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, September 24, 2017

Swainson’s Thrushes are killed in greater numbers than any other bird species

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Some birds passing through in the fall, as they migrate south, may look similar to our common little brown House Sparrows. But keep your eyes open. Many birds migrate at night. If we've had a nice wind pushing south you may wake up to see some different birds, that were riding the winds, stop by to rest and recuperate under the feeders or at the bath.

Some get in to trouble navigating through the human domain. If you are unsure about a bird acting strangely call a rehabilitator for advice. Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess abandoned or injured wildlife. A list of licensed rehabilitators can be found by visiting http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/ or by calling your local DNR office.

Our local Nottingham Nature Nook just received a new guest that was having trouble walking. A caring individual took the time to see that something wasn't right and took action. He thought it was a sparrow but it turned out to be a Swainson’s Thrush.  It is a beautiful brown bird a little larger than a sparrow but smaller than a robin. These medium-brown birds with pale underparts have spotted chests and large buffy eyerings that extend in front of the eye, creating “spectacles.”

Swainson’s Thrushes breed way up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and even further north in Canada. They winter way down in Central and northern South America. Swainson’s Thrushes are a common species, but has declined in population about 38% between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. During spring and fall migration, significant numbers of Swainson’s Thrushes die from collisions with windows, radio and cell-phone towers, and tall buildings. (For more on the dangers of lights to migrating birds, visit the Fatal Light Awareness Program.) Studies of bird deaths at communications towers in Minnesota, Illinois, and West Virginia revealed that Swainson’s Thrushes were killed in greater numbers than any other bird species.

 Below are a few local numbers to call for help:

  • East Lansing, MI ♦ 517.351.7304 ♦ Cheryl Connell-Marsh ♦ birds and small animals
  • Lansing, MI ♦ 517-646-9374 ♦ Tiffany Rich ♦ white tailed deer, squirrels, raccoons; Vet. Tech. on center.
  • DeWitt, MI ♦ 517.930-0087 ♦ Wildside Rehab and Education Center ♦ birds and small animals
  • Eaton Rapids, MI ♦ 517-663-6153 ♦ Wildside Rehab and Education Center ♦ birds and small animals
  • Holt, MI ♦ 517-694-9618 ♦ Carolyn Tropp cctropp@aol.com ♦ Waterfowl, small birds and mammals
  • Howell, MI ♦ 517-548-5530 ♦ Howell Conference and Nature Center ♦ All wild animals except bats, skunks, starlings, raccoons, pigeons, or house sparrows.
  • Bath, MI ♦ 517-819-0170 (day) 517-641-6314 (evening) ♦ Denise Slocum ♦ Small mammals 
And if you are outside of Michigan:

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Hydrate your birds

During the hot and often dry conditions you will be doing yourself and your birds a big favor by providing them with a reliable source of water.

Water is very important to birds. Whether they are feeder visitors or not, birds need water. Offering a dependable source of water is probably the simplest and most important step you can take to greatly increase the variety of birds in your yard. It can also significantly increase your enjoyment of your birds by allowing you to watch their often comical antics as they drink, bathe and preen.

However, as entertaining as it is for us, water (or the lack thereof) can be deadly serious for birds. Birds must be ready to fly at all times, and bathing is a critical part of feather maintenance and staying in top-flight condition.

Water is also vitally important when it's extremely hot and a bird’s ability to regulate its body temperature can become stressed. Birds do not sweat and must remove excess body heat through their respiratory system. So when temperatures rise, a bird's respiration rate increases, sometimes to the point that it can be seen panting like a dog. This activity dehydrates birds and increases their need for a reliable source of water to replace lost fluids. 

Related Articles:
- What are the Dog Days of Summer? http://goo.gl/3b0nf
- Why do birds poop in the bird bath? http://bit.ly/whKqHg
- Water Wiggler Attracts Birds and prevents Mosquitoes! http://bit.ly/wKl40q
- Why Birds Preen http://bit.ly/wcoC9d
- What kind of bird bath is the best? http://goo.gl/01sug

Friday, September 22, 2017

Photo Share: Bluebirds frolicking in the bath

Everyday I have a group of blue birds taking their daily bath. They splash so much I always have to put more water in. This day happened to be the largest group I have seen yet. So fun to watch them. When do the bluebirds migrate?  By the way, love our bird bath from your shop. Jo- St Johns 
 
Usually, Eastern Bluebirds will gather in large family flocks at the end of nesting season. If you have fruiting trees or bluebird feeders and a reliable source of water, you may host the bluebirds year-round. Scientists think it’s due to genetics whether they want to fly south or winter over. Some birds are compelled to move south and others are not.

The Eastern Bluebirds are considered partial migrants. Often, the birds from Canada and the northern U.S. will leapfrog over mid-Michigan in order to avoid competition for food and migrate all the way down to Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and the southern portions of Alabama, Georgia and Texas. But our bluebirds might hang around in the woods if it is a mild winter and just shift short distances in search of food and water.

They forage for fruits, nuts, and berries from shrubs, trees, and vines. Some of those include dogwood, hawthorn, mountain ash, sumac, holly, bittersweet, pokeweed, grape, and honeysuckle fruits.

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.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Flickers are woodpeckers that like to forage on the ground

from Wikimedia Commons
Warblers aren't the only new birds passing through in the fall. Flickers may migrate through or even choose to winter in our mid-Michigan yards. I had two in pounding in the lawn for bugs last night!

The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is a medium-sized woodpecker native to most of North America. Unlike most woodpeckers, the flicker spends a lot of time hopping around the ground like a robin looking for bugs, especially ants.

Adults are brown with black bars on the back and wings. A black bib is on the upper breast and the lower breast and belly are beige with black spots. Males in Michigan can be identified by a black moustache stripe at the base of the beak, a red chevron on the back of their head and bright yellow feathers on the undersides of their wing and tail.

The northern populations of the Northern Flicker are migratory, with fall migration taking place September to November. So if this Flicker is new to the area it may see your yard as a good place to winter from its summer home in Canada. They do also come to feeders for seeds, nuts and suet as snows cover the ground. So keep the feeders full to catch him eating. 

Related Articles:
- Northern Flicker Roosts Alone in the winter http://bit.ly/zouUF6
- Northern Flicker Stops by for a Surprise Visit http://bit.ly/Aouqjf
- Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/yGoOUc
- Why Flickers Flick Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/Ar0Rin
- How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/x5PGT1

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What to feed birds besides black oil sunflower seed

I generally feed just black oil sunflower seeds. Is there something else I should add to attract more birds?

The first ingredient in our top 4 seed blends is sunflower seed. Oil Sunflower seed is the favorite of most of the backyard seed eating birds. I also like to have peanuts in the blend to entice all the bug eating birds like the chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, jays, and wrens to visit more frequently. Peanuts have a high calorie/ounce ratio due to its high fat and protein content.

No-mess is the only blend I use personally. No-Mess Blend is unique because it features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds mean there is no debris on the ground to clean up. The first ingredient in the No-Mess blend is sunflower seed with the hulls removed, then peanut pieces, and finally a little millet, also with the hulls removed. 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! 

Food is essential to provide birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition to endure the elements. An ample supply of fresh high-calorie foods is crucial to a bird's survival. All our Wild Birds Unlimited seed blends have been formulated regionally to provide the most nutritious food for your birds.

We do not include cheap filler grains like oats, wheat and milo that decrease the price per pound of a mix but aren't eaten by the birds in Michigan. Therefore, there is no wasted seed. Wild Birds Unlimited blends actually end up costing less and attract the widest variety of birds that live in our area.

Related Articles:
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
Why pay more for seed at Wild Birds Unlimited? http://bit.ly/xJZMFe
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Owls disperse in the fall

In autumn there are a lot of first year owls leaving their parents and moving to new territories. Many customers in the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store are reporting their encounters with owls. Most people are excited about these large birds when they perch in their yard. Other people have experienced silent, unexpected, swoop downs.

Experts theorize that the owls perhaps dive bomb unsuspecting early morning joggers more at this time of year because they are inexperienced in hunting, defending a new territory, because of mistaken identity or maybe the young birds are just behaving badly. Owl strikes are more common at dawn or dusk when vision is not always the best with people or with animals.

Also recent studies show suburban neighborhoods with large trees have been supporting more and more Barred Owls. Using transmitters, scientists found that populations increased faster in the suburban settings than in old growth forest. A factor of this suburban success may be easily accessible rodent prey.

The Barred Owls nest in a tree cavities usually created by woodpeckers or squirrels. They’ll also use manmade bird houses. If they’ve had a successful nesting in the past they will often reuse a nest. Barred Owls are non-migratory.

Breeding season is from December to March. After 4 weeks of incubation by the female, young owls hatch and then fledge four to five weeks later. At six weeks old the young will learn to fly. Barred owls live alone for most of the year but a family group can stay together for up to six months.

Barred Owls help keep down the rodent population. They eat mainly small animals like chipmunks, mice, voles, smaller rabbits, amphibians, reptiles, and some bugs. Most owls avoid human interaction and will fly away when you approach. A few, however, may be more curious and come in for a closer look.

Related Articles:
- Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/t6elFd
- Amazing Vocals of the Barred Owl http://bit.ly/sguMqL
- Snowy Owls http://bit.ly/ylJmQq
- Eastern Screech Owl http://bit.ly/wMQBZj   
- Great Horned Owl http://bit.ly/zmlFqY
- Great Gray Owl http://bit.ly/tAewYm  
- Long-eared Owl http://goo.gl/qGgbju

Monday, September 18, 2017

Pine Warbler looks like goldfinch at first glance

September is a great time to see a wide variety of birds as they swing through our area. Many warblers are similar in size and coloring to a female goldfinch. I'm usually alerted to visiting warblers in the yard mainly because of their behavior. Most warblers are jittery, bouncy birds in the bushes as they try to flush out bugs or at the bird bath re-hydrating and preparing their feathers for migration.

Pine warblers are active during the day, hopping, climbing tree trunks, and cleaning their feathers. Like many other warblers, their wings beat in an irregular pattern when they fly. They are partial migrants. Pine Warblers from the northern U.S. and Canada migrate to wintering grounds in the southeastern U.S. but the ones that breed in the Southeast stay there year-round.

Besides bugs and water, the Pine Warbler will also regularly eat millet, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet from elevated feeders. And fruits from bushes and vines, like bayberry, flowering dogwood, grape, sumac, persimmon, and Virginia creeper.

Related Articles:
- The Journey North: Bird Migration Maps http://bit.ly/pbk4Eb  
- How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d
- Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/ow20ZD
- Birds only in mid-Michigan during the winter http://bit.ly/ojcyP7
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/qa0CVU

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Palm Warbler on the way to the Caribbean

The Palm Warbler breeds farther north in Canada than most other warblers. In the fall they may join flocks of other warblers, chickadees, juncos, and sparrows. They are a common migrant through mid-Michigan from mid-August to mid-October.

In the winter when the Palm Warbler hangs out in "palm country" they seem to prefer to feed on the ground in a variety of woodland and thicket habitats. They were named from a specimen taken during the non-breeding season on a Caribbean island. A better name for this species might be the "Wagging Warbler" because of the tail-wagging habit that shows off its yellow undertail.

Related Articles:
Michigan warblers begin migrating http://goo.gl/37QhV
Small Mysterious Black & White Bird Visits Mid-Michigan http://goo.gl/VOl3s
When is bird migration over? http://goo.gl/1Fiq6
Blackpoll Warbler: Greatest warbler migrant http://goo.gl/GcSTE

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Small gray bird with bright yellow throat

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Northern Parulas are small gray wood-warblers with bright yellow throats that extend through the breast. We only see them in mid-Michigan during the spring and fall migration. They breed above and below us.

Northern Parulas forage by gleaning leaves and branch tips for insects and spiders. They fly with rapid wingbeats and hop quickly through branches. When acting defensively, parulas may demonstrate a wing-droop display, during which wingtips are held below the base of the tail as the bird calls.

Related Articles:
Michigan warblers begin migrating http://goo.gl/37QhV
Yellow warbler eating bird seed http://goo.gl/pbGV8W
Small Black & White Bird Visits Mid-Michigan http://goo.gl/VOl3s
When is bird migration over? http://goo.gl/1Fiq6
Blackpoll Warbler: Greatest warbler migrant http://goo.gl/GcSTE

Friday, September 15, 2017

Photo Share: bird sunrise

Evan was commenting on how orange the sunrise was this morning as we were going to school then I saw this lamp post with the birds watching the sunrise.  If you want to post for a Friday photo you can photo you can.

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.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Photo Share: Grasshopper in Michigan

I love my backyard birds! Bird watching is among the most popular of all American recreational pursuits. It is estimated that there are over 9,000 species of birds, at least 200 breed in Michigan and more than 400 species spend at least some time in the state.

Bugs can be just as fascinating or frustrating if they are found somewhere other than outside. In the United States only, the number of insect species named is approximately 91,000 and another 73,000 are unidentified.

I saw this little two inch grasshopper on the bird bath in front of the Wild Birds Unlimited store. I could identify "grasshopper" but needed more help to find her name. So I went to http://bugguide.net and made an ID request. They came back immediately with female Grasshopper - Melanoplus differentialis.  A common roadside grasshopper.

Like most grasshoppers, Differential Grasshoppers eat many different types of plants, including: grasses, weeds, crops, clover, and fruits. They breed in late Summer and early Fall. Then females lay their eggs near the base of vegetation. These eggs won't hatch until the following Spring.

Related Articles:
- How to keep moths out of bird seed http://goo.gl/D7JSp8
- A closer look at the woodpeckers in Michigan http://goo.gl/cLO0yr
- Where does the Woolly Bear go in the winter? http://bit.ly/pB5L4V
- A Very Tiny Hummingbird (Moth)? http://bit.ly/qtrAaV
- Do Honey Bees migrate in the winter? http://bit.ly/GEK5QX
- How long does a house fly live?‎ http://bit.ly/HeSh7g.