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.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Geese migrate at night

When it gets dark we think of most birds tucking in a bushy spot or tree hollow to sleep. But during the spring and fall migration, many birds take flight at night including geese.

Geese fly at both night and day but most usually begin at dusk. They move in a V formation, with experienced individuals taking turns leading the flock. Migrating flocks include loose groups of families generally.

Geese have excellent memories and vision especially with the full moon, allowing them to spot and remember landmarks on the ground and in the sky. Their ability to see in the dark is 12 times greater than ours.

Their autumn migration can be seen from September to the beginning of November. We usually see some Canada Geese year-round in mid-Michigan as long as there is unfrozen water. However some geese that breed in the High Arctic fly through Michigan to the southern United States for winter.

Related Articles:
- Have you ever heard of a wedge of geese? http://goo.gl/2oDPB
- Goose Gaffe? http://goo.gl/sDx9H
- Strange deer and goose pairing http://goo.gl/im8Pj
- Why geese sleep in the water http://goo.gl/X9gV9
- Why do geese fly in a V formation? http://goo.gl/h1icv

Monday, October 14, 2019

Friendly Chickadee

It was a joy filling the feeders last night because I had a chickadee conversing with me at each feeding station. Nesting season is over, the winds are blowing colder, and chickadees are looking for a friendly hand out to survive the longer nights. He was so cute singing a gargle song right next to me.
Chickadees are among the most popular birds in North America, due to their regular visits to feeders, ability to nest in urban gardens, and sweet songs. It can be a tough time for chickadees when the weather turns cold. It requires them to expend a great deal of energy to maintain their body temperature and the shorter days also means a shorter time to forage for food.

Then there is their diminutive stature. In a winter flock of birds, the little chickadee is lowest on the pecking order. The larger Hairy Woodpeckers are more dominant over the smaller Downy Woodpecker which is more dominant than the White-breasted Nuthatch, which can be more dominant then the titmouse which is always more dominant than the chickadee. By the time it’s the chickadees time to feed the pickings might be slim.

But clever birds that they are, they wait for humans to fill a feeder to grab a quick bite before the others can claim their turn. They are also confident in their ability to flit away and avoid a predator's capture. So confident, in fact, they may even come down to your open hand full of food.

Related Articles:
Best Bird Houses http://bit.ly/AuLTJt
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Why don't chickadees stay to eat at the feeder? http://bit.ly/AkKThH
After chickadee babies have fledged http://bit.ly/yAYbP4
Fun Facts About Chickadees http://bit.ly/zIDkCi
What Do Black-Capped Chickadees Eat? http://bit.ly/zxi04X
Bird of the Week: Black-capped Chickadee http://bit.ly/A1YFQ4

Sunday, October 13, 2019

How much wild birds sleep

Where’s Dolly (Cat)? That is one of the most frequently asked questions at Wild Birds Unlimited, East Lansing, MI. Dolly has lived at our store for many years, but as you may know cats require 16 to 20 hours of sleep each day to function without crankiness. I need about 8 hours a night and what about birds?

Sleep requirements vary slightly for different species. Most of our backyard birds are diurnal, meaning they’re awake during the day and asleep at night. On average those birds probably need about 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night. Nighttime predators on the prowl, however may mean birds only get short little bursts of sleep. Many sleep with only half a brain and one eye open, always on the lookout for danger. Keeping one half of the brain at rest is called unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USWS). But don’t worry they follow Dolly's lead and can take “cat naps” in the day if needed.

Related Articles:
How Do Birds Sleep? http://how-do-birds-sleep.html 
Where birds sleep http://where-birds-sleep.html
Why geese sleep in the water http://why-geese-sleep-in-water.html
Where birds go at night http://where-birds-go-at-night.html
Do birds snore? Watch the video http://do-birds-snore-watch-video.html
What birds see at night http:/what-birds-see-at-night.html

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Pin Feathers

Pin Feathers, sometimes called a "blood feathers", are developing feathers on baby birds or molting birds. For molting birds, feather loss and replacement is a gradual 6 to 8 week period. Birds begin to shed old feathers and pin feathers come out in a waxy coating. The pin feather has a blood supply flowing through it and if it is damaged a bird can bleed heavily. As the pin feather grows the blood concentrates at the base of the shaft and is no longer synonymous to a blood feather. The feather is ready to be unwrapped. You may observe more birds bathing in the sun, water, or even the dust as they try to remove itchy waxy coatings, and allow the new feathers to unfurl.

During molt, birds may become less agile in flight and have a difficult time evading predators. Some species of birds even become flightless during an annual "wing molt" and must seek a protected habitat with a reliable food supply during that time.

Birds can spend hours a day preening to keep their feathers in top condition. Feather maintenance is essential for their survival. Because feathers make up 4–12% of a bird's body weight, it takes a large amount of energy to replace them. For the next few months, keep your feeders clean and full of fresh food to ensure that your birds have a reliable food source to help them during this stressful time.

Related articles:

- Types of Bird feathers http://goo.gl/W9rzP
- Why Birds don't Freeze After They Take a Bath in the Winter: http://bit.ly/mPa0Y8
- How small birds stay warm in the winter: http://bit.ly/q3dDqj
- Why birds molt: http://bit.ly/ox5Hwi
- Blue Jays aren't blue: http://bit.ly/pMN37k
- Fossils of colored feathers: http://bit.ly/nc2UeA

Friday, October 11, 2019

American Crow migration

I live on the Keweenaw Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula. This summer I (finally!) was able to make friends with a local family of 4 crows. They appeared regularly each morning and called until I went out and fed them unshelled peanuts. However, they've seemingly disappeared over the past two weeks and I haven't seen any other crows in the neighborhood, either. Am I just far enough north that the crows migrate a bit south in the winter?

In the fall, some American Crows begin migration in Michigan around September and October. But it is also a possibility that your crows have just ventured off to find new areas to forage.

Once nesting season is over, and babies leave the nest and mature, crows may begin to wander widely. Sometimes they maintain a territory year round with the entire extended family, but sometime individual crows might meet up with other large flocks to search for food at dumps, agricultural fields, and areas with fruit and nut trees.

Your crows might return soon or maybe not again until spring. Crows return faithfully to the same breeding territory each year, however they are flexible in where they spend the winter. You can view an animated map at: https://ebird.org

Crows aren’t the usual feeder bird, but you can attract them a yard with a mix of trees, open space, and food. A Wildlife Seed Blend of peanuts, sunflower seed, and corn on an open tray feeder might draw them down. Crows are also attracted by compost, garbage, or pet food.

Thank you for your very helpful response! As it turns out "my" little crow family reappeared today and are happily eating unsalted peanuts in the shell. I was starting to worry!
Related Articles:
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Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/LvWpAm
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How Do I Deter Crows at the Feeder? http://bit.ly/LWbhMB
Why are “black” birds considered bad by most people? http://bit.ly/LWbxeD

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Quick Fun Facts about the Downy Woodpecker

Did You Know?

- One of the smallest and most widespread North American woodpecker, the Downy Woodpecker is a year-round resident coast to coast

- The Downy’s name refers to the soft white feathers of the white strip on the lower back, which differ from the more hairlike feathers on the Hairy Woodpecker.

- Their contrasting black and white pattern conceals them from predators. Known as disruptive coloration, this sharp contrast in colors helps to break-up and conceal the shape and outline of a woodpecker as it climbs the side of a tree.

- When threatened by predators, Downy Woodpeckers will freeze motionless against the trunk of a tree and will not return to normal activities for up to ten minutes.

- Woodpeckers are among a very few birds that have zygodactyl feet – which simply means they have two toes pointing forward and two toes pointing backwards. Most birds have an arrangement of three toes forward and one backwards. Having two sets of opposing toes gives them a much better grip on the trees they land on and climb.

- Woodpeckers may find their hidden prey by sound and/or smell. As the woodpecker strikes the tree, hollow sounds may echo off of the tunnels (galleries) of wood-boring insects (like thumping a watermelon). When feeding on wood, grubs make an audible sound that could be heard by a woodpecker. Woodpeckers have a better sense of smell than most birds and may be able to detect the strong odor of the formic acid that ants, bark beetles and termites excrete (smells like Sweet Tarts).

- While excavating a cavity, a woodpecker’s head can strike a tree’s surface at speeds up to 13- 15 miles per hour and do it at over 100 strokes per minute. This is equivalent to a person crashing head-first into a tree while running at top speed.

- The barbed tip of a woodpecker’s tongue is very sensitive to touch and can both detect and impale insect larvae. The tongue is coated with sticky mucus that is secreted by large salivary glands; this coating helps to ensure that its prey does not slip away.

- Male Downy woodpeckers tend to feed on smaller tree branches, while females tend to feed on the larger branches.

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/o4CLq

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Functional houses for woodpeckers

Do woodpeckers nest this time of year (fall). I had a woodpecker work two whole days on making the wren house hole bigger.

In our mid-Michigan area woodpeckers only nest once a year. But many are year-round residents and look for a place to roost during the cold months. Bird houses imitate the natural cavities provided by trees. Wild Birds Unlimited has several functional houses for woodpeckers as well as roosting pockets made of woven grasses or felted wool that you can also put up as a shelter.

And if you need to shrink the woodpecker expanded hole on your bird house for the wrens next spring we have metal and wood portal protectors to cover any damage and resize the hole.

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

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Felted Wool Bird House

Customer photo from Sandra Hellman
Now is the perfect time to put up a bird house. Certain birds like bluebirds, chickadees, wrens, titmice, nuthatches, and woodpeckers may begin to look for a place to nest as early as February, while there is still snow on the ground! Much better to be too early than too late.

Also small birds often use these same boxes for shelter at night and in bad weather during winter. Sometimes more than a dozen birds will pile into a single box to conserve heat.

You may want to offer Roosting pockets too. Wild Birds Unlimited, East Lansing has woven grass and felted wool pockets designed to prevent the birds' body heat from escaping, so unlike a nest box, it lacks ventilation holes. Also, its entrance hole is near the bottom so the rising warmth doesn't escape.

You can mount your houses on poles available at the store or on a fence post and hang roosting pockets from tree hooks in sheltered spots, out of prevailing winds. South-facing houses receive the most warmth from the winter sun.

Related Articles: https://www.youtube.com/
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Why Don't Birds Freeze After They Take a Bath in the Winter? http://goo.gl/5ydpvy
Poles to mount your Bird House http://poles-to-mount-house.html
Surviving Winter, the Bird Way http://goo.gl/SF0Yga

Monday, October 7, 2019

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

I thought I saw the silhouette of a red-bellied woodpecker but it was a sapsucker! I only seem to see them in the spring and fall. Most migrate further south for the winter but over the last decade more and more have found mid-Michigan south enough.

https://ebird.org/abundance-map
They are black and white all over with a yellowish to creamy-white belly. The males have a bright red crown and throat and a black bib. The females are similar in appearance to the male, but have a white throat instead of red. I've seen both males and females but this one was my first baby! Juvenile sapsuckers have a more overall brownish feather color and subtle red-and-white head markings. Their throat is usually white, although the male may have some red.

Sometimes you'll see them on your suet and seed feeders. Like our other woodpeckers, they like insects, but the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only member of the woodpecker family to drill shallow rows of wells on tree bark. The neatly organized holes well up with sap that the sapsucker laps up with their brush-like tongue (not sucks). They also eat any bugs that happen to get trapped in the sticky stuff.

She was on a maple tree happily poking around for food and making a beautiful mewing call.
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https://goo.gl/7EHyMB
- Hummingbirds follow the sapsuckers during migration http://bit.ly/oqUDia
- How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/obAc2U
- Fall Trees Reveal Their Secrets http://bit.ly/nHeb9z
- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker: Vampire Bird http://goo.gl/ipdib

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Photo Share: Gray catbird bird perched on a branch

The Gray Catbird has been found to come back to the same neighborhood, often the same tree, year after year, even though it migrates every fall as far as Florida, and Texas, and the Caribbean, and Central America. If you get to know the patterns of mimicry, you can recognize the individual catbirds in your neighborhood by their songs.

Related Articles: https://www.youtube.com/
Catbird Mimicry https://wandering-catbirds.html
Photo Share: Gray Catbird at the oriole feeders https://gray-catbird-at-oriole.html
Sitting in the "Cat" bird seat https://sitting-in-cat-bird-seat.html

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Time to put up an owl house

The Eastern Screech-Owl is native to North America and nests throughout the United States and in portions of Canada and Mexico. It is a small owl, 8 inches in length from the top of their ear tufts to the tip of the tail, with a wing span of 22 inches.

The whinny call of Eastern Screech-Owls are their most frequent vocalizations, particularly during late summer and early fall when young are dispersing and seeking their own territories, but their vocal repertoire also includes various barks, hoots, squeals, and “screeches”.

From October–March in Michigan, Eastern Screech-Owls roost in nest boxes and cavities but you may catch them in the entrance occasionally sunbathing in warm winter weather with fluffed breast and facial plumage.
- Snowy Owls http://bit.ly/ylJmQq
- Eastern Screech Owl http://bit.ly/wMQBZj
- Great Horned Owl http://bit.ly/zmlFqY
- Barred Owl http://bit.ly/yAoDx8
- Great Gray Owl http://bit.ly/tAewYm
- Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/z9q3Dg

Friday, October 4, 2019

Easy beginner bird feeder

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to get started feeding the birds. With our Flying Start™ Cylinder Feeder, you get everything you need. Just slip a seed cylinder on the hanging stake and wait for the birds to discover the food they love.

- Great for people who are experienced or just beginning the bird feeding hobby
- The seed is held together with gelatin so it lasts a long time
- Birds stay at the feeder longer to work a seed off
- Very little mess. No scattered seed below
- One of the easiest feeders to maintain and attracts a wide variety of birds.
- Many different seed cylinder to choose from including HOT to keep the mammals away.

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!

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

Thursday, October 3, 2019

American Robin devours berries

After nesting is completed in late summer and up until the breeding season begins next spring, robins form flocks that roost together at night and feed together by day. Robins are nomadic, and wander irregularly. The same individual robin may winter one year in Florida and remain in mid-Michigan the following year.

American Robins go where there is food. Flocks can move around to different nut or fruit trees as they ripen and avoid bad weather when it blows through. I have a pond that is always flowing in my yard and they hit it occasionally throughout the winter to take baths or stop by to devour berries on a nearby bush or tree.

Robins ARE territorial on their summer breeding territories, but not at their roosts, or in feeding trees. Flocking is a behavior that gives the birds more eyes and ears to search for food sources and be watchful for predators.

So any robins you see flying in the fall may be going down south or to a local pond or just out foraging for a tree full of fruit. If you look at the range map you’ll see that there are winter populations of robins in most states year round. Robins are surprisingly hardy birds, capable of surviving temperatures well below zero. But that doesn’t mean sightings are common.

Related Articles:
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- Why robins are called Robin Redbreast and not orange breast http://goo.gl/OB4iT


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Yellow-billed Cuckoo: A slender, long-tailed bird

© Anonymous eBirder Macaulay Library ML28488411
Yellow-billed Cuckoos are declining in recent years throughout much of the range due to habitat loss, poisoning from pesticides, other environmental contaminants, and collision with towers and tall buildings during their nocturnal migration.

In fall, eastern birds generally depart for wintering grounds late depart late August to early October. They usually migrate at night in small, silent groups, but may be observed in large numbers the closer they are to their wintering grounds in South America east of the Andes.

During the spring and summer, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo doesn't visit bird feeders but lives in open woodlands with clearings and low, dense, scrubby vegetation in silence, relying on obscurity for survival. Only for a short period during nesting does the male cuckoo make itself known with a barrage of loud, rhythmic courtship calls. Though some Yellow-billed Cuckoos may lay eggs in the unattended nests of neighboring Black-billed Cuckoos, neither of these cuckoos is considered to be a “brood parasite.

In addition to consuming large quantities of hairy caterpillars, Yellow-billed Cuckoos feast on wild berries, young frogs and newts, small bird eggs and a variety of insects, including beetles, grasshoppers and cicadas.

Source: https://birdsna.org/


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What seeds wild birds eat http://goo.gl/Un35yR
What to do if you have soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
How to get rid of weeds under the bird feeder without using poisons http://goo.gl/fHlsE0
Cats Indoors! http://goo.gl/YIOUpI

When deer babies lose their spots

Baby deer or fawns are born with spotted reddish coat for camouflage. They lose their spots by the end of October of the same year they were born, or within 3 to 4 months after birth. Fawns are weaned by the time they lose their spots. The spots fade away from their body as shiny, brownish, thicker, winter coat replaces the previous coat of the fawn. At this stage the deer are called yearlings. They stay with their mother for two years if it is a female, and one year if it is a male.

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When did Reindeer Learn to Fly? http://bit.ly/veTLpT
Mammals have amazing strategies to cope with winter's cold http://goo.gl/KlJY1V

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Native Song Sparrow

I spotted another sparrow among the House Sparrows at the feeders. It was a Song Sparrow eating No-mess blend bird food at the feeder.

Song Sparrows often have a dark spot in the center of their streaked breast and dark feathers under the bill that look like mutton chops. The Song Sparrow lives up to its name, being one of the most persistent singers throughout the spring and summer. The scientific name Melodia means "melody" in Greek. Click here to hear the song.

All of October Song Sparrows migrate though mid-Michigan. In recent decades, mild winters and an abundance of backyard bird feeders have enticed an increasing number of Song Sparrows to overwinter in Michigan. Sunflower seeds, millet, peanuts and peanut butter suet are some of the most popular foods that attract Song Sparrows to tray or ground bird feeders.

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How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d

Monday, September 30, 2019

Large native Fox Sparrow stops by the feeder

Fox Sparrows that nest across northern Canada and Alaska, migrate at night to the southeastern United States. On their way they south they stop for a couple weeks in Michigan in October to early November.

Fox Sparrows spend a lot of time on the ground, using their sturdy legs to kick away leaf litter in search of insects and seeds. They rarely venture far from cover, and they frequently associate with other sparrows. Sunflower seeds, millet, safflower, peanuts and peanut butter suet are some of the most popular foods that attract sparrows to tray or ground bird feeders. Planting shrubs or berry bushes at the edges of your yard, or keeping a brush pile, are good ways to provide places for Fox Sparrows to forage.

The overall reddish brown appearance of the Fox Sparrow inspired taxonomists to name it after a red fox. Fox Sparrows are generally rust-brown above with a mix of rust and gray on the head, and heavy brownish splotches on the flanks and the center of the chest. The bill can range from yellowish to dark gray.

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http://white-throated-sparrow-fun-facts.html
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Chipping Sparrow Juvenile with adult male http://goo.gl/8U5Ud2
How to get rid of sparrows http://goo.gl/9tAwkY

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Eastern Phoebe: Small brown bird with big head

The Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) is one of the first birds to return to the breeding grounds in spring and one of the last to leave in the fall. They arrive for breeding in mid-March, and return to winter territories in September and October.

Eastern Phoebes breed all across Michigan in open deciduous woodlands, and winter primarily across the southeastern United States and as far south as central Mexico. An insectivorous, this tyrant flycatcher sits alertly on low perches, often twitching their tail as they look for flying insects. They also eat suet, fruits and berries in cooler weather.

https://ebird.org/science/status-and-trends/easpho/abundance-map-weekly
The Eastern Phoebe is medium-sized flycatcher, dull in coloration to blend in with its surrounding woodland habitat. Their call is a sharp chip, and their characteristic song fee-bee gave them their common name.
Sources:

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Saturday, September 28, 2019

When baby cardinals turn red

This late cardinal baby is growing feathers as fast as he can. Northern Cardinals leave the nest with brown feathers and a dark beak. By winter, little birds that undergo a complete molt are almost indistinguishable from adults.

Timing and completion varies of the first Prebasic molt which produces the first winter adult plumage. Those birds born in early spring can take longer than birds born in late summer. Molting feathers takes 12 weeks, and birds hatching after July undergo only a partial molt and retain some wing feathers.

Source: https://birdsna.org/

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- Cardinal Bird Feeders: 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

Friday, September 27, 2019

How much food chipmunks eat

Studies have found that some animals hoard simply out of instinct. A chipmunk spends much of its day collecting and storing seeds, which are its most important source of food. When preparing food for storage, the chipmunk uses its tongue to shift the seeds backwards and stuff them between their teeth and the extensible skin in the cheek area. I have personally observed an Eastern Chipmunk carry five peanuts in the shell at one time: two in each cheek pouch and one between its teeth. I have also watched him pack in 31 peanuts without shells.

The capacity of their cheek pouches increases with maturity. When the cheek pouches become full, the chipmunk deposits the seeds in its nest or buries them in shallow holes that it digs in the ground around his burrow and then covers with earth, leaves, and other litter. Eastern chipmunks do not hibernate continuously through the winter, nor do they "fatten up" before retreating to their burrows. When the temperatures reach freezing, chipmunks go into their burrows to hibernate but wake up periodically to snack on their stored nuts and seeds. Chipmunks can hoard up to 8 pounds of seeds for the winter.

Many people are frustrated by the amount of food they take away from bird feeding stations but chipmunks do have a purpose. They eat a lot of bugs and small rodents and are eaten by hawks, fox, owls, and other predators. And Mother Nature uses the chipmunks to spread plant seeds and fungi all around. Their lifespan on average is only one year due to predators.

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Will Safflower seed keep squirrels and chipmunks off my bird feeder? http://bit.ly/wYGDBi
How I stopped a chipmunk from stealing the birdfood https://how-much-food-do-chipmunks-store.html

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Gray and yellow bird with white eye ring

Photo via Gordon Johnston Macaulay Library
The Blue-headed Vireo's peak migration through mid-Michigan is September to the first couple weeks of October. They winter farther north than the other vireos, with many remaining through the winter in the southeastern states.

Sometimes the people naming the birds see colors that I don't. Their head has a gray hood of feathers with blue tinges in the sun, white spectacles, and white throat. They are a medium-sized vireo with olive-green above, whitish below, and yellow sides. Their wings are dark gray with two white or pale yellow bars.

Their diet consists mainly of bugs, berries and small fruits. Look for them at the suet feeder and the bird bath as they migrate through in the spring and fall.

Related Articles:
Michigan warblers begin migrating http://goo.gl/37QhV
Michigan's Kirtland's Warbler Continues to Exceed Recovery Goal http://goo.gl/Q3xQ0
Small Mysterious Black & White Bird Visits Mid-Michigan http://goo.gl/VOl3s
When is bird migration over? http://goo.gl/1Fiq6

Blackpoll Warbler: Greatest warbler migrant http://goo.gl/GcSTE

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Grasshopper Sparrow in Michigan

Photo via  Christopher McPherson Macaulay Library
The Grasshopper Sparrow is a small sparrow 4-5 inches in length, with mottled tan, black, and chestnut back and an unmarked buffy breast. The face is relatively plain with a white stripe running from the bill to the back of the head and often a yellow spot between the eye and bill (the lore). Although it does eat grasshoppers, this secretive bird was named for its grasshopper-like sounding song that is easily identified from a distance. Listen for a high pitch buzzy song "tik-tuk tikeeeeeeeeeeez".

Grasshopper Sparrows may be found in a wide variety of grasslands, cultivated fields, hayfields, and old fields and seem to prefer drier sites as long as there is tall dense grassy vegetation. Many North American populations have experienced long-term declines since the early part of this century, owing mostly to loss of prairies.

Fall migration is difficult to document, but generally appears to be drawn out from late September to December based on recorded migrants in Florida. They migrate at night and have been found to mix in with other sparrows on their journey south.

Other common migrating sparrows to watch for as they pass through Michigan include the white-throated sparrows, white-crowned sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, chipping sparrow, field sparrow, Savannah sparrow, fox sparrow, clay-colored sparrow, Vesper sparrow, lark sparrow, and Lincoln's sparrow. Look for migrations days that follow northwest cold fronts, but never bother on days with winds anywhere out of the east.

Related Articles: https://macaulaylibrary.org/
White-throated Sparrow fun facts
http://white-throated-sparrow-fun-facts.html
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/oy9XGz
Which one of these birds is not like the others? http://bit.ly/qM1LQt
What birds winter in Michigan? http://bit.ly/rqQgU2

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

More Flickers migrate to Michigan

from Wikimedia Commons
Warblers aren't the only new birds passing through in the fall. Flickers may migrate through or even choose to winter in our mid-Michigan yards. The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is a medium-sized woodpecker native to most of North America. Unlike most woodpeckers, the flicker spends a lot of time hopping around the ground like a robin looking for bugs, especially ants.

Adults are brown with black bars on the back and wings. A black bib is on the upper breast and the lower breast and belly are beige with black spots. Males in Michigan can be identified by a black moustache stripe at the base of the beak, a red chevron on the back of their head and bright yellow feathers on the undersides of their wing and tail.

The northern populations of the Northern Flicker are migratory, with fall migration taking place September to November. So if this Flicker is new to the area it may see your yard as a good place to winter from its summer home in Canada. They do also come to feeders for seeds, nuts and suet as snows cover the ground. So keep the feeders full to catch him eating. 

Related Articles: 
Northern Flicker Roosts Alone in the winter http://bit.ly/zouUF6 
Northern Flicker Stops by for a Surprise Visit http://bit.ly/Aouqjf 
Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/yGoOUc 
Why Flickers Flick Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/Ar0Rin 
How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/x5PGT1

Monday, September 23, 2019

Flock of gray birds under the feeder

Photo via David Turgeon Macaulay Library
Flocks of Indigo Buntings fly through mid-Michigan from September to October as they migrate south for the winter. But they might be hard to identify because they are sporting their winter colors. Female Indigo Buntings are slightly smaller than a House sparrow and have an overall brown or grayish color, with faint streaking on a tan breast. They have short, conical beaks and their legs and feet are black or gray. Males molt their bright indigo blue feathers in late summer and grow irregular, patchy blue and brown feathers.

You are a big help if you create bird friendly “stopover site” in your yard with plenty of food, water and shelter. They like the Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess blend of sunflower chips, peanuts, and millet as well as the Nyjer Thistle in finch feeders. They also forage for wild seeds, nuts, berries, insects, mosquitoes, flies, aphids, small spiders, buds, goldenrod, thistle, grasses, and herbs.

Research reveals that Indigo Buntings migrate at night in flocks, using the stars for guidance. The birds possess an internal clock that enables them to continually adjust their angle of orientation to a star—even as that star moves through the night sky. Some buntings stop to winter in Florida and south Texas but most go to shrubby, weedy field areas in Mexico and mix in with other buntings like the Painted, Lazuli, Varied, and Orange-breasted Buntings.

Animated migration map of Indigo Bunting from https://ebird.org/

Related Articles:
- The Journey North: Bird Migration Maps http://bit.ly/pbk4Eb
- Great Horned Owl Singing at Night http://bit.ly/qKeKDM
- Are Horned Larks Common in Mid-Michigan? http://bit.ly/qmAbt7
- How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d

- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/qa0CVU

Sunday, September 22, 2019

How to spot warblers

September is a great time to see a wide variety of birds as they swing through our area. Many warblers are similar in size and coloring to a female goldfinch. I'm usually alerted to visiting warblers in the yard mainly because of their behavior. Most warblers are jittery, bouncy birds in the bushes as they try to flush out bugs or at the bird bath re-hydrating and preparing their feathers for migration.

Pine warblers are active during the day, hopping, climbing tree trunks, and cleaning their feathers. Like many other warblers, their wings beat in an irregular pattern when they fly. They are partial migrants. Pine Warblers from the northern U.S. and Canada migrate to wintering grounds in the southeastern U.S. but the ones that breed in the Southeast stay there year-round.

Besides bugs and water, the Pine Warbler will also regularly eat millet, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet from elevated feeders. And fruits from bushes and vines, like bayberry, flowering dogwood, grape, sumac, persimmon, and Virginia creeper.

Related Articles:
- The Journey North: Bird Migration Maps http://bit.ly/pbk4Eb  
- How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d
- Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/ow20ZD
- Birds only in mid-Michigan during the winter http://bit.ly/ojcyP7
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/qa0CVU

Saturday, September 21, 2019

#ClimateChange: So many late season baby birds

I have never seen a baby House Finch this late in the season! This year's cold spring may have had something to do with all the late season baby birds I have been seeing the feeders. This little finch (the one looking at the camera) was so hungry, but momma was using some tough love in trying to get him to feed himself.

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

Friday, September 20, 2019

What you can do to help bring birds back

Nearly 3 Billion Birds Gone Since 1970

The first-ever comprehensive assessment of net population changes in the U.S. and Canada reveals across-the-board declines that scientists call “staggering.” All told, the North American bird population is down by 2.9 billion breeding adults, with devastating losses among birds in every biome. Forests alone have lost 1 billion birds. Grassland bird populations collectively have declined by 53%, or another 720 million birds. https://youtu.be/akdeOr3dp0M
 

14 Ways to Help Birds

Baltimore Oriole by Marianne Ofenloch/Macaulay Library.
1. Feed Wild Birds - Food is a life or death challenge to birds. In the winter food can be scarce or hard to find. In the summer the birds spend a lot of time defending their territories and feeding babies. In both cases having a known source of food can save the life of a chickadee during a winter snowstorm or a baby bird during a summer drought.
2. Clean Your Bird Feeders - Dirty feeders can spread disease. Disinfect and clean out old seed from feeders frequently and put fresh water in your bird bath.
3. Prevent Bird Collisions - Collisions are one of the most frequent causes of bird deaths. Put up window decals or window feeders to alert birds to glass.
4. Restore Natural Habitat - Birds need a place to live and many bird habitats are disappearing. Create a refuge in your yard. Native plants provide food, nest sites, and cover for birds.
5. Add a Bird House: People provide bird houses or “nest boxes” because in nature most of these birds use tree hollows or old woodpeckers’ nests. But today we are quick to remove dead and decaying trees with holes because they could become dangerous and fall in storms. So we help Mother Nature by providing alternate homes.
6. Protect Birds From Pets - Unleashed dogs and cats can harm. Keeping your cat indoors and your dog leashed to save millions of birds each year.
7. Use Cloth Grocery Bags and Reusable Bottles - Birds that mistakenly eat plastic trash can become ill or even die. Make sure to recycle plastic bags and bottles.
8. Recycle - Anything you recycle reduces litter and saves resources. Get creative!
9. Slow Down When Driving - Cars kill millions of birds each year. Driving slowly gives you more time to respond if there is an animal in the road and gives the animal plenty of time to get out of the way.
10. Buy Bird Friendly Products - You can help preserve bird habitat in Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean by buying shade-grown coffee and chocolate. Shade coffee farms, which imitate native forests, have many more bird species than sun coffee farms.
11. Teach Others About Birds - Talk to your friends about birds and start a club in your community to teach people about the challenges birds face. The more people know, the more they can do to help.
12. Be a Citizen Scientist - Many projects need helpers to gather data on birds and their habitat. Contact your local Nature Center, library or conservation organization to volunteer.
13. Reduce Energy Use - Riding your bike or walking reduces your carbon footprint and prevents pollution of bird habitats. Switching off the lights in your house not only shrinks your energy bill, but can also help prevent birds from colliding with your windows.
14. Avoid Chemicals - Birds may accidentally eat pesticide and herbicide pellets or prey that have been poisoned. This can kill a bird or have toxic effects on their own health and that of their growing embryos, including deformation or suppressed immune systems.
Related Articles:
Why do birds matter? https:/why-birds-matter
Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://t.co/Br4EnlB
Colorful Bird Splats Contain Secrets http://bit.ly/rIFQ2w
The Bald Eagle is the National Symbol of the USA: http://bit.ly/tCORyh
Why do geese fly in a V formation? http://t.co/OmIn8Nw
War Pigeon Remembered http://t.co/5yiXSNS
Santayana's Law of Repetitive Consequences: Loss of the Passenger Pigeon http://bit.ly/sUPlXj

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Significant numbers of Swainson’s Thrushes die during migration

Some birds passing through in the fall, as they migrate south, may look similar to our common little brown House Sparrows. But keep your eyes open. Many birds migrate at night. If you provide a nice rest stop you may wake up to see some different birds, that were riding the winds all night, stop by to rest and recuperate under the feeders or at the bath. Yesterday I came to the Wild Birds Unlimited store and found a Swainson’s Thrush stuck in the awning. I dragged out my ladder and pool skimming net and thankfully was able to scoop the bird out.  

Swainson’s Thrushes breed way up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and even further north in Canada. They winter way down in Central and northern South America. Swainson’s Thrushes are a common species, but their population has declined about 38% between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. During spring and fall migration, significant numbers of Swainson’s Thrushes die from collisions with windows, radio and cell-phone towers, and tall buildings. (For more on the dangers of lights to migrating birds, visit the Fatal Light Awareness Program.) Studies of bird deaths at communications towers in Minnesota, Illinois, and West Virginia revealed that Swainson’s Thrushes were killed in greater numbers than any other bird species.

My thrush just got a little confused in the awing but was fine after I brought him down. But if you find a bird that needs help, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. A list of licensed rehabilitators can be found by visiting http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/ or by calling your local DNR office.

And if you are outside of Michigan:
Related Articles:
- 10 Winter Finches in Michigan: http://bit.ly/oL3iCF
- Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/pXv5ZN
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/nImz5g
- How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh
- How to Prepare Your Yard for Winter Birdwatching http://bit.ly/q93Men
- What is the best bird feeder? http://bit.ly/qVr7i8

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Downy woodpeckers are confused commonly with Hairy woodpeckers

At about 6 inches, the Downy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker in North America and the most frequent visitor to backyard feeders year-round. They like to eat peanuts, suet, mealworms, sunflower and safflower seeds.

Downys have a white belly and back and their black wings have white bars. Only the males have a red patch on the back of the head. And they are called downy because of the soft white feathers on their back.

Downy woodpeckers are confused commonly with Hairy woodpeckers, which have similar plumage, but are around 9 inches. However tests revealed that these two birds aren't as closely related as was first thought. A new theory is that the Downys mimicked the markings of the larger Hairys to fool other species into thinking they are the bigger bird. Because if you were a cardinal (twice the size of a downy) and thought you saw a Hairy Woodpecker flying toward you, you might be very quick to get out of the way.

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/o4CLq

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Rescue hummingbird out of garage

With baby and migrating hummingbirds passing through the area it is not uncommon for a one of these curious birds to get drawn in to investigate something red in your garage. Once inside the birds panic and instinct tells them to fly up, up, up to get out. These amazing birds that can fly forward, backward, up, down and sideways can’t always figure the way out.

I have an awning in front of the Wild Birds Unlimited store that traps birds all the time. A giant pool skimmer was my solution to encourage the stuck birds down and out. And this week a customer called and said they were successful rescuing a hummingbird from the garage with a butterfly net.

Hummingbirds.net suggests: First, keep pets and kids away so they won't make the bird more anxious, and try hanging your most popular hummingbird feeder in the door opening and stand back. Sometimes this will bring a hungry bird to feed, and it may fly off in the correct direction when it's finished. But this doesn't always work, and you shouldn't waste too much time - the bird's clock is ticking. If the hummer isn't gone within 10 minutes or so, turn on the inside garage light, close the overhead door, and get a flashlight. When the hummer flies over a clear section of the floor, turn off the light. Hummingbirds have poor night vision and don't like to fly in the dark, and the bird will flutter gently to the floor. Turn on your flashlight, find the bird, and scoop it urgently in your cupped bare hands. Have an assistant open the door, and carry the hummer away from the garage. Offer the bird a drink by holding it close to the feeder, but don't try to force it. After it drinks, or refuses to drink, open your hands, and when the bird reorients itself, it will fly away - probably straight up. It may lie still in your hand for several minutes, or it may leave immediately. Hummingbirds don't usually carry parasites, but wash your hands afterward anyway.

Note: if your garage has windows and cannot be darkened, this rescue technique won't work. Instead, hang a feeder high up, inside the garage, so the bird can feed itself and rest comfortably. Leave it alone, and leave the door open in case it calms down enough to figure out how to leave. Near dusk, the flashlight technique will work better.

Thriving Home Blog suggests: Use a sweep-type garden rake (the kind used to rake leaves, with long flexible tines) or hummingbird feeder on a pole. Then stand below the hummer, slowly raise the rake up near the bird and offer the tine end. If the hummer is tired enough it will seek a perching spot. With the hummer perched on the rake, gently carry it toward the open door, moving slowly and carefully so you won’t spook it off its perch. As soon as the hummingbird sees the open sky it will fly out of the garage.

Should this ever happen to you, good luck I hope these methods work.

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