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

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

Monday, September 30, 2019

Large native Fox Sparrow stops by the feeder

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

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

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

Related Articles:
White-throated Sparrow fun facts
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/oy9XGz
Which one of these birds is not like the others? http://bit.ly/qM1LQt
Chipping Sparrow Juvenile with adult male http://goo.gl/8U5Ud2
How to get rid of sparrows http://goo.gl/9tAwkY

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Eastern Phoebe: Small brown bird with big head

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

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

The Eastern Phoebe is medium-sized flycatcher, dull in coloration to blend in with its surrounding woodland habitat. Their call is a sharp chip, and their characteristic song fee-bee gave them their common name.

Related articles:

Saturday, September 28, 2019

When baby cardinals turn red

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

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

Source: https://birdsna.org/

Related Articles:
- Northern Cardinal Fun Facts http://bit.ly/twE6NV
- How the Cardinal  was named http://bit.ly/tSKZYs
- Cardinal Bird Feeders: http://bit.ly/qXJPFM
- How to Attract Cardinals: http://bit.ly/pjh7mO
- What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/rAArXw

Friday, September 27, 2019

How much food chipmunks eat

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

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

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

Related Articles:
The 25 known species of chipmunks in the world http://goo.gl/mAs2T 
When do Chipmunks hibernate? http://bit.ly/yIfqFT
How many species of squirrels are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/A2wG1g
Will Safflower seed keep squirrels and chipmunks off my bird feeder? http://bit.ly/wYGDBi
How I stopped a chipmunk from stealing the birdfood https://how-much-food-do-chipmunks-store.html

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Gray and yellow bird with white eye ring

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Grasshopper Sparrow in Michigan

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

More Flickers migrate to Michigan

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 23, 2019

Flock of gray birds under the feeder

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 22, 2019

How to spot warblers

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 21, 2019

#ClimateChange: So many late season baby birds

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

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

Friday, September 20, 2019

What you can do to help bring birds back

Nearly 3 Billion Birds Gone Since 1970

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

14 Ways to Help Birds

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

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Significant numbers of Swainson’s Thrushes die during migration

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Downy woodpeckers are confused commonly with Hairy woodpeckers

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

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

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

Related Articles:
-How do I stop woodpeckers from pecking on my house? http://bit.ly/KGItqF
-What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
-Hairy Woodpecker vs. Downy Woodpecker http://goo.gl/WMH31
-How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://goo.gl/P2qRv
-How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLq

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Rescue hummingbird out of garage

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:
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

Monday, September 16, 2019

Where are the hummingbirds now?

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Abundance Animation Map: 
In mid-Michigan, you can leave your hummingbird feeder up until the end of October. The rule of thumb is if you haven't seen a hummingbird for two weeks in the fall it's safe to take your feeder down. Depending on where you live it is usually at the end of September to the middle of October. But make sure to keep your feeders clean and full of fresh nectar by washing and refilling at least twice a week.
While some birds like blackbirds travel in large flocks, the smallest intercontinental migrant, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, migrates alone. First the males leave us and then the females begin migration. The young birds born this season begin their journey south for the first time after all the adults have departed.

Like other birds that fly solo, they have to depend on a genetically inherited mental map to find the favorable winter grounds hundreds or thousand of miles away from Michigan.

Young hummingbirds are what you see mainly at the end of September. They 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 looked a little haggard.

Birds that are born late in the season are vulnerable especially during a drought. Leaving your feeders up may provide a critical opportunity for these hummingbirds to build reserves and “catch up.” If you keep your feeders filled and fresh you should have hummers visiting from April until usually the end of September or even October. There is no need to force hummingbirds to go south by taking the feeders down too early. Hummingbirds wait until they have gathered enough calories and the winds are blowing in the right direction before they leave.

Watch a First Year Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird Feeding (video courtesy of Wild Birds Unlimited Barriehttps://youtu.be/w2XsuNLYkpQ

Related Articles:

Getting a hummingbird out of a garage https://hummingbird-out-of-garage.html
Hummingbird Information on Habitat and Habits http://bit.ly/It2WwE
Where have my Hummingbirds gone? http://bit.ly/IHzxy3
How Do I Know If It's a Baby Hummingbird? http://bit.ly/IHzCSh
Gardening for birds http://bit.ly/It58nR
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/FQ9kxU

Why do we call it fall?

The word fall comes from the Old English word feallan which means “to fall or to die.” When there were more people with gardens, the time between summer and winter was referred to simply as “harvest,” the time to gather food for winter storage. Astronomically, the season lasts from the end of September until December, between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.

My mom took a picture of a tree in the neighborhood that is always the first to display its fall color. Deciduous trees shed their leaves annually, unlike evergreen trees that stay green year-round. The meaning of of deciduous is "transitory," and stems from the Latin deciduus meaning "falling down, falling off."

Throughout the growing season, most leaves appear green because of a pigment called chlorophyll. In the fall, trees slow down their metabolism (the production of chlorophyll) in order to conserve energy for the winter. As less chlorophyll is produced, underlying pigments that have been hidden underneath emerge. Xanthophyll is what gives leaves a yellow color; carotenoid an orange color; and anthocyanin a red color. All three of these pigments are always present in leaves, but in the summer they’re covered by the large amount of chlorophyll. In the winter, when both water and sunlight are harder to come by, producing so much chlorophyll takes more energy than it’s worth.


Related Articles:  

Fall Checklist for your yard: https://Fall Checklist for birds
Mother Nature Puts on Her Fall Wardrobe http://bit.ly/vSLJcA
Do birds know winter is coming? http://bit.ly/uVAtWL
Why are the birds eating so much in the fall? http://bit.ly/v0OC23
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/vSdpFt

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Small gray wood-warbler with yellow throat

Photo via Deborah Grimes
Northern Parulas are small gray wood-warblers with bright yellow throats that extend through the breast. We only see them in mid-Michigan during the spring and fall migration. They breed above and below us.

Northern Parulas forage by gleaning leaves and branch tips for insects and spiders. They fly with rapid wingbeats and hop quickly through branches. When acting defensively, parulas may demonstrate a wing-droop display, during which wingtips are held below the base of the tail as the bird calls.

Related Articles:
Michigan warblers begin migrating http://goo.gl/37QhV
Yellow warbler eating bird seed http://goo.gl/pbGV8W
Small Black & White Bird Visits Mid-Michigan http://goo.gl/VOl3s

When is bird migration over? http://goo.gl/1Fiq6
Blackpoll Warbler: Greatest warbler migrant http://goo.gl/GcSTE

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Tennessee Warbler migration

Keep your eyes open for warblers passing through our area as they migrate south August to October.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
The Tennessee Warblers have a white eye-stripe above a dark line through eyes. Their back, wings, and rump are a bright olive-green. These warblers migrate through mid-Michigan from mid-August to October on their way south. They like to winter in open second growth forests and agricultural habitats, like shade grown coffee plantations in Mexico to Venezuela.

They are active birds, flitting among foliage and making short flights to reach leaf tips while searching for food. The birds eat a lot of bugs and berries and at your feeder might enjoy suet and fruit.

Donald and Lillian Stokes have a wonderful Field Guide to Birds of North America or Eastern Region that we now carry at the Wild Birds Unlimited store that I turn to when identifying confusing warblers, thrushes and sparrows. What I like the most about the book is that each bird species is identified with several clear photographs that show all feather coloration of each species of bird, including male, female, summer, winter, immature, morphs, important subspecies, and birds in flight.

Related Articles: 
Provide a safe habitat to encourage migrating birds http://provide-safe-habitat.html
Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/oW0XCD
Blue-headed Vireo's peak migration http://blue-headed-vireos.html
Wagging Warbler http://wagging-warbler.html
Black-and-yellow Warbler http://black-and-yellow-warbler.html
Nashville Warbler not from Tennessee http://nashville-warbler.html 
Bay-breasted warbler pictures http://bay-breasted-warbler.html 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Learn to recognize common bird songs

If you thought you were too old for board books, think again! These books come with sound buttons to help you learn to identify garden birds by their songs. You'll learn how to differentiate between the songs of a house finch and a goldfinch with just a touch of a finger.

The Little Book of Backyard Bird Songs has recordings of twelve bird songs. In addition to the easy to use sound bar, there is a general introduction to each bird that highlights its key characteristics, an informative data profile, and a fun fact. By the end of the book, you'll not only have a much greater understanding of these incredible creatures, the sounds you hear outside will be transformed into a 12-part orchestra. Keep it on your windowsill for the whole family to enjoy and see who becomes the bird song expert first.

The bird songs featured are: House Wren, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, Great Horned Owl, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, American Crow, Song Sparrow, American Goldfinch, Killdeer, American Robin, and Mourning Dove.

The Little Book of Woodland Bird Songs is partner to The Little Book of Backyard Bird Songs and is sure to become another family favorite. Beautiful lifelike illustrations aid in identifying the birds and a descriptive paragraph and facts panel provide information such as the time of day the bird is likely to sing, what it eats, behavior traits and how it constructs its nest.

All twelve birds featured: Red Crossbill, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Hermit Thrush, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Black-capped Chickadee, Purple Finch, Common Loon, Barred Owl, Red-eyed Vireo,Wild Turkey, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Downy Woodpecker.

Birds can be hard to spot at the best of times but once you learn to recognize these bird sounds, a walk outdoors will never be the same. Both of these charming books are a fun way for all ages to delight in nature's winged singers. It's a winning gift for any occasion, from a child's birthday to a hostess gift.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

How long baby red squirrels nurse

Oh, Momma!
Boy did we have a turn in the weather. One reason this squirrel is flat out is the hot weather. The increased amount of a body’s surface area that is in contact with a cool surface reduces the body temperature.

Another more likely reason is this momma needed a little cool pressure on the chestal area after nursing her toothy babies!

Most female American Red Squirrels produce one litter per year, but in some years reproduction is skipped, and in other years some females breed twice. Litter sizes average three or four offspring. The pink, hairless babies weigh less than 2 nickels or about 7.08 g. Mothers feed milk to their young for the first 70 days. And by the time they are 125 days old, young red squirrels are full size and have all of their teeth.

Source: http://www.umich.edu/
Related articles:
Why Chickadees Sunbathe http://why-chickadees-sunbathe.html
Dove flaked out in the sun http://dove-flaked-out-in-sun.html
Why are Squirrels Called Squirrels?: http://bit.ly/n5x4Wf
Squirrels Like to Work for Their Food: http://bit.ly/nhAAkK 

How Many Species of Squirrels are in Michigan?: http://bit.ly/ptcjzi

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Lots of teeny little yellow birds

Photo of Daddy finch feeding baby by Kisa Weeman
The immature American Goldfinch has a dull brown back, and the underside is pale yellow. The shoulders and tail are dull black with two buff-colored wing bars, rather than an adult’s white. This coloration is the same in both male and female.

If you still aren’t sure if it is a baby or a female goldfinch, look at the feathers. Young American Goldfinches have fine, clean feathers and the adults will look worn out as they molt their feathers for winter.

American Goldfinches are in mid-Michigan all winter, so if they find your feeder now you can enjoy these sunny sounding birds even during the bleakest winter months. To watch a little video of the finches eating No-Mess Blend at the Squirrel Buster Squirrel-proof feeder click HERE.
Related Articles: https://www.youtube.com/
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
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

How to tell a juvenile downy woodpecker

Downy growing up and losing his baby red cradle cap and putting on his big boy red nape-patch
Downy Woodpeckers seem like thoughtful birds. One reason is their most common defense mechanism is to stay stationary for a long time as they hide in plain sight. Since woodpeckers aren’t fast flyers, a downy’s best defense is to freeze in place to escape a predator’s notice if he can't make it safely to an evergreen shrub.

Baby with red crown
There are also a lot of young birds just a few week's off the nest in late summer taking in all the different sights and sounds. Young male Downy Woodpeckers usually have a red patch on the forehead instead of their neck. Wisps of red on the top of the head can also occur on females but only adult males grow a red patch on nape. The downy in the photo is graduating to big boy feathers as the red on top is pushed out by new black feathers and a new red patch is growing in on the back of the head.

At about 6 inches, the Downy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker in North America and the most frequent visitor to backyard feeders year-round. They have a white belly and back and their black wings have white bars. The males have the red patch on the head. The downy’s name refers to the soft white feathers of the white strip on the lower back, which differ from the more hairlike feathers on the Hairy Woodpecker.

Put your peanut butter suet out now to watch them up close. Nuts and seed cylinders are also a great source for protein and fat and are great for attracting woodpeckers to your feeding station. 

Related Articles:
How do I stop woodpeckers from pecking on my house? http://bit.ly/KGItqF
What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX
Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/tQ5lwt
How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI
How to choose a suet https://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2017/09/how-to-choose-suet.html

Monday, September 9, 2019

Why Friday the 13th will be a very Lucky Day, knock on wood!

Why does Wild Birds Unlimited keep asking for donations? Probably because birdwatchers are some of the most caring and generous people around.

Nottingham Nature Nook is a non-profit 501(c)(3) wildlife rehabilitation center that cares for injured and orphaned birds and other wildlife. Food, medicine, housing, and labor are all factors which contribute to costs. Today they are looking for donations to improve the conditions at the Nook.

SAVE THE DATE: September 13, 2019 Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI will donate all the proceeds from every $20 FEEDER WASH CARD purchased Friday to the Nook.

WHAT IS IT: A Feeder Wash Card is a card good for 5 bird feeder washes. You will have up to a year to redeem the card.

HOW DOES IT WORK: Bring your Feeder Wash Card in with a dirty feeder and I will cross off one square. Then I will disassemble, soak, scrub, disinfect, and reassemble your feeder and have it ready for you to pick up the next day we are open.

WIN/WIN: You get a card that you can use over the next year for 5 bird feeder washes and Nottingham Nature Nook gets $20. Your birds get clean feeders and the Nook gets money to use in the care of injured and orphaned animals.

The Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, Michigan store is also collecting cash and check donations to help. Nottingham Nature Nook. If you want to donate directly checks can be made to Nottingham Nature Nook 16848 Towar Ave, East Lansing, MI 48823.
Thank you.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

What birds migrate and other FAQ about migration

Of the world's more than 9,000 species of birds, more than 400 species spend at least some time in Michigan. The list includes many songbirds ranging from the common American Robin to the endangered Kirtland's Warbler. September- October is the perfect time to spot new birds as they prepare for winter or travel to their winter homes:

Common Yellowthroat
Make your yard a safe stop-over for warblers

1. What birds migrate - Between 1500 and 4000 species of birds around the world migrate, the exact answer is not really known yet. It’s estimated that of the over 200 species of birds nesting in Michigan, about 90 percent migrate to some extent. Whether it’s from the U.P. to mid-Michigan or from our state to as far south as South America depends on the bird.
2. Superbird transformation - To prepare for migration, birds begin a feeding frenzy called hyperphagia, to build up fat reserves they can burn through on their long journeys. Birds may gain as much as 1-10% per day. In human terms, this would mean about 12 pounds per day.
3. Migrants learn from locals – Migrants face different kinds of predators and food sources in different locations. Birds new to the area learn from the locals, listening to year-round residents for safe areas to feed and warning alarm calls about local dangers. Bird activity at baths and feeders will encourage migrating birds to stop at your yard!
3. Highest Flyer - While most migrating birds fly at heights lower than 2,000 feet, the migrating Bar-headed Goose, a species of small Asian waterfowl, has been seen at roughly 28,000 feet, over the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal.
4. Nighttime flights - Hawks, swifts, swallows and waterfowl migrate primarily during the day, while many songbirds migrate at night. On any given night in the fall, hundreds of thousands—and at times millions—of birds migrate across North America. From large herons and cranes to tiny warblers, and other smaller songbirds, flow across the continent. The timing of migration seems to be controlled primarily by changes in day length. Migrating birds navigate using celestial cues from the sun and stars, the earth's magnetic field, and some have genetically inherited mental maps.
5. Smallest intercontinental migrant - During migration hummingbirds fly about 23 miles a day until they reach the Gulf of Mexico. Then they make a non-stop 900-mile flight over the gulf that lasts about 20 hours.

When you think about migration facts, it is astonishing to learn of the amazing feat that many birds accomplish twice each year as they move between their summer and winter range and back again. Think about that when some of our favorite birds, including hummingbirds, orioles, grosbeaks, buntings, warblers and wrens migrate through mid-Michigan this fall.

Keep your feeders clean and well stocked to provide a safe rest stop for migrating birds to fuel up! You will be helping the birds that winter with us as well as migrating birds and they will give us a peek in to their world.


 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

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Fun Facts for #HummingbirdDay

You may not be aware that hummingbirds have their own day on the first Saturday in September.

It is thought that Ruby-throated Hummingbirds live as long as 12 years, but the average is probably 3-5 years. If hummingbirds can make it through their first year, their life expectancy goes up dramatically. A female’s average a life expectancy is 7 years or more while males rarely survive past 5 years of age.

One of the oldest known Ruby-throats to be banded was 9 years and 1 month when she was recaptured and re-released during banding operations in Jackson County, Michigan.

It is astounding when you realize that hummingbirds have heart rates up to 1260 beats/minute and a breathing rate about 250 breaths/minute, and fly thousands of miles from nesting in Michigan to wintering in Mexico and Central America!

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

Friday, September 6, 2019

Photo Share: Blue Jay Unmasked

Every year, right before school starts, you are going to see a lot of jays with what looks like a buzz cut. Don't worry, in a couple months all the feathers will be replaced and the Blue Jays will be ready for winter. In the meantime some mysteries are revealed. You can see what bird ears look like just behind and below his eye. And look at the extra peanuts he is storing in his throat!
AllAboutBirds writes: "Blue Jays carry food in their throat and upper esophagus—an area often called a “gular pouch.” They may store 2-3 acorns in the pouch, another one in their mouth, and one more in the tip of the bill. In this way they can carry off 5 acorns at a time to store for later feeding. Six birds with radio transmitters each cached 3,000-5,000 acorns one autumn. Their fondness for acorns and their accuracy in selecting and burying acorns that have not been infested with weevils are credited with spreading oak trees after the last glacial period."

Related Articles:
- Why do Birds Scatter Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/w4vRPP
- Blue Jays aren't blue http://bit.ly/roVPVX
- What Feeder Do You Recommend for Blue Jays? http://bit.ly/txd8ja
- Blue Jay Fun Facts http://goo.gl/wJgMmJ
- Do birds know winter is coming? http://goo.gl/EilIa6
- Why Blue Jays go bald in the fall http://goo.gl/gAX3x