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, January 19, 2018

Backyard squirrels

They may have a reputation for making bird feeding less enjoyable, however, squirrels aren’t going away any time soon. Perhaps by looking at them from a different perspective, you can begin to appreciate, if not enjoy, squirrels and their behaviors.

Squirrels are one of the most curious and adaptable animals to be found anywhere and they are unmatched in their problem-solving ability to defeat many so-called "squirrel proof" feeders!

Squirrels can jump up to five feet vertically and ten feet between trees or structures. They have the ability to cling from objects with their back foot toes (with support from their tail) which allows them to hang upside-down and eat.

So, if you want to keep squirrels from bothering your bird feeding setup, Wild Birds Unlimited has tested and determined the best foods, feeders and accessories to confuse and confound even the most brilliant squirrel in your neighborhood.

And if you decide to raise the white flag and enjoy their amazing antics, we have lots of fun and functional squirrel feeders that will brighten up both their day and yours, too.

Visit us soon, and we’ll help you feed the squirrels if that’s your thing, or we’ll help you defeat ’em once and for all.

Related Articles:

Special squirrel adaptation http://squirrel-adaptation.html
Where squirrels sleep at night in the winter http://squirrels-sleep-at-night.html
Squirrel Dancing http://squirrel-dancing.html
What squirrels eat in the winter http://squirrels-eat-in-winter.html
Red Squirrel facts & figures http://squirrel-funny.html
Where flying squirrels live http://flying-squirrels-live.html
Squirrels Like to Work for Their Food http://squirrels-like-to-work-for-their-food.html
How do I keep squirrels off my bird feeders? http://bit.ly/yiZsML
Squirrel proof bird feeder reviews http://bit.ly/waJs9o
Why are Squirrels Called Squirrels? http://bit.ly/yhktkr

Thursday, January 18, 2018

#BirdYourWorld Photo Share

Sarah, these are mostly your feeders that I gave my son near Maple City, MI. He gets lots of birds up there.

It looks like he has a finch feeding frenzy and one lone chickadee making his way through the suet.

Thank you for sharing! 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.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Special squirrel adaptation

A lot of squirrel territory is the vertical, navigating up and down the trunks of a trees. They find a nut on the ground and run to a tree trunk to eat out of the view of predators. Because they have the treat in their hands, they only have their feet to secure them to a safe perching area. Fortunately they have well-developed claws in both the front and hind feet to latch on to rough surfaces.

They also can feed comfortable headfirst down trees by swiveling their back ankle joints. Squirrels can maneuver quickly and gracefully thanks to a special adaptation where their ankles, or wrists, articulate. The squirrel may be heading down the trunk but its feet and claws point upward, enabling a good grip on the bark and a speedy dexterous descent.

Related Articles:
What's the Difference Between a Groundhog & Woodchuck? http://bit.ly/z5FPoV
Singing Birds Herald The Arrival of Spring. http://bit.ly/uJbzCe
Love and the Birds: The Origin of St. Valentine's Day http://bit.ly/w5ra8B
Is hibernation more of a nightmare than a pleasant dream? http://bit.ly/y2OGr6
Origin of National Squirrel Appreciation Day! http://bit.ly/AhqkBg

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Robins stay here all year long

I have just seen a large group of Robins here in in Coastal South Carolina and I was somewhat surprised. Do they stay here all year long? - Cheryll
Yes, some America Robins migrate but if you look at the range map you’ll see that there are winter populations of robins in most states year round. Robins are surprisingly hardy birds, capable of surviving temperatures well below zero. But that doesn’t mean sightings are common. When I hear their chirp in the crab-apple tree in the dead of winter, it always takes me by surprise!

Robins head off to the woods in large flocks in the fall and winter to eat fruits, nuts, and berries. You'll see them occasionally foraging at certain trees that produce fruit, usually after a snow. They can fly miles to forage for food in the winter. You may see them in your yard for two or three days devouring a crab apple tree's fruit and then not see them again the rest of the winter.

At the end of winter when natural supplies run low, they start to show up at my feeders looking for mealworms, suets, seed cylinders, and picking out the nuts in my no-mess blend birdseed. And make sure you have water. Birds need to drink and bathe too, even in cold weather. Dirty feathers lose much of their insulating properties, so a clean bird is a warm bird. A heated birdbath on cold days or a fresh bowl of water on warmer days is a big help. Thank you for sharing your observation!

Related Articles:
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/tfT7Ca
Cavity nester birds http://cavity-nester-birds.html
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/uKZs6v
Build a nest box in winter, and watch baby birds in spring http://nest-box-in-winter.html 

Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
Attracting Birds with Roost Houses http://roost-houses.html

Monday, January 15, 2018

Music Monday – At one time, everyone was a beginner

Like many people, I’ve always had a love of music. My interest in music though was not just listening, but wanting to play instruments. I can distinctly remember even as a very young kid wanting to play something. Part of that was just my natural interest in trying to understand how things worked. Probably a negative associated with my interest was that I didn’t have the attention to stick with one thing for very long so I understand the basics of a lot of instruments but I’ve never stuck with any long enough to become very competent on any. Even now as I have begun to play my saxophone again after many years of being away, I have to quash the urges to take up the tuba or trombone or bass clarinet. They are all so interesting and if I had all the time (and money) in the world, I would try my hand at them all. But for now, I am going to work on the saxophone. Fortunately, being able to play in the New Horizons Band at the MSU Community Music School has given me some direction and incentive to practice and become a better musician on the instrument I have. And yes, I do practice. Probably not as much as I should or would like to but I still have a full-time job. NHB does have many people still working as well as many that are retired. It is a mix of all ages and skill levels. That range of skill levels makes NHB unique in its ability to accept new members all the time. All you need to join, is a willingness to learn and a love of wanting to play music.

I feel that on the range of skill levels, I am still a beginner, maybe a seasoned beginner since I have been with the band for about a year now. And I have to continually remind myself that being a beginner is OK, that it takes time to learn anything new. That everyone starts out as a beginner. Before I started in the band I did what I think is very common. I started asking questions like “how hard is it to take up an instrument as an adult”. If you search on Google with that question, the results frequently landed on sites from music teachers or schools where they say that is the most frequently asked question from every adult that they work with. As an adult, we often feel very accomplished in our own field of endeavor but have forgotten how many times we had to overcome challenges before we became competent. To learn an instrument as an adult, you have to think like a child. Don’t be embarrassed by small failures, let them be learning experiences. I frequently miss notes and struggle with syncopated rhythms or cut time. I circle those sections on the music sheet as we play and when I go home, I work through those sections so that maybe I will be able to play through them in class next time. It is part of my personal journey to become better doing something that I have always loved. I remind myself that I am not trying to become a professional musician, I am doing this because I enjoy playing music. NHB has given me the opportunity to do something I have wanted to do since I was a kid and to have fun doing it with a group of other like-minded individuals.

New Horizons Band at the MSU Community Music School is now recruiting New Members. If you would like to talk to me in person or have questions about joining, I will be at the Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing store this Saturday (January 20, 2018) from 10am to about noon and would be happy to answer any questions. You can also write me with questions at zarkadan@gmail.com. The new semester starts the week of January 22 and you are welcome and encouraged to visit during any practice to see what we do. You can also visit the Community Music School Sunday January 21, 2018 between 3-5pm during their Open House to get more information.

Related Articles:
Music Monday http:/music-monday.html
MSU Community Music School http:/msu-community-music-school.html

Sunday, January 14, 2018

What birds will do in the cold

During these windy, cold nights you might wonder where the birds that don’t migrate south for the winter sleep. Birds that nest in cavities like chickadees, woodpeckers, wrens, and nuthatches tend to sleep in tree hollows, man-made nest boxes or roosting pockets far away from many predators. Other birds like cardinals, jays, doves, juncos and finches roost in dense brush or foliage. I have a lot of backyard birds that like to sleep in the pine trees near the feeding stations. If the wind is blowing, they go to the other side of the tree and avoid it.

Most birds will fluff up their feathers to cover their feet and create air pockets that will help them keep warm like a down jacket. Birds that perch also scrunch down to sleep because that automatically makes the toes grip their perch and stay locked. In the legs of most tree-dwelling birds, tendons extend down the leg behind the ankle to attach to the tips of the toes and when their knees bend, the tendons are pulled taut, making the toes on their feet clench. Even on windy nights, this grasp cannot be released until they wake up and their limbs are straightened again.
Another way birds combat the cold is by shivering. This converts muscular energy into heat for the short term, but the energy must be replenished shortly thereafter. By keeping your feeders filled with high energy, high fat foods you can provide your birds with the vital nutrition they need to survive. High on the list of best choices to meet this nutritional need is suet or seed blocks and certain seeds like peanuts, sunflower  and nyjer seed.

Related Articles:
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/tfT7Ca
Cavity nester birds http://cavity-nester-birds.html
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/uKZs6v
Build a nest box in winter, and watch baby birds in spring http://nest-box-in-winter.html 

Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
Attracting Birds with Roost Houses http://roost-houses.html

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Photo Share: Bald Eagle in Lansing, Michigan

Can you spot the eagle?
During Michigan winters, bald eagles are seen throughout the state of Michigan, and while they nest mainly in the Upper Peninsula, we have begun to see some eagles nest in Lansing. The eagles in the photo hang out along the river in my sister backyard in Lansing.

If she's lucky, during the beginning of the breeding season, from mid-February to mid-March, she might be able to see some mating displays. The mating "cartwheel" display begins high in the air with the two birds darting and diving at each other, until they lock talons and drop in a spinning free fall, until the last possible moment when they separate.

Nests are usually located in the tallest tree in the area, often a white pine or dead snag. They are usually made of sticks with a lining of grass and moss. Nests may be refurbished each year until they reach enormous sizes, up to ten feet in depth and 20 feet across.

Last year a pair built a nest a little way from Potter Park Zoo and fledged two eaglets. They were one of  nearly 1,000 active nesting sites around the state.

Related Articles:
Why Bald Eagles nest in the winter http://why-eagles nest-in-winter.html
Nesting Eagles facts and figures http://t.co/vpj99ZV
A closer look at our National bird http://bald-eagle-facts.html
Amazing moment bald eagle chases down and catches a starling in mid-air http://t.co/U3CT5Sh
Michigan DNRE asking drivers to watch out for bald eagles http://t.co/A9R33zI

Friday, January 12, 2018

Anna's Hummingbird Nesting Season

It's funny to think about it when we are having snowy whiteout conditions in mid-Michigan, but way out west it is the beginning of nesting season for the Anna's Hummingbirds. The question I received yesterday via email was: I live in San Diego and just purchased a hanging nesting material hanger. Is there a certain time of year I should put this out? When do hummingbirds start to build their nests in San Diego?

According to San Diego State University:

"Few birds have taken to man-made surroundings more thoroughly than Anna’s Hummingbird Calypte anna. In its range, Anna’s is by far the most abundant hummingbird in gardens and at feeders while still remaining common in native sage scrub, chaparral, and riparian and oak woodland. Where feeders and ornamental plants fuel it year round, Anna’s Hummingbird is a permanent resident; in natural habitats, many birds depart for the fall. During winter they return, and some begin nesting as early as December. Anna’s Hummingbird nests earlier than any other San Diego County bird."

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

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Birds like hulled sunflower seeds

I feed your seedless bird food? Should I also have a feeder with the regular stuff too?

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.

Sunflower seeds in or out of the shell are considered the number one choice to feed and attract the greatest variety of birds. No-Mess Blend blend (or as many people call it "seedless") is unique because 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.

The first ingredient in the No-Mess blend is sunflower chips, then peanut pieces, and finally a little millet, also with the hulls removed. Peanuts are for your bug eating birds like chickadees, cardinals, nuthatches, wrens and more. Millet attracts the ground feeding birds like the juncos, sparrows, buntings, and doves. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything!

If you want to give your birds additional variety at your bird feeding station you could offer Seed Cylinders or Seed Bells. There are multiple kinds, some even have mealworms and fruit. Or Suet and Nyjer® (thistle) feeders to attract more woodpeckers and finches. And don't forget the Bird bath! All birds need water even those that aren't "feeder birds".  At Wild Birds Unlimited we will help you choose the right seed – and the right tools – for the birds you are trying to attract.

See the proof in this video:  https://youtu.be/fEb5VBzPTUA
The chickadee picks up and drops the sunflower in the shell first, the safflower in the shell second, but finally chooses to keep the sunflower chip.
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

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Safe solution to keep seed dry

Ugh!!! Why does wet-cold feel so much colder? And it can be a mess with the seed in the wild bird feeders too. These are Feeder Fresh days. The question I'm asked most about the product is "does it work?". Yes, Wild Birds Unlimited sells it but I use it in my feeders too. A little goes a long way.

I pour a cap-full in a four pound bag and stir it in, maybe 2 cap-fulls on rainy days like today. Any moisture that makes its way to the seed is immediately absorbed and leaves the seed free to flow for the birds to eat. Birds usually just leave the feeder fresh in the feeder to continue working until I fill the feeder again. One bottle can last for a month or more depending on the weather.

Watch the video: https://youtu.be/smZrpg_VM0A

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Why Great Horned Owls have tufts

Great Horned Owls are named for the tufts of feathers that sit on top of their heads, called plumicorns (Latin for “feather-horn”). There are currently about 225 living owl species, and of those about 50 have these feathers that look like horns or ears like the Long- and Short-eared Owls. However they have nothing to do with horns or ears. An owl’s large ear openings are at the sides of its head.

Scientists don’t know why some owls developed the tufts, but they do have a few theories. They  might help members of their own species to recognize each other among the forest around them, or assist in non-verbal communication. They may also use the tufts to blend into their surroundings, making them look more like broken tree branches. Or tufts along with their large eyes they may enhance an owl’s ability to mimic a mammal like a cat and appear more frightening to predators.

Related Articles:
- Owls in Michigan http://where-owls-live.html

- Snowy Owls http://bit.ly/ylJmQq
- Eastern Screech Owl http://bit.ly/wMQBZj
- Great Horned Owl http://bit.ly/zmlFqY
- Barred Owl http://bit.ly/yAoDx8
- Great Gray Owl http://bit.ly/tAewYm
- Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/z9q3Dg