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.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wild Birds Unlimited has the Best Bird Food in Town!

Cardinals and Goldfinches love no-mess!
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. I love it in my window feeder too!

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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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dobsonfly: Large brown bark-colored bug with huge pinchers

The Dobsonfly is attracted to lights at night so it’s not unusual to see an adult in front of the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store from May until August. The first one I saw was at least a couple inches long with long scary looking pinchers coming out his mouth. Yesterday I took a photo of this female after I moved her from the front door to a nearby tree.

The dobsonfly spends two to three years of its life as a predaceous larva called hellgrammite in streams and rivers. When Hellgrammites get full-sized, they crawl from the water and find a safe spot to overwinter in a coccoon. The following summer, the adult Eastern Dobsonfly will emerge only to mate. They live just a few days and don’t eat.

The adult males have huge, ferocious looking jaws, which are used for nothing else but clasping the female during courtship. The adult females have much smaller looking mandibles. After the adult dobsonflies mate, the female lays eggs on a branch or on rocks near a stream. Between 100 and 1,000 eggs are laid in a mass with a white substance over it. The eggs resemble bird droppings, which may protect them from predators.

Hellgrammites, after they hatch, will either fall into the stream from an overhanging branch, or crawl to the water and the process starts all over again. There are over 220 species of dobsonflies found throughout the Americas and Asia, as well as South Africa. They are sensitive to contaminates in the water and a good indicator that the water is clean.

Sources: 
2. Insects of the North Woods by Jeffrey Hahn

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Big, noisy, brown birds in spring

What are those big, loud, gray or brown birds at the feeder? ~ East Lansing, MI
Adult and baby starling
A lot of baby birds fledge from the nest in camouflage colors of dark grays or browns. Then usually after a few weeks their adult plumage develops.

In the spring you’ll probably hear baby starlings before you see them. European Starling parents look a little confused by the large babies they’ve hatched. The babies follow parent starlings around with wide open mouths and loud demands for food.

Their babies almost look like a different species. They have fluffy dark gray feathers that can make them appear larger than their sleek black parents. I like to watch them bumble about the yard picking up things like sticks in the grass to test to see if its food before they spot a parent and run after them. The flight of the babies is pretty good but their landings sometimes need a little practice.
A juvenile European Starling (also known as Co...Image via Wikipedia
Juvenile European Starling

Soon they’ll start to grow a black and white spotted vest. Then eventually their whole body will be covered by iridescent black feathers with white tips before winter. The white tips give the bird a spotted look or the appearance of “stars” covering their body, hence the name starling.

Adult starling males and females mature to a length of about 8.5 inches and weigh about 3 ounces. 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.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Patriotic Red, White and Bluebird

Male Eastern Bluebird Photo by William H. Majoros

Female Eastern Bluebird
A North American bird attracted readily to birdhouses in Michigan if they are in the right habitat which includes open fields and meadow edges is the Eastern Bluebird. This stunning bird has a bright rusty red chest, white belly and sky blue back that makes it look very patriotic.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Black and white bird walking upside down on a tree trunk

White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis

Description:
Large nuthatch with blue-gray upperparts, black crown and nape, and white face and underparts. Tail is dark with white corners. Female is grayer.

General:
The White-breasted Nuthatch is a common bird of deciduous forests and wooded urban areas. Known as the “upside down” bird, it is often observed creeping headfirst down tree trunks while searching cracks and crevices for insect food. The name Nuthatch probably results from the corruption of the word “nuthack” which refers to its habit of hacking away at a seed with its beak until it opens. At backyard feeders you may see them eating suet, nuts, or sunflower seeds.

Behavior:
Nuthatches are monogamous and defend a territory throughout the year. The female White-breasted Nuthatch rarely strays far from her mate and stays in constant vocal contact when they are more than a few yards apart playing the dominate role as “watchdog”, leaving the male more time to concentrate on hunting for food. They are feisty birds, and pairs generally defend a territory of 10 to 30 acres. They feast on seeds and insects found in trees, and many times will hide seeds from feeders in tree bark for a snack later in the day or breakfast the next morning.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

What’s the best bee-proof hummingbird feeder?

Hello, I've been having a problem with honeybees taking over my hummingbird feeders over the past week. Fortunately, none of my feeders are leaking. Do you have any tips you can share that would allow me to convince the bees to move on to the flowers in my garden, and to help my hummingbirds gain access to their feeders again?

The only sure defense against bees and wasps is to deny them any access to the nectar. Before I switched all my hummingbird feeders to the bee free Wild Birds Unlimited  saucer style feeders I occasionally had a bee problem too.

Originally all my hummingbird feeders were beautiful blown glass feeders. They looked wonderful in the garden but mainly fed the bees. After we opened the Wild Birds Unlimited stores I did a little more research.

I discovered bees don't like the smell of cherries. If you swab the ports with real almond or cherry extract (purchased at any grocery store baking isle), the bees will avoid the feeder. This really works but it wears off fast and you have to reapply the extract every day.

I gave up eventually and replaced all my hummingbird feeders with the problem free Wild Birds Unlimited saucer style feeders. I’ve talked about them before. They have a built in ant moat and bees don't like it because the nectar is down low. There are also optional bee guards you can attach to allow only hummers and no bugs access. Click HERE to read that article.

If you choose not to try a new feeder or swab the ports with real cherry extract, there are a couple other tricks to try.
  1. The Wild Birds Unlimited store in North Carolina recommends: “Use a super-concentrated sugar water mix (two parts water, one part sugar), and pour it into a shallow plate, preferably a big yellow one (bees seem to be attracted to that color). Put the plate on a ladder or stool near the hummingbird feeder the bees are using and they will probably move over to the plate. Each day, move the plate a foot or two further away from the hummingbird feeder and eventually the bees should stop using the feeder.”

  2. Hummingbirds.net recommends: “If you choose not to try a new feeder and wasps persist, first try moving the feeder, even just a few feet; insects are not very smart, and will assume the food source is gone forever. They may never find it in its new location, while the hummers will barely notice that it was moved. If that doesn't work, take the feeder down for a day or until you stop seeing wasps looking for it. You'll see hummers looking for it, too, but they won't give up nearly as soon as the wasps. Also, reducing the sugar concentration to 1 part sugar in 5 parts water will make it less attractive to insects, but probably won't make the hummingbirds lose interest.”
I hope that helps.

Hi Sarah, Wow, thank you for that valuable information-and for the speedy reply. I put one of my feeders back up this morning, after 48 hours of being inside. Hopefully the bees will have forgotten all about them. If not, I'll be looking for cherry extract on my next trip to the grocery store.

My next feeder purchase will surely be your saucer feeder! Have a great weekend!


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Friday, May 25, 2012

Photo Share: Wood Thrush

The Wood Thrush is a shy, brown bird with a speckled breast that you are most likely to see running around your yard during spring and fall migration.
Photo by Steve Maslowski
Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology website AllAboutBirds.org writes, “The Wood Thrush is a consummate songster and it can sing “internal duets” with itself. In the final trilling phrase of its three-part song, it sings pairs of notes simultaneously, one in each branch of its y-shaped syrinx, or voicebox. The two parts harmonize with each other to produce a haunting, ventriloquial sound.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bird Day and Be a Tourist in Your Own Town information

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town - June 2, 2012

Eighteen years ago, the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau created this event to increase community awareness of our attractions and the tourism industry's impact on the area. So once again we open the doors for you to explore what's in your own backyard, right here in Mid-Michigan.

Take this opportunity to enjoy attractions that highlight both Lansing’s unique history as well as its innovative and progressive future. This year visit old favorites such as Impression 5 Science Center, Potter Park Zoo and the Fenner Nature Center, and added new hot spots like the FRAG Center, MSU’s Breslin Center, WKAR Studios and taste the new “Capital City Sundae” ice cream flavor at the MSU Dairy Store.

How it Works: For only $1 you can purchase a “passport” which allows you FREE admission to more than 60 area attractions, local businesses, and special activities on May 30, 2009 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. **Ages 3 and under do not require a passport.

Get from place to place with CATA. For only 50 cents you will receive a stamp which will allow you to ride the Be A Tourist routes for the rest of the day for no extra charge.

Fenner Nature Center • 2020 E. Mt. Hope, Lansing • (517) 483-4224
Start the day with a free bird hike (8am), and then explore our 134 acres and 4 miles of trails!

Potter Park Zoo •1301 S. Pennsylvania Ave., Lansing • (517) 342-2714 • 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. This four-season zoo is home to over 400 wonders of wildlife. Hands-on family activities will be going on throughout the zoo including face painting, games, educational programs, baby birds hatching, and live birds of prey 10 am- 5 pm.

For more information go to:  http://www.lansing.org/events/batyot/

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A closer look at the woodpeckers in Michigan

There are eight woodpeckers found in Michigan.

1. Downy Woodpecker - At about 6 inches, it’s smallest woodpecker in North America and the most frequent visitor to backyard feeders year-round. They have a white belly and back and their black wings have white bars. The males have a red patch on the back of the head. It’s called downy because of the soft feathers on its back.
2. Red-headed Woodpecker – These woodpeckers have an unmistakable bright red head, black wings and white belly. They spend the summers in all of Michigan but aren’t as common at birdfeeders.
3. Red-bellied Woodpecker - They are common throughout most of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula year-round. People often call the Red-bellied woodpecker by a list of common misnomers like red-headed or ladder-back woodpecker because of their gleaming red caps and striking black and white barred backs. Since virtually all woodpeckers are black and white with patches of bright colors on various parts of their bodies, the Red-bellied was named for the unique pinkish tinge on the belly, common to both genders.
4. Hairy Woodpecker – At about 9 inches, these medium woodpeckers look like their smaller downy woodpecker cousins. They aren’t as common at suburban birdfeeders.
5. Pileated Woodpecker – Male and female Pileated Woodpeckers both have a flaming red crest but the males have a red “moustache”. There is no real consensus on whether this bird’s name is pronounced “pie-lee-ated” or “pill-ee-ated”.
6. Northern Flicker – Unlike most woodpeckers, this species spends much of its time on the ground, feeding mostly on ants. Both the male and females have a red chevron on the back of their heads, black bibs, speckled chest, and a brown, barred back and wings. The males have a black “mustache”.
7. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sapsuckers don’t actually suck sap- they lap it up with a tongue that resembles a paintbrush. According to AllAboutBirds.com, “The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker in eastern North America that is completely migratory. Although a few individuals remain throughout much of the winter in the southern part of the breeding range, most head farther south, going as far south as Panama. Females tend to migrate farther south than do males.”
8. Black-backed Woodpecker – I’ve never seen this bird. It is a year-round resident of northern Michigan and the U.P. According to Ted Black in his Birds of Michigan field guide, the blacked-backed are reclusive birds that are most active in recently burned forest patches where wood-boring beetles thrive under charred bark.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Can I store suet in the freezer?

Did I read somewhere that birds can’t eat suet if it freezes? ~ East Lansing, MI

Learning about birds is so much fun. This blog was set up to answer any questions you have on bird feeding and to share stories and photos. Feel free to e-mail me or come in to any Wild Birds Unlimited stores with your questions on feeding the birds.

You don't have to worry about frozen suet. In fact we recommend freezing suet to keep it fresh and make it easier to remove from the package.

Woodpeckers are some of the toughest birds in the backyard. As their name suggests, they frequently peck on the wood of trees to look for or hide tasty treats, and to build nests. In addition to drilling holes, woodpeckers will knock their heads on anything that will make a noise to send sound signals. Frozen suet wouldn’t be any challenge at all.

They can strike a tree at speeds up to 15 mph, which is enough force to create brain damage in most other birds, and certainly in our human brain. However, due to a number of adaptations, woodpeckers thrive on this heavy hitting.

First the woodpeckers' skulls are incredibly strong, yet lightweight, due to a reinforcing meshwork of bony support struts. Their brains also sit snugly in the skull with very little cerebrospinal fluid meaning the brain won't bang around as the head moves back and forth.

Second the dense muscles in their neck and mouth contract just before impact, which transmits the impact past the brain and allows its whole body to help absorb the shock.

Clipart courtesy FCIT http://etc.usf.edu/clipart
Third the tongue starts out on top of the mouth, passes through the right nostril, between the eyes, divides in two, arches over the top of the skull and around the back part of the skull passing on either side of the neck, coming forward through the lower mouth, and uniting into a single tongue with sticky barbs on the end which can extend up to 4" from the beak. The tongue is also thought to act as an additional buffer to the brain.

Fourth there are special cells at the tip of the bill that constantly replace the lost material, keeping the bill strong and sharp.

Fifth they close an inner eyelid a millisecond before a strike comes across the bill to prevent harm from flying debris and hold the eyeball in place.

Sixth is the adaptation in their feet. They have two toes that point forward and two that point backward that allow them to cling to tree trunks. Other backyard birds have three toes forward and one in back.

Seventh the woodpeckers’ pointed tail feathers are also especially strong and rigid, and their tail bones, lower vertebrae and the tail’s supporting muscles are very large in comparison to other birds. These modifications allow a woodpecker's tail to serve as a sturdy prop that supports its weight while clinging to trees. Some Wild Birds Unlimited Suet feeders have tail props to make it more comfortable for the birds to feed.

So go ahead and fill the suet feeder and then watch these adaptations in action. Woodpeckers are attracted to suet as well as nuts. Simply offer these foods and you can get up close and personal to some of the toughest guys in the neighborhood.

Thanks, keep the questions coming.
 
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Monday, May 21, 2012

What is the smallest North American songbird?

Common Raven, resident in very small numbers.
Common Raven image via Wikipedia
Songbirds or perching birds are called passerines. A passerine is a bird of the order Passeriformes, which contains the most species of birds of the twenty-seven orders of birds on Earth. They represent about 45% of the bird species in Michigan, and nearly three-fifths of all living birds worldwide.

The largest passerine is the Common Raven which can weigh as much as 3 pounds. They can be found across the northern hemisphere. When you hear the variety of noises, such as caws, croaks, and gurgles that the raven produces may not think of it as a songbird, but their wide range of vocalizations for communication is impressive.
 

Verdin Auriparus_flaviceps. Location: Scottsda...
Verdin image via Wikipedia
The smallest North American passerine is the Verdin, a tiny, active songbird of the arid southwestern United States and northern Mexico, which weighs 0.2 oz.

Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world but they are nonpasserines. According to the Birds of Michigan Field Guide by Ted Black nonpasserines are birds that in general have calls instead of songs and can be very large like waterfowl, raptors, gulls, shorebirds and woodpeckers. Some of the smaller nonpasserines are doves, swifts and hummingbirds.


Bee Hummingbird
image via farm1.static.flickr.com
At 2.8–3.5 inches long and weighing 0.1–0.2 oz the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubris is the smallest bird that nests in Michigan.

At 3 inches long and weighing 0.1 oz, the Calliope Hummingbird Stellula calliope is North America's smallest bird. It nests in mountain areas of the northwestern United States and winters in Mexico.

And the Bee Hummingbird Mellisuga helenae which lives in Cuba and Isla de la Juventud is the smallest living bird in the world at length of 2 inches and a weight of 0.063 oz

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bright red bird with black wings

Scarlet Tanager Piranga olivacea
Scarlet Tanager Male

Description: Breeding male is bright red with black wings and tail and a pale bill. Fall male is patchy red and olive green with black wings. The female is olive green with brownish olive wings and tail edged in green.

General: There are over 200 tanagers species that come in every color of the rainbow. The Scarlet Tanager is the only tanager that nests routinely in Michigan. They are found mainly in mature deciduous forests with hemlock and pine. They can also be found in younger deciduous forests and sometimes in heavily wooded suburban areas from late April to late September. They winter in northern and western South America, in Panama and as far south as Bolivia.
Scarlet Tanager Female
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Behavior: The song of the Scarlet Tanager has been compared to that of a “robin with a sore throat.” They glean insects from the tree canopy and have been recorded eating over 2,000 gypsy moth caterpillars in an hour. They will also eat fruit and berries when seasonally available. A group of tanagers are collectively known as a "season" of tanagers.


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Saturday, May 19, 2012

How to clean hummingbird feeders

Mold is very bad in hummingbird feeders. Remember to change the nectar in your feeder every 2-4 days, regardless of whether the nectar has been used. In hot, humid weather you might even have to change the nectar every other day.

I find the more often I change the nectar the easier it is to maintain the feeder. You won't be battling any black mold and you'll have a lot more hummingbirds and orioles.

To clean the hard to reach places you can use a pipe cleaner or we have special little brushes for cleaning feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited.

Now that we are in the hot and humid weather, you should soak the hummingbird feeder for about 5 minutes in a Scoot, active enzyme cleaner once a week. Or use a one part vinegar to nine parts water solution to clean the feeders. Then rinse your feeders thoroughly.

Also make sure your nectar solution is the proper proportion.
 
Nectar (sugar water) recipe
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup water

Friday, May 18, 2012

Photo Share: Northern Cardinal nest with eggs


- Clutch Size: 2–5 eggs
- Number of Broods: 1-2 broods
- Egg Length: 0.9–1.1 in
- Incubation Period: 11–13 days
- Nestling Period: 7–13 days
- Egg Description: Speckled egg that can be cream colored to greenish blue.
- Bird at hatching: Naked except for sparse tufts of grayish down, eyes closed, clumsy.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Emergency Numbers: Who to call if you find a injured or abandoned wild animal

Please forward to your friends and print the article below for future reference:
Spring is a busy time for a lot of animals as new families are created. If you encounter young animals that look distressed, take a few minutes to assess the situation. Wild animals rarely abandon their young.
If you find a baby bird that is too young to fly, put it back in the nest if possible. The mother will appreciate the help.

However, if you find a baby bird that is old enough to fly, but isn't, chances are it is learning. If you look, you will see the mother nearby. Leave these older birds alone and let them learn to fly undisturbed.

If you're still not sure what to do with a baby bird or a bird that is injured, CALL FOR ADVICE! The best course may be no interference.

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

Original article from Wild Birds Unlimited  http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Black butterfly with orange lines and white spots

The Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) is a black butterfly with distinctive reddish-orange forewing band and white spots. They were named after the red chevrons on a naval uniform.

They are a seasonal colonist in Michigan. The population fluctuates considerably from year to year. This appears to be a good year. I've had lots of customers asking question about them.

Mature Red Admirals tend to feed on fermenting fruits, sap from trees and flower nectar. If you want to make your birdbath into a butterfly feeder you can soak a sponge in hummingbird nectar and place it in the bath.

In North America, the Red Admiral generally has two broods from March through October. They are considered to be people-friendly butterflies that will approach and perch on human beings.

Source: Butterflies of Michigan by Jaret C. Daniels

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Do birds find feeders by smell?

Birds are amazing creatures and can find new feeders several different ways just like humans find restaurants.

Everyone has a friend that likes to tell you about the new "hot spot". Some birds fly in flocks and may send out a scout bird to forage for new feeding sites.

Or if you see a line around the block for a restaurant, you may get in line yourself to check out the food. Some solitary birds see a lot of birds at a feeder and go see what all the fuss is about.

What if you see the "Golden Arches" on the way home from work? You know what's inside. Some birds already eat at the neighbor's house and may see your familiar feeders on the way home.

It may be a matter of hours before birds discover new feeders or a matter of weeks. The variation depends on habitat, number of nearby feeders, and the kinds of birds in the area. Chickadees, and House Sparrows are especially quick to locate new feeders. Also if you switch feeders the birds may be cautious to try that feeder. To encourage the birds to use new feeders tempt them with scattered seeds on the ground. 
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Monday, May 14, 2012

Is it too late to put up a bird house?

It's never too late or too early to put up nest boxes! Bluebirds and other cavity nesting birds typically begin nesting in March depending on where you live. But they usually have more than one brood per season and may switch to a new site for their second or third brood.
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Or if a birds' first nesting is unsuccessful, perhaps due to predators, they may appreciate a better nest box.
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So, you can put houses up year round. Some birds will even use nest boxes as roosting sites in the winter. 
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.

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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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Small dark gray and dark blue bird at the feeder

I saw a dark blue bird on the finch feeder this morning. Do you know what it was? ~ East Lansing

Male Indigo Bunting
Indigo Buntings are a dark gray or black bird about the size of a goldfinch. When the sun hits the male his feather structure refracts the sun to make him appear a brilliant indigo blue. In mid-Michigan, we often see them at the finch or sunflower bird feeders.

In the spring the buntings can travel thousands of miles from their southern wintering grounds to their breeding grounds at the top of Florida to the bottom of Canada and as far east as Maine and as far west as Nevada. They will stop in many yards on their journey looking to refuel. Migration takes place in April and May and then again in September and October.
Female Indigo Bunting
Indigos like a variety of food, including small seeds, nuts, berries, insects, mosquitoes, flies, aphids, small spiders, buds, goldenrod, thistle, grasses, and herbs. At my feeders they like the Nyger Thistle and the No-Mess blend which has the sunflower chips, peanuts, and millet without the hulls.

The only way to get them to stay the whole summer is if you live in an area where they like to breed. Indigo buntings nest in brushy and weedy habitats along the edges of farmland, woods, roads, and railways. According to Birds of Michigan by Ted Black, “Raspberry thickets are a favored nesting location for many of our Indigo Buntings. The dense, thorny stems provide the nestlings with protection from many predators, and the berries are a convenient source of food.”

So if you live near a woodlot or bike trails you may see the birds year round. Otherwise appreciate these beautiful birds while they visit in the spring and fall.

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Do turkeys eat ticks or carry ticks?

Hello, I would really appreciate some information regarding wild turkeys gobbling up ticks!!!!  I have heard two stories on the subject. One being that they do indulge in eating ticks, which is very helpful here on the Cape, the other is that they bring ticks to an area which we do not need!!!!  Could you please help settle this controversy for us???? Thank you for your time.... Cape Cod, Ma

It is believed widely that if you have a large turkey flock roaming your property regularly, there are probably fewer ticks than there would be otherwise. But Louis A. Magnarelli, the entomologist and director of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station says that “there are normal seasonal and annual variations in populations of ticks that are caused by many factors.'' He explained “In my opinion, it would be a stretch to say that turkeys are controlling ticks or are responsible for low populations of ticks.''

The Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) does have a taste for small, crawling things like ticks (especially young turkeys, who love the tiny, eight−legged vampires). They are superb foragers. Some biologists feel a turkey's eyesight may be three times better than ours, so finding ticks amongst the shrubbery is a piece of cake. It’s not unusual to see groups of 25 turkeys in the summer gobbling ticks as well as various seeds, berries, roots, grasses and other insects.

But does their foraging reduce the local density of adult ticks? Perhaps a little bit. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, turkeys eat up to 200 ticks per day. I don’t have turkeys in my yard but I do have lots of birds and I think it does help reduce the number of bugs in my area.

However, as you mentioned, turkeys can also be a host for ticks. But they are not a preferred host and it's not likely that wild turkeys in the area will lead to an increased abundance of the black-legged (deer) ticks, or increased risk of human Lyme disease.

Right now the general consensus in the scientific world is that wild turkeys are unlikely to host ticks, and that turkey foraging is unlikely to reduce the local density of ticks.

Sources:

Related Articles:
·         Wild Turkeys came close to extinction in the 1930s http://bit.ly/JzyxeM
·         Turkey Trivia: Fun Facts about the American bird http://bit.ly/J1AIpH
·         Will a turkey drown if he looks up in the rain? http://bit.ly/rWtgr5
·         Why is a Turkey Is Called a Turkey? http://bit.ly/uKNZe5
·         What do Turkeys Eat? http://bit.ly/uUiDsN

Thursday, May 10, 2012

HummZinger® HighView™ feeder allows hummingbirds to perch comfortably

What do you mean when you say high perch hummingbird feeder? ~ Lansing

Thank you for asking. For anyone that has a question about anything I talk about feel free to write in so I can clarify.

HighView™ perch also comes on the window design
When I talk about the high perch hummingbird feeder I'm talking about the new design of the HummZinger® HighView™ feeder. The perch is raised higher than the classic design to invite hummingbirds to stay longer. The raised perch allows hummingbirds to drink more comfortably from any of the four feeding ports while also offering you an unobstructed view of the birds. 

The bright red cover will attract hummingbirds' attention from a distance and is removed easily so the bowl can be cleaned quickly and thoroughly. 

When you look for a hummingbird feeder the first thing to look for is one that is easy to clean and easy to fill. The nectar needs to be changed at least once a week in the spring and probably twice a week during the summer when the weather warms. You don't want the nectar to spoil. 

When you fill the built-in ant moat in the center of the feeder with water it blocks crawling insects from reaching the nectar. The feeder also supports the patented Nectar-Guard® tips to prevent bees, wasps, and other flying insects from feeding at the ports. These two patented features combine to make the HummZinger® HighView™ one the most insect-proof hummingbird feeders on the market. 

Top features of the HummZinger® HighView™ feeder:
• 4 feeding ports with integrated raised flower design on cover to divert rain 
HighView™  wrap around perch invites hum'birds to rest comfortably
• Built-in ant moat in the center of feeder means no ants in the nectar
• Easy to fill and clean
• Drip and leak proof
• 12 oz. capacity
Polycarbonate construction backed with a Lifetime Guarantee
Manufactured in the USA to ensure continued quality

Related articles:
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/II4RQ4
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/H2U4P4
Hummingbird Information on Habitat and Habits http://bit.ly/H2Ua9s
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/H7xvp3
Fun Facts About Hummingbirds http://bit.ly/II5sBl
Photo Share: Strange visitor at the high-perch hummingbird feeder http://bit.ly/II7dyy

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why do the worms cross the sidewalk when it rains?

Why do worm come to the surface when it rains? ~ Lansing

Rain gives the worms freedom to move above ground. Perhaps, like people, worms think the grass is greener on the other side of the sidewalk. Since worms breathe threw their, skin the rain allows worms to move around on the surface without dehydrating.  

Most of the earthworms found in North America today did not exist prior to European settlement. They were imported mainly from Europe by early settlers. The worms or worm cocoons traveled in the rootstocks of plants brought by the settlers from their homelands. They were also released into the new world through soil that was used for ship ballast that was discarded after the voyage to the new world.

Worms are food for lots of animals like rodents, snakes, toads, and of course birds. They make up about 15%-20% of the summer diet for American Robins who hunt earthworms by cocking their head to one side, independently using each eye to look for visible signs of worms. Robins round out their diet with other insects, fruit, nuts, and berries.

Learn more about Earthworms at: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/worm/WormLife.html

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What to do with a bird house full of sticks

My bluebird box was just vacated by a bluebird family and now (just a couple of days later), it is filled with twigs by a wren. No soft material in it yet. So how long should I wait before clearing out these twigs so that bluebirds or some other birds, with more serious intentions, can move in? Thanks.

One reason wrens use dummy nests is to keep other birds from using a nest box. Bluebirds usually take a two week vacation between their first and second broods and this is when chickadees and wrens may move in to a vacated bird house.

A male House Wren may lay claim to a nesting cavity by filling it with more than 400 small twigs. If the female likes what she sees, she will then take over, making the soft nest cup with grass, inner bark, hair, and feathers. Wrens will usually lay 2 broods in the nesting season from May to July.

The male wren builds several starter nests and the female is the one that chooses which she prefers. The other nests may be used by the male to raise a second brood with another female or remain in place to discourage other male wrens from nesting in the same territory.

The stick-filled cavity of the wren nest provides "stilts" for the nest cup which allows rainwater to collect in the bottom of the nesting cavity without endangering the eggs or young.

You can remove the sticks a wren has put in the box if you think it’s not being used. However if you remove the sticks and he puts them back in the box just leave them there to allow the wren to nest or remove the sticks and leave the box wide open to deter any bird from nesting.

If the bluebird comes back to a house that a wren now feels is his, the wren could destroy any eggs or young of a bird trying to use "his" box.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

How to attract the best birds to your feeder

I’ve heard this question several times over the last few weeks. People want to know if we sell some magic seed to draw in the brightest colored birds.

Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess Blend is our best selling blend. You wouldn’t believe the number of birds our special mid-Michigan formula draws in for up-close viewing. For more info on our unique No-Mess Blend bird seed which features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left, click HERE.

Now along with these “colorful birds”, the duller colored female birds as well as the birds people love to hate, the blackbirds and starlings are also attracted to our best blend. So there really isn’t a seed just for the prettiest birds.

Wild Birds Unlimited also sells straight safflower seed. Safflower is a small, white seed that is high in protein and fat. The shape of the shell and the bitter taste makes this seed unattractive to starlings, blackbirds, and squirrels. It is not as popular as No-Mess but will attract popular backyard birds including Cardinals, Chickadees, Blue Jays, House Finches, Mourning Doves, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmice, and Nuthatches.

You can also feed Nyjer® (thistle) bird seed and attract mainly goldfinches or “yellow birds”. I love the happy, warm, song of the American Goldfinch and the huge flocks of finches that flutter down from the tops of trees as they take their turn at the feeder. But in our area Nyjer® generally attracts only the bright yellow male goldfinch and the duller olive green/brown female.

Whatever seed you choose we guarantee it will be fresh. If you are over by the Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing, MI Tuesday morning you can help me load in a couple tons of seed or I can help you carry it out to your car.

Keep your questions coming. If you’re wondering about something, chances are several other people are wondering too.

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