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 25, 2016

The Early Birds Gets the Best Nest

Wild Birds Unlimited has the best selection of functional bird houses around. And new houses are coming in every week. I’ve ordered several houses this year that have real character.

New this week
I’m really impressed with the houses that just came in this month. They have all the great features that our other houses have and more:
• All cedar construction
• Easy clean out
• Good ventilation and drainage
• Appropriate design for wrens, chickadees, titmice or nuthatches.
• Outside coated with wood protector
• Made in America
• Hand painted in Michigan

What makes them really irresistible is the hand painted original artwork on the front, done by a local mid-Michigan artists. Bird lovers can't help but want these beautiful, fully functional pieces of art decorating their yard.

You can either put up the house now for the chickadees to roost in all winter and get a head start on nesting in the spring, or place it on your mantle or use it as a centerpiece during the holidays. They make and especially cute gift for that special person on your list that loves nature.

Please realize that since each birdhouse is hand painted, no two will ever be exactly alike. Warning, they are selling fast! If you see one you like, don’t wait. We’ve already had a couple people disappointed when their favorite one disappeared. When they’re gone, they’re gone.

Store location:
Wild Birds Unlimited
2200 Coolidge Rd. Ste.17
East Lansing, MI 48823

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Slow metabolism to gain weight

Groundhogs, also called woodchucks, are a member of the squirrel family that weigh between 7 and 14 pounds. They spend a good bit of the warmer months getting ready for hibernation. They eat nearly a pound of food per day in the fall to help build up their fat stores. Groundhogs are typically active until the first real frost of winter, often October or November. Then they hibernate until February or March.

As the days shorten and temperatures drop a groundhog's metabolism slows down and their body releases a hormone that helps them hibernate. Their heart rate slows to around four or five beats per minute and their body temperature falls from 98 degrees Fahrenheit to as low as 38 degrees. They don't wake up to eat like chipmunks. They survive off the fat they have built up in the summer and fall.

Related Articles:
- When do bats hibernate? http://goo.gl/IES4Bt  

- When do Chipmunks hibernate? http://bit.ly/uGhBOB
- Do opossums hibernate during winter? http://bit.ly/u4ORP6
- Migration vs. Hibernation http://bit.ly/sixWTH
- Feb. 2nd groundhogs end their hibernation http://bit.ly/vPHVtx

Friday, September 23, 2016

Photo Share: Young Cooper's Hawk

This hawk visited while I was in the backyard and stayed about 10 minutes. I froze and watched him and when he left I went in the house , sat in the sunroom, and he returned for another 10 minutes. This time I had the camera!

Thank you Mark for sharing your photos! 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.

In September and October there is a lot of hawk activity in Michigan. Although we have hawks year-round in mid-Michigan some of the northern hawks are migrating south and young hawks have just become independent.

It looks like a young Cooper's Hawk to me based on the yellow eyes, size, rounded tail and thick vertical chest streaks.

The following are ID tips from Project Feeder Watch for the Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper's Hawk:

1) The tail feathers of Sharp-shinned Hawks appear squared, whereas a Cooper's Hawks tail looks rounded.
2) Cooper's Hawks have a barrel shaped chest. Sharp-shinned Hawks are widest at the shoulder and get distinctly narrower down to the hips.
3) A Sharp-shinned Hawk's head looks small compared to the body, and a Cooper's Hawk's head looks large.
4) Cooper's Hawks are usually larger than Sharp-shinned Hawks.
5) A juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk has very thick, rufous stripes that extend down the lower belly while the Cooper's Hawk has very thin, dark vertical streaks that fade away on the lower belly.
6) Sharp-shinned have very thin toes and legs, compared to the Cooper's Hawk.
7) The color of the nape of an adult Cooper's Hawks is pale with a clear contrast to a dark cap. Juveniles of both species can show a pale nape, however.

More identification tips and challenges can be seen on Project Feeder Watch's Accipiter Photo Gallery page: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/AboutBirdsandFeeding/accipiterphoto.htm

Related Articles:
Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk comes for a visit http://bit.ly/w1fDRM
Can You Scare a Hawk Away? http://bit.ly/w3vz5B
Small birds attack hawk http://bit.ly/sH68yB
Frozen Woodpecker http://bit.ly/ubSCTR
Is it safe to feed the birds out in the open? http://bit.ly/rBErxI

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Warbler that looks like a female goldfinch

Photo via Weeks Bay Foundation
One warbler that visits my yard consistently every spring and fall on their way to nesting or wintering grounds is the American Redstart. The females are a similar size and coloration of a female American Goldfinch but then they spread their tail and ta da! The American Redstart has a distinctive habit of bouncing around in pursuit of insects, fanning their tail back and forth, and revealing two distinct bright yellow spots.

They are one of the most numerous warblers in North America, because their favored habitat is second-growth woodlands. Females and young males are gray-olive with yellow patches on each wing, on the sides of its breast, and at the base of its tail on either side. The males are black where the female is gray and orange where the female is yellow.
Male American Redstart photo via Wikimedia Commons

They like shrubby areas often near water. And you can see them pass through your yard in September to early October as they migrate to their winter home in Central America, the West Indies, and northern South America and then again in May when they migrate back to southern Canada and the eastern USA to nest.

Their supercharged pursuit of insects in the trees and flashing wing and tail patches give the birds the nickname “candelita” or “little candle” in their Central American wintering grounds.

Related Articles: 
Provide a safe habitat to encourage migrating birds http://provide-safe-habitat.html
Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/oW0XCD
Blue-headed Vireo's peak migration http://blue-headed-vireos.html
Wagging Warbler http://wagging-warbler.html
Black-and-yellow Warbler http://black-and-yellow-warbler.html
Nashville Warbler not from Tennessee http://nashville-warbler.html 
Bay-breasted warbler pictures http://bay-breasted-warbler.html 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Provide a safe habitat to encourage migrating birds

It can be an exciting time for Birdwatchers during the fall migration! Mid-Michigan gets a lot of traffic as birds make their long journey South for the winter. If you're not sure when the birds will make it to your area, BirdCast is a website that has real-time predictions of when birds migrate, where they migrate, and how far they will be flying.

When you think about migration you may not realize that a majority of small song birds begin their journey at dusk and fly throughout the night. There is no set date for migration, but birds are sensitive to weather conditions. They can literally be blown in your yard for a pit stop and then ride out on the next good wind.


To provide a safe habitat that will encourage migrating birds to stop at your yard, you just have to follow five easy steps:

1. Keep Your Feeders Full
Food is the most essential element, providing birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition they need. To stay warm, birds will expend energy very quickly, some losing up to 10% of their body weight on extremely cold nights, and this fat must be replaced every day. The busier the feeders, the safer your yard will appear to passing birds, which will result in more birds stopping to investigate. Most visiting warblers are bug eaters so you might see them at feeders that have suet or nuts.

2. Provide a Source of Water
Birds continue to need a source of water for drinking to maintain their metabolism during dry or cold weather. Clean feathers help birds stay warm, and a bird bath is often the only way for some birds to drink and keep their feathers in top condition when it’s cold. Warblers and other birds that aren’t normal feeder birds will also be attracted to a clean water source.

3. Protection from the Elements
As the sun goes down, some birds head for a perch in leafy bushes, evergreens, vines or dense brush piles for the night. You can also put up roosting and nesting boxes to give birds a warm, dry place to stay overnight. Shelter is also necessary for protection against natural predators, such as birds of prey and cats.

4. Keep feeders and feeding areas clean
To help reduce the possibility of disease transmission in birds, clean feeders and feeding areas at least once a month. You can purchase professional cleaners like Scoot at Wild Birds Unlimited, or use a mild one part vinegar to nine parts water solution to disinfect all of your feeders. Keep seed and foods dry by adding Feeder Fresh; discard food that is wet or looks moldy. Birdbaths also need to be scrubbed with a brush and water should be replaced every three to days to discourage mosquito reproduction. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned every three to five days, or every other day in warm weather.

5. Reduce window collisions
It is estimated that between 100 million and one billion birds are killed every year in the United States when they crash into glass windows. And even one billion deaths might be a conservative estimate. Decals like Window Alert placed on the outside of windows have had the most positive feedback from customers. Each decal contains a component which brilliantly reflects ultraviolet sunlight. This ultraviolet light is invisible to humans, but glows like a stoplight for birds.

And to help enjoy the full benefit of songbirds passing through, consider getting a good field identification guide that contains color pictures or illustrations and a quality pair of binoculars.

Related Articles:
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/H42e6s
- What seeds wild birds eat http://goo.gl/Un35yR
- What to do if you have soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
- How to get rid of weeds under the bird feeder without using poisons http://goo.gl/fHlsE0
- Cats Indoors! http://goo.gl/YIOUpI
- How to Prevent Window Strikes during Migration http://goo.gl/KZRzKb

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Blue-headed Vireo's peak migration through Michigan

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
The Blue-headed Vireo's peak migration through mid-Michigan is September to the first couple weeks of October. They winter farther north than the other vireos, with many remaining through the winter in the southeastern states.

Sometimes the people naming the birds see colors that I don't. Their head has a gray hood of feathers with blue tinges in the sun, white spectacles, and white throat. They are a medium-sized vireo with olive-green above, whitish below, and yellow sides. Their wings are dark gray with two white or pale yellow bars.

Their diet consists mainly of bugs, berries and small fruits. Look for them at the suet feeder and the bird bath as they migrate through in the spring and fall.

Related Articles:
Michigan warblers begin migrating http://goo.gl/37QhV
Michigan's Kirtland's Warbler Continues to Exceed Recovery Goal http://goo.gl/Q3xQ0
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

Monday, September 19, 2016

Wagging Warbler

The Palm Warbler breeds farther north in Canada than most other warblers. And even 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. 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.

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

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Black-and-yellow Warbler


Magnolia Warbler Female/juvenile photo via Wikimedia Commons
The Magnolia Warbler feeds almost exclusively on insects. Look for it migrating south in mid-Michigan from early September to early October. You can find them wintering from Mexico to Panama. And they are occasionally found in the West Indies, the western and southern United States.

The name of the species was coined in 1810 by Alexander Wilson, who collected a specimen from a magnolia tree in Mississippi. He actually used the English name "Black-and-yellow Warbler" and used "magnolia" for the Latin species name, which became the common name over time.

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
Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/uMSTs6

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Will the Gray Jay be the new symbol of Canada?

Canada has a national arboreal emblem (the maple tree), a national horse (the Canadian), two national sports (lacrosse and hockey) and an animal (the beaver) that is a national symbol. But in nearly 150 years as a nation — and despite the fact that 450 avian species have habitat in Canada — an official national bird has never been named.

Three of the five birds with the most votes are already official provincial birds, including the common loon in Ontario, Quebec’s snowy owl and the black-capped chickadee in New Brunswick. The gray jay, commonly known as the whiskey jack, and the Canada goose round out the top five.

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society is convening a panel of experts on September 19, 2016, to advocate for the declaration of a National Bird and to debate which species they believe are most worthy of the honor.

Source: http://nationalbird.canadiangeographic.ca/
Related Articles:
What are some other Countries' National Birds http://national-symbol.html  
A closer look at the National Bird of the USA http://national-bird-of-usa.html

Friday, September 16, 2016

Nashville Warbler not from Tennessee

Nashville Warblers are common migrants and breeders in Michigan. They are found in overgrown farmland and second growth forests as they forage for insects in low in trees and thickets.

This warbler was first described near Nashville, Tennessee, but it does not breed in that state. This misnomer is not an isolated incident: the Tennessee, Cape May and Connecticut warblers all bear names that misrepresent their breeding distributions.

Look for them migrating through our yards from September to mid-October. They may hang out under bushes, in the baths, or on the suet.

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
Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/uMSTs6