About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Juvenile cardinal with daddy

Except for a black mask and throat, the male Northern Cardinals are red all over including their bill. Young cardinals have ashy brown feathers and black bills rather than the orange-red of the adults. They change gradually to their adult coloration three to four months after hatching.

Right now they are looking for a lot of bugs, weed seeds, fruits, nuts, and berries in the wild. At the feeders you can provide highly nutritious and protein packed foods like mealworms, sunflower and safflower seeds as well as peanuts and mealworms.

Related Articles:
Northern Cardinal Fun Facts http://bit.ly/twE6NV
How the Northern Cardinal bird was named http://bit.ly/tSKZYs
Cardinal Bird Feeders Made in the USA: http://bit.ly/qXJPFM
How to Attract Cardinals: http://bit.ly/pjh7mO
What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/rAArXw
What are the different types of cardinal birds? http://goo.gl/CUI43

Saturday, May 26, 2018

First baby birds arrive at feeders in June

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 the 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 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 to keep your birds healthy. 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

Friday, May 25, 2018

Photo Share: Grosbeak loves no mess

We’ve had both the male and female frequently visiting for 2weeks now. 

It looks like the girls are appreciating a quick, easy bite at the feeders. Both the Red-bellied Woodpecker and Rose-breasted Grosbeak females are probably feeding babies by now.

Keep the feeders full for the influx of little ones in June!

Thank you very much for sharing with us! 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 24, 2018

Where did the orioles go?

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 of food offered at feeders. You can attract orioles to eat from your backyard feeder by setting out orange halves, grape jelly, sugar water, suets, or mealworms.

While they are busy nesting they may visit your feeders less often. But if you keep your feeders clean and full of fresh foods they will come back eventually and bring the new kids.

According to AllAboutBirds.com: "Baltimore Orioles build sock-like hanging nests, woven together from slender fibers. The female weaves the nest, usually 3 to 4 inches deep, with a small opening, 2 to 3 inches wide, on top and a bulging bottom chamber, 3 to 4 inches across, where her eggs will rest. She anchors her nest high in a tree, first hanging long fibers over a small branch, then poking and darting her bill in and out to tangle the hank. While no knots are deliberately tied, soon the random poking has made knots and tangles, and the female brings more fibers to extend, close, and finally line the nest.

Construction materials can include grass, strips of grapevine bark, wool, and horsehair, as well as artificial fibers such as cellophane, twine, or fishing line. Females often recycle fibers from an old nest to build a new one. Males occasionally bring nesting material, but don’t help with the weaving. Building the nest takes about a week, but windy or rainy weather may push this as long as 15 days."

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 23, 2018

Birds from different species recognize each other and cooperate

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Large black and brown sparrow with red eye

About the size of a Robin, the male and female Eastern Towhees have dark plumage on their heads and backs and rusty-orange flanks on a white belly. The males, head, neck, throat and back are black while the females are dark brown. Their scientific name Piplo is derived from the Latin pipo, meaning “to chirp”. Erythrophthalmus is derived from Greek words that mean “red eye.” Eastern Towhees in Michigan have red eyes, but white-eyed birds are common in the southern states.

Eastern Towhees live in Michigan from late March to mid-November. They are often heard before they are seen. The name "towhee," a simulation of the bird's call, was coined in 1731 by the naturalist and bird artist Mark Catesby. During the spring nesting season the males sing 'drink your tea' loudly from exposed perches and their call when disturbed is a loud 'towhee'. A group of towhees are collectively known as a "tangle" and a "teapot" of towhees.

Towhees are usually shy sulkers and rush for cover at the slightest disturbance. They are ground feeders and use a hop-and-scratch foraging method. While jumping forward with its head and tail up, it kicks its strong legs backwards to uncover its food. They use this same technique on the forest floor and underneath feeders even when the seeds are clearly visible. If your feeders are near dense underbrush you may attract towhees with peanuts, sunflower seeds, millet or cracked corn.
Watch the video:  https://youtu.be/mWVa08fpnXg

Monday, May 21, 2018

Dramatic decrease in finch activity

Has anyone mentioned that the goldfinches have stopped coming to the feeders?

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.

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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Hummingbirds find feeders by sight

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

Saturday, May 19, 2018

No waste vs. In the shell bird seed

My husband says that sunflower is the cheapest seed and attracts the most birds. I would like hulled sunflower to reduce the mess. Is it possible that I can use the argument that it is actually more economical because we are paying for all those shells that birds just leave and I have to clean up? Does anyone know exactly the percentage of shells in a bag of Black Oil Sunflower seeds and what percent is the edible part?
Black Oil Sunflower seed is one of the most preferred seeds by our backyard birds. However on average, only 65% of that bag of sunflower seed is eaten and the rest is waste that is kicked to the ground. Fortunately sunflower seeds can come with or without the shell.

Birds prefer the seeds without the shell (Sunflower chips) because every minute at the feeder is a minute a predator can attack. I prefer sunflower chips because they don't leave much debris on the ground to clean up and usually don't sprout. Also the shells or sunflower hulls of the cultivated sunflower contain allelopathic compounds which stops the growth of grass and most plants in the garden.

If you ever saw me load in seed on Tuesdays and Fridays you would know that our Wild Birds Unlimited customers also prefer the No-Mess Blend. No-Mess Blend blend is 100% edible. It features a perfect blend of attractive, high-energy seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. Pound for pound, I believe our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the messy shells, you get the widest variety of birds, and they eat everything happily.

Related Articles:
Sunflowers Up-close: The Strange Journey of an American Plant http://bit.ly/uFlz65
Which seeds are preferred by wild birds? http://bit.ly/zchLgB
How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://bit.ly/rTLSqJ
Seed Storage Cans and WBU Seed Scoops http://bit.ly/uBaSwO

What birds like peanuts? http://bit.ly/zispJK
What seeds do wild birds eat? http://bit.ly/wKyQNB
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/xbkaPP

Friday, May 18, 2018

Photo Share: We got our first oriole!

Eating PeanutButter suet.

Peanut butter is a nutritious food to offer birds and peanutbutter suet is very attractive. It is a high-energy, high-protein food especially valuable for bug eating birds that have just migrated in to Michigan.

This cold spring has been hard for the birds. They are looking for bugs but will make due with suet while their natural sources of food are scarce. After the rains and warmer weather rolls in to Michigan the activity at the feeder decreases as the bug population increases. But a lot of birds soon return with little bundles of joy.

The reason I feed suet in the summer is to watch as harried parent birds bring their babies up close and try to convince them to feed themselves.

Thank you very much for sharing with us! 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 17, 2018

Where are the 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