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, April 24, 2019

Protect your jelly and nectar with weather guards

With the oncoming rains of spring it is easy to use Feeder Fresh in the seed feeders to absorb any moisture around the seed. But with the nectar, jelly, or mealworm feeders a weather guard is the best way to keep the food getting wet or diluted.

Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing offers several styles and colors of protective domes for a variety of feeders. The bright orange and red domes will also shade the feeders from the sun and entice birds flying over to investigate the colors known to indicate food. Hummingbirds and orioles, like most birds, see very well. They are attracted to brightly colored flowers for food and have learned that brightly colored feeders may also be a source of quick energy.

Related articles:
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/II7dyy

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Photo Share: Waxwings strip the trees of last year's fruit

Crab apples trees surround the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, Michigan and attract a variety of fruit eating birds like the House Finches, Northern Cardinals, American Robins, woodpeckers, and today a noisy bunch of Cedar Waxwings! This year there isn't as much fruit left as other years but they are working through every berry in sight, even if they have to hang upside down to reach it. The photos don't catch the frenetic energy of the birds but I still had to share them because they are such lovely birds!
Male and female Cedar Waxwings look similar to human eyes. They are sleek grayish birds with a pale yellow belly, a black mask around their eyes, and a crest on top of their head. They also have bright red wax-like spots on their wings and a bright yellow band at the tip of their tail. The purpose of these tips are still unknown. One study found older birds, had a higher number of tips, than younger birds. Both male and females have these tips and because they tend to mate with birds that have a similar number as them, it's thought it might signal to other birds their age and status to help find the appropriate mate choice.

Waxwings are social birds that you’re likely to see in flocks year-round. They sit in fruiting trees swallowing berries whole, or pluck them in mid-air with a brief fluttering hover. You might hear the waxwings before you see them. They have a very distinctive thin, high-pitched warbled "zeee" or "zeeet" call that is hard to forget. If you've never heard what Cedar Waxwings sound like, click HERE to go to Cornell's Lab of Ornithology website.

Related Articles:
Bird of the Week: Cedar Waxwing http://goo.gl/gwQma2
Red Maple flower make a tasty treat for Cedar Waxwings http://goo.gl/Lo72NS
Cedar Waxwing Nesting Season Begins in the Summer http://goo.gl/F3erQl
What birds eat apples? https://goo.gl/XcCwtL 

Cardinals and Crabapples https://goo.gl/3639Nm
How to Attract Cedar Waxwings https://goo.gl/5JeHnn

Monday, April 22, 2019

Real-time bird migration maps

"Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience." Ralph Waldo Emerson
House Finches enjoying BirdBerry™ Jelly and Black-capped Chickadee sipping from ant moat
Sunday was a beautiful day! I ask Alexa every night which way the winds are blowing. Unfortunately the winds aren't cooperating with pushing the bird migration north. You can also view real-time analysis maps of actual bird migration as detected by the US weather surveillance radar network at http://birdcast.info/live-migration-maps/

I set up my hummingbird and oriole feeders on the Wild Birds Unlimited store window anyway. I don't know why. I never see them before May but customers start telling me they have their hummers and oreos mid-April. So it's better to be ready and waiting than have them pass me by. While I'm waiting, I am enjoying the bubbly House Finches eating the BirdBerry™ Jelly and the cheeky chickadees drinking water from the ant moat.

I also planted a few pansies. This is also probably too early. Officially frost free day for the Lansing area is May 15th. However a customer reported seeing a White-throated Sparrow last week. When I see the White-crowned and White-throated sparrows around I go ahead and start planting in the garden. If you've never noticed these birds don't feel bad, they are only in our area for a couple weeks in the spring and a couple weeks in the fall in Mid-Michigan. The White-crown breeds in the far north, in alpine environments and the White-throated breeds in northern Michigan and the Upper Penninsula as well as farther north.

Related articles:
My favorite hummingbird and oriole feeders
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://hummingbird-nectar.html
Fun Facts About Hummingbirds http://bit.ly/II5sBl 

Strange visitor at the high-perch hummingbird feeder http://bit.ly/II7dyy 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Ready and waiting!

Dolly (cat) has been making little furry dust bunnies all month in hopes of attracting the attention of the Easter Bunny and it finally paid off! She was surprised with a yellow chick and lots of goodies.

I am putting out my nectar feeders today in hopes of attracting the dazzling hummingbirds and orioles up close. Two customers have sighted orioles already.

Related articles:
The origin of the Easter Bunny
How birds color their eggs naturally http://bit.ly/IBMw69 
A look at the Easter Egg Tradition http://goo.gl/CpUvg 
Bird of the Week: The Peep http://goo.gl/Hw0icC 
When do birds begin nesting? http://bit.ly/GGuobs  
How Do Birds Lay Eggs? http://bit.ly/H8omO0 
Do birds have belly buttons? http://bit.ly/GVqhpT

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Chickadee nest builder

Does the male or female chickadee build the nest?
A nesting site is usually selected by the female. But both male and female chickadees help in preparing the natural cavity or bird house. Males follow the females around, sometimes offering food treats, as she collects nesting material. The base of her cup-shaped nest, is usually moss, pine needles and other coarse material. Then she cushions it with grasses and lines it with softer material like cotton or rabbit fur.

Nest construction usually takes three to four days. Once it is finished the chickadee may wait a few more days before laying a clutch of eggs. They wait for good weather and also build up their energies. A clutch of six or seven eggs is an enormous drain on the female. The beginning of June is usually when you will see the results of chickadees’ first nesting.

Related Articles:
Chickadee song sounds like he has a mouth full of marbles http://marbles.html
What the 'dee' in Chick-a-dee means http://goo.gl/8rde3a
A closer look at the fee-bee song of the chickadee http://goo.gl/X4qLRV
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

Friday, April 19, 2019

Behold the Brown-headed Cowbird: Dark but not evil

Magnificent Brown-headed Cowbird by Melissa McMasters
In some ways the Brown-headed Cowbird is a classic villain. They are dark, sneaky, and the females drop eggs in the nests of other birds for them to foster. The fast development, large size, and aggressive feeding behavior of these young cowbirds may overwhelm the chosen foster family, perhaps in some cases, to the detriment of nest owners own babies. But should you label them villains? They aren't necessarily evil or deliberately committing bad deeds. Objectively and unemotionally, cowbirds are amazing, smart, and resilient. Their reproductive strategy allows them to potentially produce many more offspring than the average bird.

The real villains are, surprise, us. Human development of the land has caused fragmentation of forest habitat and resulted in a great increase in the edge habitats favored by Brown-headed Cowbirds, and a reduction of forest-interior habitats where they don’t like to venture. As a result, a number of forest birds' nests are now being used by Brown-headed Cowbirds at an increased rate.
Related Articles:
- How Do Cowbirds Learn to Sing? http://goo.gl/Y9HNDM
- How young cowbirds know they're cowbirds http://goo.gl/Jgmavd
- More about Cowbirds http://goo.gl/b1PkOd
- If cowbirds were in the summer Olympics http://goo.gl/Rajjtf

- Brown-headed Cowbird control https://should you manage cowbirds

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Red-chested black and white bird on the way to Michigan

I saw a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I had never seen this bird and was excited to see the bright red bib! I live in Phenix City, Alabama. We are in the east central part of the state just across the Chattahochee river from Columbus Ga. Best regards, Fred   

Look who’s showing up at the bird feeders!

If you don’t fill the feeder in the spring and summer you are going to miss seeing some really neat birds up close. I can't wait for the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks to arrive!

A relative of the Northern Cardinal, the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks migrate north in April and May in search of breeding grounds in Michigan, southern Canada and the northcentral and northeastern United States. They are a Neotropical migrant, and will return to Mexico, Central America, and South America as early as August.

The name “grosbeak” is from the French word grosbec and means “large beak.” Most are very hungry during migration and take advantage of food offered at feeders. It's quite a sight to see the distinctive black and white male bird with a bright red chest. The females resemble a large brown sparrow with a white eyebrow.

They are very common feeder birds at the beginning of spring preferring sunflower, safflower, suet, fruit, and nuts. I usually find them at my Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Blend or my Safflower Cylinder. As the bird establishes its nesting territory and the weather changes, over half of their diet is made up of insects. But they always are attracted to the water in a bath.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak nests in deciduous and mixed forests. But the bird is still a bit of a mystery. Its life history has not been well-studied and little is known on their migration routes, dispersal, habitat use, and nutrition during migration and on wintering grounds. Even the species name ludovicianus which means "from Louisiana" doesn't make sense because it is just a migrant there.

If you don’t see them at your feeder keep your ears open. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes the Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) song like that of the robin, only as sung by an opera singer, being mellower and more sweetly melodic. Watch the video: https://youtu.be/NixrHvecZ8c Related Articles:
Large brown sparrow-like bird http://bit.ly/IrwgVk
Juvenile Rose Breasted Grosbeak http://bit.ly/IoVuSG
Average dates for birds return to Michigan the in Spring? http://bit.ly/IMYNQe
When is bird migration over? http://bit.ly/IMZ7OQ
What to know about feeding birds in the spring http://bit.ly/I5s6h9

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Save the jelly for the orioles and how to make nectar

Yes, it's time to put out the oriole and hummingbird feeders! My mom asked me to bring her some BirdBerry™ Jelly. It seems she finished off the last bottle for her breakfast! I laughed at her for eating the oriole jelly but I've actually done the same thing.

Compared to normal grocery store labels, you'll see that BirdBerry™ is an all natural product with no preservatives, no artificial sweeteners, and has low sugar levels which is better for birds. BirdBerry™ is made from Concorde grapes, and blackberries. This yummy combination attracts orioles and keeps them coming back for the unique flavor.

It's sooo good - You'll want to have "Breakfast with the birds!"

BirdBerry™ Jelly is a human grade product that emphasizes quality. But even though it is better for the birds you should still limit the amount you place out each day. No more than a teaspoon a day for each bird you see. That way you give them a little quick energy and you can keep washing the feeder to prevent the growth of bacteria. Jelly can be stored in or out of the refrigerator. 

Hummingbird and oriole nectar recipe
To make nectar that is a little bit stronger than flower nectar, use a ratio of 4:1. That would be four parts water to one part plain white sugar. You may be tempted to use honey, turbinado sugar, drink mixes or brown sugar, but this is not a good idea. These sugars contain too many minerals for the hummingbird's system and can cause illness or death.

Powdered or confectioners sugar should not be used either. Powdered sugar has cornstarch added to it and that will cause the nectar to ferment.

Color isn’t required. There have never been any scientific studies done to prove red dye harms hummingbirds, but they come to clear nectar (sugar water) so leave it clear just in case the red is bad for the birds.

Nectar (sugar water) recipe
1 cup granulated sugar
4 cups water

1. Pour sugar in hot water. It's not necessary to boil the water. The microorganisms that cause fermentation don't come from the water; they are transported to the feeder on hummingbird bills.
2. Stir or shake the mixture until dissolved.
3. Remove from heat and let it cool.
4. Fill your hummingbird feeder and refrigerate any unused nectar for up to 2 weeks.
5. If the hummingbirds do not come to the feeder within a few days, you can try moving it to another location near plants that have brightly colored flowers.
6. Be sure to replace the nectar and clean the feeder thoroughly once every three to four days. If you leave it out longer the sugar water could go bad and hummingbirds will boycott your feeder for a long time.
If you don't want sugar in your house or you want an easy to dissolve sugar Wild Birds Unlimited has Best-1 instant nectar. It doesn't have any coloring or preservatives. Or if you are recipe challenged we also have premixed sugar water.
Related articles:
My favorite hummingbird and oriole feeders
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://hummingbird-nectar.html
Fun Facts About Hummingbirds http://bit.ly/II5sBl 

Strange visitor at the high-perch hummingbird feeder http://bit.ly/II7dyy

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Blackbirds migrate together

Yesterday I heard a long, low “KONK-AH-REEE”! outside the window. An impressive male Red-winged Blackbird puffed his brilliant red epaulets, hunched his shoulders forward and spread his tail and sang. This dramatic display was either to intimidate another male or to attract females. The males usually migrate back to Michigan mid-March and mid-April is when the females arrive. So I took another look out the window and sure enough a flock of females had arrived.

Male and female Red-wings from Wikimedia Commons
About 15 female redwings swooped in with about 30 male and female cowbirds. They swooped in together, ate for a minute or two and then swooped off to perch in the tree. The male red-wings excitement and the fluid flight formations were fascinating to watch. This is probably the last week they will stay together in flocks. Soon they will break up to breed.

The cowbirds, smaller than the redwings, were also interesting. Many people dislike Brown-headed Cowbirds because they parasitize the nests of other birds. The female Cowbirds wander about, laying up to 40 eggs per season (April to June) in as many nests of different bird species as they can find. They lay one egg per nest, each day for about 7 days, then rest for several days before another egg-laying sequence. They occasionally check up on their kids while they are being fostered by other birds and teach them cowbird-specific behaviors to help with recognition of their own species.

By late summer the flocking behavior begins again and blackbirds migrate back south for the winter. With at least twice the numbers of birds, if the nesting season goes well, I'll get to watch another display of avian air acrobatics. The undulating flock of blackbirds keep track of six of their closest flying neighbors, and coordinate their movements with them. No matter how many times they turn or dive, they maintain about the same distance between themselves and the six closest birds. 

Related Articles:
· What are those birds that sit on the wires? http://bit.ly/y608rz
· Fun Facts About European Starlings http://bit.ly/rSQtFD
· How do thousands of European Starlings fly without colliding? http://bit.ly/vwM3Ra
· What birds like Safflower seed? http://bit.ly/w3ZBGa
· What do grackles eat? http://bit.ly/xBhX3j

Monday, April 15, 2019

A look at the species of orioles found in Michigan

1st yr male Orchard Oriole from Wikimedia Commons
Baltimore Orioles are always a welcome sight in the spring. You know the warm weather is sure to follow their migration north to mid-Michigan each spring. They are a bright, bold, black and orange bird with a big personality.

But they aren't the only oriole in Michigan. Last year I was so happy to host an Orchard Oriole all summer. Orchard Oriole males are slightly smaller and usually have dark orange or brick red bodies and a black hood, back and wings. However, I saw second year male that was similar in appearance to the bright yellow bellied and brownish winged adult females, but had a solid black bib and black between the eye and bill. This skinny little guy was a little shyer than the Baltimore but such a treat to watch outside my window on the oriole feeder.

New World orioles are a group of birds in the genus Icterus of the blackbird family. There are 33 oriole species in the Americas but only 9 in North America. The Baltimore Oriole and the Orchard Oriole are the 2 species that nest in Michigan as well as the Eastern half of the U.S. The Bullock's Oriole and the Scott's Oriole are found in the Western Regions. The Spot-breasted Oriole is found in Central Florida. And the Altamira Oriole, Audubon's Oriole, Hooded Oriole and the Streak-backed Oriole are mainly found in Mexico and some southwestern states. Our orioles are unrelated to Old World orioles of the family Oriolidae, even though they have a similar in size, diet, behavior, and striking coloration.

Search https://www.allaboutbirds.org for more detailed information
Orioles in North America https://www.allaboutbirds.org/search/oriole
North American Birds in the Family: Icteridae  https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/browse/taxonomy/Icteridae

Related Articles:
Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/w3bhs8
Facts on the Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GzSTbi
Where do orioles winter? http://bit.ly/GAeWv5
Close-up of Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GAf6T7
Favorite Oriole feeders http://t.co/OjG4Lz4

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Wild Birds Unlimited Oriole feeder

There are a lot of different oriole feeders. I even have a few different types myself. But if you were going to ask me what my favorite oriole feeder is I would have to say the Wild Birds Unlimited saucer style.

Anyone that has fed birds nectar (sugar water) knows that besides some really cool birds, nectar can also attract ants, bees, and wasps. The saucer feeders, feeders that have the nectar in a bowl below a cover, are the best at deterring these unwanted guests. There is no drip or dribbling to attract insects like the feeders with a liquid reservoir above.

Wild Birds Unlimited Oriole feeder 
- There is a built-in Ant Moat to deter ants
- It comes with Bee Guards to keep flying insects out of the nectar
- High-impact polycarbonate bright orange cover to attract orioles 
- The first feeder to accommodate nectar, oranges, and jelly
- Easy to fill & clean
- UV stable, dishwasher safe (top rack)

* Optional Weather guard sold separately

Watch the video:  https://Oriole feeder and cat

Related Articles:
The best Oriole feeders http://best-oriole fdrs.html
What’s the best bee-proof hummingbird feeder? http://goo.gl/PcLeyD
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/H2U4P4
Examining The Hummingbird Tongue http://bit.ly/HoaxsI
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/H7xvp3