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.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Birds plan ahead for rainy days

Chickadees, nuthatches, some woodpeckers, jays, and crows all plan ahead for those rainy and snowy days. These birds not only eat lunch at our feeders, they also take doggie bags away.

Extra seeds and nuts will be secreted away in the crevices of tree bark, in knotholes, or in the ground for them to retrieve and eat at a later time. They hide hundreds of seeds all over their territory, in a behavior known as scatter-hoarding to help them survive if food sources become scarce.

Each seed is placed in a different location and neurobiologists have discovered that the part of the bird brain that processes spatial information increases in fall to help them remember where they hid each yummy morsel and shrinks in the spring.

Not only can they accurately remember the location of each seed they hoard a month later, they also remember the quality of items they initially stored, making more of an effort to retrieve the best food.

Recent research has shown that a consistent and reliable source of food helps birds to
build body fat reserves, reduces their physiological stress and helps to maintain a healthy body condition. By providing easily accessible, quality food, you can help your birds with their caching needs in the fall so they will stick around your yard all winter. Below is a little more detail on some of your favorite birds' caching behaviors.
  • Cache seeds (in the shell and out), nuts, insects and other invertebrate prey
  • Food is typically cached about 100 feet from feeders
  • May carry off several seeds at a time, but each item is stored in a separate location
  • Store food in knotholes, bark, under shingles, in the ground and on the underside of small branches
  • Prefer to cache hulled sunflower seeds, because they are easier and faster to cache; occasionally mealworms
  • Food is typically cached about 45 feet from feeders
  • Store food in bark crevices on large tree trunks and on the underside of branches
  • Cache sunflower, peanuts and safflower one seed at a time
  • Food is typically cached about 130 feet from feeders
  • 80% of the time seeds are removed from their shell before hidden in tree trunks
  • Cache acorns, peanuts in the shell, and sunflower seeds
  • They can carry several nuts at one time in their esophagus.
  • A single blue jay can cache or hide as many as 5,000 acorns up to 2.5 miles from their original source and retrieve them when needed.
  • Jays cache nuts by burying them singly in the ground in their territory.
Related articles:
- Birds Move Trees http://bit.ly/oPqFgG
- Screech Owls cache uneaten prey items in cavities http://bit.ly/pJ7jCP
- Red-Bellied Woodpecker stores its food in the barks of trees http://bit.ly/nqYS7j
- Mine! All Mine: Why Squirrels Hoard http://bit.ly/qFANnl
- Michigan’s Top 20 Winter Backyard Birds http://bit.ly/qq5xu1
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/ngkPX3

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Regional Differences of Northern Flickers


Image red-shafted via Wikipedia

Image of yellow-shafted via Wikipedia
From AllAboutBirds.org
North America has two easily distinguished races of Northern Flickers: the yellow-shafted form of the East, which occurs into Texas and the Great Plains, and the red-shafted form of the West.

The key difference is the color of the flight-feather shafts, which are either a lemon yellow or a rosy red. Yellow-shafted forms (the ones we have in Michigan) have tan faces and gray crowns, and a red crescent on the nape. Males have a black mustache stripe. Red-shafted forms have a gray face, brown crown, and no nape crescent, with males showing a red mustache stripe. Hybrids look intermediate and are common at the edges of these two groups’ ranges.


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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Tiny wild white mushrooms under pine in michigan

These adorable white mushrooms popped up under the pine outside the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI after all the heavy rain. One day just pine needles and the next a carpet of little umbrellas.
Related Articles:
Photo Share: Puffball Mushroom http://puffball-mushroom.html
Mushroom that make Reindeer Fly? http://reindeer-fly.html
Photo Share: On a Morel hunt http://morel-hunt.html

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Birds look like dancing leaves

Flitter, flutter... those "dancing leaves" I saw under the feeder this weekend were actually new birds visiting! Little brown birds with plain gray underparts, and conspicuous white throat and yellow lores above the eyes between black-and-white or black-and-tan stripes on the head means the White-throated Sparrows have come to town! Watch for them doing the chicken scratch dance under the feeders.

White-throated Sparrows show up in mid-Michigan right before the first frost in the fall. They can be spotted hanging around for a couple weeks in flocks of mixed sparrows before they continue to their wintering grounds in the eastern states below Michigan and in small numbers in southwestern states.

You may hear the birds before you see them. Birders describe their song as "Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody". Be on the look-out for the White-crowned Sparrows too. They usually pass through around the same time as the White-throated. Their visits to feeders tend to be early and late in the day. And Dark-eyed Juncos are sure to follow.

Watch the video:  https://youtu.be/sL_YJC1SjHE
 
Related Articles:
White-throated Sparrow fun facts http://white-throated-sparrow-fun-facts.html
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/oy9XGz
Which one of these birds is not like the others? http://bit.ly/qM1LQt
What birds winter in Michigan? http://bit.ly/rqQgU2

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Pecking order

What is the true pecking order? Little was known about encounters between birds of different species until now. A recent citizen science project conducted by Project FeederWatch has collected and analyzed thousands of reports on the drama taking place every day at the feeders.

And the results are in: When it comes to fighting over food, bigger is better but woodpeckers are best. The outcome of aggressive encounters between birds frequently determines which bird species gains access to food. Eliot Miller, a post-doctoral researcher studying feeder hierarchies at the Cornell Lab, says: “We’re finding that you can take that rather complicated, messy set of nearly 2,000 interactions between 85 different species and assemble those species into a fairly good approximation of a pecking order — a linear dominance hierarchy.”

But it is not all black and white. Observations revealed some unexpected relationships like how European Starlings are dominant to Red-headed Woodpeckers, and Red-headed Woodpeckers are dominant to Red-bellied Woodpeckers, but then Red-bellied Woodpeckers are dominant to European Starlings. Other unexpected findings were who turned out to be the least dominant. Doves, buntings, and grosbeaks seemed to be less dominant than expected based on their body size.

Take a look at the video and see pecking order in action:  https://youtu.be/uLieJQ3azOk
See the Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers dominate at the feeder over the cardinal, chickadees, finches, titmice, and the lowly nuthatches trying so hard to impress.
 
Sources:
Who is the toughest bird? https://feederwatch.org/blog/who-is-the-toughest-bird/
Fighting over food unites the birds of North America in a continental dominance hierarchy https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/01/30/104133


Related Articles:
Do Birds Eat Only at Certain Levels? http://goo.gl/vgE94
Why feed birds in the fall http://goo.gl/Jq4Aj
You get more birds if you feed year-round http://goo.gl/IsJKJ
Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://bird-guild.html
Black-capped Chickadee: Nature’s Backyard Charmer http://goo.gl/ji1vh

Friday, October 13, 2017

Photo Share: Northern Harrier

Credit: Doug Racine/USFWS

The Northern Harrier is a long tailed hawk with a white rump patch. It is often seen soaring in a "wobbly" fashion low over marshes, wet meadows, and open fields with wings held out in a shallow "V."

This is the only Michigan hawk that nests on the ground, typically in tall grasses or under shrubs near wetlands. They feed largely on small rodents, particularly meadow voles. Harrier numbers are much reduced for reasons believed related to the destruction of its marsh habitat by humans. They are listed as a species of Special Concern by the Michigan DNR. Northern harriers, once known by the fitting name of "marsh hawk," are found Statewide, but now nest most commonly in the eastern Upper Peninsula. They migrate and winter, further south away from areas that receive heavy snow cover.

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, October 12, 2017

Woodpeckers looking for houses

Do woodpeckers nest this time of year (fall). I had a woodpecker work two whole days on making the wren house hole bigger.

In our mid-Michigan area woodpeckers only nest once a year. But many are year-round residents and look for a place to roost during the cold months. Bird houses imitate the natural cavities provided by trees. Wild Birds Unlimited has several functional houses for woodpeckers as well as roosting pockets made of woven grasses or felted wool that you can also put up as a shelter.

And if you need to shrink the woodpecker expanded hole on your bird house for the wrens next spring we have metal and wood portal protectors to cover any damage and resize the hole.

Related Articles:
-How do I stop woodpeckers from pecking on my house? http://bit.ly/KGItqF
-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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Barred owl hunting in day

A Barred Owl can sometimes be seen hunting before dark. This typically occurs during the nesting season or on dark and cloudy days.

Barred Owls usually help their young find food for the first four months of life. Gradually parents stop feeding and ignore all their owlets pleas for food and encourage them to learn to hunt.

Then in the fall, hormones in adolescent owls trigger their search for a new home away from their natal territory. Young owls also may be seen in the day sometimes. Their lack the skill in catching dinner may encourage them to search for an advantageous perch to swoop down on mice, voles, moles, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, foxes, opossums, and birds.

Related Articles:
- Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/t6elFd
- Amazing Vocals of the Barred Owl http://bit.ly/sguMqL
- Owl attacks on humans http://attacks-on-humans.html
- Small Michigan Owl Visits Neighborhood http://bit.ly/tlzaoN 

- How to spot owls more easily http:/spot-owls-more-easily.html

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What Field Sparrows eat

Field Sparrow photo via Wikimedia Commons
Pay attention to flocks of sparrows under your feeders. Mid-October is the Field Sparrows peak migration through Michigan. They winter in most of the south eastern states below Michigan. You may see these smaller, warm-colored birds foraging in flocks that contain multiple species of sparrows during migration.

Field Sparrows eat mainly grass seeds, throughout the year. Grass seeds make up less than 50% of their diet in the summer, but more than 90% in the winter. In the summer they also eat adult and larval insects and spiders. At the feeders they would look for millet, or sunflower seeds.

Related Articles:
White-throated Sparrow fun facts
http://white-throated-sparrow-fun-facts.html
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/oy9XGz
Which one of these birds is not like the others? http://bit.ly/qM1LQt
Chipping Sparrow Juvenile with adult male http://goo.gl/8U5Ud2
How to get rid of sparrows http://goo.gl/9tAwkY