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.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Birds switch abruptly to fly-by-night behavior at migration time

Each year, billions of songbirds set out on late winter evenings to fly to their breeding grounds. New research finds that migrating birds change abruptly from diurnal (daytime) to nocturnal activity immediately before departure. They take to the air on starry nights between dusk and midnight.

In late winter and early spring, the numbers and variety of birds appearing in your yard can actually change every morning as many small songbirds arrive. Species such as warblers, vireos, orioles, grosbeaks, tanagers, buntings, blackbirds and sparrows all migrate overnight.

It is not uncommon for birds to lose one-fourth to one-half of their body weight as they migrate thousands of miles. Make sure your yard is ready for the influx by creating a “stopover site” with plenty of food, water and shelter.

More information: Daniel Zúñiga et al. Abrupt switch to migratory night flight in a wild migratory songbird, Scientific Reports (2016). DOI: 10.1038/srep34207

Related Articles:
- The Journey North: Bird Migration Maps http://bit.ly/pbk4Eb
- Great Horned Owl Singing at Night http://bit.ly/qKeKDM
- Are Horned Larks Common in Mid-Michigan? http://bit.ly/qmAbt7
- How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/qa0CVU

Friday, February 24, 2017

Photo Share: Barred owls sounds

This medium-sized owl with liquid dark eyes is best known for its vocalizations. The typical
call is described as who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-all”. During the breeding season
of mid-to-late winter, this call carries well through the woods. While courting, mated pairs also perform a riotous duet of cackles, hoots, caws and gurgles.

Related Articles:
- Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/t6elFd
- 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

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Does the warm weather mean birds will arrive early?

Studies have found that spring migration times have advanced over time and as spring has come earlier. Migratory songbirds, use weather and light changes as cues to tell them when it's time to migrate, but with the earth now getting hotter each year, birds can no longer rely on the once predictable climate. Now if the weather is good and there is food to support the journey north, we may see the birds early. Migrating birds follow the blooms and bugs. I’ve already had reports of blackbirds, robins, cranes and other waterfowl arriving.

In North America, the continuous trend in higher temperatures could delay the birds’ migration south or stop it all together. Recent research has found in fact that this very pattern is happening in the population of American Robins, Northern Flickers, Eastern Bluebirds and Carolina Wrens of Michigan, who are increasingly deciding not to leave.

The advantage of sticking around all year is that they get prime nesting spots. On the flip side, birds that migrate much longer distances are less affected by the temperature changes, the researchers found. That means they now arrive behind everyone else and get crowded out of nesting locations and breeding sites.

If you want to check the maps or report the sighting of a bird go to www.hummingbirds.net to check the status of hummingbirds and http://www.learner.org/jnorth/maps/Maps.html for a lot of other spring sightings.

Research studies:
Usui, T., Butchart, S. H. M. and Phillimore, A. B. (2017), Temporal shifts and temperature sensitivity of avian spring migratory phenology: a phylogenetic meta-analysis. J Anim Ecol, 86: 250–261. DOI:10.1111/1365-2656.12612
and
Adrienne Berchtold et al, Experimental temperature manipulations alter songbird autumnal nocturnal migratory restlessness, Animal Migration (2017). DOI: 10.1515/ami-2017-0001

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How to attract robins to your yard

I've had some customers tell me they already have some American Robins calling for mates in their yards. Robins have always been a welcome and reassuring neighbor announcing spring. The American Robin was named by early British colonists after the friendly European Robin they left behind.
There are a few things you can do to invite robins to nest in your yard.
1. Water - A clean bath full of fresh water is a good way to draw robins to the yard. Water is a powerful attraction and will increase the number and variety of birds visiting your yard.

2. Food - You can feed robins chopped apples, suet, mealworms, or nuts on a tray feeder. I like to put out a Wild Birds Unlimited Cranberry Fare seed block that is full of pecans and fruit when the robins visit.

3. Landscape - For roosting and nesting, robins like evergreens and they like to eat a variety of fruits and nuts in the winter. Some fruit and nut trees are pecans, walnuts, acorns, apples, cherries, and dogwood fruit from trees and the berries of blackberries, blueberries, greenbrier, honeysuckle, juneberries, juniper, madrone, mountain ash, mulberry, pokeberry, pyracantha, raspberry, sassafras, serviceberry, spiceberry, sumac, viburnum, and woodbine.

4. Nesting material - The American Robins choose their Michigan nesting territories in March and they are excited to start nesting. That means they need a lot of Nesting Material like grasses and mud to build the perfect nest. The nest is usually located 5 to 15 feet above ground in a dense bush or evergreen, in the crotch of a tree, or on window ledges or other human shelves. Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI also has nesting platforms.  Mount the shelf on a building in a sheltered site, under the eaves or soffits, or over a light fixture.

5. Chemical free lawn - In the spring the robins' diet changes from mostly fruit, nuts and berries to insects and worms. According to the (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center, many birds die each year from landscape pesticides, when they eat pesticide granules or eat poisoned insects. To reduce or eliminate your use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides use disease- and pest-resistant plants, cultivate native plant species, and reduce the lawn area. If you manage your yard naturally, you can increase
Watch the video of a man that helps a baby robin dig for worms: https://youtu.be/yyFjRXHJa6I

Related Articles:

Why are the Robins Attracted to Water? http://bit.ly/qP9aTs
Fledgling Robins Find Their Way http://bit.ly/pqrhSL
Fun Facts About The American Robin http://bit.ly/n9CSni
Bird of the Week: American Robin http://bit.ly/pnUKqk
Why robins are called Robin  http://why-robins-are-called-robin.html

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dawn Chorus is the bird’s version of Facebook

You may have noticed that as the days get longer, the birds begin to sing more. A key part of a bird’s brain is affected by seasonal change. When birds are exposed to longer days, hormones stimulate the pituitary gland indirectly to prepare birds’ bodies for the breeding season and results in increased singing.

Birds can sing at any time of day, but during the dawn chorus their songs are often louder, livelier, and more frequent. Early morning, light levels are too dim for birds to do much foraging but it’s a great opportunity to sing.

Also singing loud and proud first thing in the morning tells everyone within hearing distance that you were strong and healthy enough to survive the night. This is attractive to potential mates, and lets your competitors know you’re still around and in charge of your territory.

If you feed more, birds will sing more
In a recent study, early morning songs of two groups of birds were recorded and compared; one group had received supplemental food and the other had received no additional food. “The researchers found that well-fed birds sang more than the birds left to fend for themselves. This suggests that singing is an announcement or a “badge of status” based on the conditions the bird finds itself in. The dawn chorus is a social network, the bird’s version of Facebook, where they update their neighbors and potential mates about what is happening in their lives.”

So keep your feeders full. Food is the most essential element, providing birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition they need. Birds are starting to choose nesting territories and will be looking for food, water, nesting material and nesting boxes. In return, for our support, we receive beautiful bird song and a backyard that is bird family-friendly.

Related Articles:
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/H42e6s
- What seeds wild birds eat http://goo.gl/Un35yR
- What to do if you have soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
- Early birds also get the best mates http://early-birds-also-get-best-mates.html

- How Birds Sing http://how-do-birds-sing.html

Monday, February 20, 2017

#GreatBackyardBirdcount #GBBC: 2017 Halftime Update

Jungle Owlet in India
February 19, 2017
Nearly 5,000 species have been reported so far, including stunners documented with photos such as Blakiston’s Fish-Owl in Japan, and Jungle Owlet in India.

Compared to the very cold winters of the past two years, this year’s GBBC has been relatively warm. Some early migrants (e.g., geese, Sandhill Cranes) have been seen on the move. There has also been more open water around, which has increased the diversity of waterfowl in northern areas. Another species dependent on open water, Belted Kingfisher, has been able to stay farther north this winter than it has in the past couple colder winters when more ponds and rivers have frozen.

Kirtland’s Warbler on Key Biscayne
Never-before-seen in the United States during the GBBC is a Kirtland’s Warbler on Key Biscayne, just outside of Miami. One of the rarest warblers in the world, Kirtland’s Warbler breeds almost exclusively in Michigan and winters almost exclusively in the Bahamas. This bird may have moved to Florida instead due to hurricane damage in the Bahamas (or could just be an explorer!). It was nicely photographed for the GBBC.

The GBBC is about 12% ahead of  last year at this point:
Checklists: 78,119
Species: 4,928

The numbers change fast, so check out the world rankings to see the latest.

In the United States, the top 10 right now for the number of checklists submitted:
Bald Eagle by Bill Gordon, Massachusetts, 2017 GBBC

New York
Pennsylvania
Florida
California
Texas
Virginia
Ohio
Michigan
Washington
North Carolina

See the latest numbers for the U.S. and how your state is doing in comparison. If you click on the name of a state, you can see exactly what birds have been reported there.

Let’s keep this great Great GREAT Backyard Bird Count going strong!

#GBBC: American Goldfinch

Winter color
The 20th annual GBBC is taking place worldwide February 17-20, 2017. Information gathered and reported online at birdcount.org will help scientists track changes in bird distribution, some of which may be traced unusual weather patterns.

Get to know American Goldfinch for the The Great Backyard Birdcount (#GBBC)

Unlike many birds, goldfinches molt their body feathers twice a year. They have bright, attractive yellow feathers in the spring before breeding and much denser olive brown feathers after nesting in the fall. 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.

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.
Male and female American Goldfinches in Summer colors
American Goldfinches are common feeder visitors and prefer Nyjer® (thistle) and sunflower seeds. I have dozens of goldfinches right now attacking my window feeder full of No-Mess Blend, a seed blend full of sunflower seeds without the shell.

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.

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a free, fun, and easy event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations. Participants are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the four-day event and report their sightings online at birdcount.org. Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from beginning bird watchers to experts, and you can participate from your backyard, or anywhere in the world.

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, February 19, 2017

#GBBC: House Finch

Get to know the House Finch for the The Great Backyard Birdcount (#GBBC)
Male and Female House Finch
House Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) are a familiar sight at mid-Michigan bird feeders if you offer sunflower, safflower or Nyjer® (thistle) seed. These talkative little 6 inch birds get their name from their habit of hanging around human houses. Their cheery warble and variety of chirps are a constant around the feeders and you may find their nests in your hanging baskets, wreaths, or nearby pine trees.

They are very good at adapting. The House Finch was not always a local bird. In 1940, they were captured illegally in California and imported to New York by pet dealers. Fearing prosecution, the dealers released their “Hollywood Finches” on Long Island and since then the finches have spread to all corners of the east and have even rejoined their relatives in the west.

Adult males are rosy red around the face and upper breast, with streaky brown back, belly and tail. Adult females aren’t red; they are plain grayish-brown with thick, blurry streaks and an indistinctly marked face.

You can help scientist learn more about House Finches and other birds in our area by participating in the Great Backyard Birdcount. Anyone anywhere in the world can count birds for at least 15 minutes on one and enter their sightings at www.BirdCount.org. 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. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with Wild Birds Unlimited, as a sponsor!

Related Articles:
- 10 Winter Finches in Michigan: http://bit.ly/oL3iCF 
- Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/pXv5ZN
- How to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count http://gbbc-is-coming
- How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh  
- How to Prepare Your Yard for Winter Birdwatching http://bit.ly/q93Men 
- What is the best bird feeder? http://bit.ly/qVr7i8

#GBBC: Tufted Titmouse

Get to know Tufted Titmouse for the The Great Backyard Birdcount (#GBBC)
Tufted titmice are about 6 inches long and have wingspans of about 10 inches. Both males and females have white undersides, gray backs, rusty-brown sides, pointed crests on their heads, and large dark eyes. They do not migrate extensively and are common year-round in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

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 striped and oil 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

Saturday, February 18, 2017

#GBBC: Blue Jay

Get to know Blue Jays before the The Great Backyard Birdcount (#GBBC)
It was so beautiful this morning I couldn't wait to walk to the Wild Birds Unlimited store. I heard a lot of bird songs; Cedar Waxwings over the school, cardinals, chickadees and goldfinches in the trees, and is that a Red-tailed Hawk I hear? Can't fool me! It was a Blue Jay in the tree right next to the sidewalk. I told the jay, "I mean no harm jay, just enjoying the day."

The Blue Jay is a large common songbird at most mid-Michigan bird feeders. With their perky crest, blue, white, and black plumage and a large variety of noisy calls. Like other members of the corvid family, jays are pretty good mimics; they commonly impersonate Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks. But their most common call is a loud jay jay along with other clear whistled notes and gurgling sounds.

Sometimes I give a whistle as I fill the feeders to alert a scout bird that their is food available. He reports back to the family with his whistle and soon I have a family of jays visiting, along a whole community of other birds. I fill my many different feeders regularly with the best Wild Birds Unlimited Seed Blends along with nuts, sunflower seeds, and suet.

Related Articles:
- Why do Birds Scatter Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/w4vRPP
- Blue Jays aren't blue http://bit.ly/roVPVX
- What Feeder Do You Recommend for Blue Jays? http://bit.ly/txd8ja
- Blue Jay Fun Facts http://goo.gl/wJgMmJ
- Do birds know winter is coming? http://goo.gl/EilIa6
- Why Blue Jays go bald in the fall http://goo.gl/gAX3x

Grow a miniature garden


Mini Woodland Planters

Spring may come early this year and now you get a jump start on a mini garden. For a limited time Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing has a couple cute items that let you watch some greens grow.

Cat tested and Dolly approved, these cute little planters come with a peat pellet and wheat grass seed. Grass can be an attractive addition to your home, and a welcome treat for your indoor cat, year around.

Once the grass is gone you can grow more or use the planter to hold pens or other miniature plants.

For those with green thumbs or not so green, just to add water and watch it grow. Choose one or bundle all three together!