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, June 25, 2019

Black birds are leaving soon

The good news is it looks like it is finally going to warm up a little. This means you'll see more black birds moving off the feeders in search of bugs. Their nesting season is over. They only have a few weeks left in Michigan to molt into a fresh set of feathers and fatten up before migration. By the end of July birds will begin moving south.

This was a particularly hard spring for all the bug eating birds. The cold weather didn't produce enough bugs for them to eat. Usually that means the birds can move to their second choice of nuts. Unfortunately last year there was a poor crop of tree nuts including beech nuts and acorns. As a result we saw an increase of birds, squirrels, deer, and other wild animals at the feeders trying to supplement their diet.

Some people enjoyed the influx of woodpeckers especially the bigger ones like the flickers and pileated which are not frequent feeder visitors. An increase in the orioles, tanagers, buntings, warblers, and grosbeaks were also exciting to many people. There was much less enthusiasm over the increased numbers of blackbirds and starlings.

 Related Articles:
- How bird migration evolved http://goo.gl/rAXV5N
- When is bird migration over? http://goo.gl/Jbuouk
- How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://goo.gl/kIMee3
- Shortest and Longest Bird Migrations http://goo.gl/XYAEtd

Monday, June 24, 2019

A clean solution to bird feeding off the deck

Do you have some kind of tray so I can feed the birds off the deck and not have messy shells all over?

The neatest feeder we have is the seed cylinder feeder. It is a feeder that holds a cylinder of food for the birds held together with gelatin. If the birds want the seed, nut, fruit, or mealworm from the cylinder they have to work a piece off. There is no seed scattered! This is actually a very natural feeling for them. If they found a flower head full of seeds or land on the trunk of a tree hiding bugs, they would have to work to get the seed or bug out to eat.

We also have a variety of deck mounts to swing the feeder over and reduce the amount of poopy left behind. When a bird loads up on food, they usually unload some weight before take off. Wild Birds Unlimited’s exclusive, patented Advanced Pole System® (APS) Basic Setup Deck Hardware is the perfect beginning to your ultimate bird feeding station designed to meet your own individual needs.

Just attach the easy-to-install deck mount to your deck rail. Next, add the extension pole and arm and top it with the decorative finial.

There are several decorative finial designs that can be changed with the seasons. We have a bat, Jack ‘O Lanterns, Christmas Trees, cardinals, woodpeckers, bluebirds, chickadees, hummingbirds, goldfinches, and spears.

Related Articles: 

Advanced Pole System http://bit.ly/uKRdrZ
How to hang feeders from trees http://bit.ly/suV4Z5 

Bluebird House pole: http://bit.ly/vcPUb7
Last Minute Gifts for Birdwatchers http://bit.ly/tMBYOf

Saturday, June 22, 2019

How to tell if it is a male or female House Wren at the nest

The male House Wrens tend to be more vocal while the females more behind the scenes. Both the male and female House Wrens look similar to our human eyes but their actions may be revealing. According to AllAboutBirds.org: Both males and females sing but males often sing 9-11 times per minute in the spring. Songs are a long, jumbled bubbling introduced by abrupt churrs and scolds and made up of 12-16 recognizable syllables. Females sing mainly in answer shortly after choosing a mate. Females' songs can include high-pitched squeals unlike any sounds males make.

Also during breeding season, Male House Wrens start building several nests at once in hopes of persuading a female to mate with him. He looks for any crevice, old woodpecker holes, and man-made nest boxes. You will see him bring in sticks up to 5 inches to build a twig platform. Then the female is the one to find all the soft stuff, (feathers, grasses and other plant material, animal hair, spider egg sacs, string, snakeskin) to build the nest cup.

Related Articles:
- Do the same House Wrens nest in the same house every year? http://bit.ly/uDBbIb
- Quick Fun Facts on Wrens http://bit.ly/v5XVoU
- Hanging & Placement of Wren Bird Houses http://bit.ly/rBLsGQ
- The best suet for wild birds http://goo.gl/yY7bGt
- House Wren vs. Carolina Wren http://house-vs-carolina-wren.html

Friday, June 21, 2019

Photo Share: Chipmunk love

I heart chipmunks. The Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) is found throughout Michigan, this small (6-8in) ground squirrel is reddish brown with a white racing stripe bordered by two black stripes down its side. Its loud “chip, chip, chip” can be heard as it forages for seeds, insects, fruit and nuts. During the winter it is a light hibernator that wakes every 2-3 weeks and eats from its stash stored in its elaborate tunnels system underground.

Related Articles:  
How many species of squirrels are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/yYt6Nb
Black Squirrel History & Facts http://bit.ly/AxiqPz
"Frisky" Fox Squirrels http://bit.ly/AndeTw
Why squirrels chew http://bit.ly/AjVzFW
Fascinating Squirrels facts http://squirrels-in-mid-michigan.html
How squirrels were introduced into the neighborhood http://squirrels-were-introduced.html
How squirrels remember where they've buried nuts http://squirrels-remember.html

Thursday, June 20, 2019

First sign of Summer!

I saw the first sign of summer. The footloose and fancy free finches were fighting in flight! American Goldfinches don't begin to nest in the spring like most Michigan birds. They are vegetarians and wait for the wildflower seed heads to mature before they start a family.

Usually they flock together fairly friendly but at the start of summer, new bonds form for breeding. That may be why I saw the noisy quarrel in the air on my walk home. Mated pair bonds form on breeding grounds immediately before nesting begins. Males entice females to their territory with displays of song, combined with showy Butterfly Flights. Once selected, courtship feeding, in which a male passes food to female in crouching posture with fluttering wings and faint begging calls, becomes common. That doesn't mean another, perhaps showier, male might not still catch the female's eye. This leads to more aggressive behavior between males as competitors are chased off. Males guard their mates closely during nest-building and egg-laying.

If your finch feeders are clean and full of fresh seed you will begin to see an increase of activity. At the feeders, finches like to eat Nyjer® (thistle) and sunflower seeds. If your feeders are well maintained by mid-August, after a couple weeks of incubating and a couple weeks in the nest, the first wave of baby goldfinches visit the feeder with their fathers. Their high squeaky baby calls the highlight of my year!

Related Articles:
Prevent soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a
How often do you clean a bird feeder? https://prevent-moldy-birdseed.html 
Where do you place finch feeders? http://goo.gl/avIs2

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

How to keep ants away

I left my hummingbird feeder out at my house up north and it was full of ants when I came back the following weekend.

Wild Birds Unlimited has extra large ant moats that you hang from a feeder to keep the ants off the feeders. An ant moat is a small cup-like device that hangs between your feeder and your hook. Fill an ant moat with water, and it creates a barrier the ants can’t cross to get to the nectar.

Hummingbirds are wonderful to attract to a backyard garden and a joy to watch. These sparkling jewels of summer are easy to love and so we should always feed responsibly to keep them healthy.

If you aren't able to change your nectar twice a week, put the feeder out only when you are home. It is better for a hummingbird to fly by and see no feeder than for them to eat spoiled nectar. You can plant flowers in the garden or hang a flowering basket to keep hummingbirds close.

Hummingbird feeders must be kept clean and free from mold and fungus, or the tiny hummers could get sick. The more often you clean them the easier they are to maintain. Bring your feeders inside and rinse them once a week when the temperatures are below 70 °F and at least twice a week when the temperatures are above 70 °F.

We have several easy to clean feeders and brushes to scrub out those tiny ports. It is best to clean your feeder with hot tap water and use brushes to scrub the sides. If you use soap or put the feeder in the dishwasher, rinse thoroughly so there is no residue left behind. Inspect the feeder carefully for black mold. If you see any mold growth, soak the feeder in a solution of one part vinegar to 9 parts water for one hour and then scrub and rinse again.

To make nectar, mix one part ordinary white sugar to four parts water. Bring the water to a quick boil to dissolve the sugar, then let the mixture come to room temperature before you fill your feeder. You can mix up a large batch of nectar to keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

If the nectar becomes cloudy, it has spoiled and needs to be replaced. When the feeder is hanging in the sun or outside temperatures are high, the sugar solution may spoil in just one day. To keep the nectar from fermenting it is better to keep your hummingbird feeder in the shade or add a shaded weather guard to keep the sun from spoiling the nectar.

Related Articles:
- When to take hummingbird feeders down and many other FAQ http://goo.gl/7xANk
- Do hummingbirds migrate together? http://bit.ly/rVOJVm
- The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
- What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
- When did people start to feed hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR
- Flowers that attract hummingbirds: http://bit.ly/wkhlJn

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Help birds through a challenging time

It has been a hard hunt for bugs and berries for the birds this spring. As a result more birds have been bringing babies to feeders.

How to help your birds during this challenging spring and summer:

1. Seed Trays: You can add a tray to your tube feeder to help parent birds feed their toddlers. The Seed Tray prevents seed from falling to the ground as well as provide an additional feeding area.
2. Perching Branches: Watch as babies line up on the Advanced Pole System® (APS) Decorative Perching Branches and wiggle their wings and beg for food. Our decorative perch allows birds to remain in sight while they wait to eat. It can also be used to hang additional lightweight feeders.
3. Window Decals: Make sure you have your Window Alerts in place. Juvenile birds don't understand that they can't fly through windows. Put up window decals to help save their necks!
4. No Poisons: According to the (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center, millions of birds die each year from landscape pesticides, when they eat pesticide granules or eat poisoned insects. To reduce or eliminate your use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides use disease- and pest-resistant plants, cultivate native plant species, and reduce the lawn area. If you manage your yard naturally, you can increase natural insect predators like ladybugs, praying mantises, frogs, toads and of course birds. Leaf mulches and compost also add nutrients to soil and eliminate the need for weed killers and fertilizers. Link to video of American Robin Dying of Pesticide Poisoning
5. Keep your feeders clean: It is super important to keep your feeders clean, especially now when so many baby birds visit. The stress can make birds vulnerable to disease. Wet weather can also produce mold and mildew which can be fatal to birds. Dump out any moldy seed and disinfect your feeders with a 1 to 9 parts vinegar to water solution or bring your feeder to the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, Michigan to be cleaned for a small $5.00 charge.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Now is a good time to put up a hummingbird feeder

Ruby-throated hummingbird juvenile showing his first jewel on his throat
If you didn't see a lot of activity earlier this spring and took your hummingbird feeder down, now is a good time to clean it up and put out fresh food. When Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds have settled into their territories to nest you may or may not see much activity. Weather, where you live, how frequently you change your sugar water, and the number of feeders you have available are just a few of the things that factor in to the number of hummingbirds you have visiting.

But by late June newly fledged hummers begin to visit with their mother. They have to check out everything to see if it's food. You may catch them flying by feeders, flowers, and garden decorations trying to figure this whole feeding myself thing.

While the females are showing their offspring how to forage, the males begin to wander widely and start to fatten up in anticipation of heading south. So, before you know it you'll have hungry southbound migrants to feed!

Migration continues through the middle of October so there are plenty of opportunities to see hummers feeding. The migration south is a more leisurely trip than the race north. So you may see these new hummers at your feeder all the way in to early fall before they catch a good wind to move further south.

Related Articles:
- When to take hummingbird feeders down and many other FAQ http://goo.gl/7xANk
- Do hummingbirds migrate together? http://bit.ly/rVOJVm
- The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
- What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
- When did people start to feed hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR
- Flowers that attract hummingbirds: http://bit.ly/wkhlJn

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Tips to meet your summer birds’ needs

Any backyard bird watcher knows birds flock to feeders in summer, especially as the babies fledge and approach the feeders with their parents. Summer bird feeding also can bring you different species that aren’t around in winter.

Studies show the average bird forages for food about five hours per day to meet their energy requirements. As the seasons change, consider the following tips to meet your summer backyard birds’ nutritional needs as well as attract some migrating visitors.

Some tips for creating a summertime backyard buffet:

1. Clean your feeders regularly
It is super important to keep your feeders clean, especially now when so many baby birds visit. The stress can make birds vulnerable to disease. Wet weather can also produce mold and mildew which can be fatal to birds. Dump out any moldy seed and disinfect your feeders with a 1 to 9 parts vinegar to water solution or bring your feeder to the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, Michigan to be cleaned for a small $5.00 charge.

2. Keep your seed dry
Wet, humid summer weather creates the potential for mold. My favorite secret weapon against soggy seed is Feeder Fresh which is available at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI. This is a desiccant that I stir into the seed to absorb the moisture.

3. Choose Food that Produces Less Mess
Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Blend features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds means there's no debris on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything happily.

4. Keep suet feeders full
By adding suet to your wild bird's summer menu, you will attract wrens, warblers, thrushes, brown creepers, brown thrashers, and blue jays. You can also attract orioles, chickadees, titmice, and the ever popular bluebird.

5. Discover Foods that Last Longer
Seed Cylinders are also a high-fat, quick-energy food source that is specially-designed to meet your birds' hearty appetites. The Wild Birds Unlimited popular no muss, no fuss Spiral Seed Cylinder Feeder holds cylinders of tightly packed seed held together with gelatin so there is no seed spray. The whole block is completely edible. And depending on bird activity in your yard, a large cylinder packed with energy rich pecans, peanuts and sunflower seeds can last weeks.

6. Attract Different Birds
Mealworms, nectar, fruit, and jelly attract many different birds. Hummingbirds and orioles, can be immediately attracted to feeders with nectar (and fruit and jelly for orioles), making summer a sweet time to feed the birds. Some birds attracted to mealworms include: wrens, robins, bluebirds, jays, sparrows, cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, and even Purple Martins.

7. Just add water
Baths not only provide clean water to quench thirst, baths also help birds maintain their feathers. A good part of a bird's day is spent just cleaning and grooming their feathers by bathing, scratching, and preening. It’s so important that it is often the first place parent birds bring their newly fledged babies.

Related articles:
Do I need to clean my bird feeder? http://bit.ly/HNX410
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/umlwXg
Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/HNZTPx
Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Flowers for finches

It's wonderful to watch finches riding the flowers in search of seeds in the summer months! If you want to garden for the goldfinches I have a few suggestions:

Cosmos, asters, coneflowers, yarrow, black-eyed Susans, mint, goldenrod, Jerusalem-Artichoke, sunflowers, and milkweed are just a few flowers to attract finches. That is not a all they eat. They also like grass seeds and many other weed or wildflower seeds along the roadside or in the fields. For a more complete and personalized list of garden plants to attract specific birds and a list of local resources go to Audubon's native plants database.

Related Articles:
Prevent soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a
How to Attract Goldfinches http://bit.ly/A6CwjB
How often do you clean a bird feeder? http://bit.ly/wTk0c7  

Friday, June 14, 2019

Photo Share: Hungry crow

We've been getting some crows visiting the Wild Birds Unlimited store lately. They have that look of a harried parent. It hasn't been a very good spring for most birds. You think of crows as scavengers of road kill and garbage but American Crows eat a variety of foods, including bugs, seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, and many kinds of small animals such as earthworms and mice.

Crows prefer to nest in evergreens on a horizontal branch, generally towards the top of the tree. Both members of a breeding pair help build the nest. Young birds from the previous year sometimes help as well. The nest is made largely of medium-sized twigs with an inner cup lined with pine needles, weeds, soft bark, or animal hair.

I wouldn't be surprised if we see the young crows soon. They are about the same size as adults, but have blue eyes and pink inside the mouth. The wing and tail feathers of the young are also a dark brown and only become darker and more glossy black like adult feathers after the first molt.

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