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, August 16, 2018

Burke Lake Banding Station: Free educational fun for the whole family outdoors

Banding a Northern Cardinal
Burke Lake Banding Station is open to visitors – anyone can come and observe the banding, and long-term data collection on the health of the bird community. Part of their mission is to engage with the locals to provide opportunities to connect with nature through hands-on experiences. This creates enthusiasm and appreciation for natural resources and fosters an intrinsic value of wildlife. Would you like to become more involved at the station? Volunteers help in all sorts of ways!
 
Measuring the wingspan of indigo bunting
1. Where Burke Banding station located? The station is in Bath, Michigan, just to the northeast of Lansing, MI. The parking area of our station is located on the north side of Clark Rd, almost exactly 1 mile east from the Clark Rd/Upton Rd intersection. Once you arrive, follow the signs to the station. Please note the signs are only up when they are open. If you do not see signs then the site is closed! This is usually due to rain, as it is unsafe to catch birds in the rain.
2. When is it open? In 2018 they are open August 18- Oct 15. Please check the online BULA Calendar for the days and times.
3. What can we expect when we arrive? When you arrive to the parking area you will follow the arrows on the BULA signs to the banding tent, which is roughly a 2-5 minute walk. You will see our tent in a clearing and likely people in the area. If you do not see people, that means everyone went on a net run to collect the birds. PLEASE, stay at the tent until they are back.
4. Can we help take birds out of the nets? No, all of the staff and regular, dedicated interns are listed under the Director’s master’s permit. However, if you are interested in being a dedicated volunteer please talk with the Site Coordinator, Site Director, or Bander about opportunities. There is one-on-one training for dedicated individuals.

Read more FAQ on the www.burkelakebanding.com website

You can also visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BULAbirds 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Best time to observe the finches

If you love watching bird behavior, there is nothing as fun as observing the American Goldfinches. These small bright yellow and black birds have a roller-coaster flight and a lovely song. They roam from garden to garden making the flowers dance as they eat seed heads until late summer when they choose a territory where they will nest.

While most birds have finished nesting and some are flying south, the American Goldfinches delay the start of their nesting behavior until the thistles and other flowers come into bloom so they can anticipate an abundant and reliable supply of seeds for their young. 
Loud, incessant demands for food and fluttering wings help you identify baby finches pretty quick. The immature American goldfinch has a dull brown back, and the underside is pale yellow. The shoulders and tail are dull black with two buff-colored wing bars, rather than an adult’s white. This coloration is the same in both male and female babies.

With so many mouths to feed there are often squabbles at the feeders for perches. I have 5 Finch Feeders, as well as Seed and cylinder feeders and a lot of natural foods like coneflowers and they still are pecking for positions. These friendly squabbles, beautiful songs, and bright colors are why they are one of my favorite birds.
Related Articles: 
Common winter birds in Michigan and their food preference: http://bit.ly/yp9YQA
How to choose the best suet cake http://bit.ly/xATYPQ
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh
How to winterize your bird feeding station http://bit.ly/xucuF8
Why do Birds Scatter Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/vZ6gzM
Why Wild Birds Unlimited is best for the budget https://best seed.html
Feeder Fresh: Prevent your seed from becoming moldy https://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2011/12/feeder-fresh-prevent-your-seed-from.html

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Budget friendly bird feeding tips

I started feeding my finches a good blend from Audubon and they refuse to eat any other. What do I do. This food is expensive and we have MANY finches. Thanks for your help. 
At the feeders goldfinches like to eat Nyjer® (thistle) and Sunflower seeds. Don't get any blend with filler seeds the birds don't like such as canary grass seed, millet, or flax seed for the goldfinches.

Nyjer® (pronounced NYE-jer) is a trademarked name for a little black seed used by the wild bird feeding industry that is favored by the finches. Nyjer's high oil content makes it an excellent energy source for active birds, and it's best used in our specially designed finch feeders. Sunflower seeds can come with or without the shell. Birds prefer the seeds without the shell (Sunflower chips) because every minute at the feeder is a minute a predator can attack. I prefer sunflower chips because they don't leave much debris on the ground to clean up and usually don't sprout. But sometimes fresh black oil sunflower in the shell can seem like a less expensive option. You can read more about that at  Sunflower chips vs. Sunflower in the shell https://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2018/05/no-waste-vs-in-shell-bird-seed.html

It is important to keep the food fresh because finches can be picky eaters. Nyjer and sunflower chips are vulnerable to spoilage while in the tube. Once seed starts to get moldy or becomes stale, finches will look for alternatives. Replace food in finch feeders every three to four weeks if it is not being eaten actively. Store your seed in a cool dry spot for a longer shelf life, and buy in quantities that will be used up in a few weeks.

In addition to feeders, the right native plants, arranged to mimic natural ecosystems, will provide birds with food, water, shelter, and nesting places. You can find which plants birds like by going to the National Audubon Society’s Plants for Birds website, here. Type in your zip code, and you will see a list of native plants that benefit local bird species, as well as local resources and links to more information.

I am watching my birds bounce from the feeders to the heads of sunflowers and coneflowers, for fresh seeds. Thank you for your question. Check with your local Wild Birds Unlimited store for more specific advice. https://www.wbu.com/store-locator/

Related Articles: 
Common winter birds in Michigan and their food preference: http://bit.ly/yp9YQA
How to choose the best suet cake http://bit.ly/xATYPQ
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh
How to winterize your bird feeding station http://bit.ly/xucuF8
Why do Birds Scatter Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/vZ6gzM
Why Wild Birds Unlimited is best for the budget https://best seed.html
Feeder Fresh: Prevent your seed from becoming moldy https://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2011/12/feeder-fresh-prevent-your-seed-from.html

Monday, August 13, 2018

House Finch female

House Finches are non-migratory. They tend to stay near their nesting areas over winter, but they may wander widely for food. Yard feeders have helped their year-round survival. While the boys have red on the head, upper breast and brown streaks on the belly and flanks, females are plain brown, with heavily streaked white chests. House Finches may be confused with Purple Finches. Purple Finche males have a more reddish color on their upper parts and are not streaked on their abdomens.

Both male and female House Finches sing lovely warbler-like songs and have a sweet, quiet chatter calls that you can hear when they visit feeders. They are very social birds, and after the nesting season, they merge into family flocks for the rest of the year. In groups, females are usually dominant over males.

House Finches are almost strictly vegetarian and approximately 97% of their diet is made up of buds, seeds, and fruits. They are strongly attracted to feeders, with sunflower or safflower seeds. They love my Safflower Seed Cylinder feeder and the fruit and jelly at my oriole feeders.

Related Articles:
- House Finches: Those Year-round Red Heads http://bit.ly/oOPJYR
- Where do you place finch feeders? http://bit.ly/qr78Dd
- How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/rT5Hfj
- Why male and females are a different color http://bit.ly/ueILUf
- Remove all winter wreaths before finches begin nesting in them http://goo.gl/OeyOS

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Summer Robins

This morning on my walk to the Wild Birds Unlimited store I was amazed by the number of American Robins calling at the top of trees. At the end of summer robins wander around in flocks between fruit trees and roost trees in a neighborhood. Their diet switches from mainly bugs to more fruits, nuts, and berries.

When a brood of baby robins fledge, they are taught by both parents for a few days on how to forage for food. Eventually daddy robin leads the juveniles to a well-sheltered stand of trees or shrubs to hang out with other juveniles before he returns alone to start another brood. Young robins learn that being in groups, or flocks, is normal. Robins are territorial on their summer breeding territories, but not at their roosts. Advantages to being in flocks are that more eyes can search for food sources, and be watchful for predators.

To help robins in autumn, you can make your backyard bird-friendly. Leave some dead leaves under trees and shrubs for birds to forage for insects as weather gets cold. Provide cover by not cutting back dead vegetation like dried flowers, and vines. Plant more berry bushes or fruit trees as food sources for robins migrating through, or overwintering in the area.

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

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Hummingbirds loading up!

Hummingbirds are the only birds that can hover in still air for 30 seconds or more. The wings of some species flap up to a hundred times per second. Having a feeder up close lets you watch them in action.
In July, after chicks fledge you may see an increase of hummingbird activity at the feeders. The numbers of birds feeding will grow and then decline as migration begins in late summer and early fall. You will literally see these tiny, skinny hummingbirds loading up for several days and turn into round, rolly-polly birds. Then when the perfect wind blows they head south.

The first wave to depart is mainly made up of male hummingbirds, followed by the females and then the young. In addition to your loyal, frequently feeding hummingbirds, migrants from farther north may stop for a rest and a sugar-water pick-me-up as they are passing through. So keep your feeders clean and full of fresh nectar. If they find you on the way south, they will find you again on the way north next spring.

Keeping your feeders up in the fall will NOT cause hummers to delay migration. Many factors trigger birds to migrate, but the strongest one is day length. As days grow shorter in late summer, hummingbirds get restless and start to head south, regardless of whether there are feeders around.

In fact, several hummingbird accounts in Birds of North America Online also note that feeders may help hummingbirds survive in early spring or late fall when flowers are not in bloom.

Related Articles:
- The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/FQ9iGc
- How Many Species of Hummingbirds are There in Michigan? http://bit.ly/yCeR1c
- Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/FQ9kxU
- When did people start to feed hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/yhfoMG
- How to Stop Your Hummingbird Feeder from Dripping. http://bit.ly/yROgU5
- How Do I Keep Bees Off My Hummingbird Feeder? http://bit.ly/Aj07oq

Friday, August 10, 2018

Photo Share: Eastern Phoebe

Nottingham Nature Nook came in to Wild Birds Unlimited for more mealworms to feed their rescued baby birds. Cheryl is just releasing the Eastern Phoebes that came in as little pipsqueaks. This will give them enough time to learn how to forage and fatten up before they feel the urge to migrate south in September.

They winter along the Gulf Coast and especially heavy concentrations in eastern central Texas and Florida.  Southern limits extend well into Mexico along the Atlantic Coast and in the interior, south to central Veracruz, and west to Chihuahua and also in the Bahamas.

The Eastern Phoebe generally perches low in trees or on fencelines. Phoebes are very active, making short flights to capture insects and very often returning to the same perch. They make sharp “peep” calls in addition to their familiar “phoebe” vocalizations. When perched, Eastern Phoebes wag their tails down and up frequently.

Related articles: -

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Best finch feeders

Finch feeders have very small feeding ports to control the flow of the teeny tiny Nyjer® (thistle) seed but still allow skinny-billed finches to extract a seed. There are two popular styles. One is a stabilized, polycarbonate tube that has a perches for the birds to stand on and pick a seed from a slit in a tube. The other is a mesh tube where the birds cling and pluck seeds from any open spot.

When choosing a finch feeder always look for something easy to fill and easy to clean. The Wild Birds Unlimited finch feeders in East Lansing, MI have Quick-Clean bases that makes maintenance a snap, a Lifetime Guarantee and are also made in the U.S.A. You can’t go wrong!
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One problem people often mention when feeding finches Nyjer® (thistle) is the waste of seed below. Unfortunately as small as nyjer seeds are, the black part on the outside is merely the shell finches split open efficiently to extract the high fat, high protein oil within. So actually what looks like wasted seed is probably just lots of tiny shells. Fortunately this seed has been heat treat so that if one seed does escape a finch’s grasp it won’t sprout.
Another benefit to finch feeders is that the squirrels and larger birds will leave it alone. Goldfinches are the main bird attracted to straight Nyjer® (thistle). A few other birds attracted are House finches, chickadees, sparrows, siskins, doves, buntings, redpolls and juncos.
Related Articles:
Prevent soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a
How to Attract Goldfinches http://bit.ly/A6CwjB
How often do you clean a bird feeder? http://bit.ly/wTk0c7 
Where do you place finch feeders? http://goo.gl/avIs2

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

How to get your finch to return to the feeder

There is just something about a baby goldfinches squeaky voices that bring me great joy! This week I heard the first batch at my feeders at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing. So make sure your feeders are clean and full of fresh seed.

It is common for the goldfinches to stop visiting the feeders for awhile in the spring and early summer, but they return in late summer when they begin nesting. For every two American Goldfinches you may have had at your Feeders during the Spring and early Summer, you'll probably now have another four hungry babies tagging along.

If your seed has been just sitting in the feeder with no customers, take it down, clean it up, and refill it with fresh seed. Goldfinches are pretty finicky. They like the freshest food full of fat and the cleanest feeders. At my house they can get sunflower from the feeders that are filled with the Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess blend. Or they love Finch Feeders filled with Nyjer® (thistle).

American Goldfinches are vegetarians. You can also garden for them with flowers that produce seed heads like milkweed, yarrow, asters, cosmos, black-eyed-Susans or Coneflowers, along with feeders that have Sunflower seed or Nyjer® (thistle).

Related Articles:

Feeders just for the Goldfinches https://goo.gl/ohFQvX
Prevent soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a
How to Attract Goldfinches http://bit.ly/A6CwjB
How often do you clean a bird feeder? http://bit.ly/wTk0c7  

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Image of juvenile American Goldfinch

Most of the blackbirds have finished nesting and have already moved south. Robins and cardinals have stopped their dawn songs. I woke up this morning to no songs. I hope that will not be for long because I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of baby goldfinches to the feeders in my yard!

From mid-August to October most of Michigan will wake up every morning to the tinkling tune of baby goldfinches. They look similar to the females or goldfinches in winter colors and their baby call is a " High, low... high, low, low."
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The immature American goldfinch has a dull brown back, and the underside is pale yellow. The shoulders and tail are dull black with two buff-colored wing bars, rather than an adult’s white. This coloration is the same in both male and female.
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If you still aren’t sure if it is a baby or a female goldfinch, look at the feathers. Young American Goldfinches have fine, clean feathers and the adults will look worn out as they molt their feathers for winter. 

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

Monday, August 6, 2018

Hummingbird tongue

Hummingbirds are truly one of the most fascinating groups of birds on the planet. Out of all birds, they have the fastest metabolism, the largest heart in proportion to body size, the fastest heart and wing beats, the most brilliant feather iridescence and one of the highest rates of nesting success. Hummingbirds are the lightest bird at just 1/10th of an ounce, have the smallest bird brain, can fly up down, forward and backwards but are virtually incapable of walking.

They can consume up to twice their body weight in nectar every day. In order to accomplish this amazing feat, hummingbirds' bills and tongues have evolved into incredibly efficient feeding tools. Despite popular belief, hummingbirds do not feed on nectar by sucking it up with their bills; instead, they actually lap it up with their tongues. They feed by dipping their forked, open-grooved tongues into nectar at up to 12 times a second. Then they use the flexible tip of their bill to capture insects and insect eggs from the ground and on plants. They love spiders and spider eggs.

A great way to see this amazing tongue in action is to use a Wild Birds Unlimited Hummingbird Feeder or a WBU Window Hummingbird Feeder. With their clear plastic bases, you will be able to witness the rapid lapping action of these fascinating hummingbirds.

Related Articles: 
- The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/FQ9iGc
- How Many Species of Hummingbirds are There in Michigan? http://bit.ly/yCeR1c
- Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/FQ9kxU
- When did people start to feed hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/yhfoMG
- How to Stop Your Hummingbird Feeder from Dripping. http://bit.ly/yROgU5
- How Do I Keep Bees Off My Hummingbird Feeder? http://bit.ly/Aj07oq

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Rock Pigeon migration

Hi there, I have had a family (?) of five wood pigeons descend upon my yard this summer - they've apparently found it to be to their liking, because they've stuck around for months (I'm in the Upper Peninsula). I don't remember seeing them last year - do they migrate?
Thanks, Amy
p.s. I believe it's a "rock pigeon" not a "wood pigeon"


The Rock Pigeon is non-migratory, but has a well-developed ability to return home from distant places. That has made them useful in the study of navigation. If you can see them up close check their legs for bands. They may not be wild. On weekends in the Spring and Fall, thousands of racing pigeon fanciers have birds competing in races at distances from 100 to 600 miles. Or sometimes white ones don't make their way home after a release at a wedding or funeral.

Introduced to North America in the early 17th-century by colonists, the Rock Pigeon (formerly the Rock Dove) has a large feral population all across the USA. eBird data provides a detailed look at the range of this species throughout the year: eBird Year-round Range and Point Map for Rock Pigeon.

Domesticated pigeons were used to carry messages, for racing, as well as for food, and pets. Originally from Europe, North Africa, and Asia, pigeons nest on cliffs and forage in distant fields in their native lands. In the US feral pigeons look for cliff substitutes like bridges and buildings and forage in parks. The species successful use of highway infrastructures, has also facilitated their spread to more remote areas. In the countryside they nest on barns and grain towers, under bridges, and on natural cliffs.

Related Articles:
Racing Pigeon makes a pit stop
https://goo.gl/PXfUJk 
Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://bit.ly/wMKEKF
War Pigeon Remembered http://bit.ly/HBhquZ
Bird of the Week: Rock Pigeon http://bit.ly/HBk9V2
Pre-Google Earth: A Real Bird's Eye View http://bit.ly/HBkjMk