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.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Roger Tory Peterson's Birthday August 28, 1908

Roger Tory Peterson (August 28, 1908 – July 28, 1996), was an American naturalist, ornithologist, artist, and educator, and one of the founding inspirations for the 20th century environmental movement.

The Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History website explains how Peterson’s seventh grade teacher liked to use nature to inspire her class to learn writing, art and science. While they hiked in the woods, Peterson and a classmate investigated a seemingly lifeless clump of brown feathers.

Peterson once recalled: “I poked it and it burst into color, with the red on the back of its head and the gold on its wing. It was the contrast, you see, between something I thought was dead and something so alive. Like a resurrection. I came to believe birds are the most vivid reflection of life. It made me aware of the world in which we live.”

At the age of 11, Peterson’s up close encounter with a resting Northern Flicker shaped the rest of his life.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Sunflower seeds: The favorite seed of backyard birds

Native to Central America, the Sunflower was one of the first plants cultivated by humans for food, medicine, dye, and fiber for clothing and building materials. According to the National Sunflower Association the earliest known domesticated sunflowers north of Mexico were found in Tennessee, and dated to around 2300 BC. Over the generations the flowers were encouraged to produce bigger and bigger seeds.
Outside florets in bloom

In the early 16th century the plants beauty and usefulness was not overlooked by traders who took plants from the New World back to the Old World. In the 18th century Peter the Great of Russia discovered the sunflower in Holland and took seeds back to Russia. By the mid-19th century, sunflower oil was manufactured in Russia on a large and highly lucrative commercial scale.

It is thought that Russian immigrants took these sunflower seeds with them back to the New World and by the 1880s companies were offering the ‘Mammoth Russian’ sunflowers in US and Canadian catalogs.
Black oil sunflower seeds are almost ready

It took awhile for the United States to take full advantage of the sunflower and make it a cash crop. By the 1970’s, new technology and hybridization produced sunflowers with high yields of oil content and a seed easier to hull.

Then demand for the sunflower went to an all time high a couple decades ago when cholesterol-conscience consumers demanded the healthier choice of oil. Sunflower oil is high in the essential vitamin E and low in saturated fat. Food manufacturers started to use sunflower oil in an effort to lower the levels of trans fat in mass produced foods.

The bird feeding industry was also growing. One in three Americans feeds the birds and sunflower is the best seed overall for the backyard seed eating birds. As the demand for the seed grows, we are keeping a close eye on the crop reports. Because of the reduction in planted acres, the food industries' high demand, and all the floods, fires, and droughts, next year’s crop yield is questionable.

Fun Sunflower Facts:
Illustration of Vogel's formula  
of the pattern of sunflower florets

-The scientific word for Sunflower is Hellianthus. Derived from helios meaning sun and anthos meaning flower.
-Mature flower heads face east typically and do not move. The leaves and buds of young sunflowers exhibit heliotropism (sun turning)
-A model for the pattern of florets in the head of a sunflower was proposed by H. Vogel in 1979
-For 2011/12 Russia and Ukraine are the largest producers of sunflowers
-Sunflowers can be used to extract toxic ingredients from soil and were used to remove cesium-137 and strontium-90 from a nearby pond after the Chernobyl disaster, and a similar campaign was mounted in response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
-A sunflower grown in the Netherlands holds the record for being the tallest sunflower in the world. It measured 25 feet, 5.4 inches.
-The largest sunflower head was grown in Canada and measured 32-1/2 inches across its widest point.
-The most sunflower heads on one sunflower was grown in Michigan and had 837 heads on one plant. (Source: 2004 Guinness World Records)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why birds circle in the air

If you ever drive on the highways, you’ll see at one time or another, big dark birds circling high on the air thermals. They are probably Turkey Vultures, Cathartes aura.

Feeding mainly on dead animals, vultures aren’t common backyard birds. But last weekend I saw one glide low right over my sister’s backyard. She lives on a river and the bird was probably scouting for washed up dead fish.

This big brownish black bird can have a wingspan up to six feet and was recognized easily not only by its large wingspan but also by its tiny, red, bald head. Male and female turkey vultures are identical in plumage and in coloration, although the female is slightly larger. Immature birds (under one year) have black beaks and heads. As the bird matures the beak gradually turns white and the head red.

Turkey vultures frequently circle and gain altitude on pockets of rising warm air, or thermals. They can soar for hours without flapping their wings. When they reach the top of the thermal, they glide across the sky at speeds up to 60 miles per hour and can cover many miles going from thermal to thermal without ever needing to flap.

The Turkey Vulture soars above the ground for much of the day, searching for food with its excellent eyesight and highly developed sense of smell.

Once only a southern US bird, by the 1960's they had extended their breeding range into Michigan. The popular theory is that the interstate highway system increased the availability of food in the form of roadkill.
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Photo Share: Mourning Dove Family

Juvenile Mourning Doves look like the parents except for a little white that tips the end of each feather. 
Male and female Mourning Doves are both gray brown overall, have black spots on the wings and black-bordered white tips on the tail feathers.

The adult male has bright iridescent pink feather patches on the neck sides and sometimes a pinker coloring on the breast. Females are similar in appearance, but a duller brown coloring overall.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

How drought affects hummingbirds


The HighView™ feeder has a perch that invites
hummingbirds to rest comfortably as they drink.
Made in the USA from Lifetime guaranteed
unbreakable polycarbonate.
Hummingbird feeders may be more critical than ever this year. Many residents in our area have reported a recent increase in activity at their hummingbird feeders. Because of the excessively hot, dry summer, the hummingbirds’ food source of nectar laden flowers is very low.

You can help by offering hummingbirds the correct nectar solution (sugar water) of four parts of water to one part of common table sugar. We advise against adding red food coloring, honey or any other sweeteners. Click HERE for the complete nectar recipe.

Place the feeder in a shaded location and change the nectar every 2-3 days to help prevent spoilage. Easy to clean and fill, the saucer style hummingbird feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited are the most popular. They have a lifetime guarantee, built in ant moat and don't leak. Bees usually leave these feeders alone but bee guards can be added to the ports if bees, wasps or ants become a nuisance.

Also, by hanging multiple hummingbird feeders around your yard, you make it difficult for a territorial hummingbird to patrol every feeder, allowing other birds to visit.

You can also leave all the spider webs you see outside alone for the hummers to pick clean and encourage fruit flys to your garden by tossing in old banana peels. The banana peels break down rapidly and fertilize the garden but more importantly attract small flys for the hummers to eat.

The next couple of months are your best opportunity to see hummingbirds. Adult hummingbirds as well as a horde of juveniles have begun to head south to Central America and their winter territories, traveling thousands of miles.

It's estimated that more than seven million Ruby-throated Hummingbirds return to the tropics each winter. As they make their way south, hummingbirds will take part in an eating binge that is unmatched at any other time of the year. The reduced amount of natural nectar sources will drive more migrants towards feeders to re-fuel. Hummingbirds require a high-calorie diet to build fat reserves for their long stretches of flying. You can literally watch hummingbirds at the feeder becoming roly poly.

Hummingbirds need the extra body-weight to convert into fuel to travel the 1,400 miles south. They also wait for favorable weather and take advantage of tail winds. Southbound ruby-throats rebuild their reserves in the early morning, travel about 23 miles during the day and forage again in the late afternoon to keep up their body weight. Watch for birds that blow in to your yard for a pit stop and then ride out on the next good wind.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

New blue-eyed owl discovered by MSU researcher

News Release: Aug. 2012 
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Two new species of owls have been discovered in the Philippines, and a Michigan State University researcher played a key role in confirming their existence.
Rasmussen, owl shot

(Top left: Cebu Hawk owl. Bottom right: Camiguin Hawk owl.)
Courtesy of Oriental Bird Club: original painting by John Gale.

“More than 15 years ago, we realized that new subspecies of Ninox hawk-owls existed in the Philippines,” Pam Rasmussen said. “But it wasn’t until last year that we obtained enough recordings that we could confirm that they were not just subspecies, but two new species of owls.”

The first owl, the Camiguin Hawk-owl, is found only on the small island of Camiguin Sur, close to northern Mindanao. At night, it gives a long solo song that builds in intensity, with a distinctive low growling tone. Pairs of owls give short barking duets that start with a growl. They also are the only owls to have blue-gray eyes.

The second new discovery was the Cebu Hawk-owl. Study of its structure and vocalizations confirmed that it was a new species. In fact, it was the unique calling or vocalizations of both owls that confirmed that the new classifications were warranted.

Rasmussen, field shot

Pam Rasmussen, MSU assistant professor of zoology
and assistant curator of mammalogy and ornithology
at the MSU Museum. Photo courtesy of MSU.
“The owls don’t learn their songs, which are genetically programmed in their DNA and are used to attract mates or defend their territory; so if they’re very different, they must be new species,” Rasmussen said. “When we first heard the songs of both owls, we were amazed because they were so distinctly different that we realized they were new species.”

The owls have avoided recognition as distinct species for so long because the group shows complex variation in appearance that had been poorly studied, and their songs were unknown. Both islands are off the beaten path for ornithologists and birders, who usually visit the larger islands that host more bird species.

Sound recordings of both new owl species and those from other islands are available free on AVoCet.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bird asleep on the porch

Birds look quickly for a spot to roost as the sun goes down.
Imagine it’s your first time away from home; you are all alone in a new city, where do you go to find shelter? This is what happens to a lot of birds in late summer. Inexperienced birds have some inborn knowledge but there are also some things that have to be learned through trial and error. It’s not unusual to find birds early in the morning asleep on a feeder or maybe behind a nearby flower pot.

After juvenile finches become independent, they form large flocks that congregate at food sources. Scientist thought they also roosted together at night. However recent field work done by the Bird Population Studies at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology revealed that wasn’t true.

Researchers attached radio transmitters to nine groups of House Finches in Ithaca, New York, to help locate the birds at their roosts. They found the birds didn’t have large permanent roosts. Their nighttime layovers were temporary and seemed to be located wherever a finch happened to be foraging at the time.

If you watch your feeders in the evening you'll notice that when the sun goes down, most birds find shelter quickly in nearby bushes, but one bird might decide the corner of the porch is a secure enough retreat.

Source: Where Finches Sleep http://goo.gl/QDC84

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Photo Share: House Sparrow female feeding juvenile

Momma sparrow looks a little rough around the edges as she goes through her annual full fall molt, while you can see her fledgling has fine new feathers. After leaving the care of their parents, young sparrows have a high mortality rate. Only about 20–25% of birds hatched survive to their first breeding season.

House Sparrows are found year round in Michigan and can have 3 broods from May until late August. In the fall the birds roost communally and engage in social activities such as dust and water bathing, feeding and "social singing", in which birds call together in bushes.
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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Keeping Bird Feeders Active in Summer

Though this month marks the beginning of the end of summer, there are still plenty of opportunities to help birds and maximize your backyard enjoyment.

Offer Water
Whether they are feeder visitors or not, birds need water for drinking, bathing and preening. Offering a dependable source of water is 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, especially during migration. Bathing is a critical part of keeping their feathers in top-flight condition.

Deter Unwanted Visitors 
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in still water, so open sources of water can cause a potential mosquito problem. Use a Water Wiggler™ to create ripples and prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in your bird baths. Water in motion is also more attractive to birds.

Hummingbird Migration
Millions of hummingbirds are preparing to fly back to their winter ranges. Hummingbirds have been migrating between North and Central America for hundreds of years, some traveling thousands of miles each way. Studies show that most of the hummingbirds you see at your feeders in the fall, are replaced by a new wave of migrants within 24 hours.
A high-calorie diet is important to build fat reserves for their trip, so be sure to have your hummingbird feeders ready. It's not necessary to make your sugar solution stronger. The 4:1 water to white sugar ratio is the closest to the favorite flowers that hummingbirds visit. That would be four parts water to one part plain white sugar. 

Nectar Feeding Solutions
Easy to clean and fill, the saucer style hummingbird feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited are the most popular. They have a lifetime guarantee, built in ant moat and don't leak. Bees usually leave these feeders alone but bee guards can be added to the ports to prevent bees, wasps and ants from becoming a nuisance.

Aggressive male hummingbirds can bully others from visiting a feeder. By hanging multiple hummingbird feeders around your yard, you make it difficult for a territorial male to defend the area, allowing other birds to visit the feeders.
Offer safflower, and keep starlings and grackles from eating all your bird food and crowding your feeders. Safflower is a small, white seed that is high in protein and fat. Most song birds eat safflower, however, starlings, grackles and squirrels typically do not.
There are many ways to keep squirrels away from your existing set up. Using squirrel proof feeders, safflower seed and baffles can prevent squirrels from eating your bird food.

Remember the best way to attract the widest variety of birds at the feeder is to offer fresh seed at a clean feeder. If your seed has been clumping in the feeder after the rains or in the humid weather add Feeder Fresh.

Feeder Fresh added to the seed when you fill a feeder, absorbs water and humidity, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand. Feeder Fresh keeps the seed and feeder dry, keeps molds from forming, which reduces the chance of Aflatoxin and other mycotoxins.

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.
Clean Feeders
Feeders should be cleaned at least once a month, year round but especially during times of migration. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing - will clean your feeder for $5.00. Or you can purchase professional cleaners like Scoot at Wild Birds Unlimited, or use a one part vinegar to nine parts water solution to clean all of your feeders. Disassemble feeders and immerse them completely for three minutes. Scrub with brushes (we have these too), rinse thoroughly, and let air dry.

Also clean the area around the feeders to help eliminate the build up around the feeder.
Visit Wild Birds Unlimited soon because have we everything you and your birds need to make the most of late summer.
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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Coyote in the yard

A lot of customers have reported seeing coyotes lately. Coyotes are found throughout Michigan in rural to urban areas and are quite common but extremely good at remaining unnoticed by humans, even while living in close proximity. Their presence in subdivisions and urban or suburban areas, while surprising to many folks, is a result of increasing populations (both coyote and human) and encroachment of human environments into their natural habitat (from development of rural areas).

Coyotes’ breeding period occurs in Michigan from mid January into March. As fall approaches, pups begin dispersing from the den site to establish home ranges of their own. These young dispersing animals sometimes wander into urban areas. Coyotes are active day and night; however, peaks in activity occur at sunrise and sunset.

Coyotes can be difficult to distinguish from a medium sized German shepherd dog from a distance. Generally they have a slighter body build than most dogs with ears that are pointed and stand erect. Their upper body is yellowish gray, and the fur covering the throat and belly is white to cream color. When observed running, coyotes carry their bushy, black tipped tail below the level of their back.

Coyotes can often live six to eight years in the wild, however approximately 50-70% of juvenile coyotes do not reach adulthood. Coyotes are opportunistic and will eat almost anything available. Small mammals such as mice, voles, shrews, rabbits, hares, and squirrels are preferred foods. However, insects, fruits, berries, birds, frogs, snakes, plants, and seeds round out their diet.

The size of a coyote's home range depends on the food and cover resources available and on the number of other coyotes in an area, but it generally averages between 8 and 12 square miles. Mated pairs and 4 to 7 pups occupy the home range during the spring and summer seasons in Michigan.

Coyotes rarely attack humans. Bites from snakes, rodents, and domestic dogs are a far greater possibility than coyote bites, according to public health authorities. However, coyotes that are fed become accustomed to people and present a human safety risk. People should never intentionally feed or attempt to tame coyotes. It is in the best interest of both coyotes and humans if coyotes retain their instinctive fear of people.

The following important points can help minimize potential conflicts with coyotes:
  • Never approach or touch a coyote
  • Never intentionally feed a coyote
  • Eliminate all outside food sources, especially pet foods
  • Put garbage out the morning of pickup day
  • Clear out wood and brush piles; they are good habitat for rats and mice and may attract coyotes
  • Do not allow pets to roam free when coyotes are present - consider keeping pets indoors or accompany them outside, especially at night
Source: Michigan DNR  http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-10370_12145_12205-60378--,00.html

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Why most woodpeckers are black and white

• 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.
• Considering the pounding it takes, why doesn't a woodpecker's bill wear down to a ragged nub? Wear down it does, but special cells on the end of the bill are constantly replacing the lost material. This keeps the chisel-pointed bill strong and resilient, while actually allowing it to be sharpened with every blow.
• A woodpecker's pointed tail feathers are especially strong and rigid. The tail bone, lower vertebrae and the tail's supporting muscles are also large in comparison to other birds. These modifications allow a woodpecker's tail to serve as a prop that supports their weight as they climb and cling to trees.
• 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.
Hairy Woodpecker• Most woodpeckers' tongues are two to three times longer than their bills. The base of some woodpeckers' long, retractable tongues reach entirely around the back and top of the skull and end behind the right eye socket.
• To prevent small bits of debris from entering their nostrils while excavating trees, woodpeckers have tufts of stiff feathers growing over both nostrils. Woodpeckers also have a third eyelid to help protect their eyes from debris while drilling into trees.
• 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.
• In order for woodpeckers to survive the 10Gs of force that they can sustain with every blow against a tree, they have the following special adaptations:
-The bones between the beak and the skull are joined by a flexible cartilage which cushions the shock of each blow.
-The skull is made of spongy, air-filled bone and the brain is packed very tightly into the brain cavity with little room to rattle around during impacts.
-The shear force from each blow is directed not to the brain, but downward towards very strong neck muscles that act as shock absorbers.
- A woodpecker's head and body are always in a perfectly straight alignment when hitting a tree to avoid breaking its neck.
• To help distinguish the difference between a Hairy and a Downy Woodpecker visiting your feeders, look for the Hairy's chisel-like bill which is much longer than the Downy, which often equals the width of the rest of the head. The Downy's head is twice as wide as its very short bill.

source: http://www.wbu.com/botm/botm_0712.html

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ever wonder how many bird species are in the world?

Cover Art: Larry McQueen
I always say there are about 10,000 species of birds in the world. I say “about” because there are now at least 500 species more recognized than just 10 years ago. Many of these new species have been reclassified after the examination of their DNA, other birds species are just new discoveries.

While some scientists are exploring life on Mars, a team of Cornell University graduates, led by Michael G. Harvey, discovered a new bird in the Peruvian Andes. The small birds were spotted mostly in pairs, exploring the low canopy in search of berries and other snacks. They have black masks, white throats and bright, blood-red markings on top of their heads and spilling down the breast, along with a dusting of pale yellow.

Now named Sira Barbet (Capito fitzpatricki), the new species graces the cover of The Auk, (July 2012). Its scientific name honors John W. Fitzpatrick, a renowned ornithologist who led field expeditions to Peru in the 1970s and 1980s, and whose work helped identify six bird species new to science. He is currently the director of Cornell University'sLaboratory of Ornithology.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Photo share: Wild Cats Unlimited

Dolly made the birds disappear. We are now known as Wild Cats Unlimited.
You think she's kidding?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What American Red Squirrels Eat

Munching on a cone outside the
The American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) is one of three species of tree squirrel currently classified in the genus Tamiasciurus and known as pine squirrels (the other are the Douglas squirrel T. douglasii and Mearns's squirrel T. mearnsi). They are a medium sized (8 ounces) diurnal mammal that defends a year-round exclusive territory of about 2 acres. 

The diet of these tree squirrels consists of a variety of seeds, fruits, nuts, berries and they are especially fond of the seeds of conifer cones. These squirrels are common in Michigan and have been expanding their range wherever there are conifers.

White spruce cones mature in late July and are harvested by red squirrels in August and September. These harvested cones are stored in a central cache and provide energy and nutrients for survival over the winter and following spring.

Red squirrels also clip and gather truffles and other fungi and place them along the branches of trees to dry them in the sun. [1]
Posing pretty for my camera

Called the "tattle tales" of the forest, Reds chip, chatter and chase away any other squirrel, including other red squirrels, in their territory. Juvenile American Red Squirrels need to acquire a territory, shelter, and a pile of  food prior to their first winter or they will not survive. 

On average only 22% survive one year. If they do make their first year, life expectancy increases to an average of 2.3 years and with a maximum lifespan of eight years.

1. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_red_squirrel

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Michigan warblers begin migrating

I know it seems early, but now is the time that a lot of Michigan warblers begin migrating.

Tennessee Warbler
The Tennessee Warbler nests in Upper Peninsula and Canada, but migrates through mid-Michigan from mid-August to October on its way south. They like to winter in open second growth forests and agricultural habitats, like shade grown coffee plantations in Mexico to Venezuela.

Tennessee Warblers have muted olive/yellow upper feathers, yellow eyebrows and dark eye-stripes, and all pale yellow under feathers except for white under tail coverts. But their voice is very loud and difficult to miss. Alexander Wilson named the bird after spotting it along the Cumberland River in Tennessee but it was discovered later it only passes through that state during migration.

The birds eat a lot of bugs and berries and at your feeder might enjoy suet and fruit. For more in-depth information on this mysterious bird click HERE to visit the Migratory Bird Center Website.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Video of Artic Terns migration from the top of the world to the bottom

From Wikimedia Commons
The Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) makes an incredible migration each year. These small birds travel distances of more than 50,000 miles, from pole to pole, crossing through temperate and tropical regions along the way.

Carsten Egevang used geo-locator tags to track ten of these terns, and he shares their story with us in this tour.

Narrated by Ari Daniel Shapiro. Produced by Atlantic Public Media (www.atlantic.org) and Eduardo Garcia Milagros.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

How birds drink

Mourning Dove at the bird bath.Image via WikipediaIf you have a bird bath I’m sure you’ve noticed a lot more activity this month. (I can’t believe it’s still so hot!!!!) I was backyard birdwatching last night when a lone dove sat in the middle of the bath, and love them or hate them, Mourning Doves have presence. My dove was just sitting there with its eyes closed and his crop bulging visibly with the best Wild Birds Unlimited bird seed.

After he quietly digested for about 10 minutes, a beautiful yellow goldfinch slipped in and took a quick sip and flit off. Lots of little birds like shallow waters that they can dip their bill, then tip it up to let the drops fall down their throat. Most birds use this dip and sip technique to drink.

After the goldfinch left, the dove perked up a little and stuck its bill in the water for several seconds. Mourning Doves and Pigeons like to suck up their water using a muscular pumping mechanism in their throat that draws liquid up. He took a couple of long drinks before he decided to move along. .

Right next to the bath is our hummingbird feeder. Now the long bill of a hummingbird looks like it’s made for sucking up water like a straw, but they actually lap up sugar water (nectar). The hummingbirds' tongues have grooves on the sides that collect nectar, and when the bill constricts, the hummingbirds can swallow the nectar from flowers or feeders. You may not have noticed this at your feeder because, as with everything else about the hummingbird, that tongue is fast, moving in and out 13 times a second.

So take the time to watch your birdbath today and notice if your birds lap, sip or slurp?Source: Secret Lives Of Common Birds: Enjoying Bird Behavior Through The Seasons by Marie Read

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Video Share: Ruby-throated Hummingbird on blown glass feeder

Copyright © 2012 David O. Loomis

Below is a video by David Loomis of a female ruby-throated hummingbird on his new Henrietta's glass blown hummingbird feeder.

Full speed video first, followed by one-tenth speed. Shot with a Canon 1Dx using a 70 - 200mm L 2.8 lens with a 2x extender (400mm equivalent).

The tongue and tail action is nice to see in slow motion. Thank you for sharing!

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fun with Finches

Go for the Gold(finches)

It's time to go for the gold in your own backyard, and you don't need years of training or special skills.

Goldfinches live throughout the United States and southern Canada, a fact that makes attracting them to your backyard a bit easier. Though goldfinches carry the reputation of being finicky eaters, you'll have no problem finding a suitable offering that will please their palate. Goldfinches love to eat fresh, dry Nyjer® (thistle) and sunflower seeds.

In July and August, after the male has serenaded the female with canary-like songs, goldfinches begin to nest for the first and only time of the year.

Here are a few items to remember when attracting finches:

Keep food fresh and dry inside the feeder. Shake the feeder periodically to make sure that the food is dry, and use a Weather Guard or Feeder Fresh to help protect your food from the elements. Make sure the food does not stay in the feeder uneaten for more than three to four weeks.

Nyjer has a lot of protein and fat that is needed for growing their feathers. Be prepared for increased activity at your feeders in the spring and fall, when goldfinches are molting.

Once they've fledged, young goldfinches still depend on their parents for food. Watch for these juveniles at your feeders as they beg for food from their parents.

Due to their almost exclusive diet of seeds, goldfinches drink frequently and will stay close to reliable sources of water during dry periods. Use a bird bath and keep the water clean and fresh.

Source: WBU Nature News http://www.wbu.com/news/naturenews/2012_08_01.html
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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

If birds were in the summer Olympics

1.  Equestrianism - Originally a bison-following bird of the Great Plains, the Brown-headed Cowbirds learned to ride along with cowboys to feed on weed seeds and insects that cows and horses stir into movement.
2.  Running - The fastest-running bird is the ostrich which can run up to 43 mph. The road runner runs about 12 mph.
3.  Marathon - The Arctic Tern makes the longest migration each year, flying 20,000 to 25,000 miles each year from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back again.
4.  Gymnastics - Woodpeckers can be real characters and always seem to be goofing around. But what seems like erratic bouncing around to us is how they practice their evasive maneuvers. Their acrobatics in trees and on feeders is good practice for when they need to flip away from predators.
5.  Fastest flyer - The peregrine is the fastest bird on record reaching horizontal cruising speeds of 65-90 mph.
6.  Highest flyer - Ruppell’s griffon vulture once collided with an airplane off the Ivory Coast in 1973 at 37,000 feet. A migrating Bar-headed Goose was once seen over the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal at roughly 28,000 feet.
7.  Fencing – Hummingbirds can fly right, left, up, down, backwards, and even upside down. When hummingbirds compete for nectar and insects they perform duels with their long blade-like bills as weapons.
8.  Swimming - Gentoo Penguin found on the Antarctic Islands are the fastest underwater swimming penguins, reaching speeds of 25 miles per hour.
9.  Diving – The Thick-Billed Murre is known as one of the deepest diving birds in the world. They have been known to dive up to 330 feet as they chase down their aquatic prey.
10. Synchronized Swimming - With the salt flats all to themselves, these flamingos perform a synchronized dance in the water and in the process, choose their mates.