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.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

How to make the birds come back to your feeders

I had a beautiful flock of gold finches here in Maine this winter—about 50 - 60. I had to leave for Christmas. My neighbor fed them some, but did not clear the feeders when the ice storm hit. I've filled all the feeders, but they are not returning and don't seem to be here.

Have I done these birds a terrible disservice? Will finches go further south to find food? How serious is it if there is a break in feeding in the winter, especially when there are storms like this one?

Birds are pretty clever. If the feeder is empty they’ll look for other sources. Studies show that the birds you see in your yard eat only about 20% of their meals at feeders.

However, my feeders were overwhelmed with birds during the ice storm. They usually follow a circuit each day, visiting a number of feeding areas. Obviously for the 3 to 4 days following the ice storm my feeders were an easy, accessible source of emergency food.

Now that the ice has melted, I still have a lot more finches as well as many other bird and animal species foraging in my yard. They will eventually return to looking for other sources of food as the weather improves and you will see your birds return.

Just make sure your feeder is clean and full of fresh food!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Why birds don't drink snow for their water

Birds can use snow and ice as a source of water but it expends precious caloric energy to convert it to water. If there is an available source of open water, birds can conserve their energy for heat and survival during cold winters. Besides helping birds digest food properly, water helps birds keep their feathers clean and in top condition for effective insulation.

You can use a heated bird bath or add a heater to your existing plastic, metal or stone bird bath to make some water available even on the coldest day and attract birds that may not visit feeders very often. Heated birdbaths do not create warm water, but just keep it from completely freezing.

Related Articles:
- What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/tfT7Ca
- Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw
- Help Birds Beat Their Winter Woes http://goo.gl/ZlDTw
- Are there heated birdbaths that are solar? http://bit.ly/tnTrK4

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mysterious migration of the Blue Jays

Blue Jay by http://commons.wikimedia.org
The Blue Jays are found from southern Canada throughout all of Michigan and down to Florida and northeastern Texas. The western edge of the range stops where the arid pine forest and scrub habitat of the closely related Steller's Jay begins. Recently, the range of the Blue Jay has extended northwestwards so that it is now a rare but regularly seen winter visitor all along the northern US and southern Canadian Pacific Coast. As the two species' ranges now overlap, the Blue Jay may sometimes hybridize with the Steller's Jay.

Steller's Jay by http://commons.wikimedia.org
I usually see Blue Jays year-round in mid-Michigan but some may be migratory. Much about their migratory behavior remains a mystery. Some are present throughout winter in all parts of their range. Young jays may be more likely to migrate than adults, but many adults also migrate. Some individual jays migrate south one year, stay north the next winter, and then migrate south again the next year. To date, no one has worked out why they migrate when they do. Likely, it is related to weather conditions and how abundant the winter food sources are, which can determine whether other northern birds will move south.

My Blue Jays love Peanuts in the Shell. The Blue Jay mainly forages in the wild for nuts, seeds, soft fruits, berries and bugs. At the feeders they like any kind of nut, Oil Sunflower seed, Striped Sunflower seed and Suet.

Related Articles:
- Why do Birds Scatter Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/w4vRPP
- Blue Jays aren't blue http://bit.ly/roVPVX
- What Feeder Do You Recommend for Blue Jays? http://bit.ly/txd8ja
- Blue Jay Fun Facts http://goo.gl/wJgMmJ
- Do birds know winter is coming? http://goo.gl/EilIa6
- Why Blue Jays go bald in the fall http://goo.gl/gAX3x 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Birds in icy weather suffer

The first cold snap of winter cracked an icy whip across mid-Michigan, forcing the birds to return to our feeders in droves. You may notice a lot more titmice, woodpeckers, nuthatches and chickadees at the feeders. These clever birds collect and hide or cache food all over their territory, in a behavior known as scatter-hoarding.

Usually this secret stash of food hidden in the crevices of tree bark, in knotholes, under shingles, in the ground and on the underside of small branches helps them survive during bad weather and when food sources are low. Unfortunately ice storms can cover this food and make it unattainable. So while their backup foods as well as natural resources aren’t available, they are attacking the feeders.

Winter is the time when high fat foods become more critical in a bird’s diet. Every night up to three-quarters of a bird’s fat reserves are used up; reserves that must be replenished the next day. When fat reserves are depleted, protein — mostly scavenged from muscle tissue — is depleted to keep up with energy needs.

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 or nuts include sunflower chips (429 fat calories per 100 grams), and niger seed (342 fat calories).

Our most popular Wild Birds Unlimited seed blends are No Mess Blend 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 winter.

Related Articles:
- Common winter birds in Michigan and their food preference: http://bit.ly/yp9YQA
- How to choose the best suet cake http://bit.ly/xATYPQ
- Best food for birds in the winter http://goo.gl/MVFcbl
- Why do Birds Scatter Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/vZ6gzM
- Choosing a seed blend to feed wild birds  http://goo.gl/C3mFuD

Friday, December 27, 2013

Photo Share: Christmas hawk

Season's Greetings. In September I sent you a photo of a young bunny eared cardinal that you helped me identify.
 

Here is a pair of pictures I took in my back yard yesterday. I live in a small subdivision and I thought it was surprising to see a hawk in such close proximity to houses.
 

A Christmas hawk to be sure but do you know which kind it is? I looked at your past postings and it looks a bit like a Cooper's hawk.

Thank you for submitting more great pictures! Did you notice the neck bulge? After a hawk finishes a big meal their crop bulges. The crop is a pouch halfway between the mouth and the stomach, where food is stored and released gradually to the stomach. The crop maintains the steady flow of food needed to sustain these big birds so it may not hunt again for a day or two.

Related Articles:
- A close up look at a bird's crop http://goo.gl/GQzTRg 
- Coopers's Hawk http://bit.ly/ylsupp 
- Hawks at Feeders http://bit.ly/zfOiVV
- Red-tailed Hawk Fun Facts http://goo.gl/c18wxV

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Attracting winter bluebirds

I'm still feeding my bluebirds. When do they migrate south? ~ Bath, MI

Eastern Bluebirds can stay in mid-Michigan year round. Bluebirds usually gather in the woods after their nesting season is done. There they forage for fruits, nuts, and berries from shrubs, trees, and vines.

Flocks can be as large as 100 but typically range from 5 to 20 birds in mid-Michigan. Winter flocks forage for food together and wander about exploring possible roosting sites like bluebird houses or tree hollows.

How to help the bluebirds survive the winter
Bluebirds are attracted to water. You can provide a heated birdbath for your birds. This isn’t like a hot tub. The bath just remains free of ice and open to the birds to get drinks or clean their feathers.
Photo by Tom T. WBU So. Yarmouth, Ma.

Feathers are critical for flight and insulation, birds must keep them well-maintained. A good part of a bird's day is spent just cleaning and grooming its feathers by bathing, scratching, and preening. The feathers covering the body give the bird a water resistant, aerodynamic shape for efficient flight. The feathers also provide insulation by trapping body heat close to the skin.
What to you feed bluebirds
The only time it may be hard for birds to find food in the winter is during storms. Freezing rains or heavy snows can cover their natural food and make it almost impossible to feed. Otherwise in the winter, bluebirds forage naturally for fruits, nuts, and berries from shrubs, trees, and vines. Some of those include dogwood, hawthorn, mountain ash, sumac, holly, bittersweet, pokeweed, grape, and honeysuckle fruits.
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If you want to supplement their diet or attract bluebirds to a feeder, most people like you do, feed mealworms. I also like to add chopped apples in the same tray I offer the mealworms. Both bluebirds and live mealworms enjoy eating my apples.
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Other foods you can offer are shelled sunflower seeds, nuts, berries, or suet. Bluebirds enjoy raisins or chopped grapes too but these can be harmful to dogs so I don’t suggest that if your little buddies can access the feeding area.

Related Articles:

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Photo Share: All in the Body Language

These pics are in chronological order. Suffice it to say, the crows have been working on what-used-to-be-a-'possum for maybe two weeks. The snow plow tossed it up on the bank a few days ago, and I was kind of wondering how it got back into the road when this guy appeared. OK, but the 'possum has been ground into the ice so much that it's now frozen down, stopping the hawk from absconding with it entirely.
So this crow would really like his lunch ticket back.  What I thought was so funny was the way the crow mimics the hawk's posture to get closer, and ...  Lose.  Sigh.  Well, there's always tomorrow. 

Thank you Lynn C. for allowing me to share your photos 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.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Do birds have teeth?

Modern birds are characterized by feathers, a beak and no teeth, although ancient birds did seem to have the pearly whites. Around 300 million years ago, the ancestor of all modern vertebrates gave rise to two lineages, the mammals and the reptiles/birds. The oldest reptiles, such as crocodiles and alligators, had cone-shaped teeth. So did the earliest birds, called archosaurs.

Then, around 80 million years ago, modern birds emerged without teeth. It turns out that while developing a beak, birds lost their teeth.
Normal chick (left), mutant jaw (right) shows teeth
CREDIT: John F. Fallon and Matthew P. Harris

John Fallon of the University of Wisconsin was able to conduct an experiment in 2005 that induced tooth growth in normal developing chickens by tweaking the genes. The chicks were not allowed to fully develop, but their teeth looked like reptilian teeth and shared many of the same genetic traits. 

A direct application of this research could be re-growing teeth in people who have lost them through accident or disease.

Source:
The Development of Archosaurian First-Generation Teeth in a Chicken Mutant - http://www.cell.com/current-biology/retrieve/pii/S0960982206000649

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Monday, December 23, 2013

How birds survive ice storms

The birds that winter with us in Michigan are a hardy bunch but ice storms can take a toll on a bird’s survival. Feeding the birds becomes critical when ice covers all the natural food sources.

Food is the most essential element, providing birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition they need. An ample supply of high-calorie foods such as black oil sunflower, nuts and suet is crucial to a bird's survival.
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When they aren’t eating they are also searching for protection from the elements in compact bushes, evergreens and in other natural plant cover. You can help by placing bird houses or roosting pockets in a sheltered area.

Stop by Wild Birds Unlimited today and let us show you which high-energy foods, shelters, and heated baths are available to help your birds brave the cold snap! 

Related Articles:

Sunday, December 22, 2013

What is winter solstice?

The tip of Earth's axis causes the northern hemisphere in winter
to face away from the sun and toward it in summer. Credit: NASA
Is anyone else tired of it being dark at 4pm? Don’t worry, the winter solstice is this week and for everyone in the northern hemisphere that means the days will start to get longer.

The first day of winter or the December solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year when the sun's daily maximum elevation in the sky is the lowest.

Depending on the shift of the calendar, the winter solstice usually occurs on December 21 to 23 each year in the Northern Hemisphere, and June 20 to 23 in the Southern Hemisphere.

Winter Solstice celebrates the birth of the new Solar year and the beginning of winter. Cultures around the world have had celebrations of rebirth for centuries at this time of year.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

How to choose the best bird feeder for the beginner birdwatcher

My niece and her new husband are moving in to their first house and I want to give them a bird feeder. What would you recommend for a family just starting the bird feeding hobby. I want a good quality feeder that won't fall apart in 3 months but nothing big. ~ Holt, MI

The Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) East Lansing, Michigan store actually just developed a budget-friendly Green Solutions line of feeders and the feedback has been fabulous!

Even though the Green Solutions line isn't as high-end as our other WBU line, it's still high quality and may meet the needs of some cost conscience shoppers. The feeders are smaller and all hang but they are still made in the USA from recycled plastic containers and have a lifetime guarantee like most of our feeders. 

They are an attractive light green in varying sizes and styles. There are 3 different hoppers, 2 tray feeders, and a fly-thru feeder. All are excellent for the beginning or experienced bird feeding hobbyists.

The Green Solutions feeders are all easy to clean with a unique expanded rust-resistant mesh screen bottom that provides excellent drainage to keep seed dry and fresh and promote healthy bird feeding. The feeders recycled plastic will last forever, and most important, the design will attract a wide variety of birds.

Wonderful! I gave my son Ben the WBU window feeder you recommended 3 years ago when he moved into his first apartment. He's moved a couple times since then but he told me after each move, when he watches the birds, it feels like home. See you soon. Jennifer

Related articles:
Best bird feeders: http://bit.ly/q69iq8
Best foods for birds in winter http://bit.ly/6fkng 
Best Binoculars: How to Choose Optics: http://bit.ly/pHJfXE
Best bird feeding poles: http://bit.ly/nawdCo

Friday, December 20, 2013

Photo Share: Snow Days


Is there anything sweeter than the words “snow day” to a kid?  Even if you love school, snow days seem magical! 

Thank you for allowing me to share your photo 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, December 19, 2013

Gifts perfect for nature lovers: Bird feeders made in America

Our family is taking the 'Made in America' Challenge this year for Christmas. I didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be to find things made in the USA. I thought maybe your small business might know. Can you help?

Almost everything Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, Michigan purchases is Made in America. We are a little business and we support other little businesses. Most of our products are from small companies that don’t sell to big box stores:
Julian is Aspect's office cat (He is indoors only!!)
1)      Tube Feeders, Hummingbird Feeders, WindowFeeders - Aspects, Inc. out of Rhode Island is our main supplier of tube, window and hummingbird feeders. Their philosophy is to make the best feeders possible in their USA facility and stand confidently behind it with a Lifetime Guarantee. I consider both their products and customer service to be excellent! I have several of their feeders and have sold thousands more to satisfied customers.
Recycled Hoppers attract a wide variety of birds
2)      Hoppers, Houses, Suet Feeders – Birds Choice out of Chilton, Wisconsin have reused and saved over 6 million plastic jugs from going into the landfills by manufacturing products from recycled materials. Quality materials, excellent workmanship, patented unique designs, and customer service are the core of all Birds Choice products made in Chilton, Wisconsin, U.S.A. by a team of conscientious employees. So if you buy a recycled hopper feeder with a lifetime guarantee, you are not only supporting an American worker but you’re also supporting the environment!
3)      Squirrel Proof Feeders – Droll Yankees was started in 1960 by Peter Kilham and his boyhood friend Alan Bemis. Peter cared about using quality materials, in innovative designs that birds loved and people found easy to use. Droll Yankees out of Plainfield, CT, strives continually to maintain those high standards of design and functionality, and are proud to be recognized as makers of “The World's Best Bird Feeders.” They make the popular Squirrel Proof Flippers, Whippers, and Dippers. They all work fabulously and come with a lifetime guarantee. The only complaint I receive from customers is that they buy them to watch the squirrel “flip” from them but the squirrels just leave them alone instead!
Stovall also makes suet feeders
4)      Houses – We have some really nice functional bird, bat, duck, owl, and squirrel houses made by Stovall Products. They are not only made in America but are actually made in Michigan. Stovall products promote environmentally green practices by using hand sorted discarded cedar pieces. The shop is heated with scrap wood, cooled with natural shade, nestled in a glen of 25+ acres of beech/maple/oak forest in Michigan. Rumored staffing of woodland gnomes with a payroll of nuts and berries is still not verified.
5)      Bird Baths - Allied Precision Industries, out of Elburn, IL are specialists in manufacturing quality heated bird baths and water wigglers. Their durable, plastic heated bird baths are made in the USA and provide a reliable source of water when natural sources are frozen, even to temperatures below -20° F. It mounts easily to deck railings or can be placed on our stands. It features a built-in 150 watt, fully grounded heater that is thermostatically controlled to conserve energy. When the temperature is cold enough to freeze water, the bath will turn on.

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

Related Articles:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

5 Fun Facts about Holiday Poinsettias

1. Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are native to Mexico and Central America. They are tropical perennial plants and grow as tall as 12’ tall in their native environment.

2. Joel Roberts Poinsett introduced the poinsettia plant to the United States from Mexico. Poinsett was a botanist, physician and the first United States Ambassador to Mexico. December 12th is Poinsettia Day, which marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1851

3. The brilliant red flowers are actually modified leaves called bracts. We can now get poinsettia cultivars with white, cream, pink, peach & a variety of other colors as well as variegated bracts.

4. The Paul Ecke Ranch in California grows over 70% of all Poinsettias purchased in the United States and does about 50% of the world-wide sales of Poinsettias.

5. Many plants in the Euphorbiaceae family ooze a milky sap. Some people with latex allergies have had a skin reaction (most likely to the sap) after touching the leaves. For pets, the poinsettia sap may cause mild irritation or nausea. Probably best to keep pets away from the plant, especially puppies and kittens. 

Related Articles:
- How the Christmas Tree tradition started http://goo.gl/hpYcTZ
- Edible ornaments for the birds http://bit.ly/tXDnSB
- Decorate a Tree for Your Birds http://bit.ly/t3QtGV
- The Tradition of feeding the Birds at Christmas Time http://goo.gl/7ODaQ
- When did Reindeer Learn to Fly? http://bit.ly/veTLpT

- Why green, red, and white are Christmas colors http://goo.gl/Swgzv6
- Why do people kiss under the Mistletoe and what is the plant's connection to birds? http://goo.gl/Cmqwvg

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Why Do Some Birds Bob Their Heads?

If you watch the birds at your feeding station you will see that some birds hop, hop, hop, and others prefer to walk around. Birds that hop take advantage of the pause between each jump to look around. Walking birds like the Mourning Doves, Robins, and Starlings, all move there head forward and back as they walk.

Based on an experiment done with doves walking on a conveyor-belt, it was discovered the head nodding is a way of fixing the eyes on their surroundings. Although the head is moving relative to the body, the eyes are steady relative to the world, so the bird can focus on food or distant predators. When the speed of the belt was adjusted so that the doves were stationary relative to their surroundings, they stopped nodding.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Tradition of feeding the Birds at Christmas Time

Birds are considered to be among the most common Christmas tree ornaments. They have religious symbolism as being biblical messengers that bring love and peace to the world. Even today, birds represent good luck and good fortune.

It is said that many German families felt that finding a bird’s nest in the Christmas tree meant the gift of health, wealth and happiness throughout the year. And in southern Germany corn is placed on the roof to feed the birds on Christmas Eve.

In Denmark, the father of the household erects a “juleneg” on Christmas Eve. This is a corn stalk hung in a tree, just to let the birds know that Christmas has arrived.

Feeding bread crumbs, seeds, or a sheaf of grain to the birds on is also a Swedish tradition. The last sheaf of grain from the harvest, known as the Julkarve or the Christmas sheaf is hung out for the birds on Christmas Eve.

According to legend if lots of birds come, a good crop will follow the next year. The very act of giving to the birds signifies a reminder that no matter how lean the times, when people share, good fortune will follow.

If you would like to join the time honored tradition of feeding birds this time of year, you can fill your feeders or make edible ornaments to hang from the trees. Then as you enjoy your traditional Christmas meal inside, you can watch the birds and squirrels enjoy their meal outside the window. I wish every one peace, good health, and a happy new year.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Checkerboard Bird: Rare visitor to mid-Michigan feeders in winter

Photo from http://commons.wikimedia.org
Red-headed Woodpeckers occasionally visit feeders in winter, especially suet. They will eat seeds, corn, acorns, beechnuts, pecans, and many kinds of fruits (including apples, pears, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, mulberries, and poison ivy fruits). 

Look for Red-headed Woodpeckers in scattered, open woodlots in agricultural areas. They like to lve in mature stands of forest, especially oak, oak-hickory, maple, ash, and beech. 

Red-headed Woodpeckers are fairly easy to identify thanks to their large blocks of solid color. Adults have bright-red heads, white underparts, and black backs with large white patches in the wings, making the lower back appear all white when perched. 

Red-headed Woodpeckers give all kinds of chirps, cackles, and other raucous calls. Their most common call is a shrill, hoarse tchur, like a Red-bellied Woodpecker’s but higher-pitched and less rolling. To read more and listen to a call go to: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/red-headed_woodpecker/sounds

Related Articles:
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
- Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX
- How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/tJ7e6S
- Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/tQ5lwt
- How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Cold weather creates a bird feeding frenzy!

As the snow begins to fly, it will cover up birds’ natural food sources. This is when birds become stressed and take advantage of feeders.

Almost every person that came in to the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store today reported a "feeding frenzy" at the bird feeders. Many said they feed year round and others started to feed earlier this year on my recommendation. The reward was a lot of birds including several cardinal pairs that decided their yard was going to be the territory headquarters.

I have a lot of finches, woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, doves, juncos, sparrows and I’ve counted 8 pairs of cardinals this year in my yard. That’s a record for my little yard!  

Anyone that is not having trouble keeping your feeders full, check your seed. If birds are skipping you feeder in these chilly temperatures than the food is probably stale. When every calorie counts, birds can’t waste their energy on below standard food.

I encourage you to keep your seed and suet feeders filled as the cold weather persists. If you don’t like to go out and fill the feeder every day, try the seed cylinder feeders. A solid seed cylinder can last weeks and feed a wide variety of birds.

Related Articles:
- Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
- What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/tfT7Ca 
- Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw 
- Help Birds Beat Their Winter Woes http://goo.gl/ZlDTw
- Best food for birds in the winter http://goo.gl/5OBx6r

Friday, December 13, 2013

Photo Share: Robin in frozen grass

The America Robin (Turdus migratorius) is found year round in the mid-Michigan area but they usually form large flocks and head to the woods to forage for fruit, nuts and berries.  

During cold snaps I’ve seen American Robins leave the woods to come devour our crab apples, Mountain Ash tree berries, and sometimes they venture under my feeders to look for dropped nuts. You can also feed robins chopped apples, suet, mealworms, or peanuts on a tray feeder. And they appreciate open water too.

Thank you Pippalou for allowing me to share your photo 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, December 12, 2013

Food for chickadees in the winter

In the winter Black-capped Chickadees eat about 50% seeds, berries, and other plant matter, and 50% animal food (insects, spiders, and sometimes fat and bits of meat from frozen carcasses).

At feeders they eat sunflower seeds, peanuts, suet, peanut butter, and mealworms. You will also see them occasionally on the goldfinch feeders eating Nyjer Thistle.

Mid-Michigan's chickadees are non-migratory and will be around all winter. New fall and winter flocks can join bands of nuthatches and woodpeckers for safety. Flocks can consist of 2 to 18 birds. Normal suburban flocks range from 6 to 10 birds over a territory of 20 to 50 acres.

Related Articles:
- Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://goo.gl/d0VzDD
- A window feeder is the best way to entertain indoor cats http://bit.ly/xQVMaa
- Why don't chickadees stay to eat at the feeder? http://bit.ly/AkKThH
- After chickadee babies have fledged http://bit.ly/yAYbP4
- Fun Facts About Chickadees http://bit.ly/zIDkCi
- Bird of the Week: Black-capped Chickadee http://bit.ly/A1YFQ4

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why do people kiss under the Mistletoe and what is the plant's connection to birds?

Hanging mistletoe over a doorway during the holiday season is a tradition around the world. The Mistletoe plant does not grow in soil but on the tops of tree branches and absorbs its host’s tree sap as food through specialized roots. When most trees go dormant in the winter, mistletoe is an evergreen plant with dark green, leathery leaves and tiny white berries.

It's thought that the plant is named after bird droppings on a branch. The Anglo-Saxon word misteltan, "mistel" (dung) and "tan" (twig), make up the older version of mistletoe.

Lots of songbirds enjoy mistletoe berries and the berries like the birds right back. Birds help spread the plants' seeds through their droppings. The small, soft seeds of mistletoe berries lack a seed coat. They are protected from a bird’s digestive juices by a viscid layer containing chemicals that speed the seed through the digestive system. This same layer helps deposited seeds stick to limbs and twigs of a host plant

Mistletoe along with a lot of other evergreens such as holly, ivy and pine trees are all symbols of eternal life and renewal. The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe may have stemmed from the Norse goddess of love and beauty. Goddess Frigg made Mistletoe promise that it would forever be devoted to acts of happiness and usefulness after Loki, the mischief maker, helped engineer her son's death with the plant.

The Druids also considered the mistletoe to be a sacred plant and believed it had miraculous properties which could cure illnesses, serve as an antidote against poisons, ensure fertility and protect against the ill effects of witchcraft. And when enemies met under the mistletoe in the forest, they had to lay down their arms and observe a truce until the next day. As a result the ancient custom of hanging a ball of mistletoe from the ceiling and exchanging kisses under it as a sign of friendship and goodwill.

Related Articles:
- How the Christmas Tree tradition started http://goo.gl/hpYcTZ
- Edible ornaments for the birds http://bit.ly/tXDnSB
- Decorate a Tree for Your Birds http://bit.ly/t3QtGV
- The Tradition of feeding the Birds at Christmas Time http://goo.gl/7ODaQ
- When did Reindeer Learn to Fly? http://bit.ly/veTLpT

- Why green, red, and white are Christmas colors http://goo.gl/Swgzv6

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Great Horned Owl Courtship Begins

One of  the best things about December is hearing the first calls of the Great Horned Owls as they begin their courtship.  The hooting of the owls becomes noticeable mid-December in Michigan. On a clear night, even in the suburbs where I live, you'll hear the birds calling back and forth usually from midnight until dawn. Their distinctive territorial call, "hoo-hoo hoooo hoo-hoo," can be heard from miles away.

The courtship calls begin in December but the actual mating is late January or early February. The males hoot vigorously for over a month, while the answering calls of the females are heard for only a week or two, toward the end of the courtship period.

In the beginning males are excited and hooting seems to be an expression of physical vitality. Then males start competitive hooting from favorite perches to defend their territories. Finally the owls hoot to attract the attention of females.  

Great horned owls are monogamous, forming a mating pair to raise the young. They achieve sexual maturity at 1 to 3 years of age. Like all owls, Great Horned Owls do not build their own nest. They often take over a nest used by some other large bird, sometimes adding feathers to line the nest but usually not much more. Old crow, raven, Red-tailed Hawk or large squirrel nests are often favored in North America. They also use cavities in trees, deserted buildings, and artificial platforms. Males select nesting sites and bring the females attention to them by flying to them and then stomping on them.

After a mate is chosen they bow to each other, with drooped wings, rub noses and preen each other. If all goes according to plan the female will lay 2 to 4 eggs and incubate them for 26-36 days. Six weeks after hatching, the owlets become "branchers" when they start to walk in the trees around the nest.

They cannot fly well until 9 to 10 weeks old. Then the parents show them around and teach them how to survive. In autumn the juveniles disperse widely, while the adults return to the area near their breeding grounds. The pair will then each maintain solitary existences until the next nesting season.

The average life expectancy of great horned owls is 13 years. They do not migrate but stay in the same general area.

Related Articles:
- Snowy Owls http://bit.ly/ylJmQq
- Eastern Screech Owl http://bit.ly/wMQBZj
- Great Horned Owl http://bit.ly/zmlFqY
- Barred Owl http://bit.ly/yAoDx8
- Great Gray Owl http://bit.ly/tAewYm
- Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/z9q3Dg

Monday, December 9, 2013

Are Peanutbutter and Birds a deadly combination?

Nuthatches are one of many birds that love nuts!
I teach preschool and we coated lots of pinecones in peanut butter and then dipped them birdseed as a treat for the birds. One parent thought the peanut butter would choke the birds. Did I do something wrong? ~ Huntsville, Texas

There are no documented cases of birds choking on peanut butter. I think peanut butter on pine cones and then dipped in seed is a fabulous treat for the birds. Or if you smear peanut butter on a tree trunk you’ll be surprised how many cute birds this will attract up and down your tree.

Pine Cone Feeder
1. Tie natural rough brown string around the top of a pine cone.
2. Pack Peanut Butter into pine cone.
3. Roll pine cone in Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) Seed.
4. Hang from a tree.
Be sure to select a tree somewhere near a window so that once you have completed your decorating, you and your family can sit back and watch the beautiful birds enjoy their holiday treats.

Related Articles:
- Peanutbutter-free seed pinecones for the birds http://bit.ly/tXDnSB
- What birds like peanuts? http://bit.ly/sOmvEe
- Let's all share Nature's bounty http://bit.ly/tgPkrv
- Decorate a Tree for Your Birds http://bit.ly/t3QtGV
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods http://bit.ly/tUElnw

Sunday, December 8, 2013

List of all the birds named Cardinal

The only cardinal bird in Michigan is the Northern Cardinal. The term "Northern" in the common name refers to its range, because they are only found in the Northern Hemisphere. And the “Cardinal” name was derived from the vivid red plumage of the male, which resembles the robes of the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church.

But there are actually several birds in the world with the name Cardinal. Cardinalis is a genus of cardinal in the family Cardinalidae and there are three species ranging across North and South America. 
1. Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis 
2. Pyrrhuloxia (Desert Cardinal), Cardinalis sinuatus 
3. Vermilion Cardinal, Cardinalis phoeniceus 

Paroaria, the red-headed cardinals or cardinal-tanagers are not close to the Cardinalidae but are related to tanagers. They all look similar to a skinny Northern Cardinal, with a pointier yellowish bill. Their heads have large amounts of bright red and short crests while their bodies are white below and dark grey to black above.

The six South American cardinals in the genus Paroaria are:

1. Red-crested Cardinal, Paroaria coronata
2. Red-cowled Cardinal, Paroaria dominicana
3. Red-capped Cardinal, Paroaria gularis
4. Masked Cardinal, Paroaria (gularis) nigrogenis
5. Crimson-fronted Cardinal, Paroaria baeri
6. Yellow-billed Cardinal, Paroaria capitata

There are also two birds named cardinal in the continent of Africa. The Cardinal Woodpecker, Dendropicos fuscescens and the Cardinal Quelea, Quelea cardinalis both sporting a red crown.

Related Articles:
- Northern Cardinal Fun Facts http://bit.ly/twE6NV
- How the Northern Cardinal bird was named http://bit.ly/tSKZYs
- Cardinal Bird Feeders Made in the USA: http://bit.ly/qXJPFM
- How to Attract Cardinals: http://bit.ly/pjh7mO
- What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/rAArXw

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Threats to bluebirds on golf courses

I"m doing a semester project about Eastern Bluebirds. I read that they tend to like golf courses and open fields a lot. My question is are there any threates in the area that would potentially destroy their habitat? Like a House Sparrow? 

Eastern bluebirds prefer to nest and forage in areas at the intersection of forest and field. Golf courses, with fairways and woods, are prime real estate for bluebird nests.

During breeding season Eastern Bluebirds are typically found in open habitats with scattered trees and shrubs. The trees provide cavities for shelter and the shrubs are good perches to hunt insects. During non-breeding season bluebirds are found in more wooded habitats because their diet switches to more fruits, nuts and berries and more trees provides greater protection from the harsh elements.

Bluebirds are secondary cavity nesters because they nest only in cavities that have been excavated first by another species. Historically, they nested in old woodpecker holes, but today they nest successfully in artificial nest boxes.

By placing nest boxes in areas where there is sufficient forest cover with undergrowth, you can significantly improve survival of fledgling bluebirds during their most vulnerable early weeks of independence.

Causes of mortality
Threats to the bluebirds include hawk or crow predation, window strikes, starvation, human disturbance, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and intensive turf management. Sparrows tend to be more city birds. They like the shape of bluebird boxes but tend to ignore them the further away they are from human dwellings.

Read more at:
Reproductive success and developmental stability of eastern bluebirds on golf courses: evidence that golf courses can be productive

Related Articles:
- Ultimate Bluebird House http://bit.ly/xeGs0e
- Feeding and Raising Bluebirds http://bit.ly/A39dAh
- How to Protect My Bluebird House http://bit.ly/zI48Ts
- 5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses http://bit.ly/yNT6Ye
- When is the best time to put up a bird house? http://bit.ly/yAI123 
- Bluebird House Designs http://bit.ly/w7FWRE

Friday, December 6, 2013

Photo Share: Small Gray Birds with a secret


Many birds show plumage patterns in ultraviolet light that are invisible to the human eye. Gray and white birds may look alike to the naked human eye, but birds can distinguish themselves by the presence of ultraviolet reflective patches on their feathers.

The females respond stronger to males with good UV-reflectiveness. An ultraviolet reflective patch might be displayed in courtship by posturing with the brightest UV- plumage fluffed.

This Tufted Titmouse and White-breasted Nuthatch may appear common but the more we understand, the more we can appreciate the beautiful nuances of the world around us. 

Thank you Sylvia 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.