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

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

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Photo Share: Adorable juvenile Mourning Dove

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

More ants this year than usual

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 19, 2019

Where to put a bird bath

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

Related Articles:

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

Saturday, August 17, 2019

How to clean feeders

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

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

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

Friday, August 16, 2019

Hummingbirds can starve to death in hours

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 15, 2019

European Starling growing winter feathers

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Birds involved in ornithophily tend to be specialist nectarivores

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Birds missing feathers

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 12, 2019

What to do with a hawk in my yard

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Brown striped bird

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Aggressive hummingbird harasses hawk

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

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