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.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Photo Share: Female House Finch

Sometimes people misidentify female House Finches with a sparrow, but the bright red and brown boys are usually not far away. House finches are a welcome visitor to my bird feeders. They provide much pleasure with their welcome chattering, especially in the chilly weather. At my feeders they announce their arrival with sweet calls of "kweat" or "weet", as a way to remain in contact with a mate.

Related Articles:
Compare House Finches and Purple Finches http://bit.ly/oOogOf
What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/vn2HK3
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
Baby cardinal with two distinctive head feathers http://goo.gl/J0isco Funny looking birds showing up at the feeder http://goo.gl/9CB7Fk

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

How to feed the most birds

What feeder would you choose to get the most birds in your yard. Life got busy for me and I haven't fed birds in awhile. But we're hosting Thanksgiving this year and I want a lot of activity. It brings back a lot of happy memories!

Bird Feeders come in a wide variety styles. The best feeders are the ones that cater to the most birds that already find your yard a suitable habitat. Tray feeders or fly-thru feeders are very versatile. It is comfortable for all birds and allows you to throw any seed, apple cores, leftover pie-crusts, holiday nuts, or squash seeds into it. 

Or the most popular bird feeder in our store by far is the Wild Birds Unlimited Decorative Seed Cylinder Feeder. Cylinders offer wild bird visitors a bountiful variety of entirely edible pieces sunflower hearts, peanuts, and tree nuts tightly bound together with gelatin. The feeder is easy to fill and clean, and has a beautiful perching branch for the cardinals to comfortable feed at the cylinder. You can also add an optional tray.

The Seed Cylinder feeders are popular with people who have been bird feeding a long time and for beginners. It is one of the easiest feeders to maintain and attracts a wide variety of birds. For people that aren't able to get out to fill feeders often during our harsh Michigan winters this feeder is ideal. Depending on bird activity in your yard, a 2lb cylinder can last weeks and a 4.5lb cylinder can last months.

And just when you thought cylinder feeding couldn't get any better... you can look forward to our Seed cylinder Characters from October to December at the East Lansing, Wild Birds Unlimited store! And a "hot" variety to keep deer, raccoons, and squirrels away.

You can also Decorate a Tree for your feathered friends. One of my favorite crafts is a pinecone dipped in birdseed. They are so much fun to make I thought I'd share my secret recipe. So if find there are little hands out there that need to be kept busy, this is a fun and easy project.

Pinecone Treats for the Birds
What you need:
¼ cup powdered unflavored gelatin
2 cups water
12 medium pinecones
2 cups WBU No-Mess blend bird seed
Raffia to hang

Place water in a glass bowl that is big enough to dip in a pinecone. Heat the water in the microwave for 50 seconds. The water should only be warm, but this should be supervised by an adult.

1. Pour the powdered gelatin in the water and stir until it is dissolved.
2. Dip the pinecone into the gelatin water
3. Roll pinecone in a bowl of bird seed.
4. Set the dipped pinecone on wax paper and let it dry for a couple hours.
5. Once it’s dry, tie a raffia ribbon around the cone, hang on a tree outside and watch all the birds flock.
6. Or place the pinecone in a cellophane bag and you have the perfect party favor for your guests to take home.

Additional Treat Ideas: http://www.wbu.com/education/brochures/DecorateATree.pdf

Related Articles:
- Wild Birds Unlimited Advanced Pole System http://bit.ly/rJulFz
- Best Large Capacity Bird Feeder http://goo.gl/fqmDby
- Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
- How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh
- How to feed birds with less mess http://goo.gl/VgM3Xu

Monday, November 12, 2018

Folklore claims squirrels know about upcoming winter weather

Can a squirrel’s behavior predict upcoming winter weather? I’ve seen quite a few plump squirrels in the yard.

There are several theories about squirrels’ behavior in the fall and the upcoming winter weather. For example, an abundance of overly plump squirrels is alleged to indicate a tough winter to come. A couple other theories indicating exceptionally harsh temps on the horizon include seeing squirrels furiously gathering of food or building nests higher in trees than usual. Unfortunately there is zero hard evidence to back up any of these theories.

But according to the Farmers’ Almanac’s famous long-range weather outlook, it’s going to be a “teeth-chattering” cold winter, with plenty of snow.

At a glance:
- Colder-than-normal conditions are predicted with above-normal snowfall predicted for Great Lakes.
- The coldest weather will arrive mid-February, with blustery and bitter winds, and widespread snow showers.
- Stormy winter conditions will hang on even through the official start of spring, especially for the East.

And widespread seed, berry, and cone crop failures, according to the The 2018-2019 Winter Finch Forecast means birds as well as other critters are going to have a hard time finding food all winter.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Photo Share: Stumbling over a deer

Your article this morning (How deer prepare for winter) reminded me of a photo I took Nov. 3 when I was out scouting a little known area for birds. I (almost literally) stumbled across this white-tailed deer resting in the weeds. Luckily my camera was on and ready and I was able to take 3 photos before the deer jumped up and ran off. I was surprised the photos turned out as well as they did and love the grays and browns of the fall foliage. Kerry Lauer (Fargo, ND)
Thank you so much for sharing your observations! If anyone would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com and I'll put it on the Friday Photo posts.

How deer prepare for winter

Deer start to prepare for winter months before the temperatures begin to drop. They do this by storing fat around internal organs and under their skin which insulates and provides energy reserves for the lean months ahead.

The coat of the White-tailed deer also plays a major role in keeping them warm. Coarse, hollow, dark guard hairs cover soft, woolly underfur. Guard hairs can absorb solar energy and sebaceous glands in the skin produce a water-repellent oil that coats hair. Then the underfur that provides the insulation. Half the length of guard hairs, underfur is 5 times as dense and traps layers of air, with warmer layers closer to the skin.

Related Articles:
Remember to leave wildlife in the wild http://goo.gl/s5S0l4
Deterring Deer at the Bird Feeders http://goo.gl/nUzM3e
When did Reindeer Learn to Fly? http://bit.ly/veTLpT
Mammals have amazing strategies to cope with winter's cold http://goo.gl/KlJY1V

Saturday, November 10, 2018

How birds handled the first snow

I didn't see as many birds as I expected at the feeders because of the first snow. I think they may have called a "snow day" and just tucked in or ate food they had hidden for just such a day. Birds have evolved to withstand bad weather. But it must have been a long night because today before it was even light, there were birds all over the feeders! Food in their belly helps them use their metabolism to generate heat.
 
Related articles:
How birds survive cold, windy winter nights http://how-birds-survive-cold-windy-winter.html
Birds travel in the eye of the storm http://birds-travel-in-eye-of-storm.html
Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/w3bhs8
Where birds go when it storms http://bit.ly/xpvtC0
How can birds fly in the rain? http://goo.gl/EkW48

Friday, November 9, 2018

Why some birds suffer the winter

When the snow begins to blow you may wonder what the birds that don’t migrate south for the winter are thinking. Birds are actually very hardy creatures built to withstand cold temperatures as long as they find food.

Most birds will fluff up their feathers to cover their feet and create air pockets that will help them keep warm like a down jacket. Birds that perch also scrunch down to sleep because that automatically makes the toes grip their perch and stay locked. In the legs of most tree-dwelling birds, tendons extend down the leg behind the ankle to attach to the tips of the toes and when their knees bend, the tendons are pulled taut, making the toes on their feet clench. Even on windy nights, this grasp cannot be released until they wake up and their limbs are straightened again.

Another way birds combat the cold is by shivering. This converts muscular energy into heat for the short term, but the energy must be replenished shortly thereafter. By keeping your feeders filled with high energy, high fat foods you can provide your birds with the vital nutrition they need to survive. High on the list of best choices to meet this nutritional need is suet or seed blocks and certain seeds like peanuts, sunflower and nyjer seed.

Related Articles:
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/tfT7Ca
Cavity nester birds http://cavity-nester-birds.html
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/uKZs6v
Build a nest box in winter, and watch baby birds in spring http://nest-box-in-winter.html 

Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
Attracting Birds with Roost Houses http://roost-houses.html

Thursday, November 8, 2018

When to stop feeding birds for winter

If I leave Michigan for the winter should I stop feeding the birds now?
 
Birds are not dependent on feeders, which is a good thing because most people aren’t as obsessive about filling feeders as I am. My window feeder at work and several bird feeding stations at home give me a lot of joy. So I would fill your feeders as long as you want to watch the birds.

If the feeder is empty they’ll look for other sources. Birds are pretty clever. Studies show that the birds you see in your yard are only eating about 20% of their meals at feeders.

Birds are survivors and won't starve if you go on vacation or even down south for the winter. They usually follow a circuit each day, visiting a number of feeding areas. However, during ice storms when natural food is covered up or during windy, wet, or cold evenings birds might forego foraging and look for an easy meal. That's when it's nice to know they will find something to eat in the yard.

That could also mean nut or berry bushes and trees to supply a natural food source. Or allowing native flowers, such as coneflowers, black eyed Susan’s, and cosmos go to seed and stand through the winter. These all provide food for the birds. A habitat that provides naturally for wild birds is a very relaxing place for people, too.
 
Related Articles: 
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/sGIw2m
Do birds know winter is coming? http://bit.ly/v4pass
Do you get more birds if you feed year-round? http://bit.ly/vyCF0q
Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/rEcYGL
How to Prepare Your Yard for Winter Birdwatching http://bit.ly/vjLjXb

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

What is at the bird feeders at night

While I'm not a fan of coming home in the dark, I do get to see a whole new world when I venture outside to fill the feeders at night. Yesterday I had an encounter with the most adorable flying squirrel! I've seen them through the window before in winters past, especially when there is snow reflecting light in the yard. They were energetic bundles of cuteness that bounced from the feeder to the trunk of the tree. But this little guy didn't seem to have a care in the world. He was at the feeder just nibbling on the remains of the day.

Not much is known about communication in flying squirrels. They have excellent senses of smell, vision, hearing, and touch. They have large eyes that help them to see at night and whiskers on their chin, cheeks, and ankles that they use to help them in detecting their way along tree trunks at night. They are omnivores and eat a wide range of foods, including nuts, acorns, seeds, berries, fruit, leaf buds, bark, bugs, and fungus.

Related Articles: 
How do I keep squirrels off my bird feeders? http://bit.ly/yiZsML
How many species of squirrels are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/yYt6Nb
How high can squirrels jump to bird feeders? http://goo.gl/XuvwNe
Squirrels Like to Work for Their Food http://squirrels-work-for-food.html
Fascinating Squirrels facts http://squirrels-in-mid-michigan.html
How squirrels were introduced into the neighborhood http://squirrels-were-introduced.html
How squirrels remember where they've buried nuts http://squirrels-remember.html 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Unique gifts for nature lovers

Seed characters available this year include an owl, cat, squirrel, raccoon, penguin, and snowman!
Seed cylinders have become Wild Birds Unlimited's most popular "winter feeder". Just slip the cylinder of your choice on the feeder and watch the birds. No more daily walks in the cold if you don't feel up to it. No more feeling guilty about having empty feeders when you go to visit relatives during the holidays. Seed cylinders last a long time, weeks if not months in some yards. And they are a perfect gift to anyone that loves nature!

Clinging birds like the finches, chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers flock to the food and don't have to wait in line to find a perch. Cylinders are couple pounds of quality high-fat seeds, nuts, and fruit tightly packed and held together with gelatin. Birds can choose a any spot to eat around the cylinder and seed can't be scattered to the ground to sprout or attract unwanted critters.

Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI also has a large selection of Hot Pepper Seed Cylinders! Birds don't sense hot because they have so few taste buds. So serving foods that birds like, that is coated in hot pepper, doesn't stop birds but does deter squirrels, raccoons, and deer from lunch at the "bird" feeder.

In addition to seed blocks and seed cylinders there are also Seed Bells, Giant Pinecones dipped in seed, Seed Wreaths, Bird Seed Houses, and the most unique Bird Seed Characters (found only at Wild Birds Unlimited).

These products are all handmade in the USA using the the highest quality fruits, seeds, and nuts that attract the widest variety of birds. I marvel at all the detail that goes in to each seed character! FYI, don't wait if you see something you like. Things are moving out of the store much faster than anticipated. Seed cylinders are available year-round but when the characters and other seasonal goodies are gone, they won't be back until next October.

Related Articles:  
Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR 
New Bird Food http://goo.gl/LpVQne
Why don't chickadees stay to eat at the feeder? http://bit.ly/AkKThH
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/rCdQqM

New Owl Seed characters! http://little-character.html 
Decorative Seed Cylinder Feeder now with optional tray http://decorative-seed-cylinder-feeder.html 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Fluffy finch is not fat

Birds that winter with us in Michigan are not fat but fluffy. Perching birds must maintain a healthy weight to fly away quickly. But when chilly November winds blow in you'll see birds at the feeders "fluffed up" to trap air between their feathers and bodies to create a natural layer of insulation and act as a buffer from the winds and wet; think downy coat. They also can grow twice as many feathers but they still have to shiver almost constantly to increase their body temperature in cold weather.

Birds use energy at high rates. In order to maintain their body temperatures, small species of birds, such as American Goldfinches must eat continuously during short daylight hours to stoke their metabolic fires. If they do not, they will not reserve enough energy to see them through the long night.

This is the time when a lot of high fat foods become more critical in a bird’s diet. Every night up to three-quarters of a bird’s fat reserves are used up; reserves that must be replenished the next day.

Keeping your feeders filled with high energy, high fat foods can provide your birds with the vital nutrition they need to survive. High on the list of best choices for finches are high fat seeds like sunflower seeds (429 fat calories per 100 grams) and nyjer seed (342 fat calories). Other bug eating birds birds like chickadees may prefer suet and certain seeds like peanuts, which provide 412 fat calories per 100 grams.

Related Articles:
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/tfT7Ca
Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/uKZs6v
Food & water from bird feeders can impact birds’ survival http://bit.ly/tsnvpP

Sunday, November 4, 2018

End of Daylight Savings from the POV of a #cat

Did anyone else get "the look" for serving breakfast an hour late?
Reaction to coming in an hour late because of the end of Daylight Savings
Dolly (cat) is a girl with a very strict regimen. When her rhythm is disrupted, it can cause a lot of anxiety. Fortunately she has a good hobby. Researchers have found lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress associated with the number of birds people (and I believe cats) see in an afternoon. Nature offers one of the most reliable boosts to your mental and physical well-being.
After bird watching

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Tips on how to choose the best bird feeders for winter

If you haven't done it already, in mid-Michigan it is safe to take down all your hummingbird and oriole feeders in November. Clean them first before you store them away. You can use a one part vinegar or bleach to nine parts water solution to clean all of your feeders. Rinse your feeders thoroughly and put them in a special place you'll remember next spring. Or you can take advantage of our bird feeding service: Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing- will clean your feeder for $5.00 and have it ready for you the next day we are open.
Tips on how to choose the best feeders for winter:
  1. Any feeder you choose should be easy to fill and easy to clean.
  2. Look for quality. Most Wild Birds Unlimited feeders come with a Lifetime Warranty.
  3. Determine what birds you want to attract. There are certain feeders that are made for specific birds (i.e. finch feeder).
  4. Decide where you are going to put the feeder. Is it going to hang in a tree, on an Advanced Pole System, on a window, or off a deck? The best place to put a feeder is where you can view it easily.
  5. Look for a feeder you don't have to fill every day. Large capacity feeders like the Quick Clean Big Tube, Squirrel Buster Plus, and the Ranchette Retreat Hopper will all stay filled for at least a week. And our most popular winter feeders are the ones that hold our seed cylinders. For people that aren't able to get out to fill feeders often during our harsh Michigan winters this feeder is ideal. Seed Cylinders are tidy, long-lasting, tightly packed seed shapes held together with gelatin that slip on a cylinder feeder. The birds stay longer eating at the feeder instead of grabbing a morsel and flying quickly away to eat it elsewhere. And the cylinders are packed with high-calorie nuts to provide birds with enough energy stay warm.
Tips on how to winterize feeders I already have:
  1. Weather Guards are designed to keep snow and rain from spoiling your seed in the tube. It's a clear plastic dome that slips on top of most tube feeders. It will not deter birds from feeding, in fact, many enjoy feeding under the shelter and out of the wet weather. It has a lifetime guarantee and is made in the USA.
  2. Trays not only catch seed falling from feeders but they also makes it more comfortable for ground feeding birds to eat at an elevated level where we can observe them. Attach a tidy tray to your seed tube or Catch-a-Seed trays with hopper bird feeders.
  3. Feeder Fresh can be added to the seed when you fill a feeder. It absorbs moisture and is safe for birds. Made from non-toxic absorbent sand, Feeder Fresh keeps the seed and feeder dry, preventing molds from forming, and thus reduces the chance of Aflatoxin and other mycotoxins.
Wild Birds Unlimited doesn’t just sell the best bird feeders and bird food. We also give you accurate information about our local birds. If you have specific questions, don't be afraid to ask. We are Your Backyard Bird feeding Specialist®, here to help bring you, and nature together. 
Related Articles:

Wild Birds Unlimited Advanced Pole System http://bit.ly/rJulFz
Wild Birds Unlimited EcoTough® Classic Hopper Feeders http://bit.ly/rpd6Cx
Wild Birds Unlimited EcoTough® Tail Prop Suet Feeder http://bit.ly/s5cNe7
Wild Birds Unlimited EcoTough® Upside Down Suet Feeder http://bit.ly/sbYFZn
Wild Birds Unlimited Best Beginner Recycled Plastic Bird Feeders at http://bit.ly/rXr0JA
Wild Birds Unlimited Best New Recycled Plastic Fly-thu Feeder http://bit.ly/rKj4en

Friday, November 2, 2018

Photo Share: A very playful Red-bellied Woodpecker (female)

I stuffed some suet in the bark of the tree outside the window and was amazed at how fast the woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees discovered it was there. Then I was fascinated by the antics they displayed in determining the pecking order for a seat at the table. I watched as the downy, red-bellied, and hairy woodpeckers exhibited behaviors related to conflict, food-storing, and even a little showing off and courtship.

They were dodging and shifting around the trunk of a tree sometimes with a Black-capped Chickadee as the imaginary assailant. I also watch wild, erratic flight as the woodpeckers looped in, out, and around, the tree as if being pursued by a hawk.

Other behaviors to watch for with the Red-bellied Woodpeckers is occasionally tapping on the trees with slight provocation perhaps as a part of practice courtship by juveniles, and also storing, miscellaneous objects, and food in the trees crevices.

Related Articles:
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
- Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX
- How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/tJ7e6S
-
Red-Bellied Woodpecker stores its food in the barks of trees http://bit.ly/nqYS7j
- How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Active, crested little bird is common all year in Michigan

As cold weather moves in and the active bug population decreases we get to see more sightings of the Tufted Titmice at the feeders! This self-contained little bird is often found foraging with flocks of chickadees during the winter months. They do not migrate extensively. In fact most live their entire lives within a few miles of their birthplace.

The big black doll eyes of this small gray bird make them irresistible. They are attracted mainly to feeders that offer suet, nuts or sunflower seeds. If you have sharp eyes you may spot them as they slide by unnoticed among the branches of the trees and hanging upside down while searching beneath twigs for insects.

Males are dominant over females and they form pairs that persist until the death of one of the mates. The titmouse family bond is so strong that the young from one breeding season will often stay with their parents long enough to help them with nesting and feeding duties the following year.

Tit is an old English word meaning little and mase meant small bird. The name titmase morphed eventually into titmouse. This was probably because the bird's coloring is similar to a small mouse. But actually the meaning of the name Titmouse is small, little bird.

Related Articles:
Bird of the Week: Small gray and white bird with tuft http://goo.gl/6dRVfF
Tufted Titmouse’s song is a fast-repeated, clear whistle http://goo.gl/cF55yP
Titmice Fun Facts http://goo.gl/nggZtM
Why offer peanuts to birds http://goo.gl/QK4t7K