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.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Tree Swallows looking for housing

Like bluebirds, Tree Swallows are secondary cavity nesters, meaning they depend on pre-existing nest sites like old woodpecker nests or manmade nest-boxes. They are big bug eaters so their habitat is usually near areas with water, such as fields, marshes, meadows, shorelines, or wooded swamps.

The first Tree Swallows can arrive in Michigan mid-March through April, but bad weather may delay them as late as early May. Nest building begins at end of April to early May (sometimes 5 to 6 weeks after arrival). Don't worry if no swallows or bluebirds have found your bird house yet. Weather, or failure of the first nest may require birds to abandon one house in search of another unoccupied house.

Salis.org explains: In late April to Mid-May one egg is laid each day with 4-7 eggs per nest. But sometimes adults leave the nest for days while nesting if they have to forage far away. That makes them very vulnerable to House Sparrow attacks. If this happens you may have to try and install a Sparrow Spooker to deter sparrows or switch the house to a slot nest.

Related Articles:
Ultimate Bird House http://bit.ly/xeGs0e
Feeding and Raising Bluebirds http://bit.ly/A39dAh
How to protect my bird 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
Bird house that keeps out Sparrows https://goo.gl/TWaqJF
Birds move in to slot-nest birdhouse
https://goo.gl/NdRPg9

Long frigid spring leaves birds hungry

Every spring the earth wakes up, and then the migratory birds arrive. But the timing of spring changes from year to year. The cold is actually not a big problem for birds. They are equipped with several layers of fluffy, insulating down to trap heat, so you won’t see your local robins and blackbirds shivering!

It is finding enough food to maintain adequate fat supplies to store on the body and ‘burn’ for energy that are the greatest tests for wild birds in the cold weather.

During cold snaps, you will notice more birds coming into your yard to seek sanctuary and food. Finding a regular source of high-energy food and water can potentially be a real lifesaver. High on the list of best choices to meet this nutritional need is suet and certain seeds like peanuts, sunflower seeds and nyjer seed.
 
Our most popular Wild Birds Unlimited seed blend is No Mess Blend is filled with many of these high fat seeds and nuts making it an ideal food, along with suet, to offer your birds this cold spring.

The Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Seed Cylinder is another way to offer sunflower chips, peanuts, tree nuts and fruit to all the seed, nut and fruit loving birds.

No-Mess Seed Cylinder is a tidy dining option that a lot of birds will enjoy. No shells means no mess and no wasted food, making this seed cylinder a great value. This 100% edible cylinder is great near flower beds patios and decks.  
 
Related articles:
- Why Don't Birds Freeze After They Take a Bath in the Winter? http://goo.gl/5ydpvy
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/z7Eurx
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods http://bit.ly/xbZ9lR
- Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
- Choosing the best bird seed http://goo.gl/jrpDX
- How can birds survive this cold weather? http://goo.gl/4v2d4

Sunday, April 28, 2019

FAQ about hummingbird and oriole feeders

Now that our hummingbirds and orioles are back in Michigan, some of you may need some refreshers on what to do to get ready.

Hummingbird and oriole nectar recipe
To make nectar that is a little bit stronger than flower nectar, use a ratio of 4:1. That would be four parts water to one part plain white sugar. DO NOT use honey, drink mixes, turbinado, brown, powdered or confectioners sugar. These sugars contain too many minerals for the hummingbird's system and can cause illness or death. And red food coloring is NOT necessary or recommended.

Favorite Feeders
It is time to pull those nectar and jelly feeders out from storage and give them a good scrubbing. If you can't remember that safe place you put them last fall and need new feeders, look for something easy to clean and easy to fill. Hummingbird and oriole feeders need to be cleaned and refilled at least every other day once (if) the temperature are above 70 degrees F.

Where to hang feeders
The number one rule in hanging any feeder is to place it where you can watch the birds comfortably. The whole point in bird feeding is to watch these winged wonders up close. Since hummingbirds feed by sight, the second rule is to hang the feeder where they will be able to see it as they fly over your yard. A new feeder may be found sooner if hung near a flower garden or hanging flower basket. Place your hummingbird feeders near bushes to provide perching spots and protection from predators. The height of the feeder is less important. Hummingbirds feed from the flowers on the ground and from the tops of flowering trees or climbing vines.

Best Selling Hummingbird Window Feeder

How to get suction cups to stick

Return some elasticity to the suction cups on your window feeder by placing them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. This will help “reset” the plastic and make it more flexible. Once your suction cups are ready, wash your window. Any grit on the suction cup or window will interfere with the seal. Rub a little finger oil or vegetable oil over the suction cup. Don't use water to stick the feeder to the window. It will just pop off when the temperature changes. Push the suction cups against the window and force out any air bubbles behind the cup. Now you should be set until you want to wash the window again.

Related articles:
My favorite hummingbird and oriole feeders
https://goo.gl/7Zqskd
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/H2U4P4
Hummingbird Information on Habitat and Habits http://bit.ly/H2Ua9s
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/H7xvp3
Fun Facts About Hummingbirds http://bit.ly/II5sBl 

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

Saturday, April 27, 2019

When baby jays leave the nest

Is it too early for Blue Jay babies? I've been watching one jay feed another. Is it a mating ritual like the cardinals? How do you know a male Blue Jay from a female?

These are some very good observations that make birdwatching so much fun! April is way too early to see Blue Jay babies. In mid-Michigan I begin to see the baby jays at the end of June.

I think you are correct in guessing it is a part of courtship. Many birds feed each other in the spring as a mating ritual, sometimes in response to begging calls and wing quivering. This might be to "test" the male's ability to forage and provide for young. It could be an indicator of the odds of successfully breeding. It may also reinforce or maintain a pair bond or increase a female's fitness by providing her with extra tidbits, which probably increases the quality of her eggs or may advance the laying date.

Now how do you tell a male jay from a female? Side by side you might find the male Blue Jays are slightly larger than the females. Otherwise male and female Blue Jays appear almost identical in appearance to the casual human glance. However the feather structures of many species also reflect light in the ultraviolet range. Because many birds can discriminate a greater variety of colors than humans, including ultraviolet wavelengths, they can appear quite different to each other than they do to us.

You can also observe their behavior, especially in spring when courtship begins. Little groups form and if a female begins to fly, the males follow. After landing, the males bob their heads and fluff their feathers in attempts to impress the female. Once a mate is chosen the male and female both gather materials and build the nest, but on average male does more gathering and female more building. 

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 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Photo Share: pileated woodpecker in the backyard

Just saw a pileated woodpecker in the backyard. I heard a call in the backyard that I had never heard so close before and when I looked out it was on the spruce.-  in an East Lansing suburb

This is another reason to continue feeding in the summer. You never know who is going to show up especially when it has been such a difficult spring.  

Thank you for sharing! 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. 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Tiny sparrow with a distinctive bright copper colored cap

The winds are finally blowing up from the south and millions of migrant birds are showing up in Michigan each day. One bird I heard singing all day yesterday was the Chipping Sparrow. I adore watching and listening to them sing in the spring and summer. One of smallest and friendliest of the sparrows, they are always busy, busy running around on the yard looking for weed seeds or bird seed under the feeders.

Chipping sparrows are small, neat, active sparrows with a distinctive bright copper colored cap and black eyestripes and white eyebrows. They also have an all light gray belly and the typical brown tweed sparrow back.

They arrive in mid-Michigan at the end of April and leave early November to winter in Mexico, Central America or the southern United States. These bold little birds will perch high in a tree and sing to mark their territory. The loud, trilling songs of a chipping sparrow are one of the most common sounds of spring and easily identifiable. The song is often described as the sound of an electric sewing machine.
Related Articles:
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://goo.gl/aqUL1
Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/0qggF
How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d
Chipping Sparrow Juvenile with adult male http://goo.gl/hTzx

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Protect your jelly and nectar with weather guards

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

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

Related articles:
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/II4RQ4
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/H2U4P4
Hummingbird Information on Habitat and Habits http://bit.ly/H2Ua9s
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://bit.ly/H7xvp3
Fun Facts About Hummingbirds http://bit.ly/II5sBl
Photo Share: Strange visitor at the high-perch hummingbird feeder http://bit.ly/II7dyy

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 22, 2019

Real-time bird migration maps

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

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

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

Related articles:
My favorite hummingbird and oriole feeders
https://goo.gl/7Zqskd
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/H2U4P4
Hummingbird Information on Habitat and Habits http://bit.ly/H2Ua9s
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://hummingbird-nectar.html
Fun Facts About Hummingbirds http://bit.ly/II5sBl 

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

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Ready and waiting!

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

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

Related articles:
The origin of the Easter Bunny
https://goo.gl/p6fGVT
How birds color their eggs naturally http://bit.ly/IBMw69 
A look at the Easter Egg Tradition http://goo.gl/CpUvg 
Bird of the Week: The Peep http://goo.gl/Hw0icC 
When do birds begin nesting? http://bit.ly/GGuobs  
How Do Birds Lay Eggs? http://bit.ly/H8omO0 
Do birds have belly buttons? http://bit.ly/GVqhpT

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Chickadee nest builder

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

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

Related Articles:
Chickadee song sounds like he has a mouth full of marbles http://marbles.html
What the 'dee' in Chick-a-dee means http://goo.gl/8rde3a
A closer look at the fee-bee song of the chickadee http://goo.gl/X4qLRV
Why don't chickadees stay to eat at the feeder? http://bit.ly/AkKThH
After chickadee babies have fledged http://bit.ly/yAYbP4
Fun Facts About Chickadees http://bit.ly/zIDkCi

Friday, April 19, 2019

Behold the Brown-headed Cowbird: Dark but not evil

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

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

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

Thursday, April 18, 2019

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

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

Look who’s showing up at the bird feeders!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Save the jelly for the orioles and how to make nectar

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

1. Pour sugar in hot water. It's not necessary to boil the water. The microorganisms that cause fermentation don't come from the water; they are transported to the feeder on hummingbird bills.
2. Stir or shake the mixture until dissolved.
3. Remove from heat and let it cool.
4. Fill your hummingbird feeder and refrigerate any unused nectar for up to 2 weeks.
5. If the hummingbirds do not come to the feeder within a few days, you can try moving it to another location near plants that have brightly colored flowers.
6. Be sure to replace the nectar and clean the feeder thoroughly once every three to four days. If you leave it out longer the sugar water could go bad and hummingbirds will boycott your feeder for a long time.
If you don't want sugar in your house or you want an easy to dissolve sugar Wild Birds Unlimited has Best-1 instant nectar. It doesn't have any coloring or preservatives. Or if you are recipe challenged we also have premixed sugar water.
 
Related articles:
My favorite hummingbird and oriole feeders
https://goo.gl/7Zqskd
Where should I hang my hummingbird feeder? http://bit.ly/H2U4P4
Hummingbird Information on Habitat and Habits http://bit.ly/H2Ua9s
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://hummingbird-nectar.html
Fun Facts About Hummingbirds http://bit.ly/II5sBl 

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

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Blackbirds migrate together

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 15, 2019

A look at the species of orioles found in Michigan

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Wild Birds Unlimited Oriole feeder

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

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






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

* Optional Weather guard sold separately

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

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

Saturday, April 13, 2019

More hummingbirds at the feeder

Is it true that having more than one hummingbird feeder attracts more hummingbirds?

In Michigan hummingbirds are very territorial. In fact our Ruby-throated are the most aggressive hummingbirds. But what about all those videos of hummingbirds bumping each other gently to get a seat at the feeders? Those hummers are hungry and probably loading up to migrate. Once they hit Michigan, nesting season begins, and that means territories are drawn and fiercely fought over until nesting season ends June or July.

So how do I get more hummingbirds? In general, more nectar means more birds. Multiple feeders help if you have an aggressive bird that is chasing other hummers away. And add more hanging baskets and native flowers in the garden. There is no way he can guard all the food all the time. If you space your feeders apart, in the front and backyard or just out of sight of the others, you give the girls a chance to eat in peace.

Females like to take advantage of a quick meal at the feeders. They do all the nest building and family rearing alone, leaving the males to fuss over territories. Multiple feeders, spread throughout your yard is a great way to encourage more hummingbirds to visit and keep the peace in your yard.

Hummingbirds find feeders by sight so hang the feeder where they will be able to see it as they fly over. Also a new feeder may be found sooner if hung near a flower garden or hanging flower basket.

And always make sure your nectar is fresh and the correct one part white sugar to four parts water solution. In hot weather you should clean your feeder at least twice a week even if there are no hummingbirds feeding. If a hummingbird comes by to check out your new feeder and finds it filled with spoiled food, they won’t return anytime soon. Watch the video for more fun facts: https://youtu.be/4Uoj7_qZRls

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
When to take hummingbird feeders down & other FAQ http://goo.gl/CspGnT
When did people start to feed hummingbirds?: http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR

Friday, April 12, 2019

Photo Share: Red-winged Blackbird waits for females to arrive

The first sign of spring in Michigan is the return of the male Red-winged Blackbirds in mid-March. Their early arrival can be a life or death decision. Because the wintry weather, with cold snaps and late snowfalls, means some of the early birds will succumb to the elements or to starvation before warm weather arrives. As major bug eaters, their early appearance while it is still cold means they may hit our feeders hard to supplement their diet. Fortunately the rains and then the warming weather will mean more bugs and further migration to nesting territories.

The males who stay in top breeding condition, and manage to choose and keep a good territory until females arrive some weeks later are in the best position to win mates. Redwings are polygynous and one male can accept anywhere from two on up to 15 mates. (Fun fact: Of 278 breeding songbird species in North America, 15 are polygynous; of these, 11 live in marshes or grasslands.)

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Flutter of Dark-eyed Juncos on the move

This male Northern Cardinal thinks the Dark-eyed Junco has gotten way too close to his sunflower seeds and is suggesting that he should continue his journey north very soon.  Photo by Jocelyn Anderson
I'm so happy when I come home from Wild Birds Unlimited and see a flutter of juncos on my fly-through feeder! In mid-Michigan, it's time to say good bye to the Dark-eyed Juncos. These small birds prefer cold climates to nest, so they retreat north as spring arrives. Juncos are very comfortable on the ground. In the spring, female juncos choose their nest site, most commonly on the ground near a protruding rock or roots for cover. In the fall and winter they don't build nests but they roost in grasses, leaf piles, snow drifts, under porches, as well as dense foliage of small evergreens.

The juncos we see all winter in the Lansing area are typically males. Studies show winter junco flocks are 80 percent male in Michigan and 72 percent female in Alabama. Males risk harsh winters in the northern states in order to be the first ones back to their upper Michigan and Canadian breeding grounds to stake out a territory in the spring. As the days get longer and warmer, the boys migrate north.

So now in early spring, the juncos we see are mostly female. Once they fuel up they may linger a few days or continue north if the weather cooperates. You won't know until the next morning who you'll host for breakfast.

Juncos migrate at night at very low altitudes in flocks up to 100 individuals. Other birds like fox and tree sparrows may accompany the juncos. Flock composition can change from day to day during migration. Juncos prefer to forage and roost in groups during the day and may depart en masse at night but do not stay together during flight.

Juncos, like many other members of the sparrow family, eat a variety of insects and seeds mainly on the ground. What seeds they prefer can differ across the country. Sunflower seeds, millet, safflower, peanuts and peanut butter suet are some of the most popular foods that attract juncos to tray or ground bird feeders. You’ll also see the juncos scratching for grass seeds or insects in leaf litter and pine needles.

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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

Sparrows recycle feathers from hawk's lunch leftovers

"Nature is an endless combination and repetition of a very few laws." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

In observing ecosystems, we learn the value of symbiotic relationships and working together as a team. Mourning Doves in my neighborhood are plentiful, which is a good thing because they aren't very good at evasive movements and often become prey.

Last week a hawk munched through a whole dove only leaving behind a two foot circle of feathers. The next day there was a flurry of activity as the sparrows picked up every white fluffy feather to reuse in their nests.

Along with grasses, animal hair, fluffy cottons and other soft plants, some birds like to line their nests with feathers to insulate and protect the chicks. One study found that female House Sparrows prefer males that are able to provide more feathers in a nest. The researchers took away and added feathers to the nests of the fifty pairs of sparrows. They observed that when the females noticed there were feathers missing they animatedly called the males and the male sparrows responded by bringing more feathers and dancing around the female on his return to the nest.

Mother Nature engages in a complicated and sensitive balancing act. Managing a bird population through a hawk's lunch, or reusing waste as nest building material, are just two elegant examples.

Source: de Hierro, L., Moleon, M. and Ryan, P. Is Carrying Feathers a Sexually Selected Trait in House Sparrows? International Journal of Behavioural Biology, 119: 199-211, 2013.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Bringing more birds to your own backyard

DNR News: backyard birds
American Columbine flower and
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Spring migration is a special time, particularly in the Great Lakes State. Michigan lies at the intersection of the Atlantic and Mississippi migratory flyways – avian super-highways that bring more than 340 bird species to our state every year. Just like many of us, these birds love a great garden, especially one that is brimming with native plants.

Native plants produce four times the amount of “insect biomass” – the total amount of living insects in a given area – as non-native plants do.

“That’s a big reason why native Michigan plants are an excellent food source for our feathered friends and their hatchlings,” said Erin Rowan, MI Birds program associate. “Growing bird-friendly, native plants will attract and protect the birds you love while making your space beautiful and easy to care for.”

Rowan said that upcoming workshops will offer great opportunities for people to learn more about creating a backyard habitat that will attract birds, deer, pheasants, pollinators and other wildlife.

In the Lansing area: Michigan Audubon will host a backyard bird habitat workshop May 11 in Okemos. Get event details and register.

Can’t attend a workshop? Want to learn more about starting your own bird-friendly garden, but not sure where to start? Check out Audubon’s Plants for Birds Resources, including a database of plants native to your area. Additionally, you can explore the birding resources of the MI Birds webpage.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Watch birds transform

As spring approaches the goldfinches are preparing to lose their dull feathers and grow their bright yellow feathers. American Goldfinches are the only finches in North America to go through a complete molt two times a year.
In the spring the duller olive green wardrobe of the male is switched over to the bright yellow feathers with a stylish black cap and black and white wings. The spring molt requires a large amount of nutrients and energy which probably explains their ravenous behavior at the feeders right now. Are your feeders clean and full of fresh seed?

At the feeders they will be looking for food full high fat like Sunflower or Nyjer thistle. Habitat is also important. In this case you do less work, not more. They love to eat dandelion and grass seeds and don't cut off the tops of your Marigold, Zinnias, Cosmos, or Coneflowers... Goldfinches love them! A row of sunflowers along the fence can attract finches as well as a variety of other birds too.

And if you don’t have a natural water source nearby, set up a bird bath. Place it among shrubs and low-branched trees so goldfinches can keep watch for predators while descending gradually toward the water. Wild birds can obtain some water from their food, but goldfinches are vegetarians and like to sip from shallow baths where available to wet their whistle.

Related Articles:
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Goldfinches: The Last Birds Nesting http://bit.ly/PZuejj
How to provide extra calcium supplement for birds http://No-Mess CD.html
How to get a suction cup to stick http://how-to-get-suction-cup-to-stick.html
Attract goldfinches to your garden http://attract-goldfinches-to-your-garden.html

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Put hummingbird feeders up by mid-April to attract early migrants

Check the map for best time to hang hummingbird feeders in your area

The most frequently asked question in the spring is when to put out the hummingbird feeders?

In mid-Michigan you have to pay your taxes and put out your hummingbird feeders on April 15th. You can track the migration of the Ruby-throated hummingbird on https://maps.journeynorth.org/.

The hummingbirds we see in April probably won’t stick around but continue on to nest in the Upper Peninsula or Canada. The hummingbirds that choose to nest in our area (the regulars) usually here by Mothers Day, the second Sunday in May.


Orioles are flying in right behind. You can track their migration at  https://maps.journeynorth.org/oriole

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

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Why birds are different colors

Birds are among the most colorful animals on the planet due to the variety of pigments produced in their bodies and consumed in their diets.

Male birds tend to be showier and more colorful perhaps to attract mates. Female birds used to be colorful like males but the duller, camouflaged females survived more often to pass on their genes. At least they seem duller to our human eyes. The color differences in male and female birds is more complex than the human eye can see.

Humans’ eyes have three types of color-sensitive cones that allow us to see three primary colors in terms of light which are red, green and blue. Birds' eyes have four types of color-sensitive cones which allow many birds to also perceive ultraviolet (UV) light. Although unsure how birds benefit from their enhanced visual perception, you can assume from the way UV light reflects from their feathers that it might play a part in mate selection.

https://youtu.be/L_H1NC5sN50 
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When should I feed the birds? http://goo.gl/IvocS

Blue Jays aren't blue https://blue-jays-arent-blue.html 

Friday, April 5, 2019

Photo Share: Early Oriole

I've had one customer say they had an oriole on the seed cylinder feeder. I asked again if it might have been a Red-winged Blackbird and not a Baltimore Oriole but he insisted. It's not unheard of to have oriole in Michigan year-round or as early as April but it's still unusual. I checked thejourneynorth.org maps again and most of the orioles are still bellow Tennessee waiting for the trees & bugs to bloom. If they arrive early, suet and the nuts in the seed cylinder will give them the energy they need.

Mid-April is my goal to put up the hummingbird and oriole feeders. In the last 15 years at Wild Birds Unlimited I have never had an early bird. Customers report sightings weeks ahead of me. So although I'm anxious to see them, I look at the weather and maps and don't feel the push to put my feeders out until the end of April.

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.  

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Big brownish black bird circling in sky

Turkey Vultures have been circling the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing recently. They are the latest bird migrants I've seen coming back from their winter residence in the south to claim a nesting territory in mid-Michigan.

Not a bird you're likely to see at the feeders. Turkey Vultures soar in circles as they ride the thermals, using their sense of smell to locate tasty carcasses on the ground.

This big brownish black bird can have a wingspan up to six feet and was recognized easily not only by its large wingspan but also by its tiny, red, bald head. Male and female turkey vultures are identical in plumage and in coloration, although the female is slightly larger. Immature birds (under one year) have black beaks and heads. As the bird matures the beak gradually turns white and the head red.

Turkey vultures frequently circle and gain altitude on pockets of rising warm air, or thermals. They can soar for hours without flapping their wings. When they reach the top of the thermal, they glide across the sky at speeds up to 60 miles per hour and can cover many miles going from thermal to thermal without ever needing to flap.

Once only a southern US bird, by the 1960's they had extended their breeding range into Michigan. The popular theory is that the interstate highway system increased the availability of food in the form of roadkill.

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