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.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

The right suet for spring bird feeding

Spring is a time when a lot of birds fly thousands of miles to return to their Michigan nesting grounds. When they reach your yard they are exhausted and looking for a quick high protein meal to help them recover. With some cold days still ahead, expect different warblers, grosbeaks, wrens and your regular woodpeckers to stop by to fuel up on your suet feeder. Another good reason to always keep that feeder full!

To choose a suet that attracts the widest variety of birds, the first ingredient should always be rendered beef suet. Some people feed straight suet only. Straight beef suet will deter starlings and blackbirds at the suet feeder if they become overwhelming. If you want to offer more protein and flavor 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.

All of the suets at the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI store are made with only the highest quality processed beef kidney fat. It is the most concentrated source of energy you can offer wild birds. Our best seller is the peanut butter suet cake, which has only three ingredients: rendered beef fat, chopped peanuts and peanut butter.

If you have a problem with squirrels or other wildlife eating your suet try our Hot Pepper Suet. It has rendered beef suet, ground peanuts and capsicum pepper. Capsicum contains capsaicin, a chemical that that doesn’t harm but can produce a strong hot sensation in the mouth of squirrels. Most mammals find this unpleasant, whereas birds are unaffected.
Related Articles:
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/Gmn0b
- Do we stop feeding suet in the summer? http://goo.gl/KM80C
- Best field guide for Michigan birds http://bit.ly/vPOMx1
- Warblers in Michigan http://goo.gl/WMMGs
- Best starling and blackbird resistant suet feeders http://starling-and-blackbird-resistant.html

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Photo Share: Robins looking for a place to nest

Once a robin chooses your yard as their nesting territory you know spring has arrived! This week I've had them dunking themselves in the bath and under the feeders looking for nuts. And the songs in the morning are glorious!

However as they forage for food, guard territories, and get ready to raise a family, they don’t always have time to be bothered with their surroundings. As a result you may have noticed more birds in the road trying to outrun cars. Please drive careful during spring migration when we have new birds in the area. Don't just assume they will get out of the way.

Each year 60 million to 80 million bird deaths are attributed to cars. That's why I like to create a little bird sanctuary in my yard. I garden with native plants, put up birdhouses, and feed the birds.

Related Articles:
Why should we care about birds? http://bit.ly/KnwOxf
Michigan DNRE asking drivers to watch out for bald eagles http://bit.ly/KnxQJu
Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://t.co/Br4EnlB
Loss of the Passenger Pigeon http://bit.ly/sUPlXj
Stop baby birds from crashing into windows http://bit.ly/KUVpe5

Friday, March 29, 2019

Seeds to attract birds but not squirrels

I purchased a new bird feeder. What kind of seeds do I feed to attract woodpeckers, cardinals and other birds but not squirrels?
If squirrels drive you nuts or blackbirds and starlings crowd your feeder, you might try the Safflower Solution. Safflower is a small, white, bitter seed that is high in protein and fat. Many favorite backyard birds - including cardinals, chickadees, finches, doves, woodpeckers, titmice and nuthatches- savor safflower. Blackbirds, starlings, and squirrels typically refuse to eat safflower seed.

Start by offering safflower gradually, mixing it with the seed you currently use. Over time increase the amount of safflower until you are feeding straight safflower. The seed looks and tastes different from other bird seed, so it may take your birds some time to adjust.

Squirrels are one of the most curious and adaptable animals to be found anywhere and they are unmatched in their problem-solving ability to defeat many bird feeders! Here are a few more tips to keep squirrels away:

1. Squirrel resistant feeders- The easiest way to feed the birds and not the squirrels is to have a squirrel resistant feeder. Now I know people come in to Wild Birds Unlimited all the time and say they don’t work, but ours do and most come with a lifetime guarantee! They are going to cost more than the cheap, “pretty” feeders the critters destroy every year, but they are easy to clean, easy to fill, backed by a lifetime guarantee, and the birds love them.

2. Seed selection- If you don’t want to invest in another feeder, the next solution is to switch your seed to straight safflower seed. Squirrels also avoid Nyjer® (thistle) feeders which feed the Goldfinches.

3. Baffles- Squirrels can jump 4-5 feet high and across 5-10 feet. A baffle will make it harder for the squirrels to reach the seed. There are several types of baffles that you can use too. You can put a baffle around a pole to stop them from reaching your feeder. Or you can buy a baffle that goes over your feeder that protects it from squirrels dropping down from the trees.

4. Hot pepper- As a last resort add hot. Mammals have receptors on their tongues that send messages (too hot!) when they eat hot peppers, but these receptors are missing in birds.“Cole's Flaming Squirrel Seed Sauce” is made from Capsicum peppers, known colloquially where they are grown as “bird peppers.” With treated bird seed in your bird feeders, a squirrel quickly learns not to visit and continues to find a new source of food. But you have to be careful because you are a mammal too and there is a caution on every bag about wearing gloves to protect yourself.

Related Articles:
- Squirrel proof bird feeder reviews http://bit.ly/waJs9o
- Why are Squirrels Called Squirrels? http://bit.ly/yhktkr
- Squirrel Fun Facts http://goo.gl/M3mT2M
- Why squirrels chew http://bit.ly/AjVzFW
- Close-up look at the seeds wild birds eat http://bit.ly/IET0hP
- How to keep moths out of bird seed http://bit.ly/IESK2h
- How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://bit.ly/rTLSqJ
- Seed Storage Cans and WBU Seed Scoops http://bit.ly/uBaSwO

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Bluebird mating ritual interrupted by the male bird fluttering into window

I saw a pair of bluebirds sitting on one of my bird houses early Sunday, but then the female seemed to disappear. Monday the male bird kept fluttering and bumping into my window both In the front and the back of my house. Is there a logical explanation for this? 

When you watch "young love" or in other words inexperienced bluebirds choosing mates and territory, the outcome is never a sure thing. In the spring bluebird family groups break up and previously unattached males and females move to new territories. The young will move from the parental territories eventually to another location before choosing a mate. This is called natal dispersal and reduces the chances of inbreeding.

Older birds can quickly re-establish their connection and begin nesting as soon as the weather permits. Young males at the beginning of nesting season start singing loudly from tree tops to attract a mate and announce their presence to neighboring males.

Once he attracts a female, the songs become quieter. You may also observe different visual displays. The wing-wave is where a bird sort of twitters his wings like a baby bird to get a females attention, usually near a birdhouse. They also use a lopsided flight or hover flight to show off a potential nesting site.

Unfortunately if something happens to the female or she moves on to a better mate, the male is left alone. With his increased testosterone, aggressive behavior is stimulated. If he sees another male, a battle ensues. And when he sees his reflection in the window, he thinks it looks like another bird just his size trying to steal his territory.

When you see a bird take offense at seeing his reflection in your windows or car mirrors take action immediately! His domineering behavior should be curbed before it becomes just a bad habit. The objective is to shock the bird out of its pattern of territoriality. Robins, blackbirds, and cardinals are also well known for this type of behavior but it can occur with any bird.

They are usually unattached birds without a mate to direct them in a productive direction. Most birds do stop after a couple weeks of window pounding in the spring, but it's better to try and deter the birds just in case it turns out to be an action that is performed so often that it becomes almost an involuntary response.

Some tips to deter bird window attacks:

• The Warning Web* decal fools birds away from a window that looks like it has a spider web.
• Cover the window with screens and shut the blinds on your windows when you can.
• Rub the window with a bar of soap to decrease the reflection.
• Hang balloons or Flutter Scare tape* to distance the bird from that area.
• Install a Window Feeder.* This breaks the reflection and other birds interrupt the birds battles with the reflection.

*Available at Wild Birds Unlimited – East Lansing, Michigan

Related Articles:
Emergency Numbers for injured birds http://bit.ly/KLhavK
How to stop the Mad Cardinal Attacking My Window. http://bit.ly/KLhESM
How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d
Follow spring migration patterns online http://goo.gl/WLGiu

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Migration Map: Where are the orioles

When do the orioles arrive?

Most orioles winter in American tropics and Southern Mexico southward. By March and April some orioles begin moving north. On average, they probably travel about 150 miles each night in flocks, flying at about 20 miles per hour. If the weather is favorable, it will take an oriole about 2-3 weeks to complete his migration north to reach my mid-Michigan window again by May. I'll have my feeder on the window at the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store up by the end of April waiting for him arrive.

The best way to attract orioles to your yard is by landscaping with fruiting trees and with feeders that offer a variety of food—suet, seed cylinders, mealworms, BirdBerry™ Jelly, nectar (sugar water) or fruit (oranges, grapes, apples).
Map taken from https://maps.JourneyNorth.org
You can keep track of their migration on the https://maps.journeynorth.org/map/
or you can go to http://ebird.org/ to explore data using range and point maps.

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

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Migration Map: Where are the hummingbirds

Map taken from https://maps.JourneyNorth.org
There is still some mystery as to how birds decide it is time to return in the spring. Through observation, it is believed migration is triggered by amount of daylight, hormones, weather conditions, and the availability of food.

Healthy Ruby-throated hummingbirds can tolerate nights in the teens as long as there is tree sap, bugs, blooms and feeders available. Hummingbirds.net explains that most Ruby-throated Hummingbirds winter between southern Mexico and northern Panama and begin moving north as early as January gorging on insects and spiders to add a thick layer of fat in preparation for flying to the U.S.

Once in North America, migration continues at an average rate of about 20 miles per day, generally following the earliest blooming of flowers. The northern limit of this species coincides with that of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker; if the earliest males arrive in Michigan before sufficient flowers are blooming, they raid sapsucker wells for sugar, as well as eat insects caught in the sap.

Along with following the blooms and bugs, hummers also use tail winds to their advantage. The average speed of a migrating hummer without wind is 25 to 30 miles per hour, but if they wait for a good tail wind they can double that speed. The northward migration is complete by late May. Banding studies show that each bird tends to return every year to the same place it hatched, even visiting the same feeders. See the Ruby-throated migration map for the species' range and earliest arrival dates.

To check spring maps of other birds, bugs, and blooms go to https://maps.journeynorth.org/maps
or you can go to http://ebird.org/ to explore data using range and point maps.

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

Monday, March 25, 2019

Identify bluebird nest

With the approach of spring the Eastern Bluebirds are beginning to search actively for places to nest. If you live in the country, near an open field or around a golf course that has open spaces and trees, you have a very good chance of attracting a nesting pair of bluebirds to your property.
Modified from nabluebirdsociety.org

Eastern Bluebirds are cavity nesters and prefer to nest in abandoned woodpecker nests or tree hollows. However bluebirds natural habitats have been reduced and old tree snags eliminated. That's where birdhouses come in by setting up a man-made tree hollow (also know as birdhouse or nestbox).

Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI has several styles of functional bird houses that help Eastern Bluebirds or perhaps a Tree Swallows find a place to nest.

And if you live in the suburbs a “bluebird” box could also house some other common backyard birds like the House Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, House Wrens, and Carolina Wrens.

Related Articles:
Ultimate Bluebird House http://bit.ly/xeGs0e
Feeding and Raising Bluebirds http://bit.ly/A39dAh
How to Protect My Bluebird House http://bit.ly/zI48Ts
5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses http://bit.ly/yNT6Ye
When is the best time to put up a bird house? http://bit.ly/yAI123
Bluebird House Designs http://bit.ly/w7FWRE

Sunday, March 24, 2019

You can feed birds year-round

I love to feed birds year-round. Some of my favorite winter birds include the puffed up chickadee, the brilliant red cardinal, and the drab but sunny-songed goldfinches. They all brighten the long cold winter days.

But I can’t wait to put out extra plates for the spring and summer birds; Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, wrens, hummingbirds, orioles, Song and Chipping Sparrows to name just a few. My reward is the extra bright songs and colors right outside my window.

Birds don't take a Spring Break. It is the hardest time for them to find food as many prime food sources are depleted. Bird feeders provide an easy source for birds after a long winter or arduous migration. Many birds migrating to their nesting grounds may see yards with lots of bird activity as a safe stop-over point. The numbers and variety of birds appearing in your yard can actually change every morning all the way to the end of May as species such as warblers, vireos, tanagers, gnatcatchers, kinglets and sparrows all migrate north.

In the spring, birds have a long “to-do” list and a short time to accomplish it. They claim territory, seek out mates, build nests and begin to raise their young. With so many birds arriving there’s a lot of competition. Offering foods makes everything a little easier to accomplish.

Birds that have survived winter in good health are best suited for getting reproduction going as soon as possible. A wide variety of studies have shown that providing supplemental foods permits birds to begin reproduction earlier with better success. The additional food helps them have more eggs per nest, bigger eggs, better hatchability, faster nestling growth, and lower nestling mortality. Feeding is especially helpful in years when storms and other natural disasters happen.

Backyard bird watchers can enjoy a variety of birds up close and wait eagerly for the new babies to arrive at the feeders and baths. In the summer, even if there is a lot of food available for birds, believe me, energy requirements are high when you have many mouths to feed and sometimes they just appreciate a night out at the feeders.

Related Articles:
What seed is best for attracting the colorful birds? http://goo.gl/SAA35
What are the differences between the Wild Birds Unlimited seed blends? http://goo.gl/lF0rr
What seeds do wild birds eat? http://goo.gl/MjUCA
When should I feed the birds? http://goo.gl/IvocS

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Make your yard inviting for robins

In early spring American Robins are looking around for the best neighborhood to start their families. There a few steps you can take to make your yard more attractive.

Things you can do to attract American Robins.
1. Water - A clean bath full of fresh water is a good way to draw robins to the yard. Water is a powerful attraction and will increase the number and variety of birds visiting your yard.

2. Food - You can feed robins chopped apples, suet, mealworms, or nuts on a tray feeder. I like to put out a Wild Birds Unlimited bugs, nuts, and berries seed cylinder that is full of pecans and fruit when the robins visit.

3. Landscape - For roosting and nesting, robins like evergreens and they like to eat a variety of fruits and nuts in the winter. Some fruit and nut trees are pecans, walnuts, acorns, apples, cherries, and dogwood fruit from trees and the berries of blackberries, blueberries, greenbrier, honeysuckle, juneberries, juniper, madrone, mountain ash, mulberry, pokeberry, pyracantha, raspberry, sassafras, serviceberry, spiceberry, sumac, viburnum, and woodbine.

4. Nesting material - The American Robins choose their Michigan nesting territories in March and they are excited to start nesting. That means they need a lot of Nesting Material like grasses and mud to build the perfect nest. The nest is usually located 5 to 15 feet above ground in a dense bush or evergreen, in the crotch of a tree, or on window ledges or other human shelves. Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI also has nesting platforms.  Mount the shelf on a building in a sheltered site, under the eaves or soffits, or over a light fixture.

5. Chemical free lawn - In the spring the robins' diet changes from mostly fruit, nuts and berries to insects and worms. According to the (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center, many 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.

Related Articles:

Why are the Robins Attracted to Water? http://bit.ly/qP9aTs
Fledgling Robins Find Their Way http://bit.ly/pqrhSL
Fun Facts About The American Robin http://bit.ly/n9CSni
Bird of the Week: American Robin http://bit.ly/pnUKqk
Why robins are called Robin  http://why-robins-are-called-robin.html

Friday, March 22, 2019

Killdeer arrive

Another sure sign of spring is the call of the Killdeer. Killdeer are a shorebird you can see without going to the beach. Every year we have one nesting in the runoff ditch across the street from the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing. You usually hear their familiar Kill-deer call before you see them, especially if you aren't expecting to see them on the edge of a parking lot.

Killdeer are surprisingly unobtrusive even with their yellow legs, white belly, two black necklaces and a brown face marked with black and white patches. They spend their time walking along the ground or running ahead a few steps, stopping to look around, and running on again as they look for earthworms, snails, crayfish, grasshoppers, beetles, and aquatic insect larvae.

Killdeer that breed in the southern half of the US and along the Pacific Coast are year-round residents. But those that breed in the northern US and Canada, where winter conditions are more severe, winter in Gulf and Atlantic states. In the new year, migrating killdeer arrive in Michigan early March, with peak numbers in last 3 weeks of March. In Michigan, egg-laying begins in late April and continues through June. In most northern areas, one brood is normal and second or third nesting attempts usually happen because of a failure of earlier efforts. By the end of October most have returned south.
Related Articles: https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/414948
- Killdeer nest abandoned http://goo.gl/qNkf3w
- What bird makes a ground nest in Michigan? http://goo.gl/2yc02
- What Do I Feed Baby Killdeer? http://goo.gl/fXiYD
- Nesting Questions http://goo.gl/pNt7V

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Photo Share: Seeing Double Pileated

Captured this in our backyard in Bath. First time seeing Pileated Woodpeckers! And two! I've since been able to witness the pair fly from tree to tree in our back woods twice now. Hoping they stick around for more sightings! Enjoy!
 Thank you for sharing your photos! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com and I'll put it on the Photo Share posts. 

Related Articles:
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
- Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX
- How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/tJ7e6S 

- Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/tQ5lwt
- How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Supermoon gets birds excited for spring!

Early this morning I started on my way to Wild Birds Unlimited and was treated by this morning's full moon, on the first day of spring, accentuated by robin calls! Full moons that fall on the first day of spring happen only about three times a century and hasn’t happened since March 20, 1981.

It’s also a supermoon, third of 3 consecutive supermoons in the first quarter of 2019 and the final supermoon this year. All that extra light is getting the birds super excited. Robins tend to break their silence more than an hour earlier with the extra light.

The dawn chorus is when birds sing louder, livelier, and more frequently. It’s mostly of male birds, attempting to attract mates and warn other males away from their territories. Singing loud and proud first thing in the morning tells everyone within hearing distance that you were strong and healthy enough to survive the night. This is attractive to potential mates, and lets your competitors know you’re still around and in charge of your territory. Also dawn songs are clearer and more consistent, which allows individual males’ signature songs to be identified easily by their bird neighbors.

Later in the spring, when males sing while the female songbirds lay their eggs in early morning it may reinforce the bond with the female, and dissuade other males from jumping into the nest. 

Related Articles:
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/H42e6s
- What seeds wild birds eat http://goo.gl/Un35yR
- What to do if you have soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
- Early birds also get the best mates http://early-birds-also-get-best-mates.html

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

House Wrens migrating

When do wrens arrive in the Chicago area in the spring?
Most House Wrens in North America migrate to the southern U.S. and Mexico for winter by October. They usually return to their Northern nesting territories from the end of April until the end of May. They want to get here as early as possible to set up house but a lot depends on the cooperation of the winds and weather.

If you go to http://ebird.org/ you can explore data using range and point maps to see if anyone has reported sighting House Wrens. I put in House Wren and the date range for March of this year and saw that most reports are still in the southern states. My results are at: https://ebird.org/map/housewren2019

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 https://house-wren-vs-carolina-wren.html

Monday, March 18, 2019

Common cavity nesters

Why don't all birds nest in bird houses or natural cavities?

Over 80 species of North American birds excavate nesting holes with their bill, use natural tree cavities, re-use holes created by other species or utilize bird houses. Chickadees, woodpeckers, bluebirds, swallows, wrens, nuthatches, sparrows, and owls are just a few of the birds that use birdhouses to keep warm in the winter and build nests in come spring.

It seems like a good idea during the cold winters or rainy springs to have a cozy shelter. In reality many species of cavity-nesting birds have declined because of habitat reduction. Manicured suburbs have few dead trees and in the eastern United States, where primeval forests are gone some birds like Eastern Bluebirds and Purple Martins depend almost entirely on man-made houses. You can help birds to nest in your backyard by providing bird houses.

Other birds like cardinals, jays, doves, juncos, robins, and finches roost and nest in dense brush, bushes, or trees. You can still help them nest by providing quality food and nesting materials.

Related Articles:
How to get birds to nest in your yard https:/Get-birds-to-nest-in-your-yard.html
How do you know when a nest is abandoned? http://bit.ly/usMPY8
Goldfinches: The Last Birds Nesting http://bit.ly/sqafTq
Common Backyard Bird Nest Identification http://bit.ly/sVfipj
Common Bird House Problems http://bit.ly/wrWzyN
Which Way Do You Face a Birdhouse? http://bit.ly/AD43TW 
DO NOT Collect Dryer Lint for the birds to use as nesting material! http://bit.ly/wC5HcO

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Photo Share: Female cardinal

The Northern Cardinal is a favorite backyard bird of many people not only for their coloring but also the demonstrative courtship displays they perform to strengthen their bond in the spring. Cardinals live well next to humans and are found in residential areas all over mid-Michigan. Cardinals prefer to feed on the ground so if you can "raise the ground" by feeding cardinals on tray feeders, hopper feeders or any feeder that gives them a comfortable feeding position they'll be happy. Their favorite food is oil sunflower, nuts, safflower and seed cylinders. Wild Birds Unlimited has a wide variety of cardinal friendly food and feeders.

They are also attracted to fruit and berry producing trees and bushes. And my cardinals love the honeysuckle vine to build a nest. They are not cavity nesters so they don't want a bird house. They prefer to build their own nests in the lower part of dense evergreen or vines. The female builds a cup-shaped nest with twigs, strips of bark, and grass, and is lined with leaves, cottons, or hair. Nesting Materials placed in trees or bushes close by will allow you to observe a part of nest construction!

Related Articles:
How to get birds to nest in your yard https:/Get-birds-to-nest-in-your-yard.html
How do you know when a nest is abandoned? http://bit.ly/usMPY8
Goldfinches: The Last Birds Nesting http://bit.ly/sqafTq
Common Backyard Bird Nest Identification http://bit.ly/sVfipj
Common Bird House Problems http://bit.ly/wrWzyN
Which Way Do You Face a Birdhouse? http://bit.ly/AD43TW 
DO NOT Collect Dryer Lint for the birds to use as nesting material! http://bit.ly/wC5HcO

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Tips to deter blackbirds from mobbing the feeder

I was hoping you can offer some advice on an ongoing spring problem in our yard. The blackbirds and starlings have started landing enmasse as I'm sure we are on their flight path after 25 years of feeding birds. I don't mind that they clean up areas under our feeders that have accumulated over the winter but they empty our feeders quickly and our resident birds get nothing. I have a number of niger feeders that they can't get on but our chickadees, sparrows, cardinals etc get chased away. Do you have any advice? We stop putting food out in the bigger feeders but see our regular birds looking so forlorn, it is heartbreaking. How long will it take for them to move on if we stop feeding them? Thank you.
I love it when the feeders are mobbed by the big, loud, blackbirds and starlings in the beginning of the year. They’re all excited! Unfortunately most of the bugs (their favorite summer food) haven’t
appeared yet and March means slim pickings for a lot of birds. So they turn to feasting at your feeders. And while I love all the activity, I know many people worry about the other birds they have been feeding all winter being pushed around. I've compiled some tips to deter the starlings and blackbirds, but still attract cardinals, chickadees, finches, and all the other less boisterous backyard birds.

Feeder Choices
  • Squirrel Buster Plus- This feeder is guaranteed Squirrel and large bird proof. You can exclude large nuisance birds with this feeder by rolling in the perches to make them short. You can also adjust the tension on the spring mechanism to have the feeder ports shut when large birds land. Blackbirds weigh twice as much as cardinals.
  • Upside Down Suet Feeder- a feeder that dispenses suet from the bottom doesn’t phase a woodpecker but will deter most blackbirds.
  • Finch Feeders- I’ve never had a problem with the blackbirds on any finch feeders that are filled with straight nyger thistle seed.
Food Choices
  • Use pure beef suet with no seeds
  • Switch to straight safflower seed: Start by offering safflower gradually, mixing it with the seed you currently use. Over time increase the amount of safflower until you are feeding straight safflower. The seed looks and tastes different from other bird seed, so it may take your birds some time to adjust. Safflower is a small, white seed that is high in protein and fat. Many favorite backyard birds - including jays, cardinals, chickadees, finches, doves, woodpeckers, titmice and nuthatches- savor safflower. Blackbirds, starlings, and squirrels typically refuse to eat safflower seed.
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

Friday, March 15, 2019

Help prevent bug bites

As the weather starts to warm, the bugs will come out, which is a good thing for hungry birds and a not so good thing for birdwatchers on a walk. You can wear long sleeves, or rub your arms with catnip to repel biting insects. And now new research reveals that a black and white striped jacket may also dazzle flies enough to not bite.

Scientists learned in recent years that zebras have black and white stripes to avoid biting flies. And a study published in February in the journal PLOS ONE went even further to discover that stripes actually disrupt a biting fly’s ability to land on a zebra and suck its blood.
 

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Birdwatcher is treated to half-male, half-female cardinal at feeder

This gynandromorphic cardinal was filmed by Shirley Caldwell in her backyard.
Occasionally a bird is born that contains both male and female characteristics like this Northern Cardinal. Bilateral Gynandromorphism is a condition in which one half of a bird’s body is male and the opposite half is female. And that two-sidedness goes even deeper than just the feathers. Both sides of a bird can develop independently, revealing that it is the bird's cells themselves that control their identity and growth

It's not exactly clear how often this occurs because some male and female birds look similar to our human eyes and a split might not be so easy to notice. However the cardinals' sexual dimorphism, allows an alert birdwatcher to see easily that something is not normal.

https://youtu.be/_hYOk8lPCZA

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

How to get birds to nest in your yard

Cute, original bird houses that are properly designed to keep your bird families safe.
What do birds want in a house? Do birds care if their house is pretty? Experts have spent decades researching what makes birds feel welcome and found it is not necessarily something that decorates our yards. Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing has a wide selection of houses that we make sure have they the ideal specifications. Most are simple nest boxes but for those of you with a decorative eye we also just brought in dozens of the cutest painted and carved houses. They are very attractive to our eyes yet still fully functional and inviting to bird families.

How to get birds to nest in your yard:

Bird House Nesting Materials
Remember not all birds use bird houses. Cardinals, goldfinches, doves, jays, hummingbirds and orioles would never use a house because they build their own nests. But all birds use Nesting Materials placed in trees or bushes. At Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI store we have cotton nesting balls, and Birdie bells full of grasses, cotton, animal hair and feathers. Another trick is to stuff chickadee and woodpecker bird houses with cedar chips. They prefer birdhouses with something to excavate.

Buying a House
Just like feeders, it's best to find a house that is designed well and easy to clean. Look for homes with an easy clean out, proper ventilation, drainage holes, untreated wood, or recycled plastic houses with the proper design. Not all birdhouses are equal. Studies show the inside dimension, the shape and the diameter of the opening determine what birds it will attract. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, Michigan store always has a wide selection of functional bird houses available. And no perch at the entrance! Perches might encourage large birds or predators to peek inside to look for a snack.

Mount the house - Wild Birds Unlimited has an exclusive, patented Advanced Pole System® (APS) mounting hardware that is the perfect for your bird feeding or bird housing needs. There is a 1” pole that screws into the ground for the larger Bluebird houses or the push into the ground ½” pole for the smaller wren and chickadee houses.

Bird House Location
Cavity nesters like chickadees and wrens like their bird houses placed 5 to 10 feet high in the cover of a bush or small tree.

Bluebirds and Tree swallows choose fairly open areas interspersed with trees and shrubs. Experts recommend that bluebird boxes be 5 feet high and spaced at least 300' apart.

To reduce the competition between bluebirds and swallows for houses it is recommended to pair houses. Setting up a pair of houses no more than 5-10 feet apart every 300 feet, is one proven technique that allows both songbirds to nest together successfully. 

Bird House Direction
In the northern states like Michigan the birds prefer the early morning sun coming in the front of the house as it faces the east. Put the houses where you can view them, but also in a spot without a lot of foot traffic so the young family can have some privacy. Be patient with a new home. It may take more than one season for birds to find their house. 

Have water nearby Water is a powerful attraction and will increase the number and variety of birds coming to your yard. In fact parent birds will often bring babies to the bird bath as their first road trip.

Bird House Protection
Wild Birds Unlimited has metal portal protectors that you can add to most houses to prevent squirrels from chewing the entrances larger.And to protect the nest inside the house from unwanted predators reaching in and stealing eggs, attach the Screw Mount Birdhouse Guardian. These will prevent squirrels, raccoons, opossum and cats from bending their arms to reach the resident birds. Crows, Blue Jays and grackles can't get their bodies through the guardian and are also deterred.

Attach baffles to Wild Birds Unlimited bird house poles or wood 4x4” poles. This will stop all squirrels and raccoons from climbing to the house.

If a bluebird family has already started to make a house and sparrows are harassing them put up a sparrow spooker. Basically once the bluebirds are committed to a nesting site you can hang shiny flutter ribbon above the birdhouse (you can find this "scare tape" at our stores). Studies have shown that certain bird species, including house sparrows, will not fly under the ribbon. For more detailed plans to make your own sparrow spooker, click HERE or visit: http://www.sialis.org/sparrowspooker.htm 

Maintenance
At least once a year, usually after Labor Day in Michigan, take the box down and clean it out. Remove the old nest. Scrub with a stiff brush and a mild bleach solution to kill mites or other parasites.

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