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.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What you should do if you have a bat in the house

Safely remove bats from your house and help them out where they belong

If they make their way into a house,
bats are often seen on drapes or curtains. Wade Tregaskis
Attics are the ultimate hang-out for bats because they provide the high temperatures and undisturbed environments that they need for resting, giving birth and rearing young. Baby bats are born in late spring and become mobile and interested in braving the great outdoors around the end of summer.

However young bats can sometimes take a wrong turn and end up flying into the living areas of your home. If this happens, first of all, don’t panic. Bats are basically harmless and they do not really want to be in your house. Contrary to popular belief, they will not fly at you and try to get in your hair.

If you open outside doors and windows and turn out the lights, the bat will find the way outside most of the time. If it has landed, you can put a box over the bat and slide a piece of cardboard underneath. Once contained, the bat can be released safely outside, but be sure to put the bat on a tree limb since they cannot fly from the ground up.
File:Bat in Eave.jpg
Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus)
in summer roost - the eaves of a house

Bats can enter attics through openings as small as a nickel and an experienced eye is best in determining their point of entrance. Call the professionals, who can install the appropriate exclusion material and one-way doors that let them out but not back in to your house. Once the house is secure you can put up a bat house outside to give the bats alternative roosting quarters.

Bats are extremely beneficial mammals, eating up to three times their body weight in insects each night. They are one of the few flying nighttime predators of mosquitoes and other insects. (One bat can eat 4,000 mosquitoes in one night!)

Source: What to Do About Bats

Related Articles:
- What Bats Live in Michigan? http://bit.ly/sQFMtq    
- Where do you hang a bat house? http://bit.ly/rRivKw
- Do Birds have Thumbs like Bats? http://bit.ly/tjpL2T
- When do bats hibernate? http://goo.gl/asXQGU

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How to get hummingbirds to a new feeder

The hummingbirds are always fighting over their feeder, so when I received another hummingbird feeder as a gift I was thrilled! But the birds are still fighting over the old feeder and avoiding the new feeder. ~ East Lansing, MI

Hummingbirds can be very feisty and aggressive when defending their food sources. Multiple feeders, spread throughout your yard is a great way to encourage more hummingbirds to visit and keep the peace in your yard.

But getting them to accept a new feeder can take time. Most birds will continue to hang out at their favorite restaurant even when a new one appears next door. To encourage the use of another feeder first switch the location of the old and new feeders. They may just be in a habit of going to that location. If that doesn’t work take down the old feeder until they use the new feeder, then put up both feeders again.

Hummingbirds find feeders by sight so hang the feeder where they will be able to see it as they fly over your yard. Also a new feeder may be found sooner if hung near a flower garden or hanging flower basket.

Hummingbirds feed from the flowers low on the ground and from high up in the tops of flowering trees or climbing vines. But if there are two feeders close together they will usually go to the feeder that is hanging higher and gives a better view.

Also make sure your nectar is fresh and the correct one part white sugar to four parts water solution. In hot weather you should clean your feeder at least twice a week even if there are no hummingbirds feeding. If a hummingbird comes by to check out your new feeder and finds it filled with spoiled food, they won’t return anytime soon.

In Michigan you can hang hummingbird feeders out from mid-April to the end of October. Migrating birds follow their own schedule, usually based on the weather. And these end of the summer months are the best viewing times as birds start their pre-migratory wandering.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Why mourning doves sun themselves

I was just watching the birds and saw a mourning dove spread out with one wing flat out on the ground. I was concerned but she flew away when I approached. Do you have any idea what it was doing? Could something be wrong? ~ Augusta, Michigan
Doves do use the broken wing tactic to draw predators away from a nest site but what you saw was probably a dove sunning itself. I’ve also seen this behavior a lot, especially in late summer but have never asked myself why. So I did a little research and found that scientists aren’t sure why some birds perform this common, widespread behavior.

Instinct to sunbathe even when already heat-stressed, supports the idea that it’s not always to warm the body. Like humans they probably enjoy a few rays but their main reasons for sunning must be to keep their feathers in top shape. Some ways birds maintain feather quality is through water, dust, and sun bathing.

Most birds have a preen gland or uropygial gland at the base of the tail. With their beak, birds realign the barbs correctly, remove any dirt or parasites and apply preen oil. If the bird sunbathes the oil is exposed to the ultraviolet light from the sun. Then the uropygial gland secretions convert to an active form of vitamin D which is ingested with the next preening. This may explain in part why some birds sunbathe.

However, doves don’t have the preen gland. Instead they grow powder down feathers that grow continuously and never molt. The barbs at the feather tips constantly disintegrate into a fine, talc-like, water-resistant powder. If you’ve ever seen a window strike by a dove, you may have seen a “ghost bird” on the glass. This is actually a tracing of the bird left on the glass by its powder down.
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In late summer doves are growing new outer feathers. Like ironing our clothes, the heat of the sun might help make it easier for doves to shape their new feathers. And along with easing discomfort associated with molting, the sun may also help dislodge parasites so the bird can preen them off more easily. 

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

What to do if you find a banded white pigeon


A release dove refers to a breed of

Rock Dove (domestic pigeon).
Two people came in at different times this week worried about a white pigeon hanging around a bird feeder. These all white pigeons were banded and friendly but not friendly enough to catch. Pigeons that are all white are used commonly for “Dove” releases. If you can approach them and gently pick them up to read there leg tag it might have a phone number to call and return the bird.

Or sometimes the pigeon’s owner can be traced through the National Pigeon Association’s (NPA) website at www.npausa.com; it has details on identifying owners. If the bird hangs around for more than 48 hours and refuses to leave, and the owner cannot be located, call local dove release businesses for information or visit the American Racing Pigeon Union’s website.

Once released these pigeons usually have the ability to fly straight home. For one reason or another some birds take a little detour from their path. Experiments with homing pigeons are still going on today to discover how their homing ability works.


The preferred type of release doves are homing pigeons,

a member of the rock dove family, and some strains are

specifically bred for ceremonial release.
Scientists have focused their attention in three areas: the beak, the inner ear and the eyes. Birds’ beaks contain tiny grains of magnetite, a form of iron oxide which is magnetized easily to help birds point north. But when David Keays of the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna examined the beaks, he found that the magnetite grains were mostly located in macrophages, which wander around the body, rather than in specialized sense cells. This strengthened the case that birds’ magnetic sense resides not in their beaks, but in tiny concentrations of iron in the neurons of a pigeon’s inner ear.

Case closed? Not quite. The latest research, published in June, suggests the beak does have a role to play after all. Researchers led by Henrik Mouritsen of the University of Oldenburg in Germany found that the beak detects the angle of the Earth’s magnetic field with the ground, which varies with latitude and may be used by birds as part of their mapping sense.

However, there is also evidence that magnetic sensing relies on chemical reactions in birds’ eyes. It seems to involve a region the brain called cluster N, which is connected to the eyes. Cluster N is also more active when birds are using their magnetic sense. One theory, advanced by Klaus Schulten of the University of Illinois and Urbana-Champaign, is that a retinal protein that is split into two magnetically sensitive molecules co-operate, even when separated, to detect variations in the magnetic field. This might allow birds to see patterns of spots that remain stationary as they turn their heads, to indicate magnetic direction.

In the end, how birds sense magnetic fields to create a natural version of the global-positioning system is still not understood fully. It is possible that all three of these mechanisms work together. But having made rapid progress in the field in recent years, scientists do finally seem to be homing in on the answer.

Source: 
The Economist: How do birds navigate? http://goo.gl/aulQAl

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Six steps to help birds

Habitat loss, disease, severe weather, window collisions and many other factors contribute to the decline in bird populations. Here are six steps you can take to make the future brighter for birds:
Land development is changing the habitat available for many birds. You can help by landscaping with native plants that provide natural food sources, shelter and protection predators. Man made feeders, nest boxes and bird baths also benefits birds.

2. Prepare a proper menu
Food is essential to provide birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition to endure the elements year-round. Wild Birds Unlimited has regionally formulated seed blends to provide the most nutritious food for your birds. The first ingredient in our top 4 seed blends is sunflower seed. Oil Sunflower seed is the favorite of most of the backyard seed eating birds and I always like it to be the first ingredient in my bird seed blend.
To help reduce the possibility of disease transmission in birds, clean feeders and feeding areas at least once a month. You can purchase professional cleaners like Scoot at Wild Birds Unlimited, or use a mild one part vinegar to nine parts water solution to disinfect all of your feeders. Keep seed and foods dry by adding Feeder Fresh; discard food that is wet or looks moldy. Birdbaths also need to be scrubbed with a brush and water should be replaced every three to days to discourage mosquito reproduction. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned every three to five days, or every other day in warm weather.

4. Birds and chemicals don’t mix 
Many pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are toxic to birds; avoid using these near areas where birds feed, bathe or rest. 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.

5. Keep cats away from birds 
Outdoor cats are estimated to kill 500 million birds per year. Even the sweetest cats still have the instincts of their wild ancestors. When something flutters by, they must swat it down. Cats do what comes natural but you can help wildlife by restricting their access outside. A lot of our customers start bird feeding to entertain their indoor cats. It is a challenge to keep indoor-only animals stimulated and engaged mentally. A window feeder is one solution.

6. Reduce window collisions 
It is estimated that between 100 million and one billion birds are killed every year in the United States when they crash into glass windows. And even one billion deaths might be a conservative estimate. 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.

Related Articles:
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/H42e6s
- What seeds wild birds eat http://goo.gl/Un35yR
- What to do if you have soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
- How to get rid of weeds under the bird feeder without using poisons http://goo.gl/fHlsE0
- Cats Indoors! http://goo.gl/YIOUpI
- How to Prevent Window Strikes during Migration http://goo.gl/KZRzKb

Friday, July 26, 2013

Photo Share:Baby Cardinal

Northern Cardinals are a perfect combination of conspicuousness and style. Adult males are a brilliant shade of red you can’t miss and the adult females are a warm brown with subtle red accents.

Baby Cardinals are another thing altogether. The old wives tale "ugly in the cradle, beauty at the table" comes to mind. The fledgling in the photo seems to have made it out of the bug-eyed, “ugly” stage, is moving through the gangly stage and on a sure path to “beauty”.

Young Northern Cardinals have ashy brown feathers and black bills rather than the orange-red of the adults. They change gradually to their adult coloration three to four months after hatching.

This photo of a fledgling Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) approximately one week after leaving the nest is by Ken Thomas.

He also took the photo to the right of a male cardinal offering food to a female. This ritual is a common part of the Cardinal's mating behavior, and allows the male to demonstrate his ability to provide food for their young.

Related Articles:
- Baby birds at the feeders http://goo.gl/UGCokz
- Cardinals mate for life http://goo.gl/Fz1CSR
- Cardinal Fun Facts http://bit.ly/twE6NV  
- Cardinal Bird Feeders: http://bit.ly/qXJPFM
- How the Cardinal was named http://bit.ly/tSKZYs  
- What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/rAArXw
  
Thank you for sharing your photo! 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, July 25, 2013

How to feed birds with less mess

Like feeding the birds but don't want a mess on the ground? At Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) I recommend the following combinations of food, feeders and accessories so you can enjoy feeding your birds and have a tidy backyard, too.
Ranchette Retreat bird feeder is a fully functioning bird buffet that holds over 10 pounds of WBU No-Mess birdseed and two WBU suet cakes. Our unique No-Mess Blend features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No shells left on the ground and nothing will grow under the feeder. You will attract all the seed and suet eating bird species such as cardinals, finches, jays, chickadees, woodpeckers and more.

To protect the seed, the Ranchette Retreat has an extra large green roof that overhangs the extra large tray area. It also has a mesh screen bottom with a built in seed diverter to keep seed moving through the feeder smoothly and to prevent moldy seed.
This feeder is good for a compact, yet versatile tidy feeding station. Fill with the WBU No-Mess birdseed blend so there are no shells left on the ground.

As a bonus the Wild Birds Unlimited's Quick-Clean feeders have removable bases that make cleaning a breeze. They’re also easy to fill and hang. Simply add our Weather Guard dome to your feeder to help protect the seed and birds from inclement weather. The Seed Tray prevents seed from falling to the ground and serves as an additional feeding area.

3. The WBU Seed Cylinder feeder 
Cylinder feeders are versatile feeders that can provide a tidy dining experience. The Seed Cylinder feeders are popular with people who have been bird feeding a long time and for beginners. It is one of the easiest feeders to maintain and attracts a wide variety of birds.
Our popular Cranberry Fare Solid Seed Cylinders are packed pecans, sunflower chips, peanuts, safflower, black oil sunflower and cranberries - everything you need to get lots of birds to visit your backyard with very little mess.

If you are worried about squirrels and don't have a baffled Wild Birds Unlimited Advanced Pole System, our Safflower cylinder will keep squirrels and blackbirds away.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why the nuthatch walks upside down on trees

White-breasted Nuthatches may be small but their voices are loud and their insistent nasal laughing song will lead you right to them. Click HERE to listen.
Their foraging behavior also makes this a rather easy bird to identify. The White-breasted Nuthatch is able to move head-first down trees to forage for insects on trunks of trees. 

Their long, strong toes and short tails allow them to climb up, down and sideways around tree trunks and branches looking for tasty morsels tucked into bark crevasses. This gives them an advantage to spot prey hidden from woodpeckers and creepers which can only head up trees to forage for food.

The White-breasted Nuthatch is a year round resident in mid-Michigan and often visits bird feeders for sunflower seeds, nuts, suet, and mealworms.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

National Moth Week is celebrated the Last full week in July

Roger Tory Peterson is best know for coming out with the first easy to use bird field guide for the average person to identify birds. But moths first got him started on his path to investigating nature as a boy. He even received special permission from the police chief to stay up past curfew to observe moths attracted to the many street lights in Jamestown, NY.

Why moths?
  • Moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth.
  • Scientists estimate there are 150,000 to more than 500,000 moth species.
  • Their colors and patterns are either dazzling or so cryptic that they define camouflage. Shapes and sizes span the gamut from as small as a pinhead to as large as an adult’s hand.
  • Most moths are nocturnal, and need to be sought at night to be seen – others fly like butterflies during the day.
  • Finding moths can be as simple as leaving a porch light on and checking it after dark. Serious moth aficionados use special lights and baits to attract them.
   National Moth Week provides a much-needed spotlight on moths and their ecological importance as well as their incredible biodiversity.  National Moth Week offers everyone, everywhere a unique opportunity to become a Citizen Scientist and contribute scientific data about moths. Numerous organizations around the world have partnered with National Moth Week and are supporting the event. Through partnerships with major online biological data depositories, National Moth Week participants can help map moth distribution and provide needed information on other life history aspects around the globe. Read more at: http://nationalmothweek.org/

This podcast and slide show is part of the One Species at a Time series from the Encyclopedia of Life (eol.org). Hosted by Ari Daniel Shapiro and produced by Atlantic Public Media. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attributions 3.0 United States License. Read more at: http://nationalmothweek.org/

Related Articles:
-Tiger moths: What is that white moth with black spots?: http://bit.ly/rtneuz
-A Very Tiny Hummingbird (Moth)?: http://bit.ly/qtrAaV
-Moth With Twelve Inch Tongue: http://bit.ly/pcs0TV
-Why did I take a picture of bird poop?: http://bit.ly/o9APHb
-Where does the Woolly Bear go in the winter?: http://bit.ly/pB5L4V

Monday, July 22, 2013

Male and female cardinals remain in close contact year-round

A regular resident of mid-Michigan backyards, the Northern Cardinals form one of the bird world's most faithful pair bonds. The male and female remain in close contact year-round, singing to one another through the seasons with soft, bubbly whistles. The female is known to sing while on the nest, and it is believed that she is informing her partner whether or not she or the young need food.

The red color of the Cardinal’s feathers is the result of pigments called carotenoids. The amount of the pigment ingested, and then deposited in the feathers as they molt in the fall, influences the quality and depth of their red coloration. A study done by the Ohio State University found that juveniles, less efficient foragers than adults, often have a duller red feather coloration.

At the feeding stations the birds tend to prefer seeds that provide the most nutrients. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a landmark study of bird food preferences in 1980 for several bird species and found cardinals exhibited the greatest preference for fresh oil sunflower, peanuts, safflower, and millet. They avoid buckwheat, cracked corn, milo, oats, wheat, nyjer, canary, flax, rapeseed, and rice.

A cardinal's food habits in the north consists of more than 75% plant material from November to April. From May to October it changes to about 50% plant and the rest consists of animal matter predominately from insects, including beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, butterfly and moth larvae, cicadas, treehoppers, leafhoppers, and dragonflies.

Regardless of the season, the bird species you attract is determined primarily by the seeds you offer. To provide the most beneficial foods to meet birds' nutritional needs, the birds in Michigan should be fed fresh Black-Oil Sunflower, Sunflower Chips, White Proso Millet, Safflower, Peanuts, Nyjer® Thistle, nectar, mealworms, or suet.

Avoid purchasing seed blends that contain filler seeds that will be kicked out of the feeder and can leave a dangerous moldy pile under your feeders.
Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess Blend is our best selling blend. It has everything the birds want and leaves no messy shells behind. 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.
Whatever seed, seed cake, or suet you choose at Wild Birds Unlimited, we guarantee it will be fresh and a healthy choice for our local birds.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hummingbirds span the ecological gap between birds and bees

According to Birds of Michigan by Ted Black, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds span the ecological gap between birds and bees- they feed on sweet, energy-rich nectar that flowers provide and pollinate the flowers in the process.

Many avid gardeners and birders have long understood this interdependence and cultivate native, nectar-producing plants in their yards to attract these delightful birds. Even non-gardeners can attract hummingbirds by maintaining a clean sugar water feeder in a safe location.

Weighing about as much as a nickel, a hummingbird is capable of briefly achieving speeds of up to 62 miles per hour. It is also among the few birds that are able to fly vertically and in reverse. In a straight-ahead flight, hummingbirds beat their wings up to 80 times per second, and their hearts can beat up to 1200 times per minute!

Each year Ruby-throated Hummingbirds migrate across the Gulf of Mexico- an incredible, nonstop journey of more than 500 miles. In order to accomplish this, these little birds first double their body mass by fattening up on insects and nectar before departing in late October.

Source:
1. Birds of Michigan: by Ted Black
 
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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fewer hummingbirds this year

As summer heats up, young birds are all around us, some already making their own way in the world beyond their nests, others still learning from their parents the skills they’ll need to survive.

Several customers at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing have inquired about a perceived lack of hummingbirds this season. This can be either good news or bad.

Last year we had an early spring, then a freeze and then a drought and the hummingbirds really found the feeders useful when the wild flowers were dying and the bugs just weren’t available in the heat. Then in 2013 we had a wet spring in mid-Michigan with lots of flowers and bugs available. Hopefully the hummingbirds in the areas where people are reporting lower numbers have just found lots of reliable natural resources and are not frequenting the feeders as much this year.

Hummingbirds need food, shelter and water to survive. Less visits may mean they are finding plenty of food available naturally. However, make sure you don’t use pesticides in your gardens. And remember to change your nectar solution of one part sugar to four parts water with no other additives at least once a week. Plant lots of native flowers to provide nectar and compost your old banana peels and apple cores to attract fruit flies for the hummingbirds to consume. Then keep an eye out for these jewels in your garden.

In July most of the female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have finished nesting and adult males that have defended territories since early spring, leave their hard won territories and female, males and juveniles are all starting their pre-migratory wandering.

Counting the juvenile hummingbirds, numbers in our area should increase and continue to increase through August and September as birds from more northern breeding grounds make their way southward through our area. I usually see my last hummingbird mid-October and take down the feeder Halloween.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Chipping Sparrows (The whole family)

Source: Chester A. Reed, The Bird Book, 1915.
I adore watching and listening to the Chipping Sparrows in the spring and summer. The smallest and friendliest of the sparrows, they are always busy, busy running around on the yard looking for weed seeds or bird seed under the feeders.

They arrive in mid-Michigan in May and leave early November to winter in Mexico, Central America or the southern United States. These bold little birds will perch high in a tree and sing 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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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fuzzy green grass seed head looks like a caterpillar

Is there such a thing as a cute grass? The mature seed head of the Green Foxtail grass looks and feels like a fuzzy caterpillar or as the name suggests miniature green fox tails. If you happen to be in a park in July you might see clumps of this cute grass on the side of a sandy baseball field and be tempted to pet the grass.

In the United States, Green Foxtail is also known as bottle grass, green bottle grass, green bristle grass, pigeon grass, and wild millet. Lots of birds, deer, rabbits, squirrels and other animals enjoy eating the sweet grass.

Green Foxtail Setaria viridis was introduced originally from Europe, probably as a weed seed mixed in crop seed and in the ballast of ships. The genus name Setaria derives from the Latin seta, meaning "bristle." The species name viridis means "green."
 
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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Robins with white patches

I came across a robin with white patches and was hoping you could tell me if it has leucism or albinism; or neither.
Young robins 2-6 weeks old have brown backs, dark brown cheeks outlined in white and a white breast speckled with black splotches. As they grow older the speckles disappear and they grow to look more like their parents with an orange breast.

The earth coloring and camouflage markings disguise babies from predators. When American Robins first leave the nest at two weeks old, they can't fly. If they are scared or want to avoid detection, they squat in on the ground with their head up. And they blend right in with their environment.

Their parents feed them at first and teach them gradually how to hop, sleep on sheltered branches at night, forage for food, and learn how to fly. If you watch longer, you'll probably see an adult robin nearby supervising the situation.


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Monday, July 15, 2013

Goldfinches choose their mates in July

There is a lot of excitement among the goldfinches in July as breeding season begins!

Cornell's website http://www.allaboutbirds.org/ writes that "paired-up goldfinches make virtually identical flight calls; goldfinches may be able to distinguish members of various pairs by these calls."

The female chooses her mate based on his bright coloring, song, and impressive flight displays. During courtship, the birds will fly in circles, with the male warbling throughout the flight.

After a male has been chosen, nesting territories are selected. Males will flit from one perch to another and warble around the perimeter of his territory. They will also perform flight displays. Look for the males as they fly in an exaggerated version of their normal undulating butterfly flight. 
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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Cliff Swallow nesting under eaves

Cliff Swallow Starting a nest
Hello, I have a pair of birds trying to build a nest under my covered porch on an audio speaker placed near the ceiling. The birds are light colored on the stomach and grayish/brown on the back with a dark head and beak. They do not have the forked tail feathers of a barn swallow. The nest material I discovered yesterday was made of damp decayed leaves, moss and mud.

The pool/porch area is quite busy this time of year and is not where we want birds eating, nesting, pooping, or swooping on the family. Can you help with the identification and offer any suggestions to deter them from nesting under the porch roof. Your opinion and assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Cliff Swallows have a chestnut-brown throat, blue/gray back and crown, brown wings and tail. Their nape, forehead and belly are white and their tail is square-ended. They breed across most of US including Michigan from May until mid-September.

Cliff swallows build their nests in areas where water is readily available because they eat a ton of bugs. Their nests are gourd-shaped and mud-like in appearance and usually consist of sand, silt and clay. They can be found commonly under the eaves of houses or under many large and medium sized bridges.

A way to live with a nest might be to erect a platform above your speaker to keep the droppings from falling onto your porch. After nesting season is over, you can remove the board and wash your porch.

A way to deter the birds is to hang helium-filled shiny, silver, mylar balloons in the area. This usually scares the birds away.

Another possibility to discourage them would be to stretch a clean white plastic sheet over the speaker so there is no place for them to get a grip for nesting.

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Photo Share: Marsh Wren

Photo by Simon Pierre Barrette
The Marsh Wren Cistothorus palustris lives and breeds all across Michigan from April to October in the large cattail and bulrush marshes. Not easy to spot, they are a reclusive bird that zip about in short bursts to hunt flying insects. If you are in a marsh, it is more likely that you will hear the wren's distinctive, gurgling, rattling trill.

Thank you for sharing your photo! 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.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Water for birds is important during the dog days of summer

It’s Time to Provide Water

During the hot and often dry conditions that make up the “dog days of summer," you will be doing yourself and your birds a big favor by providing them with a reliable source of water.

Water is very important to birds. Whether they are feeder visitors or not, birds need water. Offering a dependable source of water is probably the simplest and most important step you can take to greatly increase the variety of birds in your yard.

It can also significantly increase your enjoyment of your birds by allowing you to watch their often comical antics as they drink, bathe and preen.

However, as entertaining as it is for us, water (or the lack thereof) can be deadly serious for birds. Birds must be ready to fly at all times, and bathing is a critical part of feather maintenance and staying in top-flight condition.

Water is also vitally important when it's extremely hot and a bird’s ability to regulate its body temperature can become stressed. Birds do not sweat and must remove excess body heat through their respiratory system. So when temperatures rise, a bird's respiration rate increases, sometimes to the point that it can be seen panting like a dog. This activity dehydrates birds and increases their need for a reliable source of water to replace lost fluids.

So, while the addition of a bird bath, fountain or mister to your yard can supply hours of enjoyable bird watching entertainment for you, it may also be providing a lifesaving necessity.

Related Articles:
-  What are the Dog Days of Summer? http://goo.gl/3b0nf
- Why do birds poop in the bird bath? http://bit.ly/whKqHg
- Water Wiggler Attracts Birds and prevents Mosquitoes! http://bit.ly/wKl40q
- Why Birds Preen http://bit.ly/wcoC9d
- What kind of bird bath is the best? http://goo.gl/01sug

Thursday, July 11, 2013

No-mess Blend vs. Safflower Seed

Is no-mess blend better than safflower seed? ~ East Lansing

At the Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing store, No-mess Blend is our number one selling seed blend by far. Personally it is the only blend I use and it is the first blend I recommend to everyone that comes into the store.

The first ingredient is Sunflower seed without the shell. That’s the favorite of most seed eating birds like cardinals, grosbeaks, and finches. The second ingredient is peanut pieces. Peanuts attract all the bug eating birds like chickadees, woodpeckers, wrens and jays. And then there’s a little millet without the hull thrown in to attract all the ground feeding birds like the juncos, sparrows, and doves. 

As a result, No-mess blend will attract all the feeder birds and leave no shells on the ground or grow any weeds. And 20 pounds of No-mess blend is like buying 40 pounds of any other blend because you are not paying for shells that would just fall to the ground. Pound for pound it’s the best value.

Safflower seed is a good seed too. People that choose safflower usually do so to deter blackbirds, starlings and squirrels. Safflower is a bitter seed that most mammals will avoid and the shape of the shell makes it hard for the blackbirds to crack.

If squirrels drive you nuts or blackbirds and starlings crowd your feeder, you might try the safflower solution.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Stomping puffball mushrooms

One of my favorite summer memories is taking a walk in the woods stomping on a puffball mushrooms full of spores. Poof! Poof! Poof!

Puffballs come in many sizes, some as small as a marble and some as large as a basketball. The name "puffball" refers to three genera of fungi, Calvatia, Calbovista, and Lycoperdon.

Puffballs start out as white, round, ball-shaped mushrooms attached to the ground with little or no apparent stem. As the fungi matures, it turns brown and spores mature within a sac, unlike other mushrooms that have a cap with spores within gills on the underside of the cap.

When the puffball spores are ready to disperse a little hole usually develops on surface of the ball. The spores escape when hit by rain, animals or hmmm…by some “other” means.

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