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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Woodchucks fattening for winter

Groundhogs, also called woodchucks, are a member of the squirrel family that weigh between 7 and 14 pounds.

When They Hibernate
Groundhogs are typically active until the first real frost of winter, often October or November. Then they hibernate until February or March.

What Happens to Their Bodies

As the days shorten and  temperatures drop a groundhog's body releases a hormone that helps guide the animal into hibernation. In their hibernation state, a groundhog's heart rate slows to around four or five beats per minute. A groundhog's body temperature falls from 98 degrees Fahrenheit to as low as 38 degrees. They don't wake up to eat like chipmunks. Their body is fueled by the fat the groundhogs have built up in the summer and fall.

Getting Ready

Groundhogs spend a good bit of the warmer months getting ready for hibernation. They eat nearly a pound of food per day in the fall to help build up his fat stores, and Then he digs a deep den that he lines with grass or twigs to make a comfy nest for his long nap.

Related Articles:
- When do bats hibernate? http://goo.gl/IES4Bt  

- When do Chipmunks hibernate? http://bit.ly/uGhBOB
- Do opossums hibernate during winter? http://bit.ly/u4ORP6
- Migration vs. Hibernation http://bit.ly/sixWTH
- Feb. 2nd groundhogs end their hibernation http://bit.ly/vPHVtx

Thank you Holly for sharing your photo! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.   

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Not time to take hummingbird feeders down

Is it time to take the hummingbird feeders down?

Photo by vladeb
I usually leave my feeder up at least until mid-October or maybe even a little later. The rule of thumb is if you haven't seen a hummingbird for two weeks, it's probably safe to take it down.

Individual adult males get the urge to leave first, followed soon after by the females, and then finally the juveniles. Amazingly, once the young have gained enough weight, they find their own way to the same winter habitat as their parents - someplace where they have never been, using the GPS in their head.

Hummingbirds migrate thousands of miles south every fall to reach their winter homes in Mexico and Central America under their own power. They fly about 23 miles a day by themselves, not in flocks or on the backs of geese.

It's not necessary to take down feeders to force hummingbirds to leave. The initial urge is triggered by the shortening length of sunlight as autumn approaches, and has nothing to do with temperature or the availability of food. However, weather is a factor. Hummingbird will take advantage of the winds to push them in the right direction.

Many hummingbirds migrate around the Gulf of Mexico, through Texas and northern Mexico to winter in Central America. Others will fly from Florida across the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula.

The hummingbirds aren't in as big a rush to go down south as they were to find nesting grounds in the spring but they will leave us when the winds and weather are just right.

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

Monday, September 28, 2015

Birds gather in the fall

Ruby-crowned Kinglet Photo by Nigel
Every evening and morning I listen excitedly as the trees fill with chips and chirps of cardinals forming winter gangs. Young cardinals don’t have a set territory and move around trying to join up with the older more experienced cardinals after nesting season. If your yard is hospitable you can enjoy large numbers of these bright red birds during the dreary winter months.

A lot of other birds are also looking to join gangs right now. It’s not unusual for a group of mixed species to fly together for protection and to forage for food. If you take a walk in the woods you may observe that certain birds gather together in a relatively small space, while the remainder of the woodland is empty.

Titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, Brown Creepers, and woodpeckers which do most of their foraging on trees are sometimes called a tree-foraging guild. Bird guilds are groups of species in a community that exploit the same set of resources in a similar manner, but are not necessarily related closely taxonomically.
Black-capped Chickadee: Nature’s Backyard Charmer

Migrating warblers, kinglets, pewees, gnatcatchers, and vireos may join tree-foraging guilds for a short time during migration stopovers. I love it when the kinglets fly in to mingle with the chickadees every fall. The Black-capped Chickadee seems like such a small bird until it’s sitting next to the teeny tiny crowned kinglet.

But even though these birds work together to survive there are still scuffles and fights to determine hierarchy. Sometimes it’s based on size; the larger Hairy Woodpeckers are more dominant over the smaller Downy Woodpecker which is more dominant than the White-breasted Nuthatch, which can be more dominant then the titmouse which is always more dominant than the chickadee.

Dominance may also be determine through age and gender. An older male titmouse may find he’s socially dominant over a young female nuthatch.
Socially dominate tree-foraging birds get first choice at where they want to feed on the tree.

This may be why the little, least dominant chickadee has developed a special ability to charm humans into giving them treats. At my feeding stations I try to keep all the birds happy with a variety of foods at different levels and in different locations around the yard.

Related Articles:
Do Birds Eat Only at Certain Levels? http://goo.gl/vgE94
Why feed birds in the fall http://goo.gl/Jq4Aj
You get more birds if you feed year-round http://goo.gl/IsJKJ
Shilly-shallying Golden-crowned Kinglet: Adorable! http://goo.gl/d50zT
Black-capped Chickadee: Nature’s Backyard Charmer http://goo.gl/ji1vh

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Black-throated Green Warbler peak migration

Photo by Bill Majoros
An abundant breeder of the northeastern coniferous forests, the Black-throated Green Warbler is easy to recognize by sight and sound. Their peak migration through Michigan is the end of September and the beginning of October. Its dark black bib and bright yellow face are unique among Eastern birds, and its persistent song of "zoo-zee, zoo-zoo-zee" is easy to remember.
  
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
Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/uMSTs6 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Migration isn’t an exact journey

In general, it's estimated that of the over 200 species of birds nesting in Michigan, about 90 percent migrate to some extent. Whether it’s from the U.P. to mid-Michigan or from our state to Mexico or Central America depends on the bird. .

In Michigan, birds can belong to several groups:
.
Male & Female Cardinal along with Black-capped Chickadee
Other bird species seen at the feeder year round may also be migratory. While we see American Goldfinch throughout the year, some of the ones we see in the winter may have nested in Canada. And Song Sparrows that breed in Michigan may migrate to the southeastern United States, or may remain a year-round resident.

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

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

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

Related Articles:
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/H42e6s
- What seeds wild birds eat http://goo.gl/Un35yR
- What to do if you have soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
- How to Prevent Window Strikes during Migration http://goo.gl/KZRzKb

Friday, September 25, 2015

Photo Share: The necklaced warbler

Photo by Jeremy Meyer
Canada Warblers live in North America in the summer and South America in the winter. Males have dark backs and vivid yellow from under their beak and all along the front of their bodies. They are nicknamed “the necklaced warbler” because they have a unique ring of very dark blue markings on their yellow breast and throat. Females are not as brightly colored, but still have a faint necklace marking.

Listen for the song of this bird, a loud chip chewy sweet dichetty and low chup's calls as they migrate through Michigan

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Hot Pepper suet for the birds not the squirrels

I want to attract woodpeckers and chickadees to my suet but not the squirrels. Do you have any suet the squirrels won't attack? ~ Mason, MI

When you come into Wild Birds Unlimited you can choose from a variety of high quality seed and suet cakes that will attract a wide number of different bug eating birds like woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and wrens.

The East Lansing store’s best seller is the peanut butter suet cake, which has only three ingredients: rendered beef fat, chopped peanuts and peanut butter. This is my favorite suet cake too (for my birds, I mean). I don't usually have any squirrels on this suet but if I did I would switch it up a little.

To repel squirrels and other mammals you can use the straight beef suet cake or the hot pepper suet cake. Most mammals will leave those two cakes alone. The hot pepper suet has Capsaicin as an ingredient. Capsaicin is the main chemical that makes chili peppers hot. However, birds don’t have the same receptors as mammals and will not be repelled by it.

Birds will happily eat the hottest of hot chili peppers, a fact so well known that some varieties are popularly known as "bird peppers." When small birds consume the fruits of wild peppers, the seeds pass through the gut undigested and, due to the birds' flight range, are deposited in distant places where they can grow with less competition. If the fruits were consumed by larger mammals the seeds would either be digested, or deposited much closer to the parent plant. Studies have shown that the seeds of wild peppers are in fact dispersed almost exclusively by birds.

Related Articles:
- What birds eat suet? http://bit.ly/q2Sfje
- Can I make my own suet? http://bit.ly/rsc1JT
- How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods: http://bit.ly/ob0NIq 
- Can I feed suet year-round? http://bit.ly/I4Ow8l

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Information on Praying Mantis

Praying mantis with babies. Ive looked this up and looked for other photos I can’t find any info?
I'm not an expert on Praying mantis either. There are two species found commonly in Michigan: The European Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa) and the Chinese Praying Mantis (Tenodera aridifolia).
The European mantis is usually 2–3 inches in length, and has shades of bright green to tan. It can be distinguished easily by a black-ringed spot beneath the fore coxae. The Chinese mantis is a long, slender, brown and green praying mantis. It is typically longer reaching just over 4 inches and its color can vary from overall green to brown with a green lateral stripe on the borders of each side of the front wings in the brown color form.

Mating and egg laying take place in September or early October. The female is larger than the males. Once mated the female lays a mass of eggs on a plant stem that hardens and won't hatch until late May or early June in Michigan. The nymphs are tiny versions of the adults without wings. You can watch the video below to learn more: https://youtu.be/urk-_Uh2vbg
 
Thank you Holly for sharing your photos! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Take a quiz to test your migratory knowledge.

Fall migration is underway. For centuries, birds' disappears and reappearances in the spring and fall were a mystery. But new tracking methods help us learn more about bird migration each year.  

Test your knowledge of where some bird species end up during winter. (And, yes, many will end up in multiple places. The correct answer for each bird is where the majority of overwintering populations stay.)

1. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds
A) Central America
B) Western United States
C) Michigan
D) Canada
2. Dark-eyed Juncos
A) Some population don’t migrate
B) Southern U.S. and Mexico
C) Michigan
D) All of the Above
3. House Wrens
A) Some population don’t migrate
B) Southern U.S. and Mexico
C) Michigan
D) All of the Above
4. American Robins
A) Central America
B) Western United States
C) Michigan
D) Canada
5. Red-winged Blackbirds
A) Central America
B) Southern U.S. and Mexico
C) Michigan
D) Canada

1. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds – A) Medium to long-distance migrant. Most Ruby-throated Hummingbirds spend the winter in Central America, and most get there by flying across the Gulf of Mexico. Some birds stay in North America along the Gulf Coast, parts of the southern Atlantic coast, and at the tip of Florida; these are usually birds from farther north rather than birds that spent the summer there.
2. Dark-eyed Juncos – D) Resident to medium-distance migrant. Juncos that breed in the U.P and Canada migrate to Lower Peninsula of Michigan to the southern United States in winter. Male juncos are more likely to stay in the north while the female travel further south to Florida.
3. House Wrens – B) Short to medium-distance migrant. Most House Wrens in North America migrate to the southern U.S. and Mexico for winter.
4. American Robins – C) Resident or short-distance migrant. Robins can be found year round almost anywhere south of Canada. During winter Michigan robins move in large flocks to moist woods to avoid the snows and enjoy nut and berry-producing trees and shrubs.
5. Red-winged Blackbirds – B) Short-distance migrant. Southern U.S. and Mexico, as far as about 800 miles from their breeding ranges. Southern and some western populations don’t migrate at all.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Walking birds

Photo of African Gray from Wikimedia Commons
Pigeon Walking
Do all birds (wild and domestic) birds walk pigeon toed? I have an African Grey Parrot who does this.

Foot structure varies. Avian feet, like bills, are related to the life-styles of the birds. For example, the Passeriformes, or perching birds, have feet with four separate toes, three of them directed forward, and one directed backward. Parrots and woodpeckers have two toes pointed forward and two backward. The four toes of raptors are highly separated. Owls can turn their fourth (outer) toe either forward or backward. Many waterbirds and shorebirds have three toes pointed forward, but the hind toe is often greatly reduced and raised so that it joins the leg above the level of the other toes and loses contact with the ground.

The locomotory patterns in bird species in different circumstances has never been studied. Not all birds walk. Smaller birds tend to hop while larger birds tend to stride.

But whether a bird hops or strides is not just a question of anatomy; speed also affects choice of locomotion -- a hopper in a hurry tends to break into a run.

There are a lot of unknowns in the bird world and how many are pigeon-toed is just another question that needs to be studied.

Source: http://web.stanford.edu/


Related articles:
Why it is called pigeon-toed http://goo.gl/m5G7Qy
Why do pigeons perch on statues? http://bit.ly/I3ClFa
War Pigeon Remembered http://bit.ly/HBhquZ
Bird of the Week: Rock Pigeon http://bit.ly/HBk9V2
Pre-Google Earth: A Real Bird's Eye View http://bit.ly/HBkjMk
Three pigeons working together http://bit.ly/HBkuau 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Olive-brown Eastern Wood-Pewee

Photos by Angie
Hi! I am trying to identify the bird in the attached picture. He perched on my butterfly bush out back and I’d never seen this kind before. Looking on the web, he seems to be a black Phoebe perhaps, but thought you might know for sure. Please take a look and see what you think. Thanks so much!-Angie - Monroe NC
The Cornell Lab has a new tool I think you'll find useful: http://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/photo-id-help/ Just upload your photo and they will ID most common birds.

They identified your photo as an Eastern wood pewee: The olive-brown Eastern Wood-Pewee is inconspicuous until it opens its bill and gives its unmistakable slurred call: pee-a-wee! During spring and fall migration, Eastern Wood-Pewees stop in a variety of habitats with trees and shrubs, including edges, clearings, primary forest, and secondary forest. They spend the winter in wooded, partially cleared, and shrubby habitats of northern South America and possibly Central America.

Eastern Phoebes have darker brown upperparts, without wingbars. Their underparts tend to be cleaner white, without a vested look. The bill is narrower and mostly dark.

Thanks so much for your help Sarah! I really appreciate it. And also thanks for the link to the bird ID tool, that looks great! Thanks again, and take care! -Angie

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Photo Share: Cardinal Found a Peanut

Photo of female Northern Cardinal with peanut by Chris Draper
With cold weather approaching the birds will appreciate the extra fat and protein from peanuts and you can have fun watching the antics of birds that come to peanut feeders. In fact peanuts are so popular with birds that several feeders have been invented for just peanuts. And I especially like the birds that come to my peanut bells.

Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing also offers five seed blends that have peanuts. Even our most popular no-mess blend has peanuts in it to attract cardinals, titmice, jays, chickadees, wrens, woodpeckers, robins, nuthatches and more.

Whether it's straight peanuts, peanut bells, peanuts in a seed blend or even peanut butter suet, it's fun to watch the birds attack feeders with peanuts.

Related Articles:
- The Best Peanut Feeders http://goo.gl/PfUPp
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/nImz5g 
- What seeds do wild birds eat? http://bit.ly/wKyQNB
- Unique whole peanut wreath bird feeder http://goo.gl/nlSuA 
- How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh

Friday, September 18, 2015

Photo Share: Baby Mourning dove

Although the Mourning Dove is a permanent resident in Michigan, the numbers are considerably smaller in winter than they are during and after the breeding season.
Mourning Doves begin forming loose flocks, feeding, and roosting communally as early as mid-July, with numbers of birds in these flocks building during August. Migration begins in September, and most that are going to leave have departed for the southeastern United States by December. Depending on the severity of the early winter, the numbers overwintering in Michigan can vary.

Thank you Holly for sharing your photos! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Different kinds of suet feeders

Suet feeders attract a variety of bug eating birds like woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, wrens and warblers. Suet is one of the top foods to feed wild birds. Birds have high metabolic rates, so it is not unusual for birds to consume 1/4 to 1/3 their body weight worth of food a day!

There are several styles of suet feeders from which to choose:

1. Basic Suet Cage: Vinyl-coated wire cages are inexpensive but durable. They can be hung by a chain, screwed to a feeder or EZ attached directly to the Advanced Pole System.

2. WBU Recycled Plastic Tail Prop Suet Feeder lets birds eat in a natural way. The paddle simulates a tree trunk and offers birds a place to prop their tail while they feed. Even the Pileated Woodpecker's huge frame will fit on our feeder. Recycled Plastic feeders are environmentally friendly, high quality products that are made from recycled plastic milk jugs. They won't rot, crack, fade or warp like wood can and are easy to fill and clean. They also come with lifetime guarantees. And of course they are made in the USA!

3. Upside-Down Suet Feeder: If you have starlings hogging your suet, turn their world upside-down. Our Recycled Plastic Upside-Down Suet Feeder is designed to allow birds to feed from below. This is a comfortable way for woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and other clinging birds to feed but difficult for starlings.

4. Caged squirrel/blackbird proof suet feeder: Suet feeder that limits the access to only small birds and birds that can feed upside down like woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice. The 1 inch-diameter cage keeps out squirrels and blackbirds. Springs hold the top down so squirrels can't lift it open while the smaller woodpeckers, as well as chickadees and nuthatches, can easily fit through the mesh to dine on the suet inside. It holds up to two suet cakes.

5. Suet log feeder: What could be more natural than a suet feeder made from a White Cedar Log? Birds think they have found a hollow tree full of treats! Simply hang, fill with your favorite suet plugs and watch the woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees take turns enjoying the feast.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Blood Moon - Total Lunar Eclipse - Time and Date

Lansing: Total Lunar Eclipse
Begins:  Sun, Sep 27, 2015 at 8:11 PM 
Total Eclipse: Sun, Sep 27, 2015 at 10:47 PM
Ends: Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 1:22 AM

The Lunar Eclipse on September 27/ 28, 2015 will occur during the Northern Hemisphere's first fall full Moon. Called the Harvest Moon in many northern cultures, it is the full Moon closest to the September Equinox.

In recent years, the term Blood Moon has been frequently used to refer to total lunar eclipses.
When the Earth eclipses a full Moon, the direct sunlight is blocked, but the sun's rays still light up the moon. This light, however, has traveled through the Earth's atmosphere first, and sometimes causes the totally eclipsed Moon to look red.
 
Related Articles:
Groundhog’s Day on Feb. 2 is a "cross-quarter" day. http://bit.ly/vUF7Qk
Singing Birds Herald The Arrival of Spring. http://bit.ly/uJbzCe
Why do they call it Indian Summer? http://bit.ly/twFccE
Why do leaves change color in the fall? http://bit.ly/spkqnF
What’s the difference between a full moon and a new moon? http://bit.ly/tKg5gO

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Birds attracted to finch feeders in the winter

Will there be birds at the finch feeder during the winter?

Mid-Michigan is lucky enough to have American Goldfinches year-round, they just switch their feathers to a duller yellow-brown color for the winter. And they may be joined at the finch feeders by House Finches, and two boreal birds, Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls, down from Canada. Some years the winter population is bigger than others. Irruption of finches are driven by shortages in the crop of conifer seeds (such as spruces and pines) and catkins (such as birch and alder) in the North. In search of food, flocks of siskins and redpolls travel south to find a steady supply of food at backyard bird feeders.

Another winter bird that hangs out under the finch feeder is the Dark-eyed Junco. During winter, Dark-eyed Juncos form fairly large flocks, and you may see them forage with other sparrows and bluebirds. And I see the inquisitive Black-capped Chickadees and woodpeckers also sample the seeds out of the finch feeders.

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, September 14, 2015

Chipping sound at dusk

I hear a chip, chip, chip sound right when it is starting to get dark. I think it is a cardinal's chip but there are so many! Do you know what I'm hearing?

Scientists have described at least 16 different calls for the Northern Cardinal, but the one you’ll hear most common at the feeders and in the fall is a loud, metallic chip. The call alerts feeding cardinals that all is clear and no predators are near.

The Northern Cardinal is often the first bird to visit a feeder in the morning and the last to stop by and grab a bite at night. The increase in the number of birds chipping foreshadows a change in seasons. By late summer, nesting is over and Northern Cardinals relax their their territory boundaries. The birds sing less but are forming winter flocks that use "chip" calls to communicate. 
 
After Young cardinals leave their natal home they don’t have a set territory and can move around freely in search of food. They can drop in several Older cardinals' established groups only to drop out again in search of a territory that can sustain them with enough food and shelter.

These ever changing flocks can consist of about four to twenty birds depending on the area, time of year, weather, and available resources.
Southern states will see larger flocks, of course, because the population is higher in the Southeast. Flock size also increases in December and January when temperatures drop or there is snow on the ground. More birds means more eyes looking food and predators.

About 40% of adult cardinals die each year. Most die during the winter in February and March when food supplies are low. Death may not be due to starvation but a weakened immune system or being forced to search for food in more open areas where birds of prey and other predators can kill them.

Cardinal populations with access to a feeding station may be in better condition and more likely to survive the winter than cardinals without access. Cardinals prefer to feed on the ground so if you can "raise the ground" by feeding cardinals on tray feeders, hopper feeders, seed cylinder feeders or any feeder that gives them a comfortable feeding position. Their favorite food is oil sunflower, nuts, safflower and fruit. Wild Birds Unlimited has a wide variety of cardinal friendly feeders.

The bright red plumage of the Northern Cardinals is a magnificent sight against the snowy backdrop in winter. Winter??? Did I say winter? Yes the signs are clear that that time is near, so put out a feeder now to attract these beautiful birds all winter.
 
Source: Wild Bird Guides-Northern Cardinal by Gary Ritchison

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
What are the different types of cardinal birds? http://goo.gl/CUI43

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Turkey comeback

When much of Michigan's vast forests fell to the ax and saw in the late 1800s, many woodland bird species declined. These included the common raven, wood thrush, ovenbird, American redstart, whip-poor-will, scarlet tanager, and cerulean and hooded warblers. Wild turkeys were almost wiped out and passenger pigeons became extinct in Michigan, although this was also due to commercial overhunting. Hairy and pileated woodpeckers were also impacted along with great-horned, northern saw-wet, and barred owls. Today, wild turkeys have been reestablished and many species of songbirds are doing well in Michigan's forests. However, migratory species are declining at an alarming rate. 

From an overall landscape perspective, many woodland birds survive best in large tracts of forests connected to each other by forested corridors. Therefore, there are many management opportunities for woodland birds in northern Michigan, which is currently more than 70 percent forested. Options within southern Michigan exist in forest areas, and riparian zones. Neighbors who cooperatively manage their woodlands also increase opportunities for woodland bird management.
Small forested tracts are also very important for some species like the northern cardinal and the great-crested flycatcher. Migrating birds may also use these small forests and tree-filled yards as stop over sites.

Read more at: http://www.dnr.state.mi.us
Thank you Holly for sharing your photos! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Irradiated bird food

Is your bird food irradiated? We just put a bird feeder on a shepard's crook in our flower bed and now it is full of weeds.

Our food isn't irradiated but I do have some solutions to help avoid your messy scenario and turn your birds into tidier dinner guests:
  1.  Avoid using bargain seed blends. They often contain large amounts of cereal grain fillers like red Milo and wheat, seeds that birds don't like to eat and most of which ends up on the ground.
  2. Use a tray. Any remaining spillage can be kept from falling to the ground by placing a tray beneath the feeder.
  3. Offer no mess seed. You can also offer a seed out of the hull such as sunflower chips, or a blend of seeds out of the hulls such as Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Blend. Hulled foods leave much less mess and debris below feeders and are especially well suited for use around patios and decks.
  4. Use suet or seed cylinder feeders. Quality suet isn't messy and seed cylinders on a Wild Birds Unlimited Dinner Bell feeder can make tidy feeders. (See photo above)
  5.  Sterilize Seed – You can use heat to prevent seeds from growing. 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.
Come in to Wild Birds Unlimited today to choose from a variety of feeders and bird food to make your bird feeding hobby fun and hassle free.

Source: WBU Nature News

Friday, September 11, 2015

Photo Share: Birds in flight in sunset

If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Strange birds at your feeders

Fall is a time when you might see a variety of strange birds at your feeders. Different juvenile species like the Rose Breasted Grosbeaks and migrants passing through can make September an exciting time for backyard birdwatchers.
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Large numbers of finches are more common, as juvenile American goldfinches learn to feed. And sightings of unusual sparrows scratching underneath feeders have been reported. Longer nights and diminishing food supplies are sending Michigan birds to feeding stations in large numbers in search of supplements to their diet. As winter approaches, providing high calorie and high fat foods can be important to the birds.

Suet, Seed Cylinders and peanuts are high energy, high fat foods which are invaluable in the fall when insects are harder to find and birds need many more calories to keep their bodies warm.

It's the goal of Wild Birds Unlimited for you to have the best possible experience from your bird feeding hobby. Backyard bird feeding is the most relaxing, fulfilling, educational and exciting hobby that everyone can enjoy. If you have any questions come in to our East Lansing location. We can give you accurate information about our local birds.

At Wild Birds Unlimited, we are Your Backyard Bird feeding Specialist®, here to help bring you, and nature together.

Thank you Holly for sharing your photos of your Rose-breasted Grosbeaks! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Good reasons to feed suet in the fall

Thank you Holly for sharing a photo of your Yellow-rumped Warbler
Fall is a time when a lot of birds fly thousands of miles to return to their southern wintering grounds. And don't be surprised if a warbler shows up at your suet feeder or bath in the next few weeks. Most warbler migration is from the end of August to early November. Migration can take a toll on birds and a quick high protein meal at a suet feeder helps fuel them.

To choose a suet that attracts the widest variety of birds, the first ingredient should always be rendered beef suet. Some people feed straight suet only. If you want to offer more protein and flavor the next ingredient should usually be peanuts or tree nuts.

Never, never buy suet where milo, oats, wheat, processed grain by-products or artificial flavorings are in the ingredients. These filler ingredients are used to make a cheaper cake but the birds have to pick around and pick out all this filler to reach a little suet.

All of the suets at the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI store are made with only the highest quality processed beef kidney fat. It is the most concentrated source of energy you can offer wild birds. Our best seller is the peanut butter suet cake, which has only three ingredients: rendered beef fat, chopped peanuts and peanut butter.

If you have a problem with squirrels or other wildlife eating your suet try our Hot Pepper Suet. It has rendered beef suet, ground peanuts and capsicum pepper. Capsicum contains capsaicin, a chemical that that doesn’t harm but can produce a strong burning sensation in the mouth of squirrels. Most mammals find this unpleasant, whereas birds are unaffected.

Related Articles:
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/Gmn0b
- Do we stop feeding suet in the summer? http://goo.gl/KM80C
- Best field guide for Michigan birds http://bit.ly/vPOMx1
- Warblers in Michigan http://goo.gl/WMMGs

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Window feeders prevent bird strikes

It's thought that birds hit windows because they try to fly through to the trees they see reflected on the glass surface but do not realize that a hard, transparent surface lies between them and that apparent perch. When a feeder is attached, it helps birds realize there is no fly through before it’s too late. 

Window feeders are exciting because they bring the birds up close for study. Wild Birds Unlimited has a variety of Window Feeders that are ideal for offering seeds or seed blends. They are simple to attach to your window with suction cups, are easy to fill and clean, and are backed with a lifetime guarantee.

Two tips: 
1. To enhance suction, a tiny dab of cooking oil may be rubbed on the rim of the cup.
2. To reduce mess, use Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess Blend. This is a blend that has all the shells removed and leaves no mess under the feeder.
Some other tactics to prevent window strikes are:
  • Decals like Window Alert placed on the outside of windows have had positive feedback from customers. Each decal contains a component which brilliantly reflects ultraviolet sunlight. This ultraviolet light is invisible to humans, but glows like a stoplight for birds.
  • Locate feeders and birdbaths about 20-30 feet from windows so birds have time to change direction or within 1-2 feet of them so they can't gather enough speed to cause significant injury when flying to escape a predator.
  • Window screens will reduce injury even if a bird flies into it. Use them where practical.
If you do have a window strike and the bird is injured CALL FOR ADVICE! The best course may be no interference.
For a list of licensed rehabilitators in mid-Michigan click HERE.
For a complete list of Michigan Licensed Rehabilitators visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at: http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/
Or to search for a local wildlife rehabilitation group by zip code at: http://www.wildliferehabber.org/

Monday, September 7, 2015

Checklist to prepare your yard for fall

I hope everyone enjoyed the Labor Day Weekend. I usually take advantage of the extra day to do some fall cleaning in the yard. I want the birds that winter in Michigan to find a refuge in my backyard during the harsh winter months. I prepared a checklist to help you make sure your yard is ready too.

Preparing Your Yard for the Fall and Winter Checklist:

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Provide Roosting Spots - Nest boxes turn into roosting boxes in the winter for bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, sparrows, and other birds that might stay all winter in mid-Michigan. Clean out old nests from houses to allow birds the opportunity to roost in a warm, clean house when winter winds blow. You can also plant natural shelters like bushes or buy roosting pockets available at Wild Birds Unlimited to offer essential protection in the winter.

Prepare Bird Baths - Birds also need a source for water in the winter. In our area, weather can turn cold fast and freeze the water in bird baths. It is always good to cover ceramic bird baths or bring them in for the winter. It’s best to place a plastic or metal bath out with an added heater or a buy a heated birdbath. If you’re not sure what you need, Wild Birds Unlimited will give you accurate information on how to support our local birds.

Clean Feeders - Feeders should be cleaned at least once a month, year round. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing - will clean your feeder for $5.00. Or you can purchase professional cleaners like Scoot at Wild Birds Unlimited, or use a one part vinegar to nine parts water solution to clean all of your feeders. Disassemble feeders and immerse them completely for three minutes. Scrub with brushes (we have these too), rinse thoroughly, and let air dry. Also clean the area around the feeders to help eliminate the build up around the feeder.

Feeder/Hardware Maintenance - Check your feeders to see if there are any repairs that need to be done. Make sure feeders are hung so they are easy to reach and fill. If you are going to need a new Advanced Pole System to hang your feeders this winter now is a good time to get in the ground before it freezes.
 
Fill Feeders - Wild birds are already making decisions about which back yards they will visit this winter. Even though natural food sources are plentiful right now, birds are definitely taking note of which yards have food available. What you do as the days grow shorter lets the birds know where to go when that first storm hits. And beautiful, hungry, thankful birds can brighten any dreary winter day.

Leave Gardens Standing - Don't cut off the tops of your Marigold, Zinnias, Cosmos, Coneflowers... Goldfinches and other birds love them. The birds make the flowers dance as they flit from flower to flower looking for seed heads.

Related Articles:

Mother Nature Puts on Her Fall Wardrobe http://bit.ly/vSLJcA
Do birds know winter is coming? http://bit.ly/uVAtWL
Why are the birds eating so much in the fall? http://bit.ly/v0OC23
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/vSdpFt

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Family dynamics of birds

Do birds stay together as a family group? How do they recognize each other?
Birds recognize their parents easily. However after the young have been taught the basics of finding food, shelter and water, most won’t visit their parents or even stay in their natal territory. Behavior varies with different species of birds.

Ruby-throated hummingbird fathers may have several mates and never meet the children. And after the female ruby-throat has raised her offspring and they are able to feed themselves she leaves her young and starts to migrate south. The youngsters explore their new environment individually. When they are strong enough, they begin their long migratory flight to the tropics alone.

Baby woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, finches, jays and cardinals move around in a family group until the end of summer. Then the tight cohesive family units will disperse. Scientists aren’t sure what triggers the break, but the young take off suddenly in different directions. Females tend to venture farther but both sexes settle down far 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.

Robins and bluebirds will gather together in family groups with other robins and bluebirds and spend the winter together. In the spring they disperse to find their own breeding territory and rarely visit their parents.

Crows and ravens tend to forage and move around in family units consisting of a mated pair and young from up to several breeding seasons. Young birds may help with nest building, rearing younger siblings and standing guard at nests and feeding sites. Young birds eventually set out on their own to start their own families, although some crows may stay at home for up to seven years.
Related Articles:
- The Journey North: Bird Migration Maps http://bit.ly/pbk4Eb
- How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d  
- Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/ow20ZD
- Bird only in mid-Michigan during the winter http://bit.ly/ojcyP7
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/qa0CVU

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Exclusive footage of ‘Tuluver’ Bird

The beautiful, newly ‘discovered’ bird species,  is actually a digitally-altered image of a Lappet-faced Vulture. The fictitious ‘Tuluver’ Bird was part of a campaign by Birdlife South Africa to draw attention to the plight of Africa’s vultures.

The PR stunt, was an effort to spotlight the importance of vulture conservation on the continent. "Africa's vultures are in serious trouble and they need urgent conservation attention and, for this reason, we decided to use a brave approach during our International Vulture Awareness Day awareness efforts," explains the group's CEO, Mark D. Anderson.
Watch the video: https://youtu.be 
Related Articles:
Impressive Wake of Turkey Vultures http://goo.gl/DYddr
Turkey Vulture are one bird that makes a ground nest in Michigan http://goo.gl/6dAek
Why do vultures circle dead stuff? http://goo.gl/nD9qe

Friday, September 4, 2015

Photo Share: Downtown Lansing paddle around

We did a "downtown paddle around" on the Grand River from the Lansing City Market on Aug. 28, 2015. - Melissa Weipert 


If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.