About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Photo Share: Adorable juvenile Mourning Dove

I hope this adorable baby dove makes it. He showed no fear of me while I took his picture. He seemed more interested in looking at the pine cone, the squirrel, and all the new stuff in the world. He even ignored his parents' warning about a fast moving bike rider nearby. They wing whistled away while he studied some wood chips. (Mourning Doves use a wing whistle noise to warn their flock about approaching enemies.) Fortunately the darkly mottled juvenile plumage of a Mourning Dove camouflages the bird among the natural debris.

I don't actually know if this bird was a boy. To our human eyes, both male and female juveniles look alike. In September the kids will grow adult grayish brown feather coats with one black spot behind and slightly below the eye and more black spots on both wings. Newly emerged feathers on head and neck of males have olive tipped edges that wear away during the winter to reveal distinctive bluish gray cap and nape and pinkish face, throat, and breast. Females are less showy. They have olive gray cap with neck feathers usually tinged with olive green iridescence, although some pink iridescence occasionally occurs.

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

More ants this year than usual

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
A cold spring isn’t good for the breeding of a lot of bug species but ants seem to thrive. There is a total of 113 species of ants recorded in the state of Michigan. Only a handful are seen near our homes but their population seemed to explode in the strange weather we experienced this year. While they are pests to us, to many plants they are the key to their survival. In the eastern US, ants are integral to plant biodiversity because they help disperse seeds.

So what do you do to deter them from the nectar, fruit, and jelly feeders? You can help birds eat in peace if you install an ant "moat" between the feeder and the hanging hook. An ant moat is a small cup-like device that hangs between your feeder and your hook. Just like a water moat protects a castle, fill an ant moat with water, and it creates a barrier the ants can’t cross to get to the nectar. We carry several styles of ant moats, and there are also feeders that have built-in ant moats.

It is best if you don't poison the ants. Generally, ants are not dangerous. The primary concern is their ability to cause a nuisance. Northern Flickers also help to control the ant populations. Any poisons spread on the ground could unintentionally harm them. Flickers also squash ants and apply them to their bodies. Ants produce formic acid, which kills parasites on the bird's skin and feathers.

Related articles: https://youtu.be/flicker vs ants
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/II4RQ4
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/H2U4P4
Hummingbird Information on Habitat and Habits http://bit.ly/H2Ua9s
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/H7xvp3
Fun Facts About Hummingbirds http://bit.ly/II5sBl
Photo Share: Strange visitor at the high-perch hummingbird feeder http://bit.ly/II7dy

Monday, August 19, 2019

Where to put a bird bath

Can I put a bird bath right next to the bird feeders?
It’s best to put a bath in a spot that is easy to view but is also close to a faucet so you can change the water frequently. I can foresee only a couple problems with a bath near a feeding station. If it is right next to a feeder there could be seed spray dirtying the bath. And then there are doves. Mourning Doves like to shove as much food as they can into their crop and then find some where to perch to digest. Sometimes when a bath is close by you can have doves wading in a bath for 30 minutes or more after they’ve visited a feeder. This doesn’t bother me but if you feel the doves wearing out their welcome move it to another area.

Related Articles:

- Why Birds Preen http://goo.gl/8hqh0W
- What kind of bird bath is the best? http://goo.gl/tXz65
- Birds Don't Sweat: The Importance of Birdbaths http://bit.ly/OjpFPn
- Why crows dip their food in bird baths http://bit.ly/zgpw2i
- Do Birds Sip or Slurp? http://bit.ly/yAHTTV
- Why do birds poop in the bird bath? http://bit.ly/whKqHg

Saturday, August 17, 2019

How to clean feeders

Late summer is a stressful time for finches. Parents are caring for young, all the birds are growing new feathers, and there is a lot of competition at the feeders. This is the most important time to keep your feeders clean! Whenever birds are concentrated in a small area, the risk of a disease spreading within that population increases.

Bird-Feeding Guidelines:
1. Space your feeders widely to discourage crowding.
2. Rake the beneath feeders to remove droppings and old, moldy seed.
3. Change your bird bath water every other day and scrub and rinse at least every 2 weeks.
4. Soak your feeders at least once a month if not more with a 10% vinegar or bleach solution (1 part vinegar and 9 parts water) and be sure to scrub well around the feeder ports. Or Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing can wash your feeders year round. Just bring a feeder in and pay $5.00. We will disassemble, soak, scrub, and reassemble your feeder and have it ready for you the next day we are open. Or prepay $20.00 and you will receive a Bird Feeder Wash Card that is good for 5 washes. This will give you a savings of $5.00! 

Related articles:
Do I need to clean my bird feeder? http://bit.ly/HNX410
What to know about feeding birds in the spring http://bit.ly/HOjECH
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/umlwXg
Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/HNZTPx

Friday, August 16, 2019

Hummingbirds can starve to death in hours

On the nights when it gets cold or it rains you may wonder where a little hummingbird that weighs as little as a penny goes to spend the night. While sleeping, hummingbirds are vulnerable to an attack by a predator, even more so than other birds. Most birds find a sheltered perch to roost at night, lock their toes on a branch and sleep with one eye open, always on the lookout for danger.

Hummingbirds find a nice and sheltered place at night, and they latch onto a branch with their tiny feet, and then they go to sleep. But they don't just sleep, they go into a deep sleep called torpor, where they can lower the amount of energy they use by about 85 percent. They do this by basically shutting down a bunch of their bodily functions. It is like a mini hibernation where they lower their body temperature and their heart rate drops to only a few beats per minute. However, unlike hibernation, hummingbird torpor can occur on any night of the year so it is referred to as daily torpor or noctivation. Even tropical hummingbird species that also have limited metabolic energy, rely on daily torpor to conserve energy.

Hummers in torpor are fluffed but rigid and cold to the touch. In the morning, it takes them 20 to 30 minutes for their body to raise their internal temperature back up. They take that risk just to have enough energy in their tiny bodies to make it to the next morning. It is important for them to load up right before they sleep and then in the morning hummingbirds will eat 25% of their daily intake as soon as they recover from torpor. So keep those feeders full of fresh nectar.

Related Articles:
Migration vs. Hibernation http://goo.gl/C1GtY
How Do Birds Sleep? http://goo.gl/EyGqT
Why geese sleep in the water http://goo.gl/GP784
Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://goo.gl/Aurhv 

Video Hummingbird waking from torpor https://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2013/03/do-birds-snore-watch-video.html

Thursday, August 15, 2019

European Starling growing winter feathers

Baby starling
European Starlings are pretty common to see at mid-Michigan bird feeders. But the way they wear their feathers can make their identification difficult at times. After a long winter starlings have worn off their stars and look black or an iridescent purplish-green in the sun with yellow beaks. The babies almost look like a different species. They have fluffy dark gray feathers when they first fledge.

A juvenile European Starling (also known as Co...Image via Wikipedia
Juvenile European Starling growing winter feathers
At the end of summer the babies start to grow a black and white spotted vest. Then eventually their whole body will be covered by dark feathers with white tips. The white tips give the bird a spotted look or the appearance of “stars” covering their body, hence the name starling.

Adult starlings also go through a complete molt in late summer. Their bill color changes from yellow to black and new feathers with white tips are grown as winter approaches.

Over the winter sunlight and weather dulls the speckled look and by breeding season they are back to the uniform dark brown or black. Males sport a bluish spot at the base of their beaks, while the female displays a reddish pink speck.

Starlings tend to leave the feeders in the fall. They switch their diet in the winter to mainly fruits, nuts, and berries. During the day you can see them hanging out on wires along the roadside.
Related Articles:
Fun Facts About European Starlings http://bit.ly/KldcZK
Bird of the week: European Starling http://bit.ly/KXORtK
How to deter mobs of blackbirds from bird feeders http://bit.ly/IaZlky
How do thousands of European Starlings fly without colliding? http://bit.ly/vwM3Ra
Starlings stealing shiny money from machine http://bit.ly/uKaP8b

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Birds involved in ornithophily tend to be specialist nectarivores

You may have noticed the beak or bill on a hummingbird is longer in proportion to their body than other birds. This is so they can reach deep down into tubular flowers to get nectar. Both flowers and hummingbirds benefit when a hummingbird comes by for a drink.

Ornithophily is the process where plants are pollinated by birds. When a hummingbird comes to a flower to get a meal, it brushes against the male parts of the flower and gets dusted with pollen grains that are transferred over to pollinate the next flower. As a result, species of hummingbirds and species of flowers often evolved together, or co-adapted.

Most bird-pollinated flowers have a lot of nectar, often at the bottom of bright red, orange or yellow tubular petals. Bird pollination is considered a costly strategy for plants and it evolves only where there are particular benefits for the plant. High altitude ecosystems that lack insect pollinators, those in dry regions, or isolated islands tend to favor the evolution of ornithophily in plants. 

The Important Role of Birds in Pollination  http://www.role-of-birds-in-pollination/

Related Articles:
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
Fun Facts about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds http://goo.gl/jcjcr
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
Why the color on a hummingbirds’ throat flashes http://bit.ly/JZ31qX
When did people start to feed hummingbirds?: http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR
Hummingbirds hunt and eat insects as well as nectar http:/hummingbirds-hunt insects.html

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Birds missing feathers

Birds have to keep a low profile while they are going through a molt.
In a few more weeks this chickadee will be ready for winter,
Molting can be a dangerous period for birds if there are not sufficient resources for them to molt properly. Flying may be difficult if not impossible while molting, which makes birds more susceptible to predators, and while feathers are missing, a bird's insulation and protection from poor weather is compromised.

Dolly is an inside cat so this bird is safe for now.
If a bird does not get proper nutrition while molting, its feathers may be thinner or poorly formed, creating difficulties that can last for months or years. You can help ease the dangers of molting by providing a rich, reliable food source for birds to take advantage of, along with safe, secure shelter for birds that become more elusive and shy while molting.

Plant plenty of native trees, shrubs and berries that offer nutrient rich food and harbor protein rich insects. If birds trust their habitat to meet their molting needs, they will stay around during this uncertain period, giving birders the opportunity to witness molting firsthand and enjoy ever more intimate knowledge of their favorite feathered friends.

Related Articles:
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Dirt baths help birds stay clean http://bit.ly/rJR7Ex
Why birds molt http://bit.ly/rGaqRL
Do Birds Go Grey or White Feathered in Old Age? http://bit.ly/rRwSeP
How do the small birds stay warm in the winter? http://bit.ly/sASDaX
Bird body odor: a link to extinction? http://bit.ly/rNhAU0

Is there a bird without feathers? http://bit.ly/t9C55s

Monday, August 12, 2019

What to do with a hawk in my yard

In late summer there is a lot of hawk activity in Michigan. Although we have hawks year-round in mid-Michigan some of the northern hawks are migrating south and young hawks start to become independent.

A couple week's ago walking to work I saw an older hawk teaching her kids how to hunt by example. I'm sure you can imagine it wasn't a swift process. I walked an extra block to avoid interrupting. They are not being cruel, just eating. By now some young hawks are venturing out on their own. At work I saw a young Cooper's Hawk based on the yellow eyes, size, rounded tail and thick vertical chest streaks. He caught a young House Sparrow.

What do you do when a hawk visits? I took a picture and then left the window until he was done. The presence of hawks at your feeders should in no way cause you to discontinue feeding birds. The Cooper’s Hawk, must catch and eat at least one item of prey every day to survive. Sparrows are the most frequent prey at the store. These hawks also eat small rodents, such as mice, chipmunks and voles.

Twenty minutes after the "incident" the birds were back at the feeders.

Additional steps to take if you have hawks in your yard:
  • First and foremost, federal and state laws prohibit the capture, killing, or possession of hawks and owls. Raptors attracted to bird feeding stations are a problem only when they perch nearby all day. The birds return as soon as the Hawk flies away. So enjoy a close-up look at these magnificent birds while they are in your yard.
  • If you feed birds, place your feeders where there is ample natural protection. Evergreen shrubs and trees can provide an easy escape for the birds.
  • Keep in mind hawks in the neighborhood play an important role in controlling bird and rodent populations and usually ignore cats, dogs, and people.
  • Ultimately, the only thing you can do when a hawk comes to dinner is wait it out. Most hawks that visit only do so for two or three weeks and then they are off again to different territory.
Related Articles:
Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk comes for a visit http://bit.ly/w1fDRM
Can You Scare a Hawk Away? http://bit.ly/w3vz5B
Small birds attack hawk http://bit.ly/sH68yB
Frozen Woodpecker http://bit.ly/ubSCTR
Is it safe to feed the birds out in the open? http://bit.ly/rBErxI

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Brown striped bird

House Finches are non-migratory. They tend to stay near their nesting areas over winter, but they may wander widely for food. Yard feeders have helped their year-round survival. While the boys have red on the head, upper breast and brown streaks on the belly and flanks, females are plain brown, with heavily streaked white chests. House Finches may be confused with Purple Finches. Purple Finche males have a more reddish color on their upper parts and are not streaked on their abdomens.

Both male and female House Finches sing lovely warbler-like songs and have a sweet, quiet chatter calls that you can hear when they visit feeders. They are very social birds, and after the nesting season, they merge into family flocks for the rest of the year. In groups, females are usually dominant over males.

House Finches are almost strictly vegetarian and approximately 97% of their diet is made up of buds, seeds, and fruits. They are strongly attracted to feeders, with sunflower or safflower seeds. They love my Safflower Seed Cylinder feeder and the fruit and jelly at my oriole feeders.

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

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Aggressive hummingbird harasses hawk

I love this time of year! Activity at the hummingbird feeder is way up. A hummingbird has to gain 25 – 40% extra body-weight to have enough fuel to migrate thousands of miles south. You will notice hummers getting a fresh set of feathers and fatter along the belly, back, and throat.

In order to conserve their strength, sometimes they’ll guard a particularly tasty food source like a hummingbird feeder or flowering bush. I have one hummingbird female that is taking it a little further. She is in charge of my whole yard right now. The hummingbird feeders are hers, the flowering bush is hers, finch feeder is hers, the seed feeder is hers, it is all hers.

The other night when she wasn't perched on her swing, she harassed the songbirds, squirrels and even a young Cooper's Hawk wasn't exempt from her bossiness. The hawk gave a casual glance but I think knew this was one fight that should be avoided.

In fact biologist Harold Greeney found breeding hummingbirds often cluster below hawk nests. His report revealed hawks don’t prey on hummingbirds or their nests—there’s not enough meal in a hummer to be worth the effort, apparently. But the hawk inadvertently protects the hummingbirds from other predators.

In the end, the time this female hummingbird wasted patrolling the rest of the critters in the yard, allowed other hummers to sneak in a few meals from some of the several hummingbird feeders that are scattered around the yard. It is good to put up multiple feeders at different locations to relieve the stresses of late summer feeding and allow as many hummers as possible fuel up.

Related Articles:

What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
Fun Facts about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds http://goo.gl/jcjcr
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
Why the color on a hummingbirds’ throat flashes http://bit.ly/JZ31qX
When did people start to feed hummingbirds?: http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR

Friday, August 9, 2019

Finches don't really kick seed on the ground

My goldfinches seem to kick a lot of the thistle to the ground. Should I put a tray on my feeder?

What looks like wasted seed on the ground is probably just lots of tiny shells. Unfortunately as small as nyjer "thistle" seeds are, the black part on the outside is merely the shell finches split open efficiently to extract the high fat, high protein oil within.

Fortunately this seed has been heat treat so that if one seed does escape a finch’s grasp it won’t sprout. I would recommend you rake the area occasionally or plant a ground cover under the feeders. You could also add a tray to collect the shells to dispose of regularly.

Finch feeders have very small feeding ports to control the flow of the teeny tiny Nyjer® (thistle) seed but still allow skinny-billed finches to extract a seed. There are two popular styles. One is a stabilized, polycarbonate tube that has a perches for the birds to stand on and pick a seed from a slit in a tube. The other is a mesh tube where the birds cling to the mesh and pluck seeds from any open spot.

When choosing a finch feeder always look for something easy to fill and easy to clean. The Wild Birds Unlimited finch feeders in East Lansing, MI have Quick-Clean bases that makes maintenance a snap, a Lifetime Guarantee and are also made in the U.S.A. You can’t go wrong!

Related Articles:
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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
Where do you place finch feeders? http://goo.gl/avIs2

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Unopened finch bird seed can go bad

If you are not constantly filling the goldfinch feeder right now then you need to investigate the situation. American Goldfinches are feeding like crazy right now. Late summer is when they nest so they are staying in one territory, unlike spring when they could wander widely to find plant seeds.

Make sure your feeder is clean. Finches are finicky and avoid dirty feeders. Feeders should be cleaned at least once a month, year round but especially during stressful times. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing - will clean your feeder for $5.00. Or you can use a one part vinegar to nine parts water solution to clean all of your feeders.

Make sure there is no mold in the feeder. This can be dangerous to the birds and they will avoid your feeder again. To prevent mold in bad weather use Feeder Fresh™ (a silica grit that absorbs water and humidity, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand). You can also shelter your feeder from the elements by using something like WBU Weather Guard.

Make sure your seed is fresh. One way to do this is to crush some seed with a spoon on a piece of white paper and see if little dots of oil appear. It takes a lot of energy to nest, if your seed has dried out your feeder will be skipped. (Wild Birds Unlimited receives a fresh load of seed each week). Even if it is an opened bag from spring, it may have gone bad. The rule of thumb is once it is above 70 degrees, the seed only stays fresh for a month unless you freeze it.

Make sure there is a perching area. Goldfinches feel safer if they can perch to look for predators before they hit the feeder. I like to hang my feeders in a tree or near one. I love the huge flocks of finches that flutter down from the tops of trees as they take their turn at the feeder. You can hang the feeder anywhere because squirrels and other animals don't bother with Nyjer® Thistle.

Finches are notorious for leaving a tube feeder half full. I think the goldfinches may have been taught it was polite to leave at least a little food on your plate so as not to appear gluttonous. So what do you do if you have polite birds that eat only to a certain level and then stop even if there is still good, fresh seed in half of the tube? Don't just top off your feeder with fresh seed. Empty the older seed (if it's still good) into a different container, fill the bottom of your feeder with new seed and top it off with the older seed. The birds will probably eat down to that certain level again and you'll have to repeat the process.

Mesh Finch Feeders are my favorite. Several birds can feed at a time, the seed airs out, it's easy to clean, easy to fill, has a lifetime guarantee, and is made in the USA. They eat from top to bottom. However if you're thinking of switching feeders remember that finches don't like change and it may take several minutes to several months for goldfinches to accept a new feeder.

Yellow attracts Goldfinches that are scouting for new feeding sites. Just like you know about the golden arches of McDonald's, the birds know yellow represents food whether it’s a sunflower or a feeder. If you move a feeder or add a new one and isn't yellow, attach a yellow ribbon to the feeder to catch a scout's eye. Once one finchy finds your feeder, a flock will follow.

Related Articles:
Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Goldfinch Migration http://bit.ly/MzGSPD
Are Goldfinches here in the winter? http://bit.ly/PZu5ML
Goldfinches: The Last Birds Nesting http://bit.ly/PZuejj
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Help robins in autumn

This morning on my walk to the Wild Birds Unlimited store I was amazed by the number of American Robins calling at the top of trees. At the end of summer robins wander around in flocks between fruit trees and roost trees in a neighborhood. Their diet switches from mainly bugs to more fruits, nuts, and berries.

When a brood of baby robins fledge, they are taught by both parents for a few days on how to forage for food. Eventually daddy robin leads the juveniles to a well-sheltered stand of trees or shrubs to hang out with other juveniles before he returns alone to start another brood. Young robins learn that being in groups, or flocks, is normal. Robins are territorial on their summer breeding territories, but not at their roosts. Advantages to being in flocks are that more eyes can search for food sources, and be watchful for predators.

To help robins in autumn, you can make your backyard bird-friendly. Leave some dead leaves under trees and shrubs for birds to forage for insects as weather gets cold. Provide cover by not cutting back dead vegetation like dried flowers, and vines. Plant more berry bushes or fruit trees as food sources for robins migrating through, or overwintering in the area.

Related Articles:
- Why Robins are Attracted to Water http://bit.ly/qP9aTs
- Bird of the Week: American Robin http://bit.ly/pnUKqk
- Fun Facts About The American Robin http://bit.ly/n9CSni
- Why robins are called Robin Redbreast and not orange breast http://goo.gl/OB4iT

Monday, August 5, 2019

6 steps to make the future brighter for birds

Habitat loss, disease, severe weather, window collisions and many other factors contribute to the decline in bird populations. Here are six steps you can take to make the future brighter for birds:

Land development is changing the habitat available for many birds. You can help by landscaping with native plants that provide natural food sources, shelter and protection predators. Man made feeders, nest boxes and bird baths also benefits birds.

2. Prepare a proper menu
Food is essential to provide birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition to endure the elements year-round. Wild Birds Unlimited has regionally formulated seed blends to provide the most nutritious food for your birds. The first ingredient in our top 4 seed blends is sunflower seed, the favorite of most of the backyard seed eating birds.
To help reduce the possibility of disease transmission in birds, clean feeders and feeding areas at least once a month. Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing will clean your feeder for $5.00 or you can disassemble and scrub your feeders at home. Keep seed and foods dry by adding Feeder Fresh; discard food that is wet or looks moldy. Birdbaths also need to be scrubbed with a brush and water should be replaced every three to days to discourage mosquito reproduction. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned every three to five days, or every other day in warm weather.

4. Birds and chemicals don’t mix 
Many pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are toxic to birds; avoid using these near areas where birds feed, bathe or rest.

5. Keep cats away from birds 
Outdoor cats are estimated to kill 500 million birds per year. Even the sweetest cats still have the instincts of their wild ancestors. When something flutters by, they must swat it down. Cats do what comes natural but you can help wildlife by restricting their access outside. A lot of our customers start bird feeding to entertain their indoor cats. It is a challenge to keep indoor-only animals stimulated and engaged mentally. A window feeder is one solution.

6. Reduce window collisions 
It is estimated that between 100 million and one billion birds are killed every year in the United States when they crash into glass windows. And even one billion deaths might be a conservative estimate. Decals like Window Alert placed on the outside of windows have had the most positive feedback from customers. Each decal contains a component which brilliantly reflects ultraviolet sunlight. This ultraviolet light is invisible to humans, but glows like a stoplight for birds.

Related Articles:
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/H42e6s
- 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
- How to Prevent Window Strikes during Migration http://goo.gl/KZRzKb

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Hummingbirds have a forked tongue

Hummingbirds are truly one of the most fascinating groups of birds on the planet. Out of all birds, they have the fastest metabolism, the largest heart in proportion to body size, the fastest heart and wing beats, the most brilliant feather iridescence and one of the highest rates of nesting success. Hummingbirds are the lightest bird at just 1/10th of an ounce, have the smallest bird brain, can fly up down, forward and backwards but are virtually incapable of walking.

They can consume up to twice their body weight in nectar every day. In order to accomplish this amazing feat, hummingbirds' bills and tongues have evolved into incredibly efficient feeding tools. Despite popular belief, hummingbirds do not feed on nectar by sucking it up with their bills; instead, they actually lap it up with their tongues. They feed by dipping their forked, open-grooved tongues into nectar at up to 12 times a second. Then they use the flexible tip of their bill to capture insects and insect eggs from the ground and on plants. They love spiders and spider eggs.

A great way to see this amazing tongue in action is to use a Wild Birds Unlimited Hummingbird Feeder or a WBU Window Hummingbird Feeder. With their clear plastic bases, you will be able to witness the rapid lapping action of these fascinating hummingbirds.

The video shows that, upon entering nectar, the tongue tips spread apart and the lamellae, unfurl to collect nectar. When pulled out of the liquid, the split tongue tips zip back up and the lamellae roll inward, to trap nectar inside.

Related Articles:
- The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/FQ9iGc
- How Many Species of Hummingbirds are There in Michigan? http://bit.ly/yCeR1c
- Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/FQ9kxU
- When did people start to feed hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/yhfoMG
- How to Stop Your Hummingbird Feeder from Dripping. http://bit.ly/yROgU5
- How Do I Keep Bees Off My Hummingbird Feeder? http://bit.ly/Aj07oq

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Young hummingbirds

There are a lot of signs to tell you if the hummingbirds you see are young and just off the nest.

Young hummingbirds will look similar to a female, but as young males begin to mature in late summer look for a few random red iridescent feathers on the throat. And the young are very healthy looking. Their feathers are full and shiny whereas the parent birds look a little haggard. The parents have been through a lot and are now going through a molt to get ready for fall migration.

Only 20% of newly fledged hummingbirds live to be one year old. Once immature birds leave the nest they blunder about checking everything as they try to recognize the shapes and color patterns of blossoms or feeders that have nectar. This information is stored away in BB sized brains for the rest of their life. If they survive, they will continue to remember the exact location of gardens and feeders for years to come.

Immature hummingbirds also tend to be more vocal, calling out when distressed. And they have to learn a lot about social order. It's not unusual for more mature birds to use physical rebukes to punish young upstarts.

Finally the largest number of hummingbirds buzzing through our yards during late summer are immature birds that have only hatched recently. They can stay around mid-Michigan as late as October or November until all of a sudden they can't resist the urge to migrate south.

So keep those feeders full and clean! A hummingbird's high metabolic rate requires them to refuel with nectar constantly while they search for bugs. They prefer flowers with a sugar concentration of 20 percent sucrose. This translates to a mixture of four parts water to one part white table sugar. Click HERE for more detailed nectar recipe instructions.

Related Articles:
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? https://how-to-make.html
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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

Friday, August 2, 2019

New hummingbird visits Michigan

Female Rufous Hummingbird on red-flowering currant
Male Rufous hummingbird at feeder
Is it rare to see a Rufous Hummingbird in Michigan?

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the most common hummer in Michigan but it is getting more and more common to see the Rufous Hummingbird also visiting our feeders in the late summer and fall. While the Ruby is common on the eastern side of the United States, the Rufous is more typically a western species, some even nesting as far north as Alaska. 
Beginning in late June, adult rufous males start to migrate, followed by the females and then the young. For some reason this is when strays occur widely in the east, and many now winter regularly in the Gulf Coast states. The new flight pattern may be due to climate change. Recent surveys show continuing declines in numbers during recent decades.

Male Rufous Hummingbirds are a little larger than the ruby-throated, have rusty orange sides and bellies and a vivid red throat, while females are mostly green with a spot of orange on the throat. Most winter mainly in Mexico and Panama.
Photos from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-throated_Hummingbird/id
Like our Ruby-throated, they feed on nectar from flowers using a long extendable tongue or catch insects on the wing. These birds require frequent feeding while active during the day and become torpid at night to conserve energy. Sometimes they are reported hanging around even as late as November. Provided sufficient food, they able to tolerate temperatures down to −4 °F. Our common Ruby-throated hummingbirds usually migrate south by October.

Related Articles:
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
Fun Facts about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds http://goo.gl/jcjcr
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
Why the color on a hummingbirds’ throat flashes http://bit.ly/JZ31qX
When did people start to feed hummingbirds?: http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR

How Many Species of Hummingbirds are There in Michigan? http://how-many-hummingbirds.html

Thursday, August 1, 2019

When will I see baby goldfinches?

You should start to see the baby goldfinches in August. The American goldfinches usually start building nests in July. While females are sitting on the nest, males bring them food they have eaten but not yet digested. So you will see the boys loading up at the feeders to bring home dinner to the girls.

babies at my windowsill
Female goldfinches build nests a few feet off the ground from twigs and branches found nearby. Females lay 2 to 7 eggs, which they keep warm for 15 days until they hatch. When the chicks are born, they are usually naked or have just a few feathers. They weigh only 1 g on average. After the chicks hatch, males take on most of the responsibility for looking after the chicks. Females chase intruders away from the nest, forage for food, and return to feed the chicks through spitting up undigested food. Babies can fly in about 14 days. Even after they leave the nest, they rely on their parents for 3 to 4 more weeks.

If you are not seeing an increase of finches right now, something is wrong. Clean your feeders, buy fresh seed, and put your feeder near perching spot to attract the most birds. Gardens can produce a lot of natural food too, but finch feeders give you an up close look at the little "squeaky toy" sounding babies learning how to feed!

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How to Attract Goldfinches http://bit.ly/A6CwjB
How often do you clean a bird feeder? http://bit.ly/wTk0c7 
Where do you place finch feeders? http://goo.gl/avIs2

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Bird that chips

I hear a chip, chip, chip sound right when it is starting to get dark. I think it is a cardinal's chip but there are so many! Do you know what I'm hearing?

Scientists have described at least 16 different calls for the Northern Cardinal, but the one you’ll hear most common at the feeders and in the late summer and fall is a loud, metallic chip. The call alerts feeding cardinals that all is clear and no predators are near.

The Northern Cardinal is often the first bird to visit a feeder in the morning and the last to stop by and grab a bite at night. The increase in the number of birds chipping foreshadows a change in seasons. By late summer, nesting is over and Northern Cardinals relax their their territory boundaries. The birds sing less but are forming winter flocks that use "chip" calls to communicate. 
After Young cardinals leave their natal home they don’t have a set territory and can move around freely in search of food. They can drop in several Older cardinals' established groups only to drop out again in search of a territory that can sustain them with enough food and shelter.

Cardinal populations with access to a feeding station may be in better condition and more likely to survive the winter than cardinals without access. Cardinals prefer to feed on the ground so if you can "raise the ground" by feeding cardinals on tray feeders, hopper feeders, seed cylinder feeders or any feeder that gives them a comfortable feeding position. Their favorite food is oil sunflower, nuts, safflower and fruit. Wild Birds Unlimited has a wide variety of cardinal friendly feeders.

The bright red plumage of the Northern Cardinals is a magnificent sight against the snowy backdrop in winter. Winter??? Yes, if you want more cardinals at your feeders, make sure your feeders are full right now.
Source: Wild Bird Guides-Northern Cardinal by Gary Ritchison

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What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/rAArXw
What are the different types of cardinal birds? http://goo.gl/CUI43

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Should you stop feeding to make sure the birds migrate

If you enjoy feeding birds, you should continue to feed them year-round. Feeding the birds in late summer and fall will not make them stick around if they migrate south normally. And the birds that do stick around all year are choosing their winter territories right now.

This is such an exciting time for the birds! As you may have noticed, birds have been attacking the feeders like there is no tomorrow. First they have to take in a lot of high fat, high protein foods to change their feathers. Then they need to increase their fat reserves by as much as 1-10% per day to prepare for winter or a long journey south. In human terms, this would mean I would have to gain 12 pounds per day. Birds change into a “superbird” state when their internal clock is triggered by shorter days and cooler weather at the end of summer.

And don’t forget about the American Goldfinches. They have just started nesting and will bring their adorable babies to the feeders in the next couple weeks. Such fun! Fall is actually my favorite time to feed. I like to watch the baby finches as they call to their parents and the cardinals forming flocks in my yard. Then the migrating warblers, kinglets, pewees, gnatcatchers, and vireos may join tree-foraging guilds for a short time during migration stopovers. I love it when the kinglets fly in to mingle with the chickadees every fall.

To help the birds, you can feed them high energy, high fat foods. Wild Birds Unlimited is dedicated to offering fresh, top-quality seed. Our no-waste bird seed blends are made from 100% edible seed and have been exclusively formulated for the feeding preferences of our local birds. No cereal fillers—just fresh, high-quality seed your birds will love.

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Monday, July 29, 2019

Bird houses that stay up all winter are put to good use

Is there a reason to leave the birdhouse out after the House Wrens leave?

House Wrens usually leave mid-Michigan by October to winter in the southern U.S. and Mexico. If their bird house is a material that doesn't winter well like ceramic or gourd I would clean it up and bring it in for the winter. If it is made of cedar, recycled plastic, or a material that weathers well, I would or leave the house up for the chickadees.

Black-capped Chickadees stay in Michigan year-round. And when the weather turns bitter cold chickadees seek out natural cavities like knotholes in trees, or old woodpecker nests to roost. Where these are scarce, chickadees will use bird houses for shelter.

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Sunday, July 28, 2019

Odd specked cream colored egg in bluebird nest

I live in Northern Minnesota and have bluebird nesting boxes. Last year, a bluebird pair were very interested in the box. All of a sudden they seemed upset and then were gone and never nested. When I opened the box, there was an odd egg in the box that apparently didn’t belong to the bluebirds. It was specked cream colored and appeared larger than a bluebird egg. Thanks for any answer you can provide. Kathy

Cowbird eggs are white to grayish-white with brown or gray spots or streaks. The Brown-Headed Cowbird is a common native bird throughout North America. The male brown-headed cowbird is glossy black with a contrasting dark brown head, while the females are dull grayish brown. A female cowbird can have several mates but instead of building their own nest, she will lay her eggs in the nests of other bird species which foster the babies. She chooses several nests of other bird species to deposit one egg.

Studies have shown that the cowbirds don’t just drop an egg and move on. The females occasionally check in on the little bundles they’ve left behind. An experienced bluebird may have recognized the egg and abandoned the nest. If the bluebird tries to remove the foreign egg, the female cowbird may return and destroy the whole nest. This tactic forces the birds to start another batch of eggs and the cowbird can then try to slip another egg into the nest. The cowbird wants the advantage of her egg hatching first so her baby will have the best chances of survival.

Another sign of a cowbirds presence is an intact egg on the ground under active nests. Female cowbirds often evict one or more of the host eggs before they lay their own. Or she may eat the egg instead or damage it and leave it in the nest.

Cowbird nestlings do not oust host eggs or young from the nest, or kill the host's chicks. However, since they tend to hatch earlier, develop faster, and crowd out or reduce the food intake of the hosts' nestlings, often only the cowbird survives to fledging. In one study with one Cowbird and two host nestlings, the Cowbird got 50% of the food. Bluebirds abandoning a nest with a cowbird egg may have been the smartest solution. Cowbirds are native, so they are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act so there was nothing you could do about the egg without a permit.

For additional information about Brown-headed Cowbirds, visit this species’ profile on All About Birds.

1.  http://www.sciencenow
2. https://nestwatch.org/
3. http://www.sialis.org/cowbirds.htm 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Can birds drown?

Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874-1927), artist
Hello…I am very fond of birds..love watching them..from windows..sometimes use my binoculars..I have a really nice backyard..and several birdhouses..I love the houses as much as the birds..

I recently had a pair nest in a 3-4 hole house..they have had one clutch this past month…and started building another nest..just above the last place and I have so enjoyed watching…and anticipating the next arrivals..till this morning..I put my 3 little dogs in their kennel for a few hours..checked their water bucket for freshness…and there was a wren floating.(dead of course) in the bucket…I was devastated..buried the little thing..and noticed the other mate..(and I honestly do not know which one I lost) the other then…was sitting up on top of the pole(house is mounted on) singing..but nothing like usually singing..this was almost mournful to me…is that possible…came back and forth a couple of times…and I noticed late this afternoon..wasn’t even around..

My question is was the song the wren was singing..(after losing a mate..after no show) really sad…do they act that way?? How do I know which one I lost..they are colored the same..Will this Male? move on now..the nest remain vacant??

Should I clean out the houses in the fall…completely get rid of all the twigs,etc.?? thanks for any information you can tell me..I am so saddened about this loss..my yard is now very quiet…You could hear the wrens singing for joy all over..I could even hear them in the house…with windows closed..thanking you in advance for answering my questions…sincerely..Mary B. (p.s.,,,My daughter lives in Lansing...

Wow, lots of good questions. I'm so sorry about the little bird. We are all a part of nature and any loss is sad.

Wrens continue to call for mates from spring until late summer. Their increase in hormones stimulates the pituitary gland indirectly to prepare birds’ bodies for the upcoming breeding season and results in increased singing. They try to nest as many times as they can from May to October. House Wrens can have multiple mates during nesting season. Either male or female may leave their first mate to finish up raising the young alone and seek a new mate for a second or third breeding attempt during a season. Males can build several false nests and may even have a couple families going at the same time or consecutively. Females may also leave the male with the young to start another family with a new male.

Both the male and female House Wrens look similar to our human eyes but their actions may be revealing. The males tend to be more vocal while the females more behind the scenes. Also during breeding season, Male wrens start building several nests at once in hopes of persuading a female to mate with him. 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.

Birds do not drown often, but it can happen. If a young bird lands in deep water and its feathers get wet, it may not manage to get out. The best bird baths have a good perching area, a gradual dip to not more than two inches, and a textured bottom. Deep water bowls may pose a potential hazard to inexperienced birds. Perhaps during the nesting months, it might be a good idea to put a rock in a in the middle of the bowl or offer a larger, shallower bowl.

I usually clean out nest boxes the first week in September. It is good to check your houses to make sure they are still suitable habitats (nothing broken or left behind like a dud egg or pests). To clean the nest box I usually place a plastic bag over the nest and just sweep everything 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. You can leave some sticks below the house to help them rebuild.

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