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.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Small bird dancing in pine tree

Spring migration is in full swing and the warmer weather should strengthen the movement northward for many more arrivals. Saturday customers were streaming in looking for BirdBerry™ Jelly for their arriving Baltimore Orioles. I’ve had my feeder up for a couple weeks hoping for mine to arrive too with no luck. I’m not too worried. He usually shows up May 9th. I think I would actually be shocked if he showed up early one year.

In the meantime, the cardinals and finches are enjoying the oriole fruit and jelly. And while I was watching a chickadee at the window seed feeder, I spotted a new bird in the pine tree. First I saw the silhouette. It was as small as a hummingbird, then I saw it was the color of a winter goldfinch, but it was bouncing around the pinecones faster than a chickadee...a Ruby-crowned Kinglet! Such a treat to see migrating through.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Ruby-crowned Kinglets have olive-grey plumage with a conspicuous broken white eye ring, a thin black bill and short tail. The males have a small ruby, red crown of feathers which gives the bird its common name kinglet, Latin for 'little king'. At 4 inches they are about an inch shorter than a chickadee and weigh 5 to 10 grams or the same as one or two nickels.

Little groups of kinglets usually migrate by night, so you may wake up to discover your yard is a migratory stopover for the birds to rest and feed in evergreen tangles during the day. They are well camouflaged but sometimes betray their presence with lovely alto songs and flashing wing movements and hops like they are buzzing on caffeine.

The Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) nests mainly in the northern evergreen forests of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and further north into Canada. We will see them again in October when they pass through mid-Michigan again as they migrate to the southern United States and Mexico.

Related articles
Little King: The Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Black-capped Chickadee: Nature's Backyard Charmer
Small Mysterious Black & White Bird Visits Mid-Michigan
Keep Your Eyes Open for Migrating Warblers

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Photo Share: On a Morel hunt

Buddy (dog) is on his way to hunt morels in the woods. This wet, not too warm spring is perfect for their growth.

Morchella esculenta, (commonly known as  Honeycomb Morel, Yellow Morel, Morel Mushroom, and Sponge Morel) is one of the most recognized and sought after edible fungi.

May is Morel Month in Michigan by Heather Hallen, Tom Volk, and Gerard Adams is a Michigan State Extension Publication that explains many fascinating facts about Morels.

Thank you for sharing your photos! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com and I'll put it on the Friday Photo posts. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Photo Share: Cedar Waxwing in Blooming Tree

 The Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing attracts a lot of Cedar Waxwing, along with robins, grosbeaks, orioles, hummingbirds and cardinals all because of the fruit trees. The flowers and fruits of native trees attract a variety of colorful songsters.
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, April 27, 2017

Black and white bird with a red dot on chest

Look who’s showing up at the bird feeders!

If you don’t fill the feeder in the spring and summer you are going to miss seeing some really neat birds up close. I can't wait for the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks to arrive!

A relative of the Northern Cardinal, the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks migrate north in April and May in search of breeding grounds in Michigan, southern Canada and the northcentral and northeastern United States. They are a Neotropical migrant, and will return to Mexico, Central America, and South America as early as August.

The name “grosbeak” is from the French word grosbec and means “large beak.” Most are very hungry during migration and take advantage of food offered at feeders. It's quite a sight to see the distinctive black and white male bird with a bright red chest. The females resemble a large brown sparrow with a white eyebrow.

They are very common feeder birds at the beginning of spring preferring sunflower, safflower, suet, fruit, and nuts. I usually find them at my Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Blend. As the bird establishes its nesting territory and the weather changes, over half of their diet is made up of insects. But they always are attracted to the water in a bath.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak nests in deciduous and mixed forests. But the bird is still a bit of a mystery. Its life history has not been well-studied and little is known on their migration routes, dispersal, habitat use, and nutrition during migration and on wintering grounds. Even the species name ludovicianus which means "from Louisiana" doesn't make sense because it is just a migrant there.

If you don’t see them at your feeder keep your ears open. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes the Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) song like that of the robin, only as sung by an opera singer, being mellower and more sweetly melodic. Watch the video: https://youtu.be/NixrHvecZ8c Related Articles:
Large brown sparrow-like bird http://bit.ly/IrwgVk
Juvenile Rose Breasted Grosbeak http://bit.ly/IoVuSG
Average dates for birds return to Michigan the in Spring? http://bit.ly/IMYNQe
When is bird migration over? http://bit.ly/IMZ7OQ
What to know about feeding birds in the spring http://bit.ly/I5s6h9

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Bird that sounds like a baby crying

I keep hearing an animal calling in my heavily wooded back yard. I first thought it was a cat. It's very repetitive. Sometimes it sounds just like a mew and sometimes just a weird wail like a baby crying.

Gray Catbirds are moving through the area! Most catbirds winter in the tropics of Mexico and Central America where fruit is plentiful. They show up to nest in Michigan from April to May.

Catbirds often announces their presence by singing a series of musical whistles and catlike meows, mixed up with mimicry of other birds' songs. They may start singing before dawn and can continue until after dark.

Once you hear them calling, look for them in dense underbrush as they forage for insects or dropped fruit. They may also visit oriole or suet feeders. Gray Catbirds are slim, gray birds about 8 ½ inches long with a dapper black cap and rusty red feathers under their tail.

Gray Catbirds nest in dense thickets, along forest edges, streamsides, and old fields. They build a bulky cup nest for an average 4 turquoise-colored eggs, which are incubated by the female and hatch in about 2 weeks. Young are cared for by both parents and leave the nest in about another 2 weeks. A mated pair may raise two broods in a season. See a video: https://vimeo.com/151960958

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Best mealworm feeders

Do you have feeders for mealworms?

Wild Birds Unlimited has several varieties of mealworm feeders. The most important thing to look for is a tray or dish that has a lip at least 1 ½ inches high so the worms can't crawl away.

The rule of thumb is to offer about 15 mealworms per bird once or twice a day, as a supplemental food, unless severe weather conditions limit natural sources. That is usually one spoonful. A hundred or so worms offered morning and evening would be adequate for a bird pair with nestlings a week old.
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Chickadees, wrens, and orioles are pretty quick to figure out a new feeder. Bluebirds need a little time, but it's fun to watch nature up close, and you'll be amused at how quickly a relationship develops between you and the birds! 
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, April 24, 2017

Interesting facts about cardinals nesting

Hi ...hopefully you can answer this ....I have a female cardinal that has nested by my back doorway and she is pretty well concealed in a small cedar tree. I saw her yesterday morning but was away most of the day and today I haven't seen her all day. I tried to look into the nest but it was too deep to see if there were any eggs. Would she just build a nest and then just disappear like that ?

I have tried to be careful and not disturb her.....she was tapping at one window for many days and I just read that she thinks it is another Cardinal, would that make her leave ?

Thanks for reading this as I would like to know why as it was such a thrill to have her build a nest it would be a shame if she did not return.
I think you just need to wait. If all goes as planned Northern Cardinals usually raise two broods a year, one beginning around March/April and the second in June/July. If a nest gets destroyed or if a mate is killed the nesting has to start over and can be delayed. However it is normal to see a lot of activity in the beginning and then nothing.

The nest building process begins with a cardinal’s search of a variety of trees and vines that would offer protection and concealment. Once a site has been selected the female first builds a platform using stiff, six inch long twigs. After the framework is done, a nice soft layer of leaves are applied to line the nest. Finally the female finishes her nest by adding a layer of fine grapevines or fine weed stems topped with very fine rootlets, grass stems or weed stems. She usually likes to build in the morning and the nest construction can take 3 to 6 days. The male cardinal may bring the female some twigs but the female usually builds the nest all alone while the male patrols the area.

Now during the egg laying time you may see her less frequently. The female cardinal lays an average of 3 eggs but she doesn’t sit on the eggs to incubate them until the last egg is laid so they will all hatch within 24 hours. Once her clutch is complete the female is the only one to sit on the nest and the male brings her food quietly. The eggs hatch after two weeks and activity will pick up again as both parents feed the chicks a diet that consists of many insects. The chicks begin leaving the nest 10 days after hatching and the parents will show their brood the way to water and continue to feed and teach the chicks for 25 to 56 more days.

Thank you so much for replying to my email and such a nice informative answer to my questions. 
Well to my delight the female Cardinal has returned and she is now sitting on her nest. I can see her through my kitchen window and I try to stay away from looking at her too much but I like seeing her there and of course like to know that all is well.

Related Articles:
Northern Cardinal Fun Facts http://bit.ly/twE6NV
How the Northern Cardinal bird was named http://bit.ly/tSKZYs
Cardinal Bird Feeders Made in the USA: http://bit.ly/qXJPFM
How to Attract Cardinals: http://bit.ly/pjh7mO
What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/rAArXw
What are the different types of cardinal birds? http://goo.gl/CUI43

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Woodpeckers dancing and other spring things

http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2016/04/calling-for-old-sam-peabody.htmlI've finally seen my White-throated sparrows. I say finally even though they are a couple weeks earlier than last year. White-throats usually follow the spring thaw. Once I see them I declare there will be no more frost.

The mild winter/early spring has brought many early visitors to my garden bird feeders and many more are still to come. Make sure your suet and seed feeders are clean and well stocked as well as keeping your bird bath clean and filled with fresh water.

Sometimes it is hard to keep the suet feeder full in the spring with new birds arriving before all the bugs pop. But yesterday I saw a pair of Downy Woodpeckers dancing! Downys live year-round in the same territory. They get a head start on courtship with drumming on trees as early as February to claim a nesting area and attract a mate. Their normal tap, tap, tap becomes a quite different unbroken trrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, lasting several seconds. Both male and female woodpeckers drum. If they were successful nesting the year before they reacquaint themselves quickly for another season.

After the drumming has united the pair, the actual courtship dance begins. This is what I was watching last night at the suet feeder. The boy puffed up his red patch behind his head and began weaving back and forth in front of the female with his bill pointing up. There was also a lot of flitting and chasing from one perch to another, and more waving and weaving of head and body. There was also a lot of excited chattering involved.

By the end of June I hope to see their babies at the feeders!

Related Articles:
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/rxU9cu
- What birds eat suet? http://bit.ly/q2Sfje
- How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods: http://bit.ly/ob0NIq
- Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Brown bird with speckled chest running on the ground

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
I saw a new face in the garden… Along with the doves, robins, and White-crowned Sparrows visiting my Fly-thru feeder I saw a couple Wood Thrushes! Their size and movements are similar to an American Robin but they have warm cinnamon-brown back feathers and a creamy colored chest with brown speckles. Too Cute!

They will probably move on soon but I was glad they thought my yard was a safe stopover place. Wood thrushes spend winters in Mexico and Central America but nest in deciduous and mixed forests in the eastern U.S. where there are large trees.

The males are one of the first songsters to be heard in the morning and among the last in the evening, with their haunting ee-oh-lay song.

Related Articles:
Help migrating birds by creating stopover sites http:/help-migrating-birds.html
Sparrow with white stripes on head http:/white-crowned sparrow.html
A closer look at Mourning Doves http://mourning-doves.html
Male and female American Robin http:/american-robin.html
Best New Fly-thu Feeder http:/fly-thu-feeder.html

Friday, April 21, 2017

Cute Barred Owl babies in nestbox

Help Name the Barred Owl Nestlings
It's time to vote on the names of the three owlets on the WBU Barred Owl cam! For the fourth year in a row, Wild Birds Unlimited store owners from across the country have chosen their favorite names, only to let the public decide in a final tally. From now until Monday, April 24, the polls are open. We’ll announce the winning names the following day. Don't miss your chance—Vote here.

Don't stop there; check out how much these young owlets have grown. At this stage the cam often features the mother tearing up bits of prey to feed her nestlings. As the owlets mature, they''ll spend more time on the nest alone as the mother does more hunting. Watch cam.

Related Articles:
- Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/t6elFd
- Amazing Vocals of the Barred Owl http://bit.ly/sguMqL
- Owl attacks on humans http://attacks-on-humans.html
- Small Michigan Owl Visits Neighborhood http://bit.ly/tlzaoN 

- How to spot owls more easily http:/spot-owls-more-easily.html

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Fun Fairy Rings

Dress up your fingers and toes this summer with some cute seed rings. They are made by local garden fairies and will add a little whimsy to your wardrobe. They have a suggested price of at least $5.00 which will all go to animal rescue charities. Any additional monies are also appreciated greatly and will all go to local charities!