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

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

Monday, September 30, 2013

What birds see at night

Where do the birds go at night? Can they see in the dark? ~ Baldwin Place, New York

As the sun goes down, the activity at our birdfeeders comes to an abrupt halt. Some birds head for a perch in leafy bushes, evergreens, vines or dense brush piles for the night. Starlings and pigeons can roost under bridges. Ducks often sleep while floating. Woodpeckers can hook their claws into tree bark or retreat into holes to sleep. Chickadees and titmice also roost in tree holes, bird houses or roosting pockets for safety and warmth.

At this time of year other birds may be preparing to fly through the night to their warmer wintering grounds. The numbers and variety of birds appearing in your yard can actually change every morning as species such as warblers, vireos, orioles, grosbeaks, tanagers, buntings and sparrows all migrate south.

Vision is an important sense that helps birds fly safe. This is why most birds are only active during the day. However many species migrate at night to avoid the heat of the day, windy conditions, and predators.

Scientist are still trying to understand how birds are able to perceive not only the visible range but also the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, and their other adaptations that allow for the detection of polarized light or magnetic fields. Even with specific modifications to their visual system to help them migrate at night, they often collide with brightly lit man made objects like skyscrapers, lighthouses or oil platforms.

The migration of the most birds are made up of a series of long nocturnal flights alternated with days of rest and feeding in favorable rest stops. And if they choose your yard to stop over, hopefully you’ll have fresh water, food, and shelter to make their journey a little easier.

Related Articles:
- How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d   
- Migration vs. Hibernation http://bit.ly/n0z040
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/qa0CVU
- Solving the Mysteries of Migration with Wind Tunnels http://bit.ly/qg0F53
- How many birds would you say die or get injured during migration? http://bit.ly/r5o3NQ

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Small blue-gray bird with a rusty red chest

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Shorter days, a rustle in the air, and the sight of a little red is the sure sign of fall. The small Red-breasted Nuthatch is one of the friendliest birds that comes down from Canada to spend the winter with us in mid-Michigan.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Nuthatches are small, short-tailed birds with pointy black beaks and strong feet. They are fun to watch especially as they forage down tree trucks, often head-first from the top to the bottom, picking insects and grubs from the under the bark. We have the larger White-breasted Nuthatch year-round visiting the sunflower, suet and nut feeders. The red-breasted join them from September to May.

They have a blue-gray back, a rusty red breast and a black cap with a white stripe above the eye. They are about 4 ½ inches long and weigh less then ½ an ounce. Male and female red-breasted nuthatches look alike, except the female has a bluish black cap and paler underparts.

Red-breasted nuthatches are native throughout the nearctic region and are the only species in the nuthatch (Sittidae) family that migrates south in the fall. They make it a treat to fill the feeders on cold mornings when they perch just above your shoulder and cheer you on.

The nuthatches don’t stay long at the feeders though. They prefer to grab a seed and hide or cache their food to retrieve and eat at a later time. They hide hundreds of seeds all over their territory, in a behavior known as scatter-hoarding to keep their stash a secret from competitors and help them survive during bad weather and when food sources are low.

Related articles:
- Birds Move Trees http://bit.ly/oPqFgG
- Screech Owls cache uneaten prey items in cavities http://bit.ly/pJ7jCP
- Red-Bellied Woodpecker stores its food in the barks of trees http://bit.ly/nqYS7j
- Mine! All Mine: Why Squirrels Hoard http://bit.ly/qFANnl  
- Michigan’s Top 20 Winter Backyard Birds http://bit.ly/qq5xu1 
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/ngkPX3

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Predicting the bird watching season

siskins and goldfinches at nyjer feeder
We’ve had a pretty good fall so far for the birds. There have been lots of natural food sources and the weather has been very nice. Canada’s natural seed crops were also very good this year. Last year Canada’s seed crops were horrible and we had a lot of “new” birds migrating further south than normal to visit our mid-Michigan bird feeders.

Every year ornithologist Ron Pittaway analyzes the cone and berry crops of the boreal forest to predict if certain birds will irrupt into the northern U.S. or remain further north. A bird irruption is an irregular migration of a large number of birds to areas where they aren’t found typically, motivated usually by the search for food. This year Ron Pittaway's 2013-2014 Winter Finch Forecast predicts several bird species will stay in Canada for the whole winter.

That means we will probably see fewer Pine Siskins and redpolls at the finch feeders. You can read the full 2013-2014 Winter Finch Forecast at: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/wf1314/.

However we will still get our regular winter birds like the Dark-eyed Juncos and Red-breasted Nuthatches. And the Farmer’s Almanac says that Michigan is going to have a biting cold and snowy winter. That means that the birds that stay with us, like the chickadees, doves, sparrows, jays, woodpeckers, nuthatches and cardinals all might hit the feeders hard when their natural resources are covered by snow. See the full Farmer's Almanac report: http://www.farmersalmanac.com/weather/2013/08/25/2014-us-winter-forecast/ 

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Photo Share: Rainy day Robin

An American Robin (Turdus migratorius) perched in the branches of a Weeping Holly tree. Photo taken by Ken Thomas.

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, September 26, 2013

Four ways to keep squirrels off your bird feeder

Squirrels are one of the most curious and adaptable animals to be found anywhere and they are unmatched in their problem-solving ability to defeat many bird feeders!

So, if you want to keep squirrels from bothering your bird feeding setup, we have the foods, feeders and accessories to confuse and confound even the most brilliant or athletic squirrel in your neighborhood.


1. Squirrel resistant feeders- The easiest way to feed the birds and not the squirrels is to have a squirrel resistant feeder. Now I know people come in to Wild Birds Unlimited all the time and say they don’t work, but ours do and most come with a lifetime guarantee! They are going to cost more than the cheap, “pretty” feeders the critters destroy every year, but they are easy to clean, easy to fill, backed by a lifetime guarantee, and the birds love them.  

Chickadees love safflower
2. Seed selection- If you don’t want to invest in a new feeder, the next solution is to switch your seed to 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. While popular backyard birds including Cardinals, Chickadees, Blue Jays, House Finches, Mourning Doves, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmice, and Nuthatches, savor safflower. Squirrels also avoid Nyger Thistle feeders which feed the Goldfinches.  

3. Baffles- Squirrels can jump 4-5 feet high and across 5-10 feet. A baffle will make it harder for the squirrels to reach the seed. There are several types of baffles that you can use too. You can put a baffle around a pole to stop them from reaching your feeder. Or you can buy a baffle that goes over your feeder that protects it from squirrels dropping down from the trees.

Squirrel and Raccoon baffles keep critters away from bird food
4. Hot pepper-I don't usually recommend this product. Mammals have receptors on their tongues that send messages (too hot!) when they eat hot peppers, but these receptors are missing in birds. “Squirrel Away™” is made from Capsicum peppers, known colloquially where they are grown as “bird peppers.” With “Squirrel Away™” treated bird seed in your bird feeders, a squirrel quickly learns not to visit and continues to find a new source of food. But you have to be careful because you are a mammal too and there is a caution on every bag about wearing gloves to protect yourself. 

Related Articles:
- Squirrel proof bird feeder reviews http://bit.ly/waJs9o
- Why are Squirrels Called Squirrels? http://bit.ly/yhktkr
- How many species of squirrels are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/yYt6Nb
- Black Squirrel History & Facts http://bit.ly/AxiqPz
- Squirrel Fun Facts http://goo.gl/M3mT2M
- Why squirrels chew http://bit.ly/AjVzFW

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wolf spider carries 100 babies on her back

At the end of summer it’s not unusual to see a lot more spiders as they grow larger or as young spiders hatch. There are several dozen types of spiders, and the most common garden spiders do not spin webs.

Any gardener that picks flowers knows to shake them vigorously before bringing them inside to knock off any unwilling hitchhikers. And sometimes I disturb Wolf spiders that live in shallow underground burrows, when I dig in the mulch. Today I noticed this momma wolf spider climbing to a high spot by the front door of the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store.            

Wolf spiders are brown spiders with dark stripes and have eight eyes arranged in three rows. The bottom row consists of four small eyes, the middle row has two very large eyes, and the top row has two medium-sized eyes.

This one happened to be about the size of a nickel and had many, many babies on her back. Females often carry their egg sacs with them, and then for two weeks after her eggs hatch, the mother spider carries her young on her back until they disperse aerially.

Related Articles:
- Marbled Orb Weaver http://goo.gl/kECUu1
- Small black spider with egg sac http://goo.gl/dcldGj
- Largest Orb-weaving Spider in Michigan! http://goo.gl/TYFuyN
- Harvestmen or “daddy longlegs” http://goo.gl/eyzAjr

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Concern about fertilizers and bluebirds' health

I am very concerned about fertilizer my husband insists on putting on our backyard and its effect on my bluebirds. Is there a safe fertilizer or safe time of year? I have two nesting boxes and only one successful brood in 3 years.
It is not good to use any insecticides or chemical fertilizers on your garden or yard. This is important because bluebirds eat bugs. If the bluebirds eat an insect which has been treated with chemicals, they could become ill.

Steve Kress, Audubon’s vice president for bird conservation wrote, “Too often, birds die from contact with chemicals on suburban lawns.  Homeowners in the United States apply about 78 million pounds of insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides per year to their homes, lawns, and gardens—not including applications made by pest control or lawn care professionals. On a per acre basis, this is three times more pesticides than the amount used on agricultural crops.

David Pimentel, professor of entomology at Cornell University, estimates that about 72 million birds die each year as a result of direct exposure to pesticides on agricultural lands, and an estimated additional 7 million die each year from lawn chemicals.

Pesticides can wash into rivers and streams, blow into neighboring areas, and seep into the groundwater. They also persist in soil and garden litter, and are readily tracked into our homes. Lawn and garden fertilizers run off into waterways, spurring algae blooms in streams, lakes, and ponds, which decreases the oxygen levels within these critical wildlife habitats.

Whenever possible, it’s best to avoid all lawn and garden chemicals. In a nutshell, go organic. The birds will thank you.”

Read more about having a Bird Friendly Chemical-Free Lawn: http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2012/02/chemical-free-lawn-is-bird-friendly.html

Monday, September 23, 2013

Best small hummingbird feeder

The beautiful HummBlossom 4-ounce capacity feeders join the popular line of HummZinger feeders. These feeders are the ideal "mini" size for placing a grouping of feeders nearby, so territorial hummingbirds can each pick their own Blossom to feed from.

The feeder includes a HighView™ perch that invites hummingbirds to rest comfortably as they drink from any of four feeding ports while also offering an unobstructed view of the birds. Bright colored cover attracts hummingbirds from a distance and is easily removed so the bowl can be cleaned quickly and thoroughly. Constructed of unbreakable polycarbonate.

Available in beautiful rose color— the HummBlossom feeders are as pretty as they are functional. As with all Aspects products, HummBlossom feeders are proudly manufactured in the USA and backed by a lifetime guarantee.
  • HighView™ perch for optimal viewing
  • Easy cleaning and filling
  • Drip and leak proof
  • 3 feeding ports
  • 4 ounce capacity
  • Rose
  • Dimensions 5" x 5.5" x 2.5"
Aspects' hummingbird feeders provide the perfect solution to any hummingbird’s thirst. All of their hummingbird feeders are constructed of the finest materials available and are backed with a Lifetime Guarantee.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Owls are known for attacking in September

In autumn there are a lot of first year owls leaving their parents and moving to new territories. Many customers in the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store are reporting their encounters with owls. Most people are excited about these large birds when they perch in their yard. Other people have experienced silent, unexpected, swoop downs.

Experts theorize that the owls perhaps dive bomb unsuspecting early morning joggers more at this time of year because they are inexperienced in hunting, defending a new territory, because of mistaken identity or maybe the young birds are just behaving badly. Owl strikes are more common at dawn or dusk when vision is not always the best with people or with animals.

Also recent studies show suburban neighborhoods with large trees have been supporting more and more Barred Owls. Using transmitters, scientists found that populations increased faster in the suburban settings than in old growth forest. A factor of this suburban success may be easily accessible rodent prey.

The Barred Owls nest in a tree cavities usually created by woodpeckers or squirrels. They’ll also use manmade bird houses. If they’ve had a successful nesting in the past they will often reuse a nest. Barred Owls are non-migratory.

Breeding season is from December to March. After 4 weeks of incubation by the female, young owls hatch and then fledge four to five weeks later. At six weeks old the young will learn to fly. Barred owls live alone for most of the year but a family group can stay together for up to six months.

Barred Owls help keep down the rodent population. They eat mainly small animals like chipmunks, mice, voles, smaller rabbits, amphibians, reptiles, and some bugs. Most owls avoid human interaction and will fly away when you approach. A few, however, may be more curious and come in for a closer look.

Related Articles:
- Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/t6elFd
- Amazing Vocals of the Barred Owl http://bit.ly/sguMqL
- Snowy Owls http://bit.ly/ylJmQq
- Eastern Screech Owl http://bit.ly/wMQBZj   
- Great Horned Owl http://bit.ly/zmlFqY
- Great Gray Owl http://bit.ly/tAewYm  
- Long-eared Owl http://goo.gl/qGgbju

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Fall Bird Watching Basics

Often, people think of feeding birds in the winter when their natural food supplies are scarce. But many birds also visit feeders during their spring and fall migrations and during summer while they are nesting, so you may enjoy keeping feeders up all through the year, offering different types of foods during different seasons.

To keep birds visiting your yard year-round:

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. Read more

Water is one of the most important necessities that birds need year-round. Baths not only provide clean water to quench thirst, baths also help birds maintain their feathers. A good part of a bird's day is spent just cleaning and grooming their feathers by bathing, scratching, and preening. It’s so important that it is often the first place parent birds bring their newly fledged babies. Read more

There are a lot of feeders to choose from. With over 30 years of research and experience, Wild Birds Unlimited® is proud to offer you the highest-quality birdfeeders and birdfeeding equipment on the market today.
1. Any feeder you choose should be easy to fill and easy to clean.
2. Look for quality. Most Wild Birds Unlimited feeders come with a Lifetime Warranty.
3. Determine what birds you want to attract. There are certain feeders that are made for specific birds (i.e. finch feeder, hummingbird feeder).
4. Decide where you are going to put the feeder. Is it going to hang in a tree, on an Advanced Pole System, on a window, or off a deck? The best place to put a feeder is where you can view it easily.
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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. Some benefits of putting up birdhouses in the fall:
1. Birds will have plenty of time to locate them before the breeding season.
2. The houses will be well weathered by spring.
3. Some birds will use nest boxes as roosting sites in the winter. Read more

Friday, September 20, 2013

Photo Share: Brown bird with two distinctive head feathers

Hi, I am not a bird watcher and don't have any resources for identifying birds and while trying to find a picture of a bird that met this description "light brown bird two distinctive head feathers head" I came upon your web site. I live near Niagara Falls. Any ideas?

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.
Your photos show a juvenile cardinal going through a first molt. The replacement of all or part of the feathers is called a molt. Until they have commenced their pre-formative molt, sex cannot be reliably determined, although it is likely that those showing a fair amount of red on the wings are males. By winter your cardinal will have a new set of feathers to insulate it against the cold weather.

Thanks for the quick response.  We do have a fair number of cardinals around here and I am surprised I  never have seen a young one before but as I said, I am not a bird watcher.  Well, maybe I am one now :-) Feel free to use the pictures of the "Molting Juvenile Cardinal with Antennae" on your Friday post page..Thanks again.

I thought it was more of a big-eared bunny cardinal. When I see the babies I always think of Cinderella. "Cinder" Ella had to sleep near cinders in the kitchen fireplace to keep warm in her stepmother's house but grew up to be a beautiful person. Cardinal babies look like they've been rolling in the ashes of a campfire but turn out to be one of the most sought after birds to have in the yard.

Thank you for sharing your photos. 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.
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
- What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/rAArXw
- Why birds molt http://bit.ly/rGaqRL
- Types of Bird feathers http://bit.ly/w0U1M6

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The World's Largest Squirrel

At the end of summer, as I watch the woodchuck fatten up for hibernation and the chipmunks and tree squirrels gather nuts to eat throughout the winter, it got me wondering about the biggest squirrel. 

There are eight members of the squirrel family living in mid-Michigan. The Eastern Chipmunk is the smallest Michigan squirrel at about 8-10 inches long and only 3 ounces. The Woodchuck at 30 in long and 31 pounds is the largest squirrel in Michigan.

But there are more than 200 squirrel species that live in almost every part of the world. The family Sciuridae includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, and flying squirrels.

Tree squirrels have long, bushy tails, sharp claws and large ears. Flying squirrels have a furred membrane extending between the wrist and ankle that allows them to glide between trees. And ground squirrels generally have short, sturdy forelimbs that are used for digging and tails that are not as bushy as tree squirrels.
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Right now the tiniest recorded squirrel in the world is the African pygmy squirrel at only 2 ½ inches long from nose to tail and an average of ½ an ounce in weight.
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The Indian giant squirrel is the largest tree squirrel and is native to India. Their body is over a foot long and their tail is an amazing 2 feet long. This makes them over 3 feet from nose to tail with an average weight of about 4 pounds.

Related Articles: 
- Squirrel proof bird feeder reviews http://bit.ly/waJs9o 
- How do I keep squirrels off my bird feeders? http://bit.ly/yiZsML 
- Why are Squirrels Called Squirrels? http://bit.ly/yhktkr 
- How many species of squirrels are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/yYt6Nb 
- How high can squirrels jump to bird feeders? http://goo.gl/XuvwNe
- Found! New squirrel species discovered. http://goo.gl/LUxzA0

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Where Did All Our Squirrels Go?

About 10 days ago, our ample back yard squirrel population of gray, black, fox, piney, and nocturnal flying squirrels suddenly disappeared from our feeders.  Virtually overnight.  We live on the Lake Michigan shoreline two miles north of Hoffmaster state park.  Any idea why?   

Just because you do not see them does not mean they are not there. Squirrel populations fluctuate naturally due to a number of environmental factors, like the availability of food, water and shelter, predation, illnesses, and the number of young.

In the fall squirrels must acquire a territory and midden, food storage area, prior to bad weather to survive. Family time is over and all the juveniles must compete for a territory, or find a new one.

Right now there is a lot of food being dropped from trees and other plants. Squirrels are excited about all the fruit nuts and berries available. They're looking
furiously for a territory, munching and hiding food to prepare for winter.

And just like in the spring when they are moving around looking for mates, in the fall they are planning for winter and sometimes forget to look both ways before crossing the street. I’m watching a black squirrel right now cross the busy road in front of the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store with two black walnuts in his mouth. He can barely see past these huge treasures he’s found but fortunately he’s made it across safely today. Last year I had a squirrel that would knock on the window every day at 4 pm for a nut. Stubby was a clever boy with only half a tail but I haven’t seen him this year.


A squirrel’s average lifespan in the wild is 7 months. If they survive their first year their average life expectancy goes up to 2.3 years with a maximum lifespan of around eight years in the wild. Squirrels may also become prey for large hawks and owls or die through misadventure, illness or human factors.

Do the squirrels know something we don’t? According to the Farmer’s almanac, early and frantic movement of squirrels collecting nuts is one of the signs of a hard winter ahead. In fact their 2013-2014 prediction is biting cold and snowy winter for Michigan. See the full Farmer's Almanac report: http://www.farmersalmanac.com/weather/2013/08/25/2014-us-winter-forecast/   


Related Articles:
- How do I keep squirrels off my bird feeders? http://bit.ly/yiZsML
- Squirrel proof bird feeder reviews http://bit.ly/waJs9o
- Why are Squirrels Called Squirrels? http://bit.ly/yhktkr
- How many species of squirrels are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/yYt6Nb
- Black Squirrel History & Facts http://bit.ly/AxiqPz
- Squirrel Fun Facts http://goo.gl/M3mT2M
- Why squirrels chew http://bit.ly/AjVzFW

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Crows taking over feeder

I live in Presque Isle, Michigan and have started having problems with flocks of huge crows coming in and knocking down my bird feeders and taking all the seed.  I don't mind feeding them, but they are driving all the other birds away.  Do you have a suggestion?  Appreciate any help.

You didn’t specify what feeders or food you are using, but when you set the table the birds come. Crows don’t realize they are “bad” birds. In fact I love to watch how the crows interact with each other.

The American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos is in the family of corvids, which includes both crows and ravens. Large flocks of crows are loud and can eat a lot. However, crows are some of the smartest birds on the planet. Their populations are just now recovering in mid Michigan from the first appearance of West Nile virus in the Western hemisphere in 1999. Their susceptibility to the virus made them a useful indicator of the West Nile activity. They are also useful in cleaning up road kill or garbage on the roads and can consume about forty thousand grubs, caterpillars, worms and bugs during a single nesting period.

The “good” song birds actually appreciate crows in the winter too. Crows announce loud and clear when you fill the feeder, if there is a predator nearby, and will defend their territory against incoming hawks.

However if you are supporting too many crows, there are a few techniques to reducing the numbers that visit your feeders.

Keeping the crows at bay

1) Change seed: Take away cracked corn or food scraps, their favorite foods. Switch to an all safflower seed diet for a few weeks. Squirrels, blackbirds, starlings, and crows don’t like safflower. It may take awhile for the other songbirds to accept the change but it is a favorite with cardinals and chickadees. And gradually the rest of the songbirds will switch over to safflower.

2) Change your bird feeders: Replace platform or hopper feeders with tube feeders, the Squirrel Buster Plus weighted perch feeder, or the upside down suet feeder. If the birds are unable to sit and eat comfortably they will probably move on to easier feeding areas.

3) Keep larger birds away from spilled seed: Since song birds knock seed out of feeders, limit access to spilled seed by placing rocks or shrubs beneath your feeders. Smaller birds will be able to hop in and out of tiny places, unlike crows.

4) Make the area more desirable for songbirds: Lots of trees will make them feel secure, as will the presence of a constant water source. Blackbirds and Crows prefer the open fields or yards.

I hope these tips reduce the number of crows at your feeders to an acceptable level. Thanks for the question.

Thanks so much for the information!  I don't dislike the crows and ravens, there is a large flock of both that are my neighbors, and I quite enjoy them.  We had a great horned owl that made its home in our willow tree this past winter and it was quite interesting to watch the different ways the crows would try to make it leave their territory.  Just recently they have taken over my yard, knocking down the feeders for the smaller birds in order to get to the feed inside.  And they run off the cardinals and blue jays and doves.  I think I will have to place more feeders for them so that they all can have food, I don't want any of them to leave.  I could do without them perching outside my window every morning however, announcing that they are ready to eat.  They don't stop until I come out and fill the feeders every morning.  And I am certainly spending a lot more money, but we do quite enjoy having them around.  Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to me.  I appreciate it.
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Monday, September 16, 2013

Why are the birds so hungry in the fall?

As many of you have noticed, birds have been attacking the feeders like there is no tomorrow. And there won't be if they don't bulk up now to prepare for a harsh Michigan winter or a long journey south. Birds change into a “superbird” state when their internal clock is triggered by shorter days and cooler weather at the end of summer.

Right now a bird needs to increase its fat reserves by as much as 1-10% per day. This feeding frenzy is called hyperphagia. In human terms, this would mean I would have to gain 12 pounds per day. That gives "eats like a bird" a whole new meaning. But remember that their fat increase is vital for the extreme energy required to survive the coming months.

Keeping your feeders filled with high energy, high fat foods can provide your birds with the critical nutrition they need to survive. High on the list of best choices to meet this nutritional need is suet.

Seeds also provide fats, but in varying degrees. High on the list are peanuts, which provide 412 fat calories per 100 grams. Other high fat seeds include sunflower chips (429 fat calories per 100 grams) and nyjer (thistle) seed (342 fat calories).

Wild Birds Unlimited is dedicated to offering fresh, top-quality seed. Our no-waste bird seed blends are made from 100% edible seed and have been exclusively formulated for the feeding preferences of our local birds. No cereal fillers—just fresh, high-quality seed your birds will love.
 
Our most popular Wild Birds Unlimited seed blends are No Mess and Choice Blend because they are filled with many of these high fat seeds and nuts making them ideal foods, along with suet, to offer your birds this fall.

Source:
Zoological Society of Milwaukee Bird Migration Facts by Kerry Scanlan, Vicki Piaskowski, Michelle Jacobi and Steve Mahler 

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Veery: small brown thrush with a speckled throat

The Veery (Catharus fuscescens) is a small North American thrush species that breeds in the cool, moist, deciduous forests and woodlands with dense undergrowth in Michigan.

Keep you eyes open for them as they migrate down south to winter in central and southern Brazil in September. The Veery is a smaller thrush with a tawny brown back, and a buff-colored belly with reddish brown spots on the throat. They can fly up to 160 miles in one night, at altitudes above 1.2 miles. They like to feed on bugs and berries they usually find on the ground.

They have a breezy, downward-spiraling, flute-like song, often given from a low and concealed perch. The most common call is a harsh, descending vee-er, which gave the bird its name. Watch the video at: http://youtu.be/cK1gaTqBRRk
 
Photo from Wikimedia Commons: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Catharus_fuscescens_CT.jpg 

Related Articles: 
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- Photo Share: Wood Thrush http://bit.ly/M2yazv
- Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/uMSTs6
- Orange and blue-black robin-like thrush http://goo.gl/KHKCMo

Saturday, September 14, 2013

How to stop sparrows from taking over the feeders

I have fed birds for many years.  However, when I moved to Charlotte and began feeding once again, the sparrows took over the feeder, ate all the food.  Once in a great while, a gold finch would stop by, when it was empty.  Reluctantly, I stopped feeding.  Am wondering if you have any suggestions.  BTW - I have a squirrel proof feeder...

The closer you are to the city the more House Sparrows you are likely to have in your yard. The number one way to limit their numbers at the feeder is to not feed millet. Millet is their favorite seed and common in most seed blends. If you switch over to straight safflower seed you will decrease their activity at the feeders.

Safflower is a white seed savored by Cardinals, House Finches, Black-capped Chickadees, and more. Blackbirds, starlings, squirrels, and sparrows avoid safflower. When you start feeding safflower there will be a dramatic drop in the number of birds at the feeder but then different birds will appear gradually.
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Also suets attract a lot of bug eating birds like chickadees, woodpeckers, and nuthatches. It’s important to buy suet without seed in it that the sparrows can pick out. Our Wild Birds Unlimited Peanut Butter Suet contains just suet and peanuts, no seed, or we have just the straight beef suet for only woodpeckers.
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Sometimes sparrows avoid Nyjer thistle feeders too. Goldfinches can eat upside down comfortably and the upside down finch feeder we sell is popular for people that are overrun with sparrows or house finches. The feeding port is below the perch and the goldfinches have to hang by their toes to reach the seed.

I’ve also had a lot of luck with the Seed Cylinders. Sparrows will work to get seed from the cylinders but they take a long time to whittle it down and that gives the other birds a chance to feed also.

Finally a couple good things about sparrows: even though they eat a lot and visit in huge flocks they also eat a lot of bugs while raising their young. Any yard with sparrows won’t have problems with mosquitoes. And they also make so much noise in the fall that the migrating birds often stop in yards with a lot of sparrow activity because they know it is a safe pit stop for birds on their way south. Keep your eyes open for migrating warbles, native sparrows, flycatchers, larks and swallows.

Related Articles:
- When House Sparrows were brought to America http://goo.gl/Py0RET
- What birds like Safflower seed? http://goo.gl/cbFrAO
- How to Attract Goldfinches http://goo.gl/xpjV1W
- Benefits of Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/5gtq7p
- Warblers make visits http://goo.gl/8M2ZC8

Friday, September 13, 2013

Photo Share: Whooping Crane Migration

It is believed that approximately 1,400 whooping cranes existed in 1860. Their population declined because of hunting and habitat loss to an all-time low of 15 birds in 1941. Through conservation the wild flock slowly increased to over 180 in the 1990’s. This flock wintered in and around the Gulf coast of Texas and nested in Canada.

This flock of whooping cranes was the only naturally occurring wild population in the world. The population could have been wiped out easily by disease, bad weather, or human impacts. So the Whooping Crane Recovery Team (WCRT), the governing body charged with responsibility of the species, established a non-migratory Whooping crane flock in Florida, using cranes hatched in captivity.

In September 1999, after searching for the best possible location to establish a second migratory flock, the team recommended that the flock be taught a migration route with central Wisconsin as the northern breeding ground and the west coast of Florida as the new wintering location.

It was decided that an ultra light aircraft, would act as the surrogate parent and help guide captive-hatched and imprinted Whooping cranes along a planned migration route from Wisconsin to Florida.

You've helped too. With every purchase you made at our store, a portion went to Wild Birds Unlimited Pathways to Nature® Conservation Fund which helped pay for the ultra light aircraft, education materials, the enclosures where the Whooping Cranes live and a viewing blind that is used by project staff to monitor the young birds.

Read more about Operation Migration at the WCEP website

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Squirrels: Put a stop to the seed theft

I adore squirrels almost as much as the birds. I have a particular gray squirrel that I've been watching lately that has a real unique personality. He and his friends share a fly-through feeder with the Blue-Jays and Northern Cardinals right outside my window. I limit the seed in this feeder so it really acts as a treat time for them and entertainment for me.

My other seed feeder is the Brome Squirrel-Buster Plus. No squirrels have ever been able to crack the code and get the seed from that feeder. I’ve always been pleased with its performance and was never tempted to get another feeder until I saw the Squirrel Solutions™ Seed Saver 200.

Did I need a new feeder, not really, but this one called to me. However I sold the first batch of feeders right out of the shipping box, even the one I had set aside for myself. I ordered a double batch for the next week at the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store. They are still selling very quickly but I did get one for myself.

*          The leaf design squirrel-proof feeder looks beautiful in the yard
*          Weight-activated design locks out thieving squirrels, saving seed
*          Powder-coated steel cage prevents chewing
*          UV stabilized polycarbonate inner seed tube doesn’t yellow with age
*          Holds 6.5 quarts of seed

The squirrel resistant weight-activated port shields on the Squirrel Solutions™ Seed Saver 200 locks out thieving squirrels, but lets birds eat in peace! The outer steel cage with beautiful leaf emblem drops down over all 6 feeding ports at once when squirrels climb on the feeder. Only you can open the locked top with the push of a button for easy filling. And the screw on the bottom allows you to dismantle the feeder easily for cleaning without any tools.

I am super pleased with my purchase! It took a few days to get all the perches filled at once but now after a couple months it is attracting a wide variety of beautiful birds.

Related Articles: 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Northern cardinals breed from March until September

I found a cardinal's nest a few days back. We have seen the parents feeding the chick. However, considering its getting cold, isn't it too late to be bringing up chicks now? Or is this the normal time for cardinals to mate and reproduce?
Northern cardinals breed from March until September. If all goes as planned they usually raise two broods a year, one beginning around March and the second in late May to July. If a nest gets destroyed or if a mate is killed the nesting has to start over and can be delayed.

The female cardinal lays an average of 3 eggs. Incubation begins when the last egg is laid, and is performed solely by the female while the male brings her food. The eggs hatch after two weeks and both parents feed the chicks a diet that consists of mainly insects. The chicks begin leaving the nest 10 days after hatching but the parents continue to feed the chicks for 25 to 56 days.

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.

Parents teach their young to forage for food and other survival techniques for a couple months. Then they drive them away from their natal territory to form connections with other juveniles for potential breeding the next spring. Young cardinals don’t have a set territory and can move around together freely in search of food and shelter. Older cardinals can join these young flocks for a time but drop out once it leaves their normal range.

These ever changing flocks can consist of about four to twenty birds depending on the area, time of year, weather, and available resources.

Cardinals are often the first to visit a feeder in the morning and the last to stop by and grab a bite at night. You can listen for their “chip, chip, chip” calls to each other just before the sun rise and sets.

Related Articles:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What birds migrate from Michigan?

The birds are eating like crazy to prepare for flying south. Which birds are going to leave Michigan? ~ Redford, MI 

That’s a very good question. In general, it's estimated that of the over 200 species of birds nesting in Michigan, about 90 percent migrate to some extent. Whether it’s from the U.P. to mid-Michigan or from our state to Mexico or Central America depends on the bird.
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.In Michigan, birds can belong to several groups:
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Male & Female Cardinal along with Black-capped Chickadee
Other bird species seen at the feeder year round may also be migratory. While we see American Goldfinch throughout the year, some of the ones we see in the winter may have nested in Canada. And Song Sparrows that breed in Michigan may migrate to the southeastern United States, or may remain a year-round resident.

They are obligate partial migrants, meaning only part of the population migrates annually. And sometimes circumstances such as a good breeding season followed by poor winter crops can lead to irruptions of bird species not normally seen in our area like the Pine Siskins or Redpoles.

It’s not easy getting every bird’s travel plans straight. For example one of my favorite birds, the Northern Cardinal, has expanded its range greatly since the days of John James Audubon. Originally a southern bird, the cardinal began expanding its range into northern states around the 1900’s. During the early days of the expansion, the birds would migrate back south during the winter, but in time they became a year round resident in Michigan.

Migration isn’t an exact journey. Using published literature, bird observer reports, and observations of bird watchers it has been found that many factors like the temperature changes and land development are very likely influencing birds’ migratory patterns and will continue to alter patterns in the future.