About us: We own a wild bird feeding supply 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.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Wild birds are my pets

I thought this Cardinal was looking at me like, "ya gotta minute to fill a feeder here?" ~ Lansing, MI
I think you're right. Does anyone have any more captions for the photo?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds?

Now I know which seeds my birds like but how do you know what is the best suet? ~ Eaton Rapids, Michigan

When you come into Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI you can choose from a variety of high quality seed and suet cakes that will attract a wide number of different bug eating birds like woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and wrens.

What is suet?
Our Suet is made with only the highest quality processed beef kidney fat. It is the most concentrated source of energy you can offer wild birds.

Is there really a difference in suet cakes?
Not all suets are created equal. When you are choosing your breakfast cereal, you might choose a less healthy, colorful, sugar loop and pay the price later with less energy and a blah afternoon. But birds must always be on alert and in top form, especially during times of stress like nesting season or long winters. You should always read the nutritional labels and strive to provide wild birds with food that is healthy and has the proper nutrition.

How do I read suet labels?
The first ingredient should always be rendered beef suet. Some people feed straight suet only. If you want to offer more protein the next ingredient should usually be peanuts or tree nuts. Never, never buy suet where milo, oats, wheat, processed grain by-products or artificial flavorings are in the ingredients. These filler ingredients are used to make a cheaper cake but the birds have to pick around and pick out all this filler to reach a little suet.

The Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store’s best seller is the peanut butter suet cake, which has only three ingredients: rendered beef fat, chopped peanuts and peanut butter. Again, no milo, no wheat, no corn, and no millet - no filler ingredients!

What is the Guaranteed Analysis?
Looking at the Guaranteed Analysis, you will see several lines of information: Crude Protein, Crude Fat, Crude Fiber, and Moisture. What does all that mean to a consumer? A good suet cake will have a minimum crude protein of around 6% and crude fat of 35% (the more the better). And it’s acceptable for suet to have a maximum crude fiber of 12% and moisture of 10%.

I know this can get confusing. You just want to feed the birds. That’s OK. At Wild Birds Unlimited we are dedicated to the promotion of responsible feeding. Anything we sell in the East Lansing, Michigan store is good for the birds; no fillers, no by products, just top-quality food. If you have any questions feel free to ask and we can suggest what will work in your yard to attract the best birds.

Wow thanks for all the info. I’ve been using your peanut butter bar and the birds seem very happy and I’m happy with all the birds! I guess you’re right, why worry; if I shop at your store I know it’s the good stuff. Will this question make it on to your blog? I love to read it every morning.

Yes! You had a very good question. Thanks for reading and now participating in the blog. Sarah

Related Articles:

What birds eat suet? http://bit.ly/q2Sfje
Can I make my own suet? http://bit.ly/rsc1JT
How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI
Filling Up on Fatty Foods: http://bit.ly/ob0NIq
Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How to have more colorful birds at your feeder

For more colorful birds in the spring, feed your birds better-quality food in the fall. Most backyard birds, with the exception of American Goldfinches, go through only one full molt a year in the fall. They replace their tired old feathers with a new set that will last until next fall.

You may have noticed that the European Starlings have more speckles on them right now than they did during the summer. The new feathers have whitish tips, giving the bird the appearance of “stars” covering their body. Over the winter sunlight and weather dulls the speckled look and then the bird becomes uniform dark brown or black. Just in time to impress the females in the spring.

Eastern Bluebirds and Northern Cardinals, two of the most colorful birds in the area, also produce a new set of feathers in the fall. The tips of the new body feathers are brown/gray and make the bluebirds and cardinals appear a bit dull in the winter. These feather tips also wear off and leave the birds much more colorful in the spring.

Feathers are made of more than 90% protein, primarily keratins, so every molting bird needs extra proteins to grow strong feathers for proper flight and effective insulation. At the feeding stations during cold weather the birds are looking for seeds that provide the most calories too. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a landmark study of bird food preferences in 1980 for several bird species and found most backyard songbirds exhibited the greatest preference for oil sunflower, peanuts, safflower, nyjer, and millet. They avoid buckwheat, milo, oats, wheat, canary, flax, rapeseed, and rice.

Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess Blend is our best selling blend. It has everything the birds want and leaves no messy shells behind. For more info on our unique No-Mess Blend bird seed which features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left, click HERE.

Whatever seed, seed cake, or suet you choose at Wild Birds Unlimited, we guarantee it will be fresh and a healthy choice for our local birds. And now you know that birds with a better-quality diet have better-quality plumage.

Related Articles: 
Why birds molt http://bit.ly/qz4yGE 
Goldfinch colors http://bit.ly/ofhIFU
Types of Bird feathers http://bit.ly/oTXSmm
Why Wild Birds Unlimited has the best seed! http://bit.ly/pzAB24

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Solving the Mysteries of Migration with Wind Tunnels

Researchers that want to study migrating birds have problems gathering data on what birds eat, when or if they have pit stops, and the effect of the weather. One solution to this problem was to build a $1.5 million wind tunnel to study a captive bird’s metabolism and flight. Researchers can adjust temperature, humidity and barometric pressure and study the effect on birds.

How to get birds to work with you in wind tunnels
From an interview with Science's Elizabeth Pennisi:
“A year old, the tunnel presents researchers with an unprecedented opportunity to probe the mysteries of migration in exquisite detail. But money can't buy birds that are keen to fly in a wind tunnel, and the team has had mixed success finding willing avian partners. An early project using starlings did well, despite taking place when the tunnel was not quite finished. It netted "Super," a bird that always cooperates and will even fly into the wind tunnel on its own accord. But a study involving robins took months to identify five somewhat cooperative fliers; switching to Swainson's thrushes worked better. One immunological project involving a shorebird called a ruff is stranded because the birds show no inclination to take to the air. And the researchers have just started testing warblers to see if high-protein or high-carbohydrate diets make a difference in energy use during flight.”

Some early test results from biologists at the University of Western Ontario in Canada discovered that the birds on long migrations conserve water by burning muscle and organs instead of fat.

The protein in muscle doesn't provide as much energy as fat, but it can release five times as much water - enough to keep birds going during their nightlong flights, according to a study published Friday in the journal Science.

Scientists believe that understanding how birds use protein during migration could help them better understand the environmental challenges facing animals that migrate.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Great Horned Owl Juvenile Rescued from Starving Slowly

Hi everyone, I wanted to share these pictures and tell you how they came to be. This little guy (Great Horned Owl) was sitting on my sidewalk in front of my house. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. So of course I ran in grabbed my camera and took a bunch of pictures Then I started calling every rehab center I could find in the book. Being Saturday all I could do was to leave messages. Very frustrating. 

I had to go to work at the Art Gallery for a few hours. When I got back he was still sitting in the landscape by the front of my house. I tried again some of the numbers for rehab centers. Finally I got a call back from one in Eaton Rapids. She told me how to handle the little guy so successfully getting him in a box we were able to get him there. 

She said he was starving and that was the third Owl that had been brought in in the past few days. I learned that he was probably a late spring baby and was never properly taught how to hunt. His wings were fine but just very thin. They started him on fluids first and then they will feed him mice and rats (uck!) 

Thank God there are people like Louise Sagaert from Wildside Rehabilitation and Education Center for people like me and you to be able to take our injured wild critters to. I slept easy knowing that he was safe and taken care of. Have a great day! I know will........Linda Moore

That was a very compassionate story with thankfully, a happy ending. If anyone sees an animal in distress and is unsure what to do, call an expert. For future reference the following is a small list of the local rehabilitators:
  • East Lansing, MI ♦ 517.351.7304 ♦ Cheryl Connell-Marsh ♦ birds and small animals
  • Lansing, MI ♦ 517-646-9374 ♦ Tiffany Rich ♦ white tailed deer, squirrels, raccoons; Vet. Tech. on center.
  • DeWitt, MI ♦ 517.930-0087 ♦ Wildside Rehab and Education Center ♦ birds and small animals
  • Eaton Rapids, MI ♦ 517-663-6153 ♦ Wildside Rehab and Education Center ♦ birds and small animals
  • Holt, MI ♦ 517-694-9618 ♦ Carolyn Tropp cctropp@aol.com ♦ Waterfowl, small birds and mammals
  • Howell, MI ♦ 517-548-5530 ♦ Howell Conference and Nature Center ♦ All wild animals except bats, skunks, starlings, raccoons, pigeons, or house sparrows.
  • Bath, MI ♦ 517-819-0170 (day) 517-641-6314 (evening) ♦ Denise Slocum ♦ Small mammals
For a complete list of Michigan Licensed Rehabilitators visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at: http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/

Or to search for a local wildlife rehabilitation group: http://www.wildliferehabber.org/

 You can see some of Linda Moore's artwork at Haze Art Gallery in Old Town on Grand River Ave. and Maple Street Mall downtown Mason. She also received a little more information about her owl:  I had an update from Louise. He made it through the night, he's peeing, and eating. Hallelujah!

I hope when he's recovered you can release him back into your yard.

Good morning Sarah, the latest update is Orlando the Owl is doing very well.  He is still in an incubator but will be put in a regular cage tomorrow.  Louise says he in getting pretty feisty too. Have a great day! 

I never really though of re-releasing the owl. Wouldn't they have to somehow teach him to hunt first?  And do they eat other birds? I wouldn't want him killing off my little subjects. Who would I take pictures of? Ha....

Great Horned Owls eat a lot of rodents like field mice, voles and even skunks. They also eat frogs, toads, and snakes. They hunt at night so most of the time they eat animals that are active at that time. Owls do eat a few birds too. Usually in the spring when they are feeding babies and are having trouble finding enough food. But overall they are a good bird to have in the neighborhood.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Black and White Bird with Red Head

My husband kept telling me we had a Red-headed woodpecker at the feeder while I was at work. I was so excited about having a new bird at the feeder until I realized he was talking about our very frequent visitor, the red-bellied woodpecker. He said that that was a dumb name and that he was still going to call him Mr. Red Head. Will you explain why it’s called Red-bellied Woodpecker?

People often call the Red-bellied woodpecker by a list of common misnomers like red-headed or ladder-back woodpecker because of their gleaming red caps and striking black and white barred backs. Since virtually all woodpeckers are black and white with patches of bright colors on various parts of their bodies, the Red-bellied was named for the unique pinkish tinge on the belly, common to both genders.

However, the sight of a red belly usually isn’t the fist thing you see when it visits your yard. This can only be seen if the bird is facing you. But don’t expect to identify this bird that way. You need to look for the red head first. Adult males have a red cap going from the bill to the nape of the neck. Adult females have a gray crown and a red patch on the nape of the neck and another above the bill. Juveniles have no red at all, just a dark gray crown.

Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus
Order: Piciformes Family: Woodpeckers (Picidae)
One of the most common woodpeckers, it is found all along the eastern half of the United States. This woodpecker is unusual in that it will sample any food it finds. It eats seeds, fruit, acorns, insects and loves suet when it’s available. In the fall and winter it will store its food in the barks of trees to pull out and eat later.

Special cells on the end of their bills are constantly replaced because of the repeated pounding. Woodpeckers are important to many other bird species because they drill new nest holes each year and leave the old cavities for birds like swallows, owls, bluebirds, and a huge array of small birds like wrens and chickadees to use.
Related Articles:
What is the Lifespan of a Red-bellied Woodpecker? http://bit.ly/ouuTnx
Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/qIbvvL 
What birds eat suet? http://bit.ly/nO5aJX

Saturday, September 24, 2011

How much food a chipmunk can hold in his mouth

Thank you for your interesting blog! I have been feeding chipmunks in my yard for the last four years. They are adorable and fascinating to watch. I am curious to know how much food can they fit in their cheek pouches?

I could find no volume measurements while researching chipmunks. However I have personally observed our chipmunks carry five peanuts in the shell at a time: two in each cheek pouch and one between its teeth. I have also watched him pack in 31 peanuts without shells.

Studies have found that some animals hoard simply out of instinct. A chipmunk spends much of its day collecting and storing seeds, which are its most important source of food. When preparing food for storage, the chipmunk uses its tongue to shift the seeds backwards and stuff them between their teeth and the extensible skin in the cheek area. 

The capacity of these cheek pouches increases with maturity. When the cheek pouches become full, the chipmunk deposits the seeds in its nest or buries them in shallow holes that it digs in the ground around his burrow and then covers with earth, leaves, and other litter. 

Eastern Chipmunks’ lifespan on average is only one year due to predators and man made dangers. They have two breeding seasons. The first begins in February and the second in June. They can have up to nine babies but average four.

Many people are frustrated by the amount of food they take away from bird feeding stations but chipmunks do have a purpose. They eat a lot of bugs and small rodents and are eaten by hawks, fox, owls, and other predators. And Mother Nature uses the chipmunks to spread plant seeds and fungi all around.

Eastern chipmunks live in shallow burrows made by digging and carrying away the dirt in their pouched mouths. These burrows can be up to 30 ft. in length with several different exits concealed with leaves and rocks.

The chipmunks’ cheek pouches also transfer food to their tunnels. They keep large stores of food in their burrows and build nests on top of this treasure. Eastern chipmunks, however, do not hibernate continuously through the winter, nor do they "fatten up" before retreating to their burrows. When the temperatures reach freezing, chipmunks go into their burrows to hibernate but wake up periodically to snack on their stored nuts and seeds.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"The place to observe nature is where you are."—John Burroughs

Hi. This summer I was blessed with a new family of bluebirds – mom and dad, and SIX fledglings. Just incredible; they're the first bluebirds I ever got to "know" (photos of some kids and mom/dad above). - Molly in Decatur, GA

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Best Peanut Feeders

Does WBU carry bird nuts?  I'm in the UK now and have been watching birds eating bird nuts from a wire cylinder. Then in the Pound Store (our Dollar Store) I found bags of them for one pound. They looked like oddly shaped peanuts with the red skin still on. Sue

Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI sell peanuts in the shell and out. We also offer four seed blends that have peanuts to attract a wider variety of birds.

There are several types of peanuts. Each of the peanut types is distinctive in size, flavor, and nutritional composition. The birds will eat any peanut as long as it’s still fresh and full of oil. The pound store may have cheap peanuts but make sure they aren’t stale.

Birds don’t have heated houses or sweaters they can snuggle in when the winds blow. An ample supply of high-calorie foods such as black oil sunflower, nuts and suet is crucial to a bird's survival. Food is the most essential element, providing birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition they need and it should be as fresh and full of fat as possible.

Thanks for the info. I wasn't planning to buy any seeds here. I really wanted to know if they are available in the States in an animal food quality, but fresh and appealing to the birds. I'll be back there in a couple of weeks. Do you carry the wire tube feeders for the peanuts? 

I’s a great idea to add a peanut feeder right now to attract birds such as titmice, jays, chickadees, woodpeckers and nuthatches. With cold weather approaching the birds will appreciate the extra fat and protein from peanuts and you can have fun watching the antics of birds that come to peanut feeders.

At Wild Birds Unlimited you can choose from a variety of peanut feeders. Two of the most popular peanut feeders are the Mesh feeders and the peanut bell feeders.

Our mesh feeders come in different sizes and colors. They have a  lifetime guarantee, are made in the USA and the birds love them. I would also recommend a Wild Birds Unlimited weather guard to protect the seed from the coming rain and snow.

The other feeder I have is the Birdie Bell. It is a secure, all-weather holder that's easy to fill and so far indestructible. I fill it with a peanut bell-shaped seed block every 2 weeks. The bell feeder can also be filled with cat hair and cotton for the birds to use in their nests. I have three of these.

They are both nice starter feeders available at our Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI

Related articles:
What birds like peanuts? http://bit.ly/nGkP1K  
Feeling Good About Fattening Up http://bit.ly/q7FAmB 
Why would you build a peanut vending machine for crows? http://bit.ly/qy1hBC

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What are those bur seeds that stick to my dog's fur?

Now that fall is almost here you'll notice a lot of plants are trying to spread their seed. Blue Jays carry acorns far from their parent trees. Goldfinches spread lots of flower seeds. Cedar Waxwings spread fruit seeds.

And if you take a walk in the woods you may pick up hitchikers on your socks. Those annoying burs that snag on almost anything including your best friends furry coat. But did you ever look at those burs under a microscope?

Walking through a patch of woods one day in 1948, a Swiss engineer named Georges de Mestral wondered what made burrs stick to his clothes. He took a close look at the seeds of burdock and discovered hundreds of "hooks" that caught on everything. Inspiration struck and de Mestral thought if he could figure out how to duplicate the hooks and make loops he could develop a nonmetallic, zipperlike fastener.

After a lot of trial and error Velcro was invented. Velcro, a combination of the words velvety soft and crochet hook, was submitted for patent in Switzerland in 1951. The newly invented nylon was perfect for making two strips of fabric, one with thousands of tiny hooks and another with thousands of tiny loops.

Velcro is now used all over from fastening kids shoes to astronauts space suits.

Related articles:
Colorful Bird Splats Contain Secrets http://bit.ly/obG0Kd
Birds Move Trees http://bit.ly/rj8fT5 
Attract More Goldfinches to My Yard? http://bit.ly/n9N8Wu

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velcro

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wild Birds Unlimited mid-Michigan blog anniversary

Three years ago today I started to blog. I just felt the need to answer some common questions people were asking over the phone or in person at the Wild Birds Unlimited stores. 

I'm still answering questions, now more than ever. When I started to Facebook and Twitter in January, the blog's readership grew like crazy!

According to Blogger's statistics page of the Wild Birds Unlimited Mid-Michigan blog:

-I've had more visits this year than the last two years combined.
-There have been over 200,000 visits to the blog
-82% of the readers live in the US, and the 18% live in other countries.
-32% of blog readers live in Michigan

My posts focus mainly on local nature and I was very surprised to look back and see what people were reading.

Top 5 most read posts from Sept 2010 to 2011 are:

1.What Should Be My Next Feeder?: http://bit.ly/nkaKJb
2. Where do you hang a bat house?: http://bit.ly/nAoNpQ
3. Squirrel proof bird feeder reviews: http://bit.ly/nuDZ86
4. Fun Facts About Bald Eagles: http://bit.ly/pMTSrQ
5. Close-up of Baltimore Oriole: http://bit.ly/pX4kwM

I appreciate all the questions and kind feedback. If you need information or would like to share a story or photo you can email me at bloubird@gmail.com. I answer emails as soon as I can and then post my responses in the blog eventually. I try to space the posts out evenly over the month. 

Or you can come in to the stores. I'm usually at the Wild Birds Unlimited stores in East Lansing, Michigan

It's never a bother to answer questions. At Wild Birds Unlimited, we strive to offer the best customer service, top quality seed, feeders, and information to make sure you have the best backyard bird feeding experience possible. 

Thank you for supporting our local business,

Store location:
Wild Birds Unlimited
2200 Coolidge Rd. Ste.17
East Lansing, MI 48823

E-mail:    bloubird@gmail.com
Website: http://lansing.wbu.com/
Blog:       http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/
Twitter:    http://twitter.com/birdsunlimited
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/lansingwbu

Monday, September 19, 2011

Types of Bird feathers

Every time I go to fill the feeders in the fall I see that the birds are dropping feathers all around. Long stiff feathers, short fluffy feathers, gray, blue, yellow… There are several different kinds of feathers which serve several different functions and now that the birds are going through a molt you can take a closer look at the differences.

Generally five types of feathers cover the body of a bird: contour, semiplume, down, filoplume and bristle. Contour feathers are the feathers that cover and protect the bird. They are sort of staggered like scales on a snake. The most common contour feathers that people find on the ground are the tail and flight feathers. At first look they may seem the same, but tail feathers are usually more balanced with a stiff center shaft and flight feathers have a wider and narrower side to help cut through the air. In between the contour feathers are semiplumes that provide both support and insulation. Underneath the contour feathers are down feathers. The purpose of down feathers is to trap air between the feathers and the bird’s skin to insulate it. Some birds, such as baby chicks, are born covered in down.

Other feathers act as sensors. Filoplumes are bare except for a few barbs. They grow around contour feathers and may help birds sense the position of feathers in flight. Bristle feathers look like little stiff hairs and grow around some birds’ beaks or eyes. Bristles may help birds such as swallows catch prey by funneling insects toward the mouth. They may also protect the eyes. Woodpeckers have bristles over their nostrils that help keep wood chips out. Bristles may also act like a cat’s whiskers helping a bird feel what’s around it.

Because feathers are critical for flight and insulation, birds keep them well-maintained, especially in the winter. After a bath the birds obtain oil from the uropygial gland and reapply it with their bills to straighten and waterproof their feathers.

Some birds that don't have the preen gland like pigeons and herons also grow powder down feathers. These feathers grow continuously and never molt. Instead the barbs at their tips constantly disintegrate into a fine, talc-like, water-resistant powder.

Related articles:
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 

Clipart courtesy FCIT http://etc.usf.edu/clipart

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chimney Swift fun facts

Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica
  • Chimney Swifts are small, all dark swifts with a reputation for flying fast.
  • They are most conspicuous as they forage on warm summer evenings as huge flocks migrate mid-September.
  • Swifts fly almost constantly. They bathe and drink by skimming water surfaces.
  • They don’t perch but use their strong claws to hold on to vertical surfaces.
  • Originally, these birds nested in large hollow trees, but now they mainly nest in man-made structures such as large open chimneys.
  • Recent changes in chimney design, with covered, narrow flues, have decreased the available nest sites and may be a factor in declining population numbers.
  • The birds lay 3 to 7 white eggs in a nest is made of twigs glued together with saliva. The incubation period is 19-20 days, and the fledglings leave the nest after a month.
  • Chimney Swifts eat about 1/3 of their weight every day in bugs.
  • They usually forage for insects in groups, flying together closely and making a high-pitched chipping noise.
  • Chimney swifts winter in the Amazon Basin of Peru. They arrive in the continental United States in late March and are gone by early November.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Best beginner bird feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited

My niece and her new husband are moving in to their first house and I want to give them a bird feeder. What would you recommend for a family just starting the bird feeding hobby. I want a good quality feeder that won't fall apart in 3 months but nothing big. ~ Holt, MI

The Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) East Lansing, Michigan store actually just developed a budget-friendly Green Solutions line of feeders. I have been test marketing them since April and the feedback has been fabulous!

Even though the Green Solutions line isn't as high-end as our other WBU line, it's still high quality and may meet the needs of some cost conscience shoppers. The feeders are smaller and all hang but they are still made in the USA from recycled plastic containers and have a lifetime guarantee like most of our feeders. 

They are an attractive light green in varying sizes and styles. There are 3 different hoppers, 2 tray feeders, and a fly-thru feeder. All are excellent for the beginning or experienced bird feeding hobbyists.

The Green Solutions feeders are all easy to clean with a unique expanded rust-resistant mesh screen bottom that provides excellent drainage to keep seed dry and fresh and promote healthy bird feeding. The feeders recycled plastic will last forever, and most important, the design will attract a wide variety of birds.

Wonderful! I gave my son Ben the WBU window feeder you recommended 3 years ago when he moved into his first apartment. He's moved a couple times since then but he told me after each move, when he watches the birds, it feels like home. See you soon. Jennifer

Related articles:
Best bird feeders?: http://bit.ly/q69iq8
Best foods for birds in winter http://bit.ly/6fkng 
Best Binoculars: How to Choose Optics: http://bit.ly/pHJfXE
Best bird feeding poles?: http://bit.ly/nawdCo

Friday, September 16, 2011

"Where flowers bloom, so does hope" ~ Lady Bird Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson about age 3Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor 3yrs
Anniversary of the Highway Beautification Act
Claudia Alta Taylor, later known as Lady Bird Johnson was nicknamed in childhood by a nurse that declared she was as "purty as a ladybird". The reference was actually to the black and red ladybird beetles we call commonly "ladybug" in Michigan.

But the reference to beauty in nature was very apt. Mrs. Johnson was an active worker on innumerable projects to protect the environment. Throughout her time as First Lady at the White House, she fought to make American cities more beautiful and played a big part in passing the Highway Beautification Act, in the Senate on September 16, 1965.

Lady Bird JohnsonImage via Wikipedia
"Lady Bird" Taylor Johnson
(12/22/12 – 7/11/07)
The act called for control of outdoor advertising along the nation's growing Interstate Highway System. It also encouraged scenic enhancement and roadside development. Patches of wildflowers were seeded in interstate medians. Green spaces were created. Her beliefs regarding the importance of national beautification can best be summarized in her statement that "where flowers bloom, so does hope."

In 1982, Mrs. Johnson founded the National Wildflower Research Center, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the preservation and re-establishment of native plants in natural and planned landscapes.

For more information go to: http://www.wildflower.org/
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Should I fill my hummingbird feeder up all the way?

I know you wrote you leave your hummingbird feeder up until you haven’t seen a hummer for two weeks. I’m leaving my feeders up later than I usually would and I’m pleased that I’m getting these occasional fat hummingbirds like you said. I bought the saucer style feeder that you recommended as the best, but I don’t fill it all the way now. Can they still reach food or should I fill it to the top every time?

At the end of September in mid-Michigan, you’re not going to see the regular hummers that you enjoyed all summer. So it’s alright to fill your saucer feeder only half full. Hummingbirds actually have a long flexible tongue that is good for reaching into long flowers or the bottom of your feeder. The tongue itself isn't just muscle but includes a series of small bones folded accordion-like. When a Ruby-throated Hummingbird flexes its tongue muscles, these bones unfold and allow the hummer to extend its tongue almost an inch past the tip of the nearly inch-long bill. And believe it or not, a hummingbird's tongue can lap at the rate of 13 times per second.

I’m glad you’re still enjoying the hummingbirds. Keep the questions coming.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What does the stripes on a woolly bear worm mean, when it comes to predicting the weather?

On these last few warm sunny days you may notice Woolly Bear Caterpillars moving around looking for food and a safe spot to spend the winter. Some crawl in the crevices of tree bark, others under some dead leaves.

Does the length of the black and tan predict whether it will be a harsh winter or not?
Evan with an all orange woolly

No real study has ever been conducted. In 1948 Dr. Curran did a loose study where he recorded the stripe length of a small sampling of caterpillars and then the harshness of the following winter. His experiment was publicized in the paper and made the Woolly Bear Caterpillar one of the most recognized caterpillars in North America. Scientist today think, if anything, the stripes would tell what the last winter was, not the future. But no large study has ever been completed.

What would an all orange woolly bear caterpillar mean for winter?

Anna helps Evan with his woolly
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac:
The wider that middle orange section is, the milder the coming winter. Conversely, a narrow brown band is said to predict a harsh winter. So an all orange woolly would mean a mild winter which is also what is being predicted for mid-Michigan by the Old Farmer’s Almanac:

Source: Old Farmer's Almanac:  http://www.almanac.com/

Monday, September 12, 2011

Why are the birds eating so much?

As many of you have noticed, birds have been attacking the feeders like there is no tomorrow. And there won't be if they don't bulk up now to prepare for a harsh Michigan winter or a long journey south. Birds change into a “superbird” state when their internal clock is triggered by shorter days and cooler weather at the end of summer.

Right now a bird needs to increase its fat reserves by as much as 1-10% per day. This feeding frenzy is called hyperphagia. In human terms, this would mean I would have to gain 12 pounds per day. That gives "eats like a bird" a whole new meaning. But remember that their fat increase is vital for the extreme energy required to survive the coming months.

To help the birds, you can feed them high energy, high fat foods. Wild Birds Unlimited is dedicated to offering fresh, top-quality seed. Our no-waste bird seed blends are made from 100% edible seed and have been exclusively formulated for the feeding preferences of our local birds. No cereal fillers—just fresh, high-quality seed your birds will love.

Have Wings, Will Travel: Avian Adaptations to Migration http://nationalzoo.si.edu/scbi/migratorybirds/fact_sheets/default.cfm?fxsht=4

Related articles:
Prepare Your Yard for Fall Bird Feeding: http://bit.ly/pkJUmW
Best bird feeders?: http://bit.ly/q69iq8
Michigan’s Winter Backyard Birds: http://bit.ly/rt7Nvr
Best foods for birds in winter http://bit.ly/6fkng

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Migration of the Common Loon

Common Loons’ sleek black and white breeding plumage is changed to a less showy gray and white during their fall molt. The birds gather in large migration groups during late summer and early fall, and then migrate south alone. They usually travel from the early morning at high elevations (between 4900-8800 feet) at speeds up to 105 mph until sunset. Adults leave first followed a few weeks later by the young. The Common Loons that nest in upper Michigan winter in the Gulf of Mexico and along the eastern coast of Florida.
Fun Facts on Loons
  • Adult loons are 3 feet long with a wingspan of 5 feet.
  • Loons feed on freshwater fish in the summer and saltwater fish in the winter.
  • Loons dive for their dinners and have nearly solid bones that make them sink unlike most birds which have hollow bones.
  • Loons have a built in nostril flap to keep water out while they dive.
  • Adult loons have red eyes, however, due to the properties of water, most red is filtered out, making them invisible to prey.
  • Most loons mate for life and are very faithful to a nesting site.
  • If it ain’t broke don’t fix it: The males’ territorial song which consists of an undulating complex yodel remains the same unless it loses the battle for his territory.
  • During the first seven days of life, chicks ride safely on the backs of their parents. It is thought that once the loon chicks leave the nest, they don’t touch land again until they are 5-6 years old.
  • Loons don’t begin mating until they are about seven years old and can live as long as 30 years.
  • Loons aren’t ducks or geese but in the genus called Gavia (Latin for aquatic bird), and the species name of Michigan’s Common Loon is immer (Latin meaning to immerse).
  • The common name loon comes from the Swedish word lom which means lame. While graceful in the air and water, the birds’ feet are located so far back on their body, they look awkward walking on land.
  • The tremolo of a loon is known as the laughing call. The phrase “crazy as a loon” comes because the loons’ call can sound like wild laughter.
  • Loons are rendered flightless for up 2 months (Jan-Feb) while the molt and grow new primary feathers.
  • The Common Loon is no longer common in Michigan and is listed as a threatened native species.
Michigan Loon Preservation Assoc. - http://www.michiganloons.com/index.html
Fascinating Loons by Stan Tekiela (available at Wild BirdsUnlimited)
Photos from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_loon

Related articles:
Odd Phrases That Involve Birds: http://bit.ly/phVXxe
What Weighs More, Bird's Feathers or Bird's Bones?: http://bit.ly/r6BSYl

Saturday, September 10, 2011

How long does bird seed stay fresh?

I don’t come into Lansing too often. If I bought 100 pounds of your no mess bird food blend and 100 pounds of peanuts will it last 6 months? How long can I store bird food? ~ Caledonia, Michigan

Foods will generally be fine for at least 3-4 months if stored properly. All foods should be stored in a cool, dry place –during the fall and winter, the garage is often the best place. Wild Birds Unlimited has closed steel containers that work well to protect seed from unwanted seed thieves or bad weather. Don’t just dump new seed on top of old. It’s best to keep the seed in its original bag to make sure the older seed is used before you open a newer bag.

What's actually more important is how long you let food remain in feeders. In the rainy fall, at the very least, feeders can get clogged with wet seed and at worse the seed could be moldy and cause the birds sickness. So, in between rain drops, take a quick peek at your feeders, especially your goldfinch feeders, and toss out any moldy seed, suet, fruit, or nectar, and make sure your feeders are clean.

Remember, birds give us a lot of pleasure as we watch them eat, so let’s provide them a safe and clean feeding station at all times. Feeders should also be cleaned at least once a month, year round. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing - will clean your feeder for $5.00. Or you can purchase professional cleaners like Scoot at Wild Birds Unlimited, or use a mild one part vinegar to nine parts water solution to clean all of your feeders. Disassemble feeders and immerse them completely for three minutes. Scrub with brushes (we have these too), rinse thoroughly, and let air dry. 

When I choose a new feeder I always look for something easy to clean and fill. If you keep these measures in mind, you can keep this hobby enjoyable for your family and safe for your birds. Bon appetite!

You’ve got me thinking. Thank you for your honest answers. I guess I can make a couple trips into Lansing for your seed. My birds keep me happy, so I guess the least I can do is keep them happy. I love your blog and now your store. We come in every time we make a trip to Lansing. It was like having a bird catalog come alive the fist time we came in. Have a good day!

Thank you. I look forward to seeing you soon. Sarah

Related articles:
What is No-Mess Bird Seed?: http://bit.ly/pl516I
What birds like peanuts?: http://bit.ly/qKbHT0
Seed Storage Cans and WBU Seed Scoops: http://bit.ly/q6th9R
Do I need to clean my bird feeder?: http://bit.ly/nYKz40
The best bird feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited: http://bit.ly/pv36W6

Friday, September 9, 2011

2011 Michigan Bluebird Society Fall Picnic

Come To The Annual MBS Fall Picnic Sept. 18th!

The Michigan Bluebird Society will be holding its annual Fall Picnic on Sunday September 18th at the Sleepy Hollow State Park in Laingsburg, Michigan. They’ll be holding the picnic in the beach pavilion from 11 to about 3:00.  MBS will be providing the food and beverages.  It’s free for members, and a modest fee of $5 for non-members to cover the cost of lunch.   

We plan to have an array of bluebird nesting boxes showing the latest and greatest innovations in attracting more bluebirds.  In addition, the park's Outreach Coordinator Katie Robinson will give a short talk at 2:00 on the Birds of Sleepy Hollow State Park, followed by a nature hike on some of the trails.

Sleepy Hollow has over 2,600 acres of river, woods, trails, and 400 acre Lake Ovid – but fortunately no Headless Horsemen!  You can easily get to the park off M-127 north of Lansing by taking the Price Road exit to the east. 

Sleepy Hollow 7835 E. Price Road.  
Phone number: (517) 651-6217. 
For more information about Sleepy Hollow, go to www.michigan.gov/sleepyhollow
You can also get more details about the Picnic at the MBS website:  www.michiganbluebirds.org/events
 For a map to Sleepy Hollow State Park, click here.

NOTE:  that there is an admission charge per vehicle to the state park of $6.
To help us plan for food, please let us know if you can attend by email:  khagemeister@sbcglobal.net This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or phone:  734-663-9746.  Just leave a message saying your name and how many will be attending.  See you there!

The Sense of Wonder

 "If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in." 
--Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder