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.

Friday, June 29, 2012

House Finch feeding his baby

Lots of new faces have been showing up this week. One proud papa House Finch was showing his baby that the best bird food in town is at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Toughest Bird in the Neighborhood

Just who is the toughest bird in the neighborhood anyway? Is it the Red-tailed Hawk that soars overhead each afternoon in search of squirrels or the Great Horned Owl that terrorizes the night with its stealthy hunting tactics?

In reality, it's neither of them…it's actually that cute little woodpecker that visits your suet feeder in the backyard!

No joke! That little Downy Woodpecker (or any of its woodpecker relatives) lives a punishing existence that most other birds would probably consider a life of being condemned to hard labor, and they have to be really tough in order to survive it.

And woodpeckers couldn't get much tougher - they are thick-skinned, hard-headed and heavy-hitting!

Their skin is thicker than most other birds in order to protect them from rough tree bark and biting insects. Their reinforced skull and bill are strong enough to withstand blows that exceed ten times the force of gravity as they repeatedly strike a tree at over 13 mph.
The other end of a woodpecker is also built tough. Its' pointed tail feathers are especially strong and rigid, able to withstand the punishment of supporting its own weight as it climbs and clings to trees.

This month can often bring the best tough guy activity of the year to the feeders in your yard. With lots of young woodpeckers around and the molting process in full swing, woodpeckers are seeking the extra calories and proteins that feeders can provide.

Original Article from: WBU Nature News

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How to stop birds from hitting the window

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/

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Elusive Baltimore oriole

Why after the young hatch, do you rarely see the orioe again till the following spring? Thank you

The answer may be as simple as your orioles have already left the area and are headed south. I always say orioles are the last to arrive in the spring and first to leave in the summer.

Baltimore Orioles usually hit my mid-Michigan feeder at the beginning of May with a big song and dance. Then in June his visits are less frequent as he's busy incubating eggs and sourcing out bugs for his babies and only stops by occasionally for a quick bite.

In July he becomes more secretive. As their babies become independent, parents begin their fall molt and are more susceptible to predators while they grow a new set of feathers. Some are ready to migrate south as early as July! Peak migration is August and September when most orioles are done nesting.

Besides molting, birds also have to fatten up before they leave. It's been really dry in our area. No rain means fewer bugs and I have been hearing customers tell me that the orioles have been hitting the orange suet pretty hard this year. They also like nuts and mealworms.

Then they wait for just the right tailwinds for the long journey south. On average, they probably travel about 150 miles each night in flocks, flying at about 20 miles per hour. If the weather is favorable, it will take an oriole about 2-3 weeks to complete his migration.

October through February most orioles hang out in the tropics and in March and April some orioles begin moving north again to reach my window again by May.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Baby bird ID

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

Sunday, June 24, 2012

How to attract the yellow birds

Goldfinches are bright, cheery, yellow songbirds that the great state of Michigan is lucky enough to have year round! 

Feeders are the easiest way to attract the American Goldfinch. We sell a variety of finch feeders. My favorites are the Mesh Finch Feeders. They not only let the finches land and feed in whatever position they choose, but they also allow air circulation to keep your Nyjer Thistle as dry and fresh as possible; something that's very important to these picky eaters. (Nyjer thistle is the common name used to identify a tiny black birdseed cultivated in Asia and Africa but is not related to the purple, prickly, Canada Thistle weed.)

Goldfinches eat a variety of seeds. Sunflower and Nyjer thistle are two of their favorites, but it has to be fresh. One way to check your seed is to pinch it 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).

Gardening Trick for Goldfinches
Habitat can be a key to attracting Goldfinches. In this case you do less work, not more. Don't worry about dandelions and don't cut off the tops of your Marigold, Zinnias, Cosmos, or Coneflowers...Goldfinches love them. The birds make the flowers dance as they flit from flower to flower looking for seed heads.

The American Goldfinch begins its breeding season in late July. They don’t use bird houses but you can provide nesting material like cotton or pet hair. The female alone builds a bark, weeds, vines, and grass nest held together with spiderwebs 30 feet up in a deciduous tree. Finally she lines the nest with soft cottons, hair, milkweed, thistle, or cattail fluff.

Then it's my favorite time of year. At the end of August, after a couple weeks of incubating and a couple weeks in the nest, the goldfinch babies visit the feeder with their fathers. Their high squeaky baby calls are so adorable, but also a little sad because it marks the end of nesting season.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bright red cars attract more bird droppings

A new UK study recorded the frequency that birds left their mark on cars in five cities and found crimson motors were targeted the most. 

Green cars were found to suffer least, followed by silver, while white vehicles escaped more often than black in the analysis of 1,140 cars in Brighton, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and Bristol over two consecutive days, to see whether color made a difference to birds.

Researchers who compiled the results found 18 per cent of red cars were marked with droppings, blue 14 per cent, black 11 per cent, white 7 per cent, grey/silver 3 per cent, and green 1 per cent.

The British Trust for Ornithology was more circumspect on the role of color in the "drop zone" for birds. "We do know that birds can be attracted to certain colours during display but it is probably more to do with where you park; if you park where birds roost, then you are going to get more droppings on your vehicle," said a spokesman.

The study was done by a British car accessory company called Halfords which sells Bird Dropping Wipes to remove bird droppings from your car's exterior surface.

And also in the news was a tweet about how many bird poops it takes to total the tiny Smart Car, one of the lightest cars on the market which can withstand up to 9000 lbs. of pressure:

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Friday, June 22, 2012

To him that watches, everything is revealed. ~ Italian Proverb

Thursday, June 21, 2012

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 offer 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.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 20th is American Eagle Day

The bald eagle was chosen June 20, 1782 as the emblem of the United States of American, because of its long life, great strength and majestic looks, and also because it was then believed to exist only on this continent.

After nearly disappearing from most of the United States decades ago, the bald eagle is now off the "threatened and endangered" species list.

"It's fitting that our national symbol has also become a symbol of the great things that happen through cooperative conservation," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall. "Eagles could not have recovered without a support network of strong partnerships among government at all levels, tribes, conservation organizations, the business community and individual citizens."

However, much work still needs to be done. To learn more about eagles, visit the “Educational Resources” section of the American Eagle Foundation web site, http://www.eagles.org.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why does that bird sing so early in the morning?

The best part of spring for me is waking up to bird song. But you have to wonder why the American Robin and Northern Cardinal start singing at dawn. Are they just early birds or perhaps think this the best time to sing a solo?

A recent article by Mark Blazis pondered the advantages of the early bird. He and ornithologist Andrew Vitz theorized that many female songbirds lay their eggs in early morning and that a male sings at that time to reinforce the bond with the female, while simultaneously dissuading other males from jumping into the nest.

I was watching a robin furiously gathering mud and dried plant litter at the edge of the pond yesterday. Females build cup-shaped nests from long coarse grass, twigs, paper, and feathers woven together and then line the inner bowl with mud, smearing it with their chest and later adding fine grass or other soft material to cushion the eggs.

In Michigan, American Robins breed once or twice yearly. The breeding season extends from April through July. Blazis writes that sex and singing are inextricably connected and once a robin’s second clutch has hatched, romantic courtship will be replaced largely by parental duties. Then the early morning passionate birdsong will drop dramatically.

But don’t worry, just as the robins end their courtship the American Goldfinches begin theirs!

Outdoors: Predawn bird songs fading soon by Mark Blazis http://ning.it/LT6Xvk

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Monday, June 18, 2012

How baby birds in a nest get their drinks

A Northwestern Crow near Whittier, Alaska.Water is very important to birds. Offering a dependable source of water is probably the simplest and most important step you can take to increase the variety of birds in your yard.

Birds must be ready to fly at all times, and bathing is a critical part of feather maintenance and staying in top-flight condition. Water is also vitally important when it's extremely hot and a bird’s ability to regulate its body temperature can become stressed. Birds do not sweat and must remove excess body heat through their respiratory system.

So when temperatures rise, a bird's respiration rate increases and they become dehydrated. If that bird still hasn't left the nest, they are dependent on their parents to supply liquids. Some babies are brought nice juicy bugs or berries. Many seed-eating species of birds provide some regurgitated seed and water. While others like the crows dip their food in water.

Blackbirds, crows and ravens are known for washing their food before eating. It's been pretty hot recently and nesting crows need to keep their babies hydrated. Dipping "baby food" in water not only softens it but allows the babies to get sufficient water to meet their daily needs.

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Image v

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Close-up on the American Crow

Every morning I wake up to a crow outside my window calling out what food is available in our yard to his fellow crows. His “Caw, Caw, Caw” I believe translates into, “We have the usual fare of peanuts, suet, and sunflower seeds here.” And then I hear his brother scout in the distance, “I’ve got a garbage bag full of chicken bones over here.” And a little further in the distance I hear another crow scout announce, “Ripe road kill over here, enough for all!” My yard never makes the morning cut for breakfast, but a scout is here every morning to check what I have to offer.

The American crow is a large, beautiful, black bird that looks like it has iridescent purple feathers in the sun. Both sexes are similar. Its scientific name Corvus brachyrhynchos is Latin for "raven with a small nose."

Their populations are just now recovering in mid Michigan from the first appearance of West Nile virus in the Western hemisphere in 1999. Their susceptibility to the virus made them a useful indicator of the West Nile activity.

However the American Crow is still often reviled for being a large, loud, messy, scavenger of garbage even though crows are one of the most intelligent birds around. A group of crows has many collective nouns, including a "cauldron", "congress", "horde", "murder", and "muster" of crows.
They are very social animals and interaction with other crows is very important to them. The average crow lives for twenty to thirty years. They have close family groups and usually mate for life. Juvenile crows typically leave their family at 3 to 4 years but will still return to visit.

As members of the corvid family, crows are considered to be among the most adaptable and intelligent birds in the world. They can mimic the sounds made by other animals, and they learn to associate noises with events, especially with the distribution of food. They work together and have shown the ability to construct and use tools.

The following video is from The Life of Birds by David Attenborough:

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

When was the hummingbird feeder invented?

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

Friday, June 15, 2012

Why pigeons hang out on monuments

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.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Have you noticed more birds in the road?

Slow – Children at Play
Sometimes we think the world revolves around us because we’re so busy rushing here and there, and we can be very impatient with things that get in our way. Sometimes birds think the world revolves around them. They forage for food, guard territories, and raise large families in the spring. They don’t have time to be bothered with their surroundings.

As a result you may have noticed more birds in the road trying to outrun cars. Harried parent birds and newly fledged babies don’t know automatically what cars are or how fast they move. Please drive very carefully.

Each year 60 million to 80 million bird deaths are attributed to cars. Right now you have to watch for wildlife that crosses (or stands still in) the road. Don’t just assume that they’ll get out of the way in time. Statistics show that half the birds born this summer won't survive a year.

•98 million to 980 million fatal collisions with buildings and windows
•130 million to more than one billion fatal collisions with high-tension lines
•60 million to 80 million deaths caused by automobiles
•4 million to 50 million fatal encounters with communications towers
•72 million birds each year are killed by toxic chemicals, including pesticides
•Domestic cats are estimated to kill hundreds of millions of birds each year
•15 million birds a year in N. America are killed in managed annual hunts
•20,000 to 37,000 fatal collisions with wind turbines

It seems crazy that that a robin thinks he can outrun my car, but I slow down to give him a chance. In return I hope he controls the pesky bug population in my area.
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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How to stop hummingbird feeders from leaking

I've got a silly question. How do I stop my hummingbird feeder from dripping. I didn't buy the feeder from you. It was a gift but it's just a sticky mess! I get more ants than hummingbirds. ~Frustrated in Charlotte, MI

Glass hummingbird feeders with stoppers are beautiful in the garden among the flowers. There are some tricks I can suggest, but because these feeders utilize a vessel filled with water resting on top of a small column of air, they may occasionally drip. Some recommendations to minimize dripping, so that you can truly enjoy your feeder are as follows:

1. Always fill the feeder completely full with cool nectar. Push the stopper in and invert quickly to avoid any air entering the feeder. Tube feeders operate on a vacuum principle. Only if the feeder is initially filled completely full will the vacuum form!

2. Only hang your feeder in the shade or partial shade. The cooler the feeder, the less likely it is to drip. If that isn't convenient Wild Birds Unlimited does have hummingbird shades.

3. Make sure to keep the feeder very clean by regularly cleaning the vessel with hot water and a bottle brush. Do not use soap as its residue may cause your feeder to drip. Try periodically using a vinegar rinse to thoroughly clean your feeder and then rinse well with hot water.

4. Last resort: place stopper assembly in very hot water to soften the tube. You can bend it slightly to increase the angle. This will stop dripping, but might make it more difficult for nectar to come down the tube.

5. If you've tried all these tips and it still drips try a different feeder like our best selling saucer feeders.

And if you have an ant problem we have an easy solution. There are ant moats you can add to any feeder. Simply fill the little container with water. Ants can't cross the water moat to reach your hummingbird feeders' nectar.

Good luck!

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Monday, June 11, 2012

What is the hummingbird season in Michigan?

Is too late to put up a hummingbird feeder? ~ Lansing

While the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds can arrive in Michigan as early as April and settle in to territories in the spring, they are always looking for food sources. Curious hummingbirds will come to investigate a feeder no matter what part of the season it is hung.

In late June newly fledged hummers appear and have to check out everything to see if it's food and you may catch them with your feeders.

Then starting in the middle of July males begin to wander widely, and some are already heading south. Before you know it you'll have hungry southbound migrants to feed! 

Migration continues through the middle of October and there are plenty of opportunities to see hummers feeding. The migration south is a more leisurely trip than the race north. So you may see these new hummers at your feeder for a couple weeks before they catch a good wind to move further south. 

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

How far apart to place wren houses

How close together can wren houses be? I have two. One looks like an old barn and the other looks like a fishing cabin with dock. They are approx. 30 ft apart on the front of our three car garage. The male bird put sticks in both but don't think we had any little ones. I hear their song and see him at the top of an old dead willow that stands by the creek that runs through our property. Do you think that is where they built the nest?

Anyways, I love birds and feed all year long. I had a bunch of young Cardinals and little sparrows this year. Those were the only ones I could tell were young cause the mama and poppa birds would still feed them. I'm glad I found your site, although I live in Topeka, KS.

The best way to attract house wrens and chickadees to your houses is to place the boxes very close to a bush or small tree. Wrens look for the shade and protection at the edge of woodlots where thick bushes provide nesting materials and food. Five feet from the ground is the average height to hang the house.

There is no exact distance apart they need to be placed. In general, a suburban back yard or garden is large enough for one or two families of wrens. The size of the territory for the male wren is about a half acre area and two to three houses within that territory is acceptable.

The House Wren’s bubbly song and habit for eating masses of bugs make it a very popular bird to many people. And House Wrens like people just as well. The “house” in their name was given to them for their preference for nesting near peoples’ houses.

House Wrens are famous for taking advantage of unusual nesting places. Nests have been found in mailboxes, flowerpots, boots, house lights, and of course old woodpecker holes, natural crevices, small birdhouses and gourds.

The male House Wren begins to lay claim to a few nesting cavities in the spring by filling them with more than 400 small twigs. When the female arrives, she inspects all the nesting areas and twig structures the male has worked on so hard. She chooses which site she likes best and takes over, adding the nest cup and lining it with grass, inner bark, hair, and feathers. Wrens will usually lay 2 broods in the nesting season from May to July.

Because the male Wren builds several starter nests for the female to choose from, the other nests may then be used by the male to raise a second brood with another female or remain in place to discourage other male wrens from nesting in the same territory. So keep an eye out. Just because the female didn’t choose your nest this time, it doesn’t mean it won’t be chosen later.

Thank you for sharing your joy of birding. I was watching my first baby cardinals last night too. Poppa cardinal was shooing all the other birds away from the feeders to give his baby a clear pathway. Unfortunately, the baby wasn’t paying any attention and was leading his parents on a merry chase around the yard.

Related Articles:
1. All About Birds http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/House_Wren/lifehistory
2. Animal Diversity Web. -Dewey, T. and J. Brown. 2001. "Troglodytes aedon" http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Troglodytes_aedon.html.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Found a bird nest destroyed

We had a black bear take down our bird house last night, and nest is ruined - chickies had already flown the coop, but now worried about parents. Will they be able to build a nest in time for another clutch of eggs? I have two more houses up that are empty still.

Most birds build a nest each time before breeding. The first time a bird builds a nest it takes longer than subsequent ones - they learn by practice. If a bird nests twice in a season the second nest may be just a reconstruction or repair job of the previous nest.

If the house of your bird pair has been destroyed completely, they will look immediately for a new residence. When choosing where to build, birds usually look at several locations. If disaster strikes they already have a backup plan in place.

I’m sorry your birds’ lost a house. They were lucky their chickies made it out OK.

If you ever find a nest on the ground after a storm or from predator damage here are a few tips that might help.

Bird Nest Destroyed:

  • If the nest has been destroyed, you can construct a makeshift nest using a small basket or plastic container. Put holes in the bottom of container for drainage. Line the container with material from old nest or dry grass or leaves.
  • Wire your nest to a branch or place in a new/repaired bird house in the same location as the old nest. If you are not sure where the bird was nesting, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator.
  • Place birds into new nest. It’s alright to handle the babies but do not attempt to feed.
  • Don’t touch any eggs with your bare hands. Some eggs, especially chickadee eggs, are very fragile. Also oil from hands could inhibit hatching. Use a glove or spoon.
  • If you have any questions call a local rehabilitator.

Emergency Numbers:

The following is a small list of the local rehabilitators:
  • East Lansing, MI ♦ 517.351.7304 ♦ Cheryl Connell-Marsh ♦ birds and small animals
  • Lansing, MI ♦ 517-646-9374 ♦ Tiffany Rich ♦ white tailed deer, squirrels, raccoons; Vet. Tech. on center.
  • DeWitt, MI ♦ 517.930-0087 ♦ Wildside Rehab and Education Center ♦ birds and small animals
  • Eaton Rapids, MI ♦ 517-663-6153 ♦ Wildside Rehab and Education Center ♦ birds and small animals
  • Holt, MI ♦ 517-694-9618 ♦ Carolyn Tropp cctropp@aol.com ♦ Waterfowl, small birds and mammals
  • Howell, MI ♦ 517-548-5530 ♦ Howell Conference and Nature Center ♦ All wild animals except bats, skunks, starlings, raccoons, pigeons, or house sparrows.
  • Bath, MI ♦ 517-819-0170 (day) 517-641-6314 (evening) ♦ Denise Slocum ♦ Small mammals
For a complete list of Michigan Licensed Rehabilitators visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at: http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/
Or to search for a local wildlife rehabilitation group by zip code at: http://www.wildliferehabber.org/

Friday, June 8, 2012

When to clean out a wren house

Great picture of house wren feeding a chick

We were lucky enough to have a wren family take up residence just outside our picture window.  What a joy to watch the parents tirelessly tend to their little ones!

Yesterday they flew the coop - babies and parents are now hanging out in our backyard, chirping and flitting about everywhere.  I want to encourage a second brood, so should I remove their used nest?  Do wrens reuse their nests or are the old ones considered too dirty?

Thanks, Kim Young
Chester, VA
Photographer:  Scott Young
This is a wonderful photo! Thank you for sharing.

You asked a very good question about nest cleaning. By cleaning out a nest box you help deter parasite infestation, a predator’s ability disturb a nest through the entrance hole and it’s a good time to evaluate the house’s condition. You should definitely clean out all bird houses at least once a year. I like to clean them in the fall after nesting season.

I encourage people to clean out bluebird boxes after each nesting or at least every fall because they aren’t good excavators. Bluebirds just build on top of old nests until the babies are sometimes are too close to the entrance hole and fall out before they are ready to fly.

Wrens can clean out their own box and the presence of a used House Wren nest may actually encourage wrens to re-nest. But you should check to make sure the nest doesn’t have any unhatched eggs or pests. If it’s a mess inside and the drainage holes are plugged go ahead and clean it out. You can leave some sticks below the house to help them rebuild. There is usually at least a two week window before they nest again.

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.

Thank you very much for contributing to the blog. Please feel free to write again. Sarah

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Cool gift for dad: Squirrel Proof feeders

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.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Who watches the birds?

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 birdfeeder, birdbath, or birdhouse. I especially like my window feeders so I can really see the birds up 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.

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.
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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Birds pecking holes in screens

I have a neighbor who had asked me if I knew why birds might peck holes into one of their (bedroom) window screens.  I haven’t been able to find an answer yet.  There are holes only at the bottom of it, and in no other screens at their house.  It is very near a small tree (or very lrg. bush) they have.  So the window doesn’t seem to get a lot of sun in it throughout the day, if that makes any difference. Thanks for any input.

Finch collecting nesting material
I've never heard of birds pecking away at screens. He could be looking at his reflection behind the screen or using the screen as nesting material. However, you need to repair the hole in the screen as soon as possible and then find a way to deter the bird from returning.

Strategies to Control Bird Damage
Unfortunately, there is no easy guaranteed solution. So with that being said, try the following strategies:

1. Check for insects. Birds feed on insects in wood.
2. Cover or repair all damage as soon as possible.
3. Scare the bird away using one or more of the following:
  • Mylar tape: Wild Birds Unlimited has some Mylar tape (1-inch-wide strips) flutter ribbon you can hang in the area. If you don't have Mylar, hang tinfoil, aluminum pie plates, or old CDs or DVDs.
  • Mylar balloons: The dollar stores usually have shiny Mylar balloons you can hang in the area. The helium filled, shiny balloons will scare the birds away with their motion.
  • Garden hose: One animal damage controller recommends placing a garden hose with a sprinkler set at an angle to reach where the bird is pecking.
  • Attack spider: This is a relatively new (2003) technique. A large spider drops down at the first knock to scare birds through sight and motion. These can be found at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing and party stores now. It also scares little trick or treaters. Bonus!
  • Rubber snake: I’ve had some customers report back that a little rubber snake scares the birds away.

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Ever wonder why robins are called Robin Redbreast and not orange breast?

European Robin
The American Robin was named by early British colonists after the European Robin they left behind. The two are only related distantly, but both have orange/red breasts.

In the fifteenth century, when it became popular to give human names to familiar species, the bird came to be known as Robin Redbreast. Orange as a color was unknown in English until the sixteenth century, when the fruit called an Orange was introduced.

Before the English-speaking world was exposed to the fruit, the color was referred to as "yellow-red" (geoluhread in Old English). Orange as a color was used descriptively in the sixteenth century (as in orange-coloured), but was not established as a basic color word until well into the twentieth century.

American Robin
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_%28word%29

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mourning Dove nesting facts and figures

Do you have an idea of how long it takes a mourning doves eggs to hatch? It seems like our "visitors" laid their eggs about 2 weeks ago, or so. I checked this morning and they still have not hatched. Does this seem odd? They are on the nest 97% of the time. Especially at night. ~ Lansing, MI

Mourning Doves sit on their eggs for about 2 weeks, feed the babies in the nest for about 2 weeks and then care for their young for about a month after they've fledged. Both male and female mourning doves share in incubating and feeding their young. I'm sure it will be any day now before you see little peepers.

Mourning doves are monogamous, and can stay together through the winter. Before mating, males perch and give a courtship "coo". Females sit near the male on his display perch, and then the male begins an elaborate series of courtship maneuvers. If the female approves, males begin selecting a nest site a few days later.

Nest construction takes over ten hours and covers a span of three to four days. The male gives the female dove the sticks and she weaves them into their nest. Female mourning doves generally lay two small, white eggs in their open nest and then rarely leave it unattended. The male usually incubates from mid-morning until late afternoon, and the female sits the rest of the day and night.

When not nesting, they generally eat enough to fill their bi-lobed crops and then fly back to digest. The bird's crop is a large sac at the bottom of the esophagus. In some southern states, the Mourning Doves nest almost year round because they feed their young “crop milk,” a fluid from the lining the crop. The parents regurgitate the "milk" directly into the hatchling's mouth and throat.

After two weeks of incubating the eggs and then two weeks of feeding the babies in the nest, the young fledge but continue to stay nearby and beg for food until they are more accomplished at flying, usually at about 30 days old.

Mourning doves are not picky eaters but feed more comfortably on feeders with large perching areas. Ground feeders, tray feeders and hopper feeders all allow room for doves to perch. They eat a variety of seeds, insects, and berries. Any bird seed blend with a lot of sunflower seeds would be a good choice to attract doves.

After they feed, swallowing lots of seeds and storing them in an enlargement of the esophagus called the crop; they fly to a safe perch to digest slowly.

We have had them on our front porch for about 4 summers now,but I couldn't remember the time frame for the hatching. They do share duties as we have learned to tell the difference of who is on the nest. : ) I feel better knowing that they weren't possibly 2 bad eggs : ( That would be hard. We will announce their arrival : ) Thank You

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