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, December 9, 2016

Photo Share: Taken from the kitchen window

These are all your feeders near Eagle, MI. Very active today. - Mickey Burns 
Using your heater
Thank you 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.

Related Articles:
Keep your feeders clean http://goo.gl/UGfVGT How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://goo.gl/AdJPBO
Choosing a seed blend to feed wild birds http://goo.gl/vsBxVs
What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/rTCbHB

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Glass Bird Ornaments

Birds are considered a universal symbol of happiness and joy and are regarded by many to be a necessity on the Christmas tree. Because bird ornaments were difficult to create, few glassblowing families in Germany specialized in the making of these special pieces. Birds represent messengers of love and are the harbingers of good things to come.

Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing store has a selection of hand-blown glass bird ornaments  designed by Margaret Cobane, a Nationally recognized Michigan artist. She says, " My fascination with Christmas, nature, gardening and Santa is a recurring subject in much of my work. I especially like Santa because he is such a good, kind soul. I believe he is a symbol of goodness and generosity. My designs are created from my love of the season and all of the traditions that are dear to our hearts."  

Related Articles:
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- The Tradition of feeding the Birds at Christmas Time http://goo.gl/7ODaQ
- When did Reindeer Learn to Fly? http://bit.ly/veTLpT

- Why green, red, and white are Christmas colors http://goo.gl/Swgzv6
- Why do people kiss under the Mistletoe and what is the plant's connection to birds? http://goo.gl/Cmqwvg

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

5 tips to bird feeding

Backyard bird feeding is a great way to observe wildlife 
and an enjoyable activity for the entire family.
Who will I attract?
Just a few of the common winter birds attracted to feeders are cardinals, finches, juncos, doves, titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, jays, starlings and sparrows.

What’s the best bird feeder?
Any bird feeder you choose should be easy to fill and easy to clean. Seed feeders obviously hold seed and attract a wide variety of seed eating birds. Suet feeders attract bug eating birds like the woodpeckers. Nyjer (thistle) feeders attract the finches. It is also important 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 Sunflower, Peanuts, White Proso Millet, Safflower, and Nyjer® Thistle are among the most preferred seed types. Cheap filler grains like oats, wheat and milo decrease the price per pound of a seed blend and suet but aren't eaten by the birds and are left to rot on the ground.

Where should I put the feeder?
The best place to put the feeder is where you can watch the birds easily. Try to find a place that's sheltered from the wind and away from cats and other predators. And the closer your feeder is to the window, the less likely birds will be hurt if they mistake the clear glass as a fly through.

When's the best time to start?
There is no best or worst time to start bird feeding. In general, whenever the birds are stressed they will appreciate a reliable food source. 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 that's when birds may switch to utilizing feeders to survive from day to day.

How long should I feed them?
If you enjoy feeding birds, there is no reason to stop. You can do it year-round. Feeding the birds throughout the summer will not make them "lazy," or "dependent." 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.

Related Articles:
- What Month Do You Stop Feeding The Birds? http://goo.gl/wuKbTI
- Keep your feeders clean http://goo.gl/UGfVGT
- Would the birds starve to death if I stopped feeding them? http://bit.ly/xOFgb9
- How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://goo.gl/AdJPBO
- Choosing a seed blend to feed wild birds http://goo.gl/vsBxVs
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/rTCbHB

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

When Christmas lights became a thing

This year’s mild fall and the improvement of outdoor decorative lights has made the sparkly trip home almost too distracting. However on these dark days, I’m talking literally dark with December having the least amount of daylight, the bright lights can feel promising.

The custom of Christmas Lights goes back to the use of candles decorating the Christmas trees in early modern Germany. The idea of using lights is blend of the traditions from the people that celebrated Winter solstice by lighting candles to encourage the light to return after the cold, dark winter and the Christmas tradition of lights representing the Star of Bethlehem.

Thomas Edison brought us the first electric Christmas light display in 1880. In 1900, the first known advertisement for Christmas tree lights appeared in Scientific American Magazine. Decorating outdoor trees with electric lights became popular in the early 20th century followed by, strings of electric lights along streets and on buildings by the mid-20th century. In the United States, it became popular tradition to outline private homes with lights beginning in the 1960s.

Related Articles:
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The Tradition of feeding the Birds at Christmas Time http://goo.gl/7ODaQ
When did Reindeer Learn to Fly? http://bit.ly/veTLpT
How the Christmas tree tradition started http://goo.gl/r92VN
Holly's symbolism http://goo.gl/Dj5nOy

Monday, December 5, 2016

Cold snap heats up demand for wild bird seed

Did you notice an increase at the feeders before the snow fall? Our Michigan birds are equipped to withstand most winter weather. They preen and adjust their feathers to create air pockets that will help them keep warm. And eat high-energy, high-fat foods to stoke their internal furnace. 
 
The Importance of Keeping 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 Importance of a Reliable, Open Source of Water

Birds continue to need a source of water for drinking to maintain their metabolism during dry, 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.

Related Articles:
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How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/uKZs6v
Food & water from bird feeders can impact birds’ survival http://bit.ly/tsnvpP

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Downy woodpeckers do not migrate

At about 6 inches, the Downy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker in North America and the most frequent visitor to backyard feeders year-round. They like to eat peanuts, suet, mealworms, sunflower and safflower seeds.

Downys have a white belly and back and their black wings have white bars. Only the males have a red patch on the back of the head. And they are called downy because of the soft white feathers on their back. Downy woodpeckers are confused commonly with Hairy woodpecker, their larger cousins, which have similar plumage, but are around 9 inches.

They use vocalizations and body signals to communicate. They produce a variety of sounds, including "pik", rattle, scolding, "wad", "chirp", squeak, screech, and distress calls. The "pik" call introduces the rattle call, and these are used during aggressive interactions. Short calls, the "wad" and "chirp", are uttered by young birds. A longer note call, the squeak, is also uttered by young downy woodpeckers. The screech and distress calls are used to signal alarm.

Related Articles:
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-What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
-Hairy Woodpecker vs. Downy Woodpecker http://goo.gl/WMH31
-How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://goo.gl/P2qRv
-How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI

Saturday, December 3, 2016

How to keep raccoons from your yard

The Northern Raccoon (Procyon lotor) is known for its distinctive black mask and night time raids on bird feeders. While raccoons don’t hibernate, those that live in cold climates like Michigan, can hole up in their burrow or under decks for weeks at a time. During their long periods of sleep, raccoons do not eat. Without food, they can lose up to one-half of their total weight! To prepare for these difficult times, raccoons have to bulk up in late summer and fall to survive cold winters.

When they are awake they are always savaging. The territory of a raccoon can be as large as ten miles. This means he'll usually stay in your yard for a little while and then move on looking for different food, water, and shelter. Of course another one may replace the one that just left your yard or you may be free of raccoons for weeks.

To keep raccoons from your yard:
1. Bring feeders in at night- most raccoons and skunks forage at night and if the feeders are put away they will move on faster.
2. Use squirrel proof feeders- The Squirrel Buster Plus feeder deters squirrels, raccoons and large black birds. You can adjust the tension on the spring mechanism to have the feeder ports shut when unwanted guest attempt to feed.
3. Food Choice- Use a birdseed blend that has seeds that the birds in our area like to eat. Some cheaper blends are filled with milo and oats that are just kicked to the ground and left for the rodents to clean up. All of the Wild Birds Unlimited blends are formulated specifically to attract the widest variety of birds in mid-Michigan.
Other Good Food Choices
Pure Beef Suet with no seeds or Hot Pepper suet deters most animals but still attracts a wide variety of woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, and wrens.
Safflower seed: You can start by offering safflower gradually, mixing it with the seed you currently use. Over time increase the amount of safflower until you are feeding straight safflower. The seed looks and tastes different from other bird seed, so it may take your birds some time to adjust. Safflower is a small, white seed that is high in protein and fat. Many favorite backyard birds - including cardinals, chickadees, finches, doves, woodpeckers, titmice and nuthatches- savor safflower. Blackbirds, starlings, raccoons and most squirrels typically refuse to eat safflower seed. Safflower seed cakes and seed cylinders are also available at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI. 
Nyjer Seed – Nyjer, niger, and thistle are all common names used to identify a tiny black birdseed cultivated in Asia and Africa that is high in calories and oil content, and loved by American Goldfinches and avoided by most raccoons and squirrels.
4. Baffle Feeding station- The long, cylindrical design of our Raccoon Baffle specializes in deterring raccoons as well as chipmunks and squirrels from reaching your feeders. This baffle can be mounted to fit our Advanced Pole System® (APS). If you don't have an APS setup why not? The Basic APS Boxed Setup is an excellent way to get your bird feeding hobby organized. But we also have special wrap around baffles that can go around skinny poles too.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Preston isn't the only character

Which one is the true character? This Carolina Wren poses before he attacks the sunflower and nuts in the cylinder. Available for a short time only at Wild Birds Unlimited, Preston the seed character attracts a variety of birds.

Related Articles:
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Unique gifts for someone that has everything http://goo.gl/ZEHqc
Top 10 Gifts for Birdwatchers: http://bit.ly/uZojYY
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Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Beast! - A new indestructible suet feeder

Built by the same people that developed our innovative Advanced Pole System (APS), The Beast is a new indestructible suet feeder! Dan Panetti, the owner of the Mequon, Wisconsin Wild Birds Unlimited store introduced us to The Beast a few months ago. He actually gave one to my brother to test locally.

Here is how Dan describes The Beast suet feeder:
  1.  The Beast is a heavy duty suet feeder
  2. It weighs over 2 pounds - more than twice the weight of an average gray squirrel!
  3. The S hook on The Beast chain fits snugly on our poles making it very difficult for a critter to remove - in the video, you see it simply hanging on APS on my deck - a raccoon has never removed it!
  4. A semi permanent method for hanging on a tree branch is already figured out - essentially it makes the feeder one with the tree until you choose to take it down and refill - a raccoon absolutely cannot remove it!
Here is my brother's review of the feeder:
I put the feeder up in a "hot" spot for squirrel activity and used a peanut butter suet. Within a day, there was a squirrel investigating. He stayed on the feeder for quite some time while I watched and seemed to be eating something. Later when I checked the feeder, there was a very small amount of suet taken along the edges. A couple days later I again saw him on the feeder for a shorter time but he did not seem to get enough to satisfy him and I haven't seen any other squirrels on that feeder again. There is a lot of bird activity on the feeder though and the cake is lasting longer without squirrels feeding. I think the feeder will work very well as a squirrel proof suet option that is readily accepted by my suet eating birds of all sorts. 

The manufacturer describes the feeder as Squirrel Proof- Aggressively Tested against red, gray, fox, and flying squirrels. Raccoon Proof- In both cases use as directed. Extremely difficult for House Sparrows to use.
Watch Dan Panetti's video at: https://youtu.be/The-Beast!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Stop sparrows from nesting in garage

We have a garage that the sparrows were nesting in and now they seem to want to continue to live there. Is there anything you can do to dissuade them?

House Sparrows like to nest and roost in any niche. While humans are very good at clear-cutting any natural bushy bush where birds like to hang out we are also very handy at creating several good unnatural spots for sparrows to squeeze into near our houses. Wild Birds Unlimited has shiny scatter tape to scare birds away or you could purchase a couple mylar balloons to float in the garage to encourage them to find a new domain. The best way to make everyone happy is make your garage less appealing while also providing them an appropriate bird house in which to live.

In the winter birds often seek protected places to roost or sleep. Dense vegetation found in thickets or the interior branches of evergreens serve as a windbreak and conceal the birds from night-prowling predators. Some cavity nesting birds like House Sparrows, bluebirds, chickadees, titmice and some woodpeckers will also roost together in nestboxes (birdhouses) in the winter. And Screech owls and squirrels are some other box-nesting species that like to stay warm in boxes.

The National Wildlife Federation wrote in one article:
Birdy, It's Cold Outside   http://nwf.org/providing-cozy-winter-roosts
It may seem obvious that a box is a warm place for a bird to sleep, but scientists like to confirm these things. Zoology professor Chuck Kendeigh did just that. More than 50 years ago, he noticed a house sparrow on the University of Illinois campus roosting each night in a box under the eaves of a building. Kendeigh rigged two recording thermometers to measure air temperature inside and outside the box, 24 hours a day, from December 20, 1949, to January 11, 1950—the coldest days of the year.

By day, when the bird was away, the temperature was the same inside and outside the box. When the bird went in at night, its body and its exhaled breath heated the small space. The colder it got outside, the greater the difference became inside versus out. At 18 degrees F outside, for example, the inside temperature was 29 degrees F.

That may not sound exactly toasty, but it makes a big difference to a bird. At those temperatures, Kendeigh calculated, the sparrow would burn 11 percent less energy sleeping indoors as opposed to outdoors. “The amount of energy thus conserved may make the difference between survival and death during periods of extreme weather during the winter,” he concluded. 


Related Articles:
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Homes for squirrels http:/homes-for-squirrels.html
October is the perfect time to put up an owl house http://put-up-owl-house.html 

Where bluebirds winter http://bluebirds-winter.html
How long it takes for chickadees to leave a nest http://chickadees-to-nest.html

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Wild Birds Unlimited Advanced Pole System® (APS) EZ-Attach SideDish™ Bird Feeder

The Wild Birds Unlimited Advanced Pole System® (APS) EZ-Attach SideDish™ Bird Feeder allows you to offer a variety of foods, whether it's mealworms, seed blends, fruit or our always popular Suet Snacks. This little tray is a versatile feeder that allows you to cater to many birds' tastes.

And thanks to our EZ-Attach design, adding this feeder to your pole setup is a snap. Just slip the EZ-Attach unit on an extension pole and pull down. You can also add an On-Guard roof to protect the food.

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The best heated bird baths http://bit.ly/rGLQCm