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, November 20, 2017

Finch food that doesn't leave a mess

The goldfinches are eating a lot of thistle seed, I was wandering if they stay for the winter? I live in lower Mi. They make a mess trying to get to the seed , is their other kind of food they like that doesn't leave such a mess. I've been using the long netting feeder which they love.

I see finches year-round in mid-Michigan. American Goldfinches are partial migrants, meaning only part of the population migrates annually and if it is a rough winter they can become nomadic. Their winter range includes southern Canada and stretches south through the United States to parts of Mexico. During heavy snowstorms they may move further south to find food only to move back when the weather clears.

Goldfinches eat a variety of seeds in the wild. Make sure to leave your garden standing in the winter. Any flower that produces a seed head (Marigolds, Zinnias, Cosmos, Brown eyed Susans or Coneflowers) provide natural food.

Sunflower and Nyjer® (thistle) are two of their favorite seeds at the feeders. If you served sunflower seed without the shell in a seed feeder there should be no mess left behind. I have dozens of goldfinches everyday attacking my window feeder full of No-Mess Blend, a seed blend full of sunflower seeds without the shell.

But Nyjer® (thistle), even though it is messy, is a convenient seed. It attracts mainly finches, doesn't grow weeds under the feeder and isn't attractive to squirrels. Sunflower seed is very attractive to finches but also attracts a variety of other birds as well as other animals. To deter critters, a window feeder, a squirrel proof feeder, or a feeder on a pole that is baffled would be a good solution.

They also appreciate the bird bath. The goldfinches drink frequently and will stay close to reliable sources of water because of their almost exclusive diet of seeds.

Related Articles:
- Where are my finches? http://t.co/FRqa7eo
- European Goldfinches http://bit.ly/Q2Cu37
- Goldfinch Migration http://bit.ly/MzGSPD
- Are Goldfinches here in the winter? http://bit.ly/PZu5ML
- Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a

Sunday, November 19, 2017

What makes Wild Birds Unlimited seed different from the Grocery store's

Wild birds are making decisions about which back yards they will visit this winter. Even though natural food sources are plentiful right now, birds are definitely taking note of which yards have quality food available. What you do as the days grow shorter lets the birds know where to go when that first storm hits. And beautiful, hungry, thankful birds can brighten any dreary winter day.

At Wild Birds Unlimited you will get the very freshest seed, blended regionally for your backyard birds, with no filler grains that most grocery store blends contain. Fillers such as milo, wheat and oats, are ingredients not preferred by most birds and are generally, left uneaten and found in a moldy pile on the ground that can make birds sick or attract rodents. These fillers add bulk to the bag and lower the price, but they are undesired by the local birds, and a waste of your money.

Regardless of the season, the bird species you attract is determined primarily by the seeds you offer. 

To provide the most beneficial foods to meet birds' nutritional needs, the birds in Michigan should be fed fresh Sunflower seeds, White Proso Millet, Safflower, Peanuts, Nyjer® Thistle, suet or seed cakes.

Related Articles: 
Best seed blends http://attract-all-birds.html
Keep your feeders clean http://goo.gl/UGfVGT
What birds like peanuts? http://bit.ly/zispJK
How long bird seed stays fresh http://goo.gl/AdJPBO
Best suet for Michigan wild birds http://bit.ly/rTCbHB

Saturday, November 18, 2017

My Baby isn't fat

I talk about birds a lot on this page, but I need to take a moment to talk about something really important. Okay let's just get this out of the way. My Baby Doll isn't fat (or pregnant for that matter). Dolly is just wearing the thickest, most luxurious black and white fur coat (in the most Purrlitically correct way).

For further reference I've created a cheat sheet for you.
Acceptable greetings: "My you're looking fluffy today" and "Well hello, Dolly"
Unacceptable: "Wow, you're fat" and "Have you eaten all the birds, chubby?"
Dolly with her sad face on.
In more Dolly news, her favorite toy broke today:( I called it her fidget toy. It is a ball that twirls ribbon 'round and 'round. Sometimes it is in a box and sometimes it is under the covers. Well after going through hours and hours of rechargeable batteries, it stopped working today. This toy was given to her almost a year ago, after her big brothers (JB and Eli) died suddenly within weeks of each other. It gave her hours of diversion and then amusement.

I've ordered 4 replacements (Yes, 4. It's her favorite comfort object. You can't have too many backups!) and they should be here in a couple days. I did check the local pet shop but they didn't have any. So we will wait a couple days. That's not so bad right? We have to just go back to the boring old manual stick and ribbon game for a little bit. Oh and we can watch birds too!

Related Articles:
Well Hello, Dolly! http://hello-dolly.html
Dolly is making new friends! http:/dolly-is-making-new-friends.html
Birds invading the store http://rush-through-winter.html
Cat Napping in the Birdbath http://cat-napping-in-birdbath.html
Indoor cats with bird-watching windows. http://indoor-cats-dont-get-bored.html
Wild Cats Unlimited http://wild-cats-unlimited.html
Dolly talks to the birds http://yank-yank.html

Friday, November 17, 2017

Photo Share: Wild Turkeys

To find Wild Turkeys it helps to get up early in the morning, when flocks of these large birds are often out foraging in clearings, field edges, and roadsides. Keep an eye out as you drive along forest edges, particularly forests with nut-bearing trees such as oak and hickory. You’ll usually find turkeys on the ground, but don’t be surprised if you run across a group of turkeys flying high into their treetop roosts at the end of the day.

Related Articles:
Fun Facts on Wild Turkeys http://bit.ly/rI3Ki7
Why a Turkey Is Called a Turkey http://turkey name
Wild Turkeys came close to extinction in the 1930s: http://bit.ly/rgjosF
What Turkeys Eat http://bit.ly/uUiDsN

Iridescent Ocellated Turkey http://iridescent-ocellated-turkey.html

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Electric bird bath heater with a long cord

Beautiful photo is from Holly
Have you been waking up to a lump of ice in your bird bath? If you place a good heater in your existing bird bath you can attract birds all winter as they try to keep their feathers in tip top shape. Wild Birds Unlimited's most popular heater is the Birdbath and Multi-Use De-Icer. I like it because it has a long cord, it fits many different water bowls, and works really well.  

Other great features include:
  • Cast aluminum construction for long-term efficiency and performance
  • Non-stick coating to reduce corrosion and eliminate lime buildup
  • Thermostatically-controlled: It only turns on during freezing weather to reduce operating costs
  • Designed for multiple uses: baths, buckets, animal bowls
  • Safe for birds and animals to drink around
  • Strong and long 5 1/2' power cord
  • 150 Watts 
  • Safe for use in plastic or concrete
  • 3 year manufacturer warranty
  • Made in the USA
Related Articles:
-
All-in-one heated bird bath http://heated-birdbath.html
- Are there heated birdbaths that are solar? http://bit.ly/tnTrK4
- Last Minute Gifts for Birdwatchers http://bit.ly/tXwHJ8
- How to Prepare Your Yard for Winter Birdwatching http://bit.ly/uduvLm
- Attracting Bluebirds in the Winter http://bit.ly/sw0H6P
- Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/vSkLTn

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New tradition for the holidays: Birdseed Pinecone without peanutbutter

Who doesn't remember rolling pine cones in bird seed and decorating a tree for the birds? Now you can reminisce with all your family and friends by passing out Birdseed Pinecones.

Birdseed Pinecone Pair is a Tweet Treat
Wild birds Unlimited has large natural pine cones coated in tasty, energy-packed millet and sunflower seed, then tied with twine to drape easily over a branch. A fun and natural way to decorate an outdoor tree, wrapped in a clear gift bag with green garland and a red raffia tie that's ready for gifting.
 
Product Details
Pinecones, white millet, black oil sunflower seed, red millet, gelatin, jute
Approx. 5" W x 9" L
Made in USA


Also Available for a limited time:
Other adorable ornaments available for a limited time include a festive birdseed hearts, stars, and bells. Simply hang these mixed seed ornaments on outdoor trees for birds to enjoy!

While you are feasting indoors during Thanksgiving you can start a new tradition of setting the table for the birds outdoors.

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

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Gray bird with rusty belly and black eyestripe

Have you seen any red-breasted nuthatches this year?

Yes I have! The cone crop in Canada was so good I was worried I wouldn't see and Red-breasted Nuthatches at the feeders this year, but my little regulars seemed to have returned!

Look along trunks and branches of trees for a nuthatch with a bold black-and-white face pattern wandering up, down, and sideways over the bark. The Red-breasted Nuthatch is the only North American nuthatch with an eyestripe, and the only one with extensive rusty or cinnamon on the underparts. It is smaller and stubbier than the White-breasted Nuthatch.

The nuthatch's habit of wedging seeds into cracks and hammering them open has given rise to its common name.

Red-breasted Nuthatches join foraging flocks of chickadees and other small songbirds. If you offer suet, seed cylinders, or a seed blend with nuts, you may be able to draw these beauties to your yard all winter. They usually spend the summers in the upper part of Michigan and Canada but are residents in mid-Michigan from September to May.

Related Articles:
- Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://goo.gl/d0VzDD
- Bird of the week: Red-breasted Nuthatch http://bit.ly/sXqKVH
- Fascinating Nuthatch Bill-Sweeping & Wing Fanning http://bit.ly/s4MWlV
- Facts every backyard birder wants know about Nuthatches http://bit.ly/tBbDbQ
- Black and white bird walking upside down on a tree trunk http://goo.gl/RUCT6O

Monday, November 13, 2017

Starlings are winter birds

When do starling leave?

The European Starlings are year-round residents in Michigan. In the winter you may notice them lining up on the power wires while you drive.

I often get questions on starlings. In the fall after they molt. Their new plumage is a glossy iridescent black with purple and greens and all their feather tips are white, giving the appearance of many stars. By spring the white feather tips have worn away, so that they are a more uniform dark bird. And the Starling in winter has a dark brown beak that changes into yellow as breeding season approaches.

In the winter a starling’s diet switches from bugs and suet to more fruits, nuts, berries and seeds. Their intestines actually lengthen, and the wall of the gizzard increases in thickness to better absorb the nutrients. Like the robin and bluebirds, feeder visits are less frequent for most people in the winter unless there is a winter storm that covers their natural resources.

To deter starlings you can switch up your bird 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 typically refuse to eat safflower seed.

Related Articles:
- Do birds warm their feet on telephone wires? http://bit.ly/t7k91r
- Fun Facts About European Starlings http://bit.ly/rSQtFD
- How do thousands of European Starlings fly without colliding? http://bit.ly/vwM3Ra
- Amazing moment bald eagle chases down & catches a starling http://bit.ly/tnPo6z
- Starlings stealing shiny money from machine http://bit.ly/uKaP8b

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Feisty Finches: Does Dominance Matter?

I have so many finches I can’t count them all and I love every single one of them.  But I have a question.  I have quite a large bird feeder.  They all come at once to feed and fight over spots to eat.  Maybe like 30 at a time.   Then none of them come to feed for maybe an hour or so.  Then they all come again, all at the same time, to feed again.  Can you tell me why they all feed at once when it would be so much nicer for them if they didn’t have to fight to get a space and came at the time when the feeder is empty of birds?  Do they feel safer eating all together? Also, I have new smaller birds coming to feed that look like the finches but have tiny dots on their chests.  Are these a different type of bird or are they babies?  If you could answer my inquiries, I would be so grateful.
American Goldfinches Feisty and Ready to Fight
You have made some really good observations. One of the best things about feeding birds is watching all the stories unfold. This is real reality entertainment right outside the window. I was just laughing with a customer the other day about how my window feeder has two perches but if one side is occupied inevitably another finch will shove that bird out of the way even though the other side was free. Why?

AllAboutBirds.org explains: Birds are doing a lot more than just feeding when they visit your bird feeder. They are coming and going and interacting with each other in a well-established social pecking order. At first it looks like just a flurry of activity—but watch closely and you’ll start to see the daily struggle of dominance playing out in your backyard.
Displacement: One of the most common and easiest to see behaviors, displacement occurs anytime one bird leaves to get out of the way of another bird. Within the same species, generally speaking, males tend to dominate females and older birds dominate younger ones. Feeder hierarchies can also involve birds of several species, with the larger species usually winning out over the smaller.
Threat Displays or Appeasement:  Sometimes a dominant bird displays aggressive intent, with their bill or wing-spread display in the direction of the subordinate bird. Or subordinate birds make appeasement displays that de-emphasize their size by showing a sleeker, smaller posture and seem to shy away from interaction. 

Does Dominance Matter? It is more than just birdy bullying, with age and experience comes the benefit of better feeding. Research has shown that dominant birds forage in safer spots and at safer hours of the day (when there’s less predation). Accordingly, they get eaten by predators less frequently, are able to maintain a better body condition throughout the lean winter months, and have higher survivorship.

Pine Siskins alongside American Goldfinches
Now on to why the finches feed in flocks. Many birds form flocks year round like doves, starlings, waxwings, crows, jays, and goldfinches. And some species form flocks just during the winter like cardinals, bluebirds, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches. While other birds prefer to remain solitary like hummingbirds, woodpeckers, hawks, and wrens. 

1) Protection - When birds join forces to flock together they can spot predators quicker and then mob, distract or confuse attackers.   
2) Foraging efficiency – Sometimes scout birds are sent out in different directions and report back to the flock where the best food can be found.
3) Finding mates – Some bird species disperse after nesting season to find a flock to winter with along with a mate for next spring.
4) Continuing Education – Some species form family groups in the fall. Parent birds continue to teach their young how to survive until they disperse in the spring to find their own mates.
5) Fly in formations – Certain birds’ aerodynamics conserves energy and allow flock members to see each other and communicate while in flight.
6) Roosting – When large flocks congregate at night, their shared body warmth can help them survive extremely cold temperatures. 
Hoary and Common Redpoll photo via Wikimedia Commons
And finally what is that small bird with tiny dots? Baby American Goldfinches don’t have any dots. Other possibilities of birds that are most commonly seen alongside finches in the winter are Pine Siskins, Common, or Hoary Redpolls.

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

Saturday, November 11, 2017

What has the wings of an owl, the belly of a penguin, and the nose of a kingfisher

Biomimicry design is when people address critical sustainability issues with nature-inspired solutions. Japan’s Shinkansen (bullet train) doesn’t look like your typical train. It has a long and pointed nose like a kingfisher to reduce the phenomenon of "tunnel boom," where deafening compressed air would rush out of a tunnel after a train rushed in. The rigging that holds the train from above, uses serrated edges and curvature similar to owl wing feathers to reduce sound. And the penguins smooth belly inspired the the trains design for lower wind resistance. Engineer and birdwatcher Eiji Nakatsu led the system to be redesigned based on the aerodynamics of three these species of birds.Watch the video explanation: https://youtu.be/iMtXqTmfta0

The study of wild birds’ has also been used to form many survival techniques integral to the military. This Veterans Day you might also find it interesting that to know that:
  1. Birds taught the military about camouflage - The development of camouflage was the result of studying birds and copying how they camouflaged themselves. An American artist and zoologist, Abbott Thayer published a book in 1909 called Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom. This book focused a lot on birds and was widely read by military leaders in an attempt to understand how to camouflage military equipment and troops.
  2. Bird’s eye view gives military advantage – Man followed the birds in to the air. Since the middle of the First World War air warfare has revolutionized military conflict. Airborne supremacy is now a key element to success on the battlefield.
  3. Birds’ migratory V flight pattern adopted by military - A flock of geese can fly 70 percent farther by adopting the V shape rather than flying in isolation. The V formation also gives each bird an unobstructed field of vision, allowing flock members to see each other and communicate while in flight. Fighter pilots often use this formation for the same reason.
  4. Birds’ sentry system serves as an example to protect military members – Many bird species like crows and blue jays use a sentry system to protect members of a group and improve the chances of a good meal. Like birds warn companions of any danger with a distinctive "watchman's song", soldiers keep in regular radio contact with their colleagues to assure them all is well.
Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served have sacrificed and done their duty.

We Honor you and Thank You for your service. 

Related Articles:
Patriotic Red, White and Bluebird http://goo.gl/OQrUY 

National Birds http://bit.ly/tCORyh  
War Pigeon Remembered http://t.co/5yiXSNS
Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://t.co/Br4EnlB
War Birds http://t.co/t7WJp99

Friday, November 10, 2017

Photo Share: Eastern Bluebirds on dinner bell

Dinner bell has rung for the bluebirds!

Related Articles:
Dinner bell feeder http://dinner bell.html
How to get the chickadees to stay at the feeder longer http://goo.gl/Q9pxHq
Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
No-mess Seed Cylinders: http://goo.gl/SPCYIK 
All-in-one seed cylinder bug cylinder! http://bug seed-cylinder-food-for-birds.html

Thank you for sharing your 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.