About us: We own a wild bird feeding supply 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.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Medium sized blackbird with iridescent feathers

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Brewer's Blackbirds look similar to the grackles and cowbirds. But Brewer's Blackbirds are smaller than Common Grackles, with shorter tails and a shorter, smaller bill and Brewers’ have a yellow eye instead of the Brown-headed Cowbirds’ dark eye.

They are a summer resident in Michigan but are not common. You may see them along roadsides looking for roadkill insects and weed seeds. You can also find them in other open habitats such as grasslands, riversides, meadows, as well as lawns, golf courses, and parks.

The males have iridescent black feathers that are shown off as they jerk their head back and forth when they walk. Audubon named the bird after Thomas Mayo Brewer, a friend and prominent oologist (someone that studies eggs).

Related Articles:
- Keep blackbirds away with your seed selection http://keep-blackbirds-away-with-your-seed.html
- 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
- Choosing a seed blend to feed wild birds http://goo.gl/UxhVs 

- What is the best bird feeder? http://bit.ly/qVr7i8

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Weird Cardinal with black bill

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Young kids today! The spiked hair, black lips, and all around strange ensemble. This is the normal (or abnormal) look of an immature Northern Cardinal. There is nothing wrong with them.

Young Northern Cardinals have ashy brown feathers and black bills rather than the orange-red of the adults. They change gradually to their adult coloration three to four months after hatching.

Related Articles:
- Baby birds at the feeders http://goo.gl/UGCokz
- Cardinals mate for life http://goo.gl/Fz1CSR
- Cardinal Fun Facts http://bit.ly/twE6NV
- Cardinal Bird Feeders: http://bit.ly/qXJPFM
- How the Cardinal was named http://bit.ly/tSKZYs 

- What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/rAArXw

Friday, July 29, 2016

Photo Share: Trumpeter Swan in flight

Early settlers and explorers in Michigan noted that Trumpeter Swans were found here in abundance. Starting in the late 1800s, however, an increase in European settlement brought with it the conversion of wetlands to farmlands. It also brought market hunters, who harvested swans to sell their meat to restaurants, fluffy down for pillows, feather quills for pens, and skins and feathers for the fashion and hat trade. Unlike today’s hunters, who provide conservation funding through their hunting license and equipment purchases and only take as many animals as can be replaced through reproduction, market hunters had few regulations and little care for ensuring the future of the species that they decimated.

Thanks to the passage of federal wildlife protection laws in the early 1900s, this unrestrained harvest was curtailed, but the bird’s habitat still was imperiled. By 1933, only 66 trumpeter swans remained in the United States. Through careful stewardship, the trumpeter’s numbers slowly increased. Today, over 750 trumpeter swans can be found in Michigan alone and 35,000 swans across the entire United States!

If you venture out to capture the magic of trumpeter swans, respect their privacy and enjoy them from a distance. These are the largest waterfowl in the world and can weigh more than 25 pounds. They are 4 feet tall and have a wingspan of over 7 feet – all in all, an intimidating bird. And adults are very protective of their young cygnets and may attempt to chase off or attack a person that they think may pose a danger.

The trumpeter swan remains in Michigan year-round and are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. To learn more about the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial, visit www.fws.gov/birds/MBTreaty100.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Birds of Michigan Field Guide & CD set

You enjoy watching the birds and now you can enjoy listening to them too once you can name their tune. Birds of Michigan Field Guide and Audio CD set is a great tool for learning more about the common birds in our area.

The small compact book has full-page, color photos of birds. They include insets of winter plumage, color morphs and more. You don't need to know a bird's name or classification. The book is organized by the color of the bird. This is great for beginners. The CD in the collection will help you start recognizing birds by sound when you listen, featuring the highest quality digital recordings and approximately 120 minutes of bird calls.

The two best tools for enjoying birds in Michigan in one great, field-friendly package! This set is a must-have, and it makes a perfect gift!

Related Articles:

Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/rZG7mw
Why Wild Birds Unlimited has the best seed. http://bit.ly/uER81k
The best bird feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited http://bit.ly/rzl7RQ
What seed is best for attracting the colorful birds? http://bit.ly/vKhfMl
What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/rTCbHB
The best heated bird baths http://bit.ly/rGLQCm

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Photo Share: Sharp-shinned vs Merlin

Merlin Falco columbarius
This merlin seemed to know he was being photographed.- Mark

What a very handsome hawk! I think it is a Sharp-shinned hawk. Thank you very much for sharing your wonderful 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.

The Merlin is similar in size, but it’s a falcon—it has pointed wings and a shorter tail. Merlins are dark, streaky birds and they behave differently, flying powerfully and usually hunting out in the open. They also nest in the upper peninsula in Michigan.

Related Articles:
Sharp-shinned vs. Cooper’s Hawks http://goo.gl/sBHwDY
Birds of prey: Hawk vs. Falcon http://birds-of-prey-hawk-vs-falcon.html
Hawks at Feeders http://bit.ly/zfOiVV
Cooper's Hawk http://bit.ly/ylsupp
Sharp-shinned Hawks http://bit.ly/zhi4Ng

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Now is the time to feed the birds to help with feather growth

A regular resident of mid-Michigan backyards, the Northern Cardinals form one of the bird world's most faithful pair bonds. The male and female remain in close contact year-round, singing to one another through the seasons with soft, bubbly whistles. The female is known to sing while on the nest, and it is believed that she is informing her partner whether or not she or the young need food.

The red color of the cardinal’s feathers is the result of pigments called carotenoids. The amount of the pigment ingested, and then deposited in the feathers as they molt in the fall, influences the quality and depth of their red coloration. A study done by the Ohio State University found that juveniles, less efficient foragers than adults, often have a duller red feather coloration.

At the feeding stations the birds tend to prefer seeds that provide the most nutrients. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a landmark study of bird food preferences in 1980 for several bird species and found cardinals exhibited the greatest preference for fresh sunflower, peanuts, safflower, and millet. They avoid buckwheat, cracked corn, milo, oats, wheat, canary, flax, rapeseed, and rice.
Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess Blend is our best selling blend. It has everything the birds want and leaves no messy shells behind. The first ingredient is sunflower seeds with the black shells removed. You only pay for seed not the shells. Birds don't eat the shell. Those are just discarded below the feeder as waste. Because there is no shell, there is about twice as much seed in the bag. Pound for pound it is the better deal and it also should go down twice as slow in the feeder.

Whatever seed, seed cake, or suet you choose at Wild Birds Unlimited, we guarantee it will be fresh and a healthy choice for our local birds.

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

Monday, July 25, 2016

Hummingbird moth on milkweed

These beautiful White-Lined Sphinx Hummingbird moths are sipping nectar with a formidable proboscis dipping deep into the flower of the milkweed.

National Moth Week, the last full week in July, provides a much-needed spotlight on moths and their ecological importance as well as their incredible biodiversity. Read more at: http://nationalmothweek.org/

Related Articles:
-Tiger moths: What is that white moth with black spots?: http://bit.ly/rtneuz
-A Very Tiny Hummingbird (Moth)?: http://bit.ly/qtrAaV
-Moth With Twelve Inch Tongue: http://bit.ly/pcs0TV
-Why did I take a picture of bird poop?: http://bit.ly/o9APHb
-Where does the Woolly Bear go in the winter?: http://bit.ly/pB5L4V

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Eastern kingbird facts

The Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) is a large tyrant flycatcher native to North America. Adults are grey-black on the upperparts with light underparts; they have a long black tail with a white end and long pointed wings. They have a red patch on their crown, seldom seen.

The scientific name Tyrannus means “tyrant, despot, or king,” referring to the aggression kingbirds exhibit with each other and with other species. When defending their nests they will attack much larger predators like hawks, crows, and squirrels. They have been known to knock unsuspecting Blue Jays out of trees.

Eastern Kingbirds are Common and widespread in Michigan from May until early September. They are most likely seen on the golf courses or in the country perched where they can wait for insect prey to fly by.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

How to keep yellow jackets away from hummingbird feeder

The only sure defense against bees and yellow jacket wasps is to deny them any access to the nectar. I have replaced all my hummingbird feeders gradually with the problem free Wild Birds Unlimited saucer style feeders. The bees don’t like the flat style hummingbird feeders because the nectar is down low, there is no leaking or dripping, they have a built in ant moat and they are easy to clean and fill. There are also optional bee guards you can attach to allow only hummers and no bugs access.

There are different styles and sizes of the saucer style hummingbird feeders, even a window feeder! They all have perches (I love it when they stop to drink) and bright colored tops to attract the birds naturally. Both the cover and the clear bowl are constructed with UV stable poly carbonate, the most durable plastic available, are dishwasher safe, come with a lifetime guarantee, and are made in the USA.

If you choose not to try a new feeder right now, I have three tips to stop bees:

1. Deter Bees and wasps: I discovered bees don't like the smell of cherries. If you swab the ports with real almond or cherry extract (purchased at any grocery store baking isle), the bees will avoid the feeder. This really works but it wears off fast and you have to reapply the extract every day.
2. Distract Bees and wasps: Use a super-concentrated sugar water mix (two parts water, one part sugar), and pour it into a shallow plate, preferably a big yellow one (bees seem to be attracted to that color). Put the plate on a ladder or stool near the hummingbird feeder and they will probably move over to the plate. Once the plate is empty the bees should disperse.
3. Disinterest Bees and wasps: Reduce the sugar concentration to 1 part sugar in 5 parts water instead of the usual nectar recipe of 1 part white sugar to 4 parts water. This will make it less attractive to insects, but probably won't make the hummingbirds lose interest.

Related Articles:
Do Honey Bees Migrate in the Winter? http://bit.ly/KIuKKv
When did people start to feed hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/KIuSK6
What’s the best bee-proof hummingbird feeder? http://goo.gl/PcLeyD
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/H2U4P4
Examining The Hummingbird Tongue http://bit.ly/HoaxsI
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/H7xvp3

Friday, July 22, 2016

Photo Share: Ruby-throated hummingbird fluffed

Nesting season is over for the hummingbirds in Michigan by the end of June. Once breeding territories no longer have to be guarded, hummingbirds wander widely. This is a really good time to put out a hummingbird feeder.

Just before they answer the call to travel south, hummingbirds eat in excess to build a layer of rich fatty fuel just under their skin. You can notice the extra fat along the belly, back, and throat. A hummingbird actually gains 25 – 40% extra body-weight to have enough fuel to migrate thousands of miles south. You will notice them getting fatter and fatter and then one day they fly to their wintering grounds.

Photo by Ken Thomas. 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, July 21, 2016

Decorative yet functional hummingbird feeder by Droll Yankees

Droll Yankees new Ruby Sipper® Hanging Hummingbird Feeder, is a perfect pairing of whimsical fun and practical performance, all in one stylish saucer feeder. The 5 ounce capacity of the Ruby Sipper makes it an ideal feeder for establishing multiple feeding zones for territorial hummingbirds. Every hummer can have its own feeder!
  • Leak-proof design!
  • Floats on a graceful stainless steel wire
  • Eye-catching ruby red attracts hummingbirds instantly
  • Lavender dish keeps the nectar level visible
  • Three feeding ports are easy for hummers to use
  • Holds 5 ounces of nectar
  • Nectar recipe is engraved on the feeder cover
  • UV stabilized polycarbonate construction- strong and reliably long lasting
  • Easy to fill and clean
  • Our Perfect Little Brush is included to keep feeder ports clean – replacement brushes may be purchased
  • Lifetime Warranty covers defective parts
  • Made in the U.S.A.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What bird sings cheeseburger?

“What bird says Cheeseburger?” My mom asked me that question a couple weeks ago. Chickadee is the answer. We were joking that Mrs. Chickadee was literally calling her mate a meathead. In the spring it is all, Sweetie, hey, sweetie as they choose mates and defend territories and now it has turned into name calling. I think the bloom is off the rose.

When I’m filling the feeders the chickadees sometimes give what seems like a friendly chick-a-dee-dee-dee which I always interpreted as a “hurry up, food is here”. Then when a Chickadee stops by my feeder they make a tseet, tseet “hello”, picks out a seed and zips away. And the soulful sweeeties chickadee parents call to gather their fledglings is one of the sweetest sounds of summer.

Black-capped Chickadees have a lot of vocalizations, adults can produce at least 16 different calls. Young chickadees usually produce 3 types of calls to beg for food, to talk to their parents, or alert them they are in distress.

Chickadees are well known for their distinctive calls which sound like chick-a-dee-dee-dee. Scientist are just beginning to decode some of the meanings. They increase the number of dee notes when they are alarmed, give a gargling call, often aggressively, when a lower-ranking bird gets too close. And a high pitched see is a serious alarm call, often when a fast-approaching predator is detected. When chickadees hear this call, they freeze in position until they hear a chickadee-dee call signifying “all clear.”

Further studies in communication in birds may provide insights into the evolution of structural complexity of human language.

Related Articles:
What the 'dee' in Chick-a-dee means http://goo.gl/8rde3a
A closer look at the fee-bee song of the chickadee http://goo.gl/X4qLRV
Why don't chickadees stay to eat at the feeder? http://bit.ly/AkKThH
After chickadee babies have fledged http://bit.ly/yAYbP4
Fun Facts About Chickadees http://bit.ly/zIDkCi
Birds have evolved alarm signals to warn of danger http://birds-have-evolved-alarm-signals-to.html

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

There are no birdhouses for yellow finches

What feeders or flowers do goldfinches like? Can I put up a bird house for them? ~ East Lansing, MI

American Goldfinches are one of the loveliest songbirds to have gracing our yards. They are bright yellow and black birds, with a cheery song, and a wavy roller-coaster flight pattern that the great state of Michigan is lucky enough to have year round!  They roam from garden to garden making the flowers dance as they eat seed heads until late summer when they choose a territory where they will nest.
Feeders are the easiest way to attract the American Goldfinch. We sell a variety of finch feeders. My favorites are the Mesh Finch Feeders. They not only let the finches land and feed in whatever position they choose, but they also allow air circulation to keep your Nyjer® (thistle) as dry and fresh as possible; something that's very important to these picky eaters. (Nyjer® (thistle) is the common name used to identify a tiny black birdseed but it does not sprout and is not related to the purple, prickly, Canada Thistle weed.)

Goldfinches eat a variety of seeds. Sunflower and Nyjer® (thistle) are two of their favorites, but it has to be fresh. One way to check your seed is to crush it with a spoon on white paper to see if any oil comes out. The finches use their bills to twist the seed and sip the oil and then drop the shell. If your seed has dried out, your feeder will be skipped. (Wild Birds Unlimited receives a fresh load of seed each week). Sunflower seed can offered in the shell or out of the shell like it is in the WBU No-mess Blend.

Gardening Trick for Goldfinches 
Habitat can be a key to attracting Goldfinches. In this case you do less work, not more. Don't worry about dandelions and don't cut off the tops of your Marigolds, Zinnias, Cosmos, Brown eyed Susans or Coneflowers...Goldfinches love them. The birds make the flowers dance as they flit from flower to flower looking for seed heads.

The American Goldfinch begins its breeding season in late July. They don’t use bird houses but you can provide nesting material like cotton or pet hair. The female alone builds a bark, weeds, vines, and grass nest held together with spiderwebs 30 feet up in a deciduous tree. Finally she lines the nest with soft cottons, hair, milkweed, thistle, or cattail fluff.

Then it's my favorite time of year. By mid-August, after a couple weeks of incubating and a couple weeks in the nest, the first wave of baby goldfinches visit the feeder with their fathers. Their high squeaky baby calls are so adorable, but also a little sad because it marks the end of nesting season.
Related Articles:
Prevent soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a
How to Attract Goldfinches http://bit.ly/A6CwjB
How often do you clean a bird feeder? http://bit.ly/wTk0c7 
Where do you place finch feeders? http://goo.gl/avIs2

Monday, July 18, 2016

Photo Share: Orange-crowned Warbler

Photo by George Gentry
From allaboutbirds.com:
Orange-crowned Warblers aren’t the most dazzling birds in their family, but they’re a useful one to learn. These grayish to olive-green birds vary in color geographically and have few bold markings. There’s rarely any sign of an orange crown. They might have you scratching your head until you recognize their slim shape, sharply pointed bill, and warmer yellow under the tail. These busy birds forage low in shrubs, and are one of the few warblers that's more common in the West than the East.

These warblers are seen in mid-Michigan in the late spring and late summer as they migrate through.

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. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Osprey bird

The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), also called fish eagle, sea hawk, river hawk, and fish hawk, is a fish-eating bird of prey. The name "Osprey" made its first appearance around 1460, via the Medieval Latin phrase for "bird of prey" (avis prede). Some wordsmiths trace the name even further back, to the Latin for "bone-breaker"—ossifragus.

They are common sights soaring over shorelines and patrolling waterways for their exclusive diet of fish. Their white belly makes them hard for the fish to see them overhead and their dark eye-line of feathers blocks the glare from the water, enabling them to spot their prey.

Folding its wings, the Osprey dives toward the fish only to right itself and thrusts its feed forward to grab a fish just before striking the water. The Osprey's feet are specialized to prevent its catch from escape. They have two toes that face forward and two that face backward and the toes have sharp spines to help them clamp tight on even the slipperiest of fish. Over several studies, Ospreys success rates are sometimes as high as 70 percent.
Related Articles:
The Bald Eagle as the National Symbol http://bit.ly/ythN8H
Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://bit.ly/A7TrNc
Why should we care about birds? http://goo.gl/4iD8a
Who Bird Watches http://goo.gl/vX9j5
Sports Illustrated Birdwatching edition http://goo.gl/RuJQQX

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Effects of backyard bird feeding

I was worried when I began feeding the birds that the birds may become addicted to my feeders. Now I’m worried that I am addicted to bird feeding. Is there any harm in feeding birds all the time? Wild Birds Unlimited is my favorite shop! Thank you Sarah for answering all my questions!

I’ve been feeding birds year-round for decades and have been rewarded by babies in the summer, interesting migrating birds in the spring and fall, and cheery birds in the dreary winter. Based on personal experience, if you maintain your feeders, feed the appropriate food for the birds in your area, and clean the feeders frequently, there is no harm in feeding all the time.

Among the most popular reasons that people feed wild birds is that they want to help birds. The extent to which supplemental food helps birds was not well established until a study was done by the Millikin University, from spring 2011 to spring 2014. They examined how feeding wild birds influences the health of individual birds at forested sites in central Illinois.

Generally, the individual health of birds improved with supplemental feeding, reduced stress and more rapid feather growth. The difference among sites was not present 10 months after feeders were removed, suggesting that the impact on health was indeed related to supplemental feeding. One negative effect was the spread of disease from dirty feeders. They found in general, birds that had access to supplemental food were in better physiological condition. Moreover, the negative effects could be mitigated by hobbyists cleaning feeders.

In 2011, 52.8 million Americans over the age of 16 years fed birds and other wildlife around their homes and spent over $5 billion on bird food, feeders, houses, baths and other accessories according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Habitat alteration and destruction undoubtedly impose the greatest human impacts on bird populations, and many species of birds are in decline worldwide. A little supplemental food can help birds establish nests earlier, have better rates of nestling survival and fledgling success.

Feeders also allow breeding females to spend less time searching for food and more time selecting better nesting sites and constructing higher quality nests. The adults will also have more time available for protecting their nest, eggs and young from predators.

When abundant food is accessible to parent birds it means that more food is provided to their chicks. Studies have shown that this extra nutrition reduces aggression among nest siblings and increases their rate of growth. So go ahead and feed the birds and enjoy a hobby that also helps Mother Nature.

Related Articles:
Meeting Your Birds' Nesting Needs http://meeting-your-birds-nesting-needs.html
What seeds do wild birds eat? http://what-seeds-do-wild-birds-eat.html
When should I feed the birds? http://feeding-year-round.html
How to choose the best suet cake http://bit.ly/xATYPQ
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh  

Friday, July 15, 2016

Photo Share: Beautiful perched Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vultures are scavengers that feed almost exclusively on carrion. Their outstanding sense of smell allows them to detect gases generated by decay processes in dead animals. Turkey vultures limit the spread of carrion-borne disease since many pathogens such as anthrax and hog cholera cannot survive passage through their digestive tracts. In parts of the world where vultures are declining in number, rats and feral dogs are increasing.

The plumage of males and females are nearly identical. Body feathers are dark brown to black. In flight, white to grey feathers on the underside of their wings become apparent. Their heads are red and nearly free of feathers. They have a short curved, ivory colored beak.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

What wrens do after they leave the nest

I wanted to know where my wren family went. The babies fledged and I heard and saw them with parents for 4 days and now they are nowhere to be seen or heard. Have they moved on to a different area and is it normal for them to do that? Could they by chance come back to my yard later? Thanks . I must say I miss them!

Your wrens are probably gone, but others still may find food in your yard.

When they hatch from their egg, wrens are just blobs of small pink skin and bones about the size of your thumbnail. The young are completely helpless and depend on their parents.

By day 15, they are almost fully feathered and capable of flight. They stretch and buzz their wings in the nest to build up muscles. All leave the nest within a few hours of each other.

Once baby wrens are out of the nest they fly-hop around bushes and trees, in the general area they hatched, to build up their strength. Their parents lead them to water and continue to feed them.

Gradually, the parents will take the young farther and farther from the nest site as they show them how to forage for food, water and shelter. Soon they are able to take care of themselves. Then the tight cohesive unit will disperse. Scientists aren’t sure what triggers the break, but the young take off suddenly in different directions.

When autumn arrives, these tiny birds will build up their fat reserves and begin heading south to spend the winter in the southern states and into Mexico. They don’t form migrating flocks like blackbirds and robins.
Related Articles:
Nest of sticks in bluebird box http://bit.ly/vUB9v2
Question about House Wren Migration http://bit.ly/MMTgSh
Quick Fun Facts on Wrens http://bit.ly/v5XVoU
Hanging & Placement of Wren Bird Houses http://bit.ly/rBLsGQ
How long before baby wren birds can fly http://how-long-before-baby-wren-birds-can-fly.html

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Why squirrels lie completely flat in hot weather

One obvious reason squirrels lie flat in hot weather is to cool off.  It is common in the summer to see them flaked out on a shaded tree branch, the deck or a dusty little patch of earth. The increased amount of their body’s surface area that is in contact with a cool surface reduces their body temperature.

Another reason is a lot of these squirrels are baby mommas. A little cool pressure on the chestal area after nursing a half dozen toothy babies is just the thing required to refresh a body.

Related articles:
Why Chickadees Sunbathe http://why-chickadees-sunbathe.html
Dove flaked out in the sun http://dove-flaked-out-in-sun.html
Why are Squirrels Called Squirrels?: http://bit.ly/n5x4Wf
Squirrels Like to Work for Their Food: http://bit.ly/nhAAkK 

How Many Species of Squirrels are in Michigan?: http://bit.ly/ptcjzi

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Birds cleaning up after their babies

House Wren with Fecal Sac
Is it normal for parent birds to root around in the nest? Is she looking for waste? I have seen the parents taking something small and white out of the nestbox. What are they doing?

Small songbirds have a unique way to keep the nest clean. Not only would a nest full of baby poop be smelly and a bad place to raise young birds, it might also attract predators.

Nestling birds produce a little round white package of poo, encased in a tough gelatinous membrane. The parent grasps the Fecal Sac by the middle with their beak to dispose of away from the nest. Nestlings usually excrete one sac after each feeding, especially as they get older.

Watch the video: https://youtu.be/NsOzfya3iSA

Monday, July 11, 2016

Goldfinch nesting habits

Raw Cotton Nesting Material
During July, long after most birds have completed nesting, the American Goldfinches are just beginning to nest for the first and only time of the year. They may have been absent from your feeders earlier when they were footloose and fancy free to eat grass or flower seeds. Now that they are tied down to one area to nest and once the babies fledge the numbers of birds hitting the feeders will multiply, literally! Make sure your feeders are clean and full of fresh birdseed.

You do not want to miss this exciting time of vibrant song and fascinating courtship behavior. A male establishes and marks his territory by warbling and flitting from perch to perch around his domain. He also circles and performs flying displays. First, a low flat flight, and then an exaggerated undulation and series of loops.

Goldfinch nesting coincides with the availability of plant down for nest construction and the abundant supply of their preferred food to feed their young. At the feeders they love to eat fresh, dry Nyjer® (thistle), and they also enjoy sunflower chips like we have in the No-mess blend.

Young goldfinches are dependent on their parents for at least three weeks after fledging. Their energetic begging, chasing and harassment of their parents for food at your feeders are truly some of the biggest payoffs of participating in the bird feeding hobby.

Related Articles:
European Goldfinches http://bit.ly/Q2Cu37
Goldfinch Migration http://bit.ly/MzGSPD
Are Goldfinches here in the winter? http://bit.ly/PZu5ML
Goldfinches: The Last Birds Nesting http://bit.ly/PZuejj
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Whip-poor-will Cool Facts

Eastern Whip-poor-will via Wikimedia Commons
In Michigan from April to early November, the Whip-poor-will is heard throughout many of the open woodlands in Michigan, but is rarely seen. Their camouflaged plumage, nocturnal hunting, and secretive nesting behavior make them hard to find.

The Whip-poor-will is a member of the nightjar or “goatsucker” family. The name goatsuckers comes from the ancient folk tale that they sucked the milk from goats, causing the goats to go blind.

Cool Facts from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/
- The male’s emphatic, chanted whip-poor-will, sometimes repeated for hours on end, is a classic sound of warm summer nights in the countryside of the East.
- Eastern Whip-poor-wills lay their eggs in phase with the lunar cycle, so that they hatch on average 10 days before a full moon. When the moon is near full, the adults can forage the entire night and capture large quantities of insects to feed to their nestlings.
- Eastern Whip-poor-will chicks move around as nestlings, making it difficult for predators to rob the nest. The parent may help by shoving a nestling aside with its foot, sometimes sending the young bird tumbling head over heels.
- The Eastern Whip-poor-will may locate insects by seeing the bugs’ silhouettes against the sky. Its eyes have a reflective structure behind the retina that is probably an adaptation to low light conditions.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

How to keep your birds healthy in extreme heat

Hot, humid weather can make seed go bad if it sits in a feeder too long. I've found that if I clean my feeders regularly and mix Feeder Fresh in with the seed, my feed stays at its best.

When temperatures rise to extremes, many birds don't like to travel far to forage for food. They prefer to make a quick stop at your bird seed restaurant and then go back in to a sheltered location.

In order to keep healthy birds at your feeders, remember the following:

1. Feeders should be cleaned at least once a month. 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 mild 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.
2. Check your feeders after a rain to make sure the seed is dry. If not, replace it.
3. Use Feeder Fresh to keep your seed dry in humid weather.
4. Store seed in a cool dry location. Wild Birds Unlimited has closed steel containers that work well to protect seed from unwanted seed thieves or bad weather.
5. When choosing a new feeder look for something easy to clean and fill.

Also right now there are still young birds around learning the ropes and unfortunately, many times it's the inexperienced birds that fall victim to window strikes. Birds also strike windows as they quickly try to escape predators, hitting glass in a moment of panic. And during spring and fall migration, window strikes increase as birds unfamiliar with the area pass through your yard. Window strikes are hard to eliminate totally, but there are ways to reduce them and/or reduce their severity:
1. Locate feeders and birdbaths within 1-2 feet of windows so birds can't gather enough speed to cause significant injury or about 20-30 feet from windows so birds have time to change direction.
2.Window feeders also alert birds to a window.
3. Window screens will reduce injury even if a bird flies into it. Use them where practical.
4. Decals like Window Alert placed on the outside of windows have had the most 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.
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 click HERE. Or visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at: http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/

Related Articles:
A Hobby for All Seasons: Bird Feeding in the Summer http://bit.ly/LpfHNd
Birds Don't Sweat: The Importance of Birdbaths http://bit.ly/KTWD2U
Do we stop feeding suet in the summer? http://bit.ly/GKWSRt
Feeding Baby Birds http://bit.ly/GSHKwY
Don't Forget The Water: Tips to Maintain a Birdbath http://bit.ly/zjg6Iv

Friday, July 8, 2016

Photo Share: Raccoon in tree during day

A wild North American Raccoon (Procyon lotor) hiding in the branches of a maple tree. The common name raccoon comes from the Algonquan Indian word aroughbcoune which “means scratches with his hands.” The species name Procyon lotor means “washing bear.” Raccoons have very clever little hands that can open just about anything and they often seem to wash their food before they eat it. Scientists aren’t sure why the animals go through the dunking motions even if there is no water.

The territory of a raccoon can be as large as ten miles. This means he'll usually stay in your yard for only a few days and then move on looking for different food, water, and shelter. Of course another one may replace the one that just left your yard or you may be free of raccoons for weeks. An exception to that is a nursing mother raccoon. Healthy mother raccoons are often active during the day foraging for extra food and can stay in the same area until her babies leave the den in about eight weeks. Afterward the mother and young find a new place to sleep each night as she teaches them to survive.

Michigan has very long days during the summer months, nocturnal animals will often start to emerge from there dens before dark. This only means that they are hungry. If you are thinking of trapping an animal remember most raccoons or any wild mammal during spring and summer months are most likely nursing females!

To prevent successful raccoon raids:
3. Take your bird feeders down at night when raccoons are most active and store them in the garage, shed, or a secure container that the raccoon can’t raid.

Photo by Ken Thomas. 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, July 7, 2016

Hot birds

We’ve several days without rain in mid-Michigan and it is hot and crunchy outside! A bird with an open mouth is one sign that a bird might be overheating and working to lower its body temperature.

Birds lack sweat glands, so they pant like dogs instead of sweat like people. By opening its mouth a bird increases the airflow and causes more moisture to evaporate and cool their body.

When the temperature is in the 90's, a bird’s body may start to overheat. Birds give off excess body heat through their unfeathered legs and can ruffle their body feathers so hot air close to the skin can escape. A bird will also pant, travel less, find a shady spot, or seek water to reduce its body temperature.

In this heat a refreshing dip in a birdbath is very effective in lowering their body temperature and rehydrating their body to beat the heat.

You will also significantly increase the number of birds visiting your yard by providing bird baths. Wild Birds Unlimited has a wide variety of baths to choose from. Birdbaths come in many shapes, sizes and materials. They can be placed on the ground, mounted on a pedestal or hung. If you have any questions come in to the store and we can help you find the best bath for your yard.

Related Articles:
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Why do crows and blackbirds dip their food in bird baths? http://bit.ly/zgpw2i
Do Birds Sip or Slurp? http://bit.ly/yAHTTV
Don't Forget The Water: Tips to Maintain a Birdbath http://bit.ly/zjg6Iv

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Best Bird Food in Town

http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2012/01/what-seeds-do-wild-birds-eat.htmlWe have tons of fresh, top-quality seed delivered every week to our Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI. Our no-waste bird seed blends are made from 100% edible seed and have been exclusively formulated for the feeding preferences of our local birds. No cereal fillers—just fresh, high-quality seed your birds will love!

We also carry a wide variety of other bird foods—suet, seed cylinders, mealworms, BirdBerry™ Jelly and more.

WBU Bird Seed and Seed Blends
All of our blends are made of the stuff birds like to eat! We learned long ago the better the blend, the better your bird watching! Bargain bird seed may have inexpensive seeds like milo and wheat mixed in to bulk up the bag. However, in most regions these seeds are not eaten by bird feeder birds and is left to sprout or rot on the ground. We also stock all the non-blended bird seeds like sunflower, safflower, Nyjer® (thistle), and peanuts.

WBU Suet Products
We carry a high quality line of suet products for birds like woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, bluebirds, wrens, mockingbirds, etc. Peanut Butter Suet cakes are the most popular.

WBU Specialty Feeders
Our Bird Seed Cylinders are an easy way to offer your birds a wide variety of food. They’re convenient, too. Try offering a Seed Cylinder on our Seed Cylinder Feeder or Dinner Bell Feeder.

WBU Nectar
If you don't want to make your own nectar from white sugar, we have ready to use nectar that provides the high calories the active hummingbirds and orioles need. It contains no dyes or additives and delivers wonderful results. Any leftover solution can be stored in your refrigerator for later use.

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.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

How to stop birds from scattering seeds

Birds look for the very best seeds. First, fresh and heavy seeds full of oil are chosen over the dried up older seeds. Birds will shuffle through the seeds until they find what they are looking for. They'll pick a seed up in their bill to test the weight. If it's not heavy enough they'll pick up another to compare the weight of of the seeds. It's not worth their while to eat seeds that are dried out or bad.

Second, certain seeds are preferred over others. Nuts and sunflower seeds are chosen most often by backyard birds for their high calorie/ounce ratio due to its high fat and protein content. Cheap filler grains like oats, wheat and milo decrease the price per pound of a grocery store birdseed mix but aren't eaten by the birds in the east and will be tossed aside.

At Wild Birds Unlimited you will get the very freshest seed, blended regionally for your backyard birds, with no filler grains. This should limit the scattering problem. And we also have feeders that also deter seed flicking.

Seed Cylinders are our most popular no muss, no fuss feeders. Bird Seed Cylinders are just that! A cylinder made of 100% premium bird seeds, tree nuts and dried fruits and held together with a natural gelatin base. There is no seed spray from these cylinders. The whole block is completely edible.

The Seed Cylinder feeders are popular with people who have been bird feeding a long time and for beginners. It is one of the easiest feeders to maintain and attracts a wide variety of birds.

Related Articles:
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How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh

Monday, July 4, 2016

How European immigrants of the late 1800s changed American society

Two of the most common birds at our American bird feeders, House Sparrows and European Starlings are reluctant European immigrants.

Juvenile European Starling and female House Sparrow via Wikimedia Commons
In the mid-1800's House Sparrows were released in New York and in the 1870's a few House Sparrows were brought over from England and released in Jackson and Owosso, Michigan to control insect infestations on crops. They quickly multiplied into thousands as they regularly raised three to five broods per year, each brood averaging around five babies.

Today due to these releases of a few House Sparrows across the US, they are the most abundant songbirds in North America and the most widely distributed birds on the planet. And the House Sparrows in your yard may be 200th generation Americans.

And in the 1890’s, 100 starlings were released into New York City’s Central Park. It is said that Eugene Schieffelin wanted all of New York to see the birds mentioned in the plays of William Shakespeare. Schieffelin belonged to the Acclimation Society of North America, a group with the aim of aiding the exchange of plants and animals from one part of the world to another. In the 19th century, such acclimatization societies were fashionable and the effect that non-native species could have on the local ecosystem was not yet realized. His attempts to introduce bullfinches, chaffinches, nightingales, and skylarks were not successful.

Since their introduction into North America, European Starling populations have grown to over 200 million birds and they can now be found coast to coast and in Alaska.

Sparrows and starlings have learned to thrive in close association with people, unlike the many other species that have declined or disappeared as a result of our activities. In fact, they actually owe much of their success directly to us.

Our challenge is to learn to live with them as well as they have learned to live with us by mitigating their impact on our native species, while fully understanding the niche they now occupy in our avian landscape.   

Related Articles:
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The strange journey of the sunflower plant http://bit.ly/uFlz65
Basic Instinct: Cardinal Feeds Goldfish http://bit.ly/Kgv2Mi
Starling and sparrow nesting together http://goo.gl/5aQftb

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Bald eagle facts

The United States started the trend for national birds when it made the Bald Eagle its avian representative over 200 years ago. In 1789 George Washington became our Nation's first President and the American Bald Eagle became our Country's official bird.

President John F. Kennedy later wrote: "The Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the Bald Eagle as the emblem of the nation. The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolizes the strength and freedom of America."
When America adopted the bald eagle as the national symbol, the country may have had as many as 100,000 nesting eagles. The first major decline of the species probably began in the mid to late 1800’s, coinciding with the decline of waterfowl, shorebirds, and other prey.

Although they primarily eat fish and carrion, bald eagles used to be considered marauders that preyed on chickens and domestic livestock. Consequently, the large raptors were shot in an effort to eliminate a perceived threat. Coupled with the loss of nesting habitat, bald eagle populations declined.

In 1940, noting that the species was “threatened with extinction,” Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act, which prohibited killing, selling, or possessing the species. A 1962 amendment added the golden eagle, and the law became the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Shortly after World War II, DDT was hailed as a new pesticide to control mosquitoes and other insects. However, DDT and its residues washed into nearby waterways, where aquatic plants and fish absorbed it. Bald eagles, in turn, were poisoned with DDT when they ate the contaminated fish. The chemical interfered with the ability of the birds to produce strong eggshells. As a result, their eggs had shells so thin that they often broke during incubation or otherwise failed to hatch. DDT also affected other species such as peregrine falcons and brown pelicans.

By 1963, with only 487 nesting pairs of bald eagles remaining, the species was in danger of extinction. In addition to the adverse effects of DDT, some bald eagles have died from lead poisoning after feeding on waterfowl containing lead shot, either as a result of hunting or from inadvertent ingestion.
Today, there are almost 10,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the contiguous United States. Bald eagles have staged a remarkable population rebound and have recovered to the point that they no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

For more information about Bald Eagles, visit All About Birds- the Cornell Lab of Ornithology online bird guide.

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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Best time to put out hummingbird feeders

I broke my hummingbird feeder. Is it too late in the season to get another feeder or should I just wait and start fresh next year?

I encourage everyone to keep their hummingbird feeders clean and change the nectar at least twice a week. Hummingbird feeding is most successful in late summer and early fall. Territories have now relaxed since nesting is over. The babies are out with their mommas which means the highest number of hummingbirds are feeding right now.

Late July some hummers may begin fueling up to migrate south. Some people fear that feeding hummingbirds into the fall may delay their departure and expose them to freezing but there is no evidence that feeding slows their migration. In fact hummers that are born late in the season are vulnerable. Leaving your feeders up may provide a critical opportunity for these hummingbirds to build reserves and “catch up.”

September is typically the most satisfying month to feed hummingbirds. As the days shorten, ruby-throats begin to migrate south. This occurs in Michigan in late August and by mid-October the they are usually gone. That's a good time to bring in the feeders and clean them for winter storage. 

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Friday, July 1, 2016

Photo Share: Great Crested Flycatcher Perched in Canopy

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
A customer came in and told me a story about how the Great Crested Flycatchers were entertaining her by swooping high in the trees. While perching and pouncing on insects is a common hunting tactic, they also may swoop down and pursue prey if they missed it on the first dive.

From AllAboutBirds.com: A large, assertive flycatcher with rich reddish-brown accents and a lemon-yellow belly, the Great Crested Flycatchers prefer breeding territories in open broadleaf or mixed woodlands and at the edges of clearings in Michigan. Its habit of hunting high in the canopy means it’s not particularly conspicuous—until you learn its very distinctive call, an emphatic rising whistle. These flycatchers may crash into foliage in pursuit of leaf-crawling prey. They are the only Eastern flycatchers that nest in cavities, and this means they sometimes make use of nest boxes.

During the non-breeding season, in fall and winter, great crested flycatchers may be found in southern Central America and northeast South America. Some great crested flycatchers are found in the southern tip of Florida and Cuba year-round.