About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Photo Share: White-winged Crossbills

Photo of White-wing in gum tree by Paul Hurtado
Ted Black from the field guide Birds of Michigan writes: The White-winged Crossbill's well-designed mandibles combine function with artistry. The Red Crossbill is the only other bird in North America with this unique overlapping bill adapted for prying open pine cones.

The presence of a foraging group of White-winged Corssbills high in a spruce tree creates an unforgettable shower of conifer cones and crackling and chatter. 

In mid-Michigan, the population in the winter depends on how well the seed crop is in Canada. Look for them from October to March at the tippy top of spruce, fir, tamarack, and gum trees.

When not foraging for seeds, White-winged Crossbills often drop to the ground to drink from shallow forest pools or lick salt from winter roads. Unfortunately this roadside activity often results in crossbill fatalities.

Adult males tend to be red or pinkish in color, and females green or yellow, but there is much variation.

Related Articles:
Photo of White-wing in pinetree by Paul Hurtado
Fun facts about White-winged Crossbills http://goo.gl/DatZcy
10 Winter Finches in Michigan http://goo.gl/kWFOFk
How the Northern Cardinal bird was named http://goo.gl/zfuH3P
Goldfinch Migration http://bit.ly/pEuMKo 
House Finches: Those Year-round Red Heads http://bit.ly/opD7kb
Bird of the week: Pine Siskin http://bit.ly/qNqIuK
Birdwatching: Look for the Out-of-Towners http://bit.ly/q6Pkco 

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.  

Friday, October 30, 2015

Birds of Michigan Field Guides

Birds of Michigan 
By Ted Black and Greg Kennedy
360 pages, 5.50" x 8.50", paperback

This is a wonderful book for beginning or advanced bird watchers in Michigan. It has detailed illustrations of 302 bird species with specifications of their size and any unique markings. It includes descriptions of the birds’ habitat, nesting, feeding, and voice. The birds are also grouped and color coded for quick identification by species.

One of my favorite features is a very handy quick find reference of all of the birds at the beginning of the book. It also lists Michigan birding groups and which local nature center or park will have a particular species of bird.

 

This is a very handy book to have around even if you don't plan on doing more than watching the birds at your feeder. I also recommend Stan Tekiela Birds of Michigan book & CD set if you want to see photos of birds or hear their songs.


 Related Articles:

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why bird feed stores have cats

"What greater gift than the love of a cat?"—Charles Dickens

J.B, Eli & Dolly wish everyone a Happy National Cat Day!
Bring on the cake. It is National Cat Day!

5 reasons there is a cat in the bird store:
1. Cats love birds!
2. People love cats!
3. They work for treats!
4. Stray cats need to be indoor cats!
5. They get the blame for any mishap!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Fun facts about bats

How many species of bats are there?
Bats are the only flying mammals. There are more than 900 species of bats that make up the Chiroptera group.

Little brown bat affected by White-nose syndrome
Why are bats classified as Chiroptera?
Chiroptera comes from the Greek words for "hand" and "wing." They are named this because their wings are actually very long hands and the skin stretches over the fingers to create wings. In many languages, the word for "bat" is cognate with the word for "mouse": for example, chauve-souris ("bald-mouse") in French, murciélago ("blind mouse") in Spanish, saguzahar ("old mouse") in Basque, летучая мышь ("flying mouse") in Russian, nahkhiir ("leather mouse") in Estonian, vlermuis (winged mouse) in Afrikaans

Black Flying-fox photo by James Niland
What is the largest bat?
The flying fox is the largest type of bat. Its wingspan is around six feet wide and its body is around one foot long. Flying foxes live in high trees in the tropical regions of Africa, Australia and Asia. Other types of bats may be found in trees, caves, abandoned buildings or caves.

How long do bats live?
Bats generally live between 10 to 20 years.

Can bats walk?
A bat's legs are usually very weak and many bats do not walk at all. Rather, they use their legs to hang from their roost. Bats have five toes on their feet, each of which has a curved claw that bats use to support themselves while hanging upside down.

Are bats blind?
The phrase "blind as a bat" is not exactly true. Bats have very well developed eyes, but use echolocation to navigate and to find prey at night. Echolocation is when the bats send out high-pitched sounds and listen to the way that the sound bounces back to them, telling them how close they are to other objects.

Bats are more than the scary creatures of the night.
Our furry, flighted friends have quite a lot of positive effects on our world. From the billions of dollars they save us in pesticides, to natural pollination and seed spreading. Learn why we need bats at: http://batconservation.org

Monday, October 26, 2015

Influx of juncos

This week I saw a huge influx of juncos. The Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis is a medium-sized sparrow with dark gray plumage on its head, breast and upper parts which contrast with the white, outer tail and white belly. The female and immature juncos are less slate colored and tend to be browner than the adult male.

These small birds prefer cold climates to nest, but begin migrating south to mid-Michigan starting in September. The juncos we see all winter in the Lansing area are typically males. Studies show winter junco flocks are 80 percent male in Michigan and 72 percent female in states further south. Males risk harsh winters in the northern states in order to be the first ones back to their upper Michigan and Canadian breeding grounds to stake out a territory in the spring.

So as the weather changes we may wake up to a flock of females one day and males the next until the birds settle in for winter. Juncos migrate at night at very low altitudes in flocks up to 100 individuals. Other birds like fox and tree sparrows may accompany the juncos. Flock composition can change from day to day during migration. Juncos prefer to forage and roost in groups during the day and may depart en masse at night but do not stay together during flight.

Juncos, like many other members of the sparrow family, eat a variety of insects and seeds mainly on the ground. What seeds they prefer can differ across the country.

Sunflower seeds, millet, safflower, peanuts and peanut butter suet are some of the most popular foods that attract juncos to tray or ground bird feeders. You’ll also see the juncos scratching for grass seeds or insects in leaf litter and pine needles.

Related Articles:
Fun Facts About Juncos http://bit.ly/pgewJn
What birds like Safflower seed? http://bit.ly/puRjIr
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/nURO99
Do the same birds show up at the same feeders year after year? http://bit.ly/GMaOYV

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Boreal Owls in Michigan

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
The Boreal Owl has a large range, and is found primarily in North America, Europe and Asia. In our area the Boreal Owls are seen mainly in northern part of Michigan among old-growth coniferous and mixed forests. They feed primarily on small mammals, such as voles, mice, chipmunks, and squirrels. This small owl (9-12" long) is remarkably proficient at locating and catching prey that is beneath the snow.

Many cavity-nesting owls have declined in numbers after logging operations remove their nest sites. Luckily, Boreal Owls will use artificial nest boxes and this has resulted in rebounds of their numbers, especially in rejuvenating forests where natural cavities are not yet available.

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

Saturday, October 24, 2015

October is the perfect time to put up an owl house

Screech Owls can begin looking for potential nesting sites as early as January so they will be ready to nest in March and April. This makes October the perfect time to put up a Screech-Owl box before the weather turns bad.

But these boxes aren't just for nesting. Studies also show that owls roost frequently in boxes and tree cavities on rainy or snowy days. Fall is the time there are a lot of first year owls leaving their parents and moving to new territories. Night creatures go largely unseen, so people are often surprised to learn that they might have owls as neighbors. Now is the time to prepare your yard.

The diminutive Eastern Screech-Owl is a year-round resident in mid-Michigan even though you may never see them. Most screech-owls sleep away the daylight hours snuggled safely inside a tree hollow or man-made nest box. The noise of mobbing hordes of chickadees or squawking Blue Jays can alert you to an owls presence. Or at night you can listen for their eerie "horse-whinny" and spooky trills.

Screech-Owls have a varied diet that can include small rodents, insects, worms, fish or birds. The 8-9" owls do not catch or kill anything larger than they can handle, and they are not fierce predators so they have no interest in attacking humans, dogs, or cats.

Placement of your nest box is important. The rooftop needs to be at least 10 feet above the ground on a tree that has a branch that owlets can perch on while they learn to fly. Select a more open side of the tree so the owls can swoop up to the hole without trying to fly through branches and leaves. Face the entrance in any direction except to the north where cold winter breezes are not welcome. Owls don't bring in nesting material so it is best if you line the bottom of the box with cedar shavings to cushion the eggs. And place it away from sidewalks, since the owls defend their nests vigorously against perceived threats and, some adults may swoop down to scare away people or pets who wander too close to their fledglings. 

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

Friday, October 23, 2015

Photo Share: Blue-winged Warbler

The Blue-winged Warbler began expanding its range northward in the mid-1800s to include Michigan in its nesting territory. Look for them from May to mid-September in overgrown fields and pastures near abandoned human settlements.

The common name refers to the bluish-gray color of the wings that contrast with the bright yellow body of the male. Blue-winged Warbler’s main song is a wheezy “beee-bzzz”, the second note lower. Their alternate song is longer and more complex, consisting of buzzy notes followed by a variable number of short musical notes. Also a long high buzz with twittering notes at start and finish. It also utters a sharp “tisk” call note.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cute Winter Bird Houses!

Photo of chickadee nesting by Sandra Hellmann
These hand-felted bird houses are fun, decorative and functional!  And yes, they can be hung outside as well as inside! The 1/4" diameter opening is sized for small birds such as wrens, chickadees, titmice or nuthatches, and it can be enlarged for bluebirds or woodpeckers.

Each birdhouse is made with sustainable harvested materials such as sheep wool, a braided natural hemp hanging cord, and bamboo perch.  Rain will shed naturally from the water repellent wool, and if it does gets wet, it will also dry naturally.  If birds don't choose to nest inside they can pull at the wool fibers for material to feather their own nests. Each birdhouse comes partially filled with recycled paper to maintain the shape in shipping that can be removed easily.

What is “Fair Trade”?
Our felt birdhouses are made by artisans in Kathmandu, Nepal, who are paid a fair wage for their work. The production center is a clean, safe and environmentally responsible workplace that meets global ‘socially compliant’ workplace standards.

Wild Woolie Felt Birdhouses
• Unique designs with super ‘Wow’ factor!
• Terrific price and a great gift.
• Fun and functional outside or inside.
• Made with natural water resistant wool.
• Sized for small backyard birds like chickadees.
• 100% Handmade and Fair Trade.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fungus with slender pink colored stalk with pointed tip

Mutinus elegans fungus in the garden - Holly

From Wikipedia: Mutinus elegans, commonly known as the elegant stinkhorn, the dog stinkhorn, the headless stinkhorn, or the devil's dipstick, is a species of fungus in the Phallaceae family. A saprobic species, it is typically found growing on the ground singly or in small groups on woody debris or leaf litter, during summer and autumn in eastern North America.

The fruit body begins its development in an "egg" form, resembling somewhat a puffball partially submerged in the ground. As the fungus matures, a slender orange to pink colored stalk emerges that tapers evenly to a pointed tip. The stalk is covered with a foul-smelling slimy green spore mass on the upper third of its length. Flies and other insects feed upon the slime which contains the spores, assisting in their dispersal.

Thank you Holly for sharing your unusual 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, October 20, 2015

Where birds shelter in the rain

I'm wondering when it is raining really heavy, where do the birds go? I don't see or hear them in the trees. Where do they shelter themselves? - Ricky

Roosting pocket make a cozy shelter
You need to look a little lower for birds when it storms. Many birds take shelter in a dense group of bushes lower to the ground or even in leaf or brush piles. I had a little finch on my front porch taking shelter behind a pumpkin.

Bird houses and roosting pockets also give protection during a storm. Wrens, chickadees, sparrows, woodpeckers and bluebirds often pop in bird houses when shelter is required from heavy rains or snow.

The small birds fly as little as possible and try to wait out storms. This is when they appreciate bird feeders the most.
During storms birds may think of your feeder as a known source of food. While not dependent on feeders, birds don't feel like foraging for food in bad weather. Feeders make it easier for wild birds to brave a storm and refuel. 
 

Related Articles:

How can birds fly in the rain? http://goo.gl/JOeMVM
How to Help Keep Your Birds Warm http://goo.gl/GNaFLo
Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
Why Don't Birds Freeze After They Take a Bath in the Winter? http://goo.gl/5ydpvy

Monday, October 19, 2015

Sparrow with fine streaks on its buffy chest

Photo by Kelly Colgan Azar - Member of the Flickr Bird Brigade Activists for birds and wildlife Description: Finally got a Lincoln's Sparrow without a twig in the way.

The middle of October normally signals an annual invasion of native sparrows in mid-Michigan as they migrate further south. Three well known visitors in the spring and fall are white-throated sparrows, white-crowned sparrows and dark-eyed juncos. Other common migrating sparrows through Michigan include the chipping sparrow, field sparrow, Savannah sparrow, fox sparrow, swamp sparrow, clay-colored sparrow, Vesper sparrow, lark sparrow, grasshopper sparrow and Lincoln's sparrow. Look for migrations days that follow northwest cold fronts, but never bother on days with winds anywhere out of the east.

Many species of Sparrows constitute a substantial percentage of the birds classified as short-distance migrants — birds that nest in vast boreal forest stretching across much of Canada and Alaska but winter no further than the southeastern US.

The Lincoln’s Sparrow, best identified by the fine streaks on its buffy chest, bears the name of Thomas Lincoln, a young companion of John J. Audubon on his voyage to Labrador, Canada. Throughout the breeding season, Lincoln’s Sparrows primarily eat arthropods including spiders and larvae and adult beetles, flies, butterflies, mayflies, and leafhoppers. During winter, their diet consists of small seeds and invertebrates and they will occasionally visit feeders.

Related Articles:
White-throated Sparrow fun facts
http://white-throated-sparrow-fun-facts.html
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/oy9XGz
Which one of these birds is not like the others? http://bit.ly/qM1LQt
What birds winter in Michigan? http://bit.ly/rqQgU2

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Reddish brown sparrow with speckled breast

Photo by devra: Could this bird be any cuter? I double-checked to make sure I had the identification right. I'm pretty sure, now, this is a fox sparrow. 

The overall reddish brown appearance of the Fox Sparrow inspired taxonomists to name it after a red fox. Fox Sparrows are generally rust-brown above with a mix of rust and gray on the head, and heavy brownish splotches on the flanks and the center of the chest. The bill can range from yellowish to dark gray.

Fox Sparrows that nest across northern Canada and Alaska, migrate at night to the southeastern United States. On their way they south they stop for a couple weeks in Michigan in mid-October.

Fox Sparrows spend a lot of time on the ground, using their sturdy legs to kick away leaf litter in search of insects and seeds. They rarely venture far from cover, and they frequently associate with other sparrows.

Related Articles:
White-throated Sparrow fun facts
http://white-throated-sparrow-fun-facts.html
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/oy9XGz
Which one of these birds is not like the others? http://bit.ly/qM1LQt
Chipping Sparrow Juvenile with adult male http://goo.gl/8U5Ud2
How to get rid of sparrows http://goo.gl/9tAwkY

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Starlings are year-round residents

Are the starlings still around?

Winter European Starling photo by CheepShot
The European Starlings are year-round residents in Michigan. They do look a little different and their diet changes with the seasons.

In the fall when they molt, their new plumage is a glossy iridescent black with purple and greens and all their feather tips are white, giving the appearance of many stars. By spring the white feather tips have worn away, so that they are a more uniform dark bird. And the Starling in winter has a dark brown beak that changes into yellow as breeding season approaches.

Spring European Starling photo by Robert Taylor
In the spring starlings require large quantities of bugs or suet to meet their high protein needs. You will see them patrolling the lawn for invertebrates in the soil. Their pointed bill is adapted perfectly for probing food from the ground and catching insects. And of course once their babies appear the suet at the feeders disappears faster.

In the winter a starling’s diet switches. Their intestines lengthen, and the wall of the gizzard increases in thickness to better absorb the nutrients from more fruits, nuts, berries and seeds. Like the robin we rarely see them visit the feeders in the winter unless there is a winter storm that covers their natural resources.

You can check out the range map and read more at: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/european_starling/id

To deter starlings you can switch up your bird food choices:

- Use pure beef suet with no seeds
- Switch to straight safflower seed: Start by offering safflower gradually, mixing it with the seed you currently use. Over time increase the amount of safflower until you are feeding straight safflower. The seed looks and tastes different from other bird seed, so it may take your birds some time to adjust. Safflower is a small, white seed that is high in protein and fat. Many favorite backyard birds - including cardinals, chickadees, finches, doves, woodpeckers, titmice and nuthatches- savor safflower. Blackbirds, starlings, and squirrels typically refuse to eat safflower seed.

Related Articles:
- Do birds warm their feet on telephone wires? http://bit.ly/t7k91r
- Fun Facts About European Starlings http://bit.ly/rSQtFD
- How do thousands of European Starlings fly without colliding? http://bit.ly/vwM3Ra
- Amazing moment bald eagle chases down & catches a starling http://bit.ly/tnPo6z
- Starlings stealing shiny money from machine http://bit.ly/uKaP8b

Friday, October 16, 2015

Photo Share: Hearty little Field Sparrow

Author: Kelly Colgan Azar
Description: This hearty little Field Sparrow was fluttering in mid air after the gnatlike, winged insects that were about yesterday in the comparatively warm low 30's. When he caught one, he hacked a bit, expelling wings perhaps, but got it down. Otherwise, he was sucking on blades of grass. One tough little cookie. 


The Field Sparrows frequent overgrown fields, pastures, and forest clearings. Mid-October is their peak migration through Michigan. They winter in most of the south eastern states below Michigan. Pay attention to flocks of sparrows under feeders. Look for smaller, warm-colored birds foraging near the ground. They may migrate in flocks that contain multiple species of sparrows.

Related Articles:
White-throated Sparrow fun facts
http://white-throated-sparrow-fun-facts.html
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/oy9XGz
Which one of these birds is not like the others? http://bit.ly/qM1LQt
Chipping Sparrow Juvenile with adult male http://goo.gl/8U5Ud2
How to get rid of sparrows http://goo.gl/9tAwkY

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Attract all the birds with no-mess

I'm feeding No-mess bird seed. Is that the best blend for winter?

No-mess is the only blend I use personally and Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess bird seed is our most popular blend with our customers by far. I have to order so much that it is sometimes hard to find a place to stack the extra tonnage on the floor.

No-Mess Blend is unique because it features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds make for a tidier feeding area, since there's no debris on the ground to clean up. The first ingredient in the No-Mess blend is sunflower seed with the hulls removed, then peanut pieces, and finally a little millet, also with the hulls removed. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything and it takes them twice as long because there is twice as much seed in the bag without shells.

Food is essential to provide birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition to endure the elements. An ample supply of fresh high-calorie foods is crucial to a bird's survival. All our Wild Birds Unlimited seed blends have been formulated regionally to provide the most nutritious food for your birds.

The first ingredient in our top seed blends is sunflower seed. No-mess has sunflower with the shell removed then our Choice, Supreme, and Deluxe blends all have oil sunflower, striped sunflower, safflower, and sunflower chips. Deluxe also has white proso millet to attract the ground feeding birds like the juncos, sparrows, and doves.

Choice is the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing’s second most popular blend. It has peanut pieces in the mix. Now when I tell that to most people they say, “oh, no that will attract squirrels”, but the peanuts in the mix are for the birds. Lots of bug eating birds like the woodpeckers, jays, wrens, chickadees, and nuthatches love to pick out the peanuts. Peanuts have a high calorie/ounce ratio due to its high fat and protein content. Lots of interesting birds love peanuts.

Each of our blends is mixed to attract the widest variety of birds that live in our area. We do not include cheap filler grains like oats, wheat and milo that decrease the price per pound of a mix but aren't eaten by the birds in Michigan. Therefore, there is no wasted seed. Wild Birds Unlimited blends actually end up costing less to use while attracting more of the birds that you want to watch.

Related Articles:
What birds like peanuts? http://bit.ly/zispJK
What seeds do wild birds eat? http://bit.ly/wKyQNB
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/xbkaPP
Why pay more for seed at Wild Birds Unlimited? http://bit.ly/xJZMFe
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Small birds that have dark stripes

If I could just find out what these small birds are that are the size of house finches, but have dark stripes down their backs. They're really cute - I'm so curious. They've appeared in the past 2-3 weeks.

The Pine Siskin, a member of the finch family, is related closely to redpolls and goldfinches. The Siskin is an irruptive species that can be common in mid-Michigan some winters and scarce in others. It’s kind of a drab brown colored bird at first glance. But their neat brown striping and yellow wing tips make them seem dapper.

As winter approaches, Pine Siskins become considerably plumper to help them survive. Each bird can pack sufficient seeds into its expandable esophagus to support itself through five hours of rest at -4 degree Fahrenheit temperatures.

Pine Siskins eat seeds of alders, birches, spruce, and other trees. They also feed on Nyjer® Thistle and other weed seeds, forbs, buds, insects, and spiders. They are attracted to salt licks and salt treated highways in the winter and sometimes drink sap at drill wells created by sapsuckers.

Most years, siskins do not stray too far from their breeding territories in the northern tier of the United States and across Canada into Alaska. The “mast” produced by northern conifers is usually plentiful, and siskins use the seeds as fuel to survive the coldest winters.

Mast is a noun of Anglo-Saxon origin (mæst) that refers to the accumulation of various kinds of seeds and nuts that serve as food for animals. The process by which trees produce mast is known as masting. The curious thing about masting is that it is not a continuous process, but rather is cyclic. Approximately every three to five years certain trees produce enormous quantities of seeds and in between the masts they will produce almost none.

So in years when mast production is more uniformly depressed, Pine Siskins irrupt southward looking for food.

When they do arrive, they mix in with flocks of goldfinches at Nyjer® (thistle) feeders, and brighten up a drab winter day with their loud and cheerful "zzziip" song. (The word "Siskin" is of Scandinavian origin and means "chirper".)

Related Articles:
- Birdwatching: Look for the Out-of-Towners http://bit.ly/q6Pkco
- Where do you place finch feeders? http://bit.ly/p4XHU4
- How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d  
- Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/ow20ZD
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/qa0CVU

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bird Seed houses make excellent gifts!

Mini Bird Seed Houses
You have to come in to the East Lansing, Michigan Wild Birds Unlimited store to see all the new items arriving. The pine birdhouses dipped in birdseed have been a big hit! Different kinds of birdseed coat the house to attract cardinals, finches, titmice, and other desirable birds. After the birds have eaten the seed, you are left with a durable birdhouse that chickadees can slip into during the cold winter days.

These birdhouses are so cute, they look just as lovely indoors as they do outdoors. Use them as a table decoration, then hang them outside for the birds.


Our edible birdhouses make excellent gifts!

These edible birdhouses make attractive and practical hostess gifts. Or get a couple just for yourself! They are handmade in Texas with seed grown in our nation's heartland.
Related Articles:
Holiday gift ideas for nature lovers: http://bit.ly/v8L2va
Lots of Neat New Items Coming into the Store! http://goo.gl/02DdQ
Top 10 Gifts for Birdwatchers: http://bit.ly/uZojYY
Unique gifts for someone that has everything http://unique-gifts-for-someone

Monday, October 12, 2015

Seasonal treats to attract birds

Now is the time for fall harvest. As you start preparing for the holidays, don’t forget about your birds! Here are a few ways to take advantage of seasonal items to attract birds to your yard:

1. Squash and pumpkin seeds Whether you are carving a pumpkin, or preparing a pumpkin pie, set aside the seeds. Nuthatches love them, and many other birds will eat them as well. You also may have noticed squirrels rearranging the face of your Jack O’Lantern as they have quick nibble.
2. Apples When you are making apple pies don’t throw away the apple cores. There are a number of birds which may be attracted to apples, including Cardinals. You can also roll birdseed in with extra pie dough and bake it in the shape of a bagel. When cool hang from trees. The pie crust usually has lots of fat which is substitute for the insects that birds eat but are not plentiful in cold weather.
5. Nuts Many insect eating birds greatly appreciate this high protein food. Too much salt isn’t good for the birds, but a few leftover party nuts mixed with other bird seed can be a treat. You can also collect nuts from the trees in your neighborhood, including acorns and walnuts.
6. Peanut Butter Smear peanut butter on a tree trunk. You’ll be surprised how many cute birds this will attract up and down your tree. Or spread Peanut butter on pine cones, old bread, or cookies. Then roll them in birdseed and hang them on your bushes with raffia string.
7. Ornamental Corn Autumn decorations for your home can also provide the birds with food. Blue Jays and Squirrels will enjoy ornamental corn.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A different sparrow at the feeder

I spotted another sparrow among the House Sparrows at the feeders. He was eating No-mess blend bird food at the feeder.

Song Sparrows often have a dark spot in the center of their streaked breast and dark feathers under the bill that look like mutton chops. The Song Sparrow lives up to its name, being one of the most persistent singers throughout the spring and summer. The scientific name Melodia means "melody" in Greek. Click here to hear the song.

All of October Song Sparrows migrate though mid-Michigan. In recent decades, mild winters and an abundance of backyard bird feeders have enticed an increasing number of Song Sparrows to overwinter in Michigan. Sunflower seeds, millet, peanuts and peanut butter suet are some of the most popular foods that attract Song Sparrows to tray or ground bird feeders.

Related Articles:
Best field guide for Michigan birds http://bit.ly/vPOMx1
How do you become a birdwatcher? http://bit.ly/rquunU
Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/0qggF
How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Listen for Old Sam Peabody

I was excited to see a White-throated Sparrow last week! It's the one bird I watch for to tell me when the weather is about to turn. They show up in mid-Michigan right before the first frost in the fall. They can be spotted hanging around for a couple weeks before they continue to their wintering grounds in the eastern states below Michigan and in small numbers in southwestern states.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
The White-throated Sparrow is medium sized sparrow with brown streaked upper parts, plain gray underparts, and has a conspicuous white throat and yellow lores above the eyes between black-and-white or black-and-tan stripes on the head.

White-throated like to scratch on the ground with a series of quick kicks when they feed and remind me of chickens. Our regular no-mess blend would be a good choice of food to attract these sparrows as they migrate.

Be on the look-out for the White-crowned Sparrows too. They usually pass through around the same time as the White-throated. Their visits to feeders tend to be early and late in the day.

You may hear the birds before you see them. I always think White-throated Sparrows have a song that sounds like a chickadee yodeling. Birders describe their song as "Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody" and the White-crowned Sparrow says "poor-wet-wetter-chee-zee".
Related Articles:
White-throated Sparrow fun facts http://white-throated-sparrow-fun-facts.html
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/oy9XGz
Which one of these birds is not like the others? http://bit.ly/qM1LQt
What birds winter in Michigan? http://bit.ly/rqQgU2

Friday, October 9, 2015

Photo Share: Blue Jays hide 107 acorns per day

Wild Birds Unlimited Whole Peanut Wreath
A single blue jay can cache or hide as many as 5,000 acorns up to 2.5 miles from their original source and retrieve them when needed. They can do this by carrying several nuts at one time in their esophagus, a tube that connects the mouth and the stomach. 

In one research study, 50 Blue Jays were observed selecting and caching 150,000 acorns over a period of 28 days. Each bird cached a total of 3,000 acorns by selecting and hiding an average of 107 acorns per day.

It is thought that the rapid northward dispersal of oaks after the ice age may have been helped by the northern transport of acorns by Jays.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

How to get chickadees to stick around longer

New seed cylinder character available for a short time only!
Lucky for birdwatchers, mid-Michigan's chickadees are non-migratory and will be around all winter. New fall and winter flocks have been forming for awhile. Flocks can consist of 2 to 18 birds. Normal suburban flocks range from 6 to 10 birds over a territory of 20 to 50 acres.

Young chickadees leave their parents about a month after they’ve hatched. They leave their natal territory and individually take up residence with other non-related chickadees several miles away. These first year chickadees have the lowest status in the group and try to pair up with a mate they can be with next breeding season and move up in rank as dominant birds die.

The average lifespan of a chickadee in the wild is 2.5 years. Keeping their little half ounce body working efficiently requires a lot of fuel. And the worse the conditions the more the chickadees need to eat.

Inquisitive, energetic, and strikingly marked, the Black-capped Chickadee is regular visitor to Michigan feeders especially in the fall. They may seem to be in a little bit of a frenzy. Attracted to sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suets at a bird feeding station, they are collecting food and hiding it for later just like squirrels. Read MORE on how chickadees cache their food.

https://youtu.be/dNR42p9icrkAt my feeding station I offer Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess Seed Blend in a squirrel proof feeder, Peanutbutter Suet, and Seed Cylinders.

Seed Cylinders are tidy, long-lasting, tightly packed seed shapes held together with gelatin that slip on a cylinder feeder. The birds stay longer eating at the feeder instead of grabbing a morsel and flying quickly away to eat it elsewhere. And the cylinders are packed with high-calorie nuts to provide birds with enough energy stay warm. Cylinders can help attract many of your favorite birds, including cardinals, chickadees, woodpeckers and goldfinches. And now we have Cute Seed Cylinder Characters available for a short time.
Related Articles:
Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
Exciting New Bird Food at Wild Birds Unlimited Stores http://goo.gl/LpVQne
Why don't chickadees stay to eat at the feeder? http://bit.ly/AkKThH
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/rCdQqM
Holiday gift ideas for nature lovers: http://bit.ly/v8L2va
Feeding the birds will not make them dependent. http://goo.gl/dqYQu

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Birds sample a wide variety of foods

The Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing No-Mess Blend is perfect for bird feeding. The first ingredient is Sunflower Seeds without the shell, the favorite of the seed eating birds like the cardinals, finches and other seed eating birds. The second ingredient is diced peanuts. This attracts all the bug eating birds like the chickadees, jays, nuthatches, woodpeckers and titmice. The third ingredient is hulled white proso millet. This attracts your juncos and other ground feeding birds.

The National Wildlife Federation did a study on which foods attract the most birds and keep them the healthiest. They found:

No-mess seed cylinder
1. Birds require a variety foods.
A backyard feeder is an especially efficient place to forage because it mimics what scientists call a “resource patch,” a cluster of food much like a fruit-laden tree. But don’t worry that birds will become too dependent on your feeders. Evolutionary pressures encourage birds to sample a wide variety of foods.

Birds are remarkably proficient at assessing potential food items for nutritional content and quality. Fresh sunflower seed, peanuts, white proso millet, safflower, Nyjer thistle seed and high quality suets are some of the best choices. Low-quality foods are discarded on the ground and may be avoided.

The study emphasizes that for birds, eating is not only about nutrition but about consuming a lot of food very quickly while avoiding predators. This makes the easy to eat, already shelled no-mess blend, very attractive to the birds.

No shells on the seeds makes the no-mess blend attractive to me too, since there's no debris or weeds on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, this blend offers the best value. There is about twice as much seed in the bag because you are not buying shells. This means it take the birds twice as long to go through a bag of seed but the birds eat everything.

Related Articles:
- Common winter birds in Michigan and their food preference: http://bit.ly/yp9YQA
- How to choose the best suet cake http://bit.ly/xATYPQ
- How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh
- How to winterize your bird feeding station http://bit.ly/xucuF8
- Why do Birds Scatter Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/vZ6gzM
- Choosing a seed blend to feed wild birds http://goo.gl/5FpPr7

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The end is near for chipmunks

Photo by Gilles Gonthier
Dolly is watching the door intensely as a chipmunk helps clean up a little spilled food from our weekly seed delivery. This is the last chance for chipmunks to gather enough food to survive the winter.

Many people are frustrated by the amount of food they take away from bird feeding stations but chipmunks do have a purpose. They eat a lot of bugs, small rodents and stray seeds on the ground which humans can appreciate. And Mother Nature uses the chipmunks to spread plant seeds and fungi all around as well as become food for birds of prey.

Eastern chipmunks live in shallow burrows made by digging and carrying away the dirt in their pouched mouths. These burrows can be up to 30 ft. in length with several different exits concealed with leaves and rocks.

The chipmunks’ cheek pouches also transfer food to their tunnels. They keep large stores of food in their burrows and build nests on top of this treasure. Eastern chipmunks do not hibernate continuously through the winter, nor do they "fatten up" before retreating to their burrows. When the temperatures reach freezing, chipmunks go into their burrows to hibernate and wake up periodically to snack on their stored nuts and seeds.

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

Monday, October 5, 2015

3 reasons woodpeckers damage houses

Woodpeckers can cause a great deal of property damage and sleepless mornings. In one study, the birds stopped drumming 50 percent of the time within two weeks or so whether the homeowners did anything or not. My personal recommendation is to try to break the woodpeckers drumming before it becomes a habit. Hopefully I can suggest a solution that will work with your woodpecker.  

Why Woodpeckers Peck Your Home
Woodpeckers damage structures for basically three reasons:

1. Searching for insects or hiding food (Some people find feeding suet distracts a woodpecker from their house.)
2. Creating cavities for nesting and shelter (Sometimes putting a woodpecker house helps deter damage.)
3. Drumming (Drumming is a means of communication between woodpeckers. Like some birds sing, woodpeckers drum. There are different drumming calls that they may use: mating; alarm; or territorial. This can be heard over long distances, if they use a surface with adequate acoustic properties.)

Laws Woodpeckers are a federally protected bird under the North American Migratory Bird Act. So you can't use lethal control on woodpeckers without contacting your Federal Wildlife Officer.

Strategies to Control Woodpecker Damage
Unfortunately, there is no easy guaranteed solution. So with that being said, try the following strategies: 

1. Check for insects. Woodpeckers feed on insects in wood.
2. Cover all damage as soon as possible. Place aluminum flashing over the areas where the woodpecker is pecking. The flashing will stop the pecking at that spot because: a) it is metal, b) it changes the sound, and c) woodpeckers don't like shiny objects. Just make sure that the woodpecker is not living in your home.
3. Scare the woodpecker away using one or more of the following:
  • Mylar tape: Wild Birds Unlimited has some Mylar tape (1-inch-wide strips) flutter ribbon you can hang in the area. Woodpeckers don't like shiny objects. If you don't have Mylar, hang tinfoil, aluminum pie plates, or old CDs or DVDs.
  • Mylar balloons: The dollar stores usually have shiny Mylar balloons you can hang in the area.
  • Garden hose: One animal damage controller recommends placing a garden hose with a sprinkler set at an angle to reach where the bird is drumming. The woodpeckers leave after a few squirts because they don't like hanging on to wet structures.
  • Attack spider: This is a relatively new (2003) technique. A large spider drops down at the first knock to scare woodpeckers through sight and motion. These can be found at party stores now. It also scares little trick or treaters. Bonus!
  • Owl effigies: These are only effective if you are willing to move them around on a daily basis. I don’t really recommend these but we usually carry them at Wild Birds Unlimited.
  • Exclusion techniques: If woodpeckers are damaging your siding under an eave, hang some netting from the eave line down to the ground. If the net is extended away from the house wall, the woodpecker can't get close enough to damage the wood.
Also, as soon as you notice problems, take action quickly before the woodpecker decides your home is a nice place to live.

If the attack is on windows and not just an accidental window strike, the likely behavior is a reaction to the bird seeing an intruder on its territory. A simple solution to this problem is to cover the window with screens or rub the window with a bar of soap to decrease the reflection. The Mylar tape or balloons also work to keep the birds away from your windows.

Source: MSU Extension- http://www.extension.org/faq/926

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Bluish gray headed bird with white spectacles

Photo by Kelly Colgan Azar
The Blue-headed Vireo's peak migration through mid-Michigan is in the first couple weeks of October. They winter farther north than the other vireos, with many remaining through the winter in the southeastern states.

Sometimes the people naming the birds see colors that I don't. Their head has a gray hood of feathers with blue tinges in the sun, white spectacles, and white throat. They are a medium-sized vireo with olive-green above, whitish below, and yellow sides. Their wings are dark gray with two white or pale yellow bars.

Their diet consists mainly of bugs, berries and small fruits. Look for them at the suet feeder and the bird bath as they migrate through in the spring and fall.

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

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Choose the right seed and suet for birds who remain in winter

Summer's gone, but bird-watching enthusiasts can continue enjoying feeding the birds year-round. All you have to do is attract them to your feeders with quality seed mixes and suet options, then enjoy the show.

I’ve listed some of the most common birds you’ll see in mid-Michigan and the food they like at feeders.
1. Northern Cardinal - Sunflower seed, Safflower, Peanuts, White Proso Millet
2. American Goldfinch - Nyjer Thistle, Sunflower Seeds
3. House Finch - Safflower, Nyjer Thistle, Sunflower Seed
4. House Sparrow - White Proso Millet, Sunflower seed
5. Dark-eyed Junco - White Proso Millet, Sunflower seed, Nyjer Thistle
6. Mourning Dove - Sunflower seed, Peanuts, Safflower, White Proso Millet, Nyjer
7. Tufted Titmouse - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
8. Black-capped Chickadee - Nuts, Sunflower, Safflower, Nyjer Thistle, Suet, Mealworms
9. Carolina Wren - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
10. Red-breasted Nuthatch - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
11. White-breasted Nuthatch - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
12. Downy Woodpecker - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
13. Blue Jay - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Suet
14. Red-bellied Woodpecker - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
15. Northern Flicker - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Safflower, Suet, Mealworms
16. European Starling - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Suet, Mealworms
17. Cedar Waxwing - Mealworms, Suet Nuggets, Berries and Wild Fruit
18. Eastern Bluebird - Shelled peanuts, Suet, Suet Nuggets, Mealworms
19. American Robin - Shelled peanuts, Suet, Suet Nuggets, Mealworms
20. American Crow - Peanuts, Sunflower seed, Suet
21. Cooper’s Hawk - Songbirds, Squirrels, Suet

Of course there are a lot more birds in Michigan during the winter and they don't just eat from feeders, but this gives you a start. For more information we have Birds of Michigan Field Guides or you can visit our online Bird Guide to identify birds at http://www.allaboutbirds.org/.
Related Articles:
- 10 Winter Finches in Michigan: http://bit.ly/oL3iCF
- Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/pXv5ZN
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/nImz5g
- How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh
- How to Prepare Your Yard for Winter Birdwatching http://bit.ly/q93Men
- What is the best bird feeder? http://bit.ly/qVr7i8