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

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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Birds are a natural way to get rid of bugs in your yard

Did you see the recent news reports? The experts are saying our mild winter means a buggier summer. The solution: Get a wren house! Birds can help keep insect populations in your neighborhood at a stable, balanced level, benefiting both you and your neighbors.

The trick is to entice these birds to your property. The bird foods you provide in your yard throughout the year will encourage these songsters to visit. Native vegetation, a water source and a few different nesting houses also helps.

Chickadees and wrens are huge consumers of Insects and spiders. And if you provide a house the number of insects required to sustain a healthy brood of babies is multiplied by seven. That’s thousands of bugs a day for just one family.

Other common bug eating birds are the jays, woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, orioles and even the mighty mini hummingbird consume 100s to 1000s of insects a day.

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sun Bathing #Cats and #Birds

Yesterday was so yummy! All the cats were chasing the sun around the store. I was also watching the Mourning Doves flaked out and basking in the rays outside the Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing store. 
 
Our word of the day was:

apricate


PRONUNCIATION:

MEANING:
verb intr.: To bask in the sun.
verb tr.: To expose to the sun.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin apricari (to bask in the sun). Earliest documented use: 1691. Despite a similar spelling, the word apricot has a different origin. It’s from Latin praecox (early-ripening).

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

5 ways to help migrating birds

animated map of migrants in western hemisphere - species identified
 Click to match a number to its corresponding bird species
As you might imagine, migration takes a toll on the birds. It is not uncommon for birds to lose one-fourth to one-half of their body weight as they migrate thousands of miles. Before the journey north to their breeding grounds birds accumulate fat to help maintain their energy reserves. Sometimes, however, reserves are not enough. That’s where you can help by creating “stopover sites” in your yard with plenty of food, water and shelter.

At this time of year the numbers and variety of birds appearing in your yard can actually change every morning as many small songbirds migrate through the night. Species such as warblers, vireos, orioles, grosbeaks, tanagers, buntings and sparrows all migrate overnight.

To encourage migrating birds to stop at your yard, you just have to follow 5 easy steps:
1. Keep Your Feeders Full
Food is the most essential element, providing birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition they need. The busier the feeders, the safer your yard will appear to passing birds, which will result in more birds stopping to investigate.

2. Provide a Source of Water
Birds continue to need a source of water for drinking to maintain their metabolism during dry or cold weather.

3. Protection from the Elements
As the sun goes down, some birds head for a perch in leafy bushes, evergreens, vines or dense brush piles for the night. You can also put up roosting and nesting boxes to give birds a warm, dry place to stay overnight.

4. Keep feeders and feeding areas clean
To help reduce the possibility of disease transmission in birds, clean feeders and feeding areas at least once a month. You can get your feeders professional cleaned at Wild Birds Unlimited, or use a mild one part vinegar to nine parts water solution to disinfect all of your feeders. Keep seed and foods dry by adding Feeder Fresh; discard food that is wet or looks moldy. Birdbaths also need to be scrubbed with a brush and water should be replaced every three to days to discourage mosquito reproduction. 

5. Reduce window collisions
Decals like Window Alert placed on the outside of windows reflects ultraviolet sunlight brilliantly which is invisible to humans, but glows like a stoplight for birds.

When you think about migration facts, it is astonishing to learn of the amazing feat that many birds accomplish twice each year as they move between their summer and winter range and back again. And to help enjoy the full benefit of songbirds passing through, consider getting a good field identification guide that contains color pictures or illustrations and a quality pair of binoculars.

Watch more on the video: Bird migration, a perilous journey https://youtu.be/migration
  
Related Articles:
- The Journey North: Bird Migration Maps http://bit.ly/pbk4Eb
- Great Horned Owl Singing at Night http://bit.ly/qKeKDM
- Are Horned Larks Common in Mid-Michigan? http://bit.ly/qmAbt7
- How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/qa0CVU

View full lesson: http://youtu.be/Q-mMMpl_T80

Monday, March 28, 2016

Climate change affecting bird migration

It seems like the birds are arriving early this year. Is the mild winter making them move ahead of schedule? 

Birds that winter in the south don’t exactly know what the weather is like in mid-Michigan. They leave generally the same time each year based on internal circadian rhythms and subtle changes in the sunlight. However once they begin their journey, the weather in the United States can play a big role in how quick they reach their nesting grounds.

When we have unexpected cold fronts in the spring, birds can stop temporarily or even reverse direction to wait for better traveling conditions. And good weather may speed up their migration spending less time at their normal pit stops to reach their destination.

Lately there has been a lot of excitement in the air with this crazy weather. I have seen waves of Red-winged Blackbirds stopping briefly at my feeders only to leave the next day on their way further north to their nesting grounds. The chickadees have been conducting battles for territory through song and checking out nesting sites. Bluebirds and other birds have started to carry off mouthful of nesting materials. While robins and cardinals, up before the sun, sing lovely ballads for their mates.

Things seem to be moving much faster than normal and if you want to check the maps or report the sighting of a bird go to www.hummingbirds.net to check the status of hummingbirds and http://www.learner.org/jnorth/maps/Maps.html for a lot of other spring sightings. I would make sure all my seed feeders are cleaned and filled and all my nectar/fruit feeders are cleaned and hung by mid-April.

Related Articles:
Preparing Your Yard For Wild Birds in the Spring http://preparing-your-yard.html

What is the nectar (sugar water) recipe? http://bit.ly/GE3Ojj
Can hummingbirds drink from the same feeder as an oriole? http://bit.ly/GFRUiI
What's the Best Way to Attract Orioles http://bit.ly/GE4vZO
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/GE4N2M

Sunday, March 27, 2016

How birds color their eggs

The size, color and patterning of birds’ eggs can vary a lot. Most scientist believe that birds, like reptiles, used to lay only white eggs. It’s thought that the different colors of eggs happened later as more camouflaged eggs survived from predators’ attacks or shielded them from solar radiation.

Many birds still have white eggs. Woodpeckers and other birds that nest in dark holes or ducks which use brush to hide eggs, or hawks, owls, hummingbirds, and other birds that incubate their eggs immediately, all have white eggs. These birds either don’t need pigments or can’t produce the pigment due to the food they eat or energy required to produce color.

Pigment glands in the wall of oviduct deposit successive layers of color as the egg passes through. Spotted or streaked eggs develop when pigment is deposited as they rotate through the oviduct. Rapid rotation and decent results in more streaking and slower movement leads to more spotting. The large end of the egg travels through the oviduct first and often picks up more color. (1)

You also may notice, closely related birds species have similar colored eggs. For example, bluebirds and thrushes all have blue-colored eggs. Blue eggs develop after the deposit of biliverdin in developing eggshell during the last 5 hours before the egg is laid. Biliverdin is a breakdown of hemoglobin and diverting these chemicals for the use in coloring eggs may be costly for females.

Biliverdin is a potent antioxidant and recent research shows that its absorbance in the eggshell also reveals the health status of the female bird. Healthy females lay more colorful eggs. Young or unhealthy bluebirds may have pale blue, white, or even pink eggs. (2)

Sources:
1. Cornell Lab of Ornithology Handbook of Bird Biology http://www.birds.cornell.edu/homestudy/
2. Egg coloration is correlated with female condition in eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) http://www.springerlink.com/content/73q742n71m1258u1/

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Spring and Summertime is a great time to feed birds

You may see different birds at your feeders during summer than you do during winter. And many, such as finches and warblers, may sport their vibrant spring and summer plumage spreading color throughout your yard.

For much of North America summertime is a great time to see hummingbirds and other nectar-eating birds. Hummingbirds are frequent feeder visitors because they eat nearly half their weight in nectar every day!

You'll also be in for a treat when woodpeckers, bluebirds, and other nesting birds bring their babies to your feeders to teach them how to eat at the feeder. The young fledglings put on such a show!

Birds only supplement their diet up to 10 to 20 percent at feeders. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office of Bird Management states: "If you enjoy feeding the birds, there is no reason to stop feeding the birds in the summer. You can do it year round. Feeding the birds in the summer will not make them lazy or too dependent."

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology scientists state; "Keep the restaurant open year round and offer a variety of seeds and suet."

Talk with our Certified Bird Feeding Specialists about the many ways you can enjoy feeding the birds in summer and all year long.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Photo Share: Bluebird looking for a new home

In the spring bluebird family groups break up and previously unattached males and females move to new territories. The young will move from the parental territories eventually to another location before choosing a mate. This is called natal dispersal and reduces the chances of inbreeding.

Older birds can quickly re-establish their connection and begin nesting as soon as the weather permits. Young birds at the beginning of nesting season start singing loudly from tree tops to attract a mate and announce his presence to neighboring males.

Once he attracts a female, the songs become quieter and used more as a communication between pairs. You may also observe different visual displays. The wing-wave is where a bird sort of twitters his wings like a baby bird to get a females attention, usually near a nestbox. They also use a lopsided flight or hover flight to show off a potential nesting site.

Nest building can begin immediately or not. They may check out several sites or even begin to nest and then stop. Make sure you are ready with your bluebird house before nesting season begins.

Related Articles:
Kissing Cousins? How do birds choose a mate that isn't related? http://bit.ly/HGyJHD
How to Protect My Bluebird House http://bit.ly/xllml1
More on the Eastern Bluebird http://bit.ly/yLOSIm
How to Attract Bluebirds http://bit.ly/wVzVID
Which Way Do You Face a Birdhouse? http://bit.ly/ypyvNe

Thursday, March 24, 2016

New yellow bird at feeder

In spring, American Goldfinch males transform from a dull olive green into brilliant sunny yellow birds. Their look is accented with dapper black caps and black wings and tails edged in white to attract the females. The more mature the adult male, the more extensive the bright white patches are on their tail feathers. The white on females and younger males is less extensive and drabber.

Female American Goldfinches are a duller olive green shade all year with hint of slightly more yellow after the spring molt. The young males in their second year get some of the yellow coat of feathers, but will not turn bright yellow until their second summer. But all of the goldfinches’ legs, feet and bill change from a dark grayish brown to a buffy yellow orange color even though their breeding season doesn’t begin until July.

What is so special is that most birds only go through one molt in the fall. The American Goldfinch is the only member of its family to complete two full molts a year. Marsh Wrens and Bobolinks are two other species of birds that have a two complete molts.

Molting is the process of replacing old feathers with new feathers. As the new feathers begin to grow, they push upward on the old feathers, causing the old feathers to loosen and eventually fall out. This feather replacement takes a great deal of energy.

Sunflower and Nyjer thistle are two of their favorite seeds, but it has to be fresh. One way to check your seed is to pinch it with your fingernails and 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).

Related Articles:
- When Do the Goldfinches Return? http://bit.ly/ytfupb
- Why birds molt http://bit.ly/zvLuu3
- Feeding Goldfinch http://bit.ly/yptDDi
- Goldfinch Fun Facts http://bit.ly/yWunjT
- How to Attract More Goldfinches http://bit.ly/zgmwRk

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hummingbird sightings

Where are the hummingbirds now? When should I hang my feeder? What will they do if it snows?

In mid-Michigan you have to pay your taxes and put out your hummingbird feeders by April 15th. You can track the migration of the Ruby throated hummingbird on www.hummingbirds.net.

The hummingbirds we see in April probably won’t stick around but continue on to nest in the Upper Peninsula or Canada. The hummingbirds that choose to nest in our area (the regulars) usually arrive by Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May. Hummingbirds migrate alone, each to their own internal clock and map. The males arrive first and the females soon follow. 

Healthy Ruby-throated hummingbirds can tolerate nights in the teens easily as long as there is tree sap, bugs, blooms and feeders available. During the night, hummers will enter into a state of torpor to save energy. Similar to a type of short-term hibernation, torpor reduces their metabolic activity and drops their heart rate from 1,200 beats per minute to 50 beats per minute.  

Related Articles:
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
Fun Facts about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds http://goo.gl/jcjcr
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
Why the color on a hummingbirds’ throat flashes http://bit.ly/JZ31qX
When did people start to feed hummingbirds?: http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

When to hang bat houses in Michigan

You can install a bat house any time of the year. However the late summer to early spring seasons are the ideal time of the year to prepare for the returning bats that have been in hibernation.

Established bat house will have time to weather and be ready when bats come back in late spring to nest. Bats find the bat houses just like birds find bird houses, by sight. If a house is in the proper location, meets the bats’ requirements and is needed, bats will move in on their own. The majority of bats that use houses are females using the house as nurseries.

In Michigan the Little Brown Bat and the Big Brown Bat are the most likely to use Wild Birds Unlimited bat houses which meet the specifications determined by Bat Conservation International and the Organization for Bat Conservation.

The greatest bat house in the world will never contain a bat unless it is placed properly in the field. In Michigan it is best to avoid shady locations at all costs. Research also shows that they are more successful if they have at least 8 hours of sun. The morning sun is most important. Bat houses should face the south or southeast.

Bat boxes should be hung at least 15’ above the ground-- the higher, the better. Houses mounted 20’ away from trees they are inhabited twice as quickly as those in wooded areas. In northern areas the top third of the house can be painted brown or black with a latex water base paint to aid in warming the box. In southern parts of the country, the boxes can be painted latex water base white, if there is too much direct sun.

Related Articles:
- What Bats Live in Michigan? http://bit.ly/sQFMtq
- Where do you hang a bat house? http://bit.ly/rRivKw
- Are there Nectar Feeding Bats in Michigan? http://bit.ly/vYPpZ1
- Do Birds have Thumbs like Bats? http://bit.ly/tjpL2T
- When do bats hibernate? http://goo.gl/egsZGk

Monday, March 21, 2016

Eggshells in the garden

Recycle your Easter Egg Shells
Cornell Lab of Ornithology and other scientists believe that pollution depletes calcium carbonate in the environment which results in a reduced population of some songbirds. But you can help by giving birds additional natural calcium by mixing eggshells with your seed.

Rinse the eggshells and put them in a bag in the freezer. When you have a dozen stored up, spread them out on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes at 250 degrees to make them safe for bird consumption. Or put them on a plate or paper towel in the microwave on high for about 1.5 to 3 minutes.

Have fun smashing the shells into pieces and scatter on a platform feeder or mix with your seed. You can offer eggshells year-round. Eggshells are about 95% calcium carbonate which is important especially in the spring when females need it to produce their own eggs. Also birds “chew” their food in the muscular part of their stomach, the gizzard. To aid in the grinding, birds swallow small, hard materials such as sand, small pebbles or ground eggshells. Putting eggshells on the menu may even attract species that don’t usually come to seed feeders, like orioles, gnatcatchers, and some species of warblers.

And for gardeners, eggshells around the base of plants deters snails and slugs from crossing the sharp eggshells barrier to reach your plants. It also boosts the nutrients in the soil and can be mixed together with dried coffee grounds, which provides a high content of nitrogen, to keep your plants healthy.

Related articles:
What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/z7Eurx
What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/vn2HK3
Feeding the birds will not make them "lazy," or "dependent." http://goo.gl/gCXCf
Choosing the best bird seed http://goo.gl/jrpDX
What seeds do wild birds eat? http://bit.ly/wKyQNB
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/xbkaPP

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Journey north oriole migration

When are the orioles going to come back to Michigan?
Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Orioles usually hit my mid-Michigan feeder at the beginning of May with a big song and dance. I'll put my feeder up on the window at the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store by mid-April just in case he arrives early. You can watch their journey north on a fist sighting map:  http://www.learner.org/jnorth/maps/

Adult Baltimore Oriole males have a bright orange body and a solid black hood and back. Their wings are black with white wing bars, and the tail is orange with black streaks. Adult females are paler than males and can range in color from yellow to orange with a brown tweed to blackish head, back and wings. Juveniles are yellowish-brown with dark brown wings that have a white wing bar. And immature Baltimore Orioles are variable. Typically they resemble the female until they grow their adult plumage after they are a year old.

The name “oriole” is from the Latin aureolus, which means golden. The Baltimore Oriole was named in the early 1600s for George Calvert, Baron of Baltimore, whose livery stable was painted bright yellow and black.

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

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

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

Related Articles:
Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/w3bhs8
Facts on the Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GzSTbi
Where do orioles winter? http://bit.ly/GAeWv5
Close-up of Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GAf6T7
Favorite Oriole feeders http://t.co/OjG4Lz4

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Putting out nesting materials for birds

I want to put nesting material out to help with the nest building. How early should I start doing so? – Thanks

You should put materials out early in spring, when the first robin starts to patrol your yard for worms. You can continue to offer nesting materials as late as August, because some birds nest two or three times over the course of the summer and the American Goldfinches don't even begin to nest until late summer.

The birds that winter in our area, (chickadees, bluebirds, titmice, house finches, sparrows, and cardinals) may begin collecting nesting material as early as March. Other birds that migrate north to Michigan to nest (wrens, hummingbirds, swallows, orioles, buntings, grosbeaks, and warblers) begin nesting in May.

At Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI store we have cotton nesting balls, bison down bags, alpaca wool, and Birdie bells full of grasses, cotton, animal hair and feathers.


Or you can collect: twigs, cotton or wool yarn cut less than 3 inches, human hair or animal fur (cat or dog), feathers or dried decorative grasses.  We DO NOT recommend dryer lint. Lint hardens after getting wet providing a poor nest for baby birds. Thread, plastic material and lint are the 3 big no, nos for nesting material.
Offering birds construction material to build a nest is just one more way for you to attract a wider variety of bird activity to your yard!
  
Related Articles:
5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses http://bit.ly/xETceZ
Common Bird House Problems http://bit.ly/wrWzyN
Which Way Do You Face a Birdhouse? http://bit.ly/AD43TW
Don’t use treated lumber to build a birdhouse http://bit.ly/x2pIG0
When do birds begin nesting? http://bit.ly/wbJ3kE
DO NOT Collect Dryer Lint for the birds to use as nesting material! http://bit.ly/wC5HcO

Friday, March 18, 2016

Photo Share: Trillium in Michigan

Trillium (also known as wakerobin, tri flower, birthroot, birthwort) is a genus of perennial flowering plants native to temperate regions of North America.

Every spring, trilliums pop up all over Michigan’s woodsy areas. There are actually several species of trillium that occur naturally in our state. Bloom times are variable, from early March for the tiny snow trillium all the way through June for some of the larger species.

Today you can buy nursery-raised trillium at many garden shops. The Common Trillium Trillium grandiflorum has tree large white petals that tend to turn pink with age.

The trillium seeds are dispersed typically by ants, which is called myrmecochory, and less often by yellow jackets (Vespula vulgaris) and harvestmen (order Opiliones). White-tailed deer have also been shown to disperse the seeds on rare occasions by ingestion and defecation. While ants only move seeds up to about 10 meters, deer have been observed to transport the seeds over 1 kilometer.

Sources:

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

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Bug, Nut and Fruit seed bell for birds

Treat your birds with a protein-rich seed bell!

This all season bell is a delightful fruit and nut treat for your favorite backyard birds. Attract finches, cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, wrens, titmice, woodpeckers and many more. 
 
Seed Bells are an ideal way to offer your birds a high-energy supplement throughout the year. It consists of mealworms, tree nuts, sunflower hearts, peanuts, raisins and cranberries, it is sure to attract many birds!
 
Related Articles:
My Favorite Feeder http://my-favorite-feeder.html
The Best Peanut Feeders http://best-peanut-feeders.html
Northern Flicker more common at feeder http://flicker-at-feeder.html
Bell full of nesting materials http://nesting bell.html

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Some tips to deter bird window attacks

There are varied signs of spring: migrating birds passing through, new songs in the air, and the earth slowly waking up from its long winter nap. And there is another sign that is just as predictable which you’ve noticed, the bird battles.

The testosterone levels in male birds is up in the spring, territories are being determined, and battles break out. Two house sparrows in a seemingly endless wrestling match is not uncommon. It’s usually a bloodless battle that ends when they are distracted or one bird taps out.

Cardinals and Robins are also choosing their nesting territory. Their winged battles are usually short lived with a clear winner decided. The exception is when they spot a competitor that is about the same size and coloring. I’m already getting calls about cardinals and robins attacking their reflection in the window. This is also a territorial behavior.

They are usually unattached males without a female to direct them in a productive direction. Most birds do stop after a couple weeks of window pounding in the spring, but it's better to try and deter the birds just in case it turns out to be an action that is performed so often that it becomes almost an involuntary response.

Some tips to deter bird window attacks:
• Cover the window with screens
• Shut the blinds on your windows when you are not at home and at night.
• Rub the window with a bar of soap or squirt with liquid soap to decrease the reflection.
• Hang balloons or Flutter Scare tape.* Anything that moves and repels the bird from that area will be effective.
• Post a hawk silhouette outside a window.* Hawks prey on birds, so their images will keep birds from flying towards your window.
• Install a window feeder.* This breaks the reflection and other birds interrupt the birds battles with himself.

*Available at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Resolve wild animal conflicts by critter-proofing your home before spring

Leave wildlife in the wild
Spring is nearly here, bringing warmer temperatures and the next generation of wildlife. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources would like to remind people that many species of wildlife hide their young for safety. These babies are not abandoned; they simply have been hidden by their mother until she returns for them. Also it is illegal to live trap and move animals and could be deadly to a pregnant momma or the young that get left behind.

If you think you have found an injured or abandoned baby call a licensed rehabilitator first. Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess abandoned or injured wildlife. Unless you are licensed, it is illegal to trap or possess a live wild animal, including birds, squirrels, raccoons or deer, in Michigan.  

Sometimes it is tough for people to coexist with their wild neighbors but it is best to be as tolerant as they can toward animals raising their young nearby. If animals have caused problems for your house in the past, make sure to take precautions.

Here are a few tips when critter-proofing your home:
Scare them away: The easiest way to prevent wildlife from nesting in or around your home is to shoo them away as much as you can. Hang shiny flutter tape, Mylar balloons, windsocks, or chimes to scare them or make the potential nesting area look unattractive.

Block off holes: The best temporary measure against animals making a den out of your dryer vent chimney, porch or attic is putting a cage or chicken wire over any holes. But before blocking the entryway off, make sure there are no critters inside. Plug suspect entry points loosely with insulation, paper, or cloth that any animals who may be using the space inside can easily push aside. For a few days, check to see if the material has moved. If not, you can block the opening. 

Make alternative homes available: Now also is a good time to put up bird, bat, or squirrel houses in the appropriate area you would like to watch them raise a family.

Other tips
-Clean up debris: Clean out the leaves and debris from under your porch and window wells: the soft, insulating material is inviting for an expecting mother looking for a den.
- Trees/leaves: Keep branches trimmed six feet away from your house to not only limit access for wildlife, but to prevent damage to the roof that may allow animal entry in the future.
- Compost: Cover and secure compost piles. Never compost meat scraps.
- Trash: Secure trash containers with cords, ropes, or weights, or put trash out the morning of collection, not the night before.

For a list of licensed local rehabilitators click HERE or visit www.michigandnr.com/dlr.
And below are more links to various lists of licensed rehabilitators outside of Michigan—

Monday, March 14, 2016

Prevent moldy birdseed and the spread of diseases

It is super important to keep your feeders clean, especially in the spring and fall when so many birds are migrating through mid-Michigan. The stress can make birds vulnerable to disease. Wet weather can also produce mold and mildew which can be fatal to birds.

Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing can help you make keeping your feeder clean easy. We wash feeders year round for a small charge of $5.00. We will disassemble, soak, scrub, and reassemble your feeder and have it ready for you the next day we are open. Or we also offer the Bird Feeder Wash Card. You just prepay $20.00 and you will receive a card that is good for 5 washes. This will give you a savings of $5.00!

And I recommend Feeder Fresh very highly. I use it myself in bad weather. It is a descant that you add to the seed when you fill the feeder. It absorbs excess water, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand. I use Feeder Fresh a lot in wet weather. It keeps my feeders free of mold which makes it easier for me to maintain clean healthy feeders.

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

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Live bird cameras


The female owl incubates three eggs in the WBU Barred Owl nest.

Who's On Cam For You?

Deep in the suburban wilds of central Indiana, the Wild Birds Unlimited Barred Owls have returned for a third year on cam. Nestled beneath the down feathers of the female owl are three white eggs, due to be incubated for 4-5 weeks before hatching. For the last two years, the owls have had great success raising their young, fledging five owlets from five eggs. During the day you can listen to the sounds of spring arrive to the forests, while at night watch as a steady stream of interesting prey items are delivered to the nest box by the male owl. Watch along as the owlets transform from close-eyed, downy fluffballs to fierce, sometimes clumsy youngsters before setting out to explore the world. Watch cam.
Big Red settles in on the likely nest for 2016 near Weill Hall.

Everything Old Is New Again

Big Red and Ezra have been at it again, spending time at two nest sites; fotunately, we already have cams installed at both locations. Over the last two weeks it has become apparent that the site nearest Weill Hall (used during 2013-14) is the most likely site, and each hawk has been provisioning the nest with twigs, greenery, and bark. Ezra has exchanged prey in the nest bowl with Big Red several times, and we expect the arrival of the first egg sometime in the next 10 days. Stay tuned for the fifth cam season for Big Red and Ezra! Watch cam.
The female owl does her best to shelter the growing owlets.

Gimme Shelter

The two owlets at the Savannah Great Horned Owl cam have grown immense over the last two weeks, nearly outgrowing the female's ability to shelter them from the wind and rain. A steady diet of rodents, birds, and even snakes has kept squabbles to a minimum, and over the next week the owlets will be left uncovered for longer periods of time as they begin to thermoregulate more efficiently. Don't miss the excitement as they begin exploring the nest for themselves—watch cam.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Sandhill Cranes migration

The Sandhill Cranes overhead were so loud and so many I could hear the in my house with the doors and windows closed. Ellie

Wow I think they are telling you spring is just around the corner! The loud resonant gu-rrroo, gu-rrroo gu-rrroo calls of a flock of sandhill cranes flying high in the sky can be heard a mile or more away. Thank you for taking the time to share your observation with me. You’ve inspired me to make them the bird of the week.

Sandhill Cranes are very social birds that mate for life. On migration, their flocks number into the hundreds and are composed of mated pairs and close family members. While migrating, they communicate constantly with one another. Interestingly, males and females often sing duets as they fly.

It is always a special treat to find a flock of sandhill cranes on the ground. Look for them during migration late or early in the day in large fields or open, shallow wetlands. Only then can you appreciate their size and beauty. Sandhills are a tall, long legged, long necked gray bird with a bright red crown. From wingtip to wingtip their outstretched wings can measure up to 7 feet.

They feed on frogs, fish, and insects, but also take much plant food such as seeds, fruits, and aquatic vegetation. They are often seen feeding in corn and upland grain fields. In Michigan, sandhills nest in solitary nests on the ground near or over shallow water in marshes and bogs. They nest by heaping plant debris into a low mound. Two eggs are laid; the young follow the parents soon after hatching, fly in about 70 days, and stay with the parents for nearly a year.

Their numbers were much reduced by habitat loss and shooting in the early part of this century but have grown in recent decades. A two year survey funded by the Nongame Wildlife Fund confirmed 805 breeding pair statewide. Most breeding pairs in the Lower Peninsula were found in a six county area near Jackson and Ann Arbor. Highest concentrations in the Upper Peninsula occurred in the eastern counties. 

Related Articles:
- Whooping Crane Migration http://goo.gl/avz5lG
- Photo Share: Crane and Grouse http://goo.gl/Unsqy8
- Sandhill Crane breeding: http://goo.gl/9GkgEH
- Lucky Duck saved from frozen pond: http://goo.gl/HClYGP

Friday, March 11, 2016

Photo Share: American Robin

Photo by Dakota Lynch
We have a red winged black bird in the yard and I saw a Robbin's egg shell on my walk.☀️👣

The redwings are among our earliest spring migrants and once a robin chooses your yard as a nesting territory you know spring has arrived!

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, March 10, 2016

Quirky bird houses

"Ah, Mom! It looks nothing like me."
Gord-O Bird Houses are hand-carved and hand-painted houses that help support the village craftsmen in Bali, Indonesia. They are produced from fast growth renewable albesia wood. The paints and finishes used are non-toxic. These unique, functional birdhouse designs come complete with cleanouts, a necessity for our flying friends. The entrance hole will attract chickadees or wrens. Gord-O birdhouses make wonderful gifts for the backyard birding enthusiast. Or add these festive, creative, and functional birdhouses to your own backyard.

Related Articles:
Ultimate Bluebird House http://bit.ly/xeGs0e
Feeding and Raising Bluebirds http://bit.ly/A39dAh
How to Protect My Bluebird House http://bit.ly/zI48Ts
5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses http://bit.ly/yNT6Ye
When is the best time to put up a bird house? http://bit.ly/yAI123
Bluebird House Designs http://bit.ly/w7FWRE

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Red-winged Blackbird song

We are getting a little taste of spring weather this week. I'll be happy to hear the loud konk-a-ree, ogle-reeeeeee of the Red-winged Blackbird soon.

The redwings are among our earliest spring migrants. Mid-March is when the male Red-winged Blackbirds arrive in mid-Michigan. The females will arrive a little later.

The male Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus is an all black bird with red shoulder patches edged in yellow. The female and juvenile have heavily streaked underparts and mottled brown upperparts.

Some people don’t like to have the Red-winged blackbirds at their feeder in the spring because they are loud and messy and eat a lot. While there’s some truth to that, Red-winged blackbirds also consume large numbers insects and weed seeds, so they have their good points as well. And when the rains come in the spring, the bugs are sure to follow and then we’ll be happy they eat so much.

Red-wings return to breed at or near the same hatching or nesting site every year. Then once they are done nesting, they begin to wander and form large flocks in preparation for migration. In the wild, a Red-winged Blackbird's lifespan averages 2.14 years, but the oldest red-winged recorded was 15 years 9 months old.

Related Articles:
Red-winged Blackbird facts http://bit.ly/yQPs61
Blackbird Battle http://bit.ly/xFsHIN
Red-winged blackbirds attack hawk http://bit.ly/yaudwu
Singing Birds Herald The Arrival of Spring http://bit.ly/xibvfI
How to Prepare Your Yard for Spring http://bit.ly/zUs3EP

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Other birds that will nest in a bluebird house

Modified from nabluebirdsociety.org
With the approach of spring the Eastern Bluebirds are beginning to search actively for places to nest. If you live in the country, near an open field or around a golf course that has open spaces and trees, you have a very good chance of attracting a nesting pair of bluebirds to your property.

Eastern Bluebirds are cavity nesters and prefer to nest in abandoned woodpecker nests or tree hollows. However bluebirds natural hunting fields over time have been reduced and old tree snags were eliminated.  

Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI has several styles of functional bird houses that help Eastern Bluebirds or perhaps a Tree Swallows find a place to nest.

But if you live in the suburbs a “bluebird” house could also house some other common backyard birds like the House Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, House Wrens and Carolina Wrens.

Related Articles:
Ultimate Bluebird House http://bit.ly/xeGs0e
Feeding and Raising Bluebirds http://bit.ly/A39dAh
How to Protect My Bluebird House http://bit.ly/zI48Ts
5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses http://bit.ly/yNT6Ye
When is the best time to put up a bird house? http://bit.ly/yAI123
Bluebird House Designs http://bit.ly/w7FWRE

Monday, March 7, 2016

Window strike decals

Spring is the beginning of bird migration throughout the area and unfortunately the change in light and the unfamiliar surroundings cause birds to fall victim to window strikes. Millions of birds are killed each year from flying into windows. Now you can help prevent these collisions with a simple, easy to apply window decal.

Wild Birds Unlimited – East Lansing has WindowAlert static-cling decals that contain a component which brilliantly reflects ultraviolet sunlight.

This ultraviolet light is invisible to humans, but glows like a stoplight for birds. WindowAlert decals help birds see windows and avoid striking the glass. To the human eye, the decals appear as frosted or etched glass.

WindowAlert decals come in many shapes including leaves, hummingbird, butterfly, hawk and snowflake.

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:

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Titmouse song

The Tufted Titmouse can slide by unnoticed among the branches of the trees but their song is so loud it’s like an opera singer projecting their song to the cheap seats. In the spring you can even hear their first mating songs through the closed windows.

The Tufted Titmouse’s song is a fast-repeated, clear whistle: purdy-purdy-purdy. The birds repeat this up to 11 times in succession or up to 35 songs delivered per minute. Females occasionally sing a quieter version of the song.

There are also 10 different known calls of tufted titmice. The calls are divided generally into 2 groups that are nasal and mechanical. One group is made up of calls that have a very low frequency and the others have a very high frequency.

The three calls in the group of high-frequency calls are usually associated with aggressive behavior. A scratchy, chickadee-like tsee-day-day-day is the most common. Tufted Titmice also give fussy, scolding call notes and, when predators are sighted, a harsh distress call that warns other titmice of the danger.

The big black eyes of this small gray bird make them irresistible. They are regulars at backyard bird feeders if you feed sunflower seeds, suet, peanuts, or mealworms.

In the spring you can keep them in your yard by putting up nest boxes. Tufted Titmice often line the inner cup of their nest with hair, sometimes plucked directly from living animals. The list of hair types identified from old nests includes raccoons, opossums, mice, woodchucks, squirrels, rabbits, livestock, pets, and even humans. March is a good time collect clean cat, dog, or human hair and present it to the nesting birds on the end of an evergreen.
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Related Articles: 
- Is it “Titmice” or “Titmouses”? http://bit.ly/yImBcF  
- Camouflaged Titmouse Fits Right In http://bit.ly/w0f2us
- What Do Titmice Eat? http://bit.ly/weAiDB
- Why is the Titmouse Tongue So Short? http://bit.ly/yds9Mm 
- Tufted Titmouse fun facts http://bit.ly/AfIA7H

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Overwhelming flock of blackbirds in my yard

What are these blackbirds flocking to my feeders? Did they just migrate here? ~ Lansing

They are European Starlings. They are here in mid-Michigan year round but tend to flock and eat fruit and nuts in the winter just like American Robins and Cedar Waxwings instead of coming to feeders regularly.

The European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) molts its feathers in the fall and the new black feathers have tips that are whitish, giving the bird the appearance of “stars” covering their body. Over the winter, sunlight and weather dulls the speckled look and the bird becomes uniform dark brown or black.

Both sexes also have reddish brown legs, and seasonal changes in bill color (yellow in the spring, black in the fall). Males sport a bluish spot at the base of their beaks, while the female displays a reddish pink speck. Juvenile birds are large dull gray or black.

At the end of February the birds begin to look for nesting territories. You may notice that the infrequent visits in the winter increase to overwhelming hoards in the spring. The European Starling is insectivorous when breeding and typically consumes insects including caterpillars, moths, and cicadas, as well as spiders.

Right now they’re all excited! Nesting season is near! Like at a start of a race, there is energy in the air and it feels like it’s going to burst! Unfortunately most of the bugs (their favorite summer food) haven’t appeared yet and in March there are still slim pickings for a lot of birds. So they turn to feasting at your feeders.

While I love all the activity, I know most normal people don’t. So what can you do to deter the starlings and blackbirds, but still attract cardinals, chickadees, finches, and all the other less boisterous backyard birds?

Feeder Choices
  • Squirrel Buster Plus- This feeder is guaranteed Squirrel and large bird proof. You can exclude large nuisance birds with this feeder by rolling in the perches to make them short. You can also adjust the tension on the spring mechanism to have the feeder ports shut when large birds land. Blackbirds weigh twice as much as cardinals.
  • Upside Down Suet Feeder- a feeder that dispenses suet from the bottom doesn’t phase a woodpecker but will deter most blackbirds.
  • Finch Feeders- I’ve never had a problem with the blackbirds on any finch feeders that are filled with straight nyjer thistle seed.
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:
· What are those birds that sit on the wires? http://bit.ly/y608rz
· Fun Facts About European Starlings http://bit.ly/rSQtFD
· How do thousands of European Starlings fly without colliding? http://bit.ly/vwM3Ra
· What birds like Safflower seed? http://bit.ly/w3ZBGa
· What do grackles eat? http://bit.ly/xBhX3j