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.

Friday, December 13, 2019

13 bird superstitions

Birds have long been related to the supernatural as they spend their lives between the earth and the heavens. In honor of Friday the 13th, here are 13 bird superstitions.  

1. If a feather falls in front of you where no birds are present, it is a gift from your guardian angel.
2. When you hear a Cardinal sing, your sadness will soon be lifted. When a red bird shows up, help is on the way. When you see a red bird in winter, you will prosper in spring.
3. If a bird poops on you or anything you own, it’s said to be good luck.
4. Ancient Romans believed birds flying to the right meant good vibes. A bird flying toward you meant good luck. The higher the birds flew, the better the future.
5. Sailors believe that seeing an albatross while at sea is a sign of good luck.
6. Birdcalls from the east are good for romance, while calls from the west offer all-around good luck.
7. It is good luck if a blackbird makes a nest on your house.
8. A robins sighted near a house foretells good fortune for the inhabitants of the house.
9. To hear a duck quacking is a most fortunate omen, indicating the coming of prosperity.
10. In Ireland, sparrows are thought to be on friendly terms with the fairies.
11. Seeing a yellow bird in flight means you will be free.
12. If you see a blue bird early in the morning you will have a happy day!
13. Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet that the cock crows through Christmas Eve until Christmas morning so no evil spirits will spoil the holy day.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Birds benefit with sunflower seeds free of shells

Birds will come any feeders with the high-energy, high-fat foods that provide  them with the crucial nutrition to survive. Whether it has a shell on it shouldn't effect the number or variety of birds that frequent a feeder.

Benefits of shell free bird seed
The most obvious benefit of shell free bird foods is that the birds are able to eat the food faster and then move to a safe location to digest. Predators won’t have that extra few seconds of distraction while they crack the seed to pounce. There is about twice as much seed in a bag without shells because you aren’t buying the shells. This means it should last twice as long in the feeder. And because no waste birdseed has no hulls, the seeds don’t sprout weeds under the birdfeeders. With less mess, rodents won't be attracted to the area.
What are no-mess seed blends?
A good no-mess blend may also contain nuts or hulled millet; beware blends which promise a "waste-free" experience but contain filler ingredients such as cracked corn, canary seed, or wheat. While these ingredients may not have a shell, they appeal to a very limited group of birds and will often be rejected by the species commonly found in our yards. 


Which no-mess seed should I use?  
All of the no-mess blends we offer have sunflower seeds and peanut pieces without the shell as the first ingredients. Sunflower for all the seed eating birds like finches and peanuts to attract all the bug eating birds like chickadees. Peanuts have a high calorie/ounce ratio due to its high fat and protein content to attract a variety of interesting birds.

Our #1 selling Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess LM has a Little Millet (LM) added to attract all the ground feeding birds like the juncos, sparrows, and doves. The hull is removed from the white proso millet so it can’t grow. It is 100% edible.

Our Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess NM has a chopped- up Nutty Mix (NM) added to attract more of the forest birds to the feeder. The Tree nuts include, but are not limited to, pecan, walnut, almond, hazelnut, cashew, pistachio, and Brazil nuts. Birds that would head for the peanuts and tree nuts are chickadees, woodpeckers, nuthatches, jays, wrens, robins, bluebirds, warblers and more.
I would recommend both blends highly! We sell at least a couple of tons a week. 

Related Articles:
What seeds wild birds eat http://bit.ly/IET0hP
How to keep moths out of bird seed http://bit.ly/IESK2h
How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://bit.ly/rTLSqJ
Seed Storage Cans http://bit.ly/uBaSwO
The strange journey of the sunflower plant http://bit.ly/uFlz65

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Why the birds aren't on the feeders

Weather and natural food sources will effect how many birds will flock to the feeders.
A mild November and December combined with a good apple, berry, seed and nut crop this year has resulted in fewer birds gathering at our feeders. This is very good news for the birds, a little less for all bird enthusiasts. But after the fruits are consumed and when the snows start to blow, you will start to see the return of the birds. Hopefully, healthier, brighter and in greater numbers!

Related Articles:
Northern Cardinal Fun Facts http://bit.ly/twE6NV
How the Northern Cardinal bird was named http://bit.ly/tSKZYs
Cardinal Bird Feeders Made in the USA: 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
What are the different types of cardinal birds? http://goo.gl/CUI43

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Red-headed Woodpeckers experience a 70% decline in population

Red-headed Woodpeckers were once so common that orchard owners used to pay a bounty for them, and in 1840 Audubon reported that 100 were shot from a single cherry tree in one day. In the early 1900s, Red-headed Woodpeckers followed crops of beech nuts in northern beech forests that are much less extensive today. At the same time, the great chestnut blight killed virtually all American chestnut trees and removed another abundant food source. Red-headed Woodpeckers may now be more attuned to acorn abundance than to beech nuts.

Just from 1966 to 2014, they have experienced a 70% decline in population and are on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action. The species is also listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. After the loss of nut-producing trees, perhaps the biggest factor limiting Red-headed Woodpeckers is the availability of dead trees in their open-forest habitats and urban areas. Management programs that create and maintain snags and dead branches may help Red-headed Woodpeckers.

Today you can look for Red-headed Woodpeckers in scattered, open woodlots in agricultural areas and in mature stands of forest, especially oak, oak-hickory, maple, ash, and beech.

And if you live nearby they may visit if you have suet, sunflower seeds, corn, acorns, beechnuts, pecans, and many kinds of fruits (including apples, pears, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, mulberries, and poison ivy fruits).

Red-headed Woodpeckers are fairly easy to identify thanks to their large blocks of solid color. Adults have bright-red heads, white underparts, and black backs with large white patches in the wings, making the lower back appear all white when perched.

Red-headed Woodpeckers give all kinds of chirps, cackles, and other raucous calls. Their most common call is a shrill, hoarse tchur, like a Red-bellied Woodpecker’s but higher-pitched and less rolling. To read more and listen to a call go to: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/red-headed_woodpecker/sounds

Related Articles:
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
- Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX
- How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/tJ7e6S
- Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/tQ5lwt
- How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI

Monday, December 9, 2019

Woodpeckers’ tongues act like a spear

Woodpeckers are well-equipped to pry food out difficult situations. Most people know woodpeckers use their beak like a chisel searching for insect larvae in the barks of trees. But bugs don’t want to get eaten and they tuck tight in tiny crevices to hide. That’s when the woodpecker pulls out a secret weapon, his long, barbed tongue.

Woodpeckers’ tongues act like a spear with sticky barbs that can extend up to 4 inches. The tongue starts out on top of the mouth, passes through the right nostril, between the eyes, divides in two, arches over the top of the skull and around the back part of the skull passing on either side of the neck, coming forward through the lower mouth.

Tiny bones within the entire length of woodpecker's tongue fold up like an accordion. When a woodpecker contracts his muscles the tongue is propelled out of the bill. When the muscles relax the tongue shortens. The woodpeckers' tongue is also super sensitive. It contains muscles that move it side to side as well to search for food and feel for unseen food behind dead wood or in feeders.
Watch the video of woodpeckers in action on a Tail Prop suet feeder: https://youtu.be/EI9a1Wb6duk
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

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Raccoons don’t hibernate

The Northern Raccoon (Procyon lotor) is known for its distinctive black mask and night time raids on bird feeders. While raccoons don’t hibernate, those that live in cold climates like Michigan, can hole up in their burrow or under decks for weeks at a time. During their long periods of sleep, raccoons do not eat. Without food, they can lose up to one-half of their total weight! To prepare for these difficult times, raccoons have to bulk up in late summer and fall to survive cold winters.

When they are awake they are always scavenging. The territory of a raccoon can be as large as ten miles. This means he'll usually stay in your yard for a little while and then move on looking for different food, water, and shelter. Of course another one may replace the one that just left your yard or you may be free of raccoons for weeks.

Tip to keep raccoons from Bird Food:

1. Distract them- One scoop of Wildlife Blend in a Ground Feeder usually distracts them away from my bird feeders.
2. Bring feeders in at night- most raccoons and skunks forage at night and if the feeders are put away they will move on faster.
3. Use squirrel proof feeders- The Squirrel Buster Plus feeder deters squirrels, raccoons and large black birds. You can adjust the tension on the spring mechanism to have the feeder ports shut when unwanted guest attempt to feed.
4. Food Choice- Use a birdseed blend that has seeds that the birds in our area like to eat. Some cheaper blends are filled with milo and oats that are just kicked to the ground and left for the rodents to clean up. All of the Wild Birds Unlimited blends are formulated specifically to attract the widest variety of birds in mid-Michigan.
Other Good Food Choices
Pure Beef Suet with no seeds or Hot Pepper suet deters most animals but still attracts a wide variety of woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, and wrens.
Flaming hot seed cylinder  Serving foods that birds like, that is coated in hot pepper, doesn't stop birds but does deter squirrels, raccoons, and deer from lunch at the "bird" feeder.
Safflower seed: Safflower is a small, white seed that is high in protein and fat. Many favorite backyard birds - including cardinals, chickadees, finches, doves, woodpeckers, titmice and nuthatches- savor safflower. Blackbirds, starlings, raccoons and most squirrels typically refuse to eat safflower seed. Safflower seed cakes and seed cylinders are also available at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI. 
Nyjer Seed – Nyjer, niger, and thistle are all common names used to identify a tiny black birdseed cultivated in Asia and Africa that is high in calories and oil content, and loved by American Goldfinches and avoided by most raccoons and squirrels.
5. Baffle Feeding station- The long, cylindrical design of our Raccoon Baffle specializes in deterring raccoons as well as chipmunks and squirrels from reaching your feeders. This baffle can be mounted to fit our Advanced Pole System® (APS). If you don't have an APS setup why not? The Basic APS Boxed Setup is an excellent way to get your bird feeding hobby organized. But we also have special wrap around baffles that can go around skinny poles too.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Best Holiday Gift Ideas For the Whole Family!

Backyard bird feeding is a great way to observe wildlife 
and an enjoyable activity for the entire family. 
Seed Cylinder feeder holding a seasonal character seed cylinder block
 
Who will I attract?
Just a few of the common winter birds attracted to feeders are cardinals, finches, juncos, doves, titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, jays, starlings and sparrows.

What’s the best bird feeder?
Any bird feeder you choose should be easy to fill and easy to clean. Seed feeders obviously hold seed and attract a wide variety of seed eating birds. Suet feeders attract bug eating birds like the woodpeckers. Nyjer (thistle) feeders attract the finches. It is also important to keep your feeders filled with the high-energy, high-fat foods that provide your birds with the crucial nutrition they need to survive. Studies indicate that Sunflower, Peanuts, White Proso Millet, Safflower, and Nyjer® Thistle are among the most preferred seed types. Cheap filler grains like oats, wheat and milo decrease the price per pound of a seed blend and suet but aren't eaten by the birds and are left to rot on the ground.

I also like the Seed Cylinder feeders! It is one of the easiest feeders to maintain and attracts a wide variety of birds. For people that aren't able to get out to fill feeders often during our harsh Michigan winters this seed cylinder feeders are ideal. Depending on bird activity in your yard, a 2lb cylinder can last weeks and a 4.5lb cylinder can last months.

Where should I put the feeder?
The best place to put the feeder is where you can watch the birds easily. Try to find a place that's sheltered from the wind and away from cats and other predators. And the closer your feeder is to the window, the less likely birds will be hurt if they mistake the clear glass as a fly through.

When's the best time to start?
There is no best or worst time to start bird feeding. In general, whenever the birds are stressed they will appreciate a reliable food source. Typically, feeders serve as a supplemental source of food for birds in your yard. Fruit and nut bearing bushes and trees supply a natural food source as well as native flowers, such as coneflowers, black eyed Susan’s, and cosmos that are allowed to go to seed and stand through the winter. In the last couple months of winter the natural sources have gradually become more and more scarce and that's when birds may switch to utilizing feeders to survive from day to day.

How long should I feed them?
If you enjoy feeding birds, there is no reason to stop. You can do it year-round. Feeding the birds throughout the summer will not make them "lazy," or "dependent." Backyard bird feeding is an entertaining and educational pastime that can be enjoyed by children and adults. It provides a needed stress relief and brings families together. There is no designated time to feed the birds. Most people feed year round.

Related Articles:
- What Month Do You Stop Feeding The Birds? http://goo.gl/wuKbTI
- Keep your feeders clean http://goo.gl/UGfVGT
- Would the birds starve to death if I stopped feeding them? http://bit.ly/xOFgb9
- How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://goo.gl/AdJPBO
- Choosing a seed blend to feed wild birds http://goo.gl/vsBxVs
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/rTCbHB

Friday, December 6, 2019

Attract winter bluebirds to visit

Eastern Bluebirds gather together in large family flocks starting in August until September after nesting season has ended. These large nomadic groups roost at night in the woods and wander around foraging for food.
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Their diet changes from mostly worms and insects to fruit, nuts and berries from trees, bushes, and vines. I like serving a Wild Birds Unlimited Bugs, Nuts & Berry or Flaming Hot Feast Seed cylinder. These cylinders offer wild bird visitors a bountiful variety of enticing seeds, nuts, and worms to attract a number of species. The ingredients are bound together safely and compactly with gelatin and easily slip on to the Seed Cylinder Feeder. The birds can't scatter the seed and there is no waste or mess to clean up on the ground. Or offer a tray feeder full of suet nuggets, mealworms, fruits or nuts along with open water. A heated birdbath may entice large numbers of birds for afternoon drinks and feather preening.
Female bluebird photo by Finiky
We often think of migration as birds traveling thousands of miles south to winter in a tropical climate. That’s true for some birds even some bluebirds. The bluebirds that nested in Canada may skip over Michigan to winter in the southern states, but in mid-Michigan and below, many bluebirds are year-round residents. Scientists think it’s due to genetics whether they want to fly south or winter over. Some birds are compelled to move south and others are not. They all gather in huge family groups in the fall however to increase their survival through the winter.

Related Articles:
What do American Robins eat in the winter? http://bit.ly/wQh59Q
The best heated bird baths http://bit.ly/uIHnB7
Bird of the Week: Eastern Bluebird http://bit.ly/xgm1V4
Ultimate Bluebird House http://bit.ly/A4kliS

The Migration of Eastern Bluebirds http://bit.ly/yCLcQH

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Cardinals bring good cheer

Cherokee legend says the cardinal is the daughter of the sun and if you see one flying upward, you will have good luck. Cardinals also announce "good cheer, good cheer" with their songs which peak in frequency in spring and early summer.

Northern Cardinals always brighten the day. Their red color is easy to spot in a snowy landscape and is often associated with Christmas and the winter season. The cardinals stay in Michigan year-round and don’t migrate. Their population has expanded alongside the growth of the human population.

Historically, cardinals were most numerous in the south eastern portions of USA, but they have been steadily increasing in numbers in northern Michigan into Canada. The western boundary of their range is also spreading from the Dakotas to western Texas with a few cardinal populations in New Mexico, southern Arizona, and California.

The “Cardinal” name was derived from the vivid red plumage of the male, which resembles the robes of the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church. The word comes from the Latin cardo, meaning hinge. Something that has cardinal qualities are of the greatest importance; other things hinge around it.

The red robes of church bishops, red holly berries, Saint Nicholas's crimson suit, the beloved red poinsettia, and red amaryllis also bring this bright color into the season as a symbol of life: This year is over, but another is soon to be born.

Related Articles:
- How the Christmas Tree tradition started http://goo.gl/hpYcTZ
- Edible ornaments for the birds http://bit.ly/tXDnSB
- Decorate a Tree for Your Birds http://bit.ly/t3QtGV
- The Tradition of feeding the Birds at Christmas Time http://goo.gl/7ODaQ
- When did Reindeer Learn to Fly? http://bit.ly/veTLpT

- Why green, red, and white are Christmas colors http://goo.gl/Swgzv6
- Why do people kiss under the Mistletoe and what is the plant's connection to birds? http://goo.gl

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Colorful cardinal shaped suet feeder

Add a little whimsy to your yard with this colorful cardinal shaped suet feeder. It is all metal with a red weather-resistant finish. The beautifully decorated, wire mesh body, holds one standard sized suet or seed cake. It can also be used to hold nesting material in the spring. Easy to fill and clean. Includes durable metal hanging chain and hook for easy display.

The red cardinal is easy to spot in a snowy landscape and is often associated with the winter season. That makes this decorative Cardinal designed suet feeder a wonderful gift!

Suet feeders attract many songbirds like woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, wrens, and more!

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Happy Hooting Season!

Although many birds use song as a mechanism of individual recognition and contact, the primary reason for song especially in males is advertisement of themselves! The male bird sings to declare his individual territory and to attract a mate. There is usually less singing in the winter months because mating for birds is mainly in the spring.

One exception to the rule is owls. Great Horned Owls are one of the earliest birds to nest in our region and one of  my favorite things about December is hearing the first calls of the Great Horned Owls as they begin their courtship. The hooting of the owls becomes noticeable mid-December in Michigan. On a clear night, even in the suburbs where I live, you'll hear the birds calling back and forth usually from midnight until dawn. Their distinctive territorial call, " hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo," can be heard from miles away.

Related Articles:
- 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