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, May 31, 2011

Do birds sweat?

We’ve had a couple days without rain in mid-Michigan but now it’s hot! Yesterday I saw a couple birds with open bills. An open mouth is one sign that a bird might be overheating and working to lower its body temperature.

Birds lack sweat glands, so they pant like dogs instead of sweat like people. By opening its mouth a bird increases the airflow and causes more moisture to evaporate and cool their body.

When the temperature is in the 90's, a bird’s body may start to overheat. Birds give off excess body heat through their unfeathered legs and can ruffle their body feathers so hot air close to the skin can escape. A bird will also pant, travel less, find a shady spot, or seek water to reduce its body temperature.

In this heat a refreshing dip in a birdbath is very effective in lowering their body temperature and rehydrating their body to beat the heat.
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You will also significantly increase the number of birds visiting your yard by providing bird baths, drippers, and misters. Wild Birds Unlimited has a wide variety of baths to choose from. Birdbaths come in many shapes, sizes and materials. They can be placed on the ground, mounted on a pedestal or hung. If you have any questions come in to the store and we can help you find the best bath for your yard.

Monday, May 30, 2011

What did the military learn from birds?

Did you know birdwatchers made the military more effective? The study of wild birds’ many survival techniques has been integral to the establishment of many military improvements.
  1. Birds taught the military about camouflage - The development of camouflage was the result of studying birds and copying how they camouflaged themselves. An American artist and zoologist, Abbott Thayer published a book in 1909 called Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom. This book focused a lot on birds and was widely read by military leaders in an attempt to understand how to camouflage military equipment and troops.
  2. Bird’s eye view gives military advantage – Man followed the birds in to the air. Since the middle of the First World War air warfare has revolutionized military conflict. Airborne supremacy is now a key element to success on the battlefield.
  3. Birds’ migratory V flight pattern adopted by military - A flock of geese can fly 70 percent farther by adopting the V shape rather than flying in isolation. The V formation also gives each bird an unobstructed field of vision, allowing flock members to see each other and communicate while in flight. Fighter pilots often use this formation for the same reason.
  4. Birds’ sentry system serves as an example to protect military members – Many bird species like crows and blue jays use a sentry system to protect members of a group and improve the chances of a good meal. Like birds warn companions of any danger with a distinctive "watchman's song", soldiers keep in regular radio contact with their colleagues to assure them all is well.
  5. Birds were drafted the military - During World War I and World War II, the U.S. military enlisted more than 200,000 pigeons to conduct surveillance and relay messages.
I want to wish everybody out there a peaceful Memorial Day. Observed on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday that honors soldiers who died while in the military service. And a special thanks to all who have served this country!

Related Articles:

• Military learned about camouflage from birds - http://ning.it/liJ5ye
• Crows Never Forget a Face - http://t.co/pzsrvb3
• Why do geese fly in a V formation? http://t.co/OmIn8Nw
• War Pigeon Remembered http://t.co/5yiXSNS
• Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://t.co/Br4EnlB
• War Birds http://t.co/t7WJp99

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fun Facts about Woodpeckers

- The contrasting black and white pattern found on the backs of many woodpeckers helps to conceal them from predators. Known as disruptive coloration, this sharp contrast in colors helps to break-up and conceal the shape and outline of a woodpecker as it climbs the side of a tree.

- Woodpeckers are among a very few birds that have zygodactyl feet – which simply means they have two toes pointing forward and two toes pointing backwards. Most birds have an arrangement of three toes forward and one backwards. Having two sets of opposing toes gives them a much better grip on the trees they land on and climb.

- While excavating a cavity, a woodpecker’s head can strike a tree’s surface at speeds up to 13- 15 miles per hour and do it at over 100 strokes per minute. This is equivalent to a person crashing head-first into a tree while running at top speed.

- The barbed tip of a woodpecker’s tongue is very sensitive to touch and can both detect and impale insect larvae. The tongue is coated with sticky mucus that is secreted by large salivary glands; this coating helps to ensure that its prey does not slip away.

- Woodpeckers may find their hidden prey by sound and/or smell. As the woodpecker strikes the tree, hollow sounds may echo off of the tunnels (galleries) of wood-boring insects (like thumping a watermelon). When feeding on wood, grubs make an audible sound that could be heard by a woodpecker. Woodpeckers have a better sense of smell than most birds and may be able to detect the strong odor of the formic acid that ants, bark beetles and termites excrete (smells like Sweet Tarts).

- When threatened by predators, Downy Woodpeckers will freeze motionless against the trunk of a tree and will not return to normal activities for up to ten minutes.

- Bird banding longevity records for woodpeckers recaptured in the wild:
Downy - 11years - 11 months
Hairy - 15years – 11 months
Pileated - 12years – 11 months
Red-headed - 9years – 11 months
Red-bellied - 12years – 1 month
Northern Flicker - 9years – 2 months

Source: WBU Corporate Content

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Why won’t the finches come to my feeder?

Why did my finches leave my feeder? - Tipton, Indiana
There is no one reason you don't have finches. First make sure your Nyjer seed is fresh. One way to do this is to pinch the seed with your fingernails and see if any oil comes out. The finches use their bills to twist the seed and sip the oil and then drop the shell. If your seed has dried out your feeder will be skipped. (Wild Birds Unlimited receives a fresh load of seed each week).

Second, make sure there is no mold in the bottom of your feeder. In Michigan where it can rain several days in a row the seed may not get a chance to air out and begin to mold. This can be dangerous to the finches and they will avoid your feeder again. To prevent mold in bad weather use Feeder Fresh (a silica grit that absorbs water and humidity, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand). You can also shelter your feeder from the elements by using a WBU Weather Guard.

Third, finches are notorious for leaving a tube feeder half full. Don't just top off your feeder with fresh seed. Empty the older seed (if it's still good) into a different container, fill the bottom of your feeder with new seed and top it off with the older seed. The birds will probably eat down to that certain level again and you'll have to repeat the process.

My favorite feeder is a WBU Mesh Finch Feeder. Several birds can feed at a time, the seed airs out, it's easy to clean, easy to fill, has a lifetime guarantee, and is made in the USA. They eat from top to bottom. However if you're thinking of switching feeders be aware that finches don't like change and it may take several minutes to several months for Goldfinches to accept a new feeder.

Fourth look at the location of your feeder. The most important place to hang a feeder is where you can watch it easily, but I’ve found the goldfinches feel more comfortable with the feeder near trees. I have several feeders hanging from a dogwood and pear tree in the front of the house and a couple on a pole in the open in the back of the house. All the feeders have birds but I fill the front feeders twice as much.

Is it worth the bother? Yes! I love the happy, warm, song of the Goldfinches. I love the huge flocks of finches that flutter down from the tops of trees as they take their turn at the feeder. I love that I can hang the feeder anywhere because squirrels and other animals don't bother with Nyjer Thistle. And once you understand the Goldfinches' needs, they are easy to please and very pleasing to watch.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Close-up of Baltimore Oriole

I grabbed my camera as soon as I heard Dolly give her little "bird call". I stood right in front of the window at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing and took a video of her favorite visitor, the Baltimore Oriole. Miss Baby Doll usually sits up high on top of the candle display to watch her hummingbird and oriole window feeders and they just ignore her. Yesterday for some reason she was sitting on the window sill and that made Mr. Oriole a little nervous. Me with a camera standing right in front of the window, however, didn't seem to bother him.

I have the Oriole feeder hanging from a window hook. It's filled with sugar water and in the little wells in the cover I put the BirdBerry Jelly that can be purchased here at Wild Birds Unlimited. It's so good he'll even overlook a cat and human with their faces smashed against the window watching. Watch the video at: http://youtu.be/CX335cxYeD0

Related articles:
Facts on the Baltimore Oriole http://t.co/pAsXrHx
Where do orioles winter? http://t.co/vgbxzk1
Tips and tricks to make your suction cups stick. http://t.co/a3wv0x0
Favorite Oriole feeders http://t.co/OjG4Lz4

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Do bats in Michigan drink hummingbird food?

Bats comprise one-fourth of the world's 4,000 species of mammals. Forty-three bat species are currently found in the United States. Of the 43 species of bats that live in the U.S., nine insect-eating bat species live in Michigan. All are nocturnal (active at night), and feed nearly exclusively on flying insects, including moths, beetles, and mosquitoes. None drink nectar.

Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas are home to three nectar-feeding bats (the lesser long-nosed bat, Mexican long-nosed bat and Mexican long-tongued bat) that are extremely important to the pollination and life cycle of agaves, saguaros and cacti.

For more information on the benefits of bats and how we depend on them for pest control, seed dispersal and to pollinate commercial products including bananas, avocados, dates, figs, peaches, mangoes, cloves, cashews and carob go to the Bat Conservation International (BCI) website: http://ning.it/dpjiDm.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How to prevent mold from taking over your hummingbird feeder

Mold is very bad in hummingbird feeders. Remember to change the nectar in your feeder every 2-4 days, regardless of whether the nectar has been used. In hot, humid weather you might even have to change the nectar every other day.

I find the more often I change the nectar the easier it is to maintain the feeder. You won't be battling any black mold and you'll have a lot more hummingbirds and orioles.

I usually just rinse the feeder with hot water. 
To clean the hard to reach places you can use a pipe cleaner or we have special little brushes for cleaning feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited.

Now that we are in the hot and humid weather, you should soak the hummingbird feeder for about 5 minutes in a Scoot, active enzyme cleaner once a week. Or use a one part vinegar to nine parts water solution to clean the feeders. Then rinse your feeders thoroughly.

Also make sure your nectar solution is the proper proportion.
Nectar (sugar water) recipe
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup water

Monday, May 23, 2011

What to do when you find a baby bird

"Good parents give their children Roots and Wings." --Jonas Salk

Our neighbors behind the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store wanted me to bring in and care for a baby robin they spotted in their front yard. I walked out with them and saw the baby, pointed out the parents present in the apple tree nearby and told them to just leave the baby alone.

When American Robins first leave the nest they can't fly. They are nurtured in their nest until they are about 2 weeks old. Then their parents begin a 2 week basic training course to teach their offspring to hop, sleep on sheltered branches at night, forage for food, and learn how to fly.

Baby robins are very vulnerable before they can fly. To help ensure that the baby robins in your yard are safe, keep cats indoors and don't use unnecessary pesticides in the lawn and garden.

It's a big world out there and it’s amazing how quickly these young birds learn to be independent.

If you think the baby has been abandoned, call for help before you do anything. For a list of licensed rehabilitators click HERE. Or visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at: http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/
If you spot a baby bird in your yard, the best thing to do is probably just leave it alone. 
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Sunday, May 22, 2011

What is the second most popular state bird?


Western Meadowlark (Sturnella_neglecta). Taken...Image via Wikipedia
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)
 You might know that the Northern Cardinal is the most popular state bird. The cardinal was chosen to represent seven states (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia).

According to Wikipedia “The selection of state birds began in 1927, when the legislatures for Alabama, Florida, Maine, Missouri, Oregon, Texas and Wyoming selected their state birds.”

The Western Meadowlark is a close second, with six states to its name. It is the state bird of Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon and Wyoming. In third place is the Northern Mockingbird, named by five states. Three states chose the American Robin and three named the American Goldfinch. The Mountain Bluebird, the Eastern Bluebird and the Black-capped Chickadee were each selected by two states.


Kirtland's Warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii), femaleImage via Wikipedia
Kirtland's Warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii) female

Michigan has the American Robin as the state bird, but every year school children across the state try to change it to the Kirtland's Warbler. This is a rare bird (population ~2100) that used to nest exclusively in Michigan’s young Jack Pine stands. They have recently been spotted nesting Wisconsin too.

For a complete list of state birds go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._state_birds
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Saturday, May 21, 2011

How many woodpeckers are in Michigan?

There are eight woodpeckers found in Michigan.

1. Downy Woodpecker - At about 6 inches, it’s smallest woodpecker in North America and the most frequent visitor to backyard feeders year-round. They have a white belly and back and their black wings have white bars. The males have a red patch on the back of the head. It’s called downy because of the soft feathers on its back.
2. Red-headed Woodpecker – These woodpeckers have an unmistakable bright red head, black wings and white belly. They spend the summers in all of Michigan but aren’t as common at birdfeeders.
3. Red-bellied Woodpecker - They are common throughout most of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula year-round. People often call the Red-bellied woodpecker by a list of common misnomers like red-headed or ladder-back woodpecker because of their gleaming red caps and striking black and white barred backs. Since virtually all woodpeckers are black and white with patches of bright colors on various parts of their bodies, the Red-bellied was named for the unique pinkish tinge on the belly, common to both genders.
4. Hairy Woodpecker – At about 9 inches, these medium woodpeckers look like their smaller downy woodpecker cousins. They aren’t as common at suburban birdfeeders.
5. Pileated Woodpecker – Male and female Pileated Woodpeckers both have a flaming red crest but the males have a red “moustache”. There is no real consensus on whether this bird’s name is pronounced “pie-lee-ated” or “pill-ee-ated”.
6. Northern Flicker – Unlike most woodpeckers, this species spends much of its time on the ground, feeding mostly on ants. Both the male and females have a red chevron on the back of their heads, black bibs, speckled chest, and a brown, barred back and wings. The males have a black “mustache”.
7. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sapsuckers don’t actually suck sap- they lap it up with a tongue that resembles a paintbrush. According to AllAboutBirds.com, “The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker in eastern North America that is completely migratory. Although a few individuals remain throughout much of the winter in the southern part of the breeding range, most head farther south, going as far south as Panama. Females tend to migrate farther south than do males.”
8. Black-backed Woodpecker – I’ve never seen this bird. It is a year-round resident of northern Michigan and the U.P. According to Ted Black in his Birds of Michigan field guide, the blacked-backed are reclusive birds that are most active in recently burned forest patches where wood-boring beetles thrive under charred bark.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Barn Swallow Babies

Three hungry Barn Swallow chicks in Humber Bay...Image via Wikipedia
Starving


Three hungry Barn Swallow chicks in Humber Bay Park East, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. - photos by Matt MacGillivray





Three hungry Barn Swallow chicks in Humber Bay...Image via Wikipedia
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why are there so many birds at the feeders this spring?

"Look deep into nature, then you will understand everything better. " -Albert Einstein

Most of our Wild Birds Unlimited customers have commented on the increased activity at the feeders. With this unusual spring Michigan is experiencing, insects are harder to find, and many birds are welcoming the supplement of seed and suet to feed themselves and their young. I’ve even watched robins introduce their babies to my suet feeders.

However, with all of the wet weather, it is imperative that a close eye is kept on the feeders. At the very least, feeders can get clogged with wet seed and at worse the seed could be moldy and cause the birds sickness. So, in between rain drops, take a quick peek at your feeders, especially your goldfinch feeders, and toss out any moldy seed, suet, fruit, or nectar, and make sure your feeders are clean. Remember, birds give us a lot of pleasure as we watch them eat, so let’s provide them a safe and clean feeding station at all times.
Related articles:
How to stop your seed from molding? http://t.co/DEOdEeP 
How do I get rid of mold in my hummingbird feeder? http://t.co/5Zs3hRP
What seed is best for attracting the colorful birds? http://t.co/1UJboA6
Do I need to clean my bird feeder? http://t.co/fOvrby5

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Touching account of nesting robins

robins nestImage by Ambrosio Photography via Flickr
Last summer it was our pleasure to witness baby robins hatch twice from a nest in a tree just outside our kitchen window. We had a front row seat as four babies emerged in May, followed by three more later in the season. A fascinating aspect of their birth involved the behavior of each mother robin, and how the first mother returned to assist the second as she worked to raise her babies.

The first mother was rather large and plump with big eyes, and I was able to recognize her distinctive features. She built the original nest quickly and efficiently, then tended her brood with the utmost confidence and commitment. During a severe thunderstorm one afternoon, I watched as she sat atop the nest and spread her wings wide to cover the newly hatched babies, protecting them from the heavy rain and wind. The little ones wanted for nothing as she flew back and forth, faithfully feeding them until the day they launched successfully.

An American Robin feeding its . Taken in Munst...Image via Wikipedia
The second mother looked a bit smaller and younger as she took over the nest and laid her own eggs. Once the babies hatched, however, she did not seem to be present or feed them as frequently, and we could hear them chirping with open beaks as they waited to be fed. Lo and behold, the first mother answered their call, returning to help in their care and feeding with the same expertise she had shown before. She often accompanied the new mother, and the two arrived side by side with morsels for the hungry babies. They, too, eventually matured and took flight after so much careful tending.

It was amazing to observe such unselfish love and cooperation as each day unfolded with the miracles of nature occurring just a few feet away. And how satisfying it was to know that our tree and yard sheltered seven new lives, keeping them safe until they soared aloft to continue the cycle of new life and renewal!

Contributed to the WBU blog 
by Barbara Clark
Haslett, MI
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Are the Hummingbirds back?

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds begin migrating into Michigan mid-April and by Mother’s day they have probably settled into their nesting territories.

If you haven’t put your feeder up, what are you waiting for? It’s not too late! Hummingbirds don’t need your feeder to survive, but they might appreciate a reliable source of food with this cold spring we’ve been experiencing. Also these incredible little birds are fascinating to watch and a hummingbird feeder can bring them up close.

Only about 50% of all hummers survive their first year. Cold weather takes a toll on all hummer species because their high-energy requirements don’t allow them to go without food for long.

When they aren’t at the feeder, hummingbirds find nectar from a variety of flowers as well as sap from trees. Throughout the day a hummer drinks more than half its body weight in nectar. But that pointy hummingbird bill isn’t only for sipping nectar; it’s also made for snatching bugs out of the air.

Hummingbirds eat a lot of insects and spiders. They are excellent hunters. Hummingbirds can catch insects in flight, or pluck them from leaves, or catch spiders from their webs. (Sometimes I suggest throwing old fruit or banana peels near your hummingbird feeders to attract fruit flys for the hummers.)

When a hummingbird goes for an insect, it rushes at it with its mouth wide open, and the lower half of its bill can bend downward, even though it has no joint. But they're so fast it takes a camera that films 500 frames a second to capture the move.

PBS’s Nature produced an interesting documentary that explains how these tiny birds survive. You can watch the full episode, Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air, online at: http://video.pbs.org/video/1380512531/

Monday, May 16, 2011

What is the largest songbird in North America?

Common Raven, resident in very small numbers.Image via Wikipedia
Songbirds or perching birds are called passerines. A passerine is a bird of the order Passeriformes, which contains the most species of birds of the twenty-seven orders of birds on Earth. They represent about 45% of the bird species in Michigan, and nearly three-fifths of all living birds worldwide.

The largest passerine is the Common Raven which can weigh as much as 3 pounds. They can be found across the northern hemisphere. When you hear the variety of noises, such as caws,
Verdin Auriparus_flaviceps. Location: Scottsda...                                                 Image via Wikipedia
croaks, and gurgles that the raven produces you may not think of it as a songbird, but their wide range of vocalizations for communication is impressive.

The smallest North American passerine is the Verdin, a tiny, active songbird of the arid southwestern United States and northern Mexico, which weighs 0.2 oz.

Related article:
List of Birds in the United States - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_birds_of_the_United_States
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Sunday, May 15, 2011

How can I entice Indigo Buntings to my yard?

In extreme south eastern Michigan we see Indigo Buntings each spring but not during the summer. Where are they going and how can we entice them to stay here?

Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)Image via Wikipedia
Indigo Buntings spend their winters in southern Florida, central Mexico and south through the West Indies and Central America to northern South America. They flock together to forage for food in open habitats, like weedy fields, citrus orchards, and farmlands.

In the spring they can travel thousands of miles to their breeding grounds at the top of Florida to the bottom of Canada and as far east as Maine and as far west as Nevada. They will stop in many yards on their journey looking to refuel. During migration they look for open grasslands and leafy trees similar to those in their winter habitat. Migration takes place in April and May and then again in September and October.

Indigo Bunting, Passerina cyanea, offset repro...Image via Wikipedia
Indigos like a variety of food, including small seeds, nuts, berries, insects, mosquitoes, flies, aphids, small spiders, buds, goldenrod, thistle, grasses, and herbs. At my feeders they like the Nyger Thistle and the No-Mess blend which has the sunflower chips, peanuts, and millet without the hulls.

The only way to get them to stay the whole summer is if you live in an area where they like to breed. Indigo buntings nest in brushy and weedy habitats along the edges of farmland, woods, roads, and railways. According to Birds of Michigan by Ted Black, “Raspberry thickets are a favored nesting location for many of our Indigo Buntings. The dense, thorny stems provide the nestlings with protection from many predators, and the berries are a convenient source of food.”

So if you live near a woodlot or bike trails you may see the birds year round. Otherwise appreciate these beautiful birds while they visit in the spring and fall.

Related Article:
Do We Have Indigo Buntings in Michigan? http://t.co/tUlMhMW
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Saturday, May 14, 2011

How to stop your seed from molding?

If you are having trouble keeping your seed dry and fresh after a rain, two products that I recommend are weather guards and feeder fresh.

A WBU Weather Guard is designed to keep bad weather from spoiling your seed in the tube. This is a clear plastic dome that slips on top of most of our WBU tube feeders. It will not deter birds from feeding, in fact, many enjoy feeding under the shelter and out of the wet weather. It has a lifetime guarantee and is made in the USA.

Feeder Fresh is added to the seed when you fill a feeder. It absorbs water and humidity, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand. Feeder Fresh keeps the seed in the feeder dry, keeps molds from forming, and thus reduces the chance of Aflatoxin and other mycotoxins.
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Once the Feeder Fresh absorbs its own weight in water it will discontinue absorbing, and be identical to the silica grit that birds normally ingest. Made in the USA.
 
I use Feeder Fresh a lot in the spring and fall when there is a lot of rain and humidity. It keeps my feeders free of mold which makes it easier for me to maintain a clean healthy feeder.

Friday, May 13, 2011

How to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day

International Migratory Bird Day is held each year on the second Saturday in May to draw attention to the plight of migratory birds that yearly make incredible journeys between their breeding grounds in North America and their wintering grounds in Mexico, Central, and South America. Many of these birds are declining in numbers, primarily due to the loss of habitat.

The Potter Park Zoo celebrates the International Migratory Bird Day along with Be A Tourist in Your Own Town Saturday, June 4, 2011 - 9:00am - 6:00pm

Price: General Admission / Free with a "Be A Tourist" passport

Come on out to the Zoo to celebrate IMBD and Be A Tourist In Your Own Town. They'll have stations set up to teach you about our areas migratory birds, and fun activities for the whole family!

Get a Be A Tourist passport, and admission is FREE! http://www.lansing.org/batyot
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Thursday, May 12, 2011

When is the best time to put up a bird house?

It's never too late or too early to put up nest boxes! Bluebirds and other cavity nesting birds typically begin nesting in March depending on where you live. But they usually have more than one brood per season and may switch to a new site for their second or third brood.
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Or if a birds' first nesting is unsuccessful, perhaps due to predators, they may appreciate a better nest box.
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So, you can put houses up year round. Some birds will even use nest boxes as roosting sites in the winter.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Favorite Weed: All About Catnip

Life is good.
What is that stink?! It’s familiar but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Not skunk. Did I step in something?

Oh JB found the source. I put catnip in my pocket and forgot about it. The cats don’t get it every day. But the catnip plant in the garden does donate enough leaves to treat the cats occasionally.

What is Catnip?
Catnip Nepeta cataria is a perennial herb that is member of the Mint family. Like dandelions and Canada thistle, catnip is another plant that is not native to the Americas. It has many medicinal uses in addition to its being a recreational substance for cats' enjoyment. Gardeners and birders may also find it interesting that researchers have found that the oil in the catnip leaves is about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, which is the active ingredient in most insect repellents.

I am one crazy cat!
More Fun Facts about Cat Nip
  • Catnip was originally native to Asia and to Europe.
  • It was introduced to the Americas as food and for medical purposes.
  • Catnip tea was very popular before the importation of Chinese teas.
  • It was used as a treatment for gastrointestinal complaints, nervousness and colds.
  • Only 2/3 of cats respond to catnip, and only cats over three months old can appreciate the effects.
  • Tigers, cougars, bobcats, lions and lynx also respond to nepetalactone, the active ingredient in catnip.
Related articles:
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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Add a Drip or Mister to your Bath to Attract More Birds

In nature, hummingbirds prefer fine sprays of water in order to clean their feathers. Providing water in a shallow bird bath or through a mister or dripper, available at Wild Birds Unlimited, will help to attract hummers — and other birds too.

They help birds keep their feathers in top condition by providing a water source for washing and preening. Our Mini-Mister™ attaches easily to any garden hose to produce a fine water spray. Place it near vines or bushes so birds, such as hummingbirds, can flutter against the wet leaves for a refreshing bath or a much needed drink.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Why do birds poop in the bird bath?

Oh those dirty birds!
That's a very good question. Most songbirds are literally full of air. A goldfinch weighs about half an ounce and the average cardinal about 1.5 ounces. (You can look up the weight of a specific bird at http://www.allaboutbirds.org/)

So when a bird takes on water either by drinking or bathing, instinct tells them to get rid of any useless weight to be a more efficient flyer. As a result, poop happens.

Songbirds can't urinate like mammals because they don't have a bladder. Their kidneys extract nitrogenous wastes from the bloodstream, and instead of excreting it as urea dissolved in urine as we do, they excrete it in the form of uric acid.

Uric acid emerges as a white paste often ejected with the waste from food which is the darker stuff in the center. Both waste products come out together because birds have a single opening called a cloaca, which they use for waste disposal and reproduction.

How do I keep my birdbath clean?
First it is good to change your water frequently and scrub the bath with a good brush. There are also two different products available at Wild Birds Unlimited to help maintain the quality of the water. The first is a liquid you add each time you change the water or there is a tablet you leave in the water for a month.

Birdbath Cleaning Brush This 8" brush is well suited for cleaning birdbaths, as well as for many other household uses. It has stiff, tough polypropylene bristles that will do the job well, and features a comfortable molded poly handle.

Bird Bath Protector is a bio-enzymatic product specially formulated for birdbaths. Prevents organic contaminants from forming including white scale deposits, iron, copper and hard water stains. Uses two unique proprietary technologies; One system helps to prevent the buildup of stains and mineral deposits on the birdbath surfaces, while the second system keeps water clear and free from the organic debris that can make the water cloudy.

Healthy Ponds Birdbath Dispenser treats birdbaths up to 7 gallons. Delivered with two disposable, floating plastic dispensers; each refill is effective for up to 30 days.


Related Article: What Weighs More, Bird's Feathers or Bird's Bones? http://t.co/xRAaxEh

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Facts on the Baltimore Oriole

Finally, I have my Baltimore Oriole visiting. He’s a little late, but now that he’s here (Hurray!!!), I can relax and enjoy my handsome gentleman caller. Of the nine species of orioles, the Baltimore is common and widespread in the east while the Bullock’s Oriole is common in the west.

The Baltimore Oriole (7-8.25”) is bright orange bird with black hood and back. Wings are black with orange shoulder patches and strongly white-edged feathers that appear as bars. Female has an olive brown back, yellow/orange underparts and white-edged feathers on the wings. Juvenile is paler overall and has gray belly and the first year male has black throat patch.

Baltimore Oriole -- Rondeau Provincial Park --...Image via Wikipedia
The name “oriole” is from the Latin aureolus, which means golden. The Baltimore Oriole was named in the early 1600s for George Calvert, Baron of Baltimore, whose livery stable was painted bright yellow and black. The Baltimore Oriole’s range overlaps with that of the similar Bullock's Oriole in the Midwest, and the two species are sometimes considered to be conspecific (belonging to the same species) under the name Northern Oriole because they form fertile hybrids.

Orioles usually stay hidden in the trees eating insect and fruit and singing their beautiful whistling notes. They can be drawn down from their perches with foods like orange slices, grape jelly, mealworms, suet, peanuts and nectar feeders.They are common in some suburban landscapes due to their preference for open settings that are bordered with mature trees used for nesting.

The Oriole’s hanging-basket nest is an engineering masterpiece woven with plant fibers, grasses, vine and tree bark and sometimes string or yarn 6-45 feet in the air. This keeps them safe from most predators. Oriole nests are woven with thousands of stitches and the tying of thousands of knots, all done solely with its beak. The female builds her nest and incubates the eggs with little or no help from its mate, but both feed the young. Orioles will lay 4-5 eggs anywhere from May to June and the young will fledge as late as 30 days from egg laying.

You can help to supply them with additional nesting materials by providing natural fiber yarn, twine or string pieces in lengths of less than six inches. And for my favorite oriole feeders click HERE.
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