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, June 30, 2015

What birds eat Nyjer® thistle

Handsome Hairy Woodpecker photo share from Jan Darling
I've had Nyjer feeders for years, and usually see just various finches eating from them.  Once in a while, the doves like to eat nyjer seeds from the ground as well.  This week, I've seen many different types of birds eating from my nyjer feeders.  I've had Cardinals, Grackles, sparrows of all types, and this Hairy Woodpecker in the photo eating there.  I also watched a hummingbird fly back and forth from my suet feeder one day.  Strange!  Have you ever seen things like this?

Birds that prefer Nyjer are typically seed-eating species with small, pointed bills that can manipulate the tiny seeds easily. Goldfinches, redpolls, and siskins are common birds found on nyjer feeders. But if you ever get that shell off and try a tiny seed yourself, you would find it is similar to a nutty sunflower chip. This tasty seed is full of fats and protein that a lot of birds like if they are able to get past the shell.

Black-capped Chickadees, some sparrows and woodpeckers are able to manage the seeds if they can get it out of the feeder. Cardinals aren’t able to perch on my feeder and the shell is pretty tiny for them to crack but maybe they just crunch it and sip the oil. Doves and pigeons eat their seeds (shells and all) filling their crop with as much food as possible. But one of my favorite visitors to the finch feeder in the spring and fall are the Indigo Buntings!

Some people don’t like these other birds on their “goldfinch” feeders and put out upside down finch feeders where the seed port is located underneath the perch. The inverted perch caters to only the agile finches and prevents larger birds from eating the nyjer.

Hummingbirds are not seed eaters. Nectar and bugs are what they are looking for but they will check out everything! And curious baby hummingbirds that leave their mommas at the end of June, will investigate, seek, learn and store tons of knowledge in their BB sized brains for future reference.

Related articles:
Different Goldfinches in America http://goo.gl/aI9msF
A Closer look at Dandelions http://goo.gl/YfhxHY
Round fluffy white seeds floating in wind http://goo.gl/xmKiCN
Sunflowers Up-close: The Strange Journey of an American Plant http://goo.gl/eitZa1
Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://goo.gl/ZZBcgM

Monday, June 29, 2015

What birds do if their eggs are destroyed

We live in Houghton Lake Michigan and have a have a Blue Spruce right by our deck and have seen two tiny birds make a nest in the top area of the Spruce. They have a red top on their head, brownish body. We have been chasing away Blue Jays, and other birds which try to get at the nest.

Once a strange bird flew out of the nest we did not see it come back. We now wonder if these tiny birds nesting in the Spruce had taken it upon themselves to care for a nest of eggs which were not their own eggs.

We are really confused as to what is going on with these tiny birds. They are really busy flying back and forth. Do these birds, what we think are Finch’s, lay more eggs if something happens to their first laying of eggs in their nest?

How do you keep other birds from the nest? Do birds take over other bird’s nests, and do they relay eggs if something happens to their first laying of eggs?? Thank you, John

House Finches Carpodacus mexicanus are a familiar sight in my mid-Michigan yard. These 6″, talkative little birds get their name from their habit of hanging around houses. They build their nests in the hanging baskets, wreaths, or pine trees. Their nest is usually a small messy cup made of twigs, grasses, plant fibers, leaves, rootlets, hairs, string and wool, lichens.

They are a brown bird with slight white wing bands and the males have a red head and rump with a pink chest that has brown streaking. The amount of red the male finch has can vary depending on the amount of carotenoid pigments consumed in its food during molt. Their cheery warble or a variety of chirps is a constant around my bird feeders.

If they have a predator destroy their eggs or young in the nest, they can either lay more eggs or start over in a new location. If they were successful in that location once before they may just re-nest there again. A pair may lay as many as 6 clutches during one breeding season, though typically no more than three of these clutches will result in fledglings.

The young are incubated and brooded in the nest by females only for about 2 weeks and then once hatched, the young stay in their nest for about 2 more weeks. Males bring food to the female but do not participate in direct care of the young until a few days after hatching, when both parents begin an intensive period of feeding the nestlings. After the chicks leave the nest, the male typically continues to feed the chicks while the female begins building the nest for the next brood.

House Finches are not territorial. In fact, they often nest in close association, and commonly occur in small groups or flocks. These groups help them avoid predators primarily through vigilance. Nest predators include jays, grackles, crows, chipmunks, squirrels, skunks, snakes, raccoons, and household cats.

The strange bird that flew out of the nest could have been a Brown-headed Cowbird. They do not build their own nest – Instead they lay one egg in several nests and let other birds foster their young. This would not have been a good choice for the cowbird because finches are mainly vegetarian and the survival rate of young cowbirds to adulthood in House Finches nests is zero. Cowbirds need more bugs and less of the plant matter that makes up the finches’ diet to survive and thrive.

I am glad you are enjoying your birds. Hopefully a new young brood of finches will soon visit you to thank you with a song for your vigilance in protecting the family.

Related Articles:
- House Finches: Those Year-round Red Heads http://bit.ly/oOPJYR
- Where do you place finch feeders? http://bit.ly/qr78Dd
- How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/rT5Hfj
- Why male and females are a different color http://bit.ly/ueILUf
- Remove all winter wreaths before finches begin nesting in them http://goo.gl/OeyOS

Sunday, June 28, 2015

When orioles leave Michigan

Do you still have your orioles coming to your window feeders? - Lansing
Baby oriole begs Daddy
Yes I have plenty of Baltimore Orioles feeding and Daddy brought up his babies last week! 
They usually hit my mid-Michigan feeder at the beginning of May with a big song and dance and leave me at the end of July. I have my jelly/nectar feeder on the window at the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store and he'll sing right to the customers when he's happy and give me the look if I haven't had a chance to fill his jelly wells.

Baby trys out feeder on window
In June his visits are less frequent as he's busy incubating eggs and then sourcing out bugs for his babies. When I put out mealworms his visits increase again as he feeds regularly and takes some worms home. Then last week he brought up all his babies to feed right out side my window.

In July he becomes more secretive. As Baltimore Oriole babies become independent, parents begin their fall molt and are more susceptible to predators as they grow a new set of feathers. Peak migration is August and September but some begin going south as early as July if they are done nesting.

October through February most orioles hang out in the tropics. In March and April some orioles begin moving north again. On average, they probably travel about 150 miles each night in flocks, flying at about 20 miles per hour. If the weather is favorable, it will take an oriole about 2-3 weeks to complete his migration north to reach my window again by May.

Related Articles:
Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/w3bhs8
Facts on the Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GzSTbi
Close-up of Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GAf6T7
Favorite Oriole feeders http://t.co/OjG4Lz4

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Doves establish a pecking order that is fascinating to watch

Are Doves mean to each other?
Dove fights have to do with establishing a pecking order. When nesting season is over, doves tend to gather together in loose flocks. The social structure is determined by a series of challenges between the birds. The bird that retreats the fewest times is considered dominant. The dominant bird has fewer challenges than the middle ranking birds throughout the winter and dominance is not related to whether the bird is male or female.   
 
At the end of winter the birds separate into male and female groups and dominance within the single sex groups is established. All the boys are attracted to the dominant female as they now mingle only at feeding sites. But the dominant male soon scoops up the dominate female and form a pair bond for the season. They are the first to pair, establish a territory and nest.
During courtships males perform a noisy flight display and then approach the female with a bow and a coo. Once she accepts the male they preen each other and stay very close. The male sometimes “drives” the female. He follows close behind and gives her a peck when she stops walking in areas where other males might be around.
Many chases or fights now are a result of an unmated male trying to gain the attention of a female. Males also chase pairs away from the territory that they’ve claimed for the season.
Source: Ecology and Management of the Mourning Dove by Thomas S. Baskett
Related Articles:
How do I prevent birds from hitting the window? http://goo.gl/r60Y3O
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
Do Birds Sip or Slurp? http://bit.ly/N6syCY
Mourning Dove nesting facts and figures http://goo.gl/WeLWy

Friday, June 26, 2015

Photo Share: Birds I see on the walk to work & traveling

The doves were sunning near the MSU vet clinic gate this morning.
The Oriole was getting what was left of the grape jelly after the Robin (juvenile watching below - taken on Father's Day Sunday) gobbled most of it.
Baby robin eyes poppa eating jelly above

Thursday, June 25, 2015

All-in-one seed cylinder food for the birds!

We've been testing out a new seed cylinder at Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, Michigan. My brother took one home and was worried about it in the rain, but he reported that it might have actually made it more enticing as the dried mealworms plumped up when they got wet.

Try the Bugs, Nuts, and Fruit seed cylinder:
* Delectable cylinder with mealworms, tree nuts, sunflower hearts, raisins and cranberries
* No-melting, no-waste cylinder won't leave hull messes on your yard
* Everything gets eaten - and nothing will attract a greater variety of birds

Give backyard birds a feast like no other they've had before. Bugs, Nuts & Fruit treat cylinders offer wild bird visitors a bountiful variety of entirely edible pieces. This blend attracts a number of species because it contains dried mealworms for insect-loving birds, as well as a nut-blend of sunflower hearts, peanuts, and tree nuts. It also contains raisins and cranberries, for fruit-loving birds, and the ingredients are bound together safely and compactly with gelatin. Because there are no seed hulls, there is no waste or mess to clean up on the ground. This blend easily attracts every kind of clinging bird, and its center opening also lets you slide it onto a seed cake feeder like the Spiral Seed Cylinder Feeder to attract perching birds.

Related Articles:
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods http://bit.ly/xbZ9lR
- How to get the chickadees to stay at the feeder longer http://goo.gl/Q9pxHq
- Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
- No-mess Seed Cylinders: http://goo.gl/SPCYIK

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

7 Tips to feeding birds in the summer

Any backyard bird watcher knows birds flock to feeders in summer especially as the babies fledge and approach the feeders with their parents. Summer bird feeding also can bring you different species that aren’t around in winter.

Studies show the average bird forages for food about five hours per day to meet their energy requirements. As the seasons change, consider the following tips to meet your summer backyard birds’ nutritional needs as well as attract some migrating visitors.

Some tips for creating a summertime backyard buffet:

1. Clean your feeders regularly
It is super important to keep your feeders clean, especially now when so many baby birds visit. The stress can make birds vulnerable to disease. Wet weather can also produce mold and mildew which can be fatal to birds. Dump out any moldy seed and disinfect your feeders with a 1 to 9 parts vinegar to water solution or bring your feeder to the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, Michigan to be cleaned for a small $5.00 charge.

2. Keep your seed dry
Hot, humid summer weather creates the potential for mold. My favorite secret weapon against soggy seed is Feeder Fresh which is available at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI. This is a desiccant that I stir into the seed to absorb the moisture.

3. Choose Food that Produces Less Mess
Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Blend features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds means there's no debris on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything happily.

4. Keep suet feeders full
By adding suet to your wild bird's summer menu, you will attract wrens, warblers, thrushes, brown creepers, brown thrashers, and blue jays. You can also attract orioles, chickadees, titmice, and the ever popular bluebird.

5. Discover Foods that Last Longer
Seed Cylinders are also a high-fat, quick-energy food source that is specially-designed to meet your birds' hearty appetites. The Wild Birds Unlimited popular no muss, no fuss Spiral Seed Cylinder Feeder holds cylinders of tightly packed seed held together with gelatin so there is no seed spray. The whole block is completely edible. And depending on bird activity in your yard, a large cylinder packed with energy rich pecans, peanuts and sunflower seeds can last weeks.

6. Attract Different Birds
Mealworms, nectar, fruit, and jelly attract many different birds. Hummingbirds and orioles, can be immediately attracted to feeders with nectar (and fruit and jelly for orioles), making summer a sweet time to feed the birds. Some birds attracted to mealworms include: wrens, robins, bluebirds, jays, sparrows, cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, and even Purple Martins.

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

Related articles:
Do I need to clean my bird feeder? http://bit.ly/HNX410
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/umlwXg
Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/HNZTPx
Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Prothonotary warbler in a heart shaped hole

Photo by Mark Musselman/National Audubon Society
A brilliant yellow-orange bird of southeastern wooded swamps, the Prothonotary Warbler is a striking sight. 

According to AllAboutBirds.com, they place their nests in low cavities such as old Downy Woodpecker holes. Bald cypress, willows, and sweet gum are regular trees used for nesting and cavities tend to be in trees located near or over standing water. These warblers sometimes use bird boxes, gourds, and cypress knees for nesting.

Related Articles:
Michigan warblers begin migrating http://goo.gl/37QhV
Michigan's Kirtland's Warbler Continues to Exceed Recovery Goal http://goo.gl/Q3xQ0
Small Mysterious Black & White Bird Visits Mid-Michigan http://goo.gl/VOl3s
When is bird migration over? http://goo.gl/1Fiq6
Blackpoll Warbler: Greatest warbler migrant http://goo.gl/GcSTE

Monday, June 22, 2015

The first hummingbird feeder

First there was bee feeding. Beekeepers fed bees a sugar solution on early cold springs to help kick off the honey-gathering season. One method of feeding bees in the 1800's was to invert a bottle of sugar water into a supply cup, similar to some hummingbird feeders you still see today.

Back then hummingbirds were the uninvited guests, not the bees. But once spotted with their jewel-like iridescent feathers and bold personality, gardeners have been trying to attract hummingbirds ever since.

If you search www.google.com/patents you'll find a 1941 patent for a Sweet Liquid Bird Feeder built for birds only and made to exclude the bees. Click the link to see the full patent: http://goo.gl/64eJ2. It was a glass jar that screwed into a cup that had a wire screen on top to allow the hummingbirds to lap up the sugar water.

Another patent in 1951 took a test tube and attached an artificial flower to a little hole in the bottom. According to the patent “The object of this invention is to provide an artificial supply of food for humming birds for the purpose of attracting them and make the food inaccessible to bees at the same time that will otherwise be attracted, leaving the food accessible to small insects on which the hummingbirds may feed.” The link to this patent is at: http://goo.gl/UTUK8.

The National Audubon Society claims that the first commercial hummingbird feeder was introduced in 1950 by the Audubon Novelty Company of Medina, New York. They say it was a glass tube designed by Laurence J. Webster of Boston, as a gift for his wife, who had read an article in a 1928 edition of The National Geographic Magazine.

Today hummingbird feeders continue to be improved. Always look for feeders that are easy to clean and easy to fill. To see a list of my favorite Hummingbird Feeders http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2011/04/best-hummingbird-feeders-of-2011.html

Sunday, June 21, 2015

How to tell if it's a baby hummingbird

There are lots of signs to tell you if the hummingbirds you see are young and just off the nest. They are very curious birds. Some innate behavior, comes from your genes, but other behavior is learned, either from interacting with the world or by being taught by momma hummers.

Young hummingbirds will look similar to a female, but they bumble about looking for food.  They check everything as they try to recognize the shapes and color patterns of blossoms or feeders that have nectar. This information is stored away in BB sized brains for the rest of their life. If they survive, they will continue to remember the exact location of gardens and feeders for years to come.
Immature hummingbirds also tend to be more vocal, calling out when distressed. And they have to learn a lot about social order. It's not unusual for more mature birds to use physical rebukes to punish young upstarts.

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. The parents have been through a lot and are now going through a molt to get ready for fall migration.

Finally the largest number of hummingbirds buzzing through our yards during late summer are immature birds that have only hatched recently. They can stay around mid-Michigan as late as October or November until all of a sudden they can't resist the urge to migrate south.

Only 20% of newly fledged hummingbirds live to be one year old. So keep those feeders full and clean! A hummingbirds' high metabolic rate requires them to refuel with nectar constantly while they search for bugs. They prefer flowers with a sugar concentration of 20 percent sucrose. This translates to a mixture of four parts water to one part white table sugar. Click HERE for more detailed nectar recipe instructions.

Source: Wild Birds Guides: Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Robert Sargent available at Wild Birds Unlimited

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Some reasons why my bluebirds didn’t return

I have had bluebirds for a number of years. This year I have had none. I am wondering if something has happened.

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. In the spring and summer they feed mainly on insects, often watching from a low perch and then fluttering down to take bugs from the ground. Lawns sprayed with pesticides will be avoided.

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 (bird houses).

With the right habitat, if you provide the right food, such as mealworms, and have open water, like bird baths, you may see them.

Seven Tips to Attract Bluebirds  
  1. Proper habitat - Bluebirds prefer open areas with low grass and perches from which they can hunt insects. 
  2. Provide shelter - Dead trees provide important nesting and roosting sites for bluebirds or add a bluebird box for housing. 
  3. Go native - Natural foods, such as fruits, nuts and seeds provided by trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers will attract a variety of songbirds. Planting highbush cranberry, dogwoods, or other fruiting shrubs on your property may draw migrants as well as resident bluebirds. 
  4. Add water - Bluebirds love to bathe. Water is a powerful attractor and will increase the number and variety of birds coming to your yard. 
  5. All weeds and bugs aren’t bad - Healthy lawns contain a variety of insects for a bluebird to glean from the ground. Pesticides and other lawn chemicals are dangerous for birds. 
  6. Cats indoors - Even the sweetest cats still have the instincts of their wild ancestors. Each year, cats kill millions of songbirds. It is best to keep your cats indoors. 
  7. Offer mealworms - Feeding live mealworms (Tenebrio monitor) as a special treat has become a very popular way to attract a different variety of wild birds.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Photo Share: Baby Boo Jay!

Juvenile Blue Jay
According to allaboutbirds.comBlue Jays are known for their intelligence and complex social systems, and have tight family bonds. They often mate for life.

Only the female incubates; her mate provides all her food while she's on the nest. For the first week after the nestlings hatch, the female broods them and the male still provides food for his mate and the nestlings.

They all abandon the nest around 3 weeks after hatching. Young remain with and are fed by their parents for at least a month, and sometimes two months. There is apparently a lot of individual variation in how quickly young become independent.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Give Dad the gift of nature this Father's Day!

Give Dad a squirrel solution this Father's Day! The Squirrel Buster Plus squirrel-resistant bird feeder is our top seller. The spring mechanism foils squirrels and the tension can be adjusted to discourage large blackbirds as well. Squirrels hate this feeder, but Dad will love it!

For those Dads who love to watch the squirrels' antics, we carry a great selection of feeders just for squirrels. Choose from munch boxes that you fill with seed, a table and chair that holds ear corn, and many more. Love 'em or hate 'em, squirrels are very entertaining!

From bird feeders, bird houses, bird baths, bird books, bird seed, bird stands, and quality binoculars to bat houses, rain gauges and thermometers, you are sure to find something for Father's Day.

And if you just can't decide, there's always a WBU Gift card available in any denomination you choose. Don't forget Father's Day is on the 3rd Sunday of June.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Finches & wrens don't date

Here are some photos from my nest. They look like female wrens. I do know this is a male finch. Will Finch & wrens mate? Plus the last picture I’ve added has me question if this is the female finch.- Randy

All animals with feathers are in the Class called birds or Aves just like all the warm-blooded vertebrate animals with hair and females that produce milk are in the Class called Mammalia. Other Classes include Amphibians, Reptiles, and Pisces. Each animal within their class is then further defined by Orders, Families, Genera, and Species.

All dog breeds are mammals and belong to the species Canis lupus familiaris. Domesticated cats are also mammals that belong to the species Felis catus. While both four legged mammals, they cannot mate and produce offspring. There are about 10,000 species of birds and the difference between the House Wren and the House Finch is similar to that between a dog and a cat.

Birds have an innate ability to recognize their own species and look for mates based on their song, color of plumage, and behavior or distinctive courtship displays. Only bird species related closely can interbreed, producing hybrids. One example is the Baltimore Oriole which can hybridize with the Bullock's Oriole where their ranges overlap in the Great Plains.

The last picture you sent me is of a Chipping Sparrow.  Chipping Sparrows, like the House Wrens and Finches are well adapted to the presence of people and don’t mind if you are nearby. They live and nest in a very wide variety of habitats, including the suburbs.

Related Articles:
How do you become a birdwatcher? http://bit.ly/rquunU
Best field guide for Michigan birds http://bit.ly/vPOMx1
What are the Best Binoculars: How to Choose Optics http://bit.ly/vZW26j
Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/vUZynL

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How to prevent moths in bird seed

The food in my seed can is full of worms. Should I throw that seed out. How do I prevent this from happening again?

After seed is harvested it’s brought to mills where it is processed and stored. Along with the seed come eggs that insects have already laid in the field. Birds don't mind the extra protein, but if the eggs hatch they can cause a real mess.

Indian meal moths or pantry moths lay tiny eggs (0.5 mm) in or near potential food plants. When conditions are right, larvae or "tiny whitish caterpillars" hatch, eat, and then spin a tiny silken cocoon.

Besides bird seed, Indian meal moths also may be found in all cereal food products, whole grains, dried fruits, cornmeal, flour, pasta and pet food. They are not related to clothes moths.
Larva

Meal moths can be difficult to eliminate once they've taken up residence, so a good cleaning is a necessary if you’ve experienced and infestation. Throw the contaminated bird seed in a back corner or compost heap and wash all containers thoroughly. The Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, Michigan store also has the moth pheromone traps. Place one of these non-toxic traps in the garage to inhibit the development of adult moths.

The following are a few suggestions to prevent an Indian Meal Moth re-infestation:
Adult in Resting Position
1) Fresh Seed - In warm weather or if you store your seed inside buy no more than 2-3 weeks supply of seed at a time. And never pour old seed on top on new. Moth eggs are inside seed and are just waiting for the right conditions to hatch.
2) Storage Conditions - Store seed in a cool, dry place, or a freezer to prevent moths from hatching. In the winter, the bird seed can be stored up to 3-4 months in a steel can outdoors or in an unheated garage.
3) Sterilize Seed – You can use heat to kill any larvae and eggs that may be in the food. In a conventional oven, spread seed out on a flat baking sheet and cook for 30 minutes at 300 degrees. Sterilizing your seed will not alter the attractiveness of the seed for your birds.
4) Seed Selection – You are less likely to find eggs in seed that has no shell. When sunflowers seeds have their shells removed it also removes almost all eggs. Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Blend or Shelled Sunflower seeds rarely carry eggs, but may be re-infested if Indian meal moths are in the home. Nyjer (thistle) and safflower seed are also less likely to be infected initially.

Related Articles:
What is No-Mess Bird Seed? http://bit.ly/tRaefu
How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://bit.ly/rTLSqJ
Seed Storage Cans and WBU Seed Scoops http://bit.ly/uBaSwO
Sunflowers Up-close: The Strange Journey of an American Plant http://bit.ly/uFlz65

Monday, June 15, 2015

Emu lost in Michigan

An emu is a flightless bird originally found in Australia. It is the second-largest flightless bird in the world by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. It can grow to heights of 5 to 6 feet at maturity and weigh up to 150 pounds. They can be found Across the USA as livestock animals.

Fun Facts on Emus
-The sound made by males is similar to a pig’s grunt while females make loud booming sounds.
- Emus require water every day. They use their lungs as evaporative coolers in hot weather. In cool weather the multiple folds in the nasal passages are used to recycle air and create moisture for reuse.
- Emus breed in cooler months and pair in summer. Females lay large eggs weighing about a pound each. The male sits on the eggs to incubate them when the female is busy laying more eggs.
- They feed on flowers, berries, grains, insects soft shoots and grubs.
-These birds store large amounts of fat in their bodies and use these stores to survive when looking for more food.
- They can sprint at 30 mps. They are solitary creatures but can live in pairs or flocks.
- Emus can swim and cross rivers in the course of wandering.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Crows in Ingham County tested positive for the West Nile virus

This past week, three nestling crows from Ingham County tested positive for the West Nile Virus (WNV) at Michigan State University. The birds were found dead in early June and submitted by the public to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Most birds show no symptoms of infection, but certain bird species, such as crows, blue jays and ravens, are sensitive to the virus and are more likely to become sick and die.

"Reporting from the public is critical in helping health and wildlife experts better understand and contain the transmission of West Nile Virus," said Steve Schmitt, veterinarian-in-charge at the DNR Wildlife Disease Lab. "We ask residents to contact us if they find sick or dead crows, blackbirds, owls or hawks, or any other bird exhibiting signs of illness."

WNV is a mosquito-transmitted disease that was first discovered in the African country of Uganda in 1937. In recent years West Nile Virus has caused illness in birds, horses, and humans in Europe, and then the United States. It was first discovered in the U.S. in 1999 in New York City. Since that time, West Nile virus has been detected in 47 states from coast to coast. Originally reported in the Michigan in 2004, dead bird clusters of American Crows and Blue Jays acted as an early warning system for WNV activity.

For information about West Nile virus activity in Michigan and to report sick or dead birds, visitwww.michigan.gov/westnile.  Additional information can be found at www.cdc.gov/westnile

Related Articles:
Crows: Are they Feathered Apes? http://bit.ly/LvWgge
Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/LvWpAm
Has anyone asked you why there are so many crows this year? http://bit.ly/KQJFmt
How Do I Deter Crows at the Feeder? http://bit.ly/LWbhMB
Why are “black” birds considered bad by most people? http://bit.ly/LWbxeD

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Introducing Merlin Bird Photo ID

Photo: Blackburnian Warbler by Christopher L. Wood
Bird watchers helped teach the computer to recognize Blackburnian Warblers by clicking on parts of the bird in training images. The computer vision system is powered by the Visipedia project from Caltech and Cornell Tech, and uses eBird data to customize results by location and date. Photo by Christopher L. Wood.

Introducing Merlin Bird Photo ID

Cornell University has been working on a new bird photo ID feature for the Merlin app, and they are ready for you try it on our test website! Just upload a photo, click on the bird’s bill, eye, and tail, and let computer vision help you ID the bird. It currently recognizes 400 common North American bird species. Because it's powered by machine learning techniques, it gets “smarter” the more people use it. Help them improve the accuracy so they can add it to the Merlin app some day! Try Photo ID.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Photo Share: Red-bellied Woodpecker Close-up

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is a regular visitor to bird feeders and is identified easily by the black and white barred pattern on its back and the red patch on the back of the head. The name confuses many people because the "red" on the belly is faint and very difficult to see.

In Michigan it is often called a Red-headed Woodpecker by mistake, especially in areas where the true Red-headed Woodpecker (a bird with a completely red head) is uncommon. The Red-bellied Woodpecker is found only in the eastern United States and is most common in the southeastern states. While not considered migratory, birds at the northern edge of the range may move farther south in very cold winters.

Related Articles:
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
- Red-headed Woodpeckers occasionally visit http://goo.gl/LxtlYI
- 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

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Tips for choosing a bird bath

Although puddles form after a hard rain, reliable pools are rare and birds will travel great distances to visit baths. A bird bath is an artificial "puddle" created with a water-filled basin for birds to bathe, cool off, and drink.

A dependable supply of fresh, clean water is attractive to most birds and will even attract birds that don’t visit your feeders. It is such an ingrained behavior that you can observe newly fledged birds making the motions on land. 
Tips for choosing a bird bath
Depth – I like a bath with a gradual dip to the middle no deeper than 2”. If your bath is any deeper, it’s nice to place a stone in the middle for the birds to make an easy escape.
Size – Baths can be any size. I have a very shallow tiny bath staked near the ground that the cardinal and goldfinches frequent and a large bath a little father away that the robins and doves prefer.
Appearance/MaterialWild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing stores have a variety of bird bath styles from glass, ceramic, metal and plastic.  As long as the water is fresh and the birds feel safe, all the baths will attract birds.
Location – In nature water is usually found on the ground or perhaps pooled in the leaves of a plant after a rain. Birds will come to the water at any level, so place the bath where you can see it easily to enjoy the birds. 

How to keep my birdbath clean
Birdbath Cleaning Brush Wild Birds Unlimited has an 8" brush well suited for cleaning birdbaths, as well as for many other household uses. It has stiff, tough polypropylene bristles that will do the job well, and features a comfortable molded poly handle.

Bird Bath Protector is a bio-enzymatic product specially formulated for birdbaths. Prevents organic contaminants from forming including white scale deposits, iron, copper and hard water stains. It helps to prevent the buildup of stains and mineral deposits on the birdbath surfaces, while it also keeps water clear and free from the organic debris that can make the water cloudy.

Related Articles:
- Why Birds Preen http://goo.gl/8hqh0W
- What kind of bird bath is the best? http://goo.gl/tXz65
- Birds Don't Sweat: The Importance of Birdbaths http://bit.ly/OjpFPn
-Why do crows and blackbirds dip their food in bird baths? http://bit.ly/zgpw2i
- Do Birds Sip or Slurp? http://bit.ly/yAHTTV

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Why birds can't avoid hitting your car

Birds are born knowing many things. They have standard maneuvers to avoid predators, but still haven’t evolve vehicle-specific avoidance mechanisms. Harried parent birds and newly fledged babies can't gauge automatically how fast cars move.

This means you may have noticed birds in the road trying to outrun cars. Please drive very carefully. Don’t just assume that they’ll get out of the way in time.

Each year 60 million to 80 million bird deaths are attributed to cars. Right now you have to watch for all wildlife that crosses (or stands still in) the road. Statistics show that half the birds born this summer won't survive a year.

That's why I like to create a little bird sanctuary in my yard. I garden with native plants, put up birdhouses, and feed the birds.

Related Articles:
Why should we care about birds? http://bit.ly/KnwOxf
Michigan DNRE asking drivers to watch out for bald eagles http://bit.ly/KnxQJu
Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://t.co/Br4EnlB
Loss of the Passenger Pigeon http://bit.ly/sUPlXj
Stop baby birds from crashing into windows http://bit.ly/KUVpe5

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

How robins find those worms

Contrary to popular belief, American Robins don’t find earthworms by hearing or smelling them. Robins find earthworms by cocking their head to one side, independently using each eye to look for visible signs of worms.

Worms only make up about 15%-20% of the summer diet for American Robins. The rest of the diet is made up of other insects, fruit, nuts, and berries. So don't be surprised if you see them under your feeder looking for an overlooked peanut.

Related Articles:

- Why Robins are Attracted to Water http://bit.ly/qP9aTs
- Bird of the Week: American Robin http://bit.ly/pnUKqk
- Fun Facts About The American Robin http://bit.ly/n9CSni
- Why robins are called Robin Redbreast and not orange breast http://goo.gl/OB4iT

Monday, June 8, 2015

Where to place a bird bath

We all need water and the migrant bird species that I saw take break at my baths earlier this spring were amazing! Adequate fluid replacement is important for endurance athletes. So it makes sense that the first thing migrating birds look for is water.

I have several baths and a pond at my suburban home. Some are low to the ground, some are tall, some are shallow, and some are deeper. It’s fun to watch which bath different bird species will choose.

And I can’t wait for more babies to show up! Many of our local mid-Michigan birds are feeding young and if you’ve bird watched long enough, you’ve noticed that often the first place parent birds bring their babies is to the bath.

I like to place them in a shady spot so the water won't get too hot. It is also nice if there is a tree or bush close by for them to step out and preen. I recommend having at least a couple baths in your yard for the birds and for your bird watching entertainment!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Bathing Behavior of the American Robin

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Why do the American Robins, Eastern Bluebirds and other birds in the thrush family all seem to frolic in the water more than other backyard birds?

They may bathe more than most birds, about twice daily, to remove excessive oil from their feathers.  Most birds have a preen gland or uropygial gland at the base of the tail. With their beak, birds realign the barbs correctly, remove any dirt or parasites and sometimes apply preen oil. Robins and bluebirds seem to produce more preen oil than other birds.

Fluffy feathers provide proper insulation and help in flight. Too much oil on the feathers can cause the feathers to clump and lower efficiency. Most birds have one main molt a year, so birds have to maintain their feathers carefully for a year until they go through another molt.

Bathing also helps keep ectoparasites or other external hitchhikers off including microscopic feather mites, flat hippoboscid flies that bite, or visible ticks.

Water is a powerful attractor and will increase the number and variety of birds coming to your yard.

Related Articles:
Why do birds poop in the bird bath? http://bit.ly/whKqHg
Tips to Maintain a Birdbath http://bit.ly/zGiSbQ
Why Birds Preen http://bit.ly/wcoC9d
The best heated bird baths http://bit.ly/xkyLlW

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Why birds dunk their food before serving their meals

There is something satisfying about dunking your French fry in your shake and savoring the flavors. Or when you dunk a cookie into a beverage to soften the texture and dissolve the sugars. I was reminded of this today while I watched a chickadee make several trips today with big (big for a chickadee anyway) green caterpillars between his bill and dunk them in the ant moat of my hummingbird feeder.

My chickadee however isn’t thinking about flavor when he dunks his prize in water, he’s thinking about survival. Birds don’t nurse their babies, so the only liquid babies receive is through juicy bugs, berries, and food dipped in water.

Offering a dependable source of water is probably the simplest and most important step you can take to increase the variety of birds in your yard. In fact parent birds will often bring babies to the bird bath as their first road trip.

Birds must be ready to fly at all times, and bathing is a critical part of feather maintenance and staying in top-flight condition. Water is also vitally important when it's extremely hot and a bird’s ability to regulate its body temperature can become stressed. Birds do not sweat and must remove excess body heat through their respiratory system.

So when temperatures rise, a bird's respiration rate increases and birds dehydrate. If that bird still hasn't left the nest they are dependent on their parents to supply liquids.

Related articles:
- Can birds become dependent on bird feeders? http://goo.gl/GZYpke
- Do we stop feeding suet in the summer? http://bit.ly/GKWSRt
- Feeding Baby Birds http://bit.ly/GSHKwY
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://bit.ly/GKYw5q

Friday, June 5, 2015

Chipmunks in a trees!

I've been on friendly terms with my resident (Antrim County) chipmunk population for years...and have enjoyed observing them and feeding them sunflower seeds. Yesterday, for the first time ever in my experience, I saw one climb a tree! This morning one actually woke me up by 'chipping' loud and long under my window. I heard the chipping going on non-stop all day... what does that mean? Any insight into tree-climbing and/or marathon chipping would be appreciated.

There is no stopping a chipmunk! They forage on the ground mostly, searching for seeds, nuts and fallen fruits. But they will also climb trees for buds, nuts and seeds. Mine love to climb the maple trees to eat the sweet buds and maple seeds.

Eastern chipmunks mate in early spring and again in early summer, producing litters of four or five young twice each year. So where I live in mid-Michigan you can hear a female calling for a mate in February and early June. Their call is a chip sound similar to their warning chip call, but it is not quite as loud. A female climbs to a high perch and “chips” from the moment she gets up, until the evening with only short breaks to eat or drink.

Chipmunks are solitary creatures and after mating takes place, it is normal for chipmunks to ignore each other. Females have a 30-day gestation, then two months of nursing the young in their burrow. Once the young are ready to leave the nest, their mother will help them find food for the next six weeks. After that, they are on their own.

About half of all chipmunks in any given year are young that were born in that season. Chipmunks in the wild live, on average, just over one year. They are an important food source for many animals including hawks, owls, falcons, foxes, snakes, cats and weasels. They are also important in Mother Nature's master plan to spread seeds across the land to ensure the survival of her planet of plants.
  
Related Articles:
The 25 known species of chipmunks in the world http://goo.gl/mAs2T
How much food can a chipmunk hold in his mouth? http://bit.ly/yD6Bn8
When do Chipmunks hibernate? http://bit.ly/yIfqFT
How many species of squirrels are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/A2wG1g
Will Safflower seed keep squirrels and chipmunks off my bird feeder? http://bit.ly/wYGDBi

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Feeding baby birds

Baby Cardinal
The best thing about feeding in the summer is watching the baby birds. Just as parents across the country will take their children on family adventures this summer, bird parents are leaving their nests to take their families out on vacation/survival training.

You can usually tell which baby bird belongs to which family based on the adult bird from which they are begging. Cardinals, one of the most sought after backyard birds in our area because they're so handsome, have some of the most ragtag looking children. Some customers are shocked by how dissimilar the babies look to the parents at first.
Daddy chickadee feeding baby
Baby Robin
All this week I’ve been watching the chickadees. When the chickadee family first came to the feeders last week with their family in tow, their babies were little round fluffs of feathers following their parents from feeder to feeder, snatching goodies from their parents’ mouths.

They have to learn sometime and my feeders have some of the best Wild Birds Unlimited food in town. It’s irresistible and I’ve already caught some of the babies eating from the feeders between begging.

I’m also watching baby cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches, blue jays, sparrows, starlings, robins, House Finches and more at the feeders trying to figure out what they were supposed to do with the food in front of them. It's a fascinating interaction that is fun to observe.
Downy Woodpecker daddy feeding baby

The fledglings follow their parents and either wait quietly or call incessantly and flutter their wings until fed. After one to three weeks, the parents will stop feeding their fledglings and may even peck at them if they persist in begging for food.

You can make your backyard "bird family-friendly" by continuing to offer high-protein bird foods, such as WBU No-mess blend seed, Nyjer® (thistle), peanuts, suet and mealworms. These energy-packed foods will entice birds and their young back to your feeders so you can watch them up close. Make sure to keep all your feeders clean and also offer a water source to help them in the dog days of summer.

The video below captured baby bluebirds: https://youtu.be/n8CzHrYncY4

Related Articles:
- What to do if you find a baby bird http://goo.gl/vPVAhx
- After chickadee babies have fledged http://bit.ly/yAYbP4
- Baby Starlings are big, noisy, brown birds http://goo.gl/yHR2m
- How baby birds in a nest get their drinks http://goo.gl/q8dkv
- Feeding and Raising Bluebirds http://goo.gl/MKRPn
- How Do I Know If It's a Baby Hummingbird? http://bit.ly/IHzCSh

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How to know if it is an adult bird or this year’s offspring

Many bird parents show their fledglings where to find food and how to eat from feeders. Here are some clues to look and listen for at your feeders to determine if a bird is an adult or this year’s offspring.

Having a Shadow

Watch for one or more birds closely following or outright chasing a parent. This often occurs in the first two weeks after leaving the nest.

Incessant Chatter
When hungry, many fledglings harass their parents with an incessant "feed me." These can be single or double noted calls that sound like squeaks or chip notes. Chickadees and goldfinches are notorious for incessant feeding chatter.

Body Positioning
A fledgling may beg with its mouth open toward the parent. A juvenile may also move its head side to side and flutter its wings to get its parents' attention.

A Motley Crew
Fledglings are still growing out their feathers so they can appear very mottled or slightly fuzzy. There are often spots or streaks on the head, back, breast and/or flanks until the feathers are fully grown.

No “End” in Sight
Tail feathers are usually the last to fully grow. Young birds' tail feathers can appear very short or it can look like a bird has no tail.

Source: WBU Corpoate Content

Related Articles:  
- After chickadee babies have fledged http://bit.ly/yAYbP4
- Baby Starlings are big, noisy, brown birds http://goo.gl/yHR2m
- How baby birds in a nest get their drinks http://goo.gl/q8dkv
- Feeding and Raising Bluebirds http://goo.gl/MKRPn
- How Do I Know If It's a Baby Hummingbird? http://bit.ly/IHzCSh

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Identifying baby chickadees

How do you tell if they are baby chickadees?

Baby Black-capped Chickadees in nest boxImage by Dunbar Gardens via Flickr
At first glance the male, female, and juvenile chickadees all look pretty much the same to the human eye. Fluffy fresh faced birds are usually the babies and they usually have shorter tail feathers too, because they are still growing. Parents are looking a little haggard by now.

After the female incubates her eggs for about two weeks, practically naked nestlings hatch. Their eyes are closed and there is a little gray down on their heads and wings.

Well fed nestlings grow quickly and fledge from their nest box or tree cavity about two weeks after hatching. Mom and dad birds may bring food to the box and refuse to feed them while still inside to encourage them to leave the nest at this time.

Once the baby birds have fledged they move around in a family group. At first they depend on the parents but soon catch on to picking out objects that might be food. This is the best time to watch them at the feeders.

Black-capped Chickadees bop about from feeder to bush, bush to feeder. They weigh about a ½ ounce but aren’t intimidated in the least by any of the bigger birds at the feeders.

Eventually, the parents will take the young farther and farther from the nest site. The once guarded boundaries of chickadee territories are now open to family groups. 

This family vacation or training period lasts for about 3 to 4 weeks and then the tight cohesive unit will disperse. Scientists aren’t sure what triggers the break, but the young take off suddenly in different directions. They settle down finally, long distances from their natal territory.

The young hook up with other young birds new to the area and join local adults to form winter flocks. Once settled in their new territory, most will remain in the same general area for the rest of their adult lives.

Related Articles:
- Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://goo.gl/bEl3h 
- Quiz on Chickadees http://goo.gl/0cI03 
- Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://goo.gl/jAtN5 
- Fun Facts about the different Chickadees in North America http://bit.ly/zIDkCi 
- Not a Shy Bird: How the Black-capped Chickadee Communicates http://goo.gl/1rlnh