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.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Where are my winter birds?

We live in a wooded area. Usually by this time (late November) we have lots of birds at our seed, thistle, and suet feeders: red-bellied, downy, and hairy woodpeckers, cardinals, bluejays, nuthatches, titmice, slate juncos, chickadees, goldfinches, etc. This fall we have only a few chickadees, titmice, downy woodpeckers, and juncos. We're using the same kind of seed as last year and haven't changed feeders. Do you have any ideas where the rest of our "regular customers" might be, especially the cardinals, bluejays, and red-bellied woodpeckers? ~ Ann Arbor, MI

If you remember, 2012 was a rotten year for fruit and nut trees. Birds were flocking to the feeders to supplement their diet. Canada’s natural seed crops were also horrible that year and a lot of birds that usually like to winter further north ventured south to Michigan to find food.

This year, 2013, will have no major bird irruptions. According to Ontario Field Ornithologist Ron Pittaway, the cone crops are excellent and extensive across much of the boreal forest and northeast Canada this year. That means there will be plenty of food for the winter finches, nuthatches and woodpeckers. So more birds will stay up north this winter.

It's estimated that only about 20% of a backyard bird's daily energy intake comes from feeders and because we haven’t had a lot of snowfall in Michigan, there still might be a lot of natural food sources available.

Other things to check if you don’t have birds at your feeders:

1. Make sure your seed is fresh. One way to do this crush your seed with a spoon on a piece of white paper and see if any oil comes out. On cold days where every meal counts, if your seed has dried out your feeder will be skipped. (Wild Birds Unlimited receives a fresh load of seed each week).

2. Take a closer look at your bird seed blend. All our blends are made of the stuff birds like to eat! We learned long ago the better the blend, the better your bird watching! Bargain bird seed may have inexpensive seeds like milo and wheat mixed in to bulk up the bag. However, in most regions these seeds are not eaten by bird feeder birds and is left to sprout or rot on the ground. We also stock all the non-blended bird seeds like WBU Premium Oil Sunflower, sunflower chips, safflower, Nyjer® (thistle), peanuts, and ear corn.

3. Make sure there is no mold in the bottom of your feeder. This can be dangerous to the birds and they will avoid your feeder again. To prevent mold in bad weather use Feeder Fresh™ (a silica grit that absorbs water and humidity, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand). You can also shelter your feeder from the elements by using something like WBU Weather Guard.

4. Look for predators. Hawks or cats can deter birds from feeding in your area.

5. Check with local birding groups. Call your local Audubon or go in to a Wild Birds Unlimited to see if you are the only one reporting fewer birds.

You'll probably notice that the bird activity was very high at the feeders before the last storm and I think more birds will visit when the snow begins to fly.

Related articles:
- 2013-2014 Winter Finch Forecast: http://goo.gl/qtIQEc
- Feeder Fresh: Prevent your seed from becoming moldy http://bit.ly/vLY9jU
- Will the hawk eat all my birds? http://bit.ly/v3XkTF
- Millions of Birds Die Each Year at the Hands of Mr. Puddy Tat http://bit.ly/tG9cXO
- Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/txkFqX

Friday, November 29, 2013

Photo Share: Hawk and Blue Jay

Hello Sara, I love reading your blog. It teaches me a lot about Michigan birds. I attached some pictures I made around my house. They're no special birds, but very beautiful none the less. Feel free to use them (or not) as you like :) Kind Regards, Sylvia

"There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way" (Buddha)
I think all birds are special. Thank you for sharing your photos and allowing me to share them on the blog! 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, November 28, 2013

White-breasted Nuthatch on classic hopper

Nuthatches are presumably named for their habit of wedging seeds and nuts into crevices and hacking them open with their bills. Although the White-breasted Nuthatch is a regular visitor to most backyard bird feeders like the Wild Birds Unlimited EcoTough™ Classic Hopper feeder, it only sticks around long enough to grab a peanut and then dash off with a laugh.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cornucopia: Thanksgiving symbol of abundance

The cornucopia (from Latin cornu copiae) or horn of plenty is a symbol of abundance and nourishment, commonly a large horn-shaped container overflowing with produce, flowers, nuts, other edibles, or wealth in some form.

In North America, the cornucopia is typically a hollow, horn-shaped wicker basket filled with various kinds of fall harvested fruit and vegetables and has come to be associated with Thanksgiving.

Related Articles:
- Let's all share Nature's bounty http://bit.ly/tgPkrv
- Edible ornaments for the birds http://bit.ly/tXDnSB
- Decorate a Tree for Your Birds http://bit.ly/t3QtGV
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods http://bit.ly/tUElnw
- Best way to serve your birds on Thanksgiving http://goo.gl/xyaAi9

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sad Goldfinch

American Goldfinch in the winter plumage
The scientific name for the American Goldfinch, Carduelis tristis, is Latin for "Thistle-finch sad". Supposedly it refers to the goldfinch's song.

I think that is quite funny because even though they lose their bright yellow feathers in the fall, I find their song especially warm and sunny in the winter.

They sing a series of musical warbles and twitters. A tsee-tsi-tsi-tsit call is often given in flight and at the feeders I often hear them end their sentence with a honey-bee? You can listen to a clip HERE. Or go to Cornell's website at: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/american_goldfinch/sounds

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Best way to serve your birds on Thanksgiving

Did you read the title and think the best way to serve a bird was with gravy and stuffing? Or were you like a lot of customers last week that wanted their backyard bird table full for the holidays and stocked up on foods for their wild birds!

If you come into the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI store you will see a lot of new items that will decorate your yard and make a great treat to serve your birds.


Fun Holiday Bird Food Treats
Cedar Birdhouse Dipped in Birdseed 
We have functional bird houses that are decorated with a mixture of fresh bird seed and dried flowers. Birds will flock to the sides to eat during the winter and then a bird couple can use the cedar house for nesting in the spring.

Solid Seed and Nut Ornament 
Give your backyard friends a gift they'll really enjoy. Extra-large wild bird seed ornaments are solid, compact balls of mixed birdseed and pecans. They can be hung on outdoor trees, porch hooks, or shrubs as a treat for clinging birds. Features red raffia bow and jute hanging loop. Each ball measures approximately 4" dia. This is a perfect gift to have on hand to pass out to teachers, hostesses, unexpected guests and other friends and family.
 .
Giant Bird Seed Pinecone
Giant Pinecones coated with sunflower seed without the shell and tied with twine so you can hang them over a branch. A fun way to decorate an outdoor tree in your own yard, these pinecones makes charming, nature-inspired gifts for bird lovers. 

Buttons the Snowman Seed Cylinder
Available for a limited time only, our Snowman Seed Cylinder is a seasonal mix of safflower, sunflower chips, peanuts, cherries, blueberries and papaya to attract a variety of birds. Simply slide the Snowman Seed Cylinder onto our WBU Seed Cylinder Feeders or WBU Dinner Bell™ feeder and enjoy the feathered holiday visitors. This is an adorable and unforgettable treat birds really love! 

WBU Supreme Fare Seed Wreath
The WBU Supreme Fare Seed Wreath does double duty during the winter season. Not only is it a dining delight for birds, but it also adds festive cheer to any yard. This wreath is full of seasonally-appropriate ingredients including sunflower seeds, peanuts and pecans.

It makes the perfect gift for friends that love nature but might not need another feeder. The wreath is 100% edible. Birds will eat this treat until it disappears completely.

Each wreath comes in a clear wrapped gift box and includes a red hanging ribbon and seed net. 

Related Articles: 
- Let's all share Nature's bounty http://bit.ly/tgPkrv 
- Edible ornaments for the birds http://bit.ly/tXDnSB
- Decorate a Tree for Your Birds http://bit.ly/t3QtGV
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods http://bit.ly/tUElnw

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What will happen to my birds when I move?

I found your blog while I was searching for advice about mourning doves. I'm moving to a new place and I have several pairs of doves at my current home. How do I stop feeding them? I'm really worried about what will happen to them when I leave.

A lot of people like the mournful coo the Mourning Dove’s common name reflects. However despite their sad song and fragile look, the Mourning Dove is a swift, direct flier whose wings often whistle as they cut through the air at a high speed.

They are the most abundant and widespread native bird in North America helped by the human-induced changes to the landscape. And if the feeder is empty they’ll look for other sources. Studies show that the birds you see in your yard only eat about 20% of their meals at feeders.

Birds are survivors and won't starve when you move. They usually follow a circuit each day, visiting a number of feeding areas. If there is no food in your area, you will just be left off their foraging circuit.

Doves aren't picky eaters. There are lots of natural sources of food like nut or berry bushes and native weed and flowers seeds that stand through the winter. These provide food for a lot of birds.

You could also leave a bag a seed for the new owners of your home to continue feeding if you like. We have several new customers that begin feeding because the previous homeowner has left the bird feeding set up for them to feed their birds.

Related Articles:

- Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://bit.ly/wMKEKF
- How Do You Keep Doves From Dominating a Feeder? http://bit.ly/zDAwR2
- How Mourning Doves defend their nests http://bit.ly/LiE7TH
- Do Birds Sip or Slurp? http://bit.ly/N6syCY 

- Mourning Dove nesting facts and figures http://goo.gl/Bs78pj

Saturday, November 23, 2013

How to store bird seed

We feed the birds, black sunflower seeds, and I keep it in a metal garbage can outside near the feeder.  But it seems to collect moisture on the bottom then making it moldy, and I have tried a plastic pail inside the garbage can and eventually that gets moisture on the bottom. Is there a better contained to store the seed in? ~ Sioux City, IA

Sometimes it’s better to buy smaller quantities of bird seed more often than to attempt to store very large amounts. Birds know the difference between fresh seed and older, stale or moldy seed! Fresh seed has higher oil content and is much more nutritious for the birds. Birds are very efficient foragers and like to make every calorie count especially in the winter.

Under optimal conditions, in a cool, dry place, out of the sun, bird seed can be kept for up to three months. One excellent way to store bird seed is to leave it in the original bag and put it in the freezer. Suet and seed kept in the freezer can be kept up to 6 months.

If don’t have freezer space, Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing has galvanized steel containers with locking lids to keep out water and unwanted guests. If the container is kept outside in the winter it will keep out moisture from the air and also keep out the drying sunlight. I always leave the seed in their original bags so you are never dumping old seed on top of new.

These few steps when storing bird seed and suet will extend the shelf life of the food and also attract more birds!

Related articles:
- What is No-Mess Bird Seed?: http://bit.ly/pl516I
- What birds like peanuts?: http://bit.ly/qKbHT0
- Seed Storage Cans and WBU Seed Scoops: http://bit.ly/q6th9R
- Do I need to clean my bird feeder?: http://bit.ly/nYKz40
- The best bird feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited: http://bit.ly/pv36W6

Friday, November 22, 2013

Photo Share: Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren
We can see the Carolina Wren year-round in mid-Michigan, however a winter of frigid temperatures with ice and snow can decimate an otherwise healthy population. Fortunately, the effects of such disasters are only temporary and populations recover within a few years.

To help your wrens in cold weather you can provide quality suets or nuts to eat and put up roosting pockets for them to pop into when the winds blow.

Related Articles:
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/yAR4pm
- Quick Fun Facts on Wrens http://bit.ly/v5XVoU
- Surviving Winter, the Bird Way http://goo.gl/SF0Yga  

- Roosting Pockets: Warm Shelter from Frosty Winds http://goo.gl/QOPbMw

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The advantages of a tray feeder

Tray feeders attract a wide variety of birds including ground feeding birds like cardinals. Birds feel comfortable with the large flat open area of a tray. And this makes it easier for us to view the birds.

Tray feeders can hold a variety of food. You can throw whole peanuts for the Blue Jays, mealworms for the Bluebirds or toss in a seed cake or loose seed for all the birds to enjoy.

I like the tray feeders that have good drainage in the bottom. This makes the feeder easier to clean and keeps the seed fresh longer. 

You can also add a weather guard to keep the snow and rain off and protect the birds.

Related Articles:
- Wild Birds Unlimited Advanced Pole System http://bit.ly/rJulFz
- Best Large Capacity Bird Feeder http://goo.gl/fqmDby
- Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
- How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh
- How to feed birds with less mess http://goo.gl/VgM3Xu

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Great New Children's Book: The Chickadee Spirit

The number of chickadees visiting your feeders varies. They tend to wander in winter, usually living within a mile-wide circle. After nesting is completed chickadee pairs form winter flocks which usually consist of six to eight members on average. They come together each winter in mainly the same area with mainly the same members. So, the chickadees using our feeders could be the same ones you’ve seen last year if only you could tell them apart.

Bill O. Smith, a former elementary school principal in Traverse City, Michigan came up with the idea for his first children’s book, Chickadees At Night, when he retired to care for his former mother-in-law and they would watch the birds, especially chickadees at the feeders.

Mr. Smith took the question “where do chickadees go at night?” and created a flight of fancy into the mysteries of the natural world.

Now his second book in the Chickadee Series, The Chickadee Spirit takes the reader into a curious winter community of hidden creatures and starry wonders not so far from the back door. The book draws children in with the rhyme and pictures and holds their interest as they participate in exploring the pages for hiding chickadees.

Both books are now available at the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store. Take a peek at the book: http://youtu.be/wlcFLk9M7kc

Related Articles:
- Best-selling hardcover book: Chickadees at Night http://goo.gl/kihc1t

- Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://goo.gl/bEl3h
- Not a Shy Bird: How the Black-capped Chickadee Communicates http://goo.gl/1rlnh
- Fun Fact Quiz on Chickadees http://goo.gl/0cI03
- Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://goo.gl/jAtN5
- How can birds survive this cold weather? http://goo.gl/4v2d4

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How to Keep Birds Healthy

There are several things you can do in your yard to ensure the health of your backyard birds.

A guide to healthy bird feeding
Follow these guidelines to help your birds stay safe and healthy:

Provide multiple feeding stations in different areas of your yard. When birds crowd at feeders they can become stressed and more vulnerable to disease.
Clean your feeders frequently.
Keep seed fresh and dry.
Regularly clean the area underneath your feeders. Ask us for tidy feeding solutions.
Place feeders 10 to 12 feet from bushes so cats and other predators can't surprise birds at the feeders.
Provide fresh water and clean your bird bath regularly.
• Always wash your hands after filling or cleaning your feeders.

If you love watching birds, then you want to make sure they return to your yard again and again! If they find a relatively safe habitat with fresh food and water, chances are they will come back - frequently.

Source: Educational Resources-Keeping Birds Healthy
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Woodpecker asleep at the feeder

I watched a Downy Woodpecker yesterday freeze in position against the feeder for several minutes. I'm wondering if it was snoozing? It was a most interesting behavior.

Did the feeding station suddenly go quiet? Was there any other activity at the feeders?

If a hawk was seen by the downy it may have decided to remain completely still instead of taking its chances by flying away from a predator.

It is common for birds to freeze in a position or fly away when a predatory bird flies over or lands in a tree nearby. 
 
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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bird of the Week: Wild Turkey


Wild Turkey male and female talking turkey
The Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), the heaviest member of the Galliformes, is fairly common now. However due to habitat loss and over-hunting, turkeys were once on the way to extinction until conservation organizations were established to preserve and expand their populations. Today wild turkeys live across most of the U.S. and their numbers have risen to more than 7 million.
The average life expectancy for wild turkeys is one and a half years in the wild and 13 years in captivity. Besides hunters, the birds are prey to a variety of animals like raccoons, bobcats, foxes, eagles, owls and much more.

The turkey is covered by about 6,000 iridescence feathers of varying colors of red, green, copper, bronze and gold. The gobbler, or male turkey, is more colorful, while the hen is a duller color to camouflage her with her surroundings.

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) and eight ChicksImage via Wikipedia
Female Wild Turkey with 8 chicks
The birds don’t migrate. They can be seen grazing fields and woodlands during the day and roosting in trees at night.

According to Wikipedia there are six subspecies:
Eastern Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris)- The most common and seen by the fist pilgrims.

Osceola Wild Turkey or Florida Wild Turkey (M. g. osceola) There are about 80,000 birds in Florida named after the Seminole Chief Osceola in 1890. It is smaller and darker than our Eastern Wild Turkey.

Rio Grande Wild Turkey (M. g. intermedia) More of a prairie bird, this sub-species is native to the central plain states. First described in 1879, they have longer legs for running and the back feathers are a buff-very light tan color.

Merriam's Wild Turkey (M. g. merriami) A western bird with purple and bronze reflections that ranges through the Rocky Mountains and the prairies of Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota as well as much of the high mesa country of New Mexico. It was named in 1900 in honor of Clinton Hart Merriam, the first chief of the U.S. Biological Survey.

Gould's Wild Turkey (M. g. mexicana) They exist in small numbers in the U.S. but are abundant in Northwestern portions of Mexico. A small population has been established in southern Arizona. Gould's are the largest of the five sub-species. They have longer legs, larger feet, and longer tail feathers. The main colors of the body feathers are copper and greenish-gold. This subspecies is heavily protected owing to its skittish nature and threatened status.

South Mexican Wild Turkey (M. g. gallopavo) The nominate subspecies, and the only one that is not found in the United States or Canada. The Aztecs domesticated the southern Mexican sub-species, M. g. mexicana, giving rise to the domestic turkey. The Spaniards brought this tamed subspecies back to Europe with them in the mid-16th century and from Spain it spread to France and later Britain as a farmyard animal, usually becoming the centerpiece of a feast for the well-to-do. By 1620 it was common enough so that Pilgrim settlers of Massachusetts could bring turkeys with them from England, unknowing it had a larger close relative already occupying the forests of Massachusetts. It is one of the smallest subspecies and is best known in Spanish from its Aztec-derived name, guajolote. Thought to be critically endangered as of 2010.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Common Michigan birds I can see at my seed feeder in the winter

I can’t remember a time I wasn't fascinated by birds in my yard. I love to feed them so I can bring my wild beauties up close to observe.

This fall I've been asked several times when the birds will leave and when the seed feeders should be taken in for the winter. Some of these people were new to mid-Michigan and some were just new to the bird feeding hobby.

It's an excellent question and I'm pleased to respond that if you keep your feeders clean and feed the proper food, you will have a lot of bird activity year-round!

I’ve listed some of the most common birds you’ll see in mid-Michigan and the food they like at feeders.

1. Northern Cardinal - Sunflower seed, Safflower, Peanuts, White Proso Millet
2. American Goldfinch - Nyjer Thistle, Sunflower Seeds
3. House Finch - Safflower, Nyjer Thistle, Sunflower Chips, Oil Sunflower Seed
4. House Sparrow - White Proso Millet, Oil Sunflower seed, Sunflower Chips
5. Dark-eyed Junco - White Proso Millet, Sunflower seed, Nyjer Thistle
6. Mourning Dove - Sunflower seed, Peanuts, Safflower, White Proso Millet, Nyjer
7. Tufted Titmouse - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
8. Black-capped Chickadee - Nuts, Sunflower, Safflower, Nyjer Thistle, Suet, Mealworms
9. Carolina Wren - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
10. Red-breasted Nuthatch - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
11. White-breasted Nuthatch - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
12. Downy Woodpecker - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
13. Blue Jay - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Suet
14. Red-bellied Woodpecker - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
15. Northern Flicker - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
16. European Starling - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Suet, Mealworms
17. Cedar Waxwing - Mealworms, Suet Nuggets, Berries and Wild Fruit
18. American Robin - Shelled peanuts, Suet, Suet Nuggets, Mealworms
19. Eastern Bluebird - Shelled peanuts, Suet, Suet Nuggets, Mealworms
20. American Crow - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Suet
21. Cooper’s Hawk - Songbirds, Squirrels, Suet

Of course there are a lot more birds in Michigan during the winter and they don't just eat from feeders, but this gives you a start. For more information we have Birds of Michigan Field Guides or you can visit our online Bird Guide to identify birds at http://www.allaboutbirds.org/.

Related Articles:

- 10 Winter Finches in Michigan: http://bit.ly/oL3iCF
- Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/pXv5ZN
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/nImz5g
- How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh
- How to Prepare Your Yard for Winter Birdwatching http://bit.ly/q93Men
- What is the best bird feeder? http://bit.ly/qVr7i8

Friday, November 15, 2013

Photo Share: Northern Cardinal male and female up close and personal

I was born in Launceston Tasmania, Australia. Following the end of the war my mother and I joined my father in the U.S. and we moved to Michigan.
I served in Vietnam in 1966-67 and subsequently in Germany for two years. It was while I was in Europe that I developed my love for photography and the arts. I particularly love nature and try to capture images that are beautiful and inspirational.
Photography and Art can be used to express a personal interpretation that is conveyed at a glance. A moment in time captured by the minds eye or a camera lens never to be forgotten. ~ Rodney Campbell in Oxford, MI

You can see more of Rodney Campbell’s work at: http://rodney-campbell.artistwebsites.com/art/all/birds/all 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, November 14, 2013

Unique gifts for someone that has everything

Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing has a widest selection of feeders, hangers, fresh seed, houses, and baths for bird watchers to choose from in mid-Michigan.

Give a hobby for the holiday
The delight of seeing so many active and energetic birds at your feeders makes feeding the birds a real joy during this time of the year.

That joy is available to everyone. By providing just a few simple things, such as fresh foods, clean water and shelter, the birds in your yard will bring you many hours of happiness and fulfillment.

Fall is a great time to watch the different types of birds at your feeders. Woodpeckers are busy eating mouthfuls of suet. Juncos hurriedly scour the ground for millet. Finches squabble at the finch feeder. Jays steal peanuts raucously and nuthatches and chickadees horde sunflower seeds industriously. New faces pop up every day. Some staying all winter and some just taking a much needed break on the way to their final stop further south.

Bird feeding is a fun and educational hobby, and this is the season to share it with everyone. With the holidays fast approaching you should stop by the Wild Birds Unlimited store for answers to any wild bird questions. 

I'm unboxing a lot of new items every day, trying to find a some place to display everything. Besides the heated baths, feeders, and houses we also have lots of nature gifts available for your friends and family.

Stocking stuffers and hostess gifts
Are you going to a lot of parties and need something to offer the host or hostess as a thank you? Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing has several neat books, bird ornaments, mugs, and other inexpensive pick up gifts.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The scoop on Wild Turkey poop

If you are lucky enough to get a Thanksgiving card from a little grade schooler that has traced their hand to make a Turkey tail, here are a couple quick facts you can pass along:

1. You can tell a boy turkey from a girl turkey by their poop. Male droppings are j-shaped while the female droppings are spiral or curly-cued. And the diameter of the droppings increases with age of turkey.
2. The Turkey name of the bird may have come from when early traders that took the bird from America in the 1500’s shipped them through the country of Turkey on their way to delivering the birds to European markets.
3. Male turkeys are called gobblers, after the “gobble” call they make to announce themselves to females which are called hens. Other turkey sounds include “purrs,” “yelps” and “kee-kees.”
4. Wild turkeys have very powerful legs and can run faster than 20 miles per hour and fly up to 55 miles per hour.
5. When they need to, Turkeys can swim by tucking their wings in close, spreading their tails, and kicking.

Related Articles:
- Hands-and-Feet Turkey card: http://goo.gl/z29nSY
- Turkey Trivia http://bit.ly/J1AIpH
- Do turkeys drown in the rain? http://bit.ly/rWtgr5
- Why is a Turkey Is Called a Turkey? http://bit.ly/uKNZe5
- What do Turkeys Eat? http://bit.ly/uUiDsN

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

House Wren didn't migrate this winter

We live in northern New Jersey. There is a house wren that comes into our basement at night and demands to be let outside every morning. This has happened for a couple of years now. He does not migrate. On November 8, 2013 he again made his appearance in our basement, and did again the following day. Would he migrate if he could not get inside? I am afraid he will freeze if left outside. Thank you.

While most House Wrens in North America migrate to the southern U.S. and Mexico for winter, it’s not unheard of to have some stay further north. They can withstand the cold temperatures as long as they have enough fuel to keep their engine running.

Keeping their body warm burns a lot of calories. Birds store the needed calories as fat, but they can only store enough for 16 to 24 hours. This is why you’ll see birds in a panic at your feeders right before it gets dark and at first light.

Having a known source of food is essential for providing wrens with the energy, stamina, and nutrition they need to survive. Wrens are primarily insect eaters, but suet, nuts, seed cylinders and mealworms are good substitutes for scarce insects during winter.

And don’t forget the water. Birds continue to need a source of water for drinking to maintain their metabolism during dry, cold weather. Clean feathers help birds stay warm, and a bird bath is often the only way for some birds to drink and keep their feathers in top condition when it’s cold.
I don’t have a House Wren but a lot of my customers attract Carolina Wrens in the mid-Michigan area by providing a brush pile, planting pine trees or thick bushes to provide birds cover and protection from the elements.

Instead of letting the bird in the basement you can also put up a wren house or roosting pocket for him to pop into at night or when the weather is bad. Roosting pockets are little shelters, much like birdhouses (but smaller and not meant to be used as a nesting site), where the birds can roost at night.

If you go to http://ebird.org/ you can submit your observation of a House Wren in November and check out how many other people have also had sightings. I went to ebird.org, clicked explore data and then went to range and point maps. I put in House Wren from Nov 2013 to Nov 2013. My results are at: http://goo.gl/ds1qLI. You can enter in your zip code to see a more focused report.

Related Articles:
- Do the same House Wrens nest in the same house every year? http://bit.ly/uDBbIb
- Quick Fun Facts on Wrens http://bit.ly/v5XVoU
- Hanging & Placement of Wren Bird Houses http://bit.ly/rBLsGQ
- The best suet for wild birds http://goo.gl/yY7bGt
- Roosting Pockets: Warm Shelter from Frosty Winds http://goo.gl/QOPbMw

Monday, November 11, 2013

What is Veterans Day?

Veterans Day is an annual United States holiday honoring military veterans. It is a federal holiday that is observed on November 11. Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in other parts of the world also fall on November 11, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I.

You might also find it interesting that the study of wild birds’ many survival techniques has been integral to the establishment of many military improvements.
  1. Birds taught the military about camouflage - The development of camouflage was the result of studying birds and copying how they camouflaged themselves. An American artist and zoologist, Abbott Thayer published a book in 1909 called Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom. This book focused a lot on birds and was widely read by military leaders in an attempt to understand how to camouflage military equipment and troops.
  2. Bird’s eye view gives military advantage – Man followed the birds in to the air. Since the middle of the First World War air warfare has revolutionized military conflict. Airborne supremacy is now a key element to success on the battlefield.
  3. Birds’ migratory V flight pattern adopted by military - A flock of geese can fly 70 percent farther by adopting the V shape rather than flying in isolation. The V formation also gives each bird an unobstructed field of vision, allowing flock members to see each other and communicate while in flight. Fighter pilots often use this formation for the same reason.
  4. Birds’ sentry system serves as an example to protect military members – Many bird species like crows and blue jays use a sentry system to protect members of a group and improve the chances of a good meal. Like birds warn companions of any danger with a distinctive "watchman's song", soldiers keep in regular radio contact with their colleagues to assure them all is well.
  5. Birds were drafted the military - During World War I and World War II, the U.S. military enlisted more than 200,000 pigeons to conduct surveillance and relay messages.
I want to wish everybody out there a peaceful Vetrans Day and a special thanks to all who have served this country!

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Grey bird with red beak

How do you tell the male cardinal from the female?
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Not all bird species have visible gender differences, but the Northern Cardinal is sexually dimorphic which means it is possible to determine which bird is male and female by plumage coloration.
Northern Cardinal Male and Female

Except for a black mask and throat, the male cardinals are red all over including their bill. The females are shaped like the male but are a duller grey brown color and have only warm red accents on the tips of their crest, wings and bill.

The juvenile cardinals in the spring and summer look similar to the female except for the darker crest and bill. The duller coloring is better to camouflage nesting birds.

Cardinals as well as other red feathered birds get their red plumage from pigments called carotenoids. Birds can’t synthesize carontenoid pigments but must obtain them from wild fruit seeds, weed seeds and fresh bird seed.

A good field guide like Ted Black’s Birds of Michigan provides full-color illustrations, detailed identifications, and a description of a bird’s habitat, nesting information, favorite foods, voice, and a range map.

The book also explains that the Northern Cardinal with its vivid red plumage, is a delightful year-round resident in mid-Michigan and prefers tangled shrubby bushes and evergreens in yards with feeders. They form faithful pair bonds, and will visit feeders together commonly in the early morning and evening.

Both birds sing to one another throughout the seasons with soft, bubbly whistles. So if you see the bright red male cardinal, look and listen for the "chip, chip, chip" of the less conspicuous grey female cardinal.

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Friday, November 8, 2013

How to make handmade bird treats

My little helper.
While you are enjoying the many tasty treats that abound this holiday season, don't forget to share some goodies with the birds. Decorating a tree for our feathered friends and other wildlife is an activity the whole family can enjoy.
 
One of my favorite crafts is a pinecone dipped in birdseed. They are so much fun to make I thought I'd share my secret recipe. So if there are any little hands out there that need to be kept busy over the holiday break, this is a fun and easy project.

Pinecone Treats for the Birds

What you need:
¼ cup powdered unflavored gelatin
2 cups water
12 medium pinecones
2 cups WBU No-Mess blend bird seed
Raffia to hang

Place water in a glass bowl that is big enough to dip in a pinecone. Heat the water in the microwave for 50 seconds. The water should only be warm, but this should be supervised by an adult.

1. Pour the powdered gelatin in the water and stir until it is dissolved.
2. Dip the pinecone into the gelatin water
3. Roll pinecone in a bowl of bird seed.
4. Set the dipped pinecone on wax paper and let it dry for a couple hours.
5. Once it’s dry, tie a raffia ribbon around the cone, hang on a tree outside and watch all the birds flock.
6. Or place the pinecone in a cellophane bag and you have the perfect party favor for your guests to take home.

Additional Treat Ideas
Other decorations that can be strung and placed on trees include popcorn, fresh cranberries, thick fresh orange slices, peanuts in the shell, dried apples or dried figs. You can also string rice cakes, crab apples, baby dried corn bundles, or grapes.

Natural rough brown string, ribbon and raffia can be used for hanging the decorations. The birds will use this material for nesting in the spring.

For more easy recipes to decorate a tree for the birds go to: http://www.wbu.com/education/brochures/DecorateATree.pdf

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Photo Share: Ring-billed Gull

Hello! Perhaps you can help solve this mystery... Ever since late summer, I've seen certain birds fly over at sunset. Generally four in number, never more, they fly due south, most often high up, flapping steadily -- I've only seen one bird glide once, briefly. The only evenings I haven't seen them were the nights I had my camera ready for them...until tonight. Right on time, at 5:00.  

These pics were taken with a 500mm lens, and I'd estimate they were about a quarter mile away. The fourth bird was bringing up the rear. Their wings are long and thin, and curved. The pictures that follow are enlargements that I did everything I could to make clearer, but due to the distance and low light at their chosen flight time, I'm not sure I'll ever get better. It really looks like there's a black tip on the wings. The head is round, short neck, and the tail is fairly short and narrow.


To me, they look like some kind of gull. More than anything, it's their habit that has me baffled: Daily at sunset, flying high, flapping steadily, always traveling due south. (I assume the trip is reversed in the morning.) 

I sure would be thrilled if someone could come up with a positive ID and an explanation of the daily commute.

You can check out Cornell’s site on gulls at: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/browse_tax/35/

There are more than 50 species of gulls worldwide, with many found hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean. Some live primarily inland, including the one I see most often in our parking lot, the ring-billed gull, which thrives in suburban settings around the United States.

For species like the ring-billed gull, a parking lot offers the chance of a food being left-behind and dumpsters filled with scraps. Mowed medias can also be a good source of invertebrates. Then an empty parking lot or a store’s roof offer a safe resting place between bouts of foraging where they can spot predators and take off easily.

I see more gull activity in the late summer too. Some gulls migrate further south but I see some that stay year-round in mid-Michigan. Your gulls must have a good foraging spot in the day and then go home to roost.

Ring-billed gulls are medium-sized gulls. The back and shoulders are pale bluish-gray, and the head is white. The wings are tipped in black with evident white spots, and the belly is whitish.

Ring-billed gulls have yellowish or greenish legs and feet. Their most distinctive feature is a sharply defined narrow black band that encircles the bill. Immature ring-billed gulls have different coloration than adults. First year birds are whitish with brown flecks and have very dark wing tips and tails. Second year birds are more like the adults, but have a black-tipped tail.

Their populations plummeted during the late nineteenth century, when humans encroached on the birds' nesting grounds and killed them for feathers to decorate hats. By the early 1900s many breeding sites were defunct. Protection under the 1917 Migratory Birds Convention Act (Canada) and 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act (U.S.) helped bring the species back.

Now Ring-billed Gulls once again thrive across the United States and southern Canada, so numerous in some places that they are considered pests, fueled in part by the edible garbage available at open landfills.

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