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.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

What bluebirds eat in the winter

Female bluebird photo by Finiky
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. A tray feeder full of suet nuggets, mealworms, fruits or nuts along with open water may have you attracting bluebirds year round in mid-Michigan. If you have a heated birdbath they may show up in large numbers for afternoon drinks and feather preening.

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

#Cat Photo Share: Dolly Daze

These cold, short days, along with the increased busyness of December has had Dolly seeking a little solitude in her isolation box and in front of the Tube. Nobody can bother her when her stories are on! (I think she may have a problem.)
What is she watching? Her favorite is https://www.youtube.com/seahue 

She sits a little bit too close. But because cats' eyes are so large, most can’t focus on anything less than a foot in front of them. She swings her whiskers forward to feel the birds up close. 

Related Articles:
Well Hello, Dolly! http://hello-dolly.html
Dolly is making new friends! http:/dolly-is-making-new-friends.html
Birds invading the store http://rush-through-winter.html
My Baby isn't fat http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2017/11/my-baby-isnt-fat.html
Indoor cats with bird-watching windows. http://indoor-cats-dont-get-bored.html
Wild Cats Unlimited http://wild-cats-unlimited.html
Dolly talks to the birds http://yank-yank.html

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Why bird need open water in the winter

How to find food, water, shelter and avoid predators are essential to birds' survival.

Though food is scarce in winter, dehydration can be the biggest threat to birds. While birds can eat snow and ice, it takes much more energy for for them to warm it to body temperature than it does for them to drink unfrozen water.

Water is not only important for hydration, but it also helps birds preen their feathers. During those freezing nights, they fluff their feathers to trap heat like a down jacket. Without water to conduct a proper preening, birds' feathers won't stay positioned. When feathers are in alignment, cold air can't pierce through to the skin, and make them lose body heat and freeze to death.

You can use a heated bird bath or add a heater to your existing plastic, metal or stone bird bath to make some water available even on the coldest day and attract birds that may not visit feeders very often. Heated birdbaths do not create warm water, but just keep it from completely freezing.

Related Articles:
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/tfT7Ca
Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw
Help Birds Beat Their Winter Woes http://goo.gl/ZlDTw
Are there heated birdbaths? http://heated-birdbath.html


Monday, December 11, 2017

Easy to make pine cone feeder for the birds

This quick project is a fun way to spend time together as a family and teach your kids to appreciate wildlife right in your own backyard.

All you need is a pine cone, peanut butter suet and some good seed.
  1. Tie some raffia around a dozen pinecones
  2. Soften a cake of PeanutButter suet by placing it in the microwave for 20 seconds.
  3. Spread over pine cone generously.
  4. Roll cone in a bird seed blend with a lot of sunflower seed and nuts to attract the widest variety of birds.
While some birds fly south when the weather turns cold, others are year-round residents or fly as far south as mid-Michigan to tough it out. With this project, you and bring the winter birds up close for further observation into their life. Watch which seeds are the favorite and what birds are more dominate at the feeder. You can also determine if there is more activity on snowy (harsh weather) day or clear days. And you can also just be entertained by all the activity at the feeder!

Related Articles:
Share Nature's bounty http://bit.ly/tgPkrv
Make edible ornaments  http://bit.ly/tXDnSB 

Decorate a Tree for Birds http://bit.ly/t3QtGV 
Filling Up on Fatty Foods http://bit.ly/tUElnw
10 Gifts for Birdwatchers: http://bit.ly/uZojYY
Unique gifts for someone that has everything http://goo.gl/MBsT2V

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Snow birds flock under feeders

Right before the snow hit I had a huge wave of at least 25 Dark-eyed Juncos fly in under the feeders. Juncos spend their summers further north in the in the coniferous zones of the northern United States and Canada. They venture south starting in October to spend the whole winter with us in mid-Michigan.

Dark-eyed juncos usually hop or walk to move along the ground. They are social during fall and winter spending the days in flocks of 15 to 25 birds. These flocks can mix in with other native sparrows.

Dark-eyed juncos usually migrate to the same area every winter. Each flock stays in an area about 10 to 12 acres in size. There is a social hierarchy within the winter flocks. Males are dominant over females and adults are dominant over the younger birds. Dominant birds rush at or peck at other birds to chase them away.

Related Articles:
Fun Facts About Juncos http://bit.ly/pgewJn
What birds like Safflower seed? http://bit.ly/puRjIr
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/nURO99
Do the same birds show up at the same feeders year after year? http://bit.ly/GMaOYV

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Cardinal symbolism

The Cherokee believe that the cardinal is the daughter of the sun. Legend has it that if you see a cardinal flying upward, toward the sun, you will have good luck.

The red Northern Cardinal 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

Friday, December 8, 2017

Photo Share: Sparrows roosting

In North America there may be some local movements in response to weather changes but House Sparrow populations do not migrate extensively. Some sparrows like to roost right next to the feeders to break their fast at first light.

They are very social birds and make a lot of noise as they settle down and wake up in the morning. Male and female House Sparrows make single cheep notes to indicate submissiveness in flocks, deter intruders, and warn others.

If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Joy of Bird Feeding

The delight of seeing so many active and energetic birds at your feeders, and knowing that you are having a positive impact on the quality of their lives, makes feeding the birds a real joy; especially this time of the year. The best part is that this joy is available to everyone.

Across North America, more than 180 bird species can be attracted to yards with the right food, water and shelter. That's a lot of joy and all of it right outside your window.

Winter is a great time to watch the different types of birds at your feeders. Woodpeckers are busy eating mouthfuls of suet. Juncos and sparrows hurriedly scour the ground for millet. Finches take turns at the finch feeder. Jays raucously grab peanuts and nuthatches and chickadees industriously horde sunflower seeds.

Stop by your nearest Wild Birds Unlimited store this month and share the joy of the birds with us. We have the best seed, feeders, nature gifts and advice, and we can help you introduce this wonderfully joyful hobby to your neighbors, friends and family.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Winter Blue Jay

The Blue Jays are found from southern Canada throughout all of Michigan and down to Florida and northeastern Texas. The western edge of the range stops where the arid pine forest and scrub habitat of the closely related Steller's Jay begins. Recently, the range of the Blue Jay has extended northwestwards so that it is now a rare but regularly seen winter visitor all along the northern US and southern Canadian Pacific Coast. As the two species' ranges now overlap, the Blue Jay may sometimes hybridize with the Steller's Jay.

Steller's Jay by http://commons.wikimedia.org
I usually see Blue Jays year-round in mid-Michigan but some may be migratory. Much about their migratory behavior remains a mystery. Some are present throughout winter in all parts of their range. Young jays may be more likely to migrate than adults, but many adults also migrate. Some individual jays migrate south one year, stay north the next winter, and then migrate south again the next year. To date, no one has worked out why they migrate when they do. Likely, it is related to weather conditions and how abundant the winter food sources are, which can determine whether other northern birds will move south.

My Blue Jays love Peanuts in the Shell. The Blue Jay mainly forages in the wild for nuts, seeds, soft fruits, berries and bugs. At the feeders they like any kind of nut, Oil Sunflower seed, Striped Sunflower seed and Suet.

Related Articles:
- Why do Birds Scatter Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/w4vRPP
- Blue Jays aren't blue http://bit.ly/roVPVX
- What Feeder Do You Recommend for Blue Jays? http://bit.ly/txd8ja
- Blue Jay Fun Facts http://goo.gl/wJgMmJ
- Do birds know winter is coming? http://goo.gl/EilIa6
- Why Blue Jays go bald in the fall http://goo.gl/gAX3x 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Expect an increase in birds visiting as temperatures dip and snow falls

As the temperatures continue to dip and snow begins to fall, you will notice an increase at the feeders. Our Michigan birds are equipped to withstand most winter weather. They preen and adjust their feathers to create air pockets that will help them keep warm. And eat high-energy, high-fat foods to stoke their internal furnace. 
 
The Importance of Keeping Your Feeders Full
Food is the most essential element, providing birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition they need. To stay warm, birds will expend energy very quickly, some losing up to 10% of their body weight on extremely cold nights, and this fat must be replaced every day.

The Importance of a Reliable, Open Source of Water

Birds continue to need a source of water for drinking to maintain their metabolism during dry, cold weather. Clean feathers help birds stay warm, and a bird bath is often the only way for some birds to drink and keep their feathers in top condition when it’s cold.

Related Articles:
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/tfT7Ca
Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/uKZs6v
Food & water from bird feeders can impact birds’ survival http://bit.ly/tsnvpP

Monday, December 4, 2017

Owl courtship begins in December

Although many birds do 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 and mating is not one of the biological functions for most birds in the winter season.

An exception to the rule is owls. One of  the best 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-hoo hoooo 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