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.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Photo Share: Gray bird with a black bill and yellow belly

The Eastern Phoebe’s song is one of the first indications that spring is returning. They are among the first migrants to return to their breeding grounds, sometimes as early as March.

Phoebes rarely occur in groups, and even mated pairs spend little time together. Males sing their two-parted, raspy "fee-bee” song throughout the spring and defend their territory aggressively from others Eastern Phoebes, but tolerate different bird species.

Once limited to nesting on natural cliffs or river banks, this adaptive bird has over the years found success in building mud nests on protected nooks on bridges, barns, and houses.

They are a medium-sized flycatcher, with a dark grayish-brown head and back, and pale yellow to buff belly. Their most distinctive behavior is the "tail-wag". When landing on a perch, Eastern Phoebes sweep their tail widely up and down and then side to side as they look out for flying insects.

The Eastern Phoebe consumes mostly flying insects like wasps, ants, flies, midges, and cicadas. Flycatching is their main method of obtaining food, usually done from a perch less than 30 feet off the ground. They have also been observed eating fruit when insects are unavailable.

After they complete one to two broods they migrate back south in September–November, finding wintering habitat in the central latitudes of the United States south to Mexico.

Thank you Holly for sharing your photo! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com
 
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Saturday, June 29, 2013

There are two oriole species found in Michigan

I was telling my neighbor about my struggle to attract orioles. He says he has several species of orioles visiting his Wild Birds Unlimited feeders. How many species are there in Michigan? ~ St. Johns, MI

There are 9 oriole species in North America. The Baltimore Oriole and the Orchard Oriole are the 2 species that nest in Michigan as well as the Eastern half of the U.S. The Bullock's Oriole and the Scott's Oriole are found in the Western Regions. The Spot-breasted Oriole is found in Central Florida. And the Altamira Oriole, Audubon's Oriole, Hooded Oriole and the Streak-backed Oriole are mainly found in Mexico and some southwestern states.

The Baltimore Orioles have adapted well to human settlement and often feed at nectar/jelly/fruit/mealworm/suet feeders. The Orchard Oriole also may come to eat at our backyard feeders but are not as common. One study found they ate 91% insects and 9% plant materials during the breeding season.

The confusion on the number of species of orioles in Michigan may be because their physical description can vary depending on whether you see a breeding or non-breeding male, female, young, or 1st year oriole.

Adult Baltimore Oriole males have a bright orange body and a solid black hood and back. Their wings are black with white wing bars, and the tail is orange with black streaks. Adult females are paler than males and can range in color from yellow to orange with a brown tweed to blackish head, back and wings. Juveniles are yellowish-brown with dark brown wings that have a white wing bar. And immature Baltimore Orioles are variable. Typically they resemble the female until they grow their adult plumage after they are a year old.

Breeding Orchard Oriole males have dark orange or brick red bodies and a black hood, back and wings. The wings also have chestnut epaulets and a white wing bar and tips. In the fall the non-breeding male grows chestnut-tipped feathers which may obscure the black coloration.

Breeding Orchard Oriole females are bright greenish yellow below, olive-green above with brownish wings that have two narrow white wingbars. Non- breeding females are duller in color.

Juvenile Orchard Orioles of both sexes are similar in appearance to adult females, but they are browner above and more yellow below

Second year males are similar to adult females, but have a solid black bib and black between the eye and bill. How much black adult plumage varies considerably between individuals, with some males of this age having blacker feathering than others. 

Related Articles: 
- Facts on the Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GzSTbi
- Where do orioles winter? http://bit.ly/GAeWv5
- Close-up of Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GAf6T7
- When can I expect my orioles to arrive? http://goo.gl/OHrCc

Friday, June 28, 2013

Photo Share: Eastern Bluebirds feeding mealworms


Stopping at the local hangout
Picking up dinner for the family
.
.
.

Hi Sarah,
This will be the last baby bluebird photo. Our monitoring is done for this batch so we don’t have a early fledgling:) They allowed me to sit and take their pictures. Please use or don’t use whatever you like. I just love to share what we are so blessed to see and catch on camera!
Holly




Fat and happy
Love 'em! Thank you so much for sharing.
I notice Bluebirds and Robins are pretty good at worm wrangling.

However when I watch my oriole, it seems he just doesn't have the knack to take more than one home at a time.
Sarah

If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com and I'll put it on the Friday Photo posts.   

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wild Birds Unlimited has lots of Gifts Made in the USA

Almost everything in Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, Michigan is Made in America. We are a little business and we support other little businesses. Most of our products are from small companies that don’t sell to big box stores:

1) Tube Feeders, Hummingbird Feeders, WindowFeeders - Aspects, Inc. out of Rhode Island is our main supplier of tube, window and hummingbird feeders. Their philosophy is to make the best feeders possible in their USA facility and stand confidently behind it with a Lifetime Guarantee. I consider both their products and customer service to be excellent! I have several of their feeders and have sold thousands more to satisfied customers.

2) Hoppers, Houses, Suet Feeders – Birds Choice out of Chilton, Wisconsin have reused and saved over 6 million plastic jugs from going into the landfills by manufacturing products from recycled materials. Quality materials, excellent workmanship, patented unique designs, and customer service are the core of all Birds Choice products made in Chilton, Wisconsin, U.S.A. by a team of conscientious employees. So if you buy a recycled hopper feeder with a lifetime guarantee, you are not only supporting an American worker but you’re also supporting the environment!

3) Squirrel Proof Feeders – Droll Yankees was started in 1960 by Peter Kilham and his boyhood friend Alan Bemis. Peter cared about using quality materials, in innovative designs that birds loved and people found easy to use. Droll Yankees out of Plainfield, CT, strives continually to maintain those high standards of design and functionality, and are proud to be recognized as makers of “The World's Best Bird Feeders.” They make the popular Squirrel Proof Flippers, Whippers, and Dippers. They all work fabulously and come with a lifetime guarantee. The only complaint I receive from customers is that they buy them to watch the squirrel “flip” from them but the squirrels just leave them alone instead!

4) Houses – We have some really nice functional bird, bat, duck, owl, and squirrel houses made by Stovall Products. They are not only made in America but are actually Made in Michigan. Stovall products promote environmentally green practices by using hand sorted discarded cedar pieces. The shop is heated with scrap wood, cooled with natural shade, nestled in a glen of 25+ acres of beech/maple/oak forest in Michigan. Rumored staffing of woodland gnomes with a payroll of nuts and berries is still not verified.

5) Bird Baths - Allied Precision Industries, out of Elburn, IL are specialists in manufacturing quality heated bird baths and water wigglers. Their durable, plastic heated bird baths are made in the USA and provide a reliable source of water when natural sources are frozen, even to temperatures below -20° F. It mounts easily to deck railings or can be placed on our stands. It features a built-in 150 watt, fully grounded heater that is controlled thermostatically to conserve energy. When the temperature is cold enough to freeze water, the bath will turn on.

That is just a sampling of the products we carry. Come in any time and I can tell you where all our products are made and help you find appropriate gifts for anyone that appreciates nature.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Blue daisy like flower on the side of the road

Anyone traveling on the roadways in June is bound to see the sky-blue blossoms of chicory dancing in the wind. Common Chicory Cichorium intybus is also known as blue daisy, blue dandelion, blue sailors, blue weed, bunk, coffeeweed, cornflower, hendibeh, horseweed, ragged sailors, succory, wild bachelor's buttons, and wild endive.

Its cultivation in North America began in the 1700's and ended in about 1950 when it became more economical to import chicory. During that time, chicory escaped cultivation and spread throughout the United States.

Chicory was utilized as a medicine for a wide range of health conditions, adopted as a coffee substitute by Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War, used to make a yellow dye with the flowers and blue dye with the leaves and also as a food crop for people and livestock.

Most parts of the plant are edible. Chicory leaves, often found in salads, are also known as endive, frisée, escarole or radicchio. The chicory tap root can be roasted and brewed as a caffeine free coffee substitute, or it can also be boiled and eaten like a vegetable.
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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Starling and sparrow nesting together

I saw the most interesting thing yesterday. A starling parent was being harassed by 5 baby starlings and one baby sparrow for food. I watched closely as he fed one starling baby then another and another and finally the baby sparrow. What do you think about that? By the way I LOVE your posts! ~ Holly, Michigan
I watched something similar too. We have starlings and sparrows that are nesting in a window flower box. Both the European Starlings and House Sparrows are "secondary cavity nesters," birds that require natural or man made holes or crevices to nest. Both birds also breed close together, feed in flocks, are very gregarious and find it easy to coexist with people.

Incubation for the sparrow lasts for 10 to 14 days. After the eggs are hatched, both males and females feed the young through regurgitation for another couple weeks until they fledge. Incubation of the starling eggs lasts about eleven days and then the parents feed them only soft, animal foods until the young leave the nest after 21 to 23 days.

If the nests were close together and the babies fledged at the same time there may be a little confusion. Both the starlings and sparrows are omnivorous and can adapt to numerous kinds of food. The starling parent’s instincts might kick in at the sight of the small open mouth of the sparrow eliciting an inborn response to feed.

Thank you for sharing your interesting observation.

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Monday, June 24, 2013

How to identify baby Mourning Doves

I see a lot of mourning doves at my feeder. How do I tell which ones are the babies? ~ Mason, MI
juvenile Mourning Dove at East Lansing, MI Wild Birds Unlimited store
Mourning Doves can be found throughout most of North America and are considered among the top ten most abundant birds in the United States. While the average longevity for a typical adult is only about 1.5 years, the oldest known free-living Mourning Dove, as proven by bird banding research, was more than 31 years old. This is the longest life-span ever recorded for any terrestrial bird found in North America.

Male and female Mourning doves
Mourning Doves are a medium-sized with a grayish brown back, a buff underneath, black spots on the wings, and a black spot shaped like a comma below and behind the eye.

They have a small, thin black bill, red legs and dark brown eyes. Males are larger than females and show more color with a bluish cap, pink chest and neck feathers and three white outer tail feathers. The female is graced with an olive gray cap and a tan breast. Neck feathers can be greenish or pinkish with one or two white outer feathers.

Mourning Doves sit on their eggs for about 2 weeks, feed the babies in the nest for about 2 weeks and then care for their young for about a month after they've fledged. Both male and female mourning doves share in incubating and feeding their young.

Juvenile Mourning Doves look like the parents except for a little white at the end of each feather and a lack of iridescent feathers.
 
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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Very Full Moon! Largest full moon of 2013

What’s going on? The last couple days our cats at the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store have been acting like LUNATICS! One customer said it was the full moon.

On June 23, 2013, the moon is the closest and largest full moon of the year. The moon will not be so close again until August, 2014. At its fullest and closest, the moon will appear about 12 percent larger than usual in the sky.

"It doesn't matter where you are, the full moon you're seeing will be the biggest for 2013," Michelle Thaller, the assistant director of science at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said. "… That 12 percent size different can mean as much as a 30 percent change in the brightness, so this will be a particularly bright supermoon."

The moon will be rising from the east right around sunset, Thaller said. It will appear huge and low on the horizon before rising brightly into the sky for the night. Sunday should be ideal viewing.

You can also watch a live webcast of the supermoon on SPACE.com beginning on Sunday beginning at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 June 24 GMT) http://www.space.com/19195-night-sky-planets-asteroids-webcasts.html
 
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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Small gray bird with white belly at feeder

Are titmice year-round in Michigan? ~ East Lansing, MI

Male and female titmice look alike to the human eye. Their feathers are all gray on the back, and the belly is a lighter gray or white. On the sides of their belly is a little blush of chestnut feathers. They also have unforgettable big black eyes and a black bill which is accented with black feathers on the forehead. They can pop a gray tuft of feathers up on the top of their head when singing or posturing for position at the feeder.

The Tufted Titmouse is a year-round resident of Michigan and other eastern United States with mixed deciduous-coniferous forests. They eat a variety of bugs like caterpillars, beetles, wasps, ants, bees, treehoppers, and spiders. At the feeders they like sunflower seeds, nuts, suet and mealworms.

Tufted Titmice are monogamous, forming pairs that can last years. Once they've chosen a territory they stay and defend it year round. They look for natural cavities usually made by woodpeckers and sometimes bird houses to build their nests.

Daddy titmouse feeds the his female partner while she's incubating eggs and also the young when they hatch. Once the babies have grown, the juvenile titmice may remain with their parents on their natal territory during the winter months, forming a family flock. Or juveniles may leave the territory and join unrelated family units.

In early spring, most young disperse from their winter flocks, establish territories, find mates, and begin to breed. However some offspring  may remain even longer on their natal territories to help their parents raise their siblings. 

Related Articles:
- Is it “Titmice” or “Titmouses”? http://bit.ly/yImBcF
- Camouflaged Titmouse Fits Right In http://bit.ly/w0f2us
- Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://goo.gl/fMGaA
- Why is the Titmouse Tongue So Short? http://bit.ly/yds9Mm
- Tufted Titmouse fun facts http://bit.ly/AfIA7H

Friday, June 21, 2013

Photo Share: Rose-breasted Grosbeak male and female

Thank you for sharing the fabulous photos of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak male (top) and female (bottom) at the the seed cylinder feeder. If anyone would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com and I'll put it on the Friday Photo posts. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Treefrog in Bird House

hi, How do I discourage tree frogs from settling in my birdhouse?  Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Tree frogs are notorious for birdhouse squatting.
As their name implies, Gray Treefrogs spend much of their lives high off the ground, in the treetops. They are nocturnal amphibians that wake up to feed on moths, crickets and other assorted insects at night.

Tree frogs are 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, have large, sticky toe pads and can change color from gray, to green, or brown, so they can blend in with their environment.
After a hard night of hunting, the little frogs need to find a place to rest. When the sun rises some frogs hide among tree leaves, while others crawl  under bark or knotholes. If there aren’t any natural hideouts available, they can make use of hidey holes under siding, roofs, and even birdhouses.

Little is known about territoriality in frogs. I would just leave him alone and I’m sure he will move along. If you have frogs moving in several days in a row, open the clean out door in the house so it isn’t a dark and cozy place to sleep.

Related Article:
- The difference between Frog and Toad http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2009/06/frog-and-toad.html

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Help baby birds with window decals

Right now there are still young birds around learning the ropes and unfortunately, many times it's the inexperienced birds that fall victim to window strikes. Birds also strike windows as they quickly try to escape predators, hitting glass in a moment of panic. And during spring and fall migration, window strikes increase as birds unfamiliar with the area pass through.Window strikes are hard to totally eliminate, but there are ways to reduce them and/or reduce their severity:

1. Locate feeders and birdbaths within 1-2 feet of them so they can't gather enough speed to cause significant injury or about 20-30 feet from windows so birds have time to change direction. Window feeders also alert birds to a window.
2. Window screens will reduce injury even if a bird flies into it. Use them where practical.
3. Decals like Window Alert placed on the outside of windows have had the most positive feedback from customers. Each decal contains a component which brilliantly reflects ultraviolet sunlight. This ultraviolet light is invisible to humans, but glows like a stoplight for birds.

If you do have a window strike and the bird is injured CALL FOR ADVICE! The best course may be no interference. For a 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/

Monday, June 17, 2013

When will the birds be done nesting in my grill?

Hello, I have a few questions. We noticed a blackbird flying in and out of a hole in the back of the grill a couple weeks ago. When I opened the lid I found a nest and four blue eggs. My boys have been so excited to peek every morning. Now that the eggs have hatched is it still OK to peek at the birds? Should I prop open the gill a little so the babies can get out? This has been an excellent learning experience and my boys are as thrilled as I am to watch nature but my husband wants to know when he can have his grill back? Thanks!

The European Starling Sturnus vulgaris is found across the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Southern Canada to Northern Mexico. The usual nesting sites are holes and crevices in trees, buildings, rooftops, the occasional grill or bird houses.

Starling parent and juvenile
Adult starlings are about 8.5 inches and both male and female have similar iridescent black feathers. Males sport a bluish spot at the base of their beaks, while the female displays a reddish pink speck. Juvenile birds are very loud and have dull dark gray or brown feathers when they fledge. In the fall all the starlings will go through a molt and grow replacement black feathers with white tips which make them look like they are speckled with stars.

Breeding season generally begins in late March with nest building. It’s best to check a nest in the afternoon, since most females lay their eggs in the morning and are absent from the nests in the afternoon. A starling’s average clutch is 5 glossy light blue or white eggs. Incubation of these eggs lasts about eleven days with the female doing most of the nesting. During the first few days of incubation, observe the nest from a distance and approach when the female leaves the nest to feed.

Once hatched, the chicks are helpless. The parents feed them only soft bugs and suets and as they grow older the variety food grows wider. Both parents feed and care for the young. When young are close to fledging, resist the urge to peek. We don’t want the young to fledge prematurely. If you do see a bird has popped out too early, put him back. Birds don’t care if their baby smells like a human.

After 21 to 23 days the birds will leave the nest the same way the parents enter and exit. You do not need to prop open the grill. The parents will take their babies away from the nest and teach them to feed themselves over the next couple weeks.

They do not return to the nest once they have fledged so you can then clean out your grill for your backyard barbeques.

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Growing up to be just like dad

Most swans mate for life. Males are called cobs, females are called pens and young are called cygnets. Swans families stick together for about a year. The cygnets get adult plumage at about 15 months but can enter the water soon after hatching.

To achieve flight, swans face the wind, run along the surface of the water for 15 to 20 feet, flap their wings, and beat the water with their feet alternately until they have gained sufficient headway to launch into the air. During flight in v-shaped formations, swans achieve speeds up to 100 miles an hour with a tail wind.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Photo Share: Should you remove unhatched eggs from a nest?

Hi Sarah,
First baby bluebird
We wanted to share these pictures with you. Our two houses are both occupied with Bluebirds & Black Capped Chickadees. We got that little feeder at your store and its perfect. We take the mealworms out twice a day to feed them.

I read you can train them to come, so I whistle when I go out at breakfast and after supper. She comes out of her nest box as soon as she hears me whistle. He is always nearby as soon as the mealworms are down. It’s so amazing to see!

Tonight we went out a third time to get you the picture on the feeder. She didn’t come out of her box. We are wondering about the bluebird eggs though. The first one hatched on the 8th. Shouldn’t the others have hatched by now? I read usually within 24 hours latest 72 hours. I will check again tomorrow at the dinner feeding.

Do you know if they will remove the other two eggs if they are not fertile? The Chickadee is harder to look at she is always on the nest we have been surprised twice by her so we are leery to keep checking. If you have any input or suggestions on these eggs, please let us know.

I have more pictures I’ll send another time I never have enough hours out in the summer:) Holly

Thank you for the photos!

One of the best resources I’ve found for information on bluebirds is http://www.sialis.org


NEVER REMOVE UNHATCHED EGGS FROM A NEST UNLESS YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY 150% SURE THE NEST IS ABANDONED, OR ALL OTHER EGGS HATCHED OVER THREE DAYS EARLIER.

In Eastern bluebird nests, about 17% of eggs do not hatch. Sometimes you don't know an egg didn't hatch because the parent removes it.

Reasons can include the following:
Two baby black caps

  • Not enough time has passed.
    • Most birds lay one egg a day. They don't start incubating the eggs until they lay the last egg. This helps ensure the eggs all hatch together. So just because you don't see adults around doesn't mean the nest is abandoned.
    • Depending on when incubation begins, eggs in the same nest can hatch a day or several days apart.
    • It could be a new egg from a previous nest
  • The eggs were not fertile (because one or both of the parents was infertile.) Note: when bluebirds realize the eggs are not viable, they may build a new nest on top of the other eggs, remove them, or bury them in the original nest material and lay more eggs. The parents may have a series of unsuccessful broods where no eggs hatch (unless one or more eggs were fertilized by a different male due to an extra-pair mating.)
  • The eggs got too hot or too cold.
  • Pesticide/chemical exposure?
  • Defective embryo (e.g., malformed due to temperatures, etc.)
  • The eggs were addled (possibly rolled around too briskly when the female was startled, or suffered other trauma).
  • The eggshell broke
  • The egg belonged to a different species (e.g., a cowbird egg.)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Drive Careful- Baby birds are on the street

Slow – Children at Play

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

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

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

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

It seems crazy that that a robin thinks he can outrun my car, but I slow down to give him a chance. In return I hope he controls the pesky bug population in my area.
 
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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A closer look at the fee-bee song of the chickadee

I woke up this morning to the beautiful whistled fee-bee song of the Black-capped Chickadee. Most people know that the chickadee sings Chicka-dee-dee-dee to communicate, not everyone realizes that they also sing a fee-bee song more often in the spring.

In the Wild Bird Guides: Black-capped Chickadee, Susan Smith writes the loud fee-bees actually involve three notes. The first (fee) is high, the second (bee) is low, and the third is slightly higher in pitch than the second, like they are singing hey sweetie.

These fee-bee songs in the morning are used by the males to attract a mate or once they have a mate, establish nesting territories. There is also a quieter fee-bee that the males use when talking to their mates. When a male approaches his nest he alerts his female with a faint fee-bee and both male and females use the little fee-bee song to tell their nestling that they’re there and food is coming.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

How to get rid of weeds under the bird feeder without using poisons

My husband wants to spray weed killer under the bird feeder and I want to know if that will hurt the birds.

I do not recommend using any poisons near bird feeders. Robins, cardinals and other ground feeding birds are particularly vulnerable to poisoning. According to the (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center, many birds die each year from landscape weed killers and pesticides.

How to get rid of weeds under the feeder without using poisons:

Good groundcover:
Deadnettle, Lamium maculatum

1. Maintain the area regularly
Rake up the area and cover with mulch or stones
2. Use vinegar as a natural weed killer
Spray the weeds' leaves with household vinegar. Plants sprayed with vinegar will begin to die a couple days after the application, when the sun hits the leaves. Reapply as needed.
3. Plant a ground cover plant
I have lots of good groundcover plants that choke any weed from seeing the light.

How to prevent weeds from growing under the bird feeder:
1. Read the ingredients on the bird seed bag
The number one reason you will have weeds on the ground is because the birds are kicking the seeds that they don’t prefer on the ground and they grow. 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. Each of our blends is 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 but aren't eaten by the birds in Michigan. Therefore, there is no wasted seed.
2. Discover the No-Mess seed blend benefits
At the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store, customers’ and birds’ preference by far is WBU No-Mess Blend. Our unique No-Mess Blend features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. No shells on the seeds means no shells on the ground and the seed won’t sprout either.
3. Feed good suet
Not all suets are created equal. The first ingredient should always be rendered beef suet. Some people feed straight suet only. If you want to offer more protein 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 the suet.
4. Tidy, long lasting food
Seed Cylinders are also a high-fat, quick-energy food source that is specially-designed to meet your birds' hearty appetites. The Wild Birds Unlimited popular no muss, no fuss Spiral Seed Cylinder Feeder holds cylinders of tightly packed seed held together with gelatin so there is no seed spray. The whole block is completely edible. And depending on bird activity in your yard, a cylinder packed with energy rich pecans, peanuts and sunflower seeds can last weeks.
5. Nyjer® (Thistle) does not grow Canada Thistle
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. It's sometimes confused with the purple, prickly, Canada thistle but Nyjer isn't related to that weed at all. The scientific name for the Nyjer plant is Guizotia abyssinica. Its bloom has yellow, daisy-like flowers, and before it is shipped into the country the Nyjer seed has been heat treated to prevent the growth of any noxious seeds.

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

I’m in love with my Hairy Woodpecker

I’m so glad I feed suet year-round. I always have the Downy Woodpecker around. They are the smallest woodpeckers in Michigan, very friendly when I’m out filling feeders and their bumbling babies are adorable when the parents bring them up to the feeders in late spring.

This is the first year I’ve had a regular Hairy Woodpecker. They look almost identical to their cousin, the Downy, except for their gigantic size. My Hairy is about 10 inches long and has a wingspan of about 15 inches. The Downy’s name refers to the fluffy white feathers on the lower back, which differ from the more larger, hairlike feathers down the Hairy Woodpecker’s back.

Hairy Woodpeckers have black and white streaked wings and white on the chest, belly, back and outer tail feathers. On the male, there is a red patch on the back of the head, black crown, and black eye mask. The female lacks the red patch and the young birds may have red on their forehead instead of the back of the head.

Males advertise for a mate by drumming their bill on trees or anything that will make a good sound. Once the pair-bond is formed, both male and female drum. Next comes the excavation of a nest in a dead tree limb or tree trunk 10 to 200 ft off the ground. Hairy Woodpeckers only nest once a year. They lay two to five white eggs, which both parents take turns incubating for 14 days before they hatch and feed the babies for another month in the nest.

The majority of their diet is insects, especially hairy caterpillars and gypsy moths. Other insects include ants, grasshoppers, beetles, grubs, crickets, flies and spiders. They will also eat nuts, seeds, and some fruits and right now he is attacking my suet feeder.

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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Beginning Bird Watching

History shows humans have long been fascinated with birds. There are nearly 10,000 known species that now inhabit the earth and can be seen anywhere in the world including your own backyard.

What is Bird Watching?
Bird watching begins simply by observing birds. Gradually you can begin learning their names, identifying their markings, observing their activities, songs, behavior, and habitats.

Why bird watch?
Birds can be an indication of overall environmental health. If you’re interested in the environment, paying attention to birds can give you insight into many aspects of nature. Also, with our busy lifestyles, we often forget to slow down and enjoy the surroundings. Bird watching gives you the chance to escape and relax.

How do I start?
To invite more birds to your yard you can set up a birdfeeder, birdbath, or birdhouse. I especially like my window feeders so I can really see the birds up close! Wild Birds Unlimited has several styles. I fill it with our No-mess blend so of course there will be no mess below the feeder.

This may be as far as you want to go in bird watching. Or as the birds become more familiar to you at the feeder you can look up their names in a book or field guide, investigate using binoculars, join the local Audubon Society, or open up your own Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop. There are no set rules to bird watching.

Michigan has over 400 species of birds. A few of the most common birds seen at a seed feeder in mid-Michigan are the Cardinal, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, House Sparrow, House Finch, American Goldfinch, European Starling, White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, and Mourning Dove.

Bird watching is a wonderful hobby for people of all ages. It can be enjoyed almost anywhere at any moment of the day. All in all, bird watching is relaxing, fun, and educational. If you have any specific questions I can answer them in the blog or you can come into our Wild Birds Unlimited shops for more ideas or help.
 
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Friday, June 7, 2013

Photo Share: Great Blue Heron

This photo is of a Great Blue Heron in Grand Blanc, MI right outside my window by Swartz Creek. ~ Mary 

Thank you for sharing your beautiful photo! If anyone would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com and I'll put it on the Friday Photo posts. 

The Great Blue Heron, a majestic sight with its subtle blue-gray plumage, often stands motionless as it scans for prey or wades belly deep with long, deliberate steps. They may move slowly, but Great Blue Herons can strike like lightning to grab a fish.

In flight, you can identify a Great Blue Heron because they curl their neck into a tight “S” shape while cranes and geese fly with their neck straight.