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.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Birds' favorite food

I generally feed just black oil sunflower seeds. Is there something else I should add to attract more birds?

The first ingredient in our top 4 seed blends is sunflower seed. Oil Sunflower seed is the favorite of most of the backyard seed eating birds. I also like to have peanuts in the blend to entice all the bug eating birds like the chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, jays, and wrens to visit more frequently. Peanuts have a high calorie/ounce ratio due to its high fat and protein content.

No-mess is the only blend I use personally. No-Mess Blend is unique because it features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds mean there is no debris on the ground to clean up. The first ingredient in the No-Mess blend is sunflower seed with the hulls removed, then peanut pieces, and finally a little millet, also with the hulls removed. Millet attracts the ground feeding birds like the juncos, sparrows, buntings, and doves. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything! 

Food is essential to provide birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition to endure the elements. An ample supply of fresh high-calorie foods is crucial to a bird's survival. All our Wild Birds Unlimited seed blends have been formulated regionally to provide the most nutritious food for your birds.

We do not include cheap filler grains like oats, wheat and milo that decrease the price per pound of a mix but aren't eaten by the birds in Michigan. Therefore, there is no wasted seed. Wild Birds Unlimited blends actually end up costing less and attract the widest variety of birds that live in our area.

Related Articles:
What birds like peanuts? http://bit.ly/zispJK
What seeds do wild birds eat? http://bit.ly/wKyQNB
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/xbkaPP
Why pay more for seed at Wild Birds Unlimited? http://bit.ly/xJZMFe
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Photo Share: Tufted Titmice at the feeders!

As cold weather moves in and the active bug population decreases we get to see more sightings of the Tufted Titmice at the feeders! This self-contained little bird is often found foraging with flocks of chickadees during the winter months. They do not migrate extensively. In fact most live their entire lives within a few miles of their birthplace.

The big black doll eyes of this small gray bird make them irresistible. They are attracted mainly to feeders that offer suet, nuts or sunflower seeds. If you have sharp eyes you may spot them as they slide by unnoticed among the branches of the trees and hanging upside down while searching beneath twigs for insects.

Males are dominant over females and they form pairs that persist until the death of one of the mates. The titmouse family bond is so strong that the young from one breeding season will often stay with their parents long enough to help them with nesting and feeding duties the following year.

Tit is an old English word meaning little and mase meant small bird. The name titmase morphed eventually into titmouse. This was probably because the bird's coloring is similar to a small mouse. But actually the meaning of the name Titmouse is small, little bird.

Related Articles:
Bird of the Week: Small gray and white bird with tuft http://goo.gl/6dRVfF
Tufted Titmouse’s song is a fast-repeated, clear whistle http://goo.gl/cF55yP
Titmice Fun Facts http://goo.gl/nggZtM
Why offer peanuts to birds http://goo.gl/QK4t7K

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

#NationalCatAppreciationDay: Why black cats are a classic Halloween symbol

"I need a cookie"
October 29th is National Cat Appreciation Day. At the bird store in East Lansing, Michigan, Dolly (cat) will be celebrating with a special treat, of course.

I've always had a soft spot for black cats even though they are a classic spooky Halloween symbol. Some references to the ominous supernatural abilities of black cats can be found in ancient mythology. The church was also responsible for the darker reputation. When Christianity became the official religion of Rome in 380, the association of cats with paganism and witchcraft made them suspect. During the bubonic plague epidemic (the “Black Death”) in Europe in the 14th century, people believed the disease was caused by God’s wrath. Women that didn't follow the church were accused of witchcraft and were killed along with their cats. This may have made the situation worse because it allowed the rat population to flourish without cat predation. The epidemic ultimately killed 200 million people.
Each box is carefully inspected for quality assurance.

In contrast, the view of black cats being favorable creatures is attributed specifically to the Egyptian goddess Bastet, the cat goddess. Egyptian households believed they could gain favor from Bastet by keeping black cats in their household. 

Some other interesting beliefs include:

- Medieval Germans thought themselves to be cursed if a black cat crossed their path from right to left, but from left to right, the cat is granting favorable times.
- Sailors' would want a black "ship's cat" because it would bring good luck.
- In the United Kingdom if a black cat walks towards someone, it brings good fortune, but if it walks away, it takes the good luck with it.
- In the British Islands, black cats are often believed to bring wealth to any house they occupied.
- In Japan, black cats are considered to bring good luck.

So if you’re looking for a new feline companion, consider adopting a black cat. They can be just as loving as any other cat. And if black cats currently share your home, be sure to keep them safe this Halloween by leaving cats indoors!

Sources: 
 https://what did the black cat ever do to deserve its reputation
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_cat
 https://black-cats-halloween-good-luck/

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The cat-human-bird connection https://cat-human-bird-connection.html

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Cats Indoors! http://goo.gl/B64Go
Do You Take Your Cats Home at Night? http://goo.gl/gm8mP
A window feeder is the best way to entertain indoor cats http://goo.gl/iWHHo

Monday, October 28, 2019

Why black birds have so many superstitions

Ever get that eerie feeling someone is watching you? Loading seed in to cars at the bird store I always look around for birds in the trees. This American Crow was in the tippy top of the tree waiting for me to treat him to a few peanuts in the shell.

Working at the bird store in East Lansing I hear complaints all the time about “those horrible black birds.” We're lucky most black birds fly further south of mid-Michigan at the end of summer because they do tend to take over feeders if the weather isn't producing enough bugs to supplement their diet.

Birds with black plumage are the subject of many unpleasant stories and superstitions all over the world. Most of the black colored birds aren’t beautiful songster but are smart and can learn to imitate sounds including human speech. Crows, Grackles, and Starlings also tend to work together in family groups to get what they want. And what they want is generally a lot of food. Sometimes baby birds, or small rodents and sometimes birdseed we’ve delegated for the Cardinals only. They can empty a feeder in a day and a suet feeder in minutes. This tends to make them seem like bully birds. But are any less deserving?

They scavenge and clean up many road kills or garbage littering the roads. In the fall you can watch them gather in large roosts. This sometimes includes millions of birds that blanket groups of trees or else they fly in intricate patterns across the sky. 

Related Articles:
Crow vs Raven's in Michigan? http://ravens-in-michigan.html
Crows: Are they Feathered Apes? http://bit.ly/LvWgge
Raven is the largest songbird in North America http://goo.gl/7W6uF
How Do I Deter Crows at the Feeder? http://bit.ly/LWbhMB
Crow sliding down snow covered roof http://goo.gl/qMsD4

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Why the owl is a part of our Halloween traditions

The variety of myths surrounding owls range from the idea that they bring bad luck, announce death, or take away souls, to the belief that they provide cures for ailments, ward off evil spirits, and guide the dead on their journeys. Many superstitions persist to this day.

In autumn there are a lot of first year owls that leave their parents and move to new territories. Inexperienced young birds that make swoop downs on unsuspecting nighttime travelers walking a dark and lonely road can make the beginning of a great story.
The turning head, glowing eyes, silent flight, night hunting, and cackling like an otherworldly creature also helped make the owl a part of our Halloween traditions.

Today however, when we think of owls we know they are a beautiful and valuable asset to the natural ecology feeding on rodents, insects, frogs, lizards, and birds. We can study and admire their silent flight, incredible eyesight and hearing, and their ability to almost completely turn their heads around. 

Related Articles:
- Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/t6elFd
- Amazing Vocals of the Barred Owl http://bit.ly/sguMqL
- Snowy Owls http://bit.ly/ylJmQq
- Eastern Screech Owl http://bit.ly/wMQBZj   
- Great Horned Owl http://bit.ly/zmlFqY
- Great Gray Owl http://bit.ly/tAewYm  
- Long-eared Owl http://goo.gl/qGgbju

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Time to put out the heated bird baths

Did you wake up to a frozen birdbath? Now is the time to put out your heated birdbath. The Wild Birds Unlimited heated baths have a built-in, fully grounded heater that is thermostatically controlled to conserve energy. As soon as temperatures reach freezing the bath will turn on to heat the water just enough to thaw ice. You can mount it easily to deck rails or place it in a stand sold separately.

Most people understand that birds need to drink but many do not realize just how important it is that birds also bathe, especially in the winter. A good part of a bird's day is spent grooming their feathers by bathing, scratching, and preening. The feathers covering the body give the bird a water resistant, aerodynamic shape for efficient flight. And properly fluffed up feathers also trap body heat close to the skin.

So when temperatures drop think about adding a heater to your bird bath or switch to an all-in-one heated bird bath to provide an open water source. Water sources in winter are an easy way to attract a variety of birds including the American Robin, Eastern Bluebird and other birds that don’t usually visit feeders.

Related Articles:
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- How to Prepare Your Yard for Winter Birdwatching http://bit.ly/uduvLm
- Attracting Bluebirds in the Winter http://bit.ly/sw0H6P
- Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/vSkLTn

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Pumpkin bird feeder

Now is the time for fall harvest. As you start preparing for the holidays, don’t forget about your birds! Here are a few ways to take advantage of seasonal items to attract birds to your yard:

1. Squash and pumpkin seeds Whether you are carving a pumpkin, or preparing a pumpkin pie, set aside the seeds. Nuthatches love them, and many other birds will eat them as well. You also may have noticed squirrels rearranging the face of your Jack O’Lantern as they have quick nibble.  
2. Apples When you are making apple pies don’t throw away the apple cores. There are a number of birds which may be attracted to apples, including House Finches and cardinals. You can also roll birdseed in with extra pie dough and bake it in the shape of a bagel. When cool hang from trees. The pie crust usually has lots of fat which is substitute for the insects that birds eat but are not plentiful in cold weather.
5. Nuts Many insect eating birds greatly appreciate this high protein food. Too much salt isn’t good for the birds, but a few leftover party nuts mixed with other bird seed can be a treat. You can also collect nuts from the trees in your neighborhood, including acorns and walnuts.
6. Peanut Butter Smear peanut butter on a tree trunk. You’ll be surprised how many cute birds this will attract up and down your tree. Or spread Peanut butter on pine cones, old bread, or cookies. Then roll them in birdseed and hang them on your bushes with raffia string.
7. Ornamental Corn Autumn decorations for your home can also provide the birds with food. Blue Jays and Squirrels will enjoy ornamental corn. 
Pumpkin Feeder from Audubon.org on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Treat your birds to some nuts

From sunrise to sunset, songbirds spend most of their time foraging for food. Finches are mainly vegetarian and look for dried seed heads from flowers and grasses. Birds that like spiders, insects, insect eggs, larvae and pupae search in fallen leaves or in the crevices of tree bark for food in the fall. The dip in the number of bugs available to consume means that many birds that overwinter in Michigan add more fruits, nuts, and berries to their diet as we approach winter. Landscape that has a lot of trees, bushes, flowers, and vines that produce food is a good way to see birds year-round. I also supplement their diet with seed cylinders, loose seeds and suets.

Sunday I come to the store to play with Dolly (cat) and watch the birds. The store is closed on Sundays so I like to toss a handful of seeds out the front door so we can see them up-close through the glass. Then I thought I would treat the birds. I took a handful of nuts and put them on the windowsill. I hadn't done that in over a year. I told Dolly we might have to wait awhile for the birds to find them. It was less than a minute before they found the nuts and less than 5 minutes before the windowsill was picked clean!

Related Articles:
- 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

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Great handcrafted bird seed gifts

Seed Cylinders are tidy, long-lasting, tightly packed seed shapes held together with gelatin that slip on a cylinder feeder. It's a win-win for you and your birds. The birds stay longer eating at the feeder instead of grabbing a morsel and flying quickly away to eat it elsewhere. And the cylinders are packed with high-calorie nuts to provide birds with enough energy stay warm.

Clinging birds like the chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpecker flock to this cute, highly nutritious food. Birds didn't have to wait in line to find a perch. The whole seed character is edible and seeds aren't thrown to the ground to sprout or attract unwanted critters.

In addition to our year-round Seed blocks, Seed cylinders, and Seed Bells, in the fall we offer cute Bird Seed Characters, Giant Pinecones dipped in seed, Seed Wreaths, and Bird Seed Houses.

These products are all handmade in the USA using the the highest quality fruits, seeds, and nuts that attract the widest variety of birds. I marvel at all the detail that goes in to each seed character! Just slip the cylinder of your choice on the feeder and watch the birds. No more coming home to an empty feeder. Seed cylinders last a long time, weeks if not months in some yards. And they are a perfect gift to anyone that loves nature.

Stop by our store to meet all these "seedy characters." They can help you attract many of your favorite birds, including cardinals and goldfinches. Warning: these always go fast, so don't wait.

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Monday, October 21, 2019

Eastern Whip-poor-will fall migration

There isn't much known about the fall migration routes of the Eastern Whip-poor-wills. Most seem to leave between early September to late November to winter in the southeastern United States, eastern Mexico, and Central America. These birds forage at night, catching insects in flight, and normally sleep during the day. The Eastern Whip-poor-will population is in decline perhaps due to loss of their forest habitat, predation, and insecticides.

They are less vocal in the fall, but I was lucky enough to hear one yesterday while I was filling the feeders a little before sunset. This species distinctive and clear WHIP-poor-WILL call is easy to identify.

Related Articles:
Whip-poor-will Cool Facts https://whip-poor-will-cool-facts.html
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How to winterize your bird feeding station http://bit.ly/xucuF8
Feeder Fresh: Prevent your seed from becoming moldy https://feeder-fresh.html

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Migrating kinglet recovering at the window feeder

Keep your eyes open for a little bird that flutters in the pines and bushes. It's time for the Ruby-crowned Kinglets to pass through mid-Michigan on their way to the southern and southwestern United States and Mexico for the winter. These teeny, tiny birds make the chickadee look big!
Exhausted kinglet at my window feeder in East Lansing, MI

They forage actively in trees or shrubs, mainly eating small insects and spiders, some berries and tree sap. They may hover over a branch while feeding and sometimes fly out to catch insects in flight. They flash their little red crest occasionally when agitated or in display.

They often come to birdfeeders if you feed suet, or a blend with nuts like the Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess Blend.

Little groups of kinglets usually migrate by night, so you may wake up to discover your yard is a migratory stopover for the birds to rest and feed in evergreen tangles during the day. They are well camouflaged but sometimes betray their presence with lovely alto songs and flashing wing movements and hops like they are buzzing on caffeine.

Related Articles:  
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Saturday, October 19, 2019

Large Sparrow with black and white head

I had a layer of ice on the bird bath yesterday and guess who showed up this morning mixing in with the House Sparrows. The White-crowned Sparrows have come for a short visit! White-crowned and White-throated Sparrow usually visit for a couple weeks in the fall right when the weather is going to turn freezing. They will return in the spring on their way north just when the weather is going to unfreeze. They breed all along the upper parts of Canada and winter along the southern United States.

At 7 inches, these are some of the largest sparrows that come to our feeding areas. Their size and the bold black and white racing stripes on their head make the White-crowned Sparrows a happy addition to the usual suspects in the yard. Mainly ground feeders, they scritch and scratch the dirt looking for leftover sunflower seeds and millet. They also eat weed seeds, berries, buds and moss.
 
White-crowned Sparrows have about 10 different calls. During migration you will usually hear their high thin seet or sharp pink call.
 
Related Articles:
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Friday, October 18, 2019

Photo Share: Robin visits

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Great Horned Owl may look like an angry cat on purpose

Great Horned Owls are named for the tufts of feathers that sit on top of their heads, called plumicorns (Latin for “feather-horn”). There are currently about 225 living owl species, and of those about 50 have these feathers that look like horns or ears like the Long- and Short-eared Owls. However they have nothing to do with horns or ears. An owl’s large ear openings are at the sides of its head.

Scientists don’t know why some owls developed the tufts, but they do have a few theories. They  might help members of their own species to recognize each other among the forest around them, or assist in non-verbal communication. They may also use the tufts to blend into their surroundings, making them look more like broken tree branches. Or tufts along with their large eyes they may enhance an owl’s ability to mimic a mammal like a cat and appear more frightening to predators.

Related Articles:
- Owls in Michigan http://where-owls-live.html

- Snowy Owls http://bit.ly/ylJmQq
- Eastern Screech Owl http://bit.ly/wMQBZj
- Great Horned Owl http://bit.ly/zmlFqY
- Barred Owl http://bit.ly/yAoDx8
- Great Gray Owl http://bit.ly/tAewYm
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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Wild Bird Feeding Don'ts

1. All birds DON'T fly south in the winter - In general, 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 Mexico or Central America depends on the bird. Some permanent or non-migrating backyard birds are Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmice, Downy Woodpeckers, Black-Capped Chickadees, White Breasted Nuthatches, and House Sparrows.
2. DON'T wait to start feeding birds until it snows - Birds have a varied diet and the best way to help them develop brighter plumage is to create a habitat with lots food high in fat in protein in the fall. Young birds like chickadees and titmice find new territories to hook up with other young birds at the end of summer and join local adults to form winter flocks. If you are feeding a good birdseed blend now, you will attract lots of birds that will remain in the same general area for the rest of their adult lives.
3. DON'T use last year’s seed this year - In warm weather or if you store your seed inside buy no more than 2-3 weeks supply of seed at a time. And never pour old seed on top on new. During the winter, foods will generally be fine for at least 3 months if stored properly in a cool, dry place.
4. Birds DON'T eat any seed - Food is essential to provide birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition to endure the elements. Our Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI are dedicated to offering fresh, top-quality seed that is also sifted to take out all the sticks and field debris. 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. We also carry a wide variety of other bird foods—Seed Blends, suets, seed cylinders, mealworms and more. We do not include cheap filler grains like oats, wheat and milo that decrease the price per pound of a mix but aren't eaten by the birds in Michigan.
5. DON’T forget the bath - If your area freezes like mid-Michigan, you can provide a heated birdbath for your birds. This isn’t like a hot tub. The bath just remains free of ice and open to the birds. Most people understand the importance of water for drinking but many do not realize just how important it is in bathing for birds. Because feathers are critical for flight and insulation, birds keep them well-maintained. A good part of a bird's day is spent just cleaning and grooming its feathers by bathing, scratching, and preening.
6. DON'T take down Bird houses - At night or during bad weather birds often find shelter in tree cavities, birdhouses, or under the eaves of houses. Bird houses left up all winter also might attract young birds scouting out future nesting sites.

Related Articles:
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How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Geese migrate at night

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

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

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

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

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- Why geese sleep in the water http://goo.gl/X9gV9
- Why do geese fly in a V formation? http://goo.gl/h1icv

Monday, October 14, 2019

Friendly Chickadee

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

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

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

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

How much wild birds sleep

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

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

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

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Pin Feathers

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

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

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

Related articles:

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

Friday, October 11, 2019

American Crow migration

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Quick Fun Facts about the Downy Woodpecker

Did You Know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Functional houses for woodpeckers

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

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

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

Related Articles:
-How do I stop woodpeckers from pecking on my house? http://bit.ly/KGItqF
-What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
-Hairy Woodpecker vs. Downy Woodpecker http://goo.gl/WMH31
-How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://goo.gl/P2qRv
-How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Felted Wool Bird House

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

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

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

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

Related Articles: https://www.youtube.com/
Cute Winter Bird Houses! http://cute-winter-bird-houses.html
Roosting Pockets: Warm Shelter from Frosty Winds http://goo.gl/QOPbMw
Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
Why Don't Birds Freeze After They Take a Bath in the Winter? http://goo.gl/5ydpvy
Poles to mount your Bird House http://poles-to-mount-house.html
Surviving Winter, the Bird Way http://goo.gl/SF0Yga

Monday, October 7, 2019

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Photo Share: Gray catbird bird perched on a branch

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

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

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Time to put up an owl house

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

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

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

Friday, October 4, 2019

Easy beginner bird feeder

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

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

And just when you thought cylinder feeding couldn't get any better... you can look forward to our Seed cylinder Characters from October to December at the East Lansing, Wild Birds Unlimited store!

Related Articles:  
Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR 
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New Owl Seed characters! http://little-character.html 
Decorative Seed Cylinder Feeder now with optional tray http://decorative-seed-cylinder-feeder.html  

Thursday, October 3, 2019

American Robin devours berries

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:
- 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


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Source: https://birdsna.org/


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

When deer babies lose their spots

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

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