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.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Treat Trays for specialty bird food

We have a lot of "treat trays" to feed specialty food like mealworms, fruit, or jelly to choose from at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI. Two of our most popular are the orange flower feeder and the blue flower feeder.

The Oriole Flower Feeder shows elegance with a purpose to attract birds. The feeder has a dual purpose. It has a small bowl to hold treats and two pegs to stake fruit. Then you can just sit back and watch the birds flock your feeder.
The elegant cobalt blue and metal flower design makes this feeder attractive to birds that like mealworms, bluebird nuggets or seed.

High points:
  • Small, lightweight feeder to hang anywhere
  • Wire is powder coated black with an hanging ornamental jewel
  • Looks like a flower but serves as a feeder
  • Cup will hold jelly, fruit, suet nuggets, or mealworms
  • Pegs to stake fruit on orange feeder

Related Articles:

- Wild Birds Unlimited has the best Oriole feeders http://goo.gl/Ljeowr
- Facts on the Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GzSTbi
- Where do orioles winter? http://bit.ly/GAeWv5
- Close-up of Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GAf6T7
- When can I expect my orioles to leave? http://goo.gl/OHrCc

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Skunk Cabbage is one of the earliest plants to flower in the spring

Photos from Wikimedia Commons
Skunk cabbage is an early blooming wild flower with a skunky odor to attract flies and carrion beetles to enter and pollinate the flowers. It emerges from late February through May in mid-Michigan in woodlands, wetlands, or near streams.

Skunk cabbage has a remarkable ability to produce heat that allows it to emerge and bloom even when the ground is still frozen. During the winter when temperatures are freezing, the flower buds can warm up to 70 degrees, which melts the snow around the plant. Pollinated flower heads develop berry-like fruits containing seeds which germinate into new skunk cabbages next growing season.

Source: 
National Wildlife Federation  http://www.nwf.org/wildlife/wildlife-library/plants/skunk-cabbage.aspx

Related Articles:
How to garden for birds http://goo.gl/ypyRV
Hummingbird Flowers http://goo.gl/XSy5V
Monarda: Fireworks Flowers http://goo.gl/vFxDc
Michigan Lily http://goo.gl/bSlff
Wild plants that combine fascinating folklore and practical uses. http://goo.gl/XEyWf
Good year for Adder’s Tongue: http://goo.gl/qarRfT

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Baltimore Oriole was named in the early 1600s

I finally put up my Baltimore Oriole feeder. Now I can relax and await my handsome gentleman caller. Of the nine species of orioles, the Baltimore is common and widespread in the east while the Bullock’s Oriole is common in the west.

The Baltimore Oriole (7-8.25”) is bright orange bird with black hood and back. Wings are black with orange shoulder patches and strongly white-edged feathers that appear as bars. Female has an olive brown back, yellow/orange underparts and white-edged feathers on the wings. Juvenile is paler overall and has gray belly and the first year male has black throat patch.

The name “oriole” is from the Latin aureolus, which means golden. The Baltimore Oriole was named in the early 1600s for George Calvert, Baron of Baltimore, whose livery stable was painted bright yellow and black. The Baltimore Oriole’s range overlaps with that of the similar Bullock's Oriole in the Midwest, and the two species are sometimes considered to be conspecific (belonging to the same species) under the name Northern Oriole because they form fertile hybrids.

Orioles usually stay hidden in the trees eating insect and fruit and singing their beautiful whistling notes. They can be drawn down from their perches with foods like orange slices, grape jelly, mealworms, suet, peanuts and nectar feeders.They are common in some suburban landscapes due to their preference for open settings that are bordered with mature trees used for nesting.

The Oriole’s hanging-basket nest is an engineering masterpiece woven with plant fibers, grasses, vine and tree bark and sometimes string or yarn 6-45 feet in the air. This keeps them safe from most predators. Oriole nests are woven with thousands of stitches and the tying of thousands of knots, all done solely with its beak. The female builds her nest and incubates the eggs with little or no help from its mate, but both feed the young. Orioles will lay 4-5 eggs anywhere from May to June and the young will fledge as late as 30 days from egg laying.

You can help to supply them with additional nesting materials by providing natural fiber yarn, twine or string pieces in lengths of less than six inches. And for my favorite oriole feeders click HERE.

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

Monday, April 27, 2015

How hummingbirds nest

Where do hummingbirds nest?

There is no particular tree species in which hummingbirds prefer to nest. They first look for a territory that supplies enough bugs and nectar to support them and their babies. Next they look for a tree that provides proper camouflage and protection from predators.

Hummingbirds usually return to the same general area they were hatched. Female hummingbirds build their nests all alone even before they mate. Male hummingbirds take no part in raising the young. Older females can even return to the location of last year’s nest and rebuild it if the nest has survived the winter.

An attractive nesting tree will have some pencil thin flexible branches that slope downward slightly. The tiny golf ball sized nest, constructed below a leaf canopy and above a fairly open area, starts with spider silk to attach the nest and make it flexible. Lichens camouflage the outside, and the inside is lined with cotton from nesting material, dandelion, cattail, or thistle down.

Courtship is very brief and then two white, pea-sized eggs are laid two or three days apart, which the female will incubate from 60 to 80 percent of the day for 10-14 days. After the babies hatch, the nest stretches to contain the growing nestlings. When they leave the nest, 18-22 days later, the chicks are twice as large as their mother which was stressed by raising them.

If a Ruby-throat nests near your feeder she may appreciate quick bites to eat while incubating eggs. When the chicks hatch, they need lots of protein, so their mother spends a lot time foraging for small insects and spiders. Throwing old banana peels in the garden as compost will attract fruit flies for the hummingbirds and fertilize your garden.

After the chicks leave the nest, mommas will bring these newly fledged hummers to feeders and you can watch them check out everything to see if it is food. It usually takes them awhile to figure out what’s food so fledglings are fed by their mother for another 10 days.

Young hummingbirds will look similar to a female, but as young males begin to mature in late summer look for a few random red iridescent feathers on the throat. And the young are very healthy looking. Their feathers are full and shiny whereas the parent birds look a little haggard.

If you keep your feeders filled and fresh you should have hummers visiting from April until usually the end of October.

Related Articles:
Hummingbird Information on Habitat and Habits http://bit.ly/It2WwE
Where have my Hummingbirds gone? http://bit.ly/IHzxy3
How Do I Know If It's a Baby Hummingbird? http://bit.ly/IHzCSh
Gardening for birds http://bit.ly/It58nR
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/FQ9kxU

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Common Yellowthroat comes home

The Common Yellowthroat winters in Central America. In the spring they fly across the Gulf of Mexico and head north to nest in open habitats like marshes, wetland edges, and brushy fields in Michgan and across a lot of North America.

Adult males are bright yellow below, with a sharp black face mask and olive back feathers. Females are a plain olive brown, usually with a brighter yellow throat and under the tail.

The male sings a distinctive witchety-witchety-witchety song, about 2 seconds long, to defend the territory and attract females. They give these songs very frequently during summer, averaging as high as 125 songs per hour and sometimes reaching 300 songs per hour.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

What birds do in a cold spring

We may grumble about the temperature, but the cold is actually not a big problem for birds. They are equipped with several layers of fluffy, insulating down to trap heat, so you won’t see your local robins and blackbirds shivering!

Birds appreciate a warm welcome this cold spring
It is finding food and ensuring they eat enough of it to build - and maintain - adequate fat supplies to store on the body and ‘burn’ for energy that are the greatest tests for wild birds in the cold weather.

During cold snaps, you will notice more birds coming into your yard to seek sanctuary and food. Finding a regular source of high-energy food and water can potentially be a real lifesaver. High on the list of best choices to meet this nutritional need is suet and certain seeds like peanuts, sunflower seeds and nyjer seed.
 
Our most popular Wild Birds Unlimited seed blend is No Mess Blend is filled with many of these high fat seeds and nuts making it an ideal food, along with suet, to offer your birds this cold spring.

The Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Seed Cylinder is another way to offer sunflower chips, peanuts, tree nuts and fruit to all the seed, nut and fruit loving birds.

No-Mess Seed Cylinder is a tidy dining option that a lot of birds will enjoy. No shells means no mess and no wasted food, making this seed cylinder a great value. This 100% edible cylinder is great near flower beds patios and decks.  
 
Related articles:
- Why Don't Birds Freeze After They Take a Bath in the Winter? http://goo.gl/5ydpvy
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/z7Eurx
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods http://bit.ly/xbZ9lR
- Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
- Choosing the best bird seed http://goo.gl/jrpDX
- How can birds survive this cold weather? http://goo.gl/4v2d4

Friday, April 24, 2015

Photo Share: Ruby-throated Hummingbird Female resting

Thank you Holly 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, April 23, 2015

How to keep snakes out of bird houses

We just had a snake kill at least one and attempt to kill the second hatchling. I have barb wire wrapped around the pole but I allowed a nearby tree to grow too close to the birdhouse. I cut back the tree but I think that I should move the birdhouse. Should I do that right away? Any suggestions about how to keep the snakes out? 

I'm sorry you've had such a traumatic start to the nesting season. Location is very important part in protecting bluebird houses. Never locate a bluebird house near or underneath a tree limb where snakes, cats, raccoons and other predators can drop onto the house from above.

Predation of the eggs and young birds will be minimized greatly by pole mounting your house in an open, grassy field edge or lawn area away from trees. Place the box about 5 feet off the ground on a wooden or metal pole.

Our Advanced Pole System (APS) Bluebird Pole works great for most nesting boxes. Add an APS raccoon baffle and the house is protected well against most predators including snakes climbing the pole. We have baffles that also go around 4”x4” wooden poles.  

 Related Articles:
- Best bird houses at Wild Birds Unlimited http://goo.gl/A1dMF
- Product Highlight: Advanced Pole System http://bit.ly/uKRdrZ
- How to Protect My Bluebird House pole: http://bit.ly/vcPUb7
- When do birds begin nesting? http://bit.ly/A8OFNi
- 5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses http://bit.ly/x16Dqr
- When do you clean bird houses? http://bit.ly/zpTAiX

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How to feed mealworms to wild birds

Do I just dump the whole carton of mealworms out for the bluebirds?

The rule of thumb is to offer about 15 mealworms per bluebird once or twice a day, as a supplemental food, unless severe weather conditions limit natural sources. That is usually one spoonful. A hundred or so worms offered morning and evening would be adequate for a pair with a box of nestlings a week old.

Bluebirds are primarily insect eaters in the spring and summer. When their babies hatch bluebirds know instinctively that mealworms are too big for newly hatched babies. They start them out with tiny bugs for their young. Although the parent bird will appreciate your easy mealworm breakfast during a stressful time, they will not feed regular sized mealworms to their chicks until the babies are about six days old.

They don't regurgitate food. When the chicks are new and tiny, they bring them whole, fresh, soft, small, larvae and spiders to eat. As the chicks grow, they gradually increase the size and toughness of the insects they offer.
.
It's not necessary to feed birds but it's fun to watch nature up close, and you'll be amused at how quickly a relationship develops between you and the bluebirds! 

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Female migratory birds tend to arrive after males

I have seen a lot of male red-wings but no females. Do you know where they are?

Female Red-winged Blackbird
In migratory birds, males tend to arrive first on breeding grounds. The two most common explanations are males arrive early to compete for breeding sites and improve their prospects of mate acquisition. I saw a couple females at my feeder this week along with a female cowbird. Migration is still underway and I'm sure you'll see some female red-wings soon.

The Red-winged Blackbird male is unmistakable for most Michigan residents. The pure black bird with bright red shoulder patches edged in yellow is hard to miss. The female and juvenile are less obvious. They have heavily streaked under parts and mottled brown upperparts and can look like large sparrows.

Male & female Red-wings from Wikimedia Commons
As one of the most common, widespread, and numerous birds in North America, little is done to protect red-winged blackbirds from the effects of development. They thrive in wetland areas but it is likely that this species will begin to feed more at bird feeding stations with the loss of natural habitat.

When they are not breeding, they tend to gather in flocks of all male or all female birds. Northern populations will begin to migrate south to the southern United States and Central America as early as August.

Related Articles:
- Red-winged Blackbird facts http://bit.ly/yQPs61
- Blackbird Battle http://bit.ly/xFsHIN
- Red-winged blackbirds attack hawk http://bit.ly/yaudwu

- Watch for the Red-winged Blackbird to announce spring http://goo.gl/ADQLp3

Monday, April 20, 2015

You don’t need a hummingbird swing to attract hummingbirds

What are hummingbird swings?
Hummingbirds hover and hum around feeders and flowers about 20% of the time. The rest of the time they are perched on twigs and other suitable perches like a swing!

Where should I place my swing?
The best place to hang your swing is in an open area near a feeder. Hummingbirds like to perch on the swings and watch over their territory. Try to keep your swing at the same height or higher than the area that overlooks the hummer's food source (nearby feeders or flowering plants). If you haven't put your hummingbird feeder out, do it as soon as possible. Hummingbirds are in the area and are hungry!

Collect them all!
Besides the original swing we also have the copper and arbor swing in the collection at Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing, Michigan. Hummingbirds aren't the only ones that like to swing. Watch your hummingbirds, finches, and I even had a Blue Jay try and take his turn on the swing.
See it in action on the video: https://youtu.be/0WIhtHNGXlA

Sunday, April 19, 2015

White-throated sparrows pass through Michigan

Most birds that winter in southern locations wait for just the right conditions and then migrate at night to their nesting grounds in the north. I’ve found that after breezy spring days, I’ll often see new birds have ridden the winds to my yard. When they arrive in the early morning hours these birds are cold, tired, and hungry. The first thing they will do is look for food.

This morning I saw my first White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis). They always pass through mid-Michigan right before the warm weather arrives. Zonotrichia means “hairlike,” in reference to the striped heads of birds in this genus; albicollis is Latin for “white neck” in reference to the bird’s white throat.
You will see them in the leaf litter looking for bugs or under the feeders looking for sunflower seed or millet. He was actually a little early. I don’t usually see White-throats until the end of April. 

Related Articles:
-White-throated Sparrow fun facts
http://white-throated-sparrow-fun-facts.html
-Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/oy9XGz
- Average dates for birds return to Michigan the in Spring? http://bit.ly/IMYNQe
- When is bird migration over? http://bit.ly/IMZ7OQ
- What to know about feeding birds in the spring http://bit.ly/I5s6h9

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Best oriole bird feeders

Baltimore Orioles arrive at their mid-Michigan breeding grounds near the end of April. They are orange and black birds that enjoy a variety of foods. At the feeders they enjoy suet, nuts, mealworms, nectar, grape jelly, or fruit (oranges, grapes, apples).

Wild Birds Unlimited has lots of oriole feeders:

WBU Oriole 3-in-1 Feeder
My favorite is the unique saucer shaped feeder that offers three ways to attract orioles with nectar, oranges, and jelly.

Recycled Oriole Feeder
The second most popular feeder is the Poly-lumber feeder made from recycled milk jugs. It has lifetime guarantee to never crack, split or fade, stainless steel screws, thick, heavy-duty acrylic roof to allow Orioles to see the food and protects it from rain, and two removable cups to hold grape jelly (Orioles’ favorite jelly flavor) and two pegs for orange halves. The cups also may be used to feed mealworms, peanuts, chopped fruit, suet nuggets, and a variety of other foods. 


Spiral Three Cup Feeder
This is a versatile three-cup feeder with a durable a powder coat finish. You can use the cups for orange halves, chopped fruit, nuts, mealworms, jelly and more.

Ring Dish
When looking for inexpensive but unique dish feeder, keep this ring design in mind. Versatile enough to fill with an orange, mealworms, jelly, and so much more, this piece fits anywhere and is sure to please the eye. But why just have one dish. You can hook two feeders together or three or as many as you want to build the feeding station that fits your needs!


It's SO good - You'll want to have "Breakfast with the birds!" 
BirdBerry Jelly is a human grade product that emphasizes quality. This is an all natural product with no preservatives. BirdBerry Jelly has no sweeteners and has low sugar levels which is better for birds. The unique grape & blackberry flavor attracts orioles and other birds and keeps them wanting this product "with its unique flavor".

Durable and functional 20.5 ounce squeezable jar makes refilling feeders fast and easy with no mess or waste!

Made in the USABirdBerry is made of grape juice, concorde grapes, blackberries and pure all natural granular sugar. Compare to normal grocery store labels and you'll see that BirdBerry is higher in quality - that's better for the birds. Made in the USA.

Related Articles:
- Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/w3bhs8
- Facts on the Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GzSTbi
- Where do orioles winter? http://bit.ly/GAeWv5
- Close-up of Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GAf6T7
- When can I expect my orioles to arrive? http://goo.gl/OHrCc

Friday, April 17, 2015

Photo Share: Bluebird nesting in deer neck

Last three: Cuckcoo clock, bluebird or bluebeard?, looks like the deer's bottom jaw "butt" I guess it's the bird!
I have been meaning to send you these pics since last year. Took these photos at my brothers place last July. He and his wife have this ratty old deer in their yard and one year and owl or something ripped out the throat! The bluebirds then decided to make it their home. He could get close enough to them since they are so skittish but I have a camera with a zoom so I was able to get some.

Here are a few. Just happened to catch it feeding the grub. - Juliette Carter 

Thank you Juliette Carter for sharing your photos of bluebirds in their funky nest! You should also send them in to the Funky nests in Funky places contest (read below).

 

Find a Funky Nest Near You!
Contest showcases unusual bird nesting sites

Using spider web to affix its nest to a single bulb in a strand of holiday lights, this tiny Anna's Hummingbird successfully hatched two chicks. 2014 entry by Kathy West, California.
The annual “Funky Nests in Funky Places” contest at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is underway.

Entries may be submitted in categories such as "cutest," "funniest," "funkiest," or "most inconvenient." Celebrate Urban Birds is offering a free, downloadable flyer showing some of the places you can look for funky nests in urban locations.

The deadline for entries is June 15.

Participants should read the guidelines for approaching nests to be sure the birds are not disturbed in any way.

To learn more about how to participate, plus terms and conditions, visit FunkyNests.org.



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Easy way to have clean feeders

Can you explain how your feeder wash service works?

http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2012/05/how-to-clean-hummingbird-feeders.htmlIt is super important to keep your feeders clean, especially in the spring and fall when so many birds are migrating through mid-Michigan. The stress can make birds vulnerable to disease. Wet weather can also produce mold and mildew which can be fatal to birds.

Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing can help you make keeping your feeder clean easy. We wash feeders year round. You bring your feeder in and pay $5.00. We will disassemble, soak, scrub, and reassemble your feeder and have it ready for you the next day we are open.

We use Scoot Bird Feeder cleaner, a powerful enzyme based formula, which cleans and disinfects soiled wood, metal, glass and plastic feeders.

Our bird feeder cleaning service is so popular that we have now started a new Bird Feeder Wash Card. You just prepay $20.00 and you will receive a card that is good for 5 washes. This will give you a savings of $5.00! 

Related articles:
Do I need to clean my bird feeder? http://bit.ly/HNX410
What to know about feeding birds in the spring http://bit.ly/HOjECH
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/umlwXg
Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/HNZTPx

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Time to put out the hummingbird and oriole feeder!

April 15th, time to put out the hummingbirds feeders in mid-Michigan. If I can get it together today, my hummingbird and oriole feeders will be up by the end of the day! I don't usually see my hummies & oreos until the 1st week in May, but it is better to have feeders up too early rather than too late.

Where is the best place to hang your feeder?
  • The number one rule in hanging any feeder is to place it where you can watch the birds comfortably. The whole point in bird feeding is to watch these winged wonders up close. 
  • Since birds feed by sight, the second rule is to hang the feeder where they will be able to see it as they fly over your yard. A new feeder may be found sooner if hung near a flower garden or hanging flower basket.
  • Place your hummingbird feeders near bushes or trees to provide perching spots and protection from predators.
  • The height of the feeder is less important. Hummingbirds feed from the flowers on the ground and from the tops of flowering trees or climbing vines.
  • Part sun or shade is the best place for nectar feeders. The nectar lasts longer in the shade. Also the nectar in bottle feeders can expand in the sun and start to drip and this will call in bees and ants.
  • Make sure your nectar is fresh and the correct one part white sugar to four parts water solution.
  • In hot weather you should clean your feeder at least twice a week. Just like a restaurant, if a bird comes by to check out your new feeder and finds it filled with spoiled food, they won’t return anytime soon.
Related Articles:
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
Fun Facts about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds http://goo.gl/jcjcr
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
Why the color on a hummingbirds’ throat flashes http://bit.ly/JZ31qX
When did people start to feed hummingbirds?: http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mounting Bluebird Boxes

I recently rehabbed an old bluebird house, so that it is more secure and rainproof. I cemented in a galvanized pole and the house is at approximately 6ft. off the ground, next to a fence. It faces kinda North, but that is the best to keep wind and rain from entering the front door. When is the opportune time to put a box up, previously I had heard by March 15th, but that could have been for a different part of the country?

Locate houses in an open, grassy field edge or lawn area away from trees (300 ft or more apart). Place the houses at least 50 feet away from birdfeeders and your main house. Mount the box with the hole facing south approximately 5 feet high. South or East are the best direction to face a nestbox. The further north you are the more important this is. You can read more about that in a previous article: Which Way Do You Face a Birdhouse? http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2010/02/which-way-do-you-face-birdhouse.html

Perching areas near to the nestbox like a fence, stakes, small trees, etc. are preferred by bluebirds to give nestling a safe place to make their first flight.

If Tree Swallows compete for the nest site, place another box near the first (15 to 25 feet from the original house). They seem to tolerate overlapping territories of other species, but bluebirds will not nest less than 300 feet from each other. Both swallows and bluebirds are dependent on cavities for nesting, but otherwise they are different in many of their survival strategies. Bluebirds feed on ground-dwelling insects while swallows feed on insects in the air. Given places to nest, they can coexist within an area quite effectively. It may even be beneficial for bluebirds to have swallows nearby to warn them of potential predators or danger.

One important item to mention is that sparrows may try to take over a bluebird nesting box. The only way to help reduce this possibility is to make sure the house is mounted away from the edge of trees or away from human dwellings and to remove the nests before they are complete (a sparrow nest is a sloppy collection of grasses or litter that fills the box, while bluebirds make a neat cup nest and swallows line their nest with feathers). You can also leave the top and side of the nestbox open to make it less desirable until the sparrow relinquishes its claim on that house.
The earlier you can mount your boxes the better. Bluebirds can scout for boxes as early as late January and start build a nest as early as mid-March. Older, established bluebird couples nest first. Younger birds have to court their new mates and find new houses later.

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

Monday, April 13, 2015

The amazing Baltimore Oriole nest

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
The Baltimore Oriole nest is built in three stages: first, the female weaves an outer bowl of flexible fibers to provide support. Next, springy fibers are woven into an inner bowl, which maintains the bag-like shape of the nest. Finally, she adds a soft lining of downy fibers and feathers to cushion the eggs and young. The end result is a tightly woven pouch located on the end of a branch of elms, cottonwoods, maples, willows or apples 23 to 30 ft above the ground.

The female weaves the nest, usually 3 to 4 inches deep, with a small opening, 2 to 3 inches wide, on top and a bulging bottom chamber, 3 to 4 inches across, where her eggs will rest. She anchors her nest high in a tree, first hanging long fibers over a small branch, then poking and darting her bill in and out to tangle the hank. While no knots are deliberately tied, soon the random poking has made knots and tangles, and the female brings more fibers to extend, close, and finally line the nest.

Construction materials can include grass, strips of grapevine bark, wool, and horsehair, as well as artificial fibers such as cellophane, twine, or fishing line. Females often recycle fibers from an old nest to build a new one. Males occasionally bring nesting material, but don’t help with the weaving. Building the nest takes about a week, but windy or rainy weather may push this as long as 15 days.  

Sources: 
- www.allaboutbirds.org http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Baltimore_Oriole/lifehistory
- Wikimedia Commons Photo http://goo.gl/WtQf2H

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

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sparrow with red on the head and back

I live 3 mi. N. of Mason, and have been seeing what looks like a common city sparrow, but having a distinct red shading across its shoulders and fading towards the tail. I have generally seen these birds in the company of cardinals. Any idea what species this is?

House Finch males try to attract a female mate by performing displays,
such as the "butterfly flight", singing, and courtship feeding
Cardinals and House Finches tend to hang out at the same feeding stations. Today House Finches are a familiar sight at mid-Michigan bird feeders. Sunflower and safflower are two of their favorite foods.

These talkative little 6 inch birds get their name from their habit of hanging around human houses. Their cheery warble and variety of chirps are a constant around the feeders and you may find their nests in your hanging baskets, wreaths, or nearby pine trees.

Adult males are rosy red around the face and upper breast, with streaky brown back, belly and tail. Adult females aren’t red; they are plain grayish-brown with thick, blurry streaks and an indistinctly marked face. The amount of red the male finch has can vary depending on the amount of carotenoid pigments he eats during his fall molt. Many brilliant red, orange, and yellow color displays of birds are the result of carotenoid pigments deposited in the feathers.

House Finches may be confused with Purple Finches. Purple Finches have a more reddish color on their upper parts and are not streaked on their abdomens.

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