About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Best Bird Houses

I really want to watch birds raise a family this year in a bird house. When do I put it up and do you have houses in stock? ~ Lansing, Michigan

It's never too early or too late to put up a bird house. If you listen, you’ve probably already noticed the excitement in the air. Every day the sun is rising a little earlier and the days are getting longer. Pretty soon when I wake up in the morning, I’ll be able to watch the birds outside my window sitting on the tips of branches and breaking out in song to mark their territory.

Home Tweet Home
It’s hard to believe, but a lot of the birds that winter in Michigan have already begun to scout for good nesting areas. At Wild Birds Unlimited we can help you choose a good, functional bird house that is right for where you live. Not all birds are going to use birdhouses. Depending on where you live, some birds that use houses are House sparrows, wrens, chickadees, titmice, woodpeckers, flickers, bluebirds, Tree Swallows, Purple Martins, Screech Owls, American Kestrels and Wood Ducks.

Best Nest
Just like feeders, it’s best to find a house that is designed well and easy to clean. Look for homes with an easy clean out, proper ventilation, drainage holes, untreated wood, or recycled plastic houses with the proper design. Not all birdhouses are equal. Studies show the inside dimension, the shape and the diameter of the opening determine what birds it will attract. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, Michigan store always has a wide selection of functional bird houses available.

Create Habitat
People provide bird houses or “nest boxes” because in nature most of these birds use tree hollows or old woodpeckers’ nests. But today we are quick to remove dead and decaying trees with holes because they could become dangerous and fall in storms. So we help Mother Nature by providing alternate homes.

In return the birds will do their best to decimate the bug population in your yard by stuffing their kids’ mouths. And they are also educational and entertaining to watch!

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Monday, January 30, 2012

When birds make noise, it's not always with a song

The wings of the smallest hummingbirds can reach 100 beats per second during courtship displays. As their wings slice through the air, it produces a hum. The hummingbird gets its name from this sound.

Pigeons and Mourning Doves use a wing whistle noise to warn their flock about approaching enemies--the first example of a non-vocalized alarm call in birds. The source of the alarm noise may be a narrow outer feather on the pigeon's wing. A startled takeoff produces a faster tempo wing whistle that alerts the flock to danger.

Woodpeckers’ rigid tail and wing feathers produce a unique clacking sound in flight. No woodpecker produces a song, only calls. Most woodpeckers use drumming to communicate. You’ll hear an increase in woodpeckers banging their bill rapidly against wood, metal, or any surface that resonates, more and more as breeding season approaches. The drumming relays lots of information including the bird’s sex, health, availability, and right to a territory.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

What is the smallest hawk in North America?

I don’t see this bird very often so it’s a treat when he showed up in the tree outside my window recently. A little larger than a BlueJay, the Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) looks like a mini Cooper’s Hawk.

Sharp-shinned Hawks are the smallest hawk in North America. The name Sharp-shinned comes from the long and narrow appearance of the hawk’s legs just above its toes.

Adults have blue-gray backs, with narrow, horizontal red-orange bars on the breast and red eyes. Immature sharpies are mostly brown, with coarse vertical streaks on white belly and yellow eyes. Female Sharp-shinned Hawks are about a third bigger and heavier than males. Both the adults and young have broad dark bands across their long square-tipped tails.

Due to the secretive nature of sharp-shinned hawks, little is known about their mating behavior. They have courtship flights and are presumed to be monogamous. The breeding season of sharp-shinned hawks corresponds with the time of maximum prey availability which is usually between late March and June. Ninety percent of their diet consists of smaller birds like sparrows that they hunt for in the forest but I’ve seen them  near a feeding station occasionally in the winter.

On average they have one brood per year and lay 4 to 5 white or bluish eggs per clutch. Incubation lasts about a month, and the eggs hatch within one to two days of each other. Females do most of the incubating, and males will provide food for females while they are on the nest.

After hatching, the chicks are fed in the nest for two weeks and near the nest for another 21 to 32 days. Then the juveniles are shown how to hunt.

The longest recorded lifespan for a sharp-shinned hawk is 13 years. However, most do not live longer than 3 years due to predators, hunting and collisions with cars and buildings.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

When do Northern Cardinals Nest?

I've had a steady colony of Cardinals coming to my feeder for the past six years. They live in the pines in my front yard and all spend time at the feeder in the back yard. Their number has grown from two pairs to three and now to four over these few years. Imagine my surprise that just now I looked out to see NINE pairs. I have several different feeders and they were all over them. Any thoughts? Is it nearing the time when they breed? I've always thought that once paired they stayed together - do they still group during the mating season? ~ Garden City, MI

February is the toughest month for birds to find food so that may be why you are seeing more birds at the feeders. Also most cardinals form pair bonds around February-April. Males and females that have paired up in previous seasons are often the first to pair up as the new breeding season begins, sometimes even as early as January.

When the males begin to sing they are claiming a territory. Older males usually claim their old territory while young males have to move around to find an open territory and an available mate. Extra cardinals now could also mean they are young birds looking to establish a breeding territory.

Actual nesting begins usually sometime between early April and mid-May and ends sometime between mid-July and early September depending on where you live.

Northern Cardinal Mating Rituals
Male cardinals sing to establish territories and attract mates. Females that hear singing may approach and then fly away when spotted by the male. While the male chases the female he continues to sing and spread his tail and wing feathers to give the females a good look. This may continue for several days and help the female determine the male’s health.

As the courtship continues both the male and female begin to sing duets. Cardinals can sing several different song types but during the duets they coordinate songs. Scientists think this is another way for the female to determine her potential mate’s quality.

Next the males bring tasty treats that they feed to the females. A male’s ability to forage efficiently and provide good quality food is an important consideration for a female that depends on a male to provide food for her while she is incubating eggs and later feed her babies.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Photo Share: Singing Vole

Singing Vole (Microtus miurus) by Anne Morkill, at the Alaska Martime National Wildlife Refuge.

This species gets its common name from its warning call, a high-pitched trill, usually given from the entrance of its burrow. 

Did you miss anything on the Wild Birds Unlimited blog this week? 
Weekly Recap:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Happy Birthday Michigan: How the state got its name

On January 26, 1837, President Andrew Jackson signed a bill making Michigan the nation's 26th state. "Michigan" is believed to come from the from the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigami, meaning "great water" and referred originally to Lake Michigan itself. The Great Lakes account for one-fifth of the world's surface freshwater supply.

In 1836 a pair speculators from Lansing, New York sold land to a non-existent city in mid-Michigan known as "Biddle City." The New Yorkers arrived to discover that the plots they had purchased were located in a marsh or underwater. Some of the pioneers stayed, and developed a village in what is now Old Town Lansing a mile north of the non-existent "Biddle City."

In 1847, the legislature passed a law to locate the state capital in mid-Michigan because many were concerned about Detroit's proximity to British-controlled Canada, which had captured Detroit in the War of 1812. Unable to publicly reach a consensus because of constant political wrangling, the Michigan House of Representatives privately chose the Township of Lansing as the capitol out of frustration. The sleepy settlement of fewer than 20 people transformed quickly into the seat of state government and individual settlements began to develop along the Grand River.

State Symbols:
Bird - American Robin
Fish - Brook Trout
Reptile - Painted Turtle
Wildflower - Dwarf Lake Iris
Flower - Apple Blossom
Tree - White Pine
Stone - Petoskey Stone
Fossil - Mastodon

Fun Facts:
Michigan is simultaneously known for its cities, supported by heavy industry, and its pristine wilderness. Michigan has the largest state park and state forest system of any state. It is home to a number of areas maintained by the National Park Service with 78 state parks, 19 state recreation areas, and 6 state forests.

Michigan State University was founded in 1855 as the nation's first land-grant university and was the first institution of higher learning in the nation to teach scientific agriculture.

Michigan was the first state to provide in its Constitution for the establishment of public libraries and the first state to guarantee every child the right to tax-paid high school education.

Vernors ginger ale was created in Detroit and became the first soda pop made in the United States. In 1862, pharmacist James Vernor was trying to create a new beverage when he was called away to serve our country in the Civil War. When he returned, 4 years later, the drink he had stored in an oak case had acquired a delicious gingery flavor.

The Kellogg Company has made Battle Creek the Cereal Capital of the World. The Kellogg brothers accidentally discovered the process for producing flaked cereal products and sparked the beginning of the dry cereal industry.

The Detroit Zoo was the first zoo in America to feature cageless, open-exhibits that allowed the animals more freedom to roam.

Michigan has more than 11,000 inland lakes, more than 36,000 miles of streams and 116 lighthouses and navigational lights.

The Upper Michigan Copper Country is the largest commercial deposit of native copper in the world. Detroit is known as the car capital of the world. Alpena is the home of the world's largest cement plant. Rogers City boasts the world's largest limestone quarry. Elsie is the home of the world's largest registered Holstein dairy herd. Michigan is first in the United States production of peat and magnesium compounds and second in gypsum and iron ore. Colon is home to the world's largest manufacture of magic supplies. Grand Rapids is home to the 24-foot Leonardo da Vinci horse, called Il Gavallo, it is the largest equestrian bronze sculpture in the Western Hemisphere.

Sources:
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why are there more birds at the feeders in the summer?

I know you told me that birds don’t depend on my feeder to survive, but I was just wondering why I see the birds visit my feeder more often in the summer than the winter. To me it would seem winter would be the hardest time to find food naturally. ~ Linden, Michigan

Year-Round Feeding
Many people enjoy feeding songbirds year-round. Those that do may have noticed birds seem to frequent feeders more at certain times of the year. In fact, the most crucial time in the life of many birds may be in the early spring when seeds that occur naturally are scarcer. Unfortunately this is when a lot of people stop feeding.

I think your observation about birds utilizing feeders more in the warmer months is correct. In the spring and summer, birds are very busy. New birds are migrating up to Michigan, choosing territories, mates, and preparing to have young. Females incubating eggs on the nest take advantage of a convenient feeder for a quick bite. Later parents bring young birds to the feeder as a first step into the world. It is fascinating to watch the parents show their young how to pick up the seeds.

Some birds, like the Dark-eyed Juncos and Red-breastedNuthatches leave us in the spring while others like the warblers, orioles and the hummingbirds, are only summer residents in Michigan.

Bird-Feeding Myths
Some people believe that once you start bird feeding, it should be continued. Or that feeding your birds in the summer will make them too lazy, too dependent or keep them from migrating at the appropriate time. All of these old myths have been dispelled by modern research and observation. Bird feeding is a fun and educational hobby. Birds appreciate the food but never become dependent on your feeder unless there is a severe storm that prevents them from foraging.

Backyard bird feeding is an entertaining and educational pastime that can be enjoyed by children and adults. Thank you so much for sharing your observation.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What seeds do wild birds eat?

Can you give a definitive answer as to what seeds wild birds will and will not eat at my feeder?

When choosing a seed blend to feed wild birds I always make sure sunflower is the first ingredient. I also like seed blends with nuts. Sunflower seed is the favorite of most seed eating birds like cardinals, finches and titmice and the peanuts will attract bug eating birds like chickadees, wrens, jays and woodpeckers.

To make the most of your birdseed budget, choose seeds that attract the birds you want to watch. The following shows the results of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service studies on food preferences of birds:

a) Black oil – Fresh oil sunflower seed is attractive to most seed eating bird species.
b) Striped – The larger shell is harder for some birds to crack but Tufted Titmice and Blue Jays prefer.
2. Peanut pieces – Are attractive to numerous species. Lots of bug or suet eating birds choose peanuts for their high protein and fat levels.
3. White Proso Millet – Is the preferred food for ground feeding birds like juncos, doves and sparrows.
4. Safflower seed – This was not included in USFWS studies but is a favorite of House Finches and is considered acceptable to most other bird species except blackbirds and starlings. (Squirrels don't seem to care for it either.)
5. Nyjer (Thistle) - Is not related to weed thistles. The high fat content and small seed shape makes it attractive to finches.
6. Cracked Corn - Eaten about one-third as often as white proso millet and attracts blackbirds.
7. Red Proso Millet – It can be used as a substitute for white proso; however, not as preferred
8. Golden (German) Millet – Is the least preferred of the millets
9. Milo (sorghum) – Large red round seed found in a lot of cheap blends. It is unattractive generally to all species. Jays, cowbirds, and grouse may eat it in Michigan. More of the western ground feeding birds might eat milo.
10. Oats - Only starlings found hulled oats attractive.
11. Wheat – Unattractive to most species.
12. Canary seed - Unattractive to most species. House Sparrows and cowbirds will eat canary seed.
13. Flax seed - Almost completely ignored.
14. Rape seed (canola seed) - Least attractive feed in the study. Quail and doves may eat.

Where to Purchase Seed
We have tons of fresh seed delivered every week to our  Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI. Our seed is also sifted to take out all the sticks and field debris. Wild Birds Unlimited is dedicated to offering fresh, top-quality seed. Our no-waste bird seed blends are made from 100% edible seed and have been exclusively formulated for the feeding preferences of our local birds. No cereal fillers—just fresh, high-quality seed your birds will love. We also carry a wide variety of other bird foods—suet and no-melt doughs, seed cylinders, mealworms and more.

What is your best blend?
For the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store, customers’ preference by far is WBU No-Mess Blend. Our unique No-Mess Blend contains sunflower seeds, peanut pieces and white proso millet without the shells. No shells on the seeds make for a tidier feeding area, since there's nothing on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything happily.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Titmice Fun Facts

There are five species of titmice in North America: Black-crested Titmouse, Juniper Titmouse, Oak TitmouseBridled Titmouse, and Tufted Titmouse. The most widely distributed and only titmouse in mid-Michigan is the Tufted Titmouse.

Tufted Titmouse
• The Bridled Titmouse is the only North American member of its family that appears to have helpers at the nest regularly, And unlike the other titmice species, does not hide seeds for future use. The part of the brain used to store memories of hiding places is small in this species compared with other species that frequently hide food.
• The Oak Titmouse mates for life, and pairs defend year-round territories. Those that do not find a mate in their first fall are excluded from territories and must live in marginal habitat until they find a vacancy.
• The Juniper Titmouse sits very tight on her nest and will hiss like a snake if disturbed.
• The Black-crested Titmouse hybridizes with the Tufted Titmouse where their ranges overlap in central Texas. They were considered the same species for a while, but they are distinct genetically and vocally.
• The Tufted Titmouse has an alarm call that seems to fade off into the distance, giving the impression that the bird is moving from one place to another. Birdwatchers and predators alike can be fooled into chasing this ghost call while the titmouse stays securely hidden out of sight. During the winter, Tufted Titmice forage together with chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers and Brown Creepers.They have been expanding its range northward since the 1940s and is now found almost to the Canadian border across most of its range. Speculation for the expansion suggests warming winter temperatures and the increase in mature woodland habitat. 

Sources: WBU BOTM  and http://www.allaboutbirds.org

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dark gray bird with white speckles

I have flocks of robins eating the fruit from my Mary Potter Crab trees. Mixed in with the robins, (seemingly a part of the flock), I see a bird that initially looked like a baby robin as it has the speckled look, but I knew it couldn't be that this time of year. These birds are a darkish gray, about the size of a robin and have rounded white tips on their feathers and a blue green iridescent underbelly. I've never noticed a bird like this. Do you have any idea what it could be? I'd sure appreciate any help you could provide. Thank you, Novi, MI

They are probably European Starlings. They flock and eat fruit in the winter just like American Robins and Cedar Waxwings.

The European Starling Sturnus vulgaris molts its feathers in the fall and the new black feathers have tips that are whitish, giving the bird the appearance of “stars” covering their body. Over the winter, sunlight and weather dulls the speckled look and the bird becomes uniform dark brown or black.

Both sexes also have reddish brown legs, and seasonal changes in bill color (yellow in the spring, black in the fall). Males sport a bluish spot at the base of their beaks, while the female displays a reddish pink speck. Juvenile birds are large dull gray or black.

The European Starling is insectivorous when breeding and typically consumes insects including caterpillars, moths, and cicadas, as well as spiders. The starlings like to grab bugs directly from the air or plunge their beaks into the ground randomly and repetitively until an insect has been found. In the winter starlings are omnivorous and can also eat grains, seeds, fruits, nectar, and food scraps.

In 1890’s, 100 starlings were released into New York City’s Central Park. It is said that Eugene Schieffelin wanted all of New York to see the birds mentioned in the plays of William Shakespeare. Until that time, starlings were not native to North America and were imported from England. Scientists estimate that descendants from those original released flocks now number more than 200 million in the United States.

Thank you so much, you are correct! Additionally, the male, (I assume), has alternating iridescent purple and iridescent red under the neck with iridescent green on breast. Very pretty. Female is lighter in color and more white specked with little iridescence. They seem to be a good example of a bird that can easily be ignored, but when viewed more closely, they are very beautiful; especially on a sunny winter afternoon which brings out the beauty of the iridescent coloring! Thank you so much for the identification!!

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Evidence that yawning is contagious in birds too

“Budgies” also find yawns contagious
Yawning is contagious in humans and some non-human primates. A recent study investigated the possibility that yawning and stretching was also contagious in birds. The social, flock-living birds Budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus), were videotaped and the times of all yawns and stretches for each bird were recorded.

Analyses suggest that the clustering of these behaviors is due to social influence. If the birds saw their neighbor stretching and yawning, it cued them to do the same. This study provides the first detailed description of temporal patterns of yawning under social conditions as well as the first support for contagious yawning and stretching in a non-primate species in a natural context.


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Friday, January 20, 2012

How high can squirrels jump to bird feeders?

Squirrel Fun Facts 
• Squirrels can jump up to 5 to 6 feet vertically, and they can leap 8 to 10 feet between objects.
• Squirrels have 5 toes on their back feet and 4 toes on their front. Their front toes are very sharp and help in gripping tree bark for climbing. Their back foot toes allow them to hang upside down and leave their front paws free reach for food.
• They have two incisors on the top and two on the bottom jaw that will grow continuously, but stay short due to the constant wear they receive.
• Squirrels can smell food from great distances. This helps them find the food they hoard.
• Squirrels eyes are positioned in such a way that they can see some things behind them.
• In addition to residing in the Eastern US, Eastern Gray Squirrels have been transplanted to many Western states, Great Britain, Ireland and South Africa and come in a variety of colors.
• Squirrels can eat their own body weight (approximately 1.5 pounds) every week.
• Squirrels have been known to fall from 100 feet without hurting themselves.
• The name Squirrel comes from the Ancient Greek word σκίουρος, skiouros, which means, shadow-tailed. This is probably because the squirrels use their bushy tails to shade themselves.

People either seem to love squirrels or hate them. Many people complain that the squirrels are eating their birds’ food. The number one selling feeder at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing is the squirrel proof feeders. We can also help you create a squirrel proof set up with baffles or choose a seed to deter squirrels.

For some people, feeding squirrels is actually fun or provides a distraction to deter squirrels from bothering their bird feeders. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing has several feeders and food for squirrels.

It is recommended that people who feed the squirrels place food away from window sills or door steps so as to discourage squirrels coming through screens. Feeding stations for squirrels should also be placed away from the regular bird feeding stations. There are many good feeders for feeding squirrels and some birds attracted to nuts and corn may also visit these feeders.

Squirrels live in many backyards. Placing squirrel houses in urban areas can help reduce the possibility of squirrels nesting in unwanted locations. Squirrel houses should be placed away from human dwellings at least 15’above the ground. They should face south and away from prevailing winds. Boxes can be cleaned in mid to late summer if there are no babies present.

If you or anyone you know is trapping and moving squirrels, please let them know that it is illegal to move wildlife in Michigan without a permit. And you may be doing more harm than good. Squirrels live in territories and every time one is removed, another will take its place. Moving squirrels that are pregnant or that have babies waiting for their mother could result in death. However, if you leave the squirrels that you have, alone they will keep other squirrels away. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing can show you how to squirrel proof your bird feeding station so that you and the squirrels, can live in harmony.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

How to choose the best suet cake

To choose a suet that attracts the widest variety of birds, the first ingredient should always be rendered beef suet. Some people feed straight suet only. If you want to offer more protein and flavor the next ingredient should usually be peanuts or tree nuts.

Never, never buy suet where milo, oats, wheat, processed grain by-products or artificial flavorings are in the ingredients. These filler ingredients are used to make a cheaper cake but the birds have to pick around and pick out all this filler to reach a little suet.

All of the suets at the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI store are made with only the highest quality processed beef kidney fat. It is the most concentrated source of energy you can offer wild birds.


Our best seller is the peanut butter suet cake, which has only three ingredients: rendered beef fat, chopped peanuts and peanut butter. Again, no milo, no wheat, no corn, and no millet - no filler ingredients!

If you have a problem with squirrels or other wildlife eating your suet try our Hot Pepper Suet. It has rendered beef suet, ground peanuts and capsicum pepper. Capsicum contains capsaicin, a chemical that that doesn’t harm but can produce a strong burning sensation in the mouth of squirrels. Most mammals find this unpleasant, whereas birds are unaffected.

A good suet cake will have a minimum crude protein of around 6% and crude fat of 35% (the more the better). And it’s acceptable for suet to have a maximum crude fiber of 12% and moisture of 10%. If you have any questions feel free to ask and we can suggest what will work in your yard to attract the best birds.

Related Articles:
·         What birds eat suet? http://bit.ly/q2Sfje
·         How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI
·         Filling Up on Fatty Foods: http://bit.ly/ob0NIq
·         Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX
·         What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/yAR4pm

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why is snow white and water blue?

Where does the white go when snow melts? ~ Peyton, Colorado
.
Sir Isaac Newton discovered in the 1600s, that sunlight has no color and appears to be white. But this “white” light actually contains the seven colors of the rainbow: red, yellow, orange, blue, green, violet, and indigo. When light hits an object it may absorb, reflect, scatter, or transmit individual wavelengths, or shades of color back to our eyes.

Snow is made of tiny crystals. When light hits, it’s scattered by a zillion ice crystals. Sometimes on very sunny days you might catch little rainbows reflecting in the snow crystals. No one wavelength is absorbed or reflected, so snow to our eyes is white, the color of the sunlight.

Because water absorbs the red end of the visible spectrum, our eyes see the reflected blue color, the complementary color of red. An intense blue color is also reflected back from deep holes in fresh snow and glaciers.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How to feed birds off your deck and deter squirrels and raccoons.

Hi again Sarah! I had a quick question and thought I might ask in an email, in case
others had the same question.  I have a second story living area, with a wooden deck. I can't place feeders in the ground or in trees, so I have to rely on window feeders.  Are there appropriate feeders that attach to deck railings?  I have raccoons visiting almost every night as it is and it's hard to remember to bring in the bird feeder every evening so they don't get into it.  What do you think would be best for the situation?  I'd like to have more than two window feeders and a feeder I have to remember to bring in at dusk. Thanks again!
 

If you have a problem with wildlife at your bird feeders, you can try changing your feeders or food. I have a few recommendations.

Feeder Choices
  • Squirrel Buster Plus- This feeder deters squirrels, raccoons and large black birds. You can adjust the tension on the spring mechanism to have the feeder ports shut when unwanted guest attempt to feed. It is also backed by a lifetime guarantee.
  • Dinner Bell -  One of the most popular feeders in my yard is the WBU Dinner Bell. You can invite a variety of birds to a delicious meal with this versatile feeder. It can be filled with seed, suet snacks, seed cylinders, fruit or mealworms. If you have a problem with raccoons fill it just enough for the birds to finish by night or use a Safflower seed cylinder. It is also backed by a lifetime guarantee.
  • Finch Feeders- I’ve never had a problem with the critters on any finch feeders that are filled with straight Nyjer thistle seed.
Food Choices
  • Pure Beef Suet with no seeds or Hot Pepper suet deters most animals but still attracts a wide variety of woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, and wrens.
  • Safflower seed: You can start by offering safflower gradually, mixing it with the seed you currently use. Over time increase the amount of safflower until you are feeding straight safflower. The seed looks and tastes different from other bird seed, so it may take your birds some time to adjust. Safflower is a small, white seed that is high in protein and fat. Many favorite backyard birds - including cardinals, chickadees, finches, doves, woodpeckers, titmice and nuthatches- savor safflower. Blackbirds, starlings, raccoons and most squirrels typically refuse to eat safflower seed. Safflower seed cakes and seed cylinders are also available at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI. 
  • Nyjer Seed – Nyjer, niger, and thistle are all common names used to identify a tiny black birdseed cultivated in Asia and Africa that is high in calories and oil content, and loved by American Goldfinches and avoided by most raccoons and squirrels.

To check out the Wild Birds Unlimited Advanced Pole System for the deck go to: http://www.wbu.com/products/aps/index.html,

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Great Backyard Bird Count

Participating in the GBBC is a family affair for these siblings.
Photo by Jerald Reb, Delaware, 2011 GBBC.
Counted and Be Counted!
Make sure your local birds are represented in the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count—they won’t count unless YOU do! Save the dates: February 17-20 is the 15th annual GBBC.

Everything you need to know to participate is on the website at www.birdcount.org, including downloadable instructions, FAQs, and a how-to video. Get a regional list of the birds you might see in your area in February so you can brush up on your identification skills ahead of time.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Brown and tan bird on tree trunk

It’s such a treat when I spot the Brown Creeper circling the locust tree right outside my window. They're not a frequent visitor like the nuthatches but it’s always a welcome site to see a creeper not so much creeping up a tree but dancing up the trunk of a tree, checking all the crevices in the bark for hidden bugs or larvae. 

Brown Creeper Certhia americana 
Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Creeper (Certhiidae)

Description: The creeper has a long stiff, pointed tail to help it climb tree trunks, and a long down curved bill to probe insects from bark. Its brown back feathers with buff white streaks, white eyebrow feathers, and white belly feathers make them nearly indistinguishable from a piece of bark.

General: The cryptic Brown Creeper usually hangs out in old-growth forests and will nest behind loose bark of a dying tree. The base of the nest is attached to the bark with webbing from cocoons or spider egg cases, and then a cup is made of fine pieces of bark, fibers, leaves, mosses, and feathers.

Behavior: Brown Creepers are the only tree creepers in North America. Feeding mainly on invertebrates found on tree trunks, they start at the bottom of a tree, spiral upward, then float down to the base of the next tree and begin again. A group of creepers are collectively known as a "sleeze" and a "spiral" of creepers.
 
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Saturday, January 14, 2012

What is the difference between Oil Sunflower and Striped Sunflower?

I’ve been reading lately about how birds like oil sunflower. Can you explain what that is and how it’s different from other sunflower seed? ~  Saint Louis, Missouri  

That is an excellent question! Sunflower seeds are the fruit of the sunflower plant. Black Oil Sunflower and Striped Sunflower are the two different varieties used to feed birds.

Most seed eating birds are attracted to black oil sunflower seeds. The black in the name describes the all black hull. The oil in the name refers to the higher oil content per gram in this smaller sunflower seed. Cardinals, chickadees, finches, sparrows, nuthatches, and many other birds prefer black oil sunflower over any other seed because of its high fat content and thinner shell which makes it easier for birds to open.

Striped sunflower is larger and has a tougher striped shell. Jays, titmice, cardinals, grosbeaks and woodpeckers love striped sunflower and can handle the tougher, larger shells. 

Sunflower seeds can also come hulled, which means the shell has been removed. Our unique No-Mess Blend features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds means no hulls on the ground and the seed won’t sprout either. Hulled sunflower seeds will attract the same birds, but there is no mess left below the feeder.

Sunflower seeds are considered the number one choice to feed and attract the greatest variety of birds. At Wild Birds Unlimited we will help you choose the right seed – and the right feeder – for the birds you are trying to attract.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Photo Share: Long-eared Owl


Hello,  I live in Fargo,  ND but enjoy reading your blog every day.  I just thought I’d send along the photos I took of a long eared owl I took last month.  

The dogs and I were walking in the woods and this owl landed right in front of me.  As an amateur birder I was really excited to see such a fun bird.  

Thanks for such an informative blog.  Kerry

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Best Illustrated Bird Identification Book

Sample page shows the revolutionary photo montage
used in The Crossley ID Guide by Richard Crossley.
The Crossley ID Guide is stunningly illustrated book available at the Wild Birds Unlimited -East Lansing, MI store that revolutionizes birding by providing the first real-life approach to identification. Richard Crossley is an internationally acclaimed birder and photographer whose love of the outdoors and interest in teaching resulted in the design of a new kind of bird book.

Whether you are a beginner or expert, Crossley’s bird identification book will improve your ability to name birds. Unlike other guides, which provide isolated individual photographs or illustrations, this is the first book to feature large, lifelike scenes for each species. Each scene is composed of 12-20 color images showing the bird in a wide range of situations--near and far, from different angles, in various plumages and behaviors, including flight, and in the habitat in which they live.

The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds is a 544 paged book that all bird watchers will want for study and reference. Its large and detailed plates make it a great coffee table book or the best reference book when you see a new bird at the feeder.  

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