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.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Photo Share: Oh my starling!

Baby starlings have arrived! Not something most people anticipate eagerly. These large gray baby starlings are noisy and pushy. But the good news is that each bird will eat hundreds of insects a day (once they figure out what's what). Every evening I come home, fill the feeders and watch the show.

The giant, little baby starlings were patrolling the lawn for food. One found a dried leaf, picked up this "prize" and ran with it while his siblings chased after, jumped him and discovered it was just a leaf. But they must be finding bugs too because our yard is a bug-free zone. The abundance of baby starlings make them easy prey too.

While I love all the activity, I know I'm going to hear a lot of complaints. So what can you do 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 nyjer 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 cardinals, chickadees, finches, doves, woodpeckers, titmice and nuthatches- savor safflower. Blackbirds, starlings, and squirrels refuse to eat safflower seed typically.
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

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Can birds eat too much?

Most backyard birds don't have to worry about getting fat. Birds have high basal metabolic rates which means they burn calories fast. Hummingbirds, with their tiny bodies and high levels of activity, have the highest metabolic rates of any animal, roughly a dozen times that of a dove. To maintain those rates, hummers have to consume their weight in food daily. And just to survive a cold night hummers go to the other extreme of their activity range, and may become torpid (a state of mini-hibernation). Our other backyard birds also convert everything they eat quickly into energy because they tend to have 30-70 percent higher metabolic rates than mammals.

Birds need a lot of energy for foraging, flying, staying alert for predators, nesting in the spring, molting feathers in the fall, and maintaining the correct body temperature in Michigan from freezing to frying on the same day. A wintering chickadee living at below freezing must spend something like twenty times as much time feeding per day as it would in the warmth of spring.

Maintaining constant body temperature is not just a problem for birds trying to keep from chilling in cold weather; it is an even more critical problem when the air temperature rises above their body temperature. Then birds must avoid overheating and sudden death. The relatively large body surfaces of small birds take in environmental heat (and lose cooling water) quickly. That is one reason there is low activity at the feeders during heat waves when they seek shade or look for a bath to cool down.

So even though the feeders empty quickly those fluffy birds aren't fat. Most birds have hollow bones with internal struts that make them very strong. Birds also have a smaller total number of bones than mammals. This is because many of their bones have fused together, to make the skeleton more rigid. Birds do have more neck vertebrae than many other animals to help them groom their feathers. But overall it takes over 65 chubby chickadees to equal the weight of one medium squirrel.

The Ruby-throated hummingbirds weigh about 0.1–0.2 ounces or one dime. Goldfinches are tiny vegetarians that weigh about .5 of an ounce, or about the same as five pennies. The bigger Northern Cardinal is only 2 ounces or about 9 quarters. As you can see, birds are surprisingly lightweight.

Related Articles:
How to get ready for hummingbird season https:/hummingbird-season.html
Michigan birds and their food preference: http://bit.ly/yp9YQA
How to choose the best suet cake http://bit.ly/xATYPQ
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh
Why do Birds Scatter Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/vZ6gzM
Choosing a seed blend to feed wild birds http://goo.gl/C3mFuD

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Photo Share: Identifying orioles

The plumage on Baltimore Orioles is more variable than other orioles. Adult male Baltimore orioles can have an entirely dark brown to deep black colored head and upper mantle, an orange middle and lower back and rump, and orange shoulder patches. Their underparts range from dull yellow to flame orange. Wings are black with one white wing bar, and tail has a central black V, bordered on all sides by orange or yellow.

Adult female Baltimore orioles vary from drab to bright yellow to bright orange. Back and wings are dull gray, olive, or brown, with two white bars. The tail is uniformly dull orange to brown. The head and nape can be gray, olive or brown, turning darker with each molt.

The oldest known wild Baltimore oriole was more than 11 years old. The species molts once a year, after breeding and before and during southbound migration.

Wild Birds Unlimited Macomb, MI shared a great video showing some variations: https://youtu.be/6rZ4ED4W1SY

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Finches have stopped coming to the feeder

Do some birds stop coming to the feeders in the summer? I don't have as many yellow finches as before.
Male American Goldfinch in brand new yellow feathers!
American Goldfinches are common feeder visitors that prefer Nyjer® (thistle) and sunflower seeds. But every year after American Goldfinches have completed their spring molt, a lot of them leave the feeders for awhile and wander widely. Usually when the dandelions bloom, the goldfinches get the urge to forage for fresh, yummy weed, grass, and flower seeds along with tender leaves from trees and other plants.

American Goldfinches are the only common feeder bird in Michigan that molt all their feathers twice a year. Most birds only go through an annual fall molt. So in early spring the goldfinches are famished. They need a lot of energy to grow bright new feathers and you can be filling feeders daily. As we head into summer the feeder activity decreases.

Female American Goldfinch
Goldfinches don't nest until late summer. They are footloose and fancy free to forage wherever they want. Some still visit the feeders but not as frequently or in as many numbers.

You should still keep the feeders clean and full of fresh seed. Keep in mind that during the summer Nyjer® (thistle) only stays fresh for about a month or two. It keeps longer if it is stored in a cool and dry location.

Then at the end of June the activity increases again. As they get ready to nest, there is excitement in the air. The goldfinches settle in to one territory. If your food is still fresh or you have blooming flowers with seed heads, you will likely have goldfinches visiting. And by the end of July the babies will show up 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:
What is Nyjer Thistle? http://t.co/Gg2AxQg
Where are my finches? http://t.co/FRqa7eo
Goldfinch colors: Why aren't all the goldfinches yellow? http://t.co/c57skHi
Is There a Way to Attract More Goldfinches to My Yard? http://t.co/RB1cqWf

Monday, May 27, 2019

Remembering G.I. Joe

Memorial Day represents one day of national awareness and reverence, honoring those Americans who died while defending our Nation and its values. We can also take a moment to remember the role of the selectively bred Rock Pigeons during World War I and II. Also called the Domestic Pigeon, Homing Pigeon, and Rock Dove, the United States Army Pigeon Service or Signal Pigeon Corps was a unit of the United States Army assigned to train the birds for communication.

Wikipedia writes: “During WWII, the force consisted of 3,150 soldiers and 54,000 war pigeons, which were considered an undetectable method of communication. Over 90% of US Army messages sent by pigeons were received. The pigeon G.I. Joe received the Dickin Medal for gallantry that saved at least 1,000 lives. From 1917 until 1957, the US Army Pigeon Breeding and Training Center was based at Fort Monmouth, N.J. The US Army discontinued using pigeons as message carriers in 1957.”

After the war GI Joe was sent to the Detroit Zoological Gardens where he died at the age of eighteen. Learn more on the video: http://youtu.be/kSKrRlD7qOg


Related Articles:
Patriotic Red, White and Bluebird http:/red-white-and-bluebird.html
What did the military learn from birds? http://bit.ly/MV3lsA
Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://t.co/Br4EnlB
The Bald Eagle is the National Symbol of the USA: What are some other Countries' National Birds http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2011/02/bald-eagle-is-national-symbol-of-usa.html

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Suet is an important supplemental food source

We had an interesting little visitor at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing this morning. A Common Yellowthroat showed up probably to take a little rest from his marathon migration. Yellowthroats come up from their wintering grounds in Central America to their nesting grounds in open habitats like marshes, wetland edges, and brushy fields in Michigan and across a lot of North America.

About the size of a chickadee, adult males are bright yellow below, with a sharp black face mask and olive back feathers. Females are a plain olive brown, usually with a brighter yellow throat and under the tail.

The male sings a distinctive witchety-witchety-witchety song, about 2 seconds long, to defend the territory and attract females. They give these songs very frequently during summer, averaging as high as 125 songs per hour and sometimes reaching 300 songs per hour.

I stuck some peanutbutter suet in the bark of the tree for the nuthatches, creepers, woodpeckers, and wrens, but the warblers also take advantage of the supplemental food source during this tough spring migration.


Related Articles: https://youtu.be/5jbKSCiYd6Y
How do I stop woodpeckers from pecking on my house? http://bit.ly/KGItqF
What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX
Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/tQ5lwt
How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI
How to choose a suet https://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2017/09/how-to-choose-suet.html

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Tips to keep seed fresh

In the warm months I wouldn't keep seed longer than a month. Just as a box of crackers kept in a hot garage will go stale (even if the bag isn't opened), birdseed also goes bad. And while we'll survive the occasional dry cracker, birds have high basal metabolic rates & use energy at high rates. They don't have time to waste on seed without a high oil content.

Also after seed is harvested, it’s brought to mills where it is processed and stored properly. Along with the seed come eggs of Indian meal moths that were laid in the field. Birds don't mind the extra protein, but if the eggs hatch they can cause a real mess.

Tips to keep your bird seed its best:
1) Fresh Seed - In warm weather or if you store your seed inside buy no more than 2-3 weeks supply of seed at a time. And never pour old seed on top on new. Moth eggs are inside seed and are just waiting for the right conditions to hatch.
2) Storage Conditions - Store seed in a cool, dry place, or a freezer to keep seed fresh and prevent moths from hatching. A good steel can also prevent critters from raiding the pantry.

Related Articles:
What is No-Mess Bird Seed? http://bit.ly/tRaefu
How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://bit.ly/rTLSqJ
Seed Storage Cans and WBU Seed Scoops http://bit.ly/uBaSwO
Sunflowers Up-close: The Strange Journey of an American Plant http://bit.ly/uFlz65

Friday, May 24, 2019

Baby robins can't fly well when they leave the nest

American robin babies must build up muscles and grow adult feathers to be strong fliers. It takes 10-15 days after fledging before the babies are capable fliers. To help ensure that the baby robins in your yard are safe, keep cats indoors and don't use unnecessary pesticides in the lawn and garden.

Their camouflage markings help disguise babies from predators. If they are scared or want to avoid detection, they squat in on the ground with their head up. And they blend right in with their environment.

American robins average two broods in one year. Both parents feed the babies. A robin might make 100 feeding visits to its nest each day. That's why a good territory is important to robins in spring.

Unfortunately only a quarter of those that do fledge survive to November. From that point on, about half of the birds alive in any year will make it to the next. These birds will return to the same territories from season to season. Sometimes they build a new nest on top of their old one. The female lays 3-7 light blue eggs that are incubated for two weeks and the young leave the nest in about another two weeks.

Related Articles:

Why Robins are Attracted to Water http://bit.ly/qP9aTs 

Bird of the Week: American Robin http://bit.ly/pnUKqk 
Fun Facts About The American Robin http://bit.ly/n9CSni 
Why robins are called Robin Redbreast and not orange breast http://goo.gl/OB4iT

Thursday, May 23, 2019

In the bird world, children don't return to the nest

Do baby birds return to the nest once they leave?

Some birds will return to the same general areas to nest year after year. During the nesting stage the parents work furiously to get their babies fed and fully fledged as fast as possible, even if babies can only fly a few feet to the nearest bush.

Most songbirds are fed by a parent in a nest for about a month until they are ready to fledge. Then within 24 hours all the babies pop of the nest and the parents take a couple weeks to show the juveniles where to find shelter, food, and water to survive on their own. Once out of the nest the songbirds usually don't return. However, some birds come back after they have taught the first batch of kids to forage to start a second family.

You can clean bird houses between nesting to help deter parasite infestation and a predator’s ability disturb a nest that is built on top of old nests making it closer to the entrance hole. To clean the nest box I usually place a plastic bag over the nest and just sweep it all in and twist the bag shut. You can rinse out the house with a water hose or diluted bleach spray. Make sure the drainage holes are unplugged and leave the house open to dry for a couple days. Finally dispose of the old nest in the trash and wash your hands thoroughly.

If you think that a baby bird may have left the nest prematurely you can pop it back in the nest unless you think the bird is injured then you should call for advice. The best course may be no interference.
Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess abandoned or injured wildlife. A list of licensed rehabilitators can be found by visiting http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/ or by calling your local DNR office. Below are a few local numbers to call for help:

  • 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
And if you are outside of Michigan:
Related Articles:
5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses http://bit.ly/xETceZ
Common Bird House Problems http://bit.ly/wrWzyN
Which Way Do You Face a Birdhouse? http://bit.ly/AD43TW
Don’t use treated lumber to build a birdhouse http://bit.ly/x2pIG0
When do birds begin nesting? http://bit.ly/wbJ3kE
DO NOT Collect Dryer Lint for the birds to use as nesting material! http://bit.ly/wC5HcO

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Help the birds nesting in your yard

You will begin to see a lot of new faces at the feeders at the end of May and the beginning of June. Many of the birds that nest in Michigan are bringing their first batch of babies to visit baths and feeders and teaching them to forage for food.

This has been a particularly tough spring for the birds. I know some people are complaining about the numbers of starlings and blackbirds at the feeders this year due to the cold weather. But then they are happy about the extra numbers of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Scarlet Tanagers, warblers, bluebirds, and orioles that are also hungry this year.

Thankfully it looks like the cold weather is finally going to leave us for a while. The rains and now the warm weather brings a lot of bugs, a favorite food for many growing families. And vegetarians like the American Goldfinches are also enjoying soft spring leaves as well as a plethora of dandelion and grass seeds.

But, don’t forget to keep your feeders clean for healthy birds. And provide an area with a birdbath. 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.

Related articles:
- Can birds become dependent on bird feeders? http://goo.gl/GZYpke
- Do we stop feeding suet in the summer? http://bit.ly/GKWSRt
- Feeding Baby Birds http://bit.ly/GSHKwY
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://bit.ly/GKYw5q

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

How long orioles stay in Michigan

I'm not getting as many orioles anymore. Where are they?

Baltimore Oriole chick from Wikimedia Commons
When orioles arrive in the spring they are super hungry. The diet of the Baltimore Oriole consist of insects, fruits, and flower nectar. After a long migration they take advantage feeders that offer orange halves, grape jelly, sugar water, suets, or mealworms.

Males arrive around the end of April in mid-Michigan and the females follow a couple weeks later. Males immediately start to court potential mates. Once the birds pair up the female goes to work on building a nest usually around the end of May. Building the nest takes about a week, but windy or rainy weather may push this as long as 15 days. By mid-June she will be incubating about four eggs for a couple weeks. Then the babies hatch and both male and female will feed the little chicklets for a couple weeks in the nest.

During this time males continue to visit your feeders if you are near their nesting territory but the females on the eggs will visit less often. But always keep your feeders clean and full of fresh foods. By the end of June if everything has gone as planned, a lot of orioles will come back and bring the new kids. And the babies' reaction to getting their first taste of jelly is priceless!

July is the last hurrah. Orioles begin to molt and prepare to migrate south. Peak migration south is August and September. October through February most orioles hang out in the tropics. Then in March and April some orioles begin moving north again.

Related Articles: 
- 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
- When can I expect my orioles to arrive? http://goo.gl/OHrCc

Monday, May 20, 2019

Best bird bath placement

How close does their water need to be from the food. What type of a water pan is best. I have two, but the dove that I have keeps it pretty dirty. What should I do. I love my wild finch. 

Place the bird bath where you can watch it and refill it easily. Birds are very dirty. When they take a bath or sip from the edge they are taking on weight. So before they fly away they usually turn around and unload a poopy in the bath to make them lighter. I try to change the water at least every other day.

Baths can be near a feeder (but not close enough to get seed scatter) or far away. Birds will go where you place the water high or low, near or far. Finches especially like water. They are mainly seed eaters and need water to wet their whistle.

The best bowl has a nice edge to perch on, a gradual dip to the middle which is no deeper than 2 inches, and a textured bottom. A rock in the middle or a stick across a bath will help if your bath is too slick or too deep.

I have multiple baths that are different sizes and at different levels. That way the dove can sit and digest in one and allow the finches to utilize one of the others.

Related Articles:
Best way to keep bird bath clean https://keep-bird-bath-clean.html
Why Birds Preen http://bit.ly/wcoC9d
What kind of bird bath is the best? http://goo.gl/tXz65
Do Birds Sip or Slurp? http://bit.ly/yAHTTV
Why is bird poop white? http://goo.gl/zQXiT

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Cooperation among different species of birds is common

Sometimes at the feeders it can look like a bird-eat-bird world out there. I'll see many scrabbles as birds wing their way in at the feeder and establish a pecking order or like last night when a hawk literally flew in for bird take-out. But as the hawk barreled in to the scene, the Blue Jay immediately began calling out the alarm.

Jays aren't the only birds that give warnings.
A study published in the Journal Science a few years ago demonstrated how black-capped chickadees embed information about the size of predators into their calls. When faced with a high-threat raptor perched nearby, the birds not only call more frequently, they also attach more dee’s to their call. Studying the phenomenon, it was found birds have a “distant early-warning system” in which the alarm calls are picked up by other birds and passed through the forest at more than 100 miles per hour.

New studies confirm that cooperation among different species of birds is common. Some birds build their nests near those of larger, more aggressive species to deter predators, and flocks of mixed species forage for food and defend territories together in alliances that can last for years. In most cases, these partnerships are not between specific individuals of the other species, any bird from the other species will do.

By interacting with other birds that share the same territory instead of working against them, bird species create a larger group to help defend their territory and ward off intruders. In other words, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Sources:
When Birds Squawk, Other Species Seem to Listen
Song recognition and heterospecific associations between 2 fairy-wren species 

Related Articles:
- Hawks and hummingbirds http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2017/08/hawks-and-hummingbirds.html

- New blue-eyed owl discovered by MSU researcher http://goo.gl/4FdZYR
- New MSU Study: Biofuel grasslands better for birds than ethanol staple corn http://goo.gl/D2yODK
- Free Downloads of Bird Sounds from Around the World via MSU http://goo.gl/ZKEKmk
- Black Squirrels’ history begins at MSU http://goo.gl/Ryxnqx

Saturday, May 18, 2019

How hummingbirds find feeders

Hummingbirds find feeders by sight. If they come down to investigate flowers and then see a feeder they will investigate. Eating from a feeder isn't innate, it is a learned behavior. You may see them approach a new feeder and fly away only to approach it again a few minutes later. Keep the feeders fresh and full of the proper nectar solution and then be patient. Hummingbirds have an outstanding memory. Once they figure out you are offering a reliable source of nectar, you will have a loyal customer.

A hummingbird's brain is very large in comparison to their body size. They know every flower in their territory and how long it will take each flower to produce more nectar. And yes that is probably the same hummingbird that comes back year after year to your feeder. They remember where each and every hummingbird feeder is, both at home and along a migration path.

Weather is also a big factor in how long it takes for hummingbirds to find a feeder. A good, wet spring that produces nectar filled blooms and protein packed bugs means there will be less activity at hummingbird feeders. Drought years are the hardest for the hummingbirds and you will notice instant attraction to feeder feeding as they attempt to find additional reliable food sources.

At the end of summer I watch the bumbling baby hummers jump from flower to flower, feeder to feeder, red chair to red hat, as they learn how to forage. Hummingbirds have been observed watching older hummingbirds to learn some tricks and tips. They also learn which people are the ones responsible for filling hummingbird feeders, and which ones don't.

If you put up a new feeder, it may be an instant hit or it may take them awhile to figure it out. But continue to keep the feeder clean and the nectar fresh even if you see no activity. In late summer it gets hot and activity always increases. At the end of June there are hopefully twice as many hummingbirds and you'll see momma and babies visit along with migrating hummingbirds as they bulk up to fly south.

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

Friday, May 17, 2019

Photo Share: Upside Down suet feeder in action

Q: What do you call a Downy Woodpecker feeding from the EcoTough Upside-down Suet Feeder?

A: An upside-"downy" 😆😂🤣

I wish I could take full credit for this one but it was all Chuck Brewer. I just took the video so I could tell the joke 😂.

Yours to share if you like. https://Upside-down suet feeder in action
If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Baltimore Oriole females


Orioles are such bright birds to have during the summer. Females are less noticeable and can vary in coloring. Some are yellow and some are more orangy. The Baltimore oriole girls are yellow-orange on the breast and have gray-brown wings with two bold white wing bars.
Male and female Baltimore Oriole at Wild Birds Unlimited oriole feeder

Females show up a week after the males and if you're lucky you'll get to see the boys chasing the girls around trying to make a good impression.

Immature orioles also can vary in looks. It takes over a year for them to reach adult plumage and some boys even resemble the females.

Males stake out a territory with elms, maples, cottonwood, willow, or apple trees that can hold a tear drop shaped nest 25 to 30 feet in the air. Some other courtship displays include bowing, to show off the bright orange front and black back, and singing. Once the chooses a mate, she builds a nest with little or no help from the male.

Related Articles:
- 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
- When can I expect my orioles to arrive? http://goo.gl/OHrCc

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Why haven't I seen any hummingbirds?

Hummingbirds are truly one of the most fascinating groups of birds on the planet and it’s not too late to put up a feeder! Hummingbirds don’t need feeders to survive, but they might appreciate a reliable source of food with this cold spring we’ve been experiencing. Also these incredible little birds are fascinating to watch and a hummingbird feeder can bring them up close.

When they aren’t at the feeder, hummingbirds find nectar from a variety of flowers as well as sap from trees. Throughout the day a hummer drinks more than half its body weight in nectar. But that pointy hummingbird bill isn’t only for lapping nectar; it’s also made for snatching bugs out of the air. They use the flexible tip of their bill to capture insects and insect eggs from the ground and on plants. They love spiders and spider eggs.

Early spring birds are still establishing territories. Make sure your nectar is fresh and clean your feeders once or twice a week for the best results. Visits may be less frequent until females begin to incubate their eggs in June. Then they will appreciate quick bites at the feeders between sittings. You can also put out a Wild Birds Unlimited's Natural Cotton Ball Nesting Material to line their nest.

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

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Scarlet Tanagers moving through Michigan

If you have ever seen a brilliant flash of red, impossibly brighter than a cardinal, most likely you caught a glimpse of one of Michigan's neotropical migrants, the Scarlet Tanager. Over 250 species of tanagers can be found in South America. The scarlet tanager is the only one of these species to summer in Michigan.

As their name implies, the males are a bright scarlet red with black wings during the breeding season, while the females tend to be a more camouflaging olive-green. They prefer to live in mature forests with a high percentage of oaks foraging for caterpillars, moths and beetles.

Scarlet tanagers are considered very beneficial to humans because they consume many insect pests. Some people have even called them the "guardians of the oaks". During migration in the spring and fall keep your eye out for them as they stop in your yard for suet and drink breaks.

Related Article:
A scarlet bird that is yellow https://-scarlet-bird-that-is-yellow.html
What is That Red Bird with a Black Head? http://bit.ly/L4tpl5
Black and White Bird with Red Head http://bit.ly/JFQDAq
Black and White Bird with Red Chest http://bit.ly/JXmkBC
Sexually dimorphic Northern Cardinals: Why male and female cardinals are a different color http://bit.ly/JFQXiw

Monday, May 13, 2019

Gray catbird call

Gray Catbird photo from Wikimedia Commons
May is a busy time with local birds nesting and a number of species still migrating through mid-Michigan. We had a lot of customers talking about the catbirds showing up. One family calls them their toupee bird because of the black cap of feathers. Another person noted the rufous rump on the bird.

Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) get their name from the catty mew calls it produces. Their genus name Dumetella is based upon the Latin term dūmus (small thornbush-dweller) which refers to the species' habit of singing when hidden in undergrowth. Listen for the distinctive mew call of the Gray Catbird, or for its imitation of several species during a long, seemingly improvised series of notes at the top of a dense, tangled thickets.

In summer, Gray Catbirds eat mainly ants, beetles, grasshoppers, midges, caterpillars, and moths. They also eat native fruits from trees and shrubs such as dogwood, winterberry, and serviceberry. You may see catbirds at the jelly and fruit feeders you put out for the orioles and also at the suet, nut and mealworm feeders.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Photo Share: Cape May Warbler at Tollgate Wetlands during migration

I saw this bird on Tuesday at the Tollgate Wetlands in Groesbeck. It was gone Wednesday. It is a great place to enjoy migration, especially for those who can’t travel elsewhere.
Photo of Cape May Warbler male by Laura Millmore
Thank you for sharing your gorgeous photo! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.

Cape May warblers nest mainly in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They like the mature forests that are at least 50 years old for a secure nesting habitat. But as they migrate through mid-Michigan from May until June, you may see them at your suet, fruit or nectar feeders as well as your bird bath.

The Cape May's semi-tubular tongue is unique among wood warblers and allows them to feed on flower nectar while wintering in the tropics and during migration.

They are named after Cape May, New Jersey, where Alexander Wilson first described them. But after that first time, Cape May Warblers were not recorded in Cape May for more than 100 years. 

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Saturday, May 11, 2019

Big black bird in the lawn

The Common Grackle is a large black bird with yellow eyes and iridescent purple and bronze head feathers. When naturalists first came to explore North America it was difficult to determine to which genus grackles belonged. In between the size of a crow and starling, the common name, grackle, came from gracula, which is Latin for the Jackdaw or small crow.

They are resourceful foragers. In Michigan, Common Grackles thrive on bugs, beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, spiders, crustaceans, mollusks, fish, frogs, salamanders, mice, and other birds like sparrows around farms, fields and large lawns. They sometimes follow plows to catch bugs that are exposed, pick leeches off the legs of turtles, steal worms from American Robins, or saw open acorns with the hard keel on the inside of the upper beak.When they first arrive they are very hungry and eat a variety of seeds and suets from bird feeders.
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Friday, May 10, 2019

What to do if you find an abandoned fawn

A thicket, a patch of tall grass and a quiet spot in your back yard – all places that fawns have been found. For the first few weeks of a white-tailed deer fawn’s life, its mother will hide it in secluded locations. This behavior helps reduce the potential of predators finding the fawn.
While fawns may seem abandoned, they rarely are. All wild white-tailed deer begin life this way.
A fawn’s spots are excellent camouflage and will help it stay hidden from predators. In addition to being hidden by its mother and having spotted camouflage, fawns have another adaptation to help them survive – they are virtually odorless when they are young.
If you find a fawn alone, do not touch it! There is a good chance it is supposed to be there. It is not uncommon for deer to leave their fawns unattended so as not to draw attention to where the fawn is hidden. The mother will return periodically to nurse her fawn when she feels it is safe.
The best thing to do is to leave the fawn alone and enjoy the experience from a distance. Leaving baby animals in the wild ensures they have the best chance for survival. Help keep Michigan’s wildlife wild.
Watch the video Finding Fawns in Michigan.


Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess abandoned or injured wildlife. Unless a person is licensed, it is illegal to possess a live wild animal, including deer, in Michigan.  
Learn more at Michigan.gov/Wildlife or contact DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Photo Share: New Adventures in a squirrels life

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharlal Nehru
Baby squirrels don't leave the nest until they are fully furred and can survive on their own with a little instruction from mom. Most babies leave the nest in April or May. At this point the babies are clean, fluffy, and fat while the parents look a little ragged. A second litter of babies may leave the nest around August or September. 

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

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Keep bugs away from your sugar water feeders

If you feed hummingbirds and orioles, you know that the nectar and jelly can attract a line of ants from your feeder to the ground. You can help the birds eat in peace if you install an ant "moat" between the feeder and the hanging hook. An ant moat is a small cup-like device that acts just like a water moat to protect a castle. Fill it with with water, and it creates a barrier the ants can’t cross to get to the nectar.

We carry several styles of ant moats, however most people choose to go with our popular hummingbird feeders that have built-in ant moats.

My favorite hummingbird feeder is the HighView™ saucer style. These hummingbird feeders are easy to fill and more importantly easy to clean. The saucer style is leak proof and bee resistant and the built in ant-moat stops ants from reaching the nectar. The feeder has high perches that invite hummingbirds to rest comfortably as they drink from any of three feeding ports while also offering an unobstructed view of the birds.

The built-in ant moats blocks crawling insects and the patented Nectar-Guard tips (optional) on the feeding ports of our saucer feeders prevent bees, wasps, and other flying insects from contaminating nectar.
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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Partially bald squirrel missing fur in patches

Momma squirrel is growing her hair back nicely
Missing hair on the top of nesting female gray/black squirrels is a common sight in February because that fur is used to line a nest. It is a little disconcerting to see these girls running around with just fluffy pants but fortunately by May most have regrown their hair.

Next you'll see nursing momma squirrels lying flat on their chests, taking short breaks from a nest of little teething babies.

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Monday, May 6, 2019

White stripes on large sparrow head

I’m always excited to see the White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows in the spring. Last weekend I saw a wave of big, beautiful, bold white-crowns all over! These bird species only migrate through mid-Michigan in the spring and fall. You can look for them under the feeders from late April to late May and again sometime in September to November. They show up in mid-Michigan right after the last frost in the spring and right before the first snow in the fall. They breed all along the upper parts of Canada and winter along the southern United States.

White-crowned Sparrows tend to visit feeders early and late in the day. They enjoythe millet and  sunflower chips in the Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess Blend. They will avoid conflicts when eating by facing the same direction as other birds. If the weather is good they’ll stay just long enough to rest and refuel. While migrating north, their average travel distance is about 70 miles per day.

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Saturday, May 4, 2019

Migration of indigo bunting

Male Indigo Bunting
Indigo Buntings are a dark gray or black bird about the size of a goldfinch. When the sun hits the male his feather structure refracts the sun to make him appear a brilliant indigo blue. In mid-Michigan, we often see them at the finch or sunflower bird feeders.

Buntings can travel thousands of miles in the spring from their southern wintering grounds to their breeding grounds at the top of Florida to the bottom of Canada and as far east as Maine and as far west as Nevada. They will stop in many yards on their journey looking to refuel. Migration takes place in April and May and then again in September and October.
Indigos like a variety of food, including small seeds, nuts, berries, insects, mosquitoes, flies, aphids, small spiders, buds, goldenrod, thistle, grasses, and herbs.

Female Indigo Bunting at nest
At my feeders they like the Nyger Thistle and the No-Mess blend which has the sunflower chips, peanuts, and millet without the hulls.
The only way to get them to stay the whole summer is if you live in an area where they like to breed. Indigo buntings nest in brushy and weedy habitats along the edges of farmland, woods, roads, and railways. Raspberry thickets are a favored nesting location for many of our Indigo Buntings. The dense, thorny stems provide the nestlings with protection from many predators, and the berries are a convenient source of food.

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Small little brown bird

With all the big, bright new birds at the feeders you might overlook the arrival of a small brown bird. House Wrens are small, squat birds that lack bold or characteristic markings. They have long, curved bills and their heads, napes, and backs are almost uniformly brown with their throats and chests a uniform light grey.
House wrens eat a wide variety of spiders and insects. We spotted this one bringing a spider back to its nestlings. Photo by Jim Hudgins/USFWS.
But their bubbly song and habit for eating masses of bugs make it a very popular bird to many people. And House Wrens like people just as well. The “house” in their name was given to them for their preference for nesting near peoples’ houses. They are famous for taking advantage of unusual nesting places such as mailboxes, flowerpots, boots, house lights, and of course old woodpecker holes, natural crevices, small birdhouses, and gourds.

The male House Wren begins to lay claim to a few nesting cavities in the spring by filling them with more than 400 small twigs. When the female arrives, she inspects all the nesting areas and twig structures the male has worked on so hard. She chooses which site she likes best and takes over, adding the nest cup and lining it with grass, inner bark, hair, and feathers. Wrens will usually lay 2 broods in the nesting season from May to July.

Because the male wren builds several starter nests for the female to choose from, the other nests may then be used by the male to raise a second brood with another female or remain in place to discourage other male wrens from nesting in the same territory. So keep an eye out. If the female didn’t choose your nest this time, it doesn’t mean it won’t be chosen later.

There is no exact distance wren houses need to be placed. In general, a suburban back yard or garden is large enough for one or two families of wrens. The size of the territory for the male wren is about a half acre area and two to three houses within that territory is acceptable. The best way to attract house wrens and chickadees to your houses is to place the boxes very close to a bush or small tree. Wrens look for the shade and protection at the edge of woodlots where thick bushes provide nesting materials and food. Five feet from the ground is the average height to hang the house.

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