan's Kirtland's Warbler Continues to Exceed Recovery Goal

Press Release from: Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Contact: Keith Kintigh 989-732-3541, Chris Hoving 517-373-3337 Mary Dettloff 517-335-3014

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently released the annual survey information that indicates the state's population of the endangered Kirtland's warbler remains steady.

Biologists, researchers and volunteers in Michigan observed 1,805 singing males during the official 2011 survey period -- 1,747 males were observed in 2010. The population has not increased or decreased by more than 5 percent since 2007. The lowest numbers were recorded in 1974 and 1987, when only 167 singing males were found.

The Kirtland's warbler survey is conducted each year during the second and third weeks of June when the birds are defending their nesting territories. Warblers are detected by listening for their songs. The songs can be heard at distances up to one-quarter mile, providing an excellent way to detect the birds with minimum disturbance. Only the males sing, so estimates of breeding population size are obtained by doubling the number of singing males recorded, based on the assumption that each male has a mate in its territory.

The 2011 survey was a joint effort by the DNR, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan Department of Veterans and Military Affairs, Michigan Audubon Society, and citizen volunteers.

As the amount of nesting habitat has stabilized, the population of warblers has also stabilized in the core of the range: northern Michigan's jack pine barrens ecosystem. The warblers nest on the ground and typically select nesting sites in stands of jack pine between four and 20 years old. Historically, these stands of young jack pine were created by natural wildfires that frequently swept through northern Michigan. Modern fire suppression programs altered this natural process, reducing Kirtland's warbler habitat. The result was that the population of Kirtland's warblers declined to the point that they were listed as endangered.

To mimic the effects of wildfire and ensure the future of this species, the DNR, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manage the forests through a combination of clearcutting, burning, seeding and replanting to promote habitat for many species, including snowshoe hare, other warbler species, and rare plants. Approximately 3,000 acres of jack pine trees are harvested and replanted annually on state and federal lands. This use of public lands creates jobs, provides habitat for Kirtland's warblers and other species, and brings to northern Michigan birders and hunters from across the state and around the world.

"Warblers create jobs," said DNR Endangered Species Coordinator Chris Hoving. "From tourism to festivals to forest products, this endangered species directly or indirectly contributes to the economic activity of rural northern Michigan."

"The Kirtland's warbler habitat program is successful because there are many benefits," said Keith Kintigh, DNR wildlife ecologist. "Not only are we providing habitat for an endangered species, we are also providing wood products and great hunting opportunities for snowshoe hare, deer and turkey, to name a few."

For more information on the Kirtland's warbler, visit the DNR website: www.michigan.gov/dnr. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural and cultural resources for current and future generations.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Why do some birds live longer than others?

Why do some birds like the robin and chickadee only live a year or two, while other birds can live longer? That is so sad. ~ Anonymous

A definitive answer to the evolution of lifespan is still a mystery. Scientists believe that birds’ observable characteristics: such as their development, physiological properties, and behavior (like nest building) is a result of the expression of their genes and the influence of environmental factors.

Another theory on why some birds live longer than others is size. Because smaller birds tend to be more prone to predation and other dangers, their life may be cut short. The average lifespan of the littler bird is only a year or two while the bigger birds average around 25-50 years. There are a number of cases in which smaller animals within a given species live longer in captivity. For example it has been recorded that some captive House Sparrows lived for 23 years, and Northern Cardinals 22 years.

At what age a bird reaches sexual maturity might also influence longevity. While chickadees, sparrows, and goldfinches can mate at one year, crows, hawks, and eagles may take up to five years to reach sexual maturity.

Although life expectancy in birds might be correlated closely with size, further information is required. So in addition to collecting data directly by banding and recapturing birds more research needs to be done.

In fact one recent study already found that tropical birds, leading a slower life and expending less energy, tended to live longer than birds that had to survive harsh winters. The researchers traveled to Panama where they captured tropical birds and measured their basal metabolic rate (BMR) – the minimum amount of energy they expend at rest, solely to maintain their vital bodily functions.

They compared these measurements with the BMRs of temperate birds. They found that tropical birds used about 18 percent less energy, as measured by BMR, when compared with temperate birds.

The researchers also tested neotropical migrants – those birds that live in the tropics much of the year, but migrate north to temperate climates such as the United States and Canada to breed. Results showed these birds expended more energy than those species that live year-round in the tropics, but still used less energy than birds that were permanent residents in colder states like Michigan.

Scientists believe that tropical birds may have a slower pace of life because it fits with the rest of their life history. Tropical birds, compared to those from temperate regions, tend to live longer, and produce fewer offspring which develop slowly and mature relatively late in life.

Makes me glad I feed the hardy birds that choose to stay year-round in Michigan. As the temperatures dip and natural food sources may become covered with snow or locked in ice, I know that the supplemental food and water that I provide is more widely appreciated and has a bigger impact on the birds’ survival.

Source: Ohio State University (2007, May 23). Tropical Birds Have Slow Pace Of Life Compared To Northern Species, Study Finds. http://www.biosci.ohio-state.edu/~patches/publication/wiersma%20et%20al_2007_PNAS.pdf

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Macro Cardinal in Snow

Some pictures from the first winter storm. JEF~ Lansing, MI

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best Large Capacity Bird Feeder

I’m looking for a house type feeder that holds a large amount of seed. My old neighbor built us a wood box type feeder that lasted for years but it definitely needs to be replaced. Any suggestions? It needs to be mounted on a 4” x 4”. ~ Battle Creek, Michigan

You can choose from a wide selection of feeders at our stores. One of the most popular at the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI store is our huge recycled plastic hopper feeder.

The EcoTough® Ranchette Retreat bird feeder is a fully functioning bird buffet that holds two gallons of seed and two suet cakes. The variety of food offered in one place attracts many different bird species such as cardinals, finches, jays, chickadees, woodpeckers and more.

To protect the seed, the Ranchette Retreat has an extra large green roof that overhangs the extra large tray area. This will accommodate large and small birds comfortably. It also has a mesh screen bottom with a built in seed diverter to keep seed moving through the feeder smoothly and to prevent moldy seed. It mounts to a 4” x 4” easily or on our Advanced Pole System (APS).

This is one of the easiest feeders to clean. The recycled plastic doesn’t fade, crack, or split. The plexi-glass front and screen bottom are removed easily. Its dimensions are: 11" x 16¼" x 17¼".

EcoTough® feeders are environmentally friendly, high quality products that are made from recycled plastic milk jugs. They are more expensive than the cedar hoppers but they are hand crafted in Chilton, Wisconsin and come with lifetime guarantee.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Do birds choke on peanut butter?

Nuthatches are one of many birds that love nuts!
I teach preschool and we coated lots of pinecones in peanut butter and then dipped them birdseed as a treat for the birds. One parent thought the peanut butter would choke the birds. Did I do something wrong? ~ Huntsville, Texas

There are no documented cases of birds choking on peanut butter. I think peanut butter on pine cones and then dipped in seed is a fabulous treat for the birds. Or if you smear peanut butter on a tree trunk you’ll be surprised how many cute birds this will attract up and down your tree.

Pine Cone Feeder
1. Tie natural rough brown string around the top of a pine cone.
2. Pack Peanut Butter into pine cone.
3. Roll pine cone in Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) Seed.
4. Hang from a tree.
Be sure to select a tree somewhere near a window so that once you have completed your decorating, you and your family can sit back and watch the beautiful birds enjoy their holiday treats.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fun Facts on Nuthatches

Nifty and Nimble Nuthatches!
White-breasted Nuthatch in Algonquin Provincia...Image via Wikipedia
White-breasted Nuthatch

Nuthatches are are very easy backyard birds to identify. If you see a bird creeping downward on a tree, it’s a nuthatch. It’s the only species that can “walk down a tree.” It needs no tail support because it has incredibly strong feet!

That said, generally you won’t see large numbers of nuthatches in your yard. Most nuthatches visit feeders in ones and twos. They are feisty and aggressive birds, and pairs generally defend a territory of 10 to 30 acres. They feast on seeds and insects found in trees, and many times will hide seeds from feeders in tree bark for a snack later in the day or breakfast the next morning.

Red-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted and White-breasted nuthatches are the most common visitors to feeders in Michigan. They enjoy suet, sunflower seeds and peanuts. Red-breasted Nuthatches are pickier than White-breasted Nuthatches, and their diet is made up mainly of conifer seeds.

Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea) at a feeder.Image via Wikipedia
Pygmy Nuthatch
Pygmy Nuthatches live in ponderosa forests in the West and survive the bitter winter nights by roosting with 50 to 100 or more other Pygmy Nuthatches in tree cavities. With so many birds in the cavity, they stay warm and can lower their metabolic rate to conserve energy.

A Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla). Photo...Image via Wikipedia
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Another species, Brown-headed Nuthatches, live primarily in the Southeast United States in mature pine forests. These birds live in flocks, although they do not have the “sleepovers” the Pygmy Nuthatches have.

To attract nuthatches to your yard, try a suet or peanut feeder as well as our Wild Birds Unlimited seed cylinders.

Source:WBU Educational Resources: Nuthatches
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Saturday, December 17, 2011

How to keep moths out of bird seed

Facebook Question.... do you know of anything that will eliminate the moths and moth eggs that come in bird seed? I have had this problem for years in packaged seed. They get out, take hold, and make my garage a Moth haven! Help!

After seed is harvested it’s brought to mills where it is processed and stored. Along with the harvest come eggs that insects have layed in the field. Birds don't mind the extra protein, but if the eggs hatch they can cause a real problem.

Female Indian meal moths lay tiny eggs (0.5 mm) in or near potential food plants. When conditions are right, larvae or "tiny whitish caterpillars" hatch, eat, and then spin a tiny silken cocoon. The life cycle may range from the shortest period of four weeks to the longest of 300 days. In cold climates, eggs don’t hatch or larvae overwinter and pupate when the weather is warmer. Once the moth emerges from the cocoon, they mate and repeat the cycle.

Indian meal moths (Plodia interpunctella), also known as pantry moths, are the most common household moths that can reproduce in homes. They are a pest of various foods found commonly in pantries. Besides bird seed, Indian meal moths also may be found in all cereal food products, whole grains, dried fruits, cornmeal, flour, pasta and pet food. They are not related to clothes moths.

Adult in Resting Position
Meal moths can be difficult to eliminate once they've taken up residence, so a good cleaning is a necessary if you’ve experienced and infestation. Throw out any contaminated bird seed and wash all containers thoroughly. The Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, Michigan store also has the moth pheromone traps. Place one of these non-toxic traps in the garage to inhibit the development of adult moths.

The following are a few suggestions to prevent an Indian Meal Moth re-infestation:

Control Measures
1) Fresh Seed - In warm weather or if you store your seed inside buy no more than 2-3 weeks supply of seed at a time. And never pour old seed on top on new. Moth eggs are inside seed and are just waiting for the right conditions to hatch.
2) Storage Conditions - Store seed in a cool, dry place, or a freezer to prevent moths from hatching. In the winter, the bird seed can be stored up to 3-4 months in a steel can outdoors or in an unheated garage.
3) Sterilize Seed – You can use heat to kill any larvae and eggs that may be in the food. In a conventional oven, spread seed out on a flat baking sheet and cook for 30 minutes at 300 degrees. Sterilizing your seed will not alter the attractiveness of the seed for your birds.
4) Seed Selection – You are less likely to find eggs in seed that has no shell. When sunflowers seeds have their shells removed it also removes almost all eggs. Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Blend or Shelled Sunflower seeds rarely carry eggs, but may be re-infested if Indian meal moths are in the home. Nyjer (thistle) and safflower seed are also less likely to be infected initially.

Well perhaps outside seed storage would be the answer. I have considered it for my wild birds, but I have the same issue for my inside birds (lovebird, parakeet). I have tried freezing to no avail, but the outside storage for my outdoor birds may be a good solution. Thanks very much for the answer to my question!

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Cardinal Bird Poem

On a dreary fall day,
With no sun in the sky,
I see not far away,
A red flash flutter by.

The crimson takes a seat,
And this sweet song I heard,
What-cheer, what-cheer ... Tweet, Tweet,
It’s the Cardinal bird!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gifts made in America

Our family is taking the 'Made in America' Challenge this year for Christmas. I didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be to find things made in the USA. I thought maybe your small business might know. Can you help? ~ Farmington, Michigan

Almost everything Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, Michigan purchases is Made in America. We are a little business and we support other little businesses. Most of our products are from small companies that don’t sell to big box stores:

Julian is Aspect's office cat (He is indoors only!!)
1)      Tube Feeders, Hummingbird Feeders, WindowFeeders - Aspects, Inc. out of Rhode Island is our main supplier of tube, window and hummingbird feeders. Their philosophy is to make the best feeders possible in their USA facility and stand confidently behind it with a Lifetime Guarantee. I consider both their products and customer service to be excellent! I have several of their feeders and have sold thousands more to satisfied customers.
Recycled Hoppers attract a wide variety of birds
2)      Hoppers, Houses, Suet Feeders – Birds Choice out of Chilton, Wisconsin have reused and saved over 6 million plastic jugs from going into the landfills by manufacturing products from recycled materials. Quality materials, excellent workmanship, patented unique designs, and customer service are the core of all Birds Choice products made in Chilton, Wisconsin, U.S.A. by a team of conscientious employees. So if you buy a recycled hopper feeder with a lifetime guarantee, you are not only supporting an American worker but you’re also supporting the environment!
3)      Squirrel Proof Feeders – Droll Yankees was started in 1960 by Peter Kilham and his boyhood friend Alan Bemis. Peter cared about using quality materials, in innovative designs that birds loved and people found easy to use. Droll Yankees out of Plainfield, CT, strives continually to maintain those high standards of design and functionality, and are proud to be recognized as makers of “The World's Best Bird Feeders.” They make the popular Squirrel Proof Flippers, Whippers, and Dippers. They all work fabulously and come with a lifetime guarantee. The only complaint I receive from customers is that they buy them to watch the squirrel “flip” from them but the squirrels just leave them alone instead!
Stovall also makes suet feeders
4)      Houses – We have some really nice functional bird, bat, duck, owl, and squirrel houses made by Stovall Products. They are not only made in America but are actually made in Michigan. Stovall products promote environmentally green practices by using hand sorted discarded cedar pieces. The shop is heated with scrap wood, cooled with natural shade, nestled in a glen of 25+ acres of beech/maple/oak forest in Michigan. Rumored staffing of woodland gnomes with a payroll of nuts and berries is still not verified.
5)      Bird Baths - Allied Precision Industries, out of Elburn, IL are specialists in manufacturing quality heated bird baths and water wigglers. Their durable, plastic heated bird baths are made in the USA and provide a reliable source of water when natural sources are frozen, even to temperatures below -20° F. It mounts easily to deck railings or can be placed on our stands. It features a built-in 150 watt, fully grounded heater that is thermostatically controlled to conserve energy. When the temperature is cold enough to freeze water, the bath will turn on.

That is just a sampling of the products we carry. Come in any time and I can tell you where all our products are made and help you find appropriate gifts for anyone that appreciates nature.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Do skunks hibernate?

I was walking my dog last night and I thought I saw a cat but now I think it was a skunk scuttling across the road. Don’t skunks hibernate? ~ Commerce Township, Michigan

There are 12 species of skunk worldwide. Michigan’s Striped Skunk Mephitis mephitis is recognized easily by their black fur and white stripe that begins as a triangular shape on the top of the head, splits into two stripes down the sides of the back, and usually merges again near the base of the tail.

Insects make up 70% of their diet but they are true omnivores. Besides insects they eat small mammals, birds, vegetables, fruits, eggs, crustaceans, grasses, and carrion. They have a territory of about 3 miles with multiple dens in the ground or at the base of trees.

Skunks do not hibernate but can hole up in their burrow for weeks at a time if the weather is not good for foraging. Females often remain in their winter dens snuggled with other females and their young. Males are usually solitary for the entire winter in their own den.

Skunks were originally grouped inside the Mustelidae family (weasels, otters, badgers, and their relatives) because of the physical similarities but recent DNA tests revealed skunks make up their own special family of carnivores named Mephitidae after a word meaning stink. Skunks spray repellant scent from nipples in the anal gland that can be aimed precisely at any attacker.

Studies show that up to 90% of skunks die in their first winter. In the wild skunks may live to be 2 to 3 years old and up to 15 years in captivity. Great-horned owls and red-tailed hawks are their main predators but humans by far are their biggest threat. Skunks become so confident in their ability to repel threats, that when a car approaches they spray instead of getting out of the way.

To neutralize or deodorize skunk spray, the chemicals in the secretion must be changed to a different type of molecule. Tomato juice may mask the odor but does not remove the smell.

1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide (from drug store)
1/4 cup of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
1 teaspoon of liquid detergent.

Scrub your pet thoroughly with solution and wait 5 minutes. Keep clear of your pet’s eyes and ears. Then rinse with water and repeat if necessary. The solution must be mixed and used immediately. DO NOT STORE IN A CLOSED CONTAINER - it releases oxygen gas so it could break the container. It also may bleach the pet's hair.

Some additional tips: Do this outside so the volatile skunk spray does not contaminate your house. To remove residual skunk odor from your clothes and any towels or rags used in this clean up procedure, wash them with one cup of liquid laundry bleach per gallon of water.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Snowy Owls sighted in Michigan

Snowy Owls are yearly visitors to Michigan, but their numbers can fluctuate quite dramatically. In 2011 the lemming and vole populations were very high in the north resulting in a high survival rate of Snowy Owls. So this fall/winter, many first year males seem to be venturing south in search of food. The weird snow hurricanes in Alaska and bitter cold weather in Canada also may be a factor for the increase in Snowy Owl sightings further south.

The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) is a large, yellow-eyed, black billed white bird that is recognized easily. It is about 2 feet tall with a 4–5 foot wingspan and can weigh over 6 pounds. The adult males are very white, while the females and young birds have some dark scalloping on their feathers. Their heavily-feathered taloned feet, thick feathers and coloration make the Snowy Owl well-adapted for life north of the Arctic Circle in temperatures as low as 40° F below zero.

If you see one perched on a telephone pole or on your roof during the day, that’s OK, Snowies are diurnal. This means unlike other owls; the snowy owls are active and hunt during the day as well as the night. Snowy owls can hear the pitter patter of prey beneath 10 inches of snow. They feed primarily on lemmings in the Arctic tundra during the breeding season and eat other rodents, fish and some birds during the winter.

Snowy owls are monogamous generally but can choose a new mate each season. Their courtship behavior begins in midwinter until March or April. The males try to attract females by flying in an undulating manner sometimes with prey in their mouth. Then on the ground the male turns his back to the female, fluffs up his feathers, spreads his tail feathers to impress the females. If this is not enough, the males also kill and display prey to the females. 

After a mate is chosen the female scrapes a shallow nest in the ground. Every 2 days the she lays an egg. The average clutch is 3 to 11 white eggs, depending on prey availability. Males often “hoot” to defend their territory. They also make many other calls, including a “rick, rick, rick”, a “kre kre kre”, a mewing and a hiss. These calls are often used by an adult that is defending a nest.

After about a month of incubation, one chick covered in snowy white down, hatches about every two days. Both parents feed and protect the chicks for 5 to 7 weeks until they are able to hunt for themselves. 

Once nesting is complete they do not remain in pairs but become solitary and territorial. The average lifespan of these magnificent birds is 10.8 years.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Red-tailed Hawk Fun Facts

Hello: I live in the Niagara Region. I fill my bird feeder every other day.  A few weeks ago, the birds stopped coming to feed. Left me quite puzzled as they are all there every morning. Our neighbour has evergreen trees in her front yard & it was my cat that noticed a red tailed hawk hiding out in them. We have been spraying up water on the trees to discourage the bird from returning but he seems to come back every evening. I don’t know what else to do.  Is there anything I can hang in the tree that may make the bird go away for good? Thank you.

Red-tailed Hawks are carnivorous and opportunistic feeders. Their diet is mainly small mammals, but it also includes the occasional bird and reptile. Prey varies with regional and seasonal availability, but rodents comprise up to 85% of the hawk's diet. Most common prey types include mice, voles, chipmunks, ground squirrels, tree squirrels, and rabbits.

Red-tailed hawks tend to keep the same territories their whole lives. These territories can be as large as large as 10 square miles. They may perch in one area for a couple weeks and then move on to another location. They do not migrate, but may move short distances during the colder months to areas where there is more prey and return to their home range as the weather warms up again.

You can continue to feed as normal. Hawks would never eat all your birds or scare them away for long. Little birds are very smart with all sorts of tactics to outwit bigger birds of prey.

Some steps to take if you have hawks in your yard:

  • First and foremost, federal and state laws prohibit the capture, killing, or possession of hawks and owls. Raptors at bird feeding stations are a problem only when they perch nearby all day. The birds return as soon as the hawk leaves. So rather than get upset, enjoy a close-up look at these magnificent birds while they are in your yard.
  • Place your feeders where there is ample natural protection. Evergreen shrubs and trees can provide an easy escape for the birds. If there is none available, consider planting a few varieties.
  • Lastly, acknowledge that a few birds and squirrels will be caught by hawks at your feeders. This is part of the cycle. Raptors play an important role in controlling the populations. Also keep in mind; songbirds are difficult for hawks to catch. Few are caught by birds of prey.
  • Ultimately, the only thing you can do when a hawk comes to dinner is wait it out. Most hawks that settle in at feeders do so for two or three weeks and then they are off again to different territory. The presence of hawks at your feeders should in no way cause you to discontinue feeding birds. Just take a few simple steps to protect them and enjoy a season of bird feeding.
Fun facts on Red-tailed Hawks

-          If a hawk finishes a meal with their crop bulging, it may not hunt again for a couple days. The crop is a pouch halfway between the mouth and the stomach, where food is stored and gradually released to the stomach. The crop maintains the steady flow of food needed to sustain these big birds.
-          Averaging 19 inches long, with a wingspread of about 50 inches and an average weight of 2.4 pounds, the Red-tailed Hawk is one of the largest hawks in North America.
-          The Red-tailed Hawks scientific name is Buteo jamaicensis. The genus Buteo is Latin for broad rounded wings. And jamaicensis is named for Jamaica, West Indies, the first place they were identified.
-          Red-tailed hawks often mate for life. Their courtship starts with each bird flying in circles high in the sky. Then the male makes a steep dive toward the ground, turns, and flies straight back up. The pair may then grab each other by their talons and fall together, spiraling, toward the ground where they fly apart
-          The pair nests in the same stick nest each year high in a tree. The female hawk lays one to five eggs—which are white with brown spots on the outside of the shell and green inside. Both parents incubate the eggs and raise the young.
-          Most people view hawks, owls and falcons as the enemies of smaller birds. However just because birds of prey may kill and eat some birds, doesn’t make them evil or unwanted. House Sparrows, European Starlings, and other small birds may nest in or near a hawks nest for protection.
-          Baby red-tailed hawks are covered with white, downy feathers. The hawk parents feed their young bugs worms and small prey until they can leave the nest, usually when they're about six weeks old.
-          Red-tailed hawks are important members of the ecosystems. They help control populations of small mammals such as rabbits, as well as help farmers by keeping down the numbers of mice, moles, and other rodents that eat their crops.

Thank you very much for the information. We live in a residential area & it is very strange to see this bird hanging around. Food must be scarce.  They are beautiful birds but I have to say that I’m looking forward to it returning to its own habitat.

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