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

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

Tuesday, 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.

Related Articles:
- Have you ever heard of a wedge of geese? http://goo.gl/2oDPB
- Goose Gaffe? http://goo.gl/sDx9H
- Strange deer and goose pairing http://goo.gl/im8Pj
- 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.

Related Articles:
Best Bird Houses http://bit.ly/AuLTJt
A window feeder is the best way to entertain indoor cats http://bit.ly/xQVMaa
Why don't chickadees stay to eat at the feeder? http://bit.ly/AkKThH
After chickadee babies have fledged http://bit.ly/yAYbP4
Fun Facts About Chickadees http://bit.ly/zIDkCi
What Do Black-Capped Chickadees Eat? http://bit.ly/zxi04X
Bird of the Week: Black-capped Chickadee http://bit.ly/A1YFQ4

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