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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tiger moths: What is that white moth with black spots?

Bugs like birds are fascinating to observe. These two beauties were attracted to the flowers in front of the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store this week.

The first is the Giant Leopard Moth or Eyed Tiger Moth (Hypercompe scribonia). Wow what a show stopper! It was sitting on the sidewalk and I snapped a quick picture before I moved it to the violet plant where it will lay eggs hopefully.

The larvae, which look similar to Woolly Bear, feed on a great variety of broad-leaved plants, including banana, cabbage, cherry, dandelion, maple, orange, sunflower, violet, and willow leaves.

The second wasn’t as easy to identify. I think it’s a type of tiger moth. I didn’t know what markings to look for until after it flew away. Perhaps it’s a Pink-legged Tiger Moth or a Virginian Tiger Moth.

BugGuide is a good resource for butterflies or moths.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Does that cardinal bird have mange?

Is it that that time of year to address the perennial bald bird question already? Every July and August it is a somewhat common sight to see some bald birds at the feeder in mid-Michigan. For birds, molting is usually the periodic replacement of feathers by shedding old feathers while producing new ones. And, after the breeding season, most birds go through pre-basic molt that results in a covering of feathers, which will last until the next breeding season.

However, after nesting season some Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Common Grackles go through an abnormal molt or replacement of feathers. Many appear to be juveniles undergoing their first pre-basic molt or growth of their first winter adult plumage. There are no scientific studies on why some of these birds are bald and some aren’t or why it’s just the head.

Growing up I remember we would have bald Blue Jays appear at the feeders every fall. They were large, lively, loud, healthy birds with tiny bald black heads. Fortunately, new head feathers grew in within a few weeks.

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with most of these birds, despite how bad they look. The only other reason a bird might lose patches of feathers may be due to health problems such as malnutrition, mite infestation, or some unidentified disease.

Due to the timing, I doubt the cardinal’s baldness is the result of bird mites or mange infections. The unexplainable but temporary feather loss is common this time of year. Even though staggered feather replacement is the normal pattern for most birds, I believe your cardinal will be alright without any intervention and grow its feathers back soon.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why are bluebird eggs blue?

The size, color and patterning of birds’ eggs can vary a lot. Most scientist believe that birds, like reptiles, used to lay only white eggs. It’s thought that the different colors of eggs happened later as more camouflaged eggs survived from predators’ attacks or shielded them from solar radiation.

Many birds still have white eggs. Woodpeckers and other birds that nest in dark holes or ducks which use brush to hide eggs, or hawks, owls, hummingbirds, and other birds that incubate their eggs immediately, all have white eggs. These birds either don’t need pigments or can’t produce the pigment due to the food they eat or energy required to produce color.

Pigment glands in the wall of oviduct deposit successive layers of color as the egg passes through. Spotted or streaked eggs develop when pigment is deposited as they rotate through the oviduct. Rapid rotation and decent results in more streaking and slower movement leads to more spotting. The large end of the egg travels through the oviduct first and often picks up more color. (1)

You also may notice, closely related birds species have similar colored eggs. For example, bluebirds and thrushes all have blue-colored eggs. Blue eggs develop after the deposit of biliverdin in developing eggshell during the last 5 hours before the egg is laid. Biliverdin is a breakdown of hemoglobin and diverting these chemicals for the use in coloring eggs may be costly for females.

Biliverdin is a potent antioxidant and recent research shows that its absorbance in the eggshell also reveals the health status of the female bird. Healthy females lay more colorful eggs. Young or unhealthy bluebirds may have pale blue, white, or even pink eggs. (2)

Sources:
1. Cornell Lab of Ornithology Handbook of Bird Biology http://www.birds.cornell.edu/homestudy/
2. Egg coloration is correlated with female condition in eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) http://www.springerlink.com/content/73q742n71m1258u1/

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Chickadee babies have fledged

I just saw some baby chickadees. They came out of the nest fully dressed in their brand new suits and hats. They were so cute! However I did notice, because of an earlier post you wrote called “Identify Younger Birds at Your Feeders” that they all had shorter tails then the parents. I love the blog and just wanted to share the experience with someone who might appreciate the scene. ~ Webberville, Michigan

Baby Black-capped Chickadees in nest boxImage by Dunbar Gardens via Flickr
Thank you for writing. I do appreciate your description of baby chickadees and agree 100%, they’re too cute! I’ve been watching a family at my house too. Black-capped Chickadees bop about from feeder to bush, bush to feeder. They weigh about a ½ ounce but aren’t intimidated in the least by the Blue Jays or Starlings at my peanut feeders.

Male, Female, and juvenile chickadees all look pretty much the same to the human eye. After the female incubates her eggs for about two weeks, practically naked nestlings hatch. Their eyes are closed and there is a little gray down on their heads and wings.

Well fed nestlings grow quickly and fledge from their nest box or tree cavity about two weeks after hatching. Mom and dad birds may bring food to the box and refuse to feed them while still inside to encourage them to leave the nest at this time.

Once the baby birds have fledged they move around in a family group. At first they depend on the parents but soon catch on to picking out objects that might be food. This is the best time to watch them at the feeders. But eventually, the parents take the young farther and farther from the nest site. The once guarded boundaries of chickadee territories are now open to family groups. 

This family vacation or training period lasts for about 3 to 4 weeks and then the tight cohesive unit will disperse. Scientists aren’t sure what triggers the break, but the young take off suddenly in different directions. They settle down finally, long distances from their natal territory.

The young hook up with other young birds new to the area and join local adults to form winter flocks. Once settled in their new territory, most will remain in the same general area for the rest of their adult lives.

Wonderful information as always! I’m so sad my babies will leave soon, but I’ll keep the feeder full and hope I entice some of those new, young, swingers to my territory for the winter. Thank you very much. Jan
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Saturday, June 25, 2011

New Research: Now we know who’s who at the feeder

Did you ever wonder how many chickadees are visiting your feeders throughout the day or how many sunflower seeds they take away? By using a technology called RFID (radio frequency identification) lots of questions about birds at feeders now have answers.

RFID is a technology that uses communication through the use of radio waves to transfer data between a reader (a wired-up “smart” bird feeder) and an PIT tag (a passive integrated transponder tag that weighs less than 0.1 gram, taped to a band on the bird’s leg) for the purpose of identification and tracking. The “smart” feeder records second-by-second behaviors of tagged birds, revealing how weather, competition, and habitat affect birds’ activities.

In a recent study, David Bonter, Project FeederWatch director at the Cornell Lab volunteered a lucky 129 songbirds including the Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, and House Finches to participate.

Bonter and Ben Zuckerberg (Research Associate in Citizen Science) initiated the RFID study of common feeder birds at several study sites in the Ithaca, New York area. Some of the early results of a five-month pilot study this past winter reveal:

“Individual birds took up to 203 seeds in a single day (some of these they almost certainly cached for later in the season).

Most chickadees had favorite feeders—one or two locations they habitually visited even though several other feeders were available within the typical home-range area of a chickadee.

Over three months, a single Tufted Titmouse drifted through the woods, frequenting three feeders one after another across a distance of more than half a mile.

A Black-capped Chickadee spent two months visiting a feeder daily, then abruptly moved nearly a half-mile away to a different feeder.”(1)

This incredibly detailed information will help with future studies and answer what is the best place for a feeder, when is the best time to watch the birds feed,  feeding patterns related to gender and dominance status, bird survival, disease transmission, and much more.


Sources:
1. Feeders of the Future - http://www.allaboutbirds.org/page.aspx?pid=2147
2. Technology automatically tracking feeder visits - http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/News/RFID.html

Friday, June 24, 2011

When do lightning bugs appear in Michigan?

Lightning bugs or fireflies are neither bugs nor flies;
they are actually beetles, which have two pairs of wings.
I saw my first lightning bug or firefly today on the window. They usually show up in mid-Michigan late June.

According to Wikipedia: “Fireflies hibernate or overwinter during the larval stage, some species for several years. Some do this by burrowing underground, while others find places on or under the bark of trees. They emerge in the spring. After several weeks of feeding, they pupate for 1 to 2.5 weeks and emerge as adults.” (1)

You might see more than one type of firefly in your yard. There are several species of fireflies in Michigan. Photinus is the most common firefly in our area. Each is about one half inch in length, and it produces a yellow-green flash. In the dark, you may be able to tell them apart by the color of their flash or distinctive flash patterns.

Firefly Watch also explains: "There are a few different ways to determine the sex of a firefly. The simplest way is to observe whether they are flashing while flying or while resting on vegetation. Typically, the males flash in flight while they are patrolling an area for females. The females observe from their perch and, if interested, they return the males' flashes."(2)

Sources:
1. Firefly - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefly
2. Firefly Watch - https://www.mos.org/fireflywatch/types_of_fireflies
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stop baby birds from crashing into windows

Right now there are still young birds around learning the ropes and unfortunately, many times it's the inexperienced birds that fall victim to window strikes. Birds also strike windows as they quickly try to escape predators, hitting glass in a moment of panic. And during spring and fall migration, window strikes increase as birds unfamiliar with the area pass through.Window strikes are hard to totally eliminate, but there are ways to reduce them and/or reduce their severity:

1. Locate feeders and birdbaths within 1-2 feet of them so they can't gather enough speed to cause significant injury or about 20-30 feet from windows so birds have time to change direction. Window feeders also alert birds to a window.
2. Window screens will reduce injury even if a bird flies into it. Use them where practical.
3. Decals like Window Alert placed on the outside of windows have had the most positive feedback from customers. Each decal contains a component which brilliantly reflects ultraviolet sunlight. This ultraviolet light is invisible to humans, but glows like a stoplight for birds.

If you do have a window strike and the bird is injured CALL FOR ADVICE! The best course may be no interference. For a list of licensed rehabilitators click HERE. Or visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at: http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What are those swarms of gnats or tiny flies in the air?

Fungus GnatImage by dnnya17 via Flickr
Gnat is the common name for many small, winged insects in the fly family. Also called flies, midges and no-see-ums, many species look like mosquitoes and may form annoying swarms or clouds in the air called ghosts.

These are large mating swarms of adults. The swarms may occur for several days, especially after a wet weather. The tiny flies only live long enough to mate and lay eggs in or around water.

Most gnat species are considered an important part of aquatic food chains. After larvae hatch from the eggs, they live mostly in the soil decomposing plant litter. Larvae will feed for about 2 weeks before pupating in a cocoon near the soil surface. After 3-7 days the adult will emerge and live for around 8 days.

There may be several generations during the summer but they usually disappear in the fall. The last generation of gnats will overwinter as cocooned larvae in protected areas or organic matter.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Who's eating so much suet in the summer?

I'm so glad I remembered to bring home suet today. As soon as the feeder was filled I heard what sounded like a rubber ducky squeak, squeak. I looked up and saw a daddy downy woodpecker feeding a baby downy. I could see it was baby male downy woodpecker easily. Adult males have a small red patch on the back of the head while the male juveniles will sometimes have a small red patch on top of their instead.

Then I heard "chick-a-dee-dee" and a daddy and a little chickadee were pecking furiously on the suet. Next a titmouse and many other bug eating birds took their turn at the suet feeder.

If you have never fed suet, you have missed some great neighbors. Common birds that eat suet are downy, hairy, red-bellied, and pileated woodpeckers. Chickadees, northern flickers, nuthatches, and starlings are also avid suet eaters.

By adding suet to your wild bird's menu, you will also attract wrens, warblers, thrushes, brown creepers, brown thrashers, and blue jays. You can also attract orioles, pine siskins, titmice, and the ever popular bluebird.

What is suet?
Suet is animal fat. It is the most concentrated source of energy you can offer wild birds. Our Suet is made with only the highest quality processed beef kidney fat. Special processes remove impurities that cause low melting points and spoilage problems.

Why do birds eat suet?
Suet is one of the top three foods to feed wild birds. Birds have high metabolic rates. It is not unusual for birds to consume 1/4 to 1/3 their body weight worth of food a day! Offering peanut/suet cake provides a high caloric energy source.

How do I feed suet?
Suet is traditionally fed in wire cages. There are also recycled plastic suet feeders with a tail prop, squirrel proof suet feeders, decorative suet feeders, suet log feeders... Come in and see our wide selection. If you buy extra suet, it can be stored in the freezer.

Monday, June 20, 2011

How do you stop wasps from invading bird houses?

Bees and wasps usually use unoccupied houses, but it’s best not to spray the house with any poisons. If you have one of our Wild Birds Unlimited easy clean out houses, I would leave the door open so there is a lot of light in the box. If there is no easy clean out you can plug the hole for a couple days until they get the idea.

If they have already established a nest it is best to let them be and not take any active measures to exterminate them. Instead, wait to clean them out in the fall when the weather is cooler and their activity has halted.
.
To stop this from happening again, rub a thin layer of bar soap on the inside surface of the roof. The slippery surface prevents the insects from attaching the nest to the wood. Don’t use any oils like Crisco which could melt and get on bird feathers. A little Ivory Bar Soap rubbed on the inside of the birdhouse roof doesn’t hurt the birds and deters any insects from attaching a nest inside. Good luck!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What's the best feeder just for goldfinches?

I'm looking for a feeder for finches that sparrows can't get to.  I had some beautiful goldfinches until they were bullied by sparrows and now we're down to 2 and I don't want to lose them! Can you help?????  I've seen cages with the outer wire but they are so expensive, I can't afford it. Thank you.

Make sure you use just straight nyger thistle. Goldfinches like a variety of seeds and so do House Sparrows but nyger thistle is a seed the attracts mainly goldfinches.

Next is your feeder choice. I don't like the cage feeders. I like the mesh feeders the best (or the cheap route is the mesh sacks filled with straight nyger).

Or you could go with the upside down feeders. Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI sells a Droll Yankees upside down finch feeder that is inexpensive but still high quality. The feeding ports are below the perches. Goldfinches can cling and swing upside down to eat but most sparrows and House Finches won't feed while hanging by their toes.

Finally let me tell you that House Sparrows and House Finches are feeding babies right now and are trying to find enough food to fill many mouths. Goldfinches don't nest until August and so these single birds are footloose and fancy-free.

That gives goldfinches much more time to forage for natural foods which are in abundance during the summer. So even if you purchased a new feeder you probably won't attract the high numbers again until August.

That is my favorite time of year! By mid-August you'll wake up every morning to the tinkling tune of baby goldfinches. They look similar to the female or a goldfinch in winter colors and their baby call reminds me of a squeaky dog toy. "♪ High, low...♪ high, low, low."

Sarah: Thank you so much, what a wonderful help you were to me! Would you believe I just ordered 2 upside down feeders and I do only use thistle. The socks aren't working because of the sparrows. I never knew about the August babies, this is wonderful! I thank you so much. Joy
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Identify Younger Birds at Your Feeders

Many bird parents show their fledglings where to find food and how to eat from feeders. But how do you know if it is an adult or this year’s offspring? Here are some clues to look and listen for at your feeders.

Having a Shadow
Watch for one or more birds closely following or outright chasing a parent. This often occurs in the first two weeks after leaving the nest.

Incessant Chatter
When hungry, many fledglings harass their parents with an incessant "feed me." These can be single or double noted calls that sound like squeaks or chip notes. Chickadees and goldfinches are notorious for incessant feeding chatter.

Body Positioning
A fledgling may beg with its mouth open toward the parent. A juvenile may also move its head side to side and flutter its wings to get its parents' attention.

A Motley Crew
Fledglings are still growing out their feathers so they can appear very mottled or slightly fuzzy. There are often spots or streaks on the head, back, breast and/or flanks until the feathers are fully grown.

No “End” in Sight
Tail feathers are usually the last to fully grow. Young birds' tail feathers can appear very short or it can look like a bird has no tail.

Source: WBU Corpoate Content

Friday, June 17, 2011

What birds like peanuts?

The greater variety of foods you offer, the more your birds will enjoy visiting your yard.
Did you know that a lot of birds like peanuts? Nuts at the feeders attract some of the most interesting birds. The crazy antics of the woodpeckers, titmice, chickadees and nuthatches alone make it worthwhile to try feeding peanuts.

The peanut probably originated in South America and spread throughout the New World as Spanish explorers discovered the peanut’s versatility. It's a high fat, high protein food that makes a very nutritional treat. In fact peanuts are so popular with birds that several feeders have been invented for just peanuts. And I especially like the birds that come to my peanut bells.

Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing also offers four seed blends that have peanuts. Even our most popular no-mess blend has peanuts in it to attract cardinals, titmice, jays, chickadees, wrens, woodpeckers, robins, nuthatches and more.

Whether it's straight peanuts, peanut bells, peanuts in a seed blend or even peanut butter suet, it's fun to watch the birds attack feeders with peanuts.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Squirrel proof bird feeder reviews

I want to buy my father a really effective bird feeder for the birds that keep the squirrels off. What is your suggestion? ~ Lansing, Michigan

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

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

When a squirrel tries to eat from the feeder his weight closes off the feeding ports to deny him access to the food. You can also adjust the tension to make it sensitive enough to shut down on the large starlings or blackbirds. Backyard birds average 0.3 – 2.0 ounces while blackbirds are about 4 ounces and squirrels are about a pound.

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

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

Squirrel proof feeders are the easiest way to keep them out of your “bird” seed and the Squirrel Buster Plus is one of the best feeders guaranteed!
The next bestselling squirrel-proof feeders are from Droll Yankees. We also sell a lot of the Whipper, Dippers and Flippers. After watching the video, people buy the Flipper to watch the squirrels fly. So the most common complaint with the Flipper is that the squirrels don't try hard enough to get the food from this feeder. They just give up and leave the food for the birds.

The video of the squirrel performing acrobatic acts is very intriguing but most squirrels turn tail and run after their first encounter. I tell people there is always hope that in the spring a new potential "flipper" could be born.

Birds love to eat from Yankee Flipper, but squirrels are prevented from eating from it in a way that will make you smile. When a squirrel steps on the perch, a connection is made with a motor that makes the perch spin, and the squirrel is flipped off the feeder. Thus, the name YANKEE FLIPPER.

The unit comes equipped with rechargeable nicad batteries and a battery charger.  It is easy to clean, easy to fill and has a lifetime guarantee.

The Whipper features four seed ports with individual weight sensitive perches. The curved perch positioning encourages cardinals and small songbirds to eat, but prevents squirrels from feeding.

The Dipper’s four seed ports also have individual weight sensitive perches. The positioning encourages smaller songbirds to eat, but prevents all squirrels from feeding. Each perch is individually sprung and calibrated for birds up to the weight of approximately 2 ounces.

These are all excellent squirrel proof feeders and all have a lifetime guarantee. You can't go wrong with any of these feeders. If you come in to the Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI store we can show you all our feeders and find the squirrel-proof feeder that would fit the best in your situation.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What are those small, creamy white butterflies with a spot on the wing?

The Cabbage White butterfly (Pieris rapae) is one of the most common butterflies in the U.S. and around the world. Flying around from late February to mid-November, they are one of the first butterflies to be seen in the spring, and one of the last to be seen in the fall.

Cabbage Whites are yet another non-native species that were introduced to America from Europe around 1860. About two inches wide, they are mostly white with black markings and spots on the top of their wings. Underneath, the wings are yellowish-green.

Males and females can be told apart easily by their wing spots. Males only have one spot on each wing, while females have two.

The larva is a bluish green with faint yellow stripes on the side and back. They can be found in gardens on a wide variety of members of the mustard family, including cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli.

Cabbage white butterflies start out as larvae or caterpillars that hatch from tiny eggs that are laid by an adult butterfly. After eating, growing and shedding their skin 5 times they turn into a chrysalis and undergo a metamorphosis. It does not eat during this stage. The pupa stage lasts a few days during the summer but in the fall they will overwinter in the pupa stage, and an adult butterfly emerges in the spring.
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

WTF is Wild Birds Unlimited?

There has to be magic in the Wild Birds Unlimited business model. Who owns all these birds? ~ Zionsville, IN

I read it all the time on Twitter: "What the fudge is Wild Birds Unlimited?" Or new customers walk in looking for pet birds.

We actually don't sell birds. Our store name is a little confusing. We sell feeders and food for birds in your yard and a wide variety of supplies so you can watch birds up close. We also sell other unique items for nature lovers.

Who Bird Watches?
History shows humans have long been fascinated with birds. There are nearly 10,000 known species that now inhabit the earth and can be seen anywhere in the world including your own backyard.

What is Bird Watching?
Bird watching begins simply by observing birds. Gradually you can begin learning their names, identifying their markings, observing their activities, songs, behavior, and habitats.

Why bird watch?
Birds can be an indication of overall environmental health. If you’re interested in the environment, paying attention to birds can give you insight into many aspects of nature. Also, with our busy lifestyles, we often forget to slow down and enjoy the surroundings. Bird watching gives you the chance to escape and relax.

How do I start?
To invite more birds to your yard you can set up a bird feeder, bird bath, or bird house. I especially like my window feeders so I can see the birds really close! Wild Birds Unlimited has several styles. I fill it with our No-mess blend so of course there will be no mess below the feeder.

This may be as far as you want to go in bird watching. Or as the birds become more familiar to you at the feeder you can look up their names in a book or field guide, investigate using binoculars, join the local Audubon Society, or open up your own Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop. There are no set rules to bird watching.

Cat TV
Indiana has birds similar to Michigan. You should visit your local stores for more information. Michigan has over 400 species of birds. A few of the most common birds seen at a seed feeder in mid-Michigan are the Cardinal, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, House Sparrow, House Finch, American Goldfinch, European Starling, White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, and Mourning Dove.

Bird watching is a wonderful hobby for people of all ages. It can be enjoyed almost anywhere at any moment of the day. All in all, bird watching is relaxing, fun, and educational. If you have any specific questions I can answer them in the blog or you can come into our Wild Birds Unlimited shops for more ideas or help.

To find the closest Wild Birds Unlimited go to: http://maps.wbu.com/
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Monday, June 13, 2011

When did people start to feed hummingbirds?

When was the hummingbird feeder invented? ~ Gladstone, Michigan

I don’t know when people began feeding hummingbirds. I do know that with their lightning speed and jewel like iridescent feathers, gardeners have been trying to attract hummingbirds to their gardens for a long while.

Feeding hummingbirds may have started with beekeepers feeding the bees in the early spring to give bees an ample supply of food during cold months and get an early start in the honey-gathering season. One method of feeding bees in the 1800's was to invert a bottle of sugar water into a supply cup, similar to some hummingbird feeders you still see today.

So I searched www.google.com/patents and found a 1941 patent for a Sweet Liquid Bird Feeder built for birds only and made to exclude the bees. Click the link to see the full patent: http://goo.gl/64eJ2. It was a glass jar that screwed into a cup that had a wire screen on top to allow the hummingbirds to lap up the sugar water.

Another patent in 1951 took a test tube and attached an artificial flower to a little hole in the bottom. According to the patent “The object of this invention is to provide an artificial supply of food for humming birds for the purpose of attracting them and make the food inaccessible to bees at the same time that will otherwise be attracted, leaving the food accessible to small insects on which the hummingbirds may feed.” The link to this patent is at: http://goo.gl/UTUK8.

The National Audubon Society claims that the first commercial hummingbird feeder was introduced in 1950 by the Audubon Novelty Company of Medina, New York. They say it was a glass tube designed by Laurence J. Webster of Boston, as a gift for his wife, who had read an article in a 1928 edition of The National Geographic Magazine.

Today hummingbird feeders continue to be improved. Always look for feeders that are easy to clean and easy to fill. To see a list of my favorite hummingbird feeders of 2011 click the following link: http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2011/04/best-hummingbird-feeders-of-2011.html

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why do pigeons perch on statues?

Buildings are used for nesting as are cliffs a...Image via Wikipedia
Pigeons that you see hanging out under bridges and on statues are the feral descendants of domesticated Rock Pigeons. In their native land of southern Europe, North Africa, and into South Asia, the  Rock Pigeons nest along coastal cliff faces.

In their non-native land, pigeons have adapted to nesting under bridges and artificial cliff faces created by tall buildings with accessible overhangs and perching on giant sculptures that serve as substitutes for natural ledges.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

When do you clean bird houses?

If the birds have been successful in raising their young in a nest box, the babies will fledge and then there is at least a two week break before they might begin to raise another brood. I always call it their family vacation time. You can clean the nest box at this time while the baby birds are shown the territory and taught how to forage on their own.

If something happens to disrupt the success of the first batch, the birds might begin a new nest within a week. You don’t have to remove the nest in this case but broken eggs or dead nestlings should be removed immediately. If they want to try again in that box, it will give them a head start to have an existing nest. Also try to determine why there was a failure and how to prevent further tragedy.

By cleaning out a nest box you help deter parasite infestation and a predator’s ability disturb a nest that is built on top of old nests making it closer to the entrance hole.

To clean the nest box I usually place a plastic bag over the nest and just sweep it all in and twist the bag shut. You can rinse out the house with a water hose or diluted bleach spray. Make sure the drainage holes are unplugged and leave the house open to dry for a couple days. Finally dispose of the old nest in the trash and wash your hands thoroughly.

Taking care to clean your feeders and nest boxes makes you a responsible steward of nature.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ancient etched hummingbirds on the Nazca Plain of Peru

The huge hummingbirds etched into the silt on the Nazca Plain of Peru back in 200BC -600AD are still a mystery.

The lines are meaningless at ground level, but from the sky, the Incan tribe designs can be seen easily.

Many of the geoglyphs are constructed using a continuous line which has led many scientists to believe that the people of these ancient cultures "walked" the lines to perform some ritual.

Watch a video at: http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=nBBfTmKJz2U&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DnBBfTmKJz2UEnhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Can I throw rice at my wedding?

My friend says if I throw rice at my wedding, the birds eat it and explode? I don’t think that’s true! Should I throw birdseed instead? E.B.

Rice and other grains, such as wheat, have played a prominent role in marriage ceremonies for centuries. Guests wish the bride and groom symbolically a lifetime full of fertility and of prosperity by throwing rice.

There are no documented cases of birds suffering from eating rice probably because it’s a natural food grown all around the world. It's really no different than the birds eating any other grain like millet or wheat. So to be clear, no wild birds will be harmed if they choose to eat rice thrown at a wedding ceremony.

The only thing you have to worry about when you throw rice is not slipping on the hard little rolling seeds and young relatives that think it’s funny pelting your face as hard as they can.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What is that cotton in the air?

What do you think of when I say "Summer"? Do you think no school, popsicles on the back porch, running around barefoot in the grass, and picking flowers? I do and I always think of floating cottonwood seeds as the first sign of summer in mid-Michigan.

The Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) can be either male or female. It is the fluffy white seeds produced by the females during early summer that give the tree its name. (Cotton for clothing comes from the fiber that grows around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium, not the cottonwood tree.)

Eastern CottonwoodImage via Wikipedia
The seeds are only a couple millimeters long, which is quite remarkable considering that they can become one of the largest trees in North America, up to 100 ft. high with massive trunks over 5 ft. in diameter.

Eastern cottonwoods typically live 70 to 100 years, but they have the potential to live 200 to 400 years in the right environment. Currently, a tree in Balmville, New York is the oldest recorded eastern cottonwood in the United States.

According to Wikipedia: “Local folklore has it that the tree grew when George Washington planted his walking stick while he and the Continental Army were encamped in nearby Newburgh during the final years of the Revolutionary War, but core samples of the tree have dated its growth to 1699, well before American independence."

I hope everyone can get outside and enjoy. Summertime is an exciting time in the bird world with lots of bright colors, frantic activity, and new faces to watch. Have a great day!
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