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, December 31, 2018

First bird of the new year

My neighbor always arranges to have a tall, dark-haired guy be the first visitor at her house on January 1st to bring her good luck. The first-foot tradition is an old Scottish and Northern English folklore that says the first person to enter the household of a home on New Year's Day will foretell the fortune for the coming year. It is said to be desirable for the first-foot to be a tall, dark-haired male; a female or fair-haired male are in some places regarded as unlucky.

I’ve started my own tradition and named it First-bird. I’ve made up some fun fortunes to go with some common backyard birds:

Northern Cardinal – A bright and loving person will come into your life.
House Sparrow – You are going to find extra opportunities to make money.
American Goldfinch – Your health and fitness goals are achieved this year.
House Finch - A long journey is ahead! Great expectations.
Dark-eyed Junco - All the troubles you have will pass away very quickly.
Tufted Titmouse - Beware friends may try to impose, work calmly and silently.
Woodpeckers - Don’t worry; prosperity will knock on your door soon.
Black-capped Chickadee – People find it difficult to resist your persuasive manner.
Blue Jay – This year you will be surrounded by good friends and laughter.
Nuthatches - Your hard work will payoff finally.
Mourning Dove - Pennies from heaven find their way to your doorstep this year.
American Crow – Quick wits will get you out of a lot of tough situations.
Hawk - Your energy returns and you get things done.
Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:

The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die. 

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.



As temperatures dip early in the new year, birds will be looking for reliable sources of food. That is the perfect time to supplement your regular feeders with a little seed bell to feed a few extra feathered friends in your yard.

Seed Bells are an ideal way to offer your birds a high-energy supplement throughout the year. They are solid, compact mix of birdseed, fruits and nuts and can be hung on outdoor trees, porch hooks, or shrubs as a treat for clinging birds. They usually last between 2 to 4 weeks depending on the activity. Attract finches, cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, wrens, titmice, woodpeckers and many more songbirds.

There are a variety of flavors to choose from including Flaming Hot Feast, All Season, Bugs/Nut/Berry & Peanut.  They are all handmade in the USA using the the highest quality fruits, seeds, and nuts that attract the widest variety of birds.

Related Articles:
My Favorite Feeder http://my-favorite-feeder.html
The Best Peanut Feeders http://best-peanut-feeders.html
Northern Flicker more common at feeder http://flicker-at-feeder.html
Bell full of nesting materials http://nesting bell.html

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Where to Place Bird Feeders

I got a feeder as a gift. Where is the best place to set it up?

Where to Place Feeders
Feeders can be placed throughout the yard at different levels to attract a variety of birds. Just remember the number one rule in feeder location is to place it where you can watch the birds easily.

Try to find a place that's sheltered from the wind and away from cats and other predators. And the closer your feeder is to the window, the less likely birds will be hurt if they mistake the clear glass as a fly through.

How Birds Find The Feeder
Birds are amazing creatures and can find new feeders several different ways just like humans find restaurants. Everyone has a friend that likes to tell you about the new "hot spot." Some birds fly in flocks and may send out a scout bird to forage for new feeding sites.

Or if you see a line around the block for a restaurant, you may get in line yourself to check out the food. Some solitary birds see a lot of birds at a feeder and go see what all the fuss is about.

What if you see the "Golden Arches" on the way home from work? You know what's inside. Most birds find their food by sight. Some birds already eat at the neighbor's house and may see your familiar feeders on the way home.

How Long Does It Take
It may be a matter of hours before birds discover new feeders or a matter of weeks. The variation depends on habitat, number of nearby feeders, and the kinds of birds in the area. Chickadees, and House Sparrows are especially quick to locate new feeders. Also if you switch feeders the birds may be cautious to try that feeder. To encourage the birds to use new feeders tempt them with scattered seeds on the ground.
 
Good luck and enjoy the new feeder!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Learn to love 'em

I was fortunate enough to be home during daylight hours Tuesday to bird watch. The feeders were clean and full of fresh food. There was a light snow falling. That was perfect weather for the birds to start flocking to the feeders. Where were they? Two swoops of a large dark shape over the yard later I had my answer. They were in hiding from a hawk. I occasionally (unintentionally) host a hawk for a few days every couple of months. So on my day off I wasn't going to get a good day of watching multiple species of song birds feasting.

But the yard was still bounding with activity. The squirrels were running around like crazy! I watched chubby Fox Squirrels, lean Black Squirrels, and the mighty mini Red Squirrels all chasing each other and leaping in the snow.

Working at a bird feeding store, I know most of our customers like to feed the birds and not the squirrels but I've never had anything against them. I had a great time watching the squirrel show. In some ways they are even more impressive than birds. They are mammals like us and yet they can survive winter.

Related Articles:
Special squirrel adaptation http://squirrel-adaptation.html
Where squirrels sleep at night in the winter http://squirrels-sleep-at-night.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 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

New Year's resolutions for improving the lives of birds

Is there a correct way to bird watch? Not really, but when you begin to feed the birds you should accept some responsibilities to create and maintain a healthy environment. As the year draws to a close, start planning to make the next year even better for your backyard birds.

1. CleanFeeders - Feeders should be cleaned at least once a month, year round. Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) - East Lansing, MI will clean your feeder for $5.00. Or you can disassemble feeders and immerse them completely in a 1:9 vinegar: water solution for three minutes. Scrub with brushes (available at WBU), rinse thoroughly, and let air dry. Also clean the area around the feeders to help eliminate the build up around the feeder.
2. Fill Feeders – Throw out seed that is over 3 months old! It is dried out and will do your birds no good. Food is essential to provide birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition to endure the elements. An ample supply of fresh high-calorie foods is crucial to a bird's survival. Wild Birds Unlimited has fresh, regionally formulated seed blends to provide the most nutritious food for your birds.
3. Feeder/Hardware Maintenance - Check you feeders to see if there are any repairs that need to be done. Make sure feeders are hung so they are easy to reach and fill.
4. ProvideRoosting Spots - Nest boxes turn into roosting boxes in the winter for bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, sparrows, and other birds that might stay all winter in mid-Michigan. You can put up roosting pockets woven of all-natural grasses available at Wild Birds Unlimited to offer essential protection in the winter.
5. Prepare Bird Baths - Birds also need a source for water in the winter. In our area, weather can turn cold fast and freeze the water in bird baths. It’s best to place a plastic or metal bath out with an added heater or a buy a heated birdbath. If you’re not sure what you need, Wild Birds Unlimited will give you accurate information on how to support our local birds. 

Related articles:

What the first bird of the year means https:/first-bird-fortunes-told.html
What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/z7Eurx
Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
What seeds do wild birds eat? http://bit.ly/wKyQNB
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/xbkaPP
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Chickadee hiding food

Why does a chickadee fly off with its food instead of eating it on the spot?

There are at least at least three reasons birds leave a feeder with food in their bill. First the birds could be trying to stay safe, second they might need a better location to work on cracking the seed, or third, they might be caching the food item to save it for later.

Related Articles:

Birds looking to fill their winter cupboards https://birds hide food.html
Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
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
Feeding the birds will not make them dependent. http://goo.gl/dqYQu

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Photo Share: #Christmas Mourning Doves

Christmas Mourning Doves outside the Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing store.
The distinctive plaintive call of the mourning dove primarily suggests gloom and sorrow. Yet throughout history, the dove has been portrayed as a positive symbol. Beyond their sorrowful song is a message of life, hope, renewal and peace.

Related Articles:
- Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://bit.ly/wMKEKF
- How Do You Keep Doves From Dominating a Feeder? http://bit.ly/zDAwR2
- How Mourning Doves defend their nests http://bit.ly/LiE7TH
- Do Birds Sip or Slurp? http://bit.ly/N6syCY
- Mourning Dove nesting facts and figures http://goo.gl/WeLWy

Monday, December 24, 2018

Michigan Nutcracker

White-breasted Nuthatch outside Wild Birds Unlimited store
Nifty and Nimble Nuthatches!
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Nuthatches are named for their habit of cracking nuts open with their bill and wedging them into a crevices for future use. They are very easy backyard birds to identify. If you see a bird creeping downward on a tree, it’s a nuthatch. It’s the only species that can walk down a tree. It needs no tail support because it has incredibly strong feet!

Most nuthatches visit feeders in ones and twos. Pairs generally live in a territory of 10 to 30 acres looking for seeds and insects found in trees, or hiding seeds from feeders in tree bark for a snack later in the day or breakfast the next morning.

Red-breasted and White-breasted nuthatches are the most common visitors to feeders in Michigan. They are feisty birds that announce their presence with calls that sounds like a nasal laugh. They enjoy suet, sunflower seeds, nuts, mealworms or seed cylinders.
Pygmy Nuthatches live in ponderosa forests in the West and survive the bitter winter nights by roosting with 50 to 100 or more other Pygmy Nuthatches in tree cavities. With so many birds in the cavity, they stay warm and can lower their metabolic rate to conserve energy.

Another species, Brown-headed Nuthatches, live primarily in the Southeast United States in mature pine forests. These birds live in flocks, although they do not have the “sleepovers” the Pygmy Nuthatches have.

Related Articles:
- Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://goo.gl/d0VzDD
- Bird of the week: Red-breasted Nuthatch http://bit.ly/sXqKVH
- Fascinating Nuthatch Bill-Sweeping & Wing Fanning http://bit.ly/s4MWlV
- Facts every backyard birder wants know about Nuthatches http://bit.ly/tBbDbQ
- Black and white bird walking upside down on a tree trunk http://goo.gl/RUCT6O

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Photo Share: Frosty gray squirrel

In East Lansing it is very common to see a black squirrel. It so common that when I saw this gray beauty munching next all the black squirrels under the tree I got a little excited.

But for the rest of the Eastern United States, the common Eastern Gray Squirrel is a very common sight. My gray squirrel looks like it has frosty fur, tipped with a little brownish color and a lighter belly.

Gray squirrels can come in coats of many different colors from white, gray, brown, black or even patchwork. Michigan's black squirrel is a gray squirrel with a black coat resulting from a naturally occurring mutation.

Related Articles:
Black Squirrel History & Facts http://bit.ly/z1iqin
How Many Species of Squirrels are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/wVySsA
Patchwork colored squirrel http://bit.ly/wJxpNK
How many different types of chipmunks are there? http://bit.ly/xw1PqM
Cardinal with white head http://bit.ly/xmSZXj

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Empty bird feeder means bad weather is on the way

The birds weren't as active at the feeders when the weather was nice. It's estimated that only about 20% of a backyard bird's daily energy intake comes from feeders. Birds actually like to forage for natural food sources when available. Then last night I went home to discover every feeder was empty. Do the birds know something I don't? Bad weather must be on the way.

As the snow begins to fly, birds become stressed and take advantage of feeders. Almost every person that came in to the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store today reported a "feeding frenzy" at the bird feeders. Many said they feed year round and others started to feed earlier this year on my recommendation. The reward was a lot of birds including several cardinal pairs that decided their yard was going to be the territory headquarters.

I have a lot of finches, woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, doves, juncos, sparrows and I’ve counted 12 pairs of cardinals this year in my yard. That’s a record for my little yard!

If you don't see an increase in the number of birds when it snows, check your seed. If birds are skipping you feeder in these chilly temperatures than the food is probably stale. When every calorie counts, birds can’t waste their energy on below standard food.

I encourage you to keep your seed and suet feeders filled as the cold weather persists. If you don’t like to go out and fill the feeder every day, try the seed cylinder feeders. A solid seed cylinder can last weeks and feed a wide variety of birds.

Related Articles:
- Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR

- What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/tfT7Ca 
- Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw 
- Help Birds Beat Their Winter Woes http://goo.gl/ZlDTw
- Best food for birds in the winter http://goo.gl/5OBx6r

Friday, December 21, 2018

Celebrate Birds

Bird feeders are mainly for your enjoyment. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office of Bird Management states: "If you enjoy feeding the birds, you can do it year round. Feeding the birds will not make them lazy or too dependant."

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology scientists state; "Keep the restaurant open year round and offer a variety of seeds and suet."

For birds in Michigan, studies indicate that Black-Oil Sunflower, Sunflower Chips, White Proso Millet, Safflower, and Nyjer® Thistle are among the most preferred seed types. Suet and peanuts are also high energy, high fat foods which are invaluable in the fall and winter when insects are harder to find and birds need many more calories to generate heat. 
Related Articles:
How to choose the best suet cake http://bit.ly/xATYPQ
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh
Why do Birds Scatter Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/vZ6gzM
Choosing a seed blend to feed wild birds http://goo.gl/xUGKA

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Why don't all the birds leave Michigan in the winter?

How do the birds know to fly south to find food in the winter?
I wrote earlier about how this was going to be a good season for bird watching because Canada’s natural seed crops were horrible this year and lots of birds that usually like to winter further north are going to have venture south to Michigan to find food. Luckily birds have wings and most can forage as far as they need to in search of food for survival.

When the snows hit you'll be able to observe many birds taking advantage of feeders as a supplemental food source. Then come spring they'll heed their hormonal urge to return to a good nesting territory.

But not all birds fly south for the winter. Studies have revealed that more and more southern birds are moving north and sticking around mid-Michigan in the winter. Land development, a steady increase in global temperatures, and bird feeding during the last half of the 20th century may have played a small role in the northward expansion of some southern birds.

For example, the northern edge of the Cardinal’s range has expanded greatly since the days of John James Audubon. Originally a southern bird, the Northern Cardinal began expanding its range into northern states around the 1900’s. After nesting season Cardinals stop defending territories and begin to flock together. During the early days of their expansion they would migrate back south during the winter. But in time they became year round residents of Michigan.

The Tufted Titmouse, Norther Flicker, and Carolina Wren have also been expanding their range northward. Speculation for their expansion includes warming winter temperatures and the increase in mature woodland habitat.

Or take the Turkey Vulture. Once only a southern US bird, by the 1960's they had extended their breeding range into Michigan. The popular theory is that the interstate highway system increased the availability of food in the form of roadkill.

So what do we make of all this? How do animals know when and where to go? The usual explanation is that the migration is driven by instinct, hard-wired into birds. But birds might be evolving. Whether or not a bird flies south for the winter depends a lot on what food the species eats.

Every year we get more and more sightings of orioles, hummingbirds and other birds that normally migrate, sticking around. Amazingly, if a bird can get enough food, they can survive even the worst weather.

That’s why information gathered from the citizen science projects like the Great Backyard Bird Count, along with observations from the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and eBird, helps to us see the “big picture” about what is happening to bird populations. The longer data is collected, the more meaningful it becomes in helping scientists investigate far-reaching questions, like:

• How will the weather influence bird populations?
• Why winter finches and other “irruptive” species appear in large numbers during some years but not others?
• How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?
• How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?
• What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?

Related Articles:
Good News on the upcoming bird watching season https://more-birds-to-visit.html
Birdwatching: Look for the Out-of-Towners http://bit.ly/q6Pkco
How to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count http://bit.ly/wxa766
Book Recommendations for Michigan Birdwatchers https://checklist-of-michigan-birds.html
Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/ywWdfL

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

For the squirrel lover/hater in the family

Available only at Wild Birds Unlimited, Peanut the Squirrel Seed Cylinder is a whimsical addition to any backyard bird feeding station. It's made from birds' favorite foods including nuts, sunflower chips, millet and fruit.

Stop by our store to meet our other "seedy characters." They can help you attract many of your favorite birds, including chickadees, woodpeckers and goldfinches.

Seed Cylinders are tidy, long-lasting, tightly packed seed shapes held together with gelatin that slip on a cylinder feeder. It's a win-win for you and your birds. 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.

I can tell you that Seed Cylinder feeders are undemanding. They are easy to clean, easy to fill, leave very little mess and attract a wide variety of birds. The feeders are popular with beginners and for people like me who have been feeding birds for over 40 years. They also makes great gifts and it is a nice way to introduce someone to feeding birds.

Related Articles:
Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
Exciting New Bird Food at Wild Birds Unlimited Stores 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
Holiday gift ideas for nature lovers: http://bit.ly/v8L2va
Feeding the birds will not make them dependent. http://goo.gl/dqYQu

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Help birds get ready for the new year

Along with the cold winds and bad weather, birds must also face fewer daylight hours to forage at a time when they need to increase their calories to stay warm. The winter solstice, the longest night of the year, usually occurs on December 21 to 23 each year in the Northern Hemisphere.
But after the winter solstice this week, the days will start to get longer. For the birds it might be considered the beginning of the "real" New Year.

It's hard not to admire our hardy winter birds in Michigan. When I go out to fill the feeders in the morning and hear the nuthatches and woodpeckers “laughing,” I feel happy that they’ve made it through the night.

And remember if you feel a little guilty about just throwing away your Christmas tree, its usefulness can be extended by placing it outside near feeders for added shelter against the weather and predators. In a matter of minutes, the old tree is providing a new natural cover.

The birds had an advantage with the milder November and early December which allowed them to seek natural foods. Though it might seem strange to humans, wild birds prefer to forage over visiting feeders. However, as the temperatures dip and natural food sources may become covered with snow or locked in ice, the supplemental food and water we provide is more widely appreciated and has a bigger impact on the birds’ survival. 

Related Articles:
Groundhog’s Day on Feb. 2 is a "cross-quarter" day. http://bit.ly/vUF7Qk
Singing Birds Herald The Arrival of Spring. http://bit.ly/uJbzCe
Why do they call it Indian Summer? http://bit.ly/twFccE
Why do leaves change color in the fall? http://bit.ly/spkqnF
What’s the difference between a full moon and a new moon? http://bit.ly/tKg5gO

Monday, December 17, 2018

Woodpecker's super power

I bought a decorative suet feeder that doesn't hold the suet cake firmly and I am worried the woodpeckers won't be able to reach the food. Should I melt some suet cakes together to make it bigger?

Woodpeckers are well-equipped to pry food out difficult situations. Most people know woodpeckers use their beak like a chisel searching for insect larvae in the barks of trees. But bugs don’t want to get eaten and they tuck tight in tiny crevices to hide. That’s when the woodpecker pulls out a secret weapon, his long, barbed tongue.

Woodpeckers’ tongues act like a spear with sticky barbs that can extend up to 4 inches. The tongue starts out on top of the mouth, passes through the right nostril, between the eyes, divides in two, arches over the top of the skull and around the back part of the skull passing on either side of the neck, coming forward through the lower mouth.

Tiny bones within the entire length of woodpecker's tongue fold up like an accordion. When a woodpecker contracts his muscles the tongue is propelled out of the bill. When the muscles relax the tongue shortens. The woodpeckers' tongue is also super sensitive. It contains muscles that move it side to side as well to search for food and feel for unseen food behind dead wood or in feeders.

Watch the video of woodpeckers in action on a Wild Birds Unlimited Tail Prop suet feeder: https://youtu.be/EI9a1Wb6duk
Related Articles:
How do I stop woodpeckers from pecking on my house? http://bit.ly/KGItqF
What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
Hairy Woodpecker vs. Downy Woodpecker http://goo.gl/WMH31
How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://goo.gl/P2qRv
How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Party pooped at Wild Birds Unlimited

Dolly getting beauty sleep
by Rosemarie Moon


Dolly is party pooped. Our Open House was a HUGE success because the people that shop at Wild Birds Unlimited regularly are the nicest group around! And thankfully this year I finally ordered enough seed so we didn't completely run out.

As the year comes to a close, we want to take a moment to thank you for your continued support and wish you a very Happy New Year.

We appreciate your shopping local and helping us celebrate the 14th holiday season at Wild Birds Unlimited, East Lansing, Michigan!

Much Joy, Sarah & Dolly (the cat)

Saturday, December 15, 2018

A hobby for the whole family

Backyard bird feeding is a great way to observe wildlife 
and an enjoyable activity for the entire family.
Who will I attract?
Just a few of the common winter birds attracted to feeders are cardinals, finches, juncos, doves, titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, jays, starlings and sparrows.

What’s the best bird feeder?
Any bird feeder you choose should be easy to fill and easy to clean. Seed feeders obviously hold seed and attract a wide variety of seed eating birds. Suet feeders attract bug eating birds like the woodpeckers. Nyjer (thistle) feeders attract the finches. It is also important to keep your feeders filled with the high-energy, high-fat foods that provide your birds with the crucial nutrition they need to survive. Studies indicate that Sunflower, Peanuts, White Proso Millet, Safflower, and Nyjer® Thistle are among the most preferred seed types. Cheap filler grains like oats, wheat and milo decrease the price per pound of a seed blend and suet but aren't eaten by the birds and are left to rot on the ground.

Where should I put the feeder?
The best place to put the feeder is where you can watch the birds easily. Try to find a place that's sheltered from the wind and away from cats and other predators. And the closer your feeder is to the window, the less likely birds will be hurt if they mistake the clear glass as a fly through.

When's the best time to start?
There is no best or worst time to start bird feeding. In general, whenever the birds are stressed they will appreciate a reliable food source. Typically, feeders serve as a supplemental source of food for birds in your yard. Fruit and nut bearing bushes and trees supply a natural food source as well as native flowers, such as coneflowers, black eyed Susan’s, and cosmos that are allowed to go to seed and stand through the winter. In the last couple months of winter the natural sources have gradually become more and more scarce and that's when birds may switch to utilizing feeders to survive from day to day.

How long should I feed them?
If you enjoy feeding birds, there is no reason to stop. You can do it year-round. Feeding the birds throughout the summer will not make them "lazy," or "dependent." Backyard bird feeding is an entertaining and educational pastime that can be enjoyed by children and adults. It provides a needed stress relief and brings families together. There is no designated time to feed the birds. Most people feed year round.

Related Articles:
- What Month Do You Stop Feeding The Birds? http://goo.gl/wuKbTI
- Keep your feeders clean http://goo.gl/UGfVGT
- Would the birds starve to death if I stopped feeding them? http://bit.ly/xOFgb9
- How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://goo.gl/AdJPBO
- Choosing a seed blend to feed wild birds http://goo.gl/vsBxVs
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/rTCbHB

Friday, December 14, 2018

Carolina Wren in Michigan

I was watching out the window when a Carolina Wren zoomed the feeder. It poked and pushed until it was the only one feeding. The sparrows and squirrels stood off to the side to wait their turn. Carolina Wrens seem to be bursting with energy and I enjoy having them in the yard.

Our Carolina Wrens do not migrate but are very sensitive to cold weather. Severe winters result in a marked decline in their numbers. Having a known source of food is essential for providing wrens with the energy, stamina, and nutrition they need to survive. For this reason, it is a good idea to put out a feeder to help these birds (and other bird species as well) survive the winter.

Carolina Wrens are primarily insect eaters, but suet, peanuts, seed cylinders and mealworms are good substitutes for scarce insects during winter. They can be attracted to your feeders by providing a brush pile close to your feeding area. I have a pine tree and a bushy viburnum to give the birds cover. They feel more secure with a place to seek refuge nearby.

I also have a wren house that it can sleep in at night. A good idea to encourage Carolina wrens to stay and feed in or near your yard is to provide houses or roosting pockets near the bird feeders. Roosting pockets are little shelters, much like birdhouses (but smaller and not meant to be used as a nesting site), where the birds can roost and hide from the wind chill. The combination of roosting pockets and bird feeders during winter is one sure way to attract Carolina wrens in your area. So take a second look at all those brown birds that are visiting. That bossy one is probably a wren.

Related Articles:
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/yAR4pm 
- Quick Fun Facts on Wrens http://bit.ly/v5XVoU
- Surviving Winter, the Bird Way http://goo.gl/SF0Yga
- Roosting Pockets: Warm Shelter from Frosty Winds http://goo.gl/QOPbMw

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Finches feast on feeders

The American Goldfinches and House Finches are both here in mid-Michigan year round. To encourage them to your yard, plant native flowers in the spring like Purple coneflowers, milkweed and other plants that produce seed heads.

At the feeders, finches prefer sunflower and nyjer (thistle) seed. They can figure out how to use any bird feeder including hoppers, mesh or tube feeders, and these birds don’t mind feeders that sway in the wind.

They are also seen quite often at the bird bath to wet their whistle.

Related Articles:
European Goldfinches http://bit.ly/Q2Cu37
Goldfinch Migration http://bit.ly/MzGSPD
Are Goldfinches here in the winter? http://bit.ly/PZu5ML
Goldfinches: The Last Birds Nesting http://bit.ly/PZuejj
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Big yellow bird may soon hit the feeders

I've been hearing it every day, "the birds are hungry this year." This may also be evident if you've been in the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing lately and noticed the seed bags and boxes of seed cylinders are practically stacked to the ceiling. The birds are hungry this year. Widespread seed, berry, and cone crop failures, according to the The 2018-2019 Winter Finch Forecast means our birds as well as some of the birds that usually winter further north are coming down to mid-Michigan to search for food.

People have already reported seeing large numbers of little Red-breasted Nuthatches, Pine Siskins and redpolls. These tiny birds are so friendly and sweet sounding they are always a welcome addition to the feeding station. But there is also another big bird that might come down, the spectacular Evening Grosbeak.

The Evening Grosbeak is a yellow, black, and white finch with a bill that appears too big for its body. They were named in 1825 based on erroneous accounts that they became vocal and active only “at the approach of night.” You might hear their running patter of call notes before you see them. They are a songbird without a song, just a small repertoire of simple calls, including sweet, piercing notes and burry chirps, is emitted.

Evening Grosbeaks were formerly considered a common and widespread winter backyard bird but rapid declines in recent years make them a special sight during irruption years. Populations dropped steeply between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey—particularly in the East where numbers declined by 97% during that time. You can offer straight sunflower seeds or use a blend Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess blend. They are also attracted to the garden seeds, berries, and buds of trees and shrubs—especially maples.

Related Articles:
Fun Facts About Evening Grosbeaks http://goo.gl/JCzRq5
Goldfinch Migration http://bit.ly/pEuMKo
House Finches: Those Year-round Red Heads http://bit.ly/opD7kb
Birdwatching: Look for the Out-of-Towners http://bit.ly/q6Pkco
10 Winter Finches in Michigan http://goo.gl/C9WUqx
Where do you place finch feeders? http://bit.ly/p4XHU4