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, January 31, 2011

February is National Bird Feeding Month!

Congressman John Porter (R-IL) read a resolution into the Congressional Record on February 23, 1994 proclaiming February as National Bird-Feeding Month. Consider that the average wild bird weighs less than two nickels and you’ll realize that winter can be a very punishing time for your backyard friends and February is one of the most difficult months in much of the U.S. for birds to survive in the wild.

Feeding wild birds in the backyard is an easy hobby to start, and can be as simple as putting up a feeder that sticks to the window. For many people, the hobby progresses from there. They discover the relationship between the type and location of feeders, and the seed offered in them, and the number and varieties of birds attracted.

It provides a needed stress relief and brings families together. The resolution noted that one-third of the adult population already feeds wild birds in their backyards. Feeding backyard songbirds is the most popular wildlife-related recreational activity around the home. It brings a welcome flash of color, dash of motion and splash of sound into the backyard, particularly during long Michigan winters.


Come in to Wild Birds Unlimited® and let us help you discover a Refuge In Your Own Backyard®.

And don't forget the Great Backyard Bird Count in February. Click click HERE to learn how to participate.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Overwinters in Michigan

Hi, Sarah ~ This is the first time I've ever seen this visitor in our backyard! Not the best pics, shot through a screen, but maybe the bird will return so I can get a few better ones next time. Would you agree with my identifying it as a female Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker? Are they somewhat uncommon in this area during the winter? We get a lot of Downy Woodpeckers, as well as Hairy and Red-bellied. I've also caught a glimpse of a Pileated Woodpecker in our yard! ~ Deb

Lucky!! Mid-Michigan is at the very edge of the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers’ breeding ground. I usually see them only for a brief time in the spring right before the hummingbirds show up. Most migrate further north to nest in northern Michigan, across Canada and some of the northeastern states.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker in eastern North America that is migratory. In September, sapsuckers head south. Almost all leave the summer range and winter in the southeastern United States, the West Indies, and in the middle and high altitudes of Central America as far south as Panama. Females depart first and adult males last. Migration is primarily at night and often in flocks. Females typically travel the furthest south. But a few individuals might remain throughout the winter in mid-Michigan.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius is a little larger than the Downy Woodpecker. Although named yellow-bellied, the light yellow feathers on the birds’ underside aren’t what most bird watchers will see first. They have black and white barring on the back, a wide white stripe on each black wing, a red crown, a black line through the eyes and a black bib. The males also have a red throat.

Yellow-bellied SapsuckerImage via Wikipedia
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
 They don’t suck sap but actually have a tongue that has a feathery edge to allow the birds to lap sap. Sap itself makes up only about 20% of the overall diet of this species, though at certain times, the figure can be 100%. Sapsuckers also consume insects, fruit, leaf buds, seeds and suet.

Other birds like the hummingbirds, kinglets, warblers, and waxwings can also take advantage of the sap wells that these woodpeckers drill, especially in the early spring before bugs and flower nectar are plentiful.

Last year there were 12 sightings of the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker in Michigan during the Great Backyard Bird Count. Click HERE to see those results. If you’re curious, a total of 117 species were reported in Michigan during the 2010 GBBC. Those results are HERE

This year’s GBBC is February 18-21, 2011. Click click HERE to learn how to participate.


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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Where are the birds? vs. They’re eating me out of house and home!

Is there some environmental problem or something? I haven’t seen the swarms of birds that I usually see this year in Portland, MI

I can’t keep the feeders full! What does Wild Birds Unlimited put in their seed to make all these birds flock to the feeders? Lansing, MI

It’s funny I received both questions in the same week. The easy answer is location, weather, and natural resources available.

So why are you seeing fewer birds? I found nothing in the Michigan DNRE press releases about any poisonings, pollution, or diseases that would explain a drop in bird populations. 

Your question is exactly the reason everyone should participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The data collected can be invaluable. Based on the old reports, I can tell you that a couple years ago we had a huge influx of birds from Canada and the UP looking for food in our area. However this year we've had no major bird irruptions. And if you compare the weather to past years we’ve also seen less snow. It's estimated that only about 20% of a backyard bird's daily energy intake comes from feeders. Birds prefer to forage for their food and because we haven’t had a lot of snowfall in mid-Michigan, there still might be a lot of natural food sources available. Maybe you’ve seen fewer deer too.

You can also go through a little check list to eliminate the most obvious reasons for fewer birds at the feeders.

1. Make sure your seed is fresh. One way to do this is to pinch the seed with your fingernails and see if any oil comes out. On cold days where every meal counts, if your seed has dried out your feeder will be skipped. (Wild Birds Unlimited receives a fresh load of seed each week).

2. Make sure there is no mold in the bottom of your feeder. This can be dangerous to the birds and they will avoid your feeder again. To prevent mold in bad weather use Feeder Fresh™ (a silica grit that absorbs water and humidity, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand). You can also shelter your feeder from the elements by using something like WBU Weather Guard.

4. Look for predators. Hawks or cats can deter birds from feeding in your area.

5. Check with local birding groups to see if you are the only one reporting fewer birds.

Now on the other side, why are some people seeing more birds at the feeder than usual? It could be a switch in seed. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing do sell the very best regionally formulated blends to attract the best birds. A seed blend with black oil sunflower seeds and peanuts is great to offer in the winter. It has a high calorie/ounce ratio due to its high fat and protein content. At Wild Birds Unlimited that would be our most popular WBU No-Mess Blend or WBU Choice blend.

Suet or seed blocks are also great foods to offer many of the birds that will visit backyards in the winter. Suet is a high energy, pure fat substance which is invaluable in winter when insects are harder to find and birds need many more calories to keep their bodies warm. I would recommend our peanut butter suet.

It’s also possible that they are running out of natural sources where you live and found your feeders to be a critical source of food that enables them to survive from day to day. The worse the weather the more the birds depend on feeders. When it’s especially bad outside, seed eating birds flock to feeders no matter where you live to build up their energy reserves.

Thank you for your questions.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Slip Sliding Away: Ducks Have Trouble with Icey Pond


Although migration may seem to make sense for an animal that can fly, travelling south can have some drawbacks. Migratory birds are often exposed to large unfamiliar areas, and when spring does return, they must repeat the northward journey to raise a family.

But remaining in areas where there is cold, freezing weather has its drawbacks too.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Keep your eyes open for Bohemian Waxwings!

Bohemian Waxwings
I'm always fascinated by the Cedar Waxwings that frequent the area around the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited. Lately a few customers have reported seeing Bohemian Waxwings in the Lansing, MI area.

According to the Birds of Michigan field guide, the Bohemian Waxwings nest in northern forests in Alaska and western Canada, and visit Michigan only during winter in search of food. In most years, Bohemians are only seen in small groups, usually intermingled with overwintering flocks of the similar-looking Cedar Waxwings. However, their short tail and chestnut undertail coverts readily distinguish them from their Cedar Waxwing counterparts.

Bohemian Waxwing
Waxwings get their name from the spots on their secondary feathers. These "waxy" spots are actually colorful enlargements of the feather shafts, whose pigments are derived from the birds' berry-filled diet. Juvenile birds have smaller pigment spots that will grow in size until the birds reach their adult plumage.

The Bohemian Waxwing is an irruptive species. As their name suggest they lead a nomadic lifestyle and move around based on where they can locate food. So when you hear the high pitched trill of the Cedar Waxwings, listen for the rougher and lower pitched call of the Bohemian Waxwing.

Cedar Waxwing
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Teachers' Resources for Course on Birds

If I wanted to teach a short course about birds to beginners, where would you suggest I go to find more information?

Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a wealth of information at www.birds.cornell.edu/.
Some things the site has to offer that might interest you are:

All About Birds: a great bird guide that lets you find information about birds and birding basics. There is also a section that has suggestions for teaching others about birds at http://bit.ly/6fEaP1


Resources for Kids & Families: Fun online resources and activities for the whole family, plus information about public exhibits & special events.

Resources for Educators: Everything you need to provide a variety of learning experiences using birds as a window into nature and science.

Courses & Seminars: They offer formal and informal courses and seminars on topics from biology and natural history to birdwatching and recording wildlife sounds.

I hope this helps. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology uses the best science and technology--and inspires the widest range of people and organizations--to solve critical problems facing wildlife.

Their mission is to interpret and conserve the earth's biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.

Explore their links below to learn more:
Research
Citizen Science
Education
Conservation

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is it too late to start feeding the birds this winter?

If you were ever thinking about bird feeding, January and February are actually the months that a backyard bird feeder can make a difference.

Typically, feeders serve as a supplemental source of food for birds in your yard. Fruit and nut bearing bushes and trees supply a natural food source as well as native flowers, such as coneflowers, black eyed Susan’s, and cosmos that are allowed to go to seed and stand through the winter. In the last couple months of winter the natural sources have gradually become more and more scarce and birds may switch to utilizing feeders to survive from day to day.

In fact February is designated National Bird Feeding Month because it's one of the most difficult months in the U.S. for birds to survive in the wild. In mid-Michigan the plants are still dormant and haven’t begun to produce new food for the birds and the bugs are still scarce.

Also, low temperatures force birds to burn up to 10% of their body weight in stored fat each night to stay warm, and this fat must be replaced every day.

Be sure to keep your feeders filled with the high-energy, high-fat foods that provide your birds with the crucial nutrition they need to survive. Studies indicate that Black-Oil Sunflower, Fine and Medium Sunflower Chips, Peanuts, White Proso Millet, Safflower, and Nyjer® Thistle are among the most preferred seed types. Please don’t waste your money on cheap seed. Cheap filler grains like oats, wheat and milo decrease the price per pound of a mix but aren't eaten by the birds and are left to rot on the ground.
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And don't forget the Suet. It is the most concentrated source of energy you can offer wild birds. Our Suet is made with only the highest quality processed beef kidney fat. Special processes remove impurities that cause low melting points and spoilage problems.

Backyard bird feeding is an entertaining and educational pastime that can be enjoyed by children and adults. It provides a needed stress relief and brings families together. There is no designated time to feed the birds. Most people feed year round.

They watch the birds in the winter to brighten the long, dark, dreary days, and then watch the beautiful migratory birds that come in the spring all excited for nesting. Next comes watching the baby birds at the feeders demanding food from parents and finally the large variety of birds that gather after nesting to make the long journey south or to bulk up for winter again. Currently one third of the U.S. populations feed the birds in their yards.

Consider that the average wild bird weighs less than two nickels and you’ll realize that the winter can be a very punishing time for your backyard friends. Birds that come at dusk on a cold evening are hungry, and it's nice to make sure that they always find something to eat.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A little bird told me where you could be found

Do you like the Wild Birds Unlimited mid-Michigan blog? I created it to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.

Over the past couple years, I've been very pleased with all the positive feedback. I have always loved watching, reading and learning about birds. The blog has given me a good opportunity to pass on my joy of birdwatching.
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I also have the Wild Birds Unlimited mid-Michigan Facebook page. I use Facebook to post an eclectic collection of information, current events, and nature in the news. So go ahead and take a peek. If you like what you see, let me know by clicking "Like" on our Page at http://www.facebook.com/lansingwbu.
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You can also find me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/birdsunlimited

Or come in person to one of our stores:
Local Wild Birds Unlimited Location

2200 Coolidge Rd                            
East Lansing, MI                              
517-337-9920                                     

Store Hours:                                       
Mon-Sat: 10am - 6pm                    
Closed Sunday                                 
           
E-mail:            bloubird@gmail.com
Website:          http://lansing.wbu.com/
Blog:                 http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/
Twitter:           http://twitter.com/birdsunlimited
Facebook:       http://www.facebook.com/lansingwbu

Quick Fun Facts about Birds


Geese will also sometimes twist themselves into awkward looking positions
in order to slow down and reduce their height quickly.

1. What bird can’t walk but can fly upside down? Hummingbirds’ feet are only strong enough for perching. They can barely walk at all. The hummingbird is much more comfortable in flight. It can hover; fly forward, backward and upside down.

2. Which bird has the largest wingspan? The Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) has the largest wingspan of any living bird. The largest known specimen of the species had a wingspan of 11 ft. 11 in. Its impressive wingspan allows the wandering albatross to glide without beating  its wings for long periods.  In fact, the wandering albatross has sometimes been known to sleep while it flies.

3. How many known species of birds are there? There are approximately 10,000 known species of birds in the world and 414 in Michigan.
PelicanheadImage via Wikipedia
Australian pelican (Pelicanus conspicillatus)
 4. What bird has the longest bill? The bill of the Australian pelican (Pelicanus conspicillatus) is 13-18.5 inches long. The longest beak in relation to body length is that of the Sword- billed Hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera) of the Andes. At 4 inches, the beak is longer than the bird’s body (excluding the tail).

5. What bird has the longest lifespan? Although the lifespan of many birds is unknown, some species of parrots have been known to live more than 100 years, making them the longest-living birds.


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Sunday, January 23, 2011

House Finches: Those Year-round Red Heads

A male House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) perc...Image via Wikipedia
Hi, I recently started feeding our winter birds here in Flat Rock, Mi. I've seen all the usual winter birds listed here. I saw the other day that all I can do is describe it as similiar in size to a sparrow, but with a very rosey-blush color on it's chest and cap. I immediately thought of the Grosbeak, but the rose color was just that...a pale rose blush but pronounced enough that you could see it. All the Grosbeaks I've see have a deep hue, almost red...and they didn't seem similar in size either. Do you know what this could've been? We're using regular bird seed with lots of nut mixture and suet with heavy peanut content. Attracts a lot of birds we usually don't see...especially the Blue Jays and Cardinals! Love it!

The House Finch or Purple Finch immediately come to mind. If your trying to identify a bird that looks similar to a Pine Grosbeak you can go to http://www.allaboutbirds.org/ and type in the name. At the top and bottom of the page it usually has a place to click for the species that look similar.

In Michigan, if you have your feeders filled with WBU No-Mess Blend, sunflower, safflower or Nyjer® seed, the chances are good that one of the red finches of winter is probably a regular visitor to your yard.

The odds are best for a visit by the ubiquitous House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus. These 6″, talkative little birds get their name from their habit of hanging around houses. They build their nests in the hanging baskets, wreaths, or in trees, and their cheery warble or a variety of chirps is a constant around the bird feeders.

The amount of red the finch has can vary depending on the amount of carotenoid pigments consumed in its food during molt. They have slight white wing bands, a brownish red head with a pink chest that has brown streaking. They also appear to have a sleek body and stand tall.

Once restricted to the West, this talented songster became firmly established throughout all of eastern North America. In 1940, they were illegally captured in California and imported to New York by pet dealers. Fearing prosecution, the dealers released their “Hollywood Finches” on Long Island in 1940. Since then the finches have spread to all corners of the east and have even rejoined their relatives in the west.

House Finches are always exciting visitors to your feeders. These finches have a vegetarian diet like most finches. They do not rely on insects during the summer nesting season and continue to eat seeds all year-round.

Source: Wild Birds Unlimited BOTM
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Saturday, January 22, 2011

The GBBC is almost here!

Just a quick reminder that the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is third weekend of February. Now is the perfect time to brush up on your winter birds, and remind family and friends that the annual GBBC is just around the corner. 
The Great Backyard Bird Count is where citizen scientists (that means people like you and me) take 15 minutes and count how many birds we see. It can be at any location. You can look out at your backyard, go to a nearby park, or look out your office window during your coffee break. You submit the number and variety of birds you counted and scientists compile all the data.

Your participation in the Great Backyard Bird Count is one piece of the puzzle that helps scientists get the big picture about changes in bird populations.

On New Year’s Eve, about 5,000 blackbirds died in Arkansas after fireworks scared them from their roost and they collided with houses, mailboxes, and possibly each other as they flew about disoriented in the dark. The incident sparked a flurry of media coverage. But we also need to look at the chronic loss of birdlife because of habitat destruction and other causes.

An estimated 100 million birds die from window collisions in the United States alone each year. That’s more than 270,000 per day on average! Outdoor cats are estimated to kill another 100 million per year. Click HERE to read more in a recent New York Times article.
Each year GBBC relies on previous participants to become trusted ambassadors and tell others about the count and encourage more new people to participate. As an ambassador you can distribute GBBC flyers in your community, hold a gatherings for schools, scouts or other organizations to show others how to take part in the GBBC. Cornell has a GBBC PowerPoint presentation (with script) ready for these presentations. Some ambassadors also speak to newspapers, television, and radio reporters about the GBBC. If you’re interested in doing more to promote the count, please visit the GBBC ambassador page.

Social networking is also the electronic "word-of-mouth" you can use to help spread information about the GBBC far and wide. So go ahead and tweet about what you’re doing to get ready for the GBBC—tag your tweet with #gbbc and it will be drawn into a special widget that will appear on the GBBC home page. You can also LIKE the GBBC Facebook page and share your images, videos, and other bird-related activities as we get closer to the count. 

OK, here’s your pop quiz for this month. Hairy or Downy woodpecker? This one trips up a lot of people. So take a close look, and then see if you got it right. Answer

To learn more about identifying birds by size and shape, watch our “Inside Birding” tutorial. About five minutes into the segment you’ll find more about distinguishing Downy and Hairy woodpeckers.

Thank you for caring about the birds! 

Friday, January 21, 2011

It's National Squirrel Appreciation Day! Are You Ready?

Do you sell critter food? Barbara ~ Lansing, MI

Thank you for such an appropriate question on National Squirrel Appreciation Day. Yes, we have a variety of foods to feed the critters in your yard.

Wild Birds Unlimited sells cracked corn, whole corn, corn on the cob, as well as peanut pieces and peanuts in the shell. We also have a Wildlife Blend that is a peanut, sunflower seed, and corn mix that the squirrels will devour.

What is Squirrel Appreciation Day?
Christy Hargrove from Asheville, North Carolina started Squirrel Appreciation Day on January 21, 2001. Christy is a wildlife rehabilitator in North Carolina affiliated with the Western North Carolina Nature Center. Mid-winter was chosen to celebrate squirrels because that is when food sources are scarce for wildlife.

How do you Celebrate?
Who can resist the big brown eyed, chubby cheeked squirrels? Treat the squirrels on their special day by giving them your apple cores, maybe with a little peanut butter. Or you can also pick up some of the specially formulated Wildlife blend at Wild Birds Unlimited that's made up of peanuts, sunflower seeds, and corn at the East Lansing store today. Yum!

Unique Squirrel Feeders:
Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI also have a variety of squirrel feeders to choose from. There are a couple box styles that hold loose seed (Interactive Squirrel Feeder and Munch Box) and several that hold corn on the cob (Twirl-a-Squirrel, Squirrel Chair, Squirrel Bungee, and more).

I'm sure the squirrels are pretty pleased with themselves that their cuteness warranted them an appreciation day. Just don't tell them that all of February is National Birdfeeding Month.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What Happens after you Hang up the #1 Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder?

Over 50% of the time, after people purchase one of the squirrel-proof feeders here at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, they come back within the month asking for a feeder to feed the squirrels. It happens over and over. We’ve sold thousands of our lifetime guaranteed feeders that work so well people start to feel sorry for the poor, fluffy-tailed, pudgy-wudgy, squirrels.

Sometimes they are embarrassed after years of complaining about the wily critters. However, once they purchase the best squirrel-proof feeder from us, they find themselves missing the drama of trying to outwit the squirrels.

Well on January 21, let’s not be embarrassed anymore. That is National Squirrel Appreciation Day and you can celebrate by giving them Wild Birds Unlimited's Wildlife Blend, full of nuts and seeds the squirrels love. So mark your calendar to come in to get free food for these clever little beauties!

I like the squirrels. I have so many in my yard, they pack a pathway in the snow between all the bird feeding stations. More than any kind of wild mammal, they seem comfortable around humans, like outdoor pets. They can be very entertaining too.

And I know I've posted this video of the baby squirrel before, but it's my favorite:

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Squirrel Escapes Tiger's Paw at Zoo


How many Squirrel Species Live in Michigan?
There are eight members of the squirrel family living in mid-Michigan. They are all omnivores (eating seeds, insects, fruit, and nuts) except the woodchuck which is an herbivore (eating grasses and dandelions).

1. Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger)
Usually observed in yards or traveling electric lines. They range from 18-27 inches from head to tail, and are the largest tree squirrel to be found in our Michigan neighborhoods. Their color can vary, but they are generally cinnamon colored with a tan underside.

2. Gray Squirrel (Scierus carolinensis)
This large tree squirrel measuring 16-20 inches is slightly smaller than the Fox Squirrel. Color varies from white to gray to red to black and to sometimes patchy. They are generally black in the East Lansing area. It spends most of its life in the trees of suburban yards and parks.

3. Red Squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
Known to many Michigan tree-stand hunters as the "Tattle-tail of the Forest", this small tree squirrel is easily identified by to its small size of 12-15 inches from nose to tail, making them slightly larger than a chipmunk. Their size might make you think that they are a juvenile fox squirrel, but this is not the case. Their color is a solid reddish brown with a whitish underbelly.
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4. Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus) and
5. Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans)
The flying squirrel is rarely seen due to their nocturnal habits. Northern (7-9”) and Southern (5-7”) Flying Squirrels appear nearly identical but for their size and range. This species can be identified by its flattened tail and the excess web of skin that is between its front and rear legs. These squirrels don’t actually fly but glide from the top on one tree to the trunk of the next.

6. Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)
Found throughout Michigan, this small (6-8in) ground squirrel is reddish brown with a white racing stripe bordered by two black stripes down its side. Its loud “chip, chip, chip” can be heard as it forages for seeds, insects, fruit and nuts. During the winter it is a light hibernator that wakes every 2-3 weeks and eats from its stash stored in its elaborate tunnels system underground.

7. Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus)
Similar in size (6-8”) and look to an Eastern Chipmunk but has smaller ears and 13 alternating tan and dark brown stripes from nape to base of the tail. It’s also called a Federation Squirrel because the dark stripes have tan spots that resemble stars and stripes of a flag. It is a true hibernator from September to October. They like to live in pastures, meadows, prairies, and fields.

8. Woodchuck (Marmota monax)
The name Woodchuck is said to come from the Cree Indian word wuchak which means little brown animal. Common in fields, pastures, and woodlands, the woodchuck (18-28”) is the largest member of the squirrel family. The woodchuck does not like wood but eats leafy green vegetation and especially likes dandelions. It also burrows like the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel and is a true hibernator.

Source:
Mammals of Michigan Field Guide
by Stan Tekiela 
(Available at Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What is your Most Popular Squirrel-proof Bird Feeder?

I like the Brome Squirrel Buster Plus and so do our customers. It is our number one selling feeder at the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store. I’ve had mine for over four years now and I’ve never had a problem.

Squirrels can’t figure out how to open the feeder. It has a lock top you push down and turn to fill. The tube will hold a lot of seed and is long enough so that squirrels can’t hang upside down to reach the feeding ports. The Squirrel Buster also has a cardinal ring so cardinals can sit and eat comfortably or if you just want smaller birds, the ring can be removed.

When a squirrel tries to eat from the feeder his weight closes off the feeding ports to deny him access to the food. You can also adjust the tension to make it sensitive enough to shut down on the large starlings or blackbirds. Backyard birds average 0.3 – 2.0 ounces while blackbirds are about 4 ounces and squirrels are about a pound.

The best thing about the feeder is that it is easy to disassemble for cleaning because there are no tools required and this beautiful feeder comes with a Lifetime Factory Warranty.

You can fill the Squirrel Buster Plus with any quality seed and hang it from a pole or tree. I like to use the Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess seed blend and I have mine hanging on a tree hook. The feeder attracts a variety of pretty birds that I can watch when I come home from work and no squirrels. The poor squirrels don’t understand that the seed you put out isn’t for them.

Squirrel proof feeders are the easiest way to keep them out of your “bird” seed and the Squirrel Buster Plus is one of the best feeders guaranteed!
The second bestselling squirrel-proof feeder is the Droll Yankees Flipper. I sell a lot of Flippers and the most common complaint is that the squirrels don't try hard enough to get the food from this feeder. They just give up and leave the food for the birds.

The video of the squirrel performing acrobatic acts is very intriguing but most squirrels turn tail and run after their first encounter. I tell people there is always hope that in the spring a new potential "flipper" could be born.
THE YANKEE FLIPPER is the definitive squirrel proof bird feeder. Birds love to eat from it, but squirrels are prevented from eating from it in a way that will make you smile. The weight activated feeding perch is calibrated to react to a squirrel's weight. When a squirrel steps on the perch, a connection is made with a motor that makes the perch spin, and the squirrel is flipped off the feeder. Thus, the name YANKEE FLIPPER.

The unit comes equipped with rechargeable nicad batteries and a battery charger. Would you expect anything less of Droll Yankees? It is easy to clean, easy to fill, has a lifetime guarantee, and is made in the USA.

We also have the Droll Yankees Whipper, Dipper and a variety of other squirrel-proof feeders available at the Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI store.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Why are Squirrels Called Squirrels?

January 21 is National Squirrel Appreciation Day and I was wondering about the origin of the name “squirrel”.

Wikipedia explains that the word squirrel came from the early 14th century Anglo-Norman word esquirel and from the Old French escurel, which is the reflex of a Latin word sciurus. This Latin word was itself borrowed from Ancient Greek word σκίουρος, skiouros, which means, are you ready… shadow-tailed. This is probably because the squirrels use their bushy tails to shade themselves.

So for everyone who thought squirrel meant “clever creature sent to drive me crazy” or “batty rat that can figure out any bird feeder” now you know it means "beautiful beastie with a bushy tail".

Other Fun Facts on Squirrels

Why do squirrels chew on everything?
Squirrels, nibble, gnaw and chew on anything and everything to sharpen and shorten their teeth that grow continuously. Squirrels’ teeth grow very fast and they wear them down by cracking nuts, trimming trees, and attacking bird feeders. If they didn’t, we’d have saber toothed squirrels running around.

How fast are squirrels?
The backyard tree squirrels in mid-Michigan are fast. They chase each other around and avoid predators at an average speed of 10-20 miles per hour. They have long, muscular hind legs and short front legs that work together to aid in leaping. They can jump 10 feet from a tree to a bird feeder or straight up an average of 4 ft. The hind legs of squirrels are double-jointed. This helps them run up and down trees quickly.

How big is a squirrel’s brain?
You are what you eat. A squirrel’s brain is about the size of a walnut, one of their favorite foods. They can eat their own body weight (approximately 1.5 pounds) every week. Squirrels are mostly vegetarian but sometimes they do eat small insects.

To celebrate National Squirrel Appreciation Day, come in to the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store for some Wildlife Blend which is  full of nuts and seeds the squirrels love on January 21.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fun Facts About Bald Eagles

The Bald Eagle continues to overcome adversity and fascinate nature lovers.
  • Bald Eagles have faced many perils since the 20th century, due mostly to human interactions. Though they have been on the 'endangered species' list, moved to the 'threatened' list and have been recovering well with breeding pair introductions in many states, they still have a long way to go to reach their previously estimated population sizes.
  • The Bald Eagle lives throughout a large part of North America, primarily in the US and Canada, and is usually found near rivers and bodies of water.
  • 
    An immature Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephal...Image via Wikipedia
    Immature Bald Eagle
    Bald Eagles are opportunistic feeders and usually prefer to eat fresh fish. During winter, they will eat more birds, mammals and carrion.
  • Bald Eagles usually hunt from a high perch and glide down to catch their prey. They will strike from the air and are known to wade into shallow streams or rivers for fish.
  • Bald Eagles are pulled into the water occasionally while trying to catch large fish and then, using their wings to mimic a motion that is similar to the butterfly stroke, break free from the water.
  • Pairs perform dramatic aerial displays. The most impressive display involves the two eagles flying to great height, locking talons and then tumbling perilously toward the earth, breaking apart just before they would hit the ground.
  • Bald Eagles generally mate for life. They renew their pair bonds each year by adding new sticks and branches to their massive nests in which they usually lay two to three eggs.
  • Haliaeetus leucocephalus (bald eagle) landing ...Image via WikipediaBald Eagles have the largest nest of any North American bird and it can take months to build. Average nests measure about 5 feet wide and 3 feet tall and are made of sticks and branches. The biggest recorded Bald Eagle nest was about 9 feet wide and 18 feet tall.
  • Male Bald Eagles help the females incubate the eggs, and both care for the young after they hatch.
  • Both parents are very careful around the eggs while in the nest. They will even clench their toes to possibly prevent the eggs from being punctured by their talons.
  • Babies hatch in about 35 to 46 days and will leave the nest in 10 to 11 weeks. However, they will still be fed for a month after fledging.
  • Juvenile Bald Eagles gradually spend time on their own away from their parents and learn to hunt by trial and error. They may eat a lot of carrion, especially fish, till they master hunting live food.
  • Bald Eagles do not mature until their forth or fifth year, only then receiving their characteristic white head and tail plumage.
  • Immature Bald Eagles have been known to explore vast areas for multiple years. Some Floridian young have been seen in Michigan, and some Californian young have gone as far north as Alaska.
For more information about Bald Eagles, visit All About Birds- the Cornell Lab of Ornithology online bird guide.

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