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.

Monday, April 30, 2018

When is it too late to put up a tree swallow nest box?

The first Tree Swallows can arrive in Michigan mid-March through April, but bad weather may delay them as late as early May. Nest building begins at end of April to early May (sometimes 5 to 6 weeks after arrival.) It is best to have your bird house cleaned out and ready by February. However weather, or failure of the first nest may require them to abandon one house in search of another unoccupied house that was put up later.

Like bluebirds, Tree Swallows are secondary cavity nesters, meaning they depend on pre-existing nest sites like old woodpecker nests or manmade nest-boxes. They are big bug eaters so their habitat is usually near areas with water, such as fields, marshes, meadows, shorelines, beaver ponds, and wooded swamps.  

Salis.org explains: In late April to Mid-May one egg is laid each day with 4-7 eggs per nest. But sometimes adults leave the nest for days while nesting if they have to forage far away. That makes them very vulnerable to House Sparrow attacks. If this happens you may have to try and install a Sparrow Spooker to deter sparrows or switch the house to a slot nest.

Related Articles:
Ultimate Bird House http://bit.ly/xeGs0e
Feeding and Raising Bluebirds http://bit.ly/A39dAh
How to protect my bird house http://bit.ly/zI48Ts
5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses http://bit.ly/yNT6Ye
When is the best time to put up a bird house? http://bit.ly/yAI123
Bird house that keeps out Sparrows https://goo.gl/TWaqJF
Birds move in to slot-nest birdhouse
https://goo.gl/NdRPg9

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Help hummingbirds nest

Where do hummingbirds nest?

There is no particular tree species in which hummingbirds prefer to nest. They first look for a territory that supplies enough bugs and nectar to support them and their babies. Next they look for a tree that provides proper camouflage and protection from predators.

Hummingbirds usually return to the same general area they were hatched. Female hummingbirds build their nests all alone even before they mate. Male hummingbirds take no part in raising the young. Older females can even return to the location of last year’s nest and rebuild it if the nest has survived the winter.


An attractive nesting tree will have some pencil thin flexible branches that slope downward slightly. The tiny golf ball sized nest, constructed below a leaf canopy and above a fairly open area, starts with spider silk to attach the nest and make it flexible. Lichens camouflage the outside, and the inside is lined with cotton from nesting material, dandelion, cattail, or thistle down.

Courtship is very brief and then two white, pea-sized eggs are laid two or three days apart, which the female will incubate from 60 to 80 percent of the day for 10-14 days. After the babies hatch, the nest stretches to contain the growing nestlings. When they leave the nest, 18-22 days later, the chicks are twice as large as their mother who was stressed by raising them.

If a Ruby-throat nests near your feeder she may appreciate quick bites to eat while incubating eggs. When the chicks hatch, they need lots of protein, so their mother spends a lot time foraging for small insects and spiders. Throwing old banana peels in the garden as compost will attract fruit flies for the hummingbirds and fertilize your garden.

After the chicks leave the nest, mommas will bring these newly fledged hummers to feeders and you can watch them check out everything to see if it is food. It usually takes them awhile to figure out what’s food so fledglings are fed by their mother for another 10 days.

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

If you keep your feeders filled and fresh you should have hummers visiting from April until usually the end of October.

Related Articles:
Hummingbird Information on Habitat and Habits http://bit.ly/It2WwE
Where have my Hummingbirds gone? http://bit.ly/IHzxy3
How Do I Know If It's a Baby Hummingbird? http://bit.ly/IHzCSh
Gardening for birds http://bit.ly/It58nR
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/FQ9kxU

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Birds appreciate a warm welcome this cold spring

We may grumble about the temperature, but the cold is actually not a big problem for birds. They are equipped with several layers of fluffy, insulating down to trap heat, so you won’t see your local robins and blackbirds shivering!

It is finding food and ensuring they eat enough of it to build - and maintain - adequate fat supplies to store on the body and ‘burn’ for energy that are the greatest tests for wild birds in the cold weather.
During cold snaps, you will notice more birds coming into your yard to seek sanctuary and food. Finding a regular source of high-energy food and water can potentially be a real lifesaver. High on the list of best choices to meet this nutritional need is suet and certain seeds like peanuts, sunflower seeds and nyjer seed.
 
Our most popular Wild Birds Unlimited seed blend is No Mess Blend is filled with many of these high fat seeds and nuts making it an ideal food, along with suet, to offer your birds this cold spring.

The Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Seed Cylinder is another way to offer sunflower chips, peanuts, tree nuts and fruit to all the seed, nut and fruit loving birds.

No-Mess Seed Cylinder is a tidy dining option that a lot of birds will enjoy. No shells means no mess and no wasted food, making this seed cylinder a great value. This 100% edible cylinder is great near flower beds patios and decks.  
 
Related articles:
- Why Don't Birds Freeze After They Take a Bath in the Winter? http://goo.gl/5ydpvy
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/z7Eurx
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods http://bit.ly/xbZ9lR
- Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
- Choosing the best bird seed http://goo.gl/jrpDX
- How can birds survive this cold weather? http://goo.gl/4v2d4

Friday, April 27, 2018

Photo Share: Baby Squirrels

I had a customer say she's never seen a baby squirrel. Baby squirrels don't leave the nest until they are fully furred and can survive on their own with a little instruction from mom. Most babies leave the nest in April or May. At this point the babies are clean, fluffy, and fat while the parents look a little ragged. A second litter of babies may leave the nest around August or September. 

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.

Related Articles:

Special squirrel adaptation http://squirrel-adaptation.html
Where squirrels sleep at night in the winter http://squirrels-sleep-at-night.html
Squirrel Dancing http://squirrel-dancing.html
What squirrels eat in the winter http://squirrels-eat-in-winter.html
Red Squirrel facts & figures http://squirrel-funny.html
Where flying squirrels live http://flying-squirrels-live.html
Squirrels Like to Work for Their Food http://squirrels-like-to-work-for-their-food.html
How do I keep squirrels off my bird feeders? http://bit.ly/yiZsML
Squirrel proof bird feeder reviews http://bit.ly/waJs9o
Why are Squirrels Called Squirrels? http://bit.ly/yhktkr
 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Protect your feeders with the best weather guard

With the oncoming rains of spring it is easy to use Feeder Fresh in the seed feeders to absorb any moisture around the seed. But with the nectar, jelly, or mealworm feeders a weather guard is the best way to keep the food getting wet or diluted.

Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing offers several styles and colors of protective domes for a variety of feeders. The bright orange and red domes will also shade the feeders from the sun and entice birds flying over to investigate the colors known to indicate food. Hummingbirds and orioles, like most birds, see very well. They are attracted to brightly colored flowers for food and have learned that brightly colored feeders may also be a source of quick energy.

Related articles:
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/II4RQ4
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/H2U4P4
Hummingbird Information on Habitat and Habits http://bit.ly/H2Ua9s
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/H7xvp3
Fun Facts About Hummingbirds http://bit.ly/II5sBl
Photo Share: Strange visitor at the high-perch hummingbird feeder http://bit.ly/II7dyy

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Feeding bluebirds

Do you have feeders for mealworms?

Wild Birds Unlimited has several varieties of mealworm feeders. The most important thing to look for is a tray or dish that has a lip at least 1 ½ inches high so the worms can't crawl away.

The rule of thumb is to offer about 15 mealworms per bird once or twice a day, as a supplemental food, unless severe weather conditions limit natural sources. That is usually one spoonful. A hundred or so worms offered morning and evening would be adequate for a bird pair with nestlings a week old.
.
Chickadees, wrens, and orioles are pretty quick to figure out a new feeder. Bluebirds need a little time, but it's fun to watch nature up close, and you'll be amused at how quickly a relationship develops between you and the birds! 
Related Articles:
Ultimate Bluebird House http://bit.ly/xeGs0e
Feeding and Raising Bluebirds http://bit.ly/A39dAh
How to Protect My Bluebird House http://bit.ly/zI48Ts
5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses http://bit.ly/yNT6Ye
When is the best time to put up a bird house? http://bit.ly/yAI123
Bluebird House Designs http://bit.ly/w7FWRE

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Female red winged blackbird

Last night there was a wave of female Red-winged Blackbirds dining at the feeders. The Red-winged Blackbird males arrived in early March. Males are easy to identify with their pure black feathers accented with bright red shoulder patches edged in yellow. The female and juvenile are less obvious. They have heavily streaked under parts and mottled brown upperparts and can look like large sparrows.

They thrive in wetland areas but it is likely that this species will begin to feed more at bird feeding stations with the loss of natural habitat. For the most part, red-winged blackbirds feed on whatever they can find, feasting on insects and feeding on seeds and plant material. This helps control insect populations and weed populations through the consumption of seeds.

Flocks of all male or all female birds migrate north from the southern United States and Central America beginning in March and flock back south as early as August after nesting.

Related Articles:
- Red-winged Blackbird facts http://bit.ly/yQPs61
- Blackbird Battle http://bit.ly/xFsHIN
- Red-winged blackbirds attack hawk http://bit.ly/yaudwu

- Watch for the Red-winged Blackbird to announce spring http://goo.gl/ADQLp3

Monday, April 23, 2018

Black and white birds with red chest

Look who’s showing up at the bird feeders!

If you don’t fill the feeder in the spring and summer you are going to miss seeing some really neat birds up close. I can't wait for the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks to arrive!

A relative of the Northern Cardinal, the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks migrate north in April and May in search of breeding grounds in Michigan, southern Canada and the northcentral and northeastern United States. They are a Neotropical migrant, and will return to Mexico, Central America, and South America as early as August.

The name “grosbeak” is from the French word grosbec and means “large beak.” Most are very hungry during migration and take advantage of food offered at feeders. It's quite a sight to see the distinctive black and white male bird with a bright red chest. The females resemble a large brown sparrow with a white eyebrow.

They are very common feeder birds at the beginning of spring preferring sunflower, safflower, suet, fruit, and nuts. I usually find them at my Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Blend. As the bird establishes its nesting territory and the weather changes, over half of their diet is made up of insects. But they always are attracted to the water in a bath.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak nests in deciduous and mixed forests. But the bird is still a bit of a mystery. Its life history has not been well-studied and little is known on their migration routes, dispersal, habitat use, and nutrition during migration and on wintering grounds. Even the species name ludovicianus which means "from Louisiana" doesn't make sense because it is just a migrant there.

If you don’t see them at your feeder keep your ears open. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes the Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) song like that of the robin, only as sung by an opera singer, being mellower and more sweetly melodic. Watch the video: https://youtu.be/NixrHvecZ8c Related Articles:
Large brown sparrow-like bird http://bit.ly/IrwgVk
Juvenile Rose Breasted Grosbeak http://bit.ly/IoVuSG
Average dates for birds return to Michigan the in Spring? http://bit.ly/IMYNQe
When is bird migration over? http://bit.ly/IMZ7OQ
What to know about feeding birds in the spring http://bit.ly/I5s6h9

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Opportunities for bird conservation at home

April 22 is Earth Day, a global event that encourages people to conserve resources and preserve natural habitats. Though people around the world will participate in various festivals, community projects and other environmentally-friendly ventures, you could choose to stay close to home and create a habitat for birds and other wildlife in your backyard.

The average backyard may be visited by 15 to 20 different bird species. However, a bird-friendly yard can attract 60 or more different species. To attract the greatest number of bird species, a habitat must provide at least one of each of these elements: food, water, shelter and a place to raise young.

It’s the perfect time to attract a lot of interesting and colorful birds. Many birds have returned from their fall and winter homes, and they’re looking for places to feed, court and nest.

Offering food can be as simple as hanging a bird feeder in a tree or as ambitious as planting native, fruit-bearing bushes or shrubs. Providing a fresh supply of water with a bird bath will also increase the variety of bird visitors. Birds use water for drinking as well as for bathing and preening their feathers. Clean feathers are important for birds’ health and optimum flying ability.

Landscaping for the ideal wildlife habitat should include plants ranging in size and density from small evergreen shrubs to tall, full-grown trees. The same plants that provide food and shelter can also provide safe areas for many species of wildlife to build nests and raise their families.

Of the world's more than 9,000 species of birds, over 200 are known to breed in Michigan and more than 400 species spend at least some time in the state. The list includes many songbirds ranging from the common American robin to the endangered Kirtland's warbler. 

Related Articles:

Attracting Michigan Songbirds https://goo.gl/WH5Lbi
How do you become a birdwatcher? http://bit.ly/rquunU
Best field guide for Michigan birds http://bit.ly/vPOMx1
What are the Best Binoculars: How to Choose Optics http://bit.ly/vZW26j
Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/vUZynL

Saturday, April 21, 2018

How to feed hummingbirds and orioles

Now that our hummingbirds and orioles are back in Michigan, some of you may need some refreshers on what to do to get ready.

Hummingbird and oriole nectar recipe
To make nectar that is a little bit stronger than flower nectar, use a ratio of 4:1. That would be four parts water to one part plain white sugar. DO NOT use honey, drink mixes, turbinado, brown, powdered or confectioners sugar. These sugars contain too many minerals for the hummingbird's system and can cause illness or death. And red food coloring is NOT necessary or recommended.

Favorite Feeders
It is time to pull those nectar and jelly feeders out from storage and give them a good scrubbing. If you can't remember that safe place you put them last fall and need new feeders, look for something easy to clean and easy to fill. Hummingbird and oriole feeders need to be cleaned and refilled at least every other day once (if) the temperature are above 70 degrees F.

Where to hang feeders
The number one rule in hanging any feeder is to place it where you can watch the birds comfortably. The whole point in bird feeding is to watch these winged wonders up close. Since hummingbirds feed by sight, the second rule is to hang the feeder where they will be able to see it as they fly over your yard. A new feeder may be found sooner if hung near a flower garden or hanging flower basket. Place your hummingbird feeders near bushes to provide perching spots and protection from predators. The height of the feeder is less important. Hummingbirds feed from the flowers on the ground and from the tops of flowering trees or climbing vines.
Best Selling Hummingbird Window Feeder

How to get suction cups to stick

Return some elasticity to the suction cups on your window feeder by placing them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. This will help “reset” the plastic and make it more flexible. Once your suction cups are ready, wash your window. Any grit on the suction cup or window will interfere with the seal. Rub a little finger oil or vegetable oil over the suction cup. Don't use water to stick the feeder to the window. It will just pop off when the temperature changes. Push the suction cups against the window and force out any air bubbles behind the cup. Now you should be set until you want to wash the window again.

Related articles:
My favorite hummingbird and oriole feeders
https://goo.gl/7Zqskd
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/H2U4P4
Hummingbird Information on Habitat and Habits http://bit.ly/H2Ua9s
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/H7xvp3
Fun Facts About Hummingbirds http://bit.ly/II5sBl 

Strange visitor at the high-perch hummingbird feeder http://bit.ly/II7dyy

Friday, April 20, 2018

Photo Share: Mallard Ducks visit

Feathered visitor nesting in your yard this spring
Ducks have been here since 7:30. They are sleeping by the pond in the sunshine now. He is standing on one leg with his head sort of under his wing. So cool!

Mallards choose new mating partners each fall, staying together throughout the winter and into the spring mating season. The female duck always makes the choice for the breeding area because she is homing to the site of her birth or a site where she successfully hatched a nest. Once mating season has ended, the male mallard moves away from the female.





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.

Related Articles:
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Wood Duck Nest Box http://bit.ly/y89U1v
Mallard Nesting Behavior: Can I move the nest? http://bit.ly/xawSdh
Bufflehead: Black and white duck http://bit.ly/MjFhnm

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Large sparrow with reddish back and streaks on the belly

Fox Sparrow from Wikimedia Commons
I had a couple Fox Sparrows join me for breakfast this morning! Mixed among the juncos they were a real stand out because of their large size and red fox-like coloring. Their coloration can vary depending on the region. Ours are generally rust-brown above with a mix of rust and gray on the head, and heavy brownish splotches on the flanks and the center of the chest. The bill can range from yellowish to dark gray.

Fox Sparrows nest across northern Canada and Alaska, and are migrating at night right now from their wintering grounds in the southeastern United States. On their way through Michigan you may see them at feeders from the first week of March, to late April when they stop to refuel.

Fox Sparrows spend a lot of time on the ground, using their sturdy legs to kick away leaf litter in search of insects and seeds. They rarely venture far from cover, and they frequently associate with other sparrows. Sunflower seeds, millet, safflower, peanuts and peanut butter suet are some of the most popular foods that attract sparrows to tray or ground bird feeders.

Related Articles:
White-throated Sparrow fun facts
http://white-throated-sparrow-fun-facts.html
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/oy9XGz
Which one of these birds is not like the others? http://bit.ly/qM1LQt
Chipping Sparrow Juvenile with adult male http://goo.gl/8U5Ud2
How to get rid of sparrows http://goo.gl/9tAwkY

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

How to help the birds

The State of the Birds 2017 report found bird populations declining across several key habitats. But the Farm Bill secures important habitat for more than 100 bird species and is America’s largest source of funding for habitat conservation on private lands. The full report can be found at stateofthebirds.org

How we can help the birds

Provide clean feeders and bird baths
Feeder maintenance: Feeders should be cleaned at least once a month, year round but especially during times of migration. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing - will clean your feeder for $5.00. Or use a one part vinegar to nine parts water solution to clean all of your feeders. That's really important to stop transmission of disease between birds that are under stress.
Bird bath maintenance: Whether they are feeder visitors or not, birds need water for drinking, bathing and preening. Offering a dependable source of water is the simplest and most important step you can take to increase the variety of birds in your yard and help them maintain healthy feathers for flight.

Prevent contact with predators and pesticides
Reduce or eliminate your use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides: 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. It is best to use disease- and pest-resistant plants, cultivate native plant species, and reduce the lawn area.
Cats Indoors! Even the sweetest cats still have the instincts of their wild ancestors. When something flutters by, they must swat it down. Cats allowed to roam outside stalking the songbirds kill billions of birds each year, and for that reason you should never allow your kitty outside.

Keep your windows dirty
Window Decals: This will delight a lot of people about to start spring cleaning. Leave those spotty windows alone so birds will see them. Or you can help prevent collisions with a simple, easy to apply window decals.

Feed your feathered friends
Feeding birds in the Spring: Many prime food sources are depleted in the Spring making it the hardest time for birds to find food. Bird feeders provide an easy source for birds after a long winter or arduous migration. Many birds migrating to their nesting grounds may see yards with lots of bird activity a safe stop-over point.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Dark woodpecker on tree

Female sapsucker comes to visit.
My brother spotted a new bird this weekend. A "dark woodpecker" pecking at the tree outside the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI. I recognized by the silhouette and behavior that it was a sapsucker! I don't see them often but they stop by in the spring and the fall for a little bite before moving on.

They are black and white all over with a yellowish to creamy-white belly. The males have a bright red crown and throat and a black bib. The female yellow-bellied sapsucker is similar in appearance to the male, but can be distinguished by a white rather than red throat. The female’s crown may also be paler red, sometimes mixed with black.

Although insects make up part of its diet, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is better known for its boring of numerous shallow holes in the bark of live trees to obtain sap, hence the name sapsucker. The yellow-bellied sapsucker is the only member of the woodpecker family to tattoo these wells in a row. The neatly organized patches of holes well up with sap that the sapsucker laps up with their brush-like tongue (not sucks). He also eats any bugs that happen to get trapped in the sticky stuff.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers arrive back in mid-Michigan in April from their wintering grounds in the southern U.S., Mexico, West Indies, and Central America. These fresh drilled holes produce sweet sap sources that also benefit migrating hummingbirds, waxwings, and warblers while traveling.

The breeding range of the yellow-bellied sapsucker extends from mid-Michigan up and across the northern United States from east of the Rocky Mountains to Maine and into Canada and Alaska.

Related Articles:
- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a real bird
https://goo.gl/7EHyMB
- Hummingbirds follow the sapsuckers during migration http://bit.ly/oqUDia
- How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/obAc2U
- Fall Trees Reveal Their Secrets http://bit.ly/nHeb9z
- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker: Vampire Bird http://goo.gl/ipdib

Monday, April 16, 2018

Will the snow make bird migration run late?

Strong winds blowing in the wrong direction, unseasonably cold weather, and no bug and flower blooms have slowed the migration of many birds. Juncos that should have left us are hanging around. While other species of sparrows are arriving only to struggle to survive instead of setting up house.

This time last year I had the door of the Wild Birds Unlimited store open and a Chipping Sparrow serenading me all day (alright perhaps singing for a potential mate).

Many native sparrows tend to be early migrants, with large numbers arriving in mid-Michigan in early April. Look for Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Fox Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Field Sparrows, and coming as soon as Mother Nature determines it will be frost-free, the White-crowned and White-throated sparrows.

Smaller birds such as sparrows, warblers, vireos, and thrushes are typical nocturnal migrants. It is common to find your yard filled with newly arrived migrants each morning the wind is pushing north. By traveling at night, they can pause at sunrise and devote the entire day to feeding and resting.

Female junco photo Wikimedia Commons
Flying nonstop all night demands high energy breakfast. And if the weather isn't cooperating, a bird feeder can be a life saver. A lot of these sparrows like the sunflower, peanuts, and millet in the No-mess blend bird seed. They tend to scratch for fallen seeds underneath bird feeders, particularly if they are close to cover.

Related Articles:
Chipping Sparrow http://chipping-sparrow.html
Song Sparrow http://song-sparrow.html
Fox Sparrow http://foxsparrow.html Savannah Sparrow http://savannah-sparrow.html
Hearty little Field Sparrow http://field-sparrow.html
Be on the lookout for White-throated Sparrows http://white-throated.html
Sparrow bird with white head and black stripes http://white-head-and-black.html
Dark-eyed Juncos leave mid-Michigan http:/dark-eyed-juncos.html
Do I need to change my bird seed when the seasons change? http://my-bird-seed-when.html 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

What bluebirds do in the snow

Can I put mealworms out if bluebirds are already in the area because the ground is so frozen and there are no insects out yet. 

Bluebirds do benefit from receiving feeder food when harsh conditions such as prolonged period of chilly, wet weather, or snow & cold, or when ice coats most of the wild berries. Mealworms, suet, nuts, sunflower hearts, softened fruits, and seed cylinders can all be fed to bluebirds.

The Eastern Bluebirds eat mainly fruit, nuts and berries from trees, bushes, and vines during the cold months and then in the warmer months it goes back to mostly worms and insects.

A heated birdbath may also help them with afternoon drinks and feather preening. Keeping your feathers in top condition is very important in bad weather to keep the warmth in and the cold out.

Migratory movements haven't been studied in depth for Eastern Bluebirds. Some migrate to the southern states and some just move when they want to avoid snow and freezing rain and then move right back. Early April is usually peak nest building time in mid-Michigan. But don't worry, they will put a halt to construction and then pick right up again when the weather turns more favorable.

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

Hummingbirds don't share

Is it true that having more than one hummingbird feeder attracts more hummingbirds?
Hummingbirds are very territorial. In general, more feeders means more birds. Multiple feeders helps if you have an aggressive bird that is chasing other hummers away. There is no way he can guard all the feeders all the time. If you space your feeders apart, in the front and backyard or just out of sight of the others, you give the girls a chance to eat in peace.

Females like to take advantage of a quick meal at the feeders. They do all the nest building and family rearing alone, leaving the males to fuss over territories. Multiple feeders, spread throughout your yard is a great way to encourage more hummingbirds to visit and keep the peace in your yard.

Hummingbirds find feeders by sight so hang the feeder where they will be able to see it as they fly over. Also a new feeder may be found sooner if hung near a flower garden or hanging flower basket.

And always make sure your nectar is fresh and the correct one part white sugar to four parts water solution. In hot weather you should clean your feeder at least twice a week even if there are no hummingbirds feeding. If a hummingbird comes by to check out your new feeder and finds it filled with spoiled food, they won’t return anytime soon. Watch the video: https://youtu.be/20TmpqOgYRE

Related Articles:
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
Fun Facts about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds http://goo.gl/jcjcr
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
When to take hummingbird feeders down & other FAQ http://goo.gl/CspGnT
When did people start to feed hummingbirds?: http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Doves mate for life, what happens when one dies

I have a pair of Mourning Doves that built a nest on our covered patio (on top of a heater). Both male and female built the nest one sat on the nest and the other was usually close by. Yesterday morning I was sitting on the couch and heard a big thud against the window on the covered patio. I looked outside and saw a hawk with something in it's claws and then it flew away. There were feathers all over the patio. Is it possible the hawk flew in and grabbed the dove that was sitting on the nest? About 15 minutes later the other dove was on the nest trying to fix it and sat on the nest the rest of the afternoon. The hawk made it's appearance a few more times sitting on the fence and flying around. I scared it off when I noticed it hanging around. The dove was not on the nest when I went to bed or woke up, but it was back around 7:30am and it still there now. Will this one dove be able to take care of the eggs? I assume the nest has eggs, why else would the dove be sitting on the nest? Or do you think the dove will eventually abandon the nest?

Curious and sad for the dove that was taken by the hawk, but I guess that is nature.


Mourning Doves take turns incubating eggs. The male does a day shift and the female does the night shift. Sometimes the surviving bird will attempt to incubate the eggs, at least for a time, to see if the mate will return. But this is a difficult task for a single bird and is often unsuccessful. Be prepared for nest abandonment if the remaining dove can’t find an unattached replacement mate quickly.

Since they nest several times a season it's possible the remaining bird will find another mate and raise many other successful broods in the same season. It's very sad to lose these birds in your yard, but the hawk may be nesting too. As I’ve said to many people, doves help feed several raptor and corvid babies as well as a variety of mammal species.

Fortunately, Mourning Doves can be found throughout most of North America and are considered among the top ten most abundant birds in the United States. Mourning doves may breed several times in a breeding season, from February to October. While the average longevity for a typical adult is only about 1.5 years, realistically the mortality rate of juveniles can be as high as 70% in their first year of life. But they can also be the longest lived bird found in North America. Bird banding research recorded one dove more than 31 years old. 

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Photo Share: Juncos are getting ready to migrate north

Photo from Ken Thomas
In mid-Michigan, it's time to say good bye to the juncos. These small birds prefer cold climates to nest, so they retreat north as spring arrives. They seemed to stick around a little longer this year waiting for the winds to shift to the right direction. Juncos are very comfortable on the ground. In the spring, female juncos choose their nest site, most commonly on the ground near a protruding rock or roots for cover. In the fall and winter they don't build nests but they roost in grasses, leaf piles, snow drifts, under porches, as well as dense foliage of small evergreens.

The juncos we see all winter in the Lansing area are typically males. Studies show winter junco flocks are 80 percent male in Michigan and 72 percent female in Alabama. Males risk harsh winters in the northern states in order to be the first ones back to their upper Michigan and Canadian breeding grounds to stake out a territory in the spring. As the days get longer and warmer, the boys migrate north.


So now in early spring, the juncos we see are mostly female. Once they fuel up they may linger a few days or continue north if the weather cooperates. You won't know until the next morning who you'll host for breakfast.

Juncos migrate at night at very low altitudes in flocks up to 100 individuals. Other birds like fox and tree sparrows may accompany the juncos. Flock composition can change from day to day during migration. Juncos prefer to forage and roost in groups during the day and may depart en masse at night but do not stay together during flight.

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. 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:

Fun Facts About Juncos http://bit.ly/pgewJn
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Do the same birds show up at the same feeders year after year? http://bit.ly/GMaOYV

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Favorite oriole feeder

There are a lot of different oriole feeders. I even have a few different types myself. But if you were going to ask me what my favorite oriole feeder is I would have to say the Wild Birds Unlimited saucer style.

Anyone that has fed birds nectar (sugar water) knows that besides some really cool birds, nectar can also attract ants, bees, and wasps. The saucer feeders, feeders that have the nectar in a bowl below a cover, are the best at deterring these unwanted guests. There is no drip or dribbling to attract insects like the feeders with a liquid reservoir above.






Wild Birds Unlimited Oriole feeder 
- There is a built-in Ant Moat to deter ants
- It comes with Bee Guards to keep flying insects out of the nectar
- High-impact polycarbonate bright orange cover to attract orioles 
- The first feeder to accommodate nectar, oranges, and jelly
- Easy to fill & clean
- UV stable, dishwasher safe (top rack)

* Optional Weather guard sold separately


Related Articles:
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Examining The Hummingbird Tongue http://bit.ly/HoaxsI
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/H7xvp3

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Keep bees and ants away!

If you are looking for a bee-proof, ant-proof, non-dripping, easy to clean, easy to fill, no muss, no fuss hummingbird feeder the Aspects line of saucer style feeders are the best! The HummZinger HighView™ feeder offers a HighView™ perch that invites hummingbirds to rest comfortably as they drink and allows us an unobstructed view of the bird. The built-in ant moat blocks crawling insects and the patented Nectar-Guard tips (optional) on the feeding ports prevent bees, wasps, and other flying insects from contaminating nectar. The raised red flowers around each port deflects any rain from falling into the feeder and the bright red cover attracts hummers from a distance. Maintenance is also a breeze. The top  removes easily so the bowl can be cleaned quickly and thoroughly. It’s constructed in the USA of a poly-carbonate and backed with a lifetime guarantee.

* HighView perch for optimal viewing
* Built-in ant moat
* Easy cleaning and filling
* Drip and leak proof
* Features nectar-level indicator on bowl
* Raised flowers divert rain
* Bright red cover constructed of UV stabilized polycarbonate
TIP: Hummingbirds like to perch while they eat to help conserve energy for migration, but a perch is not required.

Are you ready for hummingbird season? Check the map at http://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html to see where the have been sighted! Watch the video: https://youtu.be/hqn6LDaUazg

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

What to feed orioles

How do you get orioles. I've always wanted them. Thank you!

Baltimore Orioles arrive at their mid-Michigan breeding grounds near the end of April. They enjoy a diverse diet consisting of fruits, nuts, bugs, nectar and suets. The Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing is surrounded by flowering crab apple trees. After their migration north I’m sure the sight of all those blooms encourages the birds to stop for a sip of nectar, and a bill full of very ripe apples still clinging to the branches. Once perched, they probably see the bird activity on my window feeder which draws their eyes to my bright orange oriole feeder placed right next to it. My favorite feeder is the unique saucer shaped oriole feeder that offers three ways to attract orioles with nectar, oranges, and jelly. And a mealworm feeder next to that. My video is HERE: https://youtu.be/CX335cxYeD0

Any flowering fruit tree may entice an oriole to investigate. Also cottonwoods, willows, sycamores, and maples host yummy insects that orioles seek, as well as the long branches the species prefer for weaving their nests. 

Helpful hints to attract Orioles to your backyard!

- In plain sight: As many of us are drawn to the Golden Arches, orioles have learned to slow down for red and orange feeders. When placing the oriole feeder, put it in the open so the birds can see it while flying over or near a flowering tree.

- Earlier is better: It is better to hang your feeder too early rather than too late. I’ll put my feeder up at the end of April even though I never see them until the first week in May in mid-Michigan.

- Keep it fresh: The nectar/fruit/jelly must be fresh! The nectar recipe for orioles is the same as hummingbirds – 1 part white sugar to 4 parts plain water (no dye!). I also like the BirdBerry™ Jelly available here at the store because it is lower in sugar than store brand jelly and contains no corn sweetener or artificial ingredients and is higher in fruit and fruit juice. You should also plant natural sources too like Trumpet vines or Grape vines for nectar and fruit.

- Offer mealworms & Suet: Orioles eat insects, especially tent caterpillars, and as an extra protein treat you can serve them live mealworms in a tray feeder. Wild Birds Unlimited Suet is made with only the highest quality processed beef kidney fat. Peanut-butter or Orange suet cakes are good choices to supplement their diet.

- Birds need water: Hang your feeder near a birdbath. After a long journey they need water to hydrate and preen their feathers.

- Keep it clean: Rinse it with hot water every few days and then refill your feeder with fresh juice. This is especially important in warm weather, when it can spoil quickly.

- Building materials: Have nesting materials out and ready to help encourage Orioles to nest in your yard. The Birdie Bell offers a variety of nesting materials like string and cotton. We all know Milkweed attracts butterflies but it also attracts orioles as they may use fibers from the stems and seed pods to weave their nest.

- Don’t give up: If you don’t attract orioles in your first year, keep at it. Once one bird finds the feeder, the word will spread!

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Close-up of Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GAf6T7
When can I expect my orioles to arrive? http://goo.gl/OHrCc

Monday, April 9, 2018

How birds know when it is time to migrate

There is still some mystery as to how birds decide it is time to return in the spring. Through observation, it is believed migration is triggered by amount of daylight, hormones, weather conditions, and the availability of food.

Healthy Ruby-throated hummingbirds can tolerate nights in the teens as long as there is tree sap, bugs, blooms and feeders available. Hummingbirds.net explains that most Ruby-throated Hummingbirds winter between southern Mexico and northern Panama and begin moving north as early as January gorging on insects and spiders to add a thick layer of fat in preparation for flying to the U.S.

Once in North America, migration continues at an average rate of about 20 miles per day, generally following the earliest blooming of flowers. The northern limit of this species coincides with that of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker; if the earliest males arrive in Michigan before sufficient flowers are blooming, they raid sapsucker wells for sugar, as well as eat insects caught in the sap.

Along with following the blooms and bugs, hummers also use tail winds to their advantage. The average speed of a migrating hummer without wind is 25 to 30 miles per hour, but if they wait for a good tail wind they can double that speed. The northward migration is complete by late May. Banding studies show that each bird tends to return every year to the same place it hatched, even visiting the same feeders. See the Ruby-throated migration map for the species' range and earliest arrival dates.

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