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.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Photo Share: Robin visits

After nesting is completed in late summer and up until the breeding season begins next spring, robins form flocks that roost together at night and feed together by day. Robins are nomadic, and wander irregularly. The same individual robin may winter one year in Florida and remain in mid-Michigan the following year.

American Robins go where there is food. Flocks can move around to different nut or fruit trees as they ripen and avoid bad weather when it blows through. I have a pond that is always flowing in my yard and they hit it occasionally throughout the winter to take baths or stop by to devour berries on a nearby mountain ash or crab apple tree.

Robins ARE territorial on their summer breeding territories, but not at their roosts, or in feeding trees. Flocking is a behavior that gives the birds more eyes and ears to search for food sources and be watchful for predators.

So any robins you see flying in the fall may be going down south or to a local pond or just out foraging for a tree full of fruit. If you look at the range map you’ll see that there are winter populations of robins in most states year round. Robins are surprisingly hardy birds, capable of surviving temperatures well below zero. But that doesn’t mean sightings are common.

Related Articles:
- Why Robins are Attracted to Water http://bit.ly/qP9aTs
- Bird of the Week: American Robin http://bit.ly/pnUKqk
- Fun Facts About The American Robin http://bit.ly/n9CSni
- Why robins are called Robin Redbreast and not orange breast http://goo.gl/OB4iT

Friday, September 29, 2017

When wrens stop nesting

We have what looks like house wrens fighting over birdhouses this time of year...they go from one to another constantly ...are they looking to set again or looking for roosting spots during cold weather?...it's interesting watching this take place but wondering why?

Most House Wrens in North America migrate to the southern U.S. and Mexico for winter. You didn't say where you live, but here in mid-Michigan, House Wrens are gone usually by October. But down south the nesting may last a little later and birds may nest as long as there are still a lot of food sources available.

They also may be late-settling individuals, birds that have been “floating” for several weeks looking for an opening, or birds entering the area after nesting attempts elsewhere failed.

Related Articles:
Cute Woolie Bird Houses!
Male vs female House Wrens http://male and female wrens.html
Do the same House Wrens nest in the same house every year? http://bit.ly/uDBbIb
Quick Fun Facts on Wrens http://bit.ly/v5XVoU
Hanging & Placement of Wren Bird Houses
House Wren vs. Carolina Wren

Thursday, September 28, 2017

New featured creature

Seed Cylinders are tidy, long-lasting, tightly packed seed shapes held together with gelatin that slip on a cylinder feeder. It's a win-win for you and your birds. The birds stay longer eating at the feeder instead of grabbing a morsel and flying quickly away to eat it elsewhere. And the cylinders are packed with high-calorie nuts to provide birds with enough energy stay warm.

One of the fun things about using the seed cylinder feeder is the availability of the Seed Cylinder Characters that come out in the fall. Months and months of work go into the design of a new featured creature each year. This year's new limited quantity character is in the cute shape of an owl. And coming in mid-October we will also see the return of Buttons the Snowman, Peanut the Squirrel and Rascal the Raccoon.

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, attracts a wide variety of birds, and makes a great gift. Available only at Wild Birds Unlimited, seed characters are a whimsical addition to any backyard bird feeding station.

Stop by our store to meet all these "seedy characters." They can help you attract many of your favorite birds, including chickadees, woodpeckers and goldfinches. Warning: these always go fast, so don't wait.

Related Articles:
Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
Exciting New Bird Food at Wild Birds Unlimited Stores http://goo.gl/LpVQne
Why don't chickadees stay to eat at the feeder? http://bit.ly/AkKThH
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/rCdQqM

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Some birds like it hot?

What birds like Hot? Now that Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI is carrying a large selection of Hot Pepper Cylinders, this has become one of the most frequently asked questions. New this year are Hot Pepper Cranberry, Hot Pepper No-mess, and Flaming Hot Feast Seed Cylinders!

So the answer to what birds like it Hot is all feeder birds. "Like" might not be the right word. If fact they don't taste it. In studies scientists fed bird seed to birds, and then fed the same food coated with capsaicin, the active “hot” chemical in peppers, and they were not affected by it.

Birds don't sense hot because they have so few taste buds: pigeons have 37, while humans have close to 10,000 taste buds, and squirrels and other mammals have a similar number to us.

So serving foods that birds like, that is coated in hot pepper, doesn't stop birds but does deter squirrels, raccoons, and deer from lunch at the "bird" feeder.

Source:  Curiosities: Why can birds eat hot peppers? http://news.wisc.edu/curiosities-why-can-birds-eat-hot-peppers/ via @uwmadison

Related Articles:
Hot Pepper suet for the birds not the squirrels http:/hot-pepper-suet.html
How do I keep squirrels off my bird feeders? http://bit.ly/yiZsML
Squirrel proof bird feeder reviews http://bit.ly/waJs9o
Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR 
Hot Pepper seed cylinder http://hot-pepper-seed-cylinder.html

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

How long hummingbirds stay

While some birds like blackbirds and geese travel in large flocks, the smallest intercontinental migrant, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, migrates alone. First the male and then the females begin migration. The young birds born this season begin their journey south for the first time after all the adults have departed.

Like other birds that fly solo, they have to depend on a genetically inherited mental map to find the favorable winter grounds hundreds or thousand of miles away from Michigan.

Young hummingbirds are what you see mainly at the end of September. They will look similar to a female, but as young males begin to mature in late summer look for a few random red iridescent feathers on the throat. And the young are very healthy looking. Their feathers are full and shiny whereas the parent birds looked a little haggard.

Birds that are born late in the season are vulnerable especially during a drought. Leaving your feeders up may provide a critical opportunity for these hummingbirds to build reserves and “catch up.” If you keep your feeders filled and fresh you should have hummers visiting from April until usually the end of September or even October. There is no need to force them to go south by taking the feeders down too early. Hummingbirds wait until they have gathered enough calories and the winds are blowing in the right direction before they leave.
Watch a First Year Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird Feeding (video courtesy of Wild Birds Unlimited Barriehttps://youtu.be/w2XsuNLYkpQ
Related Articles:
Hummingbird Information on Habitat and Habits http://bit.ly/It2WwE
Where have my Hummingbirds gone? http://bit.ly/IHzxy3
How Do I Know If It's a Baby Hummingbird? http://bit.ly/IHzCSh
Gardening for birds http://bit.ly/It58nR
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/FQ9kxU

Monday, September 25, 2017

Why birds aren't coming to my feeder

I'm worried. Where did all the birds go?

The warm up and the abundance of food available in nature right now may mean a slow down of visitors at the feeders.

Birds don't have sweat glands and try to avoid activity during the hottest part of the day. You still may see activity in the early morning and just before night when it is cooler. And luckily we had a good crop of fruits, nuts, berries, and seed heads for the birds to enjoy naturally. So while the birds are migrating or searching for good winter grounds your feeder may see a drop in activity.

This is a good time to:

1. Make sure your seed is fresh
. One way to do this is to pinch the seed on a piece of paper and see if any oil comes out. (Wild Birds Unlimited receives a fresh load of seed each week).

Clean your feeders at least once a month. Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing can wash your feeders year round. Just bring a feeder in and pay $5.00. And to prevent mold in bad weather use Feeder Fresh™ (a silica grit that absorbs water and humidity, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand). You can also shelter your feeder from the elements by using something like WBU Weather Guard.
3. Add a bath. Baths not only provide clean water to quench thirst, baths also help birds maintain their body temperature and keep their feathers clean. A good part of a bird's day is spent just grooming their feathers by bathing, scratching, and preening.

Related Articles:
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/umlwXg
Prepare Your Yard for Fall Bird Feeding: http://bit.ly/pkJUmW
Do I need to clean my bird feeder?: http://bit.ly/nYKz40
Best foods for birds in winter http://bit.ly/6fkng
How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://bit.ly/tRYvG9

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Swainson’s Thrushes are killed in greater numbers than any other bird species

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Some birds passing through in the fall, as they migrate south, may look similar to our common little brown House Sparrows. But keep your eyes open. Many birds migrate at night. If we've had a nice wind pushing south you may wake up to see some different birds, that were riding the winds, stop by to rest and recuperate under the feeders or at the bath.

Some get in to trouble navigating through the human domain. If you are unsure about a bird acting strangely call a rehabilitator for advice. Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess abandoned or injured wildlife. A list of licensed rehabilitators can be found by visiting http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/ or by calling your local DNR office.

Our local Nottingham Nature Nook just received a new guest that was having trouble walking. A caring individual took the time to see that something wasn't right and took action. He thought it was a sparrow but it turned out to be a Swainson’s Thrush.  It is a beautiful brown bird a little larger than a sparrow but smaller than a robin. These medium-brown birds with pale underparts have spotted chests and large buffy eyerings that extend in front of the eye, creating “spectacles.”

Swainson’s Thrushes breed way up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and even further north in Canada. They winter way down in Central and northern South America. Swainson’s Thrushes are a common species, but their population has declined about 38% between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. During spring and fall migration, significant numbers of Swainson’s Thrushes die from collisions with windows, radio and cell-phone towers, and tall buildings. (For more on the dangers of lights to migrating birds, visit the Fatal Light Awareness Program.) Studies of bird deaths at communications towers in Minnesota, Illinois, and West Virginia revealed that Swainson’s Thrushes were killed in greater numbers than any other bird species.

 Below are a few local numbers to call for help:
  • East Lansing, MI ♦ 517.351.7304 ♦ Cheryl Connell-Marsh ♦ birds and small animals
  • Lansing, MI ♦ 517-646-9374 ♦ Tiffany Rich ♦ white tailed deer, squirrels, raccoons; Vet. Tech. on center.
  • DeWitt, MI ♦ 517.930-0087 ♦ Wildside Rehab and Education Center ♦ birds and small animals
  • Eaton Rapids, MI ♦ 517-663-6153 ♦ Wildside Rehab and Education Center ♦ birds and small animals
  • Holt, MI ♦ 517-694-9618 ♦ Carolyn Tropp cctropp@aol.com ♦ Waterfowl, small birds and mammals
  • Howell, MI ♦ 517-548-5530 ♦ Howell Conference and Nature Center ♦ All wild animals except bats, skunks, starlings, raccoons, pigeons, or house sparrows.
  • Bath, MI ♦ 517-819-0170 (day) 517-641-6314 (evening) ♦ Denise Slocum ♦ Small mammals 
And if you are outside of Michigan:

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Hydrate your birds

During the hot and often dry conditions you will be doing yourself and your birds a big favor by providing them with a reliable source of water.

Water is very important to birds. Whether they are feeder visitors or not, birds need water. Offering a dependable source of water is probably the simplest and most important step you can take to greatly increase the variety of birds in your yard. It can also significantly increase your enjoyment of your birds by allowing you to watch their often comical antics as they drink, bathe and preen.

However, as entertaining as it is for us, water (or the lack thereof) can be deadly serious for birds. Birds must be ready to fly at all times, and bathing is a critical part of feather maintenance and staying in top-flight condition.

Water is also vitally important when it's extremely hot and a bird’s ability to regulate its body temperature can become stressed. Birds do not sweat and must remove excess body heat through their respiratory system. So when temperatures rise, a bird's respiration rate increases, sometimes to the point that it can be seen panting like a dog. This activity dehydrates birds and increases their need for a reliable source of water to replace lost fluids. 

Related Articles:
- What are the Dog Days of Summer? http://goo.gl/3b0nf
- Why do birds poop in the bird bath? http://bit.ly/whKqHg
- Water Wiggler Attracts Birds and prevents Mosquitoes! http://bit.ly/wKl40q
- Why Birds Preen http://bit.ly/wcoC9d
- What kind of bird bath is the best? http://goo.gl/01sug

Friday, September 22, 2017

Photo Share: Bluebirds frolicking in the bath

Everyday I have a group of blue birds taking their daily bath. They splash so much I always have to put more water in. This day happened to be the largest group I have seen yet. So fun to watch them. When do the bluebirds migrate?  By the way, love our bird bath from your shop. Jo- St Johns 
Usually, Eastern Bluebirds will gather in large family flocks at the end of nesting season. If you have fruiting trees or bluebird feeders and a reliable source of water, you may host the bluebirds year-round. Scientists think it’s due to genetics whether they want to fly south or winter over. Some birds are compelled to move south and others are not.

The Eastern Bluebirds are considered partial migrants. Often, the birds from Canada and the northern U.S. will leapfrog over mid-Michigan in order to avoid competition for food and migrate all the way down to Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and the southern portions of Alabama, Georgia and Texas. But our bluebirds might hang around in the woods if it is a mild winter and just shift short distances in search of food and water.

They forage for fruits, nuts, and berries from shrubs, trees, and vines. Some of those include dogwood, hawthorn, mountain ash, sumac, holly, bittersweet, pokeweed, grape, and honeysuckle fruits.

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

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Flickers are woodpeckers that like to forage on the ground

from Wikimedia Commons
Warblers aren't the only new birds passing through in the fall. Flickers may migrate through or even choose to winter in our mid-Michigan yards. I had two in pounding in the lawn for bugs last night!

The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is a medium-sized woodpecker native to most of North America. Unlike most woodpeckers, the flicker spends a lot of time hopping around the ground like a robin looking for bugs, especially ants.

Adults are brown with black bars on the back and wings. A black bib is on the upper breast and the lower breast and belly are beige with black spots. Males in Michigan can be identified by a black moustache stripe at the base of the beak, a red chevron on the back of their head and bright yellow feathers on the undersides of their wing and tail.

The northern populations of the Northern Flicker are migratory, with fall migration taking place September to November. So if this Flicker is new to the area it may see your yard as a good place to winter from its summer home in Canada. They do also come to feeders for seeds, nuts and suet as snows cover the ground. So keep the feeders full to catch him eating. 

Related Articles:
- Northern Flicker Roosts Alone in the winter http://bit.ly/zouUF6
- Northern Flicker Stops by for a Surprise Visit http://bit.ly/Aouqjf
- Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/yGoOUc
- Why Flickers Flick Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/Ar0Rin
- How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/x5PGT1

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What to feed birds besides black oil sunflower seed

I generally feed just black oil sunflower seeds. Is there something else I should add to attract more birds?

The first ingredient in our top 4 seed blends is sunflower seed. Oil Sunflower seed is the favorite of most of the backyard seed eating birds. I also like to have peanuts in the blend to entice all the bug eating birds like the chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, jays, and wrens to visit more frequently. Peanuts have a high calorie/ounce ratio due to its high fat and protein content.

No-mess is the only blend I use personally. No-Mess Blend is unique because it features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds mean there is no debris on the ground to clean up. The first ingredient in the No-Mess blend is sunflower seed with the hulls removed, then peanut pieces, and finally a little millet, also with the hulls removed. Millet attracts the ground feeding birds like the juncos, sparrows, buntings, and doves. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything! 

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Owls disperse in the fall

In autumn there are a lot of first year owls leaving their parents and moving to new territories. Many customers in the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store are reporting their encounters with owls. Most people are excited about these large birds when they perch in their yard. Other people have experienced silent, unexpected, swoop downs.

Experts theorize that the owls perhaps dive bomb unsuspecting early morning joggers more at this time of year because they are inexperienced in hunting, defending a new territory, because of mistaken identity or maybe the young birds are just behaving badly. Owl strikes are more common at dawn or dusk when vision is not always the best with people or with animals.

Also recent studies show suburban neighborhoods with large trees have been supporting more and more Barred Owls. Using transmitters, scientists found that populations increased faster in the suburban settings than in old growth forest. A factor of this suburban success may be easily accessible rodent prey.

The Barred Owls nest in a tree cavities usually created by woodpeckers or squirrels. They’ll also use manmade bird houses. If they’ve had a successful nesting in the past they will often reuse a nest. Barred Owls are non-migratory.

Breeding season is from December to March. After 4 weeks of incubation by the female, young owls hatch and then fledge four to five weeks later. At six weeks old the young will learn to fly. Barred owls live alone for most of the year but a family group can stay together for up to six months.

Barred Owls help keep down the rodent population. They eat mainly small animals like chipmunks, mice, voles, smaller rabbits, amphibians, reptiles, and some bugs. Most owls avoid human interaction and will fly away when you approach. A few, however, may be more curious and come in for a closer look.

Related Articles:
- Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/t6elFd
- Amazing Vocals of the Barred Owl http://bit.ly/sguMqL
- Snowy Owls http://bit.ly/ylJmQq
- Eastern Screech Owl http://bit.ly/wMQBZj   
- Great Horned Owl http://bit.ly/zmlFqY
- Great Gray Owl http://bit.ly/tAewYm  
- Long-eared Owl http://goo.gl/qGgbju

Monday, September 18, 2017

Pine Warbler looks like goldfinch at first glance

September is a great time to see a wide variety of birds as they swing through our area. Many warblers are similar in size and coloring to a female goldfinch. I'm usually alerted to visiting warblers in the yard mainly because of their behavior. Most warblers are jittery, bouncy birds in the bushes as they try to flush out bugs or at the bird bath re-hydrating and preparing their feathers for migration.

Pine warblers are active during the day, hopping, climbing tree trunks, and cleaning their feathers. Like many other warblers, their wings beat in an irregular pattern when they fly. They are partial migrants. Pine Warblers from the northern U.S. and Canada migrate to wintering grounds in the southeastern U.S. but the ones that breed in the Southeast stay there year-round.

Besides bugs and water, the Pine Warbler will also regularly eat millet, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet from elevated feeders. And fruits from bushes and vines, like bayberry, flowering dogwood, grape, sumac, persimmon, and Virginia creeper.

Related Articles:
- The Journey North: Bird Migration Maps http://bit.ly/pbk4Eb  
- How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d
- Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/ow20ZD
- Birds only in mid-Michigan during the winter http://bit.ly/ojcyP7
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/qa0CVU

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Palm Warbler on the way to the Caribbean

The Palm Warbler breeds farther north in Canada than most other warblers. In the fall they may join flocks of other warblers, chickadees, juncos, and sparrows. They are a common migrant through mid-Michigan from mid-August to mid-October.

In the winter when the Palm Warbler hangs out in "palm country" they seem to prefer to feed on the ground in a variety of woodland and thicket habitats. They were named from a specimen taken during the non-breeding season on a Caribbean island. A better name for this species might be the "Wagging Warbler" because of the tail-wagging habit that shows off its yellow undertail.

Related Articles:
Michigan warblers begin migrating http://goo.gl/37QhV
Small Mysterious Black & White Bird Visits Mid-Michigan http://goo.gl/VOl3s
When is bird migration over? http://goo.gl/1Fiq6
Blackpoll Warbler: Greatest warbler migrant http://goo.gl/GcSTE

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Small gray bird with bright yellow throat

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Northern Parulas are small gray wood-warblers with bright yellow throats that extend through the breast. We only see them in mid-Michigan during the spring and fall migration. They breed above and below us.

Northern Parulas forage by gleaning leaves and branch tips for insects and spiders. They fly with rapid wingbeats and hop quickly through branches. When acting defensively, parulas may demonstrate a wing-droop display, during which wingtips are held below the base of the tail as the bird calls.

Related Articles:
Michigan warblers begin migrating http://goo.gl/37QhV
Yellow warbler eating bird seed http://goo.gl/pbGV8W
Small Black & White Bird Visits Mid-Michigan http://goo.gl/VOl3s
When is bird migration over? http://goo.gl/1Fiq6
Blackpoll Warbler: Greatest warbler migrant http://goo.gl/GcSTE

Friday, September 15, 2017

Photo Share: bird sunrise

Evan was commenting on how orange the sunrise was this morning as we were going to school then I saw this lamp post with the birds watching the sunrise.  If you want to post for a Friday photo you can photo you can.

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Photo Share: Grasshopper in Michigan

I love my backyard birds! Bird watching is among the most popular of all American recreational pursuits. It is estimated that there are over 9,000 species of birds, at least 200 breed in Michigan and more than 400 species spend at least some time in the state.

Bugs can be just as fascinating or frustrating if they are found somewhere other than outside. In the United States only, the number of insect species named is approximately 91,000 and another 73,000 are unidentified.

I saw this little two inch grasshopper on the bird bath in front of the Wild Birds Unlimited store. I could identify "grasshopper" but needed more help to find her name. So I went to http://bugguide.net and made an ID request. They came back immediately with female Grasshopper - Melanoplus differentialis.  A common roadside grasshopper.

Like most grasshoppers, Differential Grasshoppers eat many different types of plants, including: grasses, weeds, crops, clover, and fruits. They breed in late Summer and early Fall. Then females lay their eggs near the base of vegetation. These eggs won't hatch until the following Spring.

Related Articles:
- How to keep moths out of bird seed http://goo.gl/D7JSp8
- A closer look at the woodpeckers in Michigan http://goo.gl/cLO0yr
- Where does the Woolly Bear go in the winter? http://bit.ly/pB5L4V
- A Very Tiny Hummingbird (Moth)? http://bit.ly/qtrAaV
- Do Honey Bees migrate in the winter? http://bit.ly/GEK5QX
- How long does a house fly live?‎ http://bit.ly/HeSh7g.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Easiest to identify warbler

Black-and-white Warblers look similar to nuthatches at first glance. When I spotted him in the viburnum bush he was feeding on insects moving up, down, and along branches in every direction. On second glance I could see that this bird looked a little smaller and more delicate than a White-breasted Nuthatch.

Black-and-white warblers are one of the easiest warblers to identify. They are a little smaller than a House Sparrow at 5 inches long and they have very obvious black and white stripes like a referee’s shirt. The females and young look a little duller and have a dark gray cheek instead of black.

Keep your eyes open for them migrating through the mid-Michigan area from August through October and then again in the spring from late May to early July. They are common in mature and second-growth deciduous forests during the summer throughout the eastern United States and Canada, and they have an unusually extensive winter range that extends from Florida to Venezuela and Colombia.

Their gentle oscillating song sounds like the squeaky wheel of a car coming to a stop. So keep your eyes and ears open for new birds visiting your yard. All birds need water and a lot of birds will stop in your yard to rest if they see other birds in the area eating safely at feeders. 

Related Articles:
Michigan warblers begin migrating http://goo.gl/37QhV
Yellow warbler eating bird seed http://goo.gl/pbGV8W
Small Black & White Bird Visits Mid-Michigan http://goo.gl/VOl3s
When is bird migration over? http://goo.gl/1Fiq6
Blackpoll Warbler: Greatest warbler migrant http://goo.gl/GcSTE

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Why the bird feeder is empty

As many of you have noticed, birds have been attacking the feeders like there is no tomorrow. And there won't be if they don't bulk up now to prepare for a harsh Michigan winter or a long journey south. Birds change into a “superbird” state when their internal clock is triggered by shorter days and cooler weather at the end of summer.

Right now a bird needs to increase their fat reserves by as much as 1-10% per day. This feeding frenzy is called hyperphagia. In human terms, this would mean I would have to gain 12 pounds per day. That gives "eats like a bird" a whole new meaning. But remember that their fat increase is vital for the extreme energy required to survive the coming months.

To help the birds, you can feed them high energy, high fat foods. Wild Birds Unlimited is dedicated to offering fresh, top-quality seed. 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. 

Have Wings, Will Travel: Avian Adaptations to Migration

Related articles:

Prepare Your Yard for Fall Bird Feeding: http://bit.ly/pkJUmW
Best bird feeders?: http://bit.ly/q69iq8
Michigan’s Winter Backyard Birds: http://bit.ly/rt7Nvr
Best foods for birds in winter http://bit.ly/6fkng

Monday, September 11, 2017

Yellow bird with white stripe above eye

I saw a yellow bird with a white stripe above its eye. I think it is a warbler.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
The Tennessee Warblers have a white eyestripe above a dark line through eyes. Their back, wings, and rump are a bright olive-green. These warblers migrate through mid-Michigan from mid-August to October on their way south. They like to winter in open second growth forests and agricultural habitats, like shade grown coffee plantations in Mexico to Venezuela.

They are active birds, flitting among foliage and making short flights to reach leaf tips while searching for food. The birds eat a lot of bugs and berries and at your feeder might enjoy suet and fruit.

Donald and Lillian Stokes have a wonderful Field Guide to Birds of North America or Eastern Region that we now carry at the Wild Birds Unlimited store that I turn to when identifying confusing warblers, thrushes and sparrows. What I like the most about the book is that each bird species is identified with several clear photographs that show all feather coloration of each species of bird, including male, female, summer, winter, immature, morphs, important subspecies, and birds in flight.

Related Articles: 
Provide a safe habitat to encourage migrating birds http://provide-safe-habitat.html
Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/oW0XCD
Blue-headed Vireo's peak migration http://blue-headed-vireos.html
Wagging Warbler http://wagging-warbler.html
Black-and-yellow Warbler http://black-and-yellow-warbler.html
Nashville Warbler not from Tennessee http://nashville-warbler.html 
Bay-breasted warbler pictures http://bay-breasted-warbler.html 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

When cardinal babies leave the nest

I found a cardinal's nest with 3 babies in a bush by the house. I'm having the house spray washed in a couple weeks. Will they be gone by then?

Northern Cardinal chicks will leave the nest about 10 days after hatching. The parents continue to feed the chicks for 25 to 56 days. They don't return to the nest but may take cover in the bush.
Parents teach their young to forage for food and other survival techniques for a couple months. Then they drive them away from their natal territory to form connections with other juveniles for potential breeding the next spring.

Cardinals can breed from March until September. The female cardinal lays an average of 3 eggs. Incubation begins when the last egg is laid, and is performed solely by the female while the male brings her food. The eggs hatch after two weeks and both parents feed the chicks a diet that consists of mainly insects. 
Young Northern Cardinals don't look like the adults. They 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.

Cardinals are often the first to visit a feeder in the morning and the last to stop by and grab a bite at night. You can listen for their “chip, chip, chip” calls to each other just before the sun rise and sets. At the feeders their favorite seeds are sunflower, peanuts, or safflower.

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

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Where Eastern Bluebirds winter

I put up a Wild Birds Unlimited Bluebird House in late August and within minutes they were checking it out. Will they use it in the winter?
A pair of Eastern Bluebirds in Michigan, USA.
That’s a good question. It’s very normal for Eastern Bluebirds to gather together in large flocks starting in August until September in search of food. After nesting season has ended, they usually form large nomadic groups that roost at night in the woods. But they may use your house as a roosting spot in the winter to protect themselves when the winds and snow blows.

In mid-Michigan, many bluebirds are year-round residents. Even if they don't roost in the house during the winter, it is good to have the it up in the fall because they begin to look for potential nesting sites as early as February.

Bluebirds' diets change from mostly worms and insects in the spring and summer over to fruit, nuts and berries in the fall and winter. Having a house, feeders and a habitat that produces food encourages them to stick around all winter. They also appreciate open water in the winter. If you have a pond or heated birdbath they may show up in large numbers for afternoon drinks.

Related Articles:
What do American Robins eat in the winter? http://bit.ly/wQh59Q
The best heated bird baths http://bit.ly/uIHnB7
Bird of the Week: Eastern Bluebird http://bit.ly/xgm1V4
Ultimate Bluebird House http://bit.ly/A4kliS
The Migration of Eastern Bluebirds http://bit.ly/yCLcQH

Friday, September 8, 2017

Photo Share: American Goldfinch losing their yellow

The American Goldfinches are starting to look a little ragged right now. If you see fluffy brownish finches, they are probably babies!

Many people don't realize that the Goldfinches are not bright yellow all year. In fact they are the only finch in North America to go through a complete molt two times a year. In the fall the male loses his bright yellow feathers and black cap and switches to a duller olive green wardrobe with dark, blackish wings and pale wing bars.

The male, female, and juvenile goldfinches have a similar duller olive green wardrobe during the late fall and winter months. The color of the legs, feet and bill of the American Goldfinch change with each feather molt too. In winter plumage, their legs, feet and bill are dark grayish brown. In breeding plumage they change to a buffy yellow orange color.

Because they are found year-round at Michigan bird feeders, it is always a good time to put up a finch feeder. But this is really the best time because they need extra food for the change in feathers and raising young. They eat sunflower and Nyjer® Thistle at the feeders. The photo shows them on my Aspects Big Tube filled with Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess blend birdseed.

I love the happy, warm, song of the goldfinches especially in the cold months. I love the huge flocks of finches that flutter down from the tops of trees as they take their turn at the feeder. I love that I can hang the feeder anywhere because squirrels and other animals don't bother with Nyjer® Thistle. And once you understand the goldfinches' needs, they are easy to please and very pleasing to watch. 

Related Articles:
Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Goldfinch Migration http://bit.ly/MzGSPD
Are Goldfinches here in the winter? http://bit.ly/PZu5ML
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a

Thursday, September 7, 2017

How to choose a suet

Peanutbutter suet face
Peanut butter suet is my favorite suet. It smells like peanut butter cookie dough and is easy to load in a suet feeder or soft enough press into the bark of a tree. But of course the best thing about the suet is the birds it attracts.

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

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

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

If you have a problem with squirrels or other wildlife eating your suet try our Hot Pepper Suet. It has rendered beef suet, ground peanuts and capsicum pepper. Most mammals find this unpleasant, whereas birds are unaffected.

Related Articles:
How do I stop woodpeckers from pecking on my house? http://bit.ly/KGItqF
What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX
Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/tQ5lwt
How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Where to put suet feeder

Is it too early to feed suet?

Red-breasted Nuthatch 
waiting for the suet feeder to be filled
Wild Birds Unlimited has suet available year-round. There is never a bad time to feed suet but fall is a good time to feed birds high energy food to help grow new feathers to survive the winter or fly thousands of miles to return to their southern wintering grounds.

In September look for Red-breasted nuthatches flying down from Canada to perhaps spend the winter with us in mid-Michigan and a lot of different warblers are going to pass through in the next few weeks. Keep your suet feeder full! Most warbler migration is from the end of August to early November. Migration can take a toll on birds and a quick high protein meal at a suet feeder helps fuel them.

If you've never fed suet before the two main things to keep in mind when deciding where a feeder are: can you see the feeder well, and is the feeder in a safe location. It is best if there is a perching spot where birds can check the area for predators before they eat. And make sure the feeder is in a place that’s relatively safe from window collisions and from predators. The closer to the window the better because if a bird takes off from the feeder and hits the window, it won’t be going at top speed and has a better chance of surviving.

Then you just have to sit back and be patient. Chickadees will be the first to find a suet feeder, followed by nuthatches and then woodpeckers. It isn't unusual for a woodpecker to take a month or more to figure out a new feeder.

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

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

You can freeze suet

Can you freeze beef suet?

It is best to store suet in a cool, dry place. Cases of suet in a cool basement secured in a steel can or in an extra freezer/refrigerator extends the shelf life of suet. You don't have to worry about birds eating frozen suet. In fact we recommend freezing suet to keep it fresh and make it easier to remove from the package.

Woodpeckers are some of the toughest birds in the backyard. As their name suggests, they frequently peck on the wood of trees to look for or hide tasty treats, and to build nests. In addition to drilling holes, woodpeckers will knock their heads on anything that will make a noise to send sound signals. Frozen suet wouldn’t be any challenge at all.

Suet is beneficial to birds year-round. In spring, it meets the increased energy demands of nesting birds. In the summer months, it helps assist parent birds to feed their families, especially in years when insects are not very plentiful. In fall, suet helps wild birds change feathers and store fat to prepare for migration or the coming winter. And of course, in winter, suet replenishes depleted stores of energy and nutrients, to help birds survive the long, cold months. So, bring out the suet!

Related Articles:
How do I stop woodpeckers from pecking on my house? http://bit.ly/KGItqF
What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX
Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/tQ5lwt
How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI

Monday, September 4, 2017

Wild Birds Unlimited supports other small businesses

Labor Day in the United States is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement. 

Almost everything Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, Michigan offers is Made in America. We are a little business and we support other little businesses. Most of our products are from small companies that don’t sell to big box stores

By providing unique products, services, expertise and atmosphere, our stores not only offer an inspiring one-of-a-kind shopping experience; we also provide quality information, specially developed feeders and custom seed blends.

Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) believes it is important that "we bring people and nature together®." With every purchase you make, WBU stores donate a portion of the proceeds to support education, conservation and wildlife viewing projects at wildlife refuges, parks, sanctuaries and nature conservancies throughout North America. Click HERE to see a list of partners that help us supporting birds and nature.

To find a store near you go to http://maps.wbu.com/. Or if you live in mid-Michigan visit us at the location listed below:

Wild Birds Unlimited
2200 Coolidge Rd. Ste.17
East Lansing, MI 48823

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Preparing Your Yard for the Fall and Winter birds

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

Preparing Your Yard for the Fall and Winter Checklist:

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

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

Saturday, September 2, 2017

When chimney swifts leave

During migration, spectacular numbers of Chimney Swifts often roost in large chimneys. The following is a link to this photographer's website: https://www.flickr.com/photos/grmann/.
Photo of several Chimney Swifts inside a chimney
via Wikimedia Commons
Chimney Swifts are plain, dark, sooty colored birds with slender bodies and very long, narrow, curved wings. In late August to early September you may see them migrate across mid-Michigan in large flocks as they make their way to South American wintering areas in the upper Amazon basin of Peru, Ecuador, Chile, and Brazil. When they make a pit-stop on the journey south, as many as 10,000 swifts may circle in a tornado-like flock at dusk and funnel into a roosting chimney to spend the night.

Chimney Swifts are fascinating birds that surprisingly are unstudied, because of their inaccessible nesting and roosting sites and their aerial lifestyle. They are aerial insectivores and fly over rooftops, fields, and rivers to catch insects on the fly and even dive down over water to drink and bathe in flight. When they do come to rest, they never sit on perches like most birds. Their long claws are suited only for clinging to the walls of chimneys and other vertical surfaces.

So keep your eyes and ears open for migrating swifts. Chimney Swifts give a fast, twittering series of high-pitched chip notes, about 3 seconds long. In flight the chips can be so close together that they become a buzzy, insect-like twitter.

Michigan Audubon posted a video of Chimney Swifts roosting in East Lansing, MI recently: https://youtu.be/oE_15V27xDg

Friday, September 1, 2017

Photo Share: Black and yellow butterfly in Michigan

I saw a new butterfly today! It was a large black butterfly with a row of yellow spots across its back and lower wings.

I grabbed my Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North American and found it was a Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes). The species is uncommon in mid-Michigan. Perhaps Hurricane Harvey has pushed it further north than usual or it is just another result of climate change.

While it was on the flowers, it was fluttering so fast I'm lucky that I was able to take its picture.

Giant Swallowtail interesting facts:
- These butterflies lay eggs on plants in the citrus family; orange, grapefruit, kumkuat, etc.

- The larval or caterpillar stage can be considered a pest due to its habit of feeding on the foliage of most Citrus species. Citrus fruit farmers often call the caterpillars orange dogs or orange puppies because of the devastation they can cause to their crops.

- The young caterpillars look much like wet bird droppings. Older caterpillars look like dry bird poop. Of course one of the best reasons to look like poop is the fact that few critters eat bird poop.

- Chrysalises of the Giant Swallowtail are hard to spot because they look like bark and are often attached to branches. During the cold months, chrysalises overwinter and emerge once the weather warms up in the spring.