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.

Monday, April 30, 2012

How many mealworms do bluebirds eat a day?

Bluebirds are primarily insect eaters in the spring and summer. When their babies hatch bluebirds know instinctively that mealworms are too big for newly hatched babies. They start them out with tiny bugs for their young. While the parent bird may appreciate your easy mealworm breakfast during a stressful time, they will not feed regular sized mealworms to their chicks until the babies are about six days old.

So when the chicks are new and tiny, they feed them whole, fresh, soft, small, larvae and spiders. They don't regurgitate food. As the chicks grow, they gradually increase the size and toughness of the insects they offer.

The rule of thumb is to offer about 15 mealworms per bluebird once or twice a day, as a supplemental food, unless severe weather conditions limit natural sources. 100 or so worms offered morning and evening would be adequate for a pair with a box of nestlings a week old. Offering an unlimited supply of mealworms is not recommended, as the nestlings need a varied diet.
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It's not necessary to feed birds but it's fun to watch nature up close, and you'll be amused at how quickly a relationship develops between you and the bluebirds!
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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Black bird with white back

Large numbers of Bobolinks pass through in Sep...Most backyard bird watchers aren’t familiar with the Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus). The female looks like a large sparrow while the male is the only American bird that is black underneath and white on the back for a showy spring breeding display. They are one of the few songbirds that undergo two complete molts each year. In the fall both the male and female have brown feathers.


Bobolink - female

In Michigan their preferred habitats include prairies and meadows and they stay on marshes during migration where they eat mainly insects. Bobolinks are recognized for making one of the longest migrations in the western hemisphere. The trip south to the vast grasslands of southwestern Brazil, Paraguay, and northern Argentina can be over 6000 miles.

Approximate distribution of the Bobolink (Doli...
Approximate distribution of the Bobolink 
Blue: breeding, Orange: wintering.
Each fall, they gather in large numbers in southern rice fields, where their habit of eating grain has earned them the name "ricebird." They are collected as food in Jamaica, where they are called “butter birds”--a commentary on how fat they are as they pass through on migration.

Once common as a source of food for the northern United States, their song, breeding plumage, and extraordinary migration also made the Bobolink an inspiration for the poetry like "Robert of Lincoln" by William Cullen Bryant (1794-1898), and "The Way to Know the Bobolink" by Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886).

Saturday, April 28, 2012

In what kind of trees do hummingbirds nest?

I love your blog and send out posts on twitter and facebook. I try to support Michigan businesses. What kind of trees/shrubs do hummingbirds nest in here in Michigan? I want to make sure I have food and a place for them to live when they visit. ~ Mary

There is no particular tree species in which hummingbirds prefer to nest. They first look for a territory that supplies enough bugs and nectar to support them and their babies. Next they look for a tree that provides proper camouflage and protection from predators.

Hummingbirds usually return to the same general area they were hatched. Female hummingbirds build their nests all alone even before they mate. Male hummingbirds take no part in raising the young. Older females can even return to the location of last year’s nest and rebuild it if the nest has survived the winter.

An attractive nesting tree will have some pencil thin flexible branches that slope downward slightly. The tiny golf ball sized nest, constructed below a leaf canopy and above a fairly open area, starts with spider silk to attach the nest and make it flexible. Lichens camouflage the outside, and the inside is lined with cotton from nesting material, dandelion, cattail, or thistle down.

Courtship is very brief and then two white, pea-sized eggs are laid two or three days apart, which the female will incubate from 60 to 80 percent of the day for 10-14 days. After the babies hatch, the nest stretches to contain the growing nestlings. When they leave the nest, 18-22 days later, the chicks are twice as large as their mother which was stressed by raising them.

If a Ruby-throat nests near your feeder she may appreciate quick bites to eat while incubating eggs. When the chicks hatch, they need lots of protein, so their mother spends a lot time foraging for small insects and spiders. Throwing old banana peels in the garden as compost will attract fruit flies for the hummingbirds and fertilize your garden.

After the chicks leave the nest, mommas will bring these newly fledged hummers to feeders and you can watch them check out everything to see if it is food. It usually takes them awhile to figure out what’s food so fledglings are fed by their mother for another 10 days.

Young hummingbirds will look similar to a female, but as young males begin to mature in late summer look for a few random red iridescent feathers on the throat. And the young are very healthy looking. Their feathers are full and shiny whereas the parent birds look a little haggard.  

If you keep your feeders filled and fresh you should have hummers visiting from April until usually the end of October.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Best Bird feeder or plant holder pole system

The Advanced Pole System - Looks Great, Stays Straight! Wild Birds Unlimited's patented Advanced Pole System (APS) is comprised of interchangeable hardware pieces, that lets you add or subtract bird feeders, birdhouses and other bird feeding accessories, giving you the ability to create and customize your bird feeding station with over 3,000 combinations — it is all up to you!

How Does It Work?
It’s easy! Just insert a screwdriver into the hole at the middle of the 4-foot Base Pole and twist it into the ground using the convenient corkscrew auger connected at the bottom of the pole. Next slide the Stabilizer onto the Base Pole and push into the ground. Tests show the stabilizer holds the pole straight in up to 35 MPH wind gusts. Plus, it is lawnmower-friendly.

Get Creative! 
Create your own unique setup by selecting the bird feeder, birdhouse, bird bath, or bird feeder supplies you want. The APS parts fit together easily, and no special tools are required. Birds will flock to your new APS station in no time. So, sit back and enjoy the show.

It’s Flexible!
The APS was designed to accommodate all feeders with many hanging accessories from which to choose. Suet feeder, peanut feeder, tube feeder, wooden feeder, one feeder, many feeders — the Advanced Pole System is the ultimate solution to all your birdfeeding needs.

Don’t have a yard? Use the Advanced Pole System to create a birdfeeding station on your deck. It’s that flexible!
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Wild Birds Unlimited - Advanced Pole System (APS) is a revolutionary bird feeding pole that has interchangeable hardware pieces that lets you design the perfect feeding station for your needs. You can make it as tall or as short as you want with as many arms or attachment as needed.

We have a wall of “extras” that can customize your set-up with several different arms to add as well as perching branches, suet attachments, side dishes, baffles and a choice of several finials.

To help you construct your masterpiece come in to our WildBirds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI store or go to wbu.com/aps for more examples.  If this is all too confusing we have a basic setup all boxed up and ready to take home or give as a gift.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Who is Audubon and how did his name become synonymous with birds?

Happy Birdday Mr. Audubon!

Despite some errors in field observations, John James Audubon made a significant contribution to the understanding of bird anatomy and behavior through his field notes and art.

Audubon was named Jean Rabin on the day of his birth on April 26, 1785 in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). He was the son of a French naval officer, Lieutenant Jean Audubon and his mistress Jeanne Rabine, a 27 year old creole chambermaid who died a few months after giving birth.

In 1794 Audubon was brought to France and adopted formally by his father and his wife, Anne Moynet Audubon, whom he had married years before. There he was renamed Jean-Jacques Fougère Audubon.

From his earliest days, Audubon had an affinity for birds. "I felt an intimacy with them...bordering on frenzy [that] must accompany my steps through life." His father planned to make a seaman of his son, however he quickly found out that he was susceptible to seasickness and not proficient in mathematics or navigation. After failing the officer's qualification test, Audubon returned to exploring the fields again, focusing on birds.

In 1803, his father obtained a false passport so that an 18 year old Audubon could go to the United States to avoid conscription in the Napoleonic Wars. There he changed his name to an anglicized form John James Audubon and set about to study American birds, determined to illustrate his findings in a more realistic manner than most artists did back then.

He wandered around the country and earned a living as a portrait artist and art teacher, in preparation for the eventual publication of a book of all the birds of North America. In 1824 his book of bird drawings was rejected for publication in the US. So a couple years later, at age 41, Audubon took his growing collection of work to England where the British could not get enough of his images of backwoods America and its natural attractions.

He met with great acceptance as he toured around England and Scotland, as "the American woodsman" and raised enough money to begin publishing his Birds of America. Audubon’s birds were popular not only for their great detail but also because he tried to place them in their natural habitats. His drawings usually were based on long hours of observation, as well as specimens in the hand that he hunted and posed in lifelike positions. His monumental book ended up containing 435 hand-colored, life-size prints of 497 bird species. After its publication the name Audubon became synonymous with birds.

He continued to paint birds and animals successfully until his death in 1851.

Source: John James Audubon from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_James_Audubon

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why the color on a hummingbirds’ throat flashes

As the hummingbirds begin to visit our feeders more frequently you may notice the bright colors that flash on the male Ruby-throated hummingbirds’ neck. The patch of colored feathers found on the throat of many male hummingbirds is called a gorget. The term is derived from the gorget used in military armor to protect the throat.

When the sun hits the feathers on an adult ruby-throats’ gorget they appear brilliant red. Then when he shifts his head a little the gorget can appear black. That’s because the iridescent feathers on the throat lack true pigmentation. The ruby red color our eyes see is actually the product of the feathers’ structure.
The iridescence is caused by refracting light waves off minute air sacs or platelets in the feathers, sort of like when light hits a soap bubble. The different colors produced are often a result of pigmented melanin within the platelet.

Possible functions for the flashy feathers may be to attract a mate, signal social status among males or communicate a threat. Young hummingbirds, which need to intrude on adult territories to feed once they have fledged, all lack gorgets. This may help to make them less visible or less threatening to adult birds.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Woodpeckers at the nectar feeder

Dear Sarah, I just looked out my kitchen window a few minutes ago to discover a Downy Woodpecker drinking/sipping from the hummingbird feeder, and not from the water in the ant moat as the chickadees have done, but from the ports covering the sugar water.  He/she took several sips, not enough time to get my camera though.

Is this unusual behavior?  I thought it was cool. 
Sue

ps the nesting material holder I got when I came in with our granddaughters is getting some good use.  They have taken most of the feathers and are now working on the other stuff.

Thank you for sharing your observations! It’s not unusual for a woodpecker to be attracted to sugar water. Lots of trees produce yummy sap like the sugar maples. Woodpeckers can drill into these trees for the sugary treat and also come back later to pick out bugs that get stuck in the sticky sap.

In fact hummingbirds are known to follow the sapsuckers during migration. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker drills parallel "wells" in the bark of trees and laps up the sap that oozes out from the tree. Hummingbirds, waxwings, and warblers take advantage of these pre-drilled sweet sap sources for a quick bite while traveling.

Besides the hummingbirds and woodpeckers, there are orioles, finches, catbirds, rose breasted grosbeaks and some migrating birds like warblers that appreciate quick energy drinks at the nectar feeder. So keep the camera handy. I’d love to see photos!

I’m glad your nesting material is working out, too. I’m refilling mine as fast as I can with hair the cats are donating. I like to watch them struggling with a huge wad of the fluffy hair!
Sarah

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Watch now to check on Red-tailed Hawk chicks!

Red-tailed Hawk chick hatching as mother looks on
 Big Red looks on as an egg begins to hatch, April 22, 1:42 p.m.

Cornell Lab eNews Flash

April 23, 2012

Watch now to check on Red-tailed Hawk chicks!

We're thrilled to share the news that two eggs have begun to hatch in the nest of Big Red and Ezra, the Red-tailed Hawks featured on our live cam streaming from the Cornell campus. Thousands of viewers yesterday saw the first glimpse of a tiny beak visible through a hole in the egg as Big Red looked on. Viewers also spotted a small hole in a second egg. The third egg is due to hatch within a few days.

With a shift in weather overnight, viewers woke this morning to find Big Red protecting the eggs from several inches of snow in the nest. Temperatures are expected to warm later today as onlookers eagerly wait for further signs of hatching.

Please join us to watch as life unfolds at the nest! We hope you will forward this message to share with friends and family. Thanks!

Quick Links:
NestWatch (Find out how to look for nests in your own neighborhood and contribute your observations to science!)

Nectar: Pure and Simple

Hummingbird facts - the average hummingbird found in North America tips the scales at around three grams and its brain only makes up about 4% of its body weight.

That means that their BB sized brain weighs in at a very minuscule 0.12 grams!

So, with such a tiny amount of brain power, just how do they remember a thousand mile migration route that ends up at the same exact nectar feeder they used last year?

It's a truly amazing feat! Especially when you consider that the human brain weighs in at a whopping 1350 grams and some of us (who will remain nameless) always seem to have trouble remembering even the simplest things…like the recipe for hummingbird nectar!

It's important to remember that the simple recipe for hummingbird nectar is the 4:1 ratio - 4 parts water to 1 part white table sugar. This concentration has proven safe and attractive to hummingbirds for decades and closely mimics the average concentration (20%) of the natural flower nectar on which hummingbirds feed.

Hummingbird nectar should always be made from simple table sugar (sucrose) as it is the closest possible duplicate of natural flower nectar. Sugar alternatives such as honey, artificial sweeteners, raw sugar, organic sugar, brown sugar or additives such as preservatives and red dyes should not be used as they can potentially be harmful to hummingbirds. 
Original Article: WBU Nature News April 2012

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

New birds to look for in the spring

A lot of people ask me in the spring, “Have you seen any new birds?” One of the fun aspects of bird feeding is that you never know who might show up in your yard. Some birds people are excited to see as the weather warms are the hummingbirds, orioles, bluebirds, robins and wrens.

I’m always excited to see the White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows in the spring. These two bird species only migrate through mid-Michigan in the spring and fall. You can look for them under the feeders from late April to late May and again sometime in September to November. They show up in mid-Michigan right after the last frost in the spring and right before the first snow in the fall. They breed all along the upper parts of Canada and winter along the southern United States.

They migrate at night, so I was so happy when I woke up to the White-throated singing in my yard. I always hear the birds before I see them. To me the White-throated Sparrows have a song that sounds like a chickadee yodeling. Birders describe their song as "poor Sam Peabody, Peabody,Peabody" and the White-crowned Sparrow as "poor-wet-wetter-chee-zee".

Both are medium sized sparrows similar to a House Sparrow except for the black-and-white racing stripes on their heads. The white-throated also has a conspicuous white throat and yellow spots between eyes and bill.

White-throated Sparrows like to scratch on the ground with a series of quick kicks when they feed and remind me of chickens. These birds follow a well-defined hierarchy, which puts males ahead of females and older sparrows ahead of younger sparrows. The oldest male birds are the ones that sing the most.

White-crowned Sparrows tend to visit feeders early and late in the day. They enjoy millet and also will eat sunflower chips. They will avoid conflicts when eating by facing the same direction as other birds. If the weather is good they’ll stay just long enough to rest and refuel. While migrating north, their average travel distance is about 70 miles per day.

Let me know what birds you're waiting for on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/lansingwbu).

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

What seeds to feed birds in the summer

Best Bird Seed
For seed eating birds in Michigan studies indicate that Black-Oil Sunflower, Fine and Medium Sunflower Chips, Peanuts, White Proso Millet, Safflower, and Nyjer® Thistle are among the most preferred seed types. At the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store, customers’ and birds’ preference by far is WBU No-Mess Blend.

No-Mess Benefits
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.

Price of No-Mess
Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything. One 20# bag of No-Mess contains at least twice as much seed as a bag with shells.

Unique Wild Birds Unlimited Seed Blends
Besides the No-mess we have several other blends that are regionally formulated to attract the birds that live in our area. We do not include cheap filler grains like oats, wheat and milo that decrease the price per pound of a mix and aren't eaten by the birds in Michigan. Wild Birds Unlimited blends actually end up costing less to use while attracting more of the birds that you want to watch.

Seed Freshness
Seed comes in every Tuesday. If you come early enough you can watch me load tons of seed into the store. And if you want to buy bags of seed right off the pallets, you are very welcome.
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Friday, April 20, 2012

Photo Share: Our new House Finch friends

Hello! These little House Finches are four and five days old in this photo, having taken up residence just outside our front door in our Westside neighborhood house.  It's remarkable how much they change each day - we're feeling privileged to be able to watch them grow up. Thanks for your terrific blog! Sid
Thank you for sharing your photo. I think you’ve captured a beautiful moment! Sarah

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Do I really need a hummingbird swing?

You don’t need a hummingbird swing to attract hummingbirds to your yard but they are so adorable that they have been flying off the shelves. And they make great gifts!

What are hummingbird swings?
Hummingbirds hover and hum around feeders and flowers about 20% of the time. The rest of the time they are perched on twigs and other suitable perches like a swing!

Where should I place my swing?
The best place to hang your swing is in an open area near a feeder. Hummingbirds like to perch on the swings and watch over their territory. Try to keep your swing at the same height or higher than the area that overlooks the hummer's food source (nearby feeders or flowering plants).

If you haven't put your hummingbird feeder out, do it as soon as possible. Hummingbirds are in the area and are hungry! Watch the video: http://youtu.be/JEWwPMM_wn0
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Does Wild Birds Unlimited carry bat houses?

Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, Michigan has some really nice functional bat, songbird, duck, owl, woodpecker and squirrel houses made out of cedar. They are not only made in America but are actually made in Michigan.

Bat boxes should be hung at least 15’ above the ground-- the higher, the better and houses mounted 20’ away from trees are inhabited twice as quickly as those in wooded areas. Research also shows that they are more successful if they have at least 8 hours of sun. The morning sun is most important.
In northern areas the top third of the house can be painted brown or black with a latex water base paint to aid in warming the box. In southern parts of the country, the boxes can be painted latex water base white, if there is too much direct sun.
Bats in house

In the spring, males and females form small groups and look for nursing sites. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing has triple chamber bat houses for nursing mommas and the single chamber houses for the bachelor boys. Most young are born from late May through early July, and are usually capable of flight within 21 days.

There are nine species of bats in Michigan that feed on a variety of moths, flies, beetles and other insects at night. Under normal conditions they can capture 600 to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects per hour.

The little brown bat is the most common and gentle bat found throughout Michigan and is the most seen species. They are a light brown bat with a wingspan of about 10 inches. And spring is the time the colonies of bat species look for homes in hot attics, under shingles and siding or in man made bat houses.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Male bluebird courtship stalled

I live just north of Atlanta GA and last year raised my first bluebirds. It is now mid-April and a single male has been doing two things for the last week. First, he flies up and down on a window each morning and secondly, sits all day on or beside a bird feeder on my deck. Is he waiting for his mate - or any mate? Thanks, Steve

I love it when people share their bird observations! There is so much we don’t understand about the bird world and when you study and raise questions about bird displays, it’s the first step toward learning more.

Like humans, birds communicate through sound and gestures. In the spring bluebird family groups break up and previously unattached males and females move to new territories. The young will move from the parental territories eventually to another location before choosing a mate. This is called natal dispersal and reduces the chances of inbreeding.

Older birds can quickly re-establish their connection and begin nesting as soon as the weather permits. Young birds at the beginning of nesting season start singing loudly from tree tops to attract a mate and announce his presence to neighboring males.

Once he attracts a female, the songs become quieter and used more as a communication between pairs. You may also observe different visual displays. The wing-wave is where a bird sort of twitters his wings like a baby bird to get a females attention, usually near a nestbox. They also use a lopsided flight or hover flight to show off a potential nesting site.

Nest building can begin immediately or not. They may check out several sites or even begin to nest and then stop. Many factors are involved in nest building like competition from other birds, weather, loss of a mate or just a feeling of security.

However your male sounds like he got stuck in the first phase of establishing a territory. When he sees his reflection in the window, he thinks it looks like another bird just his size trying to steal his territory. His aggressive behavior is stimulated and he tries to scare away the interloper. With his increased testosterone, batting against the window and guarding the food source becomes his focus instead of wooing a female.

Some tips to encourage the bird to begin looking for a mate again:
• Cover the window with screens
• Shut the blinds on your windows when you are not at home and at night.
• Rub the window with a bar of soap or liquid soap to decrease the reflection.
• Float shiny mylar balloons or Flutter Scare tape.* Anything that moves and repels the bird from that area will be effective.
• Post a hawk silhouette outside a window.* Hawks prey on birds, so their images will keep birds from flying towards your window.
• Install a window feeder.* This breaks the reflection and other birds interrupt the birds battles with himself.

*Available at Wild Birds Unlimited – East Lansing, Michigan

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Peregrine Falcons Nest in Lansing, Michigan

In the 1950s and 1960s Peregrine Falcon populations in Michigan collapsed. Pesticides like DDT caused thin shells on eggs and were easily broken. The birds became a federally endangered species in 1970 and DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1973. Captive breeding programs were set up to increase the birds’ numbers and nesting pairs have been reintroduced all over the Great Lakes region.

Peregrines historically live on rock cliff ledges but also do well with tall concrete, bridges, buildings and smokestacks which have similar features. Their range is about 30 miles with their nest in the center of their range. They do not like other falcons within 3 miles of their nest site.
 
Since 2004 the Lansing Board of Water and Light (BWL) has had Peregrine Falcons nest at the Eckert electric generating plant in downtown Lansing, Michigan. BWL has two Falcon NestCams at the site if you want to watch.

Nesting has already begun and chicks are expected to hatch in early May. Just go to http://www.lbwl.com/FalconCam2008.asp.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tiny sparrow singing

We have the door open today at Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing and I'm listening to a lot of beautiful songs. Today the star performer seems to be the Chipping Sparrow. Now I can hear some of you saying "all sparrows are alike." But the Chipping Sparrow is so cute I insist you get to know him!

The Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina is a very tiny, clean, crisp, energetic, sparrow about five inches long and weighing only a half ounce. It has a chestnut cap and a white stripe above the eye, and a black stripe through the eye. The female is the same but slightly duller.

Chipping Sparrows are well adapted to the presence of people and don’t mind if you are nearby watering flowers or filling the feeder. They live and nest in a very wide variety of habitats, including the suburbs.
Arriving in April and May to the Michigan area from its winter home in Mexico, Central America or the southern United States, they perch high in a tree and sing a song to mark their territory. The loud, trilling songs of a chipping sparrow are one of the most common sounds of spring and easily identifiable. The song is often described as the sound of an electric sewing machine. To hear the chipping sparrow’s song, visit HERE.
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The males arrive a week or so before the females and once paired, they share nesting, hatching and feeding-the-chicks duties. You may see them picking up any stray seeds from your birdfeeder or feeding on a ground feeder. Their appetite for insects and the seeds of many weeds and grasses make them true allies in any yard. One of their choice foods are the seeds of crabgrass…help yourself little guys!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Stay-at-home and vacation

If the price of gas is making you think twice about a trip to a National Wildlife Refuge remember that you can discover a refuge in your own backyard. To invite more birds to your yard you can set up a basic bird feeder, bird bath, or bird house.

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.

Or get your camera out as the squirrel miraculously makes his way up your pole and hangs upside down. I can’t wait for the Ruby-throatedHummingbirds and Baltimore Orioles to start visiting my feeders regularly. They are such characters and not afraid to buzz close when I’m watering the garden.

Many of us spend quite a lot of time and effort making our backyards places to enjoy and then become too busy to utilize them. So forget the crowds and stay home to relieve some stress from the everyday rat race. Let nature nurture.

And if you have children, the National Wildlife Federation is sponsoring a campaign called ‘Be Out There.’  April is Children & Nature Awareness Month and they suggest lots of activities to get your kids unplugged and outdoors.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Why it is called pigeon-toed

Pigeon toe is a condition where the toes point inward when walking. It’s very common in children under two years old. When we had this unusual visitor earlier in the week I took a couple snapshots. I noticed that in fact this pigeon’s toes do turn inward.

If you watch the birds at your feeding station you will see that some birds hop, hop, hop, and others prefer to walk around. Birds that hop take advantage of the pause between each jump to look around. Walking birds like the pigeons, doves, robins, and starlings, all move there head forward and back as they walk.

Like a toddler with a heavy head, the pigeon’s gate looks a little clumsy. However the bobbing head is really a way for the bird to fix his eyes on the surroundings. Although the head is moving relative to the body, the eyes are steady relative to the world, so the bird can focus on food or distant predators.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cute Cardinal Feeder

We just received a shipment of some darling little hopper feeders that are good for beginning birdwatchers or for people that have a spot for a good small feeder. The double perch system makes them perfect to feed cardinals or tiny finches.

Made in the USA, these well designed feeders have curved sides to view birds easily, heavy plexi-glass lens on four sides to view the seed level, and thick wood construction to last for years.

You can fill with any seed. If you have a problem with too many blackbirds and squirrels you can fill the feeder with Safflower seed to attract the cardinals and finches but deter undesirables.

Advantages of the Mini Wild Birds Unlimited Hopper Feeder
• High-quality wood/plexi-glass construction
• Holds 1.25lbs of Safflower seed
• Little birds like chickadees, nuthatches, goldfinches feed close
• Extra perch farther away allows larger cardinals and woodpeckers to feed comfortably
• Easy to hang and fill and clean
• Roof stained classic green or stylish red
• Makes a great gift or starter feeder
• Is made in America and lasts for years
• It is really, really cute!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What is pollen?

Scanning electron microscope image of pollen grains from a variety of common plants: sunflower (Helianthus annuus), morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea), prairie hollyhock (Sidalcea malviflora), oriental lily (Lilium auratum), evening primrose (Oenothera fruticosa), and castor bean (Ricinus communis).
I’ve never had a problem with pollen other than having to clean up what looks like a fine yellow dust off of everything. The cats at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing however always seem to break out when the pollen starts to fly unless I give them daily baths.

Lots of plants produce pollen as a way to reproduce. In order for seeds to be produced, the pollen must be transferred from the male part of the flower to the female part of the flower.

Some plants called entimophilous disperse their pollen from plant to plant with the help of birds and bees. They tend to have large, showy, and brightly-colored flowers, to attract pollinators.

Other plants called anemophilous disperse their pollen with the help of the wind. It is the wind-pollinated plants that usually cause allergies. The flowers of these plants tend to be small and the pollen very lightweight.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Best starling and blackbird resistant suet feeders

Do you have those big cages to go around the suet to keep the blackbirds away? ~ East Lansing

Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing has a caged squirrel/blackbird proof suet feeder that limits the access to only small birds and birds that can feed upside down like woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice. The 1 inch-diameter cage keeps out squirrels and blackbirds. Springs hold the top down so squirrels can't lift it open while the smaller woodpeckers, as well as chickadees and nuthatches, can easily fit through the mesh to dine on the suet inside. It holds up to three suet cakes.

There is also the upside down suet feeder that deters starlings and blackbirds because they cannot hang upside down. The feeder is designed to allow birds to feed from below, a comfortable practice for woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and other clinging birds but difficult for starlings. Not only will it help you control your starling population, but it's also easy to refill, clean and hang.

Or we have a chain called the Starling Stumper that you can attach to your existing suet feeder. This is a quick fix to keep the voracious birds from eating all your suet! Leave the plastic container on the suet and place it in the cage. Attach the three 6" chains to the cage so only birds that can cling to the base of the cage can feed.

Thank you. I knew if I asked the right question you could solve my problem. Wild Birds Unlimited thinks of everything.

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Creative way to recycle eggshells

Cornell Lab of Ornithology and other scientists believe that pollution depletes calcium carbonate in the environment which results in a reduced population of some songbirds.

Eggshells are about 95% calcium carbonate. You can give birds additional natural calcium, especially in the spring when females need it to produce their own eggs, by mixing eggshells with your seed.

Rinse the eggshells and put them in a bag in the freezer. When you have a lot stored up, spread them out on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes at 250 degrees to make them safe for bird consumption. Have fun smashing the shells into pieces and scatter on a platform feeder or mix with your seed.

Putting eggshells on the menu may even attract species that don’t usually come to seed feeders, like orioles, gnatcatchers, and some species of wood warblers.

And for gardeners, eggshells around the base of plants deters snails and slugs from crossing the sharp eggshells barrier to reach your plants. It also boosts the nutrients in the soil and can be mixed together with dried coffee grounds, which provides a high content of nitrogen, to keep your plants healthy.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bird of the Week: The Peep

Peeps just born
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Peeps typically make their appearance in the springtime, with numbers peaking at the end of March.

Despite their distribution and social nature, little is known about their migratory paths, wintering, and breeding areas.

Peeps are recognized easily by their neon coloring. In mid-Michigan it is common to locate peeps in suburban backyards hidden within colorful eggs in nests of brightly-colored plastic grasses.

Scientists recognize only the familiar “yellow” form of peep; and there is currently debate in the ornithological community for granting separate species status to the blue, teal, pink, and purple forms of Peep, currently considered color morphs.

Their main predators are sticky fingered little children and quick sniffing dogs. However their population is in the millions and therefore they are not a species of conservation concern.

Enjoy this popular harbinger of spring!

Original story from:  http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/botw/peeps.html

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Saturday, April 7, 2012

How birds color their eggs naturally

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

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

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

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

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

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