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, November 30, 2017

Red-bellied Woodpecker eating Sunflower seeds

Yesterday I ran out of suet so I did not expect to see many woodpeckers. But, a red-bellied woodpecker came up and started eating sunflower seeds. He came up, ate a few, and flew away several times. I have never had this happen before. Is it normal?
Red-bellied Woodpeckers eat a wide variety of food. In the late spring and summer their diet consist mainly of insects, spiders, and other arthropods, and suet. In the fall and winter there are more acorns, nuts, and pinenuts in their diet as well as seeds extracted from annual and perennial plants and fruits and berries.

You may sometimes see Red-bellied Woodpeckers make several quick trips to the feeder because they like to take food away and wedge it into bark crevices. Just like squirrels, some birds like chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, blue jays and woodpeckers will hide or cache their food to retrieve and eat at a later time. They hide hundreds of seeds all over their territory, in a behavior known as scatter-hoarding to keep their stash a secret from competitors and help them survive during bad weather and when food sources are low. They can find each hiding spot accurately even a month later.

Related articles:
- Birds Move Trees http://bit.ly/oPqFgG
- Screech Owls cache uneaten prey items in cavities http://bit.ly/pJ7jCP
- Red-Bellied Woodpecker stores its food in the barks of trees http://bit.ly/nqYS7j
- Mine! All Mine: Why Squirrels Hoard http://bit.ly/qFANnl
- Michigan’s Top 20 Winter Backyard Birds http://bit.ly/qq5xu1
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/ngkPX3

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Geese at night

I see geese sleeping on the river behind my house each night. Are they different flocks migrating through or just birds flying back and forth. Why do they sleep on the water? ~ Lansing, MI

One of the first signs of fall is the shifting flocks of Canada Geese migrating in a long, honking, irregular “V” across sky. Flying in “V” formations conserves their energy. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of him, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. It also allows each bird an unobstructed field of vision, so flock members can see each other and communicate while in flight.

The Canada Goose is a year round resident of mid-Michigan’s riverbanks, ponds, golf courses and farmlands. However the Canadian and Upper Peninsula geese do migrate down to the southern U.S. from September to November. They eat aquatic vegetation, grasses and grains. If one area freezes or their source of food is depleted, they fly to more hospitable grounds.

Often called the Canadian Goose, the Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is one of the most recognizable birds in Michigan. At 16-25 inches long with a wingspan of 50-68 inches, both the male and female are large long-necked geese with black bills, black heads and necks with white throat patches that extend up the cheek. The body is brown with a brownish-white breast and belly. At least 11 subspecies of Canada Goose have been recognized and as of 2004 some of the smaller subspecies were designated their own species like the Cackling Goose.

Geese and other waterfowl like to sleep in the water for safety.
Any predator coming toward them through the water would send vibrations and warn the birds of any danger approaching.
You may also see geese on the shoreline sleeping while they stand on one foot and one eye open. Always on the lookout for danger, the ability to sleep with only half a brain and one eye open is called unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USWS).

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Nature's impact on our wellbeing

Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical well-being, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. As the holiday season comes into full swing, it is important to take time to relax and rid yourself of some of that seasonal stress. What better way than to enjoy bird watching in your own yard!

With over 25 years of research and experience, Wild Birds Unlimited® is proud to offer you the highest-quality birdfeeders and birdfeeding equipment on the market today. Any feeder you choose should be easy to fill and easy to clean. Look for quality too. Most Wild Birds Unlimited feeders come with a Lifetime Warranty. Next determine what birds you want to attract. There are certain feeders that are made for specific birds (i.e. finch feeder, hummingbird feeder, squirrel proof feeder). Finally decide where you are going to put the feeder. Is it going to hang in a tree, on an Advanced Pole System, on a window, or off a deck? The best place to put a feeder is where you can view it easily.

Selecting the proper bird foods to place in your feeders is also important, because different birds have different food preferences. All our blends are made of the stuff birds like to eat! We learned long ago the better the blend, the better your bird watching! Bargain bird seed may have inexpensive seeds like milo and wheat mixed in to bulk up the bag. However, in most regions these seeds are not eaten by bird feeder birds and is left to sprout, rot on the ground or worse, attract rodents. No-mess blend is our most popular blend. With sunflower seeds, peanuts, and millet with the shells removed, everything in the bag is devoured leaving no mess behind.

Michigan has over 400 species of birds. A few of the most common birds seen at a seed feeder in mid-Michigan are the Cardinal, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, House Sparrow, House Finch, American Goldfinch, European Starling, White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, and Mourning Dove.

Bird watching is a wonderful hobby for people of all ages. It can be enjoyed almost anywhere at any moment of the day. All in all, bird watching is relaxing, fun, and educational.

Related Articles:
Close-up look at the seeds wild birds eat http://bit.ly/IET0hP
How to keep moths out of bird seed http://bit.ly/IESK2h
How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://bit.ly/rTLSqJ
Seed Storage Cans and WBU Seed Scoops http://bit.ly/uBaSwO
The strange journey of the sunflower plant http://bit.ly/uFlz65

Monday, November 27, 2017

#GivingTuesday: Where Wild Things can get help

At last count Nottingham Nature Nook rescued over 168 birds in 2017, as well as many distressed mammals like fox, raccoons, skunks, bunnies and dozens of squirrels. Some might say let nature take it's course and leave these animals to die. That would be the right thing to do if Nature was the one doing harm.

The National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) estimates that over 75% of the animals cared for by wildlife rehabilitators like Nottingham Nature Nook are affected in some manner by human activities; some studies have that number as high as 85%-95%. Nest tree destruction, vehicle collisions, unrestrained pets, illegal or legal wild “pet” trading, intentional or unintentional poisonings including oil contamination, window collisions, and non-target trapping or shooting result in wildlife distress.

Wild Birds Unlimited's customers have donated thousands of dollars to help support the operating costs of Nottingham Nature Nook and today you can make your donation go twice as far. Up to $2 million in donations to nonprofits will be matched by Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation starting on Nov 28 at 8 AM ET.


Nottingham Nature Nook (NNN) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in East Lansing that raises and releases wildlife babies as well as cares for injured adult animals. If you would rather donate directly, a check can be made to Nottingham Nature Nook (NNN) 16848 Towar Ave, East Lansing, MI 48823. (517) 351-7304

Or Donate $5.00 or more at Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing, MI store and we will give you a little "Thank You" gift as a small token of our appreciation.

Are we going to have winter this year?

The weather was so nice last Friday I had the Wild Birds Unlimited door open all day. And on the way to work today I saw the squirrels acting all squirrely like it was spring. This wacky weather may be making the squirrels think love is in the air, but the next cold snap will cool them down quickly.
Meteorologists from AccuWeather and the Farmer's Almanac predicted a similar season for the east when it announced this year's forecast. The coldest periods will be in early to mid-December, early January, and mid-February. Snowfall will be normal, with the snowiest periods in early to mid-December, late December, early January, and early February. April and May will be warmer and slightly drier than normal.

Related articles:  
Do I need to clean my bird feeder? http://bit.ly/HNX410 
Keeping your seed dry http://use-weather-guards.html  
Squirrel Dancing http://squirrel-dancing.html
Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/HNZTPx
Best heated bird bath http://best-heated-bird-bath.html

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Ghostly gray hawk

I saw a gray hawk flying over a parking lot. Do you know what it was?
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Adult male Northern Harriers can be very pale and "ghostly" gray with long, slender wings, bright white under-wings that contrast with black wing-tips and an owl-like face. Harriers are leapfrog migrants, with individuals from northern breeding populations wintering farther south than individuals from southern breeding populations. They usually migrate alone and during daytime, hunting as they go.

In Michigan, fall migration for northern harriers is protracted, beginning in mid-August and continuing through late October. Stragglers can be found into November. Juveniles migrate before adults, and then the females, followed by the males. Interestingly, small populations of harriers may overwinter in mid-Michigan and other southern counties of the state.

During winter, harriers in the northern part of the range feed almost exclusively on meadow voles; they also eat deer mice, house mice, shrews, rabbits, and some birds.

Related Articles:
Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk comes for a visit http://bit.ly/w1fDRM
Can You Scare a Hawk Away? http://bit.ly/w3vz5B
Photo Share: Northern Harrier http:/northern-harrier.html
Frozen Woodpecker http://bit.ly/ubSCTR
Is it safe to feed the birds out in the open? http://bit.ly/rBErxI

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Photo Share: Titmouse bird picture

Tufted titmice are active birds often seen flitting about in trees and searching beneath twigs for insects or bug larvae. They travel and roost during the winter in small mixed flocks of titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, Brown Creepers, and woodpeckers.

At the feeders they are attracted to sunflower seeds, nuts, suet, seed cylinders and mealworms. Tufted Titmice typically select one seed from a feeder at a time. They shell it and hide the kernel within 130 feet of the feeder from which they obtained it under bark or under objects on the ground.

Males are dominant over females and they form pairs that persist until the death of one of the mates. The titmouse family bond is so strong that the young from one breeding season will often stay with their parents long enough to help them with nesting and feeding duties the following year.

Related Articles:
- Is it “Titmice” or “Titmouses”? http://bit.ly/yImBcF
- Why is the Titmouse Tongue So Short? http://bit.ly/yds9Mm
- Tufted Titmouse fun facts http://bit.ly/AfIA7H
- Bird guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://goo.gl/d0VzDD
- How to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count http://goo.gl/Bc2uGD

Friday, November 24, 2017

Create a sense of wonder of the natural world

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” ― Rachel Carson
Thank you for your support in helping us celebrate the 12th holiday season of our local Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop! We will continue to do our best to fill your nature niche needs, feature items made in America and to focus on product quality. This year we have many nature focused gifts including bird seed houses, balls, bells, wreaths, and Seed Characters. You can find just the right thing to share with someone special on your list.

Feeding the birds is a time honored tradition practiced by many kind people. After harvests, bread crumbs, seeds or a sheaves of grain were set out for the birds. The very act of giving to the birds signified a reminder that no matter how lean the times, when people shared, good fortune would follow. Passing on the love of nature, we hope to enrich your family's traditions and create a sense of wonder of the natural world in the next generation. We wish you a wonderful holiday season!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving from Wild Birds Unlimited!

Related Articles:
Hands-and-Feet Turkey http://turkey from hand.html

Fun Facts on Wild Turkeys http://bit.ly/rI3Ki7
Why a Turkey Is Called a Turkey http://turkey name
Wild Turkeys came close to extinction http://bit.ly/rgjosF
What Turkeys Eat http://bit.ly/uUiDsN

Iridescent Ocellated Turkey http://iridescent-ocellated-turkey.html

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

#GivingTuesday: Support your local wildlife rehab

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.), when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

One of the best ways to get involved is in your own community. Wild Birds Unlimited store would like to encourage you to donate $5.00 to Nottingham Nature Nook (NNN). As a "Thank you" for donating at the store, we will give you a unique stocking stuffer FREE while supplies last!

The "Good Luck" mini totes are so popular we always run out! So this year along with that traditional tote, I've also brought in "Santa's Reindeer" totes. These small 4 inch totes are filled with a tiny bag of birdseed, perfect to slip over a doorknob as a decoration or stuffed in a stocking as a gift.

The original has a wren on the front with the quote that reads: "It is a Scandinavian Tradition to feed the birds on Christmas Day to ensure Good Luck in the year ahead. Spread birdseed on your doorstep Christmas morning for Luck in the New Year."

http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2015/12/unique-stocking-stuffer-ideas.htmlAnd then we have a cute little girl kissing a reindeer with a quote on back reads: "Go outside on Christmas Eve and sprinkle this at night to nourish Santa's reindeer on their long and chilly flight. On Christmas when you wake up in the morning you will find the toys, treats & treasures that Santa left behind."

Nottingham Nature Nook (NNN) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in East Lansing that raises and releases wildlife babies as well as cares for injured adult animals. If you would rather donate directly, a check can be made to Nottingham Nature Nook (NNN) 16848 Towar Ave, East Lansing, MI 48823. (517) 351-7304 or visit Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/donate/

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Finch sleeping on the feeder

As dusk approaches there is a feeding frenzy. The goldfinches at my house sometimes stay too long. I watch them feeding furiously and then see them look up and notice sun went down. There are a lot of new birds out there in the fall. Inexperienced birds have some inborn knowledge but there are also some things that have to be learned through trial and error. Some find shelter quickly in nearby bushes while others have been known to spend the night on a feeder or if it's windy, huddled in a corner close to the house.
 
When birds are tired, they scrunch down to sleep because that automatically makes the toes grip their perch and stay locked in place. In the legs of tree-dwelling birds, the tendons from certain muscles extend down the leg behind the ankle to attach to the tips of the toes and when their knees bend, the tendons are pulled taut, making the toes on their feet clench.


After juvenile finches become independent, they form large flocks that congregate at food sources. Scientist thought they also roosted together at night. However recent field work done by the Bird Population Studies at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology revealed the birds didn’t have large permanent roosts. Their nighttime layovers were temporary and seemed to be located wherever a finch happened to be foraging at the time.

Related Articles:
How Do Birds Sleep? http://how-do-birds-sleep.html 
Where birds sleep http://where-birds-sleep.html
Why geese sleep in the water http://why-geese-sleep-in-water.html
Where birds go at night http://where-birds-go-at-night.html
Do birds snore? Watch the video http://do-birds-snore-watch-video.html
What birds see at night http:/what-birds-see-at-night.html

Monday, November 20, 2017

Finch food that doesn't leave a mess

The goldfinches are eating a lot of thistle seed, I was wandering if they stay for the winter? I live in lower Mi. They make a mess trying to get to the seed , is their other kind of food they like that doesn't leave such a mess. I've been using the long netting feeder which they love.

I see finches year-round in mid-Michigan. American Goldfinches are partial migrants, meaning only part of the population migrates annually and if it is a rough winter they can become nomadic. Their winter range includes southern Canada and stretches south through the United States to parts of Mexico. During heavy snowstorms they may move further south to find food only to move back when the weather clears.

Goldfinches eat a variety of seeds in the wild. Make sure to leave your garden standing in the winter. Any flower that produces a seed head (Marigolds, Zinnias, Cosmos, Brown eyed Susans or Coneflowers) provide natural food.

Sunflower and Nyjer® (thistle) are two of their favorite seeds at the feeders. If you served sunflower seed without the shell in a seed feeder there should be no mess left behind. I have dozens of goldfinches everyday attacking my window feeder full of No-Mess Blend, a seed blend full of sunflower seeds without the shell.

But Nyjer® (thistle), even though it is messy, is a convenient seed. It attracts mainly finches, doesn't grow weeds under the feeder and isn't attractive to squirrels. Sunflower seed is very attractive to finches but also attracts a variety of other birds as well as other animals. To deter critters, a window feeder, a squirrel proof feeder, or a feeder on a pole that is baffled would be a good solution.

They also appreciate the bird bath. The goldfinches drink frequently and will stay close to reliable sources of water because of their almost exclusive diet of seeds.

Related Articles:
- Where are my finches? http://t.co/FRqa7eo
- European Goldfinches http://bit.ly/Q2Cu37
- 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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

What makes Wild Birds Unlimited seed different from the Grocery store's

Wild birds are 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 quality 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.

At Wild Birds Unlimited you will get the very freshest seed, blended regionally for your backyard birds, with no filler grains that most grocery store blends contain. Fillers such as milo, wheat and oats, are ingredients not preferred by most birds and are generally, left uneaten and found in a moldy pile on the ground that can make birds sick or attract rodents. These fillers add bulk to the bag and lower the price, but they are undesired by the local birds, and a waste of your money.

Regardless of the season, the bird species you attract is determined primarily by the seeds you offer. 

To provide the most beneficial foods to meet birds' nutritional needs, the birds in Michigan should be fed fresh Sunflower seeds, White Proso Millet, Safflower, Peanuts, Nyjer® Thistle, suet or seed cakes.

Related Articles: 
Best seed blends http://attract-all-birds.html
Keep your feeders clean http://goo.gl/UGfVGT
What birds like peanuts? http://bit.ly/zispJK
How long bird seed stays fresh http://goo.gl/AdJPBO
Best suet for Michigan wild birds http://bit.ly/rTCbHB

Saturday, November 18, 2017

My Baby isn't fat

I talk about birds a lot on this page, but I need to take a moment to talk about something really important. Okay let's just get this out of the way. My Baby Doll isn't fat (or pregnant for that matter). Dolly is just wearing the thickest, most luxurious black and white fur coat (in the most Purrlitically correct way).

For further reference I've created a cheat sheet for you.
Acceptable greetings: "My you're looking fluffy today" and "Well hello, Dolly"
Unacceptable: "Wow, you're fat" and "Have you eaten all the birds, chubby?"
Dolly with her sad face on.
In more Dolly news, her favorite toy broke today:( I called it her fidget toy. It is a ball that twirls ribbon 'round and 'round. Sometimes it is in a box and sometimes it is under the covers. Well after going through hours and hours of rechargeable batteries, it stopped working today. This toy was given to her almost a year ago, after her big brothers (JB and Eli) died suddenly within weeks of each other. It gave her hours of diversion and then amusement.

I've ordered 4 replacements (Yes, 4. It's her favorite comfort object. You can't have too many backups!) and they should be here in a couple days. I did check the local pet shop but they didn't have any. So we will wait a couple days. That's not so bad right? We have to just go back to the boring old manual stick and ribbon game for a little bit. Oh and we can watch birds too!

Related Articles:
Well Hello, Dolly! http://hello-dolly.html
Dolly is making new friends! http:/dolly-is-making-new-friends.html
Birds invading the store http://rush-through-winter.html
Cat Napping in the Birdbath http://cat-napping-in-birdbath.html
Indoor cats with bird-watching windows. http://indoor-cats-dont-get-bored.html
Wild Cats Unlimited http://wild-cats-unlimited.html
Dolly talks to the birds http://yank-yank.html

Friday, November 17, 2017

Photo Share: Wild Turkeys

To find Wild Turkeys it helps to get up early in the morning, when flocks of these large birds are often out foraging in clearings, field edges, and roadsides. Keep an eye out as you drive along forest edges, particularly forests with nut-bearing trees such as oak and hickory. You’ll usually find turkeys on the ground, but don’t be surprised if you run across a group of turkeys flying high into their treetop roosts at the end of the day.

Related Articles:
Fun Facts on Wild Turkeys http://bit.ly/rI3Ki7
Why a Turkey Is Called a Turkey http://turkey name
Wild Turkeys came close to extinction in the 1930s: http://bit.ly/rgjosF
What Turkeys Eat http://bit.ly/uUiDsN

Iridescent Ocellated Turkey http://iridescent-ocellated-turkey.html

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Electric bird bath heater with a long cord

Beautiful photo is from Holly
Have you been waking up to a lump of ice in your bird bath? If you place a good heater in your existing bird bath you can attract birds all winter as they try to keep their feathers in tip top shape. Wild Birds Unlimited's most popular heater is the Birdbath and Multi-Use De-Icer. I like it because it has a long cord, it fits many different water bowls, and works really well.  

Other great features include:
  • Cast aluminum construction for long-term efficiency and performance
  • Non-stick coating to reduce corrosion and eliminate lime buildup
  • Thermostatically-controlled: It only turns on during freezing weather to reduce operating costs
  • Designed for multiple uses: baths, buckets, animal bowls
  • Safe for birds and animals to drink around
  • Strong and long 5 1/2' power cord
  • 150 Watts 
  • Safe for use in plastic or concrete
  • 3 year manufacturer warranty
  • Made in the USA
Related Articles:
-
All-in-one heated bird bath http://heated-birdbath.html
- Are there heated birdbaths that are solar? http://bit.ly/tnTrK4
- Last Minute Gifts for Birdwatchers http://bit.ly/tXwHJ8
- How to Prepare Your Yard for Winter Birdwatching http://bit.ly/uduvLm
- Attracting Bluebirds in the Winter http://bit.ly/sw0H6P
- Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/vSkLTn

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New tradition for the holidays: Birdseed Pinecone without peanutbutter

Who doesn't remember rolling pine cones in bird seed and decorating a tree for the birds? Now you can reminisce with all your family and friends by passing out Birdseed Pinecones.

Birdseed Pinecone Pair is a Tweet Treat
Wild birds Unlimited has large natural pine cones coated in tasty, energy-packed millet and sunflower seed, then tied with twine to drape easily over a branch. A fun and natural way to decorate an outdoor tree, wrapped in a clear gift bag with green garland and a red raffia tie that's ready for gifting.
 
Product Details
Pinecones, white millet, black oil sunflower seed, red millet, gelatin, jute
Approx. 5" W x 9" L
Made in USA


Also Available for a limited time:
Other adorable ornaments available for a limited time include a festive birdseed hearts, stars, and bells. Simply hang these mixed seed ornaments on outdoor trees for birds to enjoy!

While you are feasting indoors during Thanksgiving you can start a new tradition of setting the table for the birds outdoors.

Related Articles:
Share Nature's bounty http://bit.ly/tgPkrv
Make edible ornaments  http://bit.ly/tXDnSB 

Decorate a Tree for Birds http://bit.ly/t3QtGV 
Filling Up on Fatty Foods http://bit.ly/tUElnw
10 Gifts for Birdwatchers: http://bit.ly/uZojYY
Unique gifts for someone that has everything http://goo.gl/MBsT2V

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Gray bird with rusty belly and black eyestripe

Have you seen any red-breasted nuthatches this year?

Yes I have! The cone crop in Canada was so good I was worried I wouldn't see and Red-breasted Nuthatches at the feeders this year, but my little regulars seemed to have returned!

Look along trunks and branches of trees for a nuthatch with a bold black-and-white face pattern wandering up, down, and sideways over the bark. The Red-breasted Nuthatch is the only North American nuthatch with an eyestripe, and the only one with extensive rusty or cinnamon on the underparts. It is smaller and stubbier than the White-breasted Nuthatch.

The nuthatch's habit of wedging seeds into cracks and hammering them open has given rise to its common name.

Red-breasted Nuthatches join foraging flocks of chickadees and other small songbirds. If you offer suet, seed cylinders, or a seed blend with nuts, you may be able to draw these beauties to your yard all winter. They usually spend the summers in the upper part of Michigan and Canada but are residents in mid-Michigan from September to May.

Related Articles:
- Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://goo.gl/d0VzDD
- Bird of the week: Red-breasted Nuthatch http://bit.ly/sXqKVH
- Fascinating Nuthatch Bill-Sweeping & Wing Fanning http://bit.ly/s4MWlV
- Facts every backyard birder wants know about Nuthatches http://bit.ly/tBbDbQ
- Black and white bird walking upside down on a tree trunk http://goo.gl/RUCT6O

Monday, November 13, 2017

Starlings are winter birds

When do starling leave?

The European Starlings are year-round residents in Michigan. In the winter you may notice them lining up on the power wires while you drive.

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

In the winter a starling’s diet switches from bugs and suet to more fruits, nuts, berries and seeds. Their intestines actually lengthen, and the wall of the gizzard increases in thickness to better absorb the nutrients. Like the robin and bluebirds, feeder visits are less frequent for most people in the winter unless there is a winter storm that covers their natural resources.

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

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

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Feisty Finches: Does Dominance Matter?

I have so many finches I can’t count them all and I love every single one of them.  But I have a question.  I have quite a large bird feeder.  They all come at once to feed and fight over spots to eat.  Maybe like 30 at a time.   Then none of them come to feed for maybe an hour or so.  Then they all come again, all at the same time, to feed again.  Can you tell me why they all feed at once when it would be so much nicer for them if they didn’t have to fight to get a space and came at the time when the feeder is empty of birds?  Do they feel safer eating all together? Also, I have new smaller birds coming to feed that look like the finches but have tiny dots on their chests.  Are these a different type of bird or are they babies?  If you could answer my inquiries, I would be so grateful.
American Goldfinches Feisty and Ready to Fight
You have made some really good observations. One of the best things about feeding birds is watching all the stories unfold. This is real reality entertainment right outside the window. I was just laughing with a customer the other day about how my window feeder has two perches but if one side is occupied inevitably another finch will shove that bird out of the way even though the other side was free. Why?

AllAboutBirds.org explains: Birds are doing a lot more than just feeding when they visit your bird feeder. They are coming and going and interacting with each other in a well-established social pecking order. At first it looks like just a flurry of activity—but watch closely and you’ll start to see the daily struggle of dominance playing out in your backyard.
Displacement: One of the most common and easiest to see behaviors, displacement occurs anytime one bird leaves to get out of the way of another bird. Within the same species, generally speaking, males tend to dominate females and older birds dominate younger ones. Feeder hierarchies can also involve birds of several species, with the larger species usually winning out over the smaller.
Threat Displays or Appeasement:  Sometimes a dominant bird displays aggressive intent, with their bill or wing-spread display in the direction of the subordinate bird. Or subordinate birds make appeasement displays that de-emphasize their size by showing a sleeker, smaller posture and seem to shy away from interaction. 

Does Dominance Matter? It is more than just birdy bullying, with age and experience comes the benefit of better feeding. Research has shown that dominant birds forage in safer spots and at safer hours of the day (when there’s less predation). Accordingly, they get eaten by predators less frequently, are able to maintain a better body condition throughout the lean winter months, and have higher survivorship.

Pine Siskins alongside American Goldfinches
Now on to why the finches feed in flocks. Many birds form flocks year round like doves, starlings, waxwings, crows, jays, and goldfinches. And some species form flocks just during the winter like cardinals, bluebirds, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches. While other birds prefer to remain solitary like hummingbirds, woodpeckers, hawks, and wrens. 

1) Protection - When birds join forces to flock together they can spot predators quicker and then mob, distract or confuse attackers.   
2) Foraging efficiency – Sometimes scout birds are sent out in different directions and report back to the flock where the best food can be found.
3) Finding mates – Some bird species disperse after nesting season to find a flock to winter with along with a mate for next spring.
4) Continuing Education – Some species form family groups in the fall. Parent birds continue to teach their young how to survive until they disperse in the spring to find their own mates.
5) Fly in formations – Certain birds’ aerodynamics conserves energy and allow flock members to see each other and communicate while in flight.
6) Roosting – When large flocks congregate at night, their shared body warmth can help them survive extremely cold temperatures. 
Hoary and Common Redpoll photo via Wikimedia Commons
And finally what is that small bird with tiny dots? Baby American Goldfinches don’t have any dots. Other possibilities of birds that are most commonly seen alongside finches in the winter are Pine Siskins, Common, or Hoary Redpolls.

Related Articles:
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/tfT7Ca
Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/uKZs6v
Food & water from bird feeders can impact birds’ survival http://bit.ly/tsnvpP

Saturday, November 11, 2017

What has the wings of an owl, the belly of a penguin, and the nose of a kingfisher

Biomimicry design is when people address critical sustainability issues with nature-inspired solutions. Japan’s Shinkansen (bullet train) doesn’t look like your typical train. It has a long and pointed nose like a kingfisher to reduce the phenomenon of "tunnel boom," where deafening compressed air would rush out of a tunnel after a train rushed in. The rigging that holds the train from above, uses serrated edges and curvature similar to owl wing feathers to reduce sound. And the penguins smooth belly inspired the the trains design for lower wind resistance. Engineer and birdwatcher Eiji Nakatsu led the system to be redesigned based on the aerodynamics of three these species of birds.Watch the video explanation: https://youtu.be/iMtXqTmfta0

The study of wild birds’ has also been used to form many survival techniques integral to the military. This Veterans Day you might also find it interesting that to know that:
  1. Birds taught the military about camouflage - The development of camouflage was the result of studying birds and copying how they camouflaged themselves. An American artist and zoologist, Abbott Thayer published a book in 1909 called Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom. This book focused a lot on birds and was widely read by military leaders in an attempt to understand how to camouflage military equipment and troops.
  2. Bird’s eye view gives military advantage – Man followed the birds in to the air. Since the middle of the First World War air warfare has revolutionized military conflict. Airborne supremacy is now a key element to success on the battlefield.
  3. Birds’ migratory V flight pattern adopted by military - A flock of geese can fly 70 percent farther by adopting the V shape rather than flying in isolation. The V formation also gives each bird an unobstructed field of vision, allowing flock members to see each other and communicate while in flight. Fighter pilots often use this formation for the same reason.
  4. Birds’ sentry system serves as an example to protect military members – Many bird species like crows and blue jays use a sentry system to protect members of a group and improve the chances of a good meal. Like birds warn companions of any danger with a distinctive "watchman's song", soldiers keep in regular radio contact with their colleagues to assure them all is well.
Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served have sacrificed and done their duty.

We Honor you and Thank You for your service. 

Related Articles:
Patriotic Red, White and Bluebird http://goo.gl/OQrUY 

National Birds http://bit.ly/tCORyh  
War Pigeon Remembered http://t.co/5yiXSNS
Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://t.co/Br4EnlB
War Birds http://t.co/t7WJp99

Friday, November 10, 2017

Photo Share: Eastern Bluebirds on dinner bell

Dinner bell has rung for the bluebirds!

Related Articles:
Dinner bell feeder http://dinner bell.html
How to get the chickadees to stay at the feeder longer http://goo.gl/Q9pxHq
Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
No-mess Seed Cylinders: http://goo.gl/SPCYIK 
All-in-one seed cylinder bug cylinder! http://bug seed-cylinder-food-for-birds.html

Thank you 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, November 9, 2017

What happens if I stop feeding birds

Birds are not dependent on feeders, which is a good thing because most people aren’t as obsessive about filling feeders as I am. My window feeder at work and several bird feeding stations at home give me a lot of joy. So I would fill your feeders as long as you want to watch the birds.
If the feeder is empty they’ll look for other sources. Birds are pretty clever. Studies show that the birds you see in your yard are only eating about 20% of their meals at feeders.

Birds are survivors and won't starve if you go on vacation or even down south for the winter. They usually follow a circuit each day, visiting a number of feeding areas. However, during ice storms when natural food is covered up or during windy, wet, or cold evenings birds might forego foraging and look for an easy meal. That's when it's nice to know they will find something to eat in the yard.

That could also mean nut or berry bushes and trees to supply a natural food source. Or allowing native flowers, such as coneflowers, black eyed Susan’s, and cosmos go to seed and stand through the winter. These all provide food for the birds. A habitat that provides naturally for wild birds is a very relaxing place for people, too.
Related Articles: 
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/sGIw2m
Do birds know winter is coming? http://bit.ly/v4pass
Do you get more birds if you feed year-round? http://bit.ly/vyCF0q
Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/rEcYGL
How to Prepare Your Yard for Winter Birdwatching http://bit.ly/vjLjXb

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Sharing the gift of Birds with unique feeder

Starting in his Texas kitchen in 1996, Mr.Bird is now one of the largest Bird Seed Gift manufacturers in the United States. Mr.Bird had a vision for a better way to feed birds; loose seed would often be scattered and suet would melt in their hot Texas summers. So he first made seed and nut blocks held together with gelatin.

Clinging birds like the chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpecker flocked to the food. The only complaint was the small size. So he quickly designed and introduced three sizes of seed cylinders. Now birds didn't have to wait in line to find a perch. The whole seed cylinder was edible and birds could choose a spot to eat anywhere around the cylinder. They were not limited to a few seed ports on a feeder and seed couldn't be thrown to the ground to sprout and attract unwanted critters. A better way to feed was truly at hand. Thousands of bird lovers, and millions of birds proved Mr.Bird's innovation a success!

In addition to seed blocks and seed cylinders Mr. Bird creates Seed Bells, Seed Balls, Giant Pinecones dipped in seed, Seed Wreaths, Bird Seed Houses, and the most unique Bird Seed Characters (found only at Wild Birds Unlimited).

These products are all handmade in the USA using the the highest quality fruits, seeds, and nuts that attract the widest variety of birds. I marvel at all the detail that goes in to each seed character! In Mr. Birds words: "There is nothing in the world we would rather be doing than making quality products to help people enjoy nature. So please, feed the birds, they're hungry...."

Seed cylinders have become Wild Birds Unlimited's most popular "winter feeder". Just slip the cylinder of your choice on the feeder and watch the birds. No more daily walks through the snow if you don't feel up to it. No more feeling guilty about having empty feeders when you go to visit relatives during the holiday. Seed cylinders last a long time, weeks if not months in some yards. And they are a perfect gift to anyone that loves nature. Mr. Bird makes the most adorable and unforgettable treats birds really love!

Related Articles:  
Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR 
New Bird Food 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

New Owl Seed characters! http://little-character.html 
Decorative Seed Cylinder Feeder now with optional tray http://decorative-seed-cylinder-feeder.html 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Female goldfinch winter plumage

I had a particularly fluffy American Goldfinch at the window feeder and a customer thought my birds were getting too fat.

Don't worry, perching birds must maintain a healthy weight to fly away quickly. But it is chilly in Novembers so the big birds you see at the feeders might have "fluffed up" to trap air between their feathers and bodies to create a natural layer of insulation and act as a buffer from the winds and wet; think downy coat. They also can grow twice as many feathers but they still have to shiver almost constantly to increase their body temperature in cold weather.

Birds have high basal metabolic rates and therefore use energy at high rates. In cold weather, birds must operate at well above their basal metabolic rates in order to maintain their body temperatures. Small species, such as American Goldfinches that overwinter in Michigan must eat continuously during short daylight hours to stoke their metabolic fires. If they do not, they will not reserve enough energy to see them through the long night.

This is the time when a lot of high fat foods become more critical in a bird’s diet. Every night up to three-quarters of a bird’s fat reserves are used up; reserves that must be replenished the next day.

Keeping your feeders filled with high energy, high fat foods can provide your birds with the vital nutrition they need to survive. High on the list of best choices for finches are high fat seeds like sunflower seeds (429 fat calories per 100 grams) and nyjer seed (342 fat calories). Other bug eating birds birds like chickadees may prefer suet and certain seeds like peanuts, which provide 412 fat calories per 100 grams.

Related Articles:
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/tfT7Ca
Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/uKZs6v
Food & water from bird feeders can impact birds’ survival http://bit.ly/tsnvpP

Monday, November 6, 2017

Where the Mourning Doves have gone

Where did all my doves go?
While mourning doves are common at the bird feeder all year-round in Michigan, the doves you see in winter may not the same as the ones you see in summer. Mourning Doves begin to move south from September to November, with immature doves moving first, followed by adult females and then by adult males. Doves that breed in Michigan migrate to wintering grounds in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi or to wintering grounds in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Mourning doves that breed further north migrate through Michigan. Some of these doves winter in Michigan.

They like to feed early in the morning along with the cardinals in the winter and are also usually the last to feed at dusk. They eat a variety of seeds, insects, and berries. They especially like safflower seeds. They stuff their crop until it bulges and then fly off to digest slowly. They'll pick up seeds from the ground unless your feeder has a large perching area for them to feed comfortably.

If a hawk flies by, you see the doves blast off into the air making a whistling sound as it goes. This high-pitched whistle comes from the bird’s powerful wings. It is believed that the whistling is a built-in alarm system, warning others that danger may be near, while simultaneously startling a would-be predator.

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Birds Don't Sweat: http://goo.gl/zerp7

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Great Gray Owl fun facts

The Great Gray Owl is an elusive bird that is not easy to find, despite its size. They spend the year in dense, wet evergreen forests of Canada. Your best chance of seeing one in Michigan is during an irruptive year when they come south in search of food.

Fun Facts from AllAboutBirds.org:
- The Great Gray Owl is a dapper owl dressed in a gray suit with a bow tie across its neck and a surprised look on its face.
- Standing at a length 24-33 inches high, with a wing span of 54-60 inches the Great Gray Owl is one of the tallest owls in the U.S., but weighs only 2.5 pounds, less than the the Great Horned Owl and Snowy Owl.- In the winter, they eat up to 7 vole-sized small mammals every day.
-  They have asymmetrical ear openings that help them find prey by sound alone. The left ear opening is higher on the head than the right ear opening which enables precise directional hearing and lets them nab invisible prey.
-  They can break through hard packed snow to grab a small mammal. One bird reportedly broke through snow that was hard enough to support a 176-pound human.

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

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Photo Share: The #Moon Last Night

Did you see the moon last night?
Looks like rain today. Thank you 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.

Clean your hummingbird feeders before you store them

If you haven't done it already, in mid-Michigan it is safe to take down all your hummingbird and oriole feeders in November. Clean them first before you store them away. You can use a one part vinegar or bleach to nine parts water solution to clean all of your feeders. Rinse your feeders thoroughly and put them in a special place you'll remember next spring. Or you can take advantage of our bird feeding service: Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing- will clean your feeder for $5.00 and have it ready for you the next day we are open.

Tips on how to choose the best feeders for winter:
  1. Any feeder you choose should be easy to fill and easy to clean.
  2. Look for quality. Most Wild Birds Unlimited feeders come with a Lifetime Warranty.
  3. Determine what birds you want to attract. There are certain feeders that are made for specific birds (i.e. finch feeder).
  4. Decide where you are going to put the feeder. Is it going to hang in a tree, on an Advanced Pole System, on a window, or off a deck? The best place to put a feeder is where you can view it easily.
  5. Look for a feeder you don't have to fill every day. Large capacity feeders like the Quick Clean Big Tube, Squirrel Buster Plus, and the Ranchette Retreat Hopper will all stay filled for at least a week. And our most popular winter feeders are the ones that hold our seed cylinders. For people that aren't able to get out to fill feeders often during our harsh Michigan winters this feeder is ideal. Seed Cylinders are tidy, long-lasting, tightly packed seed shapes held together with gelatin that slip on a cylinder feeder. The birds stay longer eating at the feeder instead of grabbing a morsel and flying quickly away to eat it elsewhere. And the cylinders are packed with high-calorie nuts to provide birds with enough energy stay warm.
Tips on how to winterize feeders I already have:
  1. Weather Guards are designed to keep snow and rain from spoiling your seed in the tube. It's a clear plastic dome that slips on top of most tube feeders. It will not deter birds from feeding, in fact, many enjoy feeding under the shelter and out of the wet weather. It has a lifetime guarantee and is made in the USA.
  2. Trays not only catch seed falling from feeders but they also makes it more comfortable for ground feeding birds to eat at an elevated level where we can observe them. Attach a tidy tray to your seed tube or Catch-a-Seed trays with hopper bird feeders.
  3. Feeder Fresh can be added to the seed when you fill a feeder. It absorbs moisture and is safe for birds. Made from non-toxic absorbent sand, Feeder Fresh keeps the seed and feeder dry, preventing molds from forming, and thus reduces the chance of Aflatoxin and other mycotoxins.
Wild Birds Unlimited doesn’t just sell the best bird feeders and bird food. We also give you accurate information about our local birds. If you have specific questions, don't be afraid to ask. We are Your Backyard Bird feeding Specialist®, here to help bring you, and nature together. 
Related Articles:
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Wild Birds Unlimited EcoTough® Classic Hopper Feeders http://bit.ly/rpd6Cx
Wild Birds Unlimited EcoTough® Tail Prop Suet Feeder http://bit.ly/s5cNe7
Wild Birds Unlimited EcoTough® Upside Down Suet Feeder http://bit.ly/sbYFZn
Wild Birds Unlimited Best Beginner Recycled Plastic Bird Feeders at http://bit.ly/rXr0JA
Wild Birds Unlimited Best New Recycled Plastic Fly-thu Feeder http://bit.ly/rKj4en