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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

#GBBC: The House Sparrow

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way for people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with nature and make a difference for birds. It’s free and easy. To learn more about how to join the count visit www.birdcount.org.
Female and male House Sparrow

Get to know the House Sparrow before The Great Backyard Birdcount (#GBBC)

House Sparrows can be found all across the world. They are so common in most cities that they are sometimes overlooked. Their name House comes from their success with the living near human habitations.

Male House Sparrows have a rusty-brown colored back and wings with black streaks, a gray head, buff cheeks and belly, and a black bib. Females are a plain buffy-brown overall with striped buff, black, and brown back.

Between 1874 and 1876 a few House Sparrows were brought over from England and were released in Jackson and Owosso, Michigan to control insect infestations on crops. They quickly multiplied into thousands as they raised three to five broods per year regularly, each brood averaging around five babies.

However in many other parts of the world the house sparrow has been in decline since the 1970’s. They are even considered an endangered species in the Netherlands. Similar drops in population have been recorded in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Italy and Finland.

At the feeders you will see the House Sparrow eating mainly sunflower seed, millet and cracked corn.
 
The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with Wild Birds Unlimited, as a sponsor! The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers like you helps track the health of bird populations at a scale that would not otherwise be possible.

Related Articles:
- Why should we care about birds? http://goo.gl/4iD8a
- How to get rid of sparrows http://goo.gl/9tAwkY
- How to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count http://gbbc-is-coming
- Book Recommendations for Michigan Birdwatchers http://bit.ly/x5t2gv
- Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/ywWdfL

Monday, January 30, 2017

#GBBC: The Northern Cardinal

Get to know the Northern Cardinal before The Great Backyard Birdcount (#GBBC)

Except for a black mask and throat, the male Northern Cardinals are red all over including their bill. The females are less recognizable. They are shaped like the male but are a duller grey brown color and have only warm red accents on the tips of their crest, wings and bill.

Cardinals are a delightful year-round resident in mid-Michigan and prefer tangled shrubby bushes and evergreens in yards with feeders. They form faithful pair bonds, and will visit feeders together commonly in the early morning and evening. Both birds sing to one another throughout the seasons with soft, bubbly whistles and when females incubate eggs in the spring the she keeps in contact with the male by singing on the nest, to inform her partner whether or not she and the young need food. So if you see the bright red male cardinal, look and listen for the "chip, chip, chip" of the less conspicuous female cardinal.

Cardinals prefer to feed on the ground so if you can "raise the ground" by feeding cardinals on tray feeders, hopper feeders or any feeder that gives them a comfortable feeding position they'll be happy. Their favorite food is oil sunflower, nuts, safflower and fruit. Wild Birds Unlimited has a wide variety of cardinal friendly feeders.

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

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Can wild birds eat chia or flax seed?

I have a lot of left over flax seed, could I feed these seeds to the birds?
This titmouse chooses the high fat, high protein peanut first.
Wild bird survival is all about food. In all bird feeding studies, flax seed is almost ignored completely. Chia seeds haven't been studied. When choosing a seed blend to feed wild birds I always make sure sunflower is the first ingredient. I also like seed blends with nuts. Sunflower seed is the favorite of most seed eating birds like cardinals, finches and doves and the peanuts will attract bug eating birds like chickadees, wrens, jays, titmice, and woodpeckers.

To make the most of your birdseed budget, choose seeds that attract the birds you want to watch. The following shows the results of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service studies on food preferences of birds:
a) Black oil – Fresh oil sunflower seed is attractive to most seed eating bird species.
b) Striped – The larger shell is harder for some birds to crack but Tufted Titmice and Blue Jays prefer.
2. Peanut pieces – Are attractive to numerous species. Lots of bug or suet eating birds choose peanuts for their high protein and fat levels.
3. White Proso Millet – Is the preferred food for ground feeding birds like juncos, doves and sparrows.
4. Safflower seed – This was not included in USFWS studies but is a favorite of House Finches and is considered acceptable to most other bird species except blackbirds and starlings. (Squirrels don't seem to care for it either.)
5. Nyjer (Thistle) - Is not related to weed thistles. The high fat content and small seed shape makes it attractive to finches.
6. Cracked Corn - Eaten about one-third as often as white proso millet and attracts blackbirds.
7. Red Proso Millet – It can be used as a substitute for white proso; however, not as preferred
8. Golden (German) Millet – Is the least preferred of the millets
9. Milo (sorghum) – Large red round seed found in a lot of cheap blends. It is unattractive generally to all species. Jays, cowbirds, and grouse may eat it in Michigan. More of the western ground feeding birds might eat milo.
10. Oats - Only starlings found hulled oats attractive.
11. Wheat – Unattractive to most species.
12. Canary seed - Unattractive to most species. House Sparrows and cowbirds will eat canary seed.
13. Flax seed - Almost completely ignored.
14. Rape seed (canola seed) - Least attractive feed in the study. Quail and doves may eat.

Where to Purchase Seed
We have tons of fresh seed delivered every week to our Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI. Our seed is also sifted to take out all the sticks and field debris. 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. We also carry a wide variety of other bird foods—suet, seed cylinders, mealworms, and more.

What is your best blend?
For the East Lansing  Wild Birds Unlimited store, customers’ preference by far is WBU No-Mess Blend. Our unique No-Mess Blend contains sunflower seeds, peanut pieces and white proso millet without the shells. No shells on the seeds make for a tidier feeding area, since there's nothing on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything happily.

Related Articles:

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cardinals begin singing for mates

Walking into the store today I heard a beautiful Northern Cardinal Male singing loudly. Male cardinals start singing the last week of January, triggered by hormones and increasing daylight. Most cardinals form pair bonds around February-April. Males and females that have paired up in previous seasons are often the first to pair up as the new breeding season begins, sometimes even as early as January.

As the courtship continues both the male and female begin to sing duets. Cardinals can sing several different song types but during the duets they coordinate songs. Scientists think this is another way for the female to determine her potential mate’s quality. Listen for them singing cheer, cheer, cheer or birdie, birdie, birdie.

Next the males bring tasty treats that they feed to the females. A male’s ability to forage efficiently and provide good quality food is an important consideration for a female that depends on a male to provide food for her while she is incubating eggs and later feed her babies.

Source: Wild Bird Guides-Northern Cardinal by Gary Ritchison

Related Articles:
Why Birds Keep Attacking the Window? http://bit.ly/z0Z8Va
How to Attract Cardinals http://bit.ly/zdXWDV
Why Cardinals Flock http://bit.ly/zocRzC
How Birds Mate http://bit.ly/zRvpJ1
Why Cardinals are Different Colors http://bit.ly/xonnDU
Cardinals weren't Always Residents of Michigan http://bit.ly/ycWUCm

Friday, January 27, 2017

Photo Share: Kitty #Cat TV

If you get home too late and need that birdwatching fix here are a couple videos you and your family can enjoy in the evening. Some days I'm tempted to just get her an iPad of her own.

seahue Birds (44 minutes) https://youtu.be/F6TYVNfw7Aw
Algonquin Park Bird Feeder Friday https://youtu.be/yATu1hIEu6c

Thursday, January 26, 2017

#HappyBirthdayMichigan


- On January 26, 1837, President Andrew Jackson signed a bill making Michigan the nation's 26th state.
- "Michigan" is believed to come from the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigami, meaning "great water" and referred originally to Lake Michigan itself.
- The Great Lakes account for one-fifth of the world's surface freshwater supply.
- Detroit is known as the car capital of the world.
- Alpena is the home of the world's largest cement plant.
- Rogers City boasts the world's largest limestone quarry.
- Elsie is the home of the world's largest registered Holstein dairy herd.
- Colon is home to the world's largest manufacture of magic supplies.
- The city of Novi was named from its designation as Stagecoach Stop # 6 or No.VI.
- The state Capitol with its majestic dome was built in Lansing in l879.
- The Kellogg Company has made Battle Creek the Cereal Capital of the World. The Kellogg brothers accidentally discovered the process for producing flaked cereal products and sparked the beginning of the dry cereal industry.
- Vernors ginger ale was created in Detroit and became the first soda pop made in the United States. In 1862, pharmacist James Vernor was trying to create a new beverage when he was called away to serve our country in the Civil War. When he returned, 4 years later, the drink he had stored in an oak case had acquired a delicious gingery flavor.
- The Detroit Zoo was the first zoo in America to feature cageless, open-exhibits that allowed the animals more freedom to roam.
- In 1817 the University of Michigan was the first university established by any of the states. Originally named Cathelepistemian and located in Detroit the name was changed in 1821. The university moved to Ann Arbor in 1841.
- Michigan State University was founded in 1855 and is the largest institution of higher learning in the state and one of the largest universities in the country.

State Symbols:
Bird - American Robin
Fish - Brook Trout
Reptile - Painted Turtle
Wildflower - Dwarf Lake Iris
Flower - Apple Blossom
Tree - White Pine
Stone - Petoskey Stone
Fossil - Mastodon


Sources:
Related Articles:  
Countries' National Birds http://bit.ly/ythN8H
Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://bit.ly/A7TrNc
American Robin named by early settlers http://bit.ly/yixGan
Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/yFYkRA
Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/AhVJ9p

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

#GBBC: Black-capped Chickadee

Get to know the Black-capped Chickadee before The Great Backyard Birdcount (#GBBC)

All chickadees wear caps and Michigan's Black-capped Chickadee is no exception. Their cap and bib are black, which sets off their white cheeks and belly. Their soft gray back and wing feathers complete their dapper outfit.

Mid-Michigan's chickadees are non-migratory and will be around all winter. New fall and winter flocks have been forming for awhile. Normal suburban flocks range from 6 to 10 birds over a territory of 20 to 50 acres.

Young chickadees leave their parents about a month after they’ve hatched. They leave their natal territory and individually take up residence with other non-related chickadees several miles away. These first year chickadees have the lowest status in the group and try to pair up with a mate they can be with next breeding season and move up in rank as dominant birds die.

The average lifespan of a chickadee in the wild is 2.5 years. Keeping their little half ounce body working efficiently requires a lot of fuel. From sunrise to sunset, the chickadee spends most of its time feeding. The natural diet of the Black-capped Chickadee consists of 50% insects, insect eggs, larvae and pupae, as well as spiders, and 50% seeds and berries in the winter. During the summer it is 70% bugs and 30% plants.

An ample supply of foods, such as good seed blends, suet, seed cylinders, or nuts, provide a lot of calories to produce energy in cold weather.

Related Articles:
- Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://goo.gl/bEl3h 
- Quiz on Chickadees http://goo.gl/0cI03 
- Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://goo.gl/jAtN5 
- Fun Facts about the different Chickadees in North America http://bit.ly/zIDkCi 
- Not a Shy Bird: How the Black-capped Chickadee Communicates http://goo.gl/1rlnh

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

#GBBC: Dark-eyed Junco

Get to know the Dark-eyed Juncos before The Great Backyard Birdcount (#GBBC)

Dark-eyed Juncos have a slate colored head, back, tail and throat and a white belly. Right before they perch or when they face another bird, they raise and fan their tails, flashing white outer tail feathers.

It is common to see juncos hopping under Michigan feeders in the winter first thing in the morning and right before sunset. They are a very social birds after nesting is complete during the autumn and winter months. Winter flocks tend to be small, typically 15 to 25 individuals.

You’ll see Dark-eyed juncos wintering in the same area year after year. The flock stays in an area roughly 10 to 12 acres in size, but not all members of the flock are together all of the time.

There is a social hierarchy within the winter flocks. Males tend to be dominant over females and adults are dominant over the younger birds. Because males are dominant over females in winter flocks, females have less access to food. Therefore, they do not fair well in flocks composed of many males. Females tend to winter farther south away from the males.

Males need to risk harsh winters in Michigan in order to be closer to their breeding grounds. Females do not need to compete for territories in the spring and can take their time returning from southern states. The younger males winter the farthest north and must work hard to claim a breeding spot in early spring.

Juncos, like many other members of the sparrow family, eat a variety of insects and seeds mainly on the ground. What seeds they prefer can differ across the country.

Black oil sunflower seeds, millet, safflower, peanuts and peanut butter suet are some of the most popular foods that attract juncos to tray or ground bird feeders. You’ll also see the juncos scratching for grass seeds or insects in leaf litter and pine needles. 

Related Articles:
- How to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count http://gbbc.birdcount.org/get-started/
- Fun Facts About Juncos http://bit.ly/pgewJn
- What birds like Safflower seed? http://bit.ly/puRjIr
- Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/nURO99
- Michigan’s Top 20 Winter Backyard Birds http://bit.ly/pwEqIz

Monday, January 23, 2017

2017 Great Backyard Bird Count is just around the corner

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Bees swarm bird food

What happens to the bees in this warm winter?

Honeybees head to the hive when temperatures drop into the 50s. They don’t hibernate, instead the worker bees surround the queen and form a winter cluster with their bodies. They flutter their wings and shiver to keep the inside temperature of the hive warm. In order to keep shivering, the bees must maintain their energy by eating honey.

The mild winter weather has encouraged bees to start foraging in mid-January, and unfortunately this requires more energy than usual. You will first notice hungry winter bees, if you feed dried fruit, cracked corn or grain sorghum (milo) in bird feeders because there are no flowers available to provide pollen.

Honey Bees sip carbohydrate-rich nectar from flowers and collect protein-rich pollen to make honey and food for their young. The protein is essential for the hive in the spring to feed newly hatched larvae. Even though corn is high in carbs, its kernels do contain some protein, so worker bees gather corn dust to take back to the hive.

Honey bees are unable to carry seeds back to the hive and process them for food. However they will carry small grains of the dust in their pollen baskets on their hind legs, and can even empty a bird feeder trying to get to this dust.

These early bees are only territorial of their hive and tend to only sting when immediately threatened. Birds still may be intimidated by the presence of the bees. If the bees are a problem switch to Wild Birds Unlimited blends that do not include corn or cheap filler grains like milo, so bees won’t be attracted.

Make sure to clean your feeder first before you switch seed blends to remove any remaining dust. You could also try to distract the bees from you feeder with an alternative source of food.

If you have bees showing up looking for food in the winter you can feed them a solution of 2 parts white sugar to one part water in a shallow dish. I only feed birds but some beekeepers feed brewer's yeast to their honeybee colonies to help them survive the lean times. You can read more at: How to Feed Brewer's Yeast to Honey Bees | eHow.com

And make sure to landscape with a lot of native wild flowers, trees and plants that bloom and produce fruit. This is not only good for the bees and birds but also for our environment.

Related Articles:
Do Honey Bees Migrate in the Winter? http://bit.ly/KIuKKv
When did people start to feed hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/KIuSK6
What’s the best bee-proof hummingbird feeder? http://goo.gl/1RmNs
Choosing the best bird seed http://goo.gl/jrpDX
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh
What is pollen? http://goo.gl/JlV9D

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Why squirrels eat upside down

A lot of squirrel territory is the vertical, navigating up and down the trunks of a trees. They find a nut on the ground and run to a tree trunk to eat out of the view of predators. Because they have the treat in their hands, they only have their feet to secure them to a safe perching area. Fortunately they have well-developed claws in both the front and hind feet to latch on to rough surfaces.

They also can feed comfortable headfirst down trees by swiveling their back ankle joints. Squirrels can maneuver quickly and gracefully thanks to a special adaptation where their ankles, or wrists, articulate. The squirrel may be heading down the trunk but its feet and claws point upward, enabling a good grip on the bark and a speedy dexterous descent.

Related Articles:
What's the Difference Between a Groundhog & Woodchuck? http://bit.ly/z5FPoV
Singing Birds Herald The Arrival of Spring. http://bit.ly/uJbzCe
Love and the Birds: The Origin of St. Valentine's Day http://bit.ly/w5ra8B
Is hibernation more of a nightmare than a pleasant dream? http://bit.ly/y2OGr6
Origin of National Squirrel Appreciation Day! http://bit.ly/AhqkBg