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, June 25, 2019

Black birds are leaving soon

The good news is it looks like it is finally going to warm up a little. This means you'll see more black birds moving off the feeders in search of bugs. Their nesting season is over. They only have a few weeks left in Michigan to molt into a fresh set of feathers and fatten up before migration. By the end of July birds will begin moving south.

This was a particularly hard spring for all the bug eating birds. The cold weather didn't produce enough bugs for them to eat. Usually that means the birds can move to their second choice of nuts. Unfortunately last year there was a poor crop of tree nuts including beech nuts and acorns. As a result we saw an increase of birds, squirrels, deer, and other wild animals at the feeders trying to supplement their diet.

Some people enjoyed the influx of woodpeckers especially the bigger ones like the flickers and pileated which are not frequent feeder visitors. An increase in the orioles, tanagers, buntings, warblers, and grosbeaks were also exciting to many people. There was much less enthusiasm over the increased numbers of blackbirds and starlings.

 Related Articles:
- How bird migration evolved http://goo.gl/rAXV5N
- When is bird migration over? http://goo.gl/Jbuouk
- How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://goo.gl/kIMee3
- Shortest and Longest Bird Migrations http://goo.gl/XYAEtd

Monday, June 24, 2019

A clean solution to bird feeding off the deck

Do you have some kind of tray so I can feed the birds off the deck and not have messy shells all over?

The neatest feeder we have is the seed cylinder feeder. It is a feeder that holds a cylinder of food for the birds held together with gelatin. If the birds want the seed, nut, fruit, or mealworm from the cylinder they have to work a piece off. There is no seed scattered! This is actually a very natural feeling for them. If they found a flower head full of seeds or land on the trunk of a tree hiding bugs, they would have to work to get the seed or bug out to eat.

We also have a variety of deck mounts to swing the feeder over and reduce the amount of poopy left behind. When a bird loads up on food, they usually unload some weight before take off. Wild Birds Unlimited’s exclusive, patented Advanced Pole System® (APS) Basic Setup Deck Hardware is the perfect beginning to your ultimate bird feeding station designed to meet your own individual needs.

Just attach the easy-to-install deck mount to your deck rail. Next, add the extension pole and arm and top it with the decorative finial.

There are several decorative finial designs that can be changed with the seasons. We have a bat, Jack ‘O Lanterns, Christmas Trees, cardinals, woodpeckers, bluebirds, chickadees, hummingbirds, goldfinches, and spears.

Related Articles: 

Advanced Pole System http://bit.ly/uKRdrZ
How to hang feeders from trees http://bit.ly/suV4Z5 

Bluebird House pole: http://bit.ly/vcPUb7
Last Minute Gifts for Birdwatchers http://bit.ly/tMBYOf

Saturday, June 22, 2019

How to tell if it is a male or female House Wren at the nest

The male House Wrens tend to be more vocal while the females more behind the scenes. Both the male and female House Wrens look similar to our human eyes but their actions may be revealing. According to AllAboutBirds.org: Both males and females sing but males often sing 9-11 times per minute in the spring. Songs are a long, jumbled bubbling introduced by abrupt churrs and scolds and made up of 12-16 recognizable syllables. Females sing mainly in answer shortly after choosing a mate. Females' songs can include high-pitched squeals unlike any sounds males make.

Also during breeding season, Male House Wrens start building several nests at once in hopes of persuading a female to mate with him. He looks for any crevice, old woodpecker holes, and man-made nest boxes. You will see him bring in sticks up to 5 inches to build a twig platform. Then the female is the one to find all the soft stuff, (feathers, grasses and other plant material, animal hair, spider egg sacs, string, snakeskin) to build the nest cup.

Related Articles:
- Do the same House Wrens nest in the same house every year? http://bit.ly/uDBbIb
- Quick Fun Facts on Wrens http://bit.ly/v5XVoU
- Hanging & Placement of Wren Bird Houses http://bit.ly/rBLsGQ
- The best suet for wild birds http://goo.gl/yY7bGt
- House Wren vs. Carolina Wren http://house-vs-carolina-wren.html

Friday, June 21, 2019

Photo Share: Chipmunk love

I heart chipmunks. The Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) is found throughout Michigan, this small (6-8in) ground squirrel is reddish brown with a white racing stripe bordered by two black stripes down its side. Its loud “chip, chip, chip” can be heard as it forages for seeds, insects, fruit and nuts. During the winter it is a light hibernator that wakes every 2-3 weeks and eats from its stash stored in its elaborate tunnels system underground.

Related Articles:  
How many species of squirrels are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/yYt6Nb
Black Squirrel History & Facts http://bit.ly/AxiqPz
"Frisky" Fox Squirrels http://bit.ly/AndeTw
Why squirrels chew http://bit.ly/AjVzFW
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

Thursday, June 20, 2019

First sign of Summer!

I saw the first sign of summer. The footloose and fancy free finches were fighting in flight! American Goldfinches don't begin to nest in the spring like most Michigan birds. They are vegetarians and wait for the wildflower seed heads to mature before they start a family.

Usually they flock together fairly friendly but at the start of summer, new bonds form for breeding. That may be why I saw the noisy quarrel in the air on my walk home. Mated pair bonds form on breeding grounds immediately before nesting begins. Males entice females to their territory with displays of song, combined with showy Butterfly Flights. Once selected, courtship feeding, in which a male passes food to female in crouching posture with fluttering wings and faint begging calls, becomes common. That doesn't mean another, perhaps showier, male might not still catch the female's eye. This leads to more aggressive behavior between males as competitors are chased off. Males guard their mates closely during nest-building and egg-laying.

If your finch feeders are clean and full of fresh seed you will begin to see an increase of activity. At the feeders, finches like to eat Nyjer® (thistle) and sunflower seeds. If your feeders are well maintained by mid-August, after a couple weeks of incubating and a couple weeks in the nest, the first wave of baby goldfinches visit the feeder with their fathers. Their high squeaky baby calls the highlight of my year!

Related Articles:
Prevent soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a
How often do you clean a bird feeder? https://prevent-moldy-birdseed.html 
Where do you place finch feeders? http://goo.gl/avIs2

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

How to keep ants away

I left my hummingbird feeder out at my house up north and it was full of ants when I came back the following weekend.

Wild Birds Unlimited has extra large ant moats that you hang from a feeder to keep the ants off the feeders. An ant moat is a small cup-like device that hangs between your feeder and your hook. Fill an ant moat with water, and it creates a barrier the ants can’t cross to get to the nectar.

Hummingbirds are wonderful to attract to a backyard garden and a joy to watch. These sparkling jewels of summer are easy to love and so we should always feed responsibly to keep them healthy.

If you aren't able to change your nectar twice a week, put the feeder out only when you are home. It is better for a hummingbird to fly by and see no feeder than for them to eat spoiled nectar. You can plant flowers in the garden or hang a flowering basket to keep hummingbirds close.

Hummingbird feeders must be kept clean and free from mold and fungus, or the tiny hummers could get sick. The more often you clean them the easier they are to maintain. Bring your feeders inside and rinse them once a week when the temperatures are below 70 °F and at least twice a week when the temperatures are above 70 °F.

We have several easy to clean feeders and brushes to scrub out those tiny ports. It is best to clean your feeder with hot tap water and use brushes to scrub the sides. If you use soap or put the feeder in the dishwasher, rinse thoroughly so there is no residue left behind. Inspect the feeder carefully for black mold. If you see any mold growth, soak the feeder in a solution of one part vinegar to 9 parts water for one hour and then scrub and rinse again.

To make nectar, mix one part ordinary white sugar to four parts water. Bring the water to a quick boil to dissolve the sugar, then let the mixture come to room temperature before you fill your feeder. You can mix up a large batch of nectar to keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

If the nectar becomes cloudy, it has spoiled and needs to be replaced. When the feeder is hanging in the sun or outside temperatures are high, the sugar solution may spoil in just one day. To keep the nectar from fermenting it is better to keep your hummingbird feeder in the shade or add a shaded weather guard to keep the sun from spoiling the nectar.

Related Articles:
- When to take hummingbird feeders down and many other FAQ http://goo.gl/7xANk
- Do hummingbirds migrate together? http://bit.ly/rVOJVm
- The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
- What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
- When did people start to feed hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR
- Flowers that attract hummingbirds: http://bit.ly/wkhlJn

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Help birds through a challenging time

It has been a hard hunt for bugs and berries for the birds this spring. As a result more birds have been bringing babies to feeders.

How to help your birds during this challenging spring and summer:

1. Seed Trays: You can add a tray to your tube feeder to help parent birds feed their toddlers. The Seed Tray prevents seed from falling to the ground as well as provide an additional feeding area.
2. Perching Branches: Watch as babies line up on the Advanced Pole System® (APS) Decorative Perching Branches and wiggle their wings and beg for food. Our decorative perch allows birds to remain in sight while they wait to eat. It can also be used to hang additional lightweight feeders.
3. Window Decals: Make sure you have your Window Alerts in place. Juvenile birds don't understand that they can't fly through windows. Put up window decals to help save their necks!
4. No Poisons: According to the (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center, millions of birds die each year from landscape pesticides, when they eat pesticide granules or eat poisoned insects. To reduce or eliminate your use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides use disease- and pest-resistant plants, cultivate native plant species, and reduce the lawn area. If you manage your yard naturally, you can increase natural insect predators like ladybugs, praying mantises, frogs, toads and of course birds. Leaf mulches and compost also add nutrients to soil and eliminate the need for weed killers and fertilizers. Link to video of American Robin Dying of Pesticide Poisoning
5. Keep your feeders clean: It is super important to keep your feeders clean, especially now when so many baby birds visit. The stress can make birds vulnerable to disease. Wet weather can also produce mold and mildew which can be fatal to birds. Dump out any moldy seed and disinfect your feeders with a 1 to 9 parts vinegar to water solution or bring your feeder to the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, Michigan to be cleaned for a small $5.00 charge.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Now is a good time to put up a hummingbird feeder

Ruby-throated hummingbird juvenile showing his first jewel on his throat
If you didn't see a lot of activity earlier this spring and took your hummingbird feeder down, now is a good time to clean it up and put out fresh food. When Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds have settled into their territories to nest you may or may not see much activity. Weather, where you live, how frequently you change your sugar water, and the number of feeders you have available are just a few of the things that factor in to the number of hummingbirds you have visiting.

But by late June newly fledged hummers begin to visit with their mother. They have to check out everything to see if it's food. You may catch them flying by feeders, flowers, and garden decorations trying to figure this whole feeding myself thing.

While the females are showing their offspring how to forage, the males begin to wander widely and start to fatten up in anticipation of heading south. So, before you know it you'll have hungry southbound migrants to feed!

Migration continues through the middle of October so there are plenty of opportunities to see hummers feeding. The migration south is a more leisurely trip than the race north. So you may see these new hummers at your feeder all the way in to early fall before they catch a good wind to move further south.

Related Articles:
- When to take hummingbird feeders down and many other FAQ http://goo.gl/7xANk
- Do hummingbirds migrate together? http://bit.ly/rVOJVm
- The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
- What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
- When did people start to feed hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR
- Flowers that attract hummingbirds: http://bit.ly/wkhlJn

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Tips to meet your summer birds’ needs

Any backyard bird watcher knows birds flock to feeders in summer, especially as the babies fledge and approach the feeders with their parents. Summer bird feeding also can bring you different species that aren’t around in winter.

Studies show the average bird forages for food about five hours per day to meet their energy requirements. As the seasons change, consider the following tips to meet your summer backyard birds’ nutritional needs as well as attract some migrating visitors.

Some tips for creating a summertime backyard buffet:

1. Clean your feeders regularly
It is super important to keep your feeders clean, especially now when so many baby birds visit. The stress can make birds vulnerable to disease. Wet weather can also produce mold and mildew which can be fatal to birds. Dump out any moldy seed and disinfect your feeders with a 1 to 9 parts vinegar to water solution or bring your feeder to the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, Michigan to be cleaned for a small $5.00 charge.

2. Keep your seed dry
Wet, humid summer weather creates the potential for mold. My favorite secret weapon against soggy seed is Feeder Fresh which is available at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI. This is a desiccant that I stir into the seed to absorb the moisture.

3. Choose Food that Produces Less Mess
Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Blend features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds means there's no debris on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything happily.

4. Keep suet feeders full
By adding suet to your wild bird's summer menu, you will attract wrens, warblers, thrushes, brown creepers, brown thrashers, and blue jays. You can also attract orioles, chickadees, titmice, and the ever popular bluebird.

5. Discover Foods that Last Longer
Seed Cylinders are also a high-fat, quick-energy food source that is specially-designed to meet your birds' hearty appetites. The Wild Birds Unlimited popular no muss, no fuss Spiral Seed Cylinder Feeder holds cylinders of tightly packed seed held together with gelatin so there is no seed spray. The whole block is completely edible. And depending on bird activity in your yard, a large cylinder packed with energy rich pecans, peanuts and sunflower seeds can last weeks.

6. Attract Different Birds
Mealworms, nectar, fruit, and jelly attract many different birds. Hummingbirds and orioles, can be immediately attracted to feeders with nectar (and fruit and jelly for orioles), making summer a sweet time to feed the birds. Some birds attracted to mealworms include: wrens, robins, bluebirds, jays, sparrows, cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, and even Purple Martins.

7. Just add water
Baths not only provide clean water to quench thirst, baths also help birds maintain their feathers. A good part of a bird's day is spent just cleaning and grooming their feathers by bathing, scratching, and preening. It’s so important that it is often the first place parent birds bring their newly fledged babies.

Related articles:
Do I need to clean my bird feeder? http://bit.ly/HNX410
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/umlwXg
Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/HNZTPx
Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Flowers for finches

It's wonderful to watch finches riding the flowers in search of seeds in the summer months! If you want to garden for the goldfinches I have a few suggestions:

Cosmos, asters, coneflowers, yarrow, black-eyed Susans, mint, goldenrod, Jerusalem-Artichoke, sunflowers, and milkweed are just a few flowers to attract finches. That is not a all they eat. They also like grass seeds and many other weed or wildflower seeds along the roadside or in the fields. For a more complete and personalized list of garden plants to attract specific birds and a list of local resources go to Audubon's native plants database.

Related Articles:
Prevent soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a
How to Attract Goldfinches http://bit.ly/A6CwjB
How often do you clean a bird feeder? http://bit.ly/wTk0c7  

Friday, June 14, 2019

Photo Share: Hungry crow

We've been getting some crows visiting the Wild Birds Unlimited store lately. They have that look of a harried parent. It hasn't been a very good spring for most birds. You think of crows as scavengers of road kill and garbage but American Crows eat a variety of foods, including bugs, seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, and many kinds of small animals such as earthworms and mice.

Crows prefer to nest in evergreens on a horizontal branch, generally towards the top of the tree. Both members of a breeding pair help build the nest. Young birds from the previous year sometimes help as well. The nest is made largely of medium-sized twigs with an inner cup lined with pine needles, weeds, soft bark, or animal hair.

I wouldn't be surprised if we see the young crows soon. They are about the same size as adults, but have blue eyes and pink inside the mouth. The wing and tail feathers of the young are also a dark brown and only become darker and more glossy black like adult feathers after the first molt.

Related Articles:
Crows: Are they Feathered Apes? http://bit.ly/LvWgge
Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/LvWpAm
Has anyone asked you why there are so many crows this year? http://bit.ly/KQJFmt
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, June 13, 2019

Large suet feeder

This has been a particularly busy year at the suet feeder. I love the peanut butter suet but a normal size cake feeder is impossible to keep full. That is why I have a large suet cage that holds a 3 pound suet cake. A large suet feeder ensures there will be suet available when the baby woodpeckers arrive!

Woodpeckers are so adorable. They are a little slower to develop than finches and chickadees. Because they take so long to mature, woodpeckers species in Michigan usually only have one brood. You'll be able to enjoy watching the juvenile woodpeckers follow their parents and beg for food even when it is right in front of them.

Wild Birds Unlimited’s Extra-Large Seed/Suet Cake Feeder is designed to hold more food which means it will last longer and feed more birds. The feeder is so much larger than a regular suet feeder that you will have more time to sit and relax while watching your birds. You can provide the perfect place for all your feathered friends to get a bite to eat and leave less mess.

- 8.3 x 7 x 3 inches
- Holds one large suet or seed cake
- Vinyl-coated metal cage is weather-resistant
- Large compact cake produces less mess than loose seed
- Front panel opens for quick and easy refilling
- Attached hanging chain

Related Articles:
- What birds eat suet? http://bit.ly/q2Sfje
- Can I make my own suet? http://bit.ly/rsc1JT
- How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods: http://bit.ly/ob0NIq 
- Can I feed suet year-round? http://bit.ly/I4Ow8l

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Photos of Michigan woodpeckers

Because we had such a bad acorn crop last year and an unbuggy spring this year, there has been much more activity at the suet feeder. Some people are seeing woodpeckers they haven't seen before visiting. I've made a easy ID guide to help some people with the new faces. There are eight woodpeckers found in Michigan.

1. Downy Woodpecker - At about 6 inches, it’s smallest woodpecker in North America and the most frequent visitor to backyard feeders year-round. They have a white belly and back and their black wings have white bars. The males have a red patch on the back of the head. It’s called downy because of the soft feathers on its back.
2. Red-headed Woodpecker – These woodpeckers have an unmistakable bright red head, black wings and white belly. They spend the summers in all of Michigan but aren’t as common at birdfeeders.
3. Red-bellied Woodpecker - They are common throughout most of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula year-round. People often call the Red-bellied woodpecker by a list of common misnomers like red-headed or ladder-back woodpecker because of their gleaming red caps and striking black and white barred backs. Since virtually all woodpeckers are black and white with patches of bright colors on various parts of their bodies, the Red-bellied was named for the unique pinkish tinge on the belly, common to both genders.
4. Hairy Woodpecker – At about 9 inches, these medium woodpeckers look like their smaller downy woodpecker cousins. They aren’t as common at suburban birdfeeders.
5. Pileated Woodpecker – Male and female Pileated Woodpeckers both have a flaming red crest but the males have a red “moustache”. There is no real consensus on whether this bird’s name is pronounced “pie-lee-ated” or “pill-ee-ated”.
6. Northern Flicker – Unlike most woodpeckers, this species spends much of its time on the ground, feeding mostly on ants. Both the male and females have a red chevron on the back of their heads, black bibs, speckled chest, and a brown, barred back and wings. The males have a black “mustache”.
7. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sapsuckers don’t actually suck sap- they lap it up with a tongue that resembles a paintbrush. According to AllAboutBirds.com, “The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker in eastern North America that is completely migratory. Although a few individuals remain throughout much of the winter in the southern part of the breeding range, most head farther south, going as far south as Panama. Females tend to migrate farther south than do males.”
8. Black-backed Woodpecker – I’ve never seen this bird. It is a year-round resident of northern Michigan and the U.P. According to Ted Black in his Birds of Michigan field guide, the blacked-backed are reclusive birds that are most active in recently burned forest patches where wood-boring beetles thrive under charred bark.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Take down hummingbird feeders before vacation

What should you do with your hummingbird feeders if you are going on vacation for a week?.

Hummingbirds are wonderful to attract to a backyard garden and a joy to watch. These sparkling jewels of summer are easy to love and so we should always feed responsibly to keep them healthy.

If you don’t have a trusted house sitter that can clean and change your nectar twice a week, then take the feeder down. It is better for a hummingbird to fly by and see no feeder that week than for them to eat fermented nectar. When you come home put up fresh nectar and they will return.

Hummingbird feeders must be kept clean and free from mold and fungus, or the tiny hummers could get sick. The more often you clean them the easier they are to maintain. Bring your feeders inside and rinse them once a week when the temperatures are below 70 °F and at least twice a week when the temperatures are above 70 °F.

We have several easy to clean feeders and brushes to scrub out those tiny ports. It is best to clean your feeder with hot tap water and use brushes to scrub the sides. If you use soap or put the feeder in the dishwasher, rinse thoroughly so there is no residue left behind. Inspect the feeder carefully for black mold. If you see any mold growth, soak the feeder in a solution of one part vinegar to 9 parts water for one hour and then scrub and rinse again.

To make nectar, mix one part ordinary white sugar to four parts water. Bring the water to a quick boil to dissolve the sugar, then let the mixture come to room temperature before you fill your feeder. You can mix up a large batch of nectar to keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

If the nectar becomes cloudy, it has spoiled and needs to be replaced. When the feeder is hanging in the sun or outside temperatures are high, the sugar solution may spoil in just one day. To keep the nectar from fermenting it is better to keep your hummingbird feeder in the shade or add a shaded weather guard to keep the sun from spoiling the nectar.

Related Articles:
- When to take hummingbird feeders down and many other FAQ http://goo.gl/7xANk
- Do hummingbirds migrate together? http://bit.ly/rVOJVm
- The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
- What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
- When did people start to feed hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR
- Flowers that attract hummingbirds: http://bit.ly/wkhlJn

Monday, June 10, 2019

Just leave opossums be

You might not realize how lucky you are if you spot a Virginia Opossum at your feeders. They are North America's only marsupial. They give birth to relatively undeveloped young about the size of raisins, that crawl into their mother's pouch (like baby kangaroos) where they nurse for roughly 100 days until they are old enough to ride on her back.

But that's not only why they are so special. They are like little vacuum cleaners that eat fallen seed from feeders but also any night time creepy crawlies like grubs, insects, and even mice and snakes. "They really eat whatever they find," said Laura Simon, wildlife ecologist with the U.S. Humane Society.

And now ecologists have learned something else about opossums. They are also a natural predator of  black-legged ticks (the carrier of Lyme disease). Based on study results, researchers calculate that a single opossum might kill an astonishing 4,000 ticks a week.

Scientists tested opossums by capturing and exposing each test subject to 100 ticks. What they found, is that the opossums groom themselves fastidiously, like cats. If they find a tick, they swallow it. The research team confirmed this by going through the possum poop. So that opossum, waddling around at night, picks up lots of ticks, but more than 90 percent of them end up being groomed away and swallowed.

For Simon, of the U.S. Humane Society, that is a welcome justification to just leave opossums be. "People are so hard on them," she said. "That's in part because people think opossums might be rabid when they drool and hiss and carry on when threatened. In fact, opossums are resistant to rabies." They are also immune to the sting of honeybees and scorpions, to toxins such as botulism and even to the venom of rattlesnakes and other poisonous serpents. They don't harm us and yet humans are the biggest predator to these amazing critters. So drive careful!

A bird-friendly yard may also help keep the tick population down. Turkeys, chickens, robins and many other ground-feeding backyard birds eat ticks too.

Sources: http://opossums-kill-ticks  http://give-opossums a-break
Related Articles:
What do Opossums eat? http://what-do-opposums-eat.html
Mysterious Regurgitated Nuggets Left Behind at Birdfeeder http://regurgitated-nuggets-left.html
Do turkeys eat ticks or carry ticks? http://turkeys-eat-ticks.html  
How to attract robins to your yard http://attract-robins-to-your-yard.html

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Photo Share: Grasshopper

Morning Sarah, I encountered this little guy on my walk this morning. Maybe a blog idea? Hugs, Katie in CA

Hello Katie, California seems to a couple months ahead of Michigan. Most grasshoppers mate, lay eggs and die in the late summer months. Their eggs overwinter. Each egg is just over 1/10th of an inch long but clusters of eggs are in a protective “pod” one to two inches deep in the soil. They remain there all winter until the ground warms and the eggs continue to develop. In the spring, nymphs hatch out of the eggs, crawl up to the surface of the soil and start to feed on grasses and other herbaceous plants. They mature all summer and then begin the cycle all over again.

If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.

Related Articles:
- How to keep moths out of bird seed http://goo.gl/D7JSp8
- Grasshopper in Michigan https://grasshopper-in-michigan.html
- Where does the Woolly Bear go in the winter? http://bit.ly/pB5L4V
- A Very Tiny Hummingbird (Moth)? http://bit.ly/qtrAaV
- Do Honey Bees migrate in the winter? http://bit.ly/GEK5QX
- Green leaf shaped grasshopper like bug https:/green-leaf-shaped-grasshopper-like-bug.html 

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Photo Share: Young Prince

Photo and video by Alicia Johnson Brewer from Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Do you recognize this homely, patchy bird? Some would say he has the face only a mother could love. Cardinals are such beautiful adult birds that it seems only fair that when they are growing up they look like they are wearing ragged clothes covered in ashes. But in a few more weeks his big boy feathers will make him look like a prince among the backyard birds!

Thank you to Alicia Johnson Brewer of Chapel Hill, North Carolina for sharing this precious moment. "Here's a video I took of a juvenile, male Northern Cardinal that you are welcome to use if you choose. 🙂 BTW he is enjoying NoMess LM from our Wild Birds Unlimited XL Seed Tube Feeder with 12" tray." https://chapelhill.wbu.com/ 
https://juvenile cardinal feeding himself

Friday, June 7, 2019

Photo Share: Grackles in the garden

When you really look at the grackles, they are some of the prettiest birds in the garden. If this was a really buggy year they would be eating at least a thousand bugs a day and more like 5000 bugs and other creepy crawlies to feed a family. Unfortunately it's not a buggy year and they have been at the feeders trying struggling to find food.

If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Why we have a lot more black birds this year

We have a lot more cow birds and black birds and starlings and doves this year. Are other people seeing that too?
Bugs, Nuts, & Berry cylinder is very popular this spring!
Unfortunately for the birds, this spring has been a tough one. The unusually cold weather isn't producing the numbers of bugs birds need to thrive. According to Paul Guillebeau, a professor of entomology at the University of Georgia in an MNN.com interview: "What impacts insect populations is not how cold it gets in the winter but when spring arrives. Insects survive the winter as eggs, pupae, larvae or, in some cases, as adults in tiny micro habits in leaf litter, the ground, bark on trees or even in your house. If the temperature gets to 70 degrees in mid-March or early April, insects get a fast start and quickly produce multiple generations that can quickly soar to hundreds of thousands. If, however, cold temperatures extend into April or even May, insects will miss one or more of their population cycles.” 

In the bird world, that is potentially a disaster if they can't find supplemental foods like natural fruit, nuts, berries, or bird feeders. By now the birds should be turning their bills up at dried mealworms but I have a round little Robbie that runs to me for food every night! Along with the robins you'll see an increase of other bug eating birds at the feeders including the cowbirds, blackbirds, starlings, doves, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, wrens, bluebirds, and many more.

Suet, Seed Cylinders, mealworms, and any seed blend that includes nuts will help your bug eating birds survive this cold spring until Mother Nature warms up enough to produce more natural foods.

Related Articles:
What birds eat bugs https://what-birds-eat-bugs.html

What birds are attracted to mealworms besides bluebirds? http://bit.ly/M19jqc
What birds eat suet? http://bit.ly/q2Sfje
Can I feed suet year-round? http://bit.ly/I4Ow8l

Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Which seeds are preferred by wild birds? http://bit.ly/zchLgB 

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Safe-driving tips for summer

Birds are born knowing many things. They have standard maneuvers to avoid predators, but still haven’t evolve vehicle-specific avoidance mechanisms. Harried parent birds and newly fledged babies can't gauge automatically how fast cars move.

This means you may have noticed birds in the road trying to outrun cars. Please drive very carefully. Don’t just assume that they’ll get out of the way in time.

Each year 60 million to 80 million bird deaths are attributed to cars. Right now you have to watch for all wildlife that crosses (or stands still in) the road. Statistics show that half the birds born this summer won't survive a year.

That's why I like to create a little bird sanctuary in my yard. I garden with native plants, put up birdhouses, and feed the birds.

Related Articles:
Why should we care about birds? http://bit.ly/KnwOxf
Michigan DNRE asking drivers to watch out for bald eagles http://bit.ly/KnxQJu
Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://t.co/Br4EnlB
Loss of the Passenger Pigeon http://bit.ly/sUPlXj
Stop baby birds from crashing into windows http://bit.ly/KUVpe5

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Easiest way to feed the birds and not the squirrels

Do birds really like hot?
Hot pepper cylinders are popular not because birds like food containing hot pepper, it's that it deters mammals. Mammals have special neural receptors for capsaicin (the active ingredient in chili peppers) and therefore, experience the "heat." Birds either lack these receptors or have receptors that are insensitive to capsaicin. One theory is that chili peppers evolved this way to keep small mammals away and encourage birds to disperse their seeds far across the land. 

Wild Birds Unlimited's Seed Cylinders are the easiest, longest-lasting way to feed a wide variety of birds. And if you are looking to feed just the birds and exclude the squirrels, hot pepper may be the problem solver for you.

They are a few varieties to choose from. They all have an attractive blend of seeds, fruit, nuts, or worms that the birds in mid-Michigan need to supplement their diet.

Related Articles:
How to get the chickadees to stay at the feeder longer http://goo.gl/Bn5G2u
Birdfeeding doesn't have to be messy: 3 Solutions to a Tidy Yard http://goo.gl/5oBc8N
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

Monday, June 3, 2019

Baby Chickadee

This week I’ve had a few families of chickadees (momma, poppa and kids) visit the feeders at the Wild Birds Unlimited store and at home. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish between the male, female, and juvenile chickadees. I did notice the parents were looking a little haggard while their kids were bouncy bundles of fluff. Fresh faced birds are usually the babies and another sign of juveniles is their squeaky baby call.

Before I saw the chickadee families, I heard the persistent begging calls of the fledglings. It was similar to the adult Chick-a-dee-dee-dee call but not as pronounced and higher in pitch. Their many songs and calls are learned over time from their parents. In the first 4 to 5 weeks, baby black-capped chickadees’ produce a variety of different notes and syllables that develop gradually into typical, well developed, black-capped chickadee vocalizations.

The beginning of June is usually when you will see the results of chickadees’ first nesting. They will take the young out and about farther and farther from the nest site to teach them the basics in survival. This family vacation or training period lasts for about 3 to 4 weeks and then the tight cohesive unit will disperse. The young take off suddenly in different directions to settle away from their natal territory and hook up with other young birds new to the area. Once settled in their new territory, most will remain in the same general area for the rest of their adult lives. Meanwhile the parents return to begin a second nesting.

Related Articles:

Chickadee song sounds like he has a mouth full of marbles http://marbles.html
What the 'dee' in Chick-a-dee means http://goo.gl/8rde3a
A closer look at the fee-bee song of the chickadee http://goo.gl/X4qLRV
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

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Do I clean bluebird houses after birds have fledged?

If the birds have been successful in raising their young in a nest box, the babies will fledge and then there about a two week break before they might begin to raise another brood. I always call it their family vacation time. You can clean the nest box at this time while the baby birds are shown the territory and taught how to forage on their own.

If something happens to disrupt the success of the first batch, the birds might begin a new nest within a week. You don’t have to remove the nest in this case but broken eggs or dead nestlings should be removed immediately. If they want to try again in that box, it will give them a head start to have an existing nest. Also try to determine why there was a failure and how to prevent further tragedy.

By cleaning out a nest box you help deter parasite infestation and a predator’s ability disturb a nest that is built on top of old nests making it closer to the entrance hole.

To clean the nest box I usually place a plastic bag over the nest and just sweep it all in and twist the bag shut. You can rinse out the house with a water hose or diluted bleach spray. Make sure the drainage holes are unplugged and leave the house open to dry for a couple days. Finally dispose of the old nest in the trash and wash your hands thoroughly.

Related Articles:
5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses http://bit.ly/xETceZ
Common Bird House Problems http://bit.ly/wrWzyN
Which Way Do You Face a Birdhouse? http://bit.ly/AD43TW
Don’t use treated lumber to build a birdhouse http://bit.ly/x2pIG0
When do birds begin nesting? http://bit.ly/wbJ3kE
DO NOT Collect Dryer Lint for the birds to use as nesting material! http://bit.ly/wC5HcO

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Best pole to get your bird feeding hobby organized

Most people begin bird watching with a general seed feeder hanging from a tree or a simple plant crook to attract songbirds like cardinals, jays, sparrows and more. Then it can get a little more complicated when you want to introduce a finch feeder to attract the bright yellow goldfinches or a suet feeder to attract all the interesting bug eating birds like the chickadees, wrens, nuthatches, titmice and woodpeckers.

The Basic APS Boxed Setup is an excellent way to get your bird feeding hobby organized. It’s easy to construct and maintain. Just twist the augered pole into the ground, and then snap on the extension pole, arms, and chickadee finial. You can attach a Raccoon Baffle to stop critters from climbing the pole.

You can stop there or continue to create and customize your bird feeding station. The Basic APS Boxed Setup is an introductory pole system that allows you to add on pieces to build up the system as your interests in the hobby grows.

Want to add another feeder; there are single or double arms that you can attach easily to the setup. Or decorate the pole with a perching branch so the birds can line up to eat. There are also suet feeder attachments that will allow you to hook your suet feeder right to the pole.

A variety of food types equals a variety of birds coming to eat in your yard. Our APS Squirrel Baffle or Raccoon baffles will keep the critters off and birds’ tummies full.

You can continue to add to your system until you have The Ultimate APS Setup. Come into the Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, Michigan store today to design your grand buffet for the birds and then sit back and watch the entertainment.
 

Related Articles: https://youtu.be/Nb9dO3z7yaw
Product Highlight: Advanced Pole System http://goo.gl/5wsHGu
How to hang feeders from trees http://bit.ly/suV4Z5

How to Protect My Bluebird House pole: http://bit.ly/vcPUb7
Last Minute Gifts for Birdwatchers http://bit.ly/tMBYOf

Friday, May 31, 2019

Photo Share: Oh my starling!

Baby starlings have arrived! Not something most people anticipate eagerly. These large gray baby starlings are noisy and pushy. But the good news is that each bird will eat hundreds of insects a day (once they figure out what's what). Every evening I come home, fill the feeders and watch the show.

The giant, little baby starlings were patrolling the lawn for food. One found a dried leaf, picked up this "prize" and ran with it while his siblings chased after, jumped him and discovered it was just a leaf. But they must be finding bugs too because our yard is a bug-free zone. The abundance of baby starlings make them easy prey too.

While I love all the activity, I know I'm going to hear a lot of complaints. So what can you do to deter the starlings and blackbirds, but still attract cardinals, chickadees, finches, and all the other less boisterous backyard birds?

Feeder Choices
  • Squirrel Buster Plus- This feeder is guaranteed Squirrel and large bird proof. You can exclude large nuisance birds with this feeder by rolling in the perches to make them short. You can also adjust the tension on the spring mechanism to have the feeder ports shut when large birds land. Blackbirds weigh twice as much as cardinals.
  • Upside Down Suet Feeder- a feeder that dispenses suet from the bottom doesn’t phase a woodpecker but will deter most blackbirds.
  • Finch Feeders- I’ve never had a problem with the blackbirds on any finch feeders that are filled with straight nyjer thistle seed.
Food Choices
  • Use pure beef suet with no seeds
  • Switch to straight safflower seed: Start by offering safflower gradually, mixing it with the seed you currently use. Over time increase the amount of safflower until you are feeding straight safflower. The seed looks and tastes different from other bird seed, so it may take your birds some time to adjust. Safflower is a small, white seed that is high in protein and fat. Many favorite backyard birds - including cardinals, chickadees, finches, doves, woodpeckers, titmice and nuthatches- savor safflower. Blackbirds, starlings, and squirrels refuse to eat safflower seed typically.
Related Articles:
· What are those birds that sit on the wires? http://bit.ly/y608rz
· Fun Facts About European Starlings http://bit.ly/rSQtFD
· How do thousands of European Starlings fly without colliding? http://bit.ly/vwM3Ra
· What birds like Safflower seed? http://bit.ly/w3ZBGa
· What do grackles eat? http://bit.ly/xBhX3j

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Can birds eat too much?

Most backyard birds don't have to worry about getting fat. Birds have high basal metabolic rates which means they burn calories fast. Hummingbirds, with their tiny bodies and high levels of activity, have the highest metabolic rates of any animal, roughly a dozen times that of a dove. To maintain those rates, hummers have to consume their weight in food daily. And just to survive a cold night hummers go to the other extreme of their activity range, and may become torpid (a state of mini-hibernation). Our other backyard birds also convert everything they eat quickly into energy because they tend to have 30-70 percent higher metabolic rates than mammals.

Birds need a lot of energy for foraging, flying, staying alert for predators, nesting in the spring, molting feathers in the fall, and maintaining the correct body temperature in Michigan from freezing to frying on the same day. A wintering chickadee living at below freezing must spend something like twenty times as much time feeding per day as it would in the warmth of spring.

Maintaining constant body temperature is not just a problem for birds trying to keep from chilling in cold weather; it is an even more critical problem when the air temperature rises above their body temperature. Then birds must avoid overheating and sudden death. The relatively large body surfaces of small birds take in environmental heat (and lose cooling water) quickly. That is one reason there is low activity at the feeders during heat waves when they seek shade or look for a bath to cool down.

So even though the feeders empty quickly those fluffy birds aren't fat. Most birds have hollow bones with internal struts that make them very strong. Birds also have a smaller total number of bones than mammals. This is because many of their bones have fused together, to make the skeleton more rigid. Birds do have more neck vertebrae than many other animals to help them groom their feathers. But overall it takes over 65 chubby chickadees to equal the weight of one medium squirrel.

The Ruby-throated hummingbirds weigh about 0.1–0.2 ounces or one dime. Goldfinches are tiny vegetarians that weigh about .5 of an ounce, or about the same as five pennies. The bigger Northern Cardinal is only 2 ounces or about 9 quarters. As you can see, birds are surprisingly lightweight.

Related Articles:
How to get ready for hummingbird season https:/hummingbird-season.html
Michigan birds and their food preference: http://bit.ly/yp9YQA
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/C3mFuD

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Photo Share: Identifying orioles

The plumage on Baltimore Orioles is more variable than other orioles. Adult male Baltimore orioles can have an entirely dark brown to deep black colored head and upper mantle, an orange middle and lower back and rump, and orange shoulder patches. Their underparts range from dull yellow to flame orange. Wings are black with one white wing bar, and tail has a central black V, bordered on all sides by orange or yellow.

Adult female Baltimore orioles vary from drab to bright yellow to bright orange. Back and wings are dull gray, olive, or brown, with two white bars. The tail is uniformly dull orange to brown. The head and nape can be gray, olive or brown, turning darker with each molt.

The oldest known wild Baltimore oriole was more than 11 years old. The species molts once a year, after breeding and before and during southbound migration.

Wild Birds Unlimited Macomb, MI shared a great video showing some variations: https://youtu.be/6rZ4ED4W1SY

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Finches have stopped coming to the feeder

Do some birds stop coming to the feeders in the summer? I don't have as many yellow finches as before.
Male American Goldfinch in brand new yellow feathers!
American Goldfinches are common feeder visitors that prefer Nyjer® (thistle) and sunflower seeds. But every year after American Goldfinches have completed their spring molt, a lot of them leave the feeders for awhile and wander widely. Usually when the dandelions bloom, the goldfinches get the urge to forage for fresh, yummy weed, grass, and flower seeds along with tender leaves from trees and other plants.

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

Female American Goldfinch
Goldfinches don't nest until late summer. They are footloose and fancy free to forage wherever they want. Some still visit the feeders but not as frequently or in as many numbers.

You should still keep the feeders clean and full of fresh seed. Keep in mind that during the summer Nyjer® (thistle) only stays fresh for about a month or two. It keeps longer if it is stored in a cool and dry location.

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

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

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

Monday, May 27, 2019

Remembering G.I. Joe

Memorial Day represents one day of national awareness and reverence, honoring those Americans who died while defending our Nation and its values. We can also take a moment to remember the role of the selectively bred Rock Pigeons during World War I and II. Also called the Domestic Pigeon, Homing Pigeon, and Rock Dove, the United States Army Pigeon Service or Signal Pigeon Corps was a unit of the United States Army assigned to train the birds for communication.

Wikipedia writes: “During WWII, the force consisted of 3,150 soldiers and 54,000 war pigeons, which were considered an undetectable method of communication. Over 90% of US Army messages sent by pigeons were received. The pigeon G.I. Joe received the Dickin Medal for gallantry that saved at least 1,000 lives. From 1917 until 1957, the US Army Pigeon Breeding and Training Center was based at Fort Monmouth, N.J. The US Army discontinued using pigeons as message carriers in 1957.”

After the war GI Joe was sent to the Detroit Zoological Gardens where he died at the age of eighteen. Learn more on the video: http://youtu.be/kSKrRlD7qOg


Related Articles:
Patriotic Red, White and Bluebird http:/red-white-and-bluebird.html
What did the military learn from birds? http://bit.ly/MV3lsA
Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://t.co/Br4EnlB
The Bald Eagle is the National Symbol of the USA: What are some other Countries' National Birds http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2011/02/bald-eagle-is-national-symbol-of-usa.html