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, May 31, 2018

Call to Action: Make the Planet a Safer Place

Dear Sarah, Here is a little note I would like to suggest for your newsletter. Thank you for everything you do! - Faina

Thank you for sharing your concerns. I've always believed birds are the best at natural pest control. I've posted your Call-to-Action for everyone to think about their yard and if what they are adding in to environment is really necessary:


This is summer time, and it means babies, babies, and more babies for our beloved birds. At the same time it means gardening and lawn maintenance.

Most people want to have lush, green lawn, a carpet of thick grass. Unfortunately it means that we use fertilizers and pesticides.

It is very good and generous to feed wild birds year round, but it is not enough. Most song birds have to feed insects to their young to raise them successfully. And there are beautiful birds people tend to forget: swallows, purple martins, and swifts. These birds are aerial insectivores, they catch insects in flight, and they are strictly insectivorous.

In recent years lawn maintenance businesses became quite aggressive in promotion of mosquito spray. Offers to protect a lawn from mosquitoes are very numerous, flyers come in mail and are tucked to the front doors.

As much as I dislike to be mosquito dinner, or to get some virus from a mosquito bite, there is a bigger issue to consider. There is no such thing as  ‘mosquito spray’ that kills only mosquitoes. Mosquito spray is an insecticide that kills all the other insects as well. The pesticides used to kill mosquitoes end in the ground water, and, eventually, in marshes, ponds, rivers and all other bodies of water. If this ‘mosquito war’ continues we will start loosing our birds, they will not be able to raise their young. Or the new generations will be too weak to survive the winter or migration, even with the support of bird feeders.

The birds that we do not see on our bird feeders actually suffer the most. Recent research shows[1] that aerial insectivores require a diet of aquatic and/or semiaquatic insects (insects that spend the larva stage of their life in water) for proper function and to raise healthy chicks. Aquatic and semiaquatic insects provide these birds with long–chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA), fatty acids absent in terrestrial insects. Bodies of these birds are poorly equipped to metabolise fatty acids present in terrestrial insects. If the chicks of these birds do not have enough LCPUFA in their diet, their growth is stunted,  immune and nervous systems are compromised.

The widespread use of insecticides leads to disappearance of the number of aquatic and semiaquatic insects. Not only mosquitoes disappear, but dragonflies, mayflies, lacewings, and many more insects as well. 

Considering the fact that the cumulative area of private, corporate and municipal lawns in the US is almost equal to the area taken by agriculture, we have a looming environmental disaster, disappearance of number of birds if we do not stop killing insects. 

I would like to ask all bird lovers to make their lawns no–spray lawns, and use personal mosquito protection instead of ‘mosquito spray’, and encourage their neighbors to do the same.


[1] Omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids support aerial insectivore performance more than food quantity. Cornelia W. Twininga,1, J. Thomas Brennab, Peter Lawrenceb, J. Ryan Shipleya, Troy N. Tollefsonc, and David W. Winkler aDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853;bDivision of Nutrition, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 148 and cResearch and Development, Mazuri Exotic Animal Nutrition, Purina Mills LLC, Gray Summit, MO 63039
 

Related Articles:
Concern about fertilizers and bluebirds' health http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2013/09/concern-about-fertilizers-and-bluebirds.html  
The Chemical-Free Lawn is Bird Friendly http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2012/02/chemical-free-lawn-is-bird-friendly.html

How to keep baby robins in your yard safe

Baby robins can't fly well when they leave the nest. They must build up muscles and grow adult feathers to be strong fliers. It takes 10-15 days after fledging before the babies are capable fliers. To help ensure that the baby robins in your yard are safe, keep cats indoors and don't use unnecessary pesticides in the lawn and garden.

Their camouflage markings help disguise babies from predators. If they are scared or want to avoid detection, they squat in on the ground with their head up. And they blend right in with their environment.

American robins average two broods in one year. Both parents feed the babies. A robin might make 100 feeding visits to its nest each day. That's why a good territory is important to robins in spring.

Unfortunately only a quarter of those that do fledge survive to November. From that point on, about half of the birds alive in any year will make it to the next. These birds will return to the same territories from season to season. Sometimes they build a new nest on top of their old one. The female lays 3-7 light blue eggs that are incubated for two weeks and the young leave the nest in about another two weeks.

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Do baby birds return to the nest after fledging?

Do the babies come back to the birdhouse after they have left? 

Birds have wings and they like to use them. They are always on the move to find food and avoid predators. During the nesting stage the parents work furiously to get their babies fed and fully fledged as fast as possible, even if they can only fly a few feet to the nearest bush. Once out of the nest the parents show the juveniles where to take shelter and how to find food and water away from the nest for about two weeks.

You can clean the nest box at this time. By cleaning out a nest box you help deter parasite infestation and a predator’s ability disturb a nest that is built on top of old nests making it closer to the entrance hole. To clean the nest box I usually place a plastic bag over the nest and just sweep it all in and twist the bag shut. You can rinse out the house with a water hose or diluted bleach spray. Make sure the drainage holes are unplugged and leave the house open to dry for a couple days. Finally dispose of the old nest in the trash and wash your hands thoroughly.

If you think that a baby bird may have left the nest prematurely you can pop it back in the nest unless you think the bird is injured then you should call for advice. The best course may be no interference.
Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess abandoned or injured wildlife. A list of licensed rehabilitators can be found by visiting http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/ or by calling your local DNR office. Below are a few local numbers to call for help:
  • East Lansing, MI ♦ 517.351.7304 ♦ Cheryl Connell-Marsh ♦ birds and small animals
  • Lansing, MI ♦ 517-646-9374 ♦ Tiffany Rich ♦ white tailed deer, squirrels, raccoons; Vet. Tech. on center.
  • DeWitt, MI ♦ 517.930-0087 ♦ Wildside Rehab and Education Center ♦ birds and small animals
And if you are outside of Michigan:
Related Articles:
5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses http://bit.ly/xETceZ
Common Bird House Problems http://bit.ly/wrWzyN
Which Way Do You Face a Birdhouse? http://bit.ly/AD43TW
Don’t use treated lumber to build a birdhouse http://bit.ly/x2pIG0
When do birds begin nesting? http://bit.ly/wbJ3kE
DO NOT Collect Dryer Lint for the birds to use as nesting material! http://bit.ly/wC5HcO

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Birds with their mouths open

We’ve several days without rain in mid-Michigan and it is hot and crunchy outside! A bird with an open mouth is one sign that a bird might be overheating and working to lower its body temperature. Birds lack sweat glands, so they pant like dogs instead of sweat like people. By opening its mouth a bird increases the airflow and causes more moisture to evaporate and cool their body.

When the temperature is in the 90's, a bird’s body may start to overheat. Birds give off excess body heat through their unfeathered legs and can ruffle their body feathers so hot air close to the skin can escape. A bird will also pant, travel less, find a shady spot, or seek water to reduce its body temperature.

In this heat a refreshing dip in a birdbath is very effective in lowering their body temperature and re-hydrating their body to beat the heat. You will also significantly increase the number of birds visiting your yard by providing bird baths. Wild Birds Unlimited has a wide variety of baths to choose from. Birdbaths come in many shapes, sizes and materials. They can be placed on the ground, mounted on a pedestal or hung. If you have any questions come in to the store and we can help you find the best bath for your yard.

Related Articles:
The best heated bird baths http://bit.ly/zCEn39
Why do birds poop in the bird bath? http://bit.ly/xZb3yQ
Why Birds Preen http://bit.ly/yja8ah
Why do crows and blackbirds dip their food in bird baths? http://bit.ly/zgpw2i
Do Birds Sip or Slurp? http://bit.ly/yAHTTV

Monday, May 28, 2018

Stop for eagles

Michigan DNR asking drivers to watch out for bald eagles
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources  are warning Michigan drivers to use caution this holiday travel season and keep an eye out for eagles.

Bald eagles have been seen more frequently along roadways and as a result, the mortality rate due to vehicular trauma has gone up in the last six years. The DNRE says eagles are feeding on road kill, so drivers should slow down when they see a dead animal alongside the road in case a bald eagle is nearby. Eagles don't recognize cars as predators or how fast they move.

The recovery of bald and golden eagles is a conservation success story. Forty years ago, the bald eagle, our national symbol was in danger of extinction throughout most of its range Habitat destruction and degradation, illegal shooting, and the contamination of its food source, largely as a consequence of  DDT, decimated the eagle population. Habitat protection afforded by the Endangered Species Act, the federal government’s banning of DDT, and conservation actions taken by the American public have helped Bald Eagles make a remarkable recovery. Information about eagle management is available on the Eagle Management webpage.

Related Articles:
• Military learned about camouflage from birds - http://ning.it/liJ5ye
• Crows Never Forget a Face - http://t.co/pzsrvb3
• Why do geese fly in a V formation? http://t.co/OmIn8Nw
• War Pigeon Remembered http://t.co/5yiXSNS
• Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://t.co/Br4EnlB
• War Birds http://t.co/t7WJp99

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Juvenile cardinal with daddy

Except for a black mask and throat, the male Northern Cardinals are red all over including their bill. Young cardinals have ashy brown feathers and black bills rather than the orange-red of the adults. They change gradually to their adult coloration three to four months after hatching.

Right now they are looking for a lot of bugs, weed seeds, fruits, nuts, and berries in the wild. At the feeders you can provide highly nutritious and protein packed foods like mealworms, sunflower and safflower seeds as well as peanuts and mealworms.

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

Saturday, May 26, 2018

First baby birds arrive at feeders in June

You will begin to see a lot of new faces at the feeders at the end of May and the beginning of June. Many of the birds that nest in Michigan are bringing their first batch of babies to visit baths and feeders and teaching them to forage for food.

This has been a particularly tough spring for the birds. I know the some people are complaining about the numbers of starlings and blackbirds at the feeders this year due to the cold weather. But then they are happy about the extra numbers of bluebirds and orioles that are also hungry this year.

Thankfully it looks like the cold weather is finally going to leave us for a while. The rains and now the warm weather brings a lot of bugs, a favorite food for many growing families. And vegetarians like the American Goldfinches are also enjoying soft spring leaves as well as a plethora of dandelion and grass seeds.

But, don’t forget to keep your feeders clean to keep your birds healthy. And provide an area with a birdbath. Water is a powerful attraction and will increase the number and variety of birds coming to your yard. In fact parent birds will often bring babies to the bird bath as their first road trip.

Related articles:
- Can birds become dependent on bird feeders? http://goo.gl/GZYpke
- Do we stop feeding suet in the summer? http://bit.ly/GKWSRt
- Feeding Baby Birds http://bit.ly/GSHKwY
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://bit.ly/GKYw5q

Friday, May 25, 2018

Photo Share: Grosbeak loves no mess

We’ve had both the male and female frequently visiting for 2weeks now. 

It looks like the girls are appreciating a quick, easy bite at the feeders. Both the Red-bellied Woodpecker and Rose-breasted Grosbeak females are probably feeding babies by now.

Keep the feeders full for the influx of little ones in June!

Thank you very much for sharing with us! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Where did the orioles go?

I'm not getting as many orioles anymore. Where are they?

Baltimore Oriole chick from Wikimedia Commons
When orioles arrive in the spring they are super hungry. The diet of the Baltimore Oriole consist of insects, fruits, and flower nectar. After a long migration they take advantage of food offered at feeders. You can attract orioles to eat from your backyard feeder by setting out orange halves, grape jelly, sugar water, suets, or mealworms.

While they are busy nesting they may visit your feeders less often. But if you keep your feeders clean and full of fresh foods they will come back eventually and bring the new kids.

According to AllAboutBirds.com: "Baltimore Orioles build sock-like hanging nests, woven together from slender fibers. The female weaves the nest, usually 3 to 4 inches deep, with a small opening, 2 to 3 inches wide, on top and a bulging bottom chamber, 3 to 4 inches across, where her eggs will rest. She anchors her nest high in a tree, first hanging long fibers over a small branch, then poking and darting her bill in and out to tangle the hank. While no knots are deliberately tied, soon the random poking has made knots and tangles, and the female brings more fibers to extend, close, and finally line the nest.

Construction materials can include grass, strips of grapevine bark, wool, and horsehair, as well as artificial fibers such as cellophane, twine, or fishing line. Females often recycle fibers from an old nest to build a new one. Males occasionally bring nesting material, but don’t help with the weaving. Building the nest takes about a week, but windy or rainy weather may push this as long as 15 days."

Related Articles: 
- Facts on the Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GzSTbi
- Where do orioles winter? http://bit.ly/GAeWv5
- Close-up of Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GAf6T7
- When can I expect my orioles to arrive? http://goo.gl/OHrCc

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Birds from different species recognize each other and cooperate

Sometimes at the feeders it can look like a bird-eat-bird world out there. I'll see many scrabbles as birds wing their way in at the feeder and establish a pecking order or like last night when a hawk literally flew in for bird take-out. But as the hawk barreled in to the scene, the Blue Jay immediately began calling out the alarm.

Jays aren't the only birds that give warnings.
A study published in the Journal Science a few years ago demonstrated how black-capped chickadees embed information about the size of predators into their calls. When faced with a high-threat raptor perched nearby, the birds not only call more frequently, they also attach more dee’s to their call. Studying the phenomenon, it was found birds have a “distant early-warning system” in which the alarm calls are picked up by other birds and passed through the forest at more than 100 miles per hour.

New studies confirm that cooperation among different species of birds is common. Some birds build their nests near those of larger, more aggressive species to deter predators, and flocks of mixed species forage for food and defend territories together in alliances that can last for years. In most cases, these partnerships are not between specific individuals of the other species, any bird from the other species will do.

By interacting with other birds that share the same territory instead of working against them, bird species create a larger group to help defend their territory and ward off intruders. In other words, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Sources:
When Birds Squawk, Other Species Seem to Listen
Song recognition and heterospecific associations between 2 fairy-wren species 

Related Articles:
- Hawks and hummingbirds http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2017/08/hawks-and-hummingbirds.html

- New blue-eyed owl discovered by MSU researcher http://goo.gl/4FdZYR
- New MSU Study: Biofuel grasslands better for birds than ethanol staple corn http://goo.gl/D2yODK
- Free Downloads of Bird Sounds from Around the World via MSU http://goo.gl/ZKEKmk
- Black Squirrels’ history begins at MSU http://goo.gl/Ryxnqx

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Large black and brown sparrow with red eye

About the size of a Robin, the male and female Eastern Towhees have dark plumage on their heads and backs and rusty-orange flanks on a white belly. The males, head, neck, throat and back are black while the females are dark brown. Their scientific name Piplo is derived from the Latin pipo, meaning “to chirp”. Erythrophthalmus is derived from Greek words that mean “red eye.” Eastern Towhees in Michigan have red eyes, but white-eyed birds are common in the southern states.

Eastern Towhees live in Michigan from late March to mid-November. They are often heard before they are seen. The name "towhee," a simulation of the bird's call, was coined in 1731 by the naturalist and bird artist Mark Catesby. During the spring nesting season the males sing 'drink your tea' loudly from exposed perches and their call when disturbed is a loud 'towhee'. A group of towhees are collectively known as a "tangle" and a "teapot" of towhees.

Towhees are usually shy sulkers and rush for cover at the slightest disturbance. They are ground feeders and use a hop-and-scratch foraging method. While jumping forward with its head and tail up, it kicks its strong legs backwards to uncover its food. They use this same technique on the forest floor and underneath feeders even when the seeds are clearly visible. If your feeders are near dense underbrush you may attract towhees with peanuts, sunflower seeds, millet or cracked corn.
Watch the video:  https://youtu.be/mWVa08fpnXg

Monday, May 21, 2018

Dramatic decrease in finch activity

Has anyone mentioned that the goldfinches have stopped coming to the feeders?

American Goldfinches are common feeder visitors that prefer Nyjer® (thistle) and sunflower seeds. But every year after American Goldfinches have completed their spring molt, a lot of them leave the feeders for awhile and wander widely. Usually when the dandelions bloom, the goldfinches get the urge to forage for fresh, yummy weed, grass, and flower seeds along with tender leaves from trees and other plants.

American Goldfinches are the only common feeder bird in Michigan that molt all their feathers twice a year. Most birds only go through an annual fall molt. So in early spring the goldfinches are famished. They need a lot of energy to grow bright new feathers and you can be filling feeders daily. As we head into summer the feeder activity decreases.

Goldfinches don't nest until late summer. They are footloose and fancy free to forage wherever they want. Some still visit the feeders but not as frequently or in as many numbers. You should still keep the feeders clean and full of fresh seed. Keep in mind that during the summer Nyjer® (thistle) only stays fresh for about a month or two. It keeps longer if it is stored in a cool and dry location.

Then at the end of June the activity increases again. As they get ready to nest, there is excitement in the air. The goldfinches settle in to one territory. If your food is still fresh or you have blooming flowers with seed heads, you will likely have goldfinches visiting. And by the end of July the babies will show up too!

And if you don’t have a natural water source nearby, set up a bird bath. Place it among shrubs and low-branched trees so goldfinches can keep watch for predators while descending gradually toward the water. Wild birds can obtain some water from their food, but goldfinches are vegetarians and like to sip from shallow baths where available to wet their whistle.

Related Articles:
What is Nyjer Thistle? http://t.co/Gg2AxQg
Where are my finches? http://t.co/FRqa7eo
Goldfinch colors: Why aren't all the goldfinches yellow? http://t.co/c57skHi
Is There a Way to Attract More Goldfinches to My Yard? http://t.co/RB1cqWf

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Hummingbirds find feeders by sight

Hummingbirds find feeders by sight. If they come down to investigate flowers and then see a feeder they will investigate. Eating from a feeder isn't innate, it is a learned behavior. You may see them approach a new feeder and fly away only to approach it again a few minutes later. Keep the feeders fresh and full of the proper nectar solution and then be patient. Hummingbirds have an outstanding memory. Once they figure out you are offering a reliable source of nectar, you will have a loyal customer.

A hummingbird's brain is very large in comparison to their body size. They know every flower in their territory and how long it will take each flower to produce more nectar. And yes that is probably the same hummingbird that comes back year after year to your feeder. They remember where each and every hummingbird feeder is, both at home and along a migration path.

Weather is also a big factor in how long it takes for hummingbirds to find a feeder. A good, wet spring that produces nectar filled blooms and protein packed bugs means there will be less activity at hummingbird feeders. Drought years are the hardest for the hummingbirds and you will notice instant attraction to feeder feeding as they attempt to find additional reliable food sources.

At the end of summer I watch the bumbling baby hummers jump from flower to flower, feeder to feeder, red chair to red hat, as they learn how to forage. Hummingbirds have been observed watching older hummingbirds to learn some tricks and tips. They also learn which people are the ones responsible for filling hummingbird feeders, and which ones don't.

If you put up a new feeder, it may be an instant hit or it may take them awhile to figure it out. But continue to keep the feeder clean and the nectar fresh even if you see no activity. In late summer it gets hot and activity always increases. At the end of June there are hopefully twice as many hummingbirds and you'll see momma and babies visit along with migrating hummingbirds as they bulk up to fly south.

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
Why the color on a hummingbirds’ throat flashes http://bit.ly/JZ31qX
When did people start to feed hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR

Saturday, May 19, 2018

No waste vs. In the shell bird seed

My husband says that sunflower is the cheapest seed and attracts the most birds. I would like hulled sunflower to reduce the mess. Is it possible that I can use the argument that it is actually more economical because we are paying for all those shells that birds just leave and I have to clean up? Does anyone know exactly the percentage of shells in a bag of Black Oil Sunflower seeds and what percent is the edible part?
Black Oil Sunflower seed is one of the most preferred seeds by our backyard birds. However on average, only 65% of that bag of sunflower seed is eaten and the rest is waste that is kicked to the ground. Fortunately 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. Also the shells or sunflower hulls of the cultivated sunflower contain allelopathic compounds which stops the growth of grass and most plants in the garden.

If you ever saw me load in seed on Tuesdays and Fridays you would know that our Wild Birds Unlimited customers also prefer the No-Mess Blend. No-Mess Blend blend is 100% edible. It features a perfect blend of attractive, high-energy seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. Pound for pound, I believe our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the messy shells, you get the widest variety of birds, and they eat everything happily.

Related Articles:
Sunflowers Up-close: The Strange Journey of an American Plant http://bit.ly/uFlz65
Which seeds are preferred by wild birds? http://bit.ly/zchLgB
How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://bit.ly/rTLSqJ
Seed Storage Cans and WBU Seed Scoops http://bit.ly/uBaSwO

What birds like peanuts? http://bit.ly/zispJK
What seeds do wild birds eat? http://bit.ly/wKyQNB
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/xbkaPP

Friday, May 18, 2018

Photo Share: We got our first oriole!

Eating PeanutButter suet.

Peanut butter is a nutritious food to offer birds and peanutbutter suet is very attractive. It is a high-energy, high-protein food especially valuable for bug eating birds that have just migrated in to Michigan.

This cold spring has been hard for the birds. They are looking for bugs but will make due with suet while their natural sources of food are scarce. After the rains and warmer weather rolls in to Michigan the activity at the feeder decreases as the bug population increases. But a lot of birds soon return with little bundles of joy.

The reason I feed suet in the summer is to watch as harried parent birds bring their babies up close and try to convince them to feed themselves.

Thank you very much for sharing with us! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Where are the hummingbirds?

Hummingbirds are truly one of the most fascinating groups of birds on the planet and it’s not too late to put up a feeder! Hummingbirds don’t need feeders to survive, but they might appreciate a reliable source of food with this cold spring we’ve been experiencing. Also these incredible little birds are fascinating to watch and a hummingbird feeder can bring them up close.

When they aren’t at the feeder, hummingbirds find nectar from a variety of flowers as well as sap from trees. Throughout the day a hummer drinks more than half its body weight in nectar. But that pointy hummingbird bill isn’t only for lapping nectar; it’s also made for snatching bugs out of the air. 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.

Early spring birds are still establishing territories. Make sure your nectar is fresh and clean your feeders once or twice a week for the best results. Visits may be less frequent until females begin to incubate their eggs in June. Then they will appreciate quick bites at the feeders between sittings. You can also put out a Wild Birds Unlimited's Natural Cotton Ball Nesting Material to line their nest.

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
Why the color on a hummingbirds’ throat flashes http://bit.ly/JZ31qX
When did people start to feed hummingbirds?: http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Big black bird

The Common Grackle is a large black bird with yellow eyes and iridescent purple and bronze head feathers. When naturalists first came to explore North America it was difficult to determine to which genus grackles belonged. In between the size of a crow and starling, the common name, grackle, came from gracula, which is Latin for the Jackdaw or small crow.

They are resourceful foragers. In Michigan, Common Grackles thrive on bugs, beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, spiders, crustaceans, mollusks, fish, frogs, salamanders, mice, and other birds like sparrows around farms, fields and large lawns. They sometimes follow plows to catch bugs that are exposed, pick leeches off the legs of turtles, steal worms from American Robins, or saw open acorns with the hard keel on the inside of the upper beak.When they first arrive they are very hungry and eat a variety of seeds and suets from bird feeders.

Related Articles:
   - Bird of the Week: Common Grackles http://bit.ly/OzgUjw
   - How to keep grackles away: http://bit.ly/Q1q0GI
   - Why is the blackbird associated with evil and ill omens? http://bit.ly/OzhBtb
   - When black birds fly south http://bit.ly/Q1qDAk
   - Bird Basics: How are birds classified? http://bit.ly/Q1reSr

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Bird with a black toupee

Gray Catbird photo from Wikimedia Commons
May is a busy time with local birds nesting and a number of species still migrating through mid-Michigan. We had a lot of customers talking about the catbirds showing up. One family calls them their toupee bird because of the black cap of feathers. Another person noted the rufous rump on the bird.

I noticed a Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) on my walk in to Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing. These birds get their name from the catty mew calls it produces. Their genus name Dumetella is based upon the Latin term dūmus (small thornbush-dweller) which refers to the species' habit of singing when hidden in undergrowth. Listen for the distinctive mew call of the Gray Catbird, or for its imitation of several species during a long, seemingly improvised series of notes at the top of a dense, tangled thickets.

In summer, Gray Catbirds eat mainly ants, beetles, grasshoppers, midges, caterpillars, and moths. They also eat native fruits from trees and shrubs such as dogwood, winterberry, and serviceberry. You may see catbirds at the jelly and fruit feeders you put out for the orioles and also at the suet, nut and mealworm feeders.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Bright red and black bird at suet feeder

If you have ever seen a brilliant flash of red, impossibly brighter than a cardinal, most likely you caught a glimpse of one of Michigan's neotropical migrants, the Scarlet Tanager. Over 250 species of tanagers can be found in South America. The scarlet tanager is the only one of these species to summer in Michigan.

As their name implies, the males are a bright scarlet red with black wings during the breeding season, while the females tend to be a more camouflaging olive-green. They prefer to live in mature forests with a high percentage of oaks foraging for caterpillars, moths and beetles.

Scarlet tanagers are considered very beneficial to humans because they consume many insect pests. Some people have even called them the "guardians of the oaks". During migration in the spring and fall keep your eye out for them as they stop in your yard for suet and drink breaks.

Related Article:
What is That Red Bird with a Black Head? http://bit.ly/L4tpl5
Black and White Bird with Red Head http://bit.ly/JFQDAq
Black and White Bird with Red Chest http://bit.ly/JXmkBC
Sexually dimorphic Northern Cardinals: Why male and female cardinals are a different color http://bit.ly/JFQXiw

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Fun Facts on Mother Birds

Bird moms come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Here are some of the most fascinating behaviors from around the world of mother birds.
  • Most Talented Mom - It takes as many as 12 days for a female Oriole to weave her nest. One Baltimore Oriole was observed spending 40 hours interlacing her basket-like nest. It included over 10,000 stitches and thousands of knots, all done by mom’s talented beak.
  • Most Loyal Mom - A pair bond may form between a male and a female Carolina Wren at any time of the year. She will stay with him for life, always foraging and moving around within sight of her mate.
  • Quickest Mom - Black-capped Chickadees have one of the shortest incubation periods of all birds. Their eggs can hatch in as little as 11 days.
  • Trickiest Mom - By singing a "male" song, the female Black-headed Grosbeak can trick her mate into thinking a rival male is nearby, forcing him to stay close to the nest.
  • Supersized Mom - Sharp-shinned Hawk females average over 40% larger than their male counterparts. This size difference is the largest of all of North American birds of prey.
  • Mini-Mom - A mother hummingbird weighs only about eight times more than the eggs she lays.
  • Most Overworked Mom - Mourning Dove moms may raise up to six broods per year, more than any other native North American bird. 
  • Most Laid-back Mom - Unlike most other bird moms, robins do not lay their eggs at sunrise. They lay their eggs several hours later during the mid-morning. Since earthworms are easier to find during early morning, they feed first and then return to the nest to lay their eggs.
  • Most Devoted to Mom - Young Tufted Titmice often remain with their parents throughout their first winter. They have been known stay with mom into the next nesting season and help her to raise the next brood.
  • One Chilly, Small Mom - The Rufous Hummingbird nests in Alaska
  • The Last Mom - American Goldfinch moms are one of the last songbirds to nest each year, waiting until mid-to-late summer when thistle seeds and down are readily available.
Stop by the store today and ask our Certified Bird Feeding Specialists which foods and feeders are best for bird moms this season.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Photo Share: Tree Swallows feeding babies

 Here are some photos of Tree Swallows that were nesting with us last year!
 
 Thank you very much for sharing with us! 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.