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, June 28, 2017

How to tell the difference between male and female House Wrens

How do you tell a male from a female House Wren?

The males tend to be more vocal while the females more behind the scenes. Both the male and female House Wrens look similar to our human eyes but their actions may be revealing. According to AllAboutBirds.org: Both males and females sing but males often sing 9-11 times per minute in the spring. Songs are a long, jumbled bubbling introduced by abrupt churrs and scolds and made up of 12-16 recognizable syllables. Females sing mainly in answer shortly after choosing a mate. Females' songs can include high-pitched squeals unlike any sounds males make.

Also during breeding season, Male House Wrens start building several nests at once in hopes of persuading a female to mate with him. He looks for any crevice, old woodpecker holes, and man-made nest boxes. You will see him bring in sticks up to 5 inches to build a twig platform. Then the female is the one to find all the soft stuff, (feathers, grasses and other plant material, animal hair, spider egg sacs, string, snakeskin) to build the nest cup.

Related Articles:
- Do the same House Wrens nest in the same house every year? http://bit.ly/uDBbIb
- Quick Fun Facts on Wrens http://bit.ly/v5XVoU
- Hanging & Placement of Wren Bird Houses http://bit.ly/rBLsGQ
- The best suet for wild birds http://goo.gl/yY7bGt
- House Wren vs. Carolina Wren http://house-vs-carolina-wren.html

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Red-bellied Mom approves of straight suet

Photo by Holly
The beef suet did not go over very well at first;) Now we have all the woodpeckers, bluejays & bluebirds are eating it! The black birds did try it and have not been back for seconds;) We actually have a suet lasting more then 1/2 day!

Thank you Holly for sharing your photo and experience! Some people feed straight suet to deter starlings and blackbirds at the suet feeder. It does take a little time for them to switch. Peanutbutter is the favorite suet but that calls all bug eating birds not just the woodpeckers.

The suets at the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI store are made with only the highest quality processed beef kidney fat. It is the most concentrated source of energy you can offer wild birds.

Related Articles:
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/Gmn0b
- Do we stop feeding suet in the summer? http://goo.gl/KM80C
- Best field guide for Michigan birds http://bit.ly/vPOMx1
- Warblers in Michigan http://goo.gl/WMMGs

Monday, June 26, 2017

Bird bath ideas

Water will attract all species of birds and during the hot and often dry conditions that make up the “dog days of summer," you will be doing your birds a big favor by providing them with a reliable source. You will benefit by getting a front row seat as birds drink, bathe and preen. Also, it is often the first stop for parent birds to bring their fledglings!

The simplest bird bath that we have at the Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) store in East Lansing, MI is the WBU Tall Decorative Birdbath designed to hold one of our 14" or 20" WBU plastic birdbath bowls.

Hellow, my pretties. Bath time!
The black powder coated steel stand has three legs with curved ends. It is designed to sit on top of soil, grass, gravel, a deck or patio. You can choose from 3 bowl colors; sandstone, terra cotta, or dark green. These modern bird baths take into consideration everything a bird needs in a bath. The bowls have easy perching edge and a textured bottom for a secure feeling as birds travel down a gradual dip to the perfect 2" deep middle bath. It's also easy to clean and in the winter you can add a heater or switch the bowl to a heated bird bath.

Our WBU birdbaths offer you ease and flexibility and bring you many hours of enjoyment.

Related Articles:
- Why Birds Preen http://goo.gl/8hqh0W
- What kind of bird bath is the best? http://goo.gl/tXz65
- Birds Don't Sweat: The Importance of Birdbaths http://bit.ly/OjpFPn
-Why do crows and blackbirds dip their food in bird baths? http://bit.ly/zgpw2i
- Do Birds Sip or Slurp? http://bit.ly/yAHTTV

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Mother teaching owlets to hunt

Juvenile Great Horned Owls begin to hunt  for themselves in July and August usually between the hours of 8 p.m. and 12 a.m.

Way back in mid-December I heard the mating calls. If all went according to plan, in the next two months, mates were decided, and the female laid 2 to 4 eggs in an old refurbished squirrels nest, other birds nest, or tree snag.

Hatching usually occurs by the end of February. The altricial young are downy, with eyes closed for up to 7 days. Hatchlings are brooded almost constantly by the female for up to 3 weeks. The male parent guards the nest closely.

Nestlings often edge out of the nest by about 32 days but remain near the nest and continue to be cared for by the parents until after full flight is achieved.

At about 6 weeks of age nestlings begin flapping and learning to fly. Their first flight may occur by 9 weeks but sustained flight is usually not achieved until about 12 weeks. Fledglings may spend up to 14 days on the ground prior to achieving full flight capability.

Source: https://www.fs.fed.us.html

Related Articles:
How to spot owls more easily http://how-to-spot-owls.html
Bird of the week: Great Horned Owl http://great-horned-owl.html
Fun Facts on Owls http://fun-fact-on-owls.html
Quick fun Facts: Great Horned Owl http://fun-facts-great-horned-owl.html
Great Horned Owl  Juvenile Rescued from Starving Slowly http://juvenile-rescued.html

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Phoebe/finch combo raise a cowbird and eagles raise a hawk

How many birds does it take to raise a cowbird? A female Brown-headed Cowbird can have several mates but instead of nesting, will lay her eggs in the nests of other bird species which foster the babies. In most cases the cowbird hatches earlier then the host species, is fed plenty of flying bugs and other creepy crawlies and grows fast enough to leave the nest in a couple weeks.

But it is rare for a cowbird chick to survive in a finch household. Finches feed primarily plant material to nestlings by regurgitation; it is neither partially digested nor does it contain nutritive secretions from the adult. In one study 99 parasitized House Finch nests were observed. Not one cowbird chick survived past 14 days. Lack of cowbird survival appeared to be the result of an inappropriate diet.

So what does a hungry cowbird baby do? Apparently his begging calls were so desperate a nearby Phoebe stepped in to do supplemental feeding. She may have lost her nest or just heard the cries, but basic instinct called for her to feed the child. Watch the fascinating video: https://youtu.be/h3AvdLPxzfg
In Canada a Bald Eagle is also raising a mixed family. Bald Eagles residing in a fir tree have apparently adopted a baby red-tailed hawk instead of shredding it and feeding it to their eaglets. Red-tails and eagles are not usually on the best of terms and have even been known to fight to the death. But once your in mommy mode it's hard not to feed any mouth that is open.
In this video the red-tail babe is in front and the eaglet is behind:  https://youtu.be/pVTH0pWl_GI
Related Articles:
How young cowbirds know they're cowbirds http:/cowbirds-know-their-cowbirds.html
Eastern Phoebes nest under porch http://phoebes-nest.html
Are cowbirds a concern http://cowbirds-concern.html
Brown-headed Cowbirds scout for nests http://cowbirds-scout-for-nests.html
What birds do if their eggs are destroyed http://birds-do-if-their-eggs.html
What makes a cardinal feed goldfish? http://basic-instinct.html

Friday, June 23, 2017

Young naturalist's thoughts

This year my nephew Evan's summer job has been to help me out at the Wild Birds Unlimited store. He's been unboxing and building feeders, stacking and bagging seed, feeding mealworms, cleaning and a variety of other jobs to make my workload easier. He has multiple interests including sports, nature, art, and music. I asked if he would like to be a guest blogger. He passed along his latest work of art and some food for thought.

After working at the store, I walk home and see the birds sitting on the power and phone lines. They kind of remind me of musical notes on a staff.

I am getting to know the bird songs. Some are long and full of notes, others do a chip chip or twitter and there is the drumming sound the woodpeckers add.  The sound is cool and very beautiful.

Watch birds on the wire translated to musical instruments:  https://youtu.be/4y0kwdzejYM

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer birdfeeding!

Any backyard bird watcher knows birds flock to feeders in summer especially as the babies fledge and approach the feeders with their parents. Summer bird feeding also can bring you different species that aren’t around in winter.

Studies show the average bird forages for food about five hours per day to meet their energy requirements. As the seasons change, consider the following tips to meet your summer backyard birds’ nutritional needs as well as attract some migrating visitors.

Some tips for creating a summertime backyard buffet:

1. Clean your feeders regularly
It is super important to keep your feeders clean, especially now when so many baby birds visit. The stress can make birds vulnerable to disease. Wet weather can also produce mold and mildew which can be fatal to birds. Dump out any moldy seed and disinfect your feeders with a 1 to 9 parts vinegar to water solution or bring your feeder to the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, Michigan to be cleaned for a small $5.00 charge.

2. Keep your seed dry
Hot, humid summer weather creates the potential for mold. My favorite secret weapon against soggy seed is Feeder Fresh which is available at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI. This is a desiccant that I stir into the seed to absorb the moisture.

3. Choose Food that Produces Less Mess
Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Blend features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds means there's no debris on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything happily.

4. Keep suet feeders full
By adding suet to your wild bird's summer menu, you will attract wrens, warblers, thrushes, brown creepers, brown thrashers, and blue jays. You can also attract orioles, chickadees, titmice, and the ever popular bluebird.

5. Discover Foods that Last Longer
Seed Cylinders are also a high-fat, quick-energy food source that is specially-designed to meet your birds' hearty appetites. The Wild Birds Unlimited popular no muss, no fuss Spiral Seed Cylinder Feeder holds cylinders of tightly packed seed held together with gelatin so there is no seed spray. The whole block is completely edible. And depending on bird activity in your yard, a large cylinder packed with energy rich pecans, peanuts and sunflower seeds can last weeks.

6. Attract Different Birds
Mealworms, nectar, fruit, and jelly attract many different birds. Hummingbirds and orioles, can be immediately attracted to feeders with nectar (and fruit and jelly for orioles), making summer a sweet time to feed the birds. Some birds attracted to mealworms include: wrens, robins, bluebirds, jays, sparrows, cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, and even Purple Martins.

7. Just add water
Baths not only provide clean water to quench thirst, baths also help birds maintain their feathers. A good part of a bird's day is spent just cleaning and grooming their feathers by bathing, scratching, and preening. It’s so important that it is often the first place parent birds bring their newly fledged babies.

Related articles:
Do I need to clean my bird feeder? http://bit.ly/HNX410
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/umlwXg
Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/HNZTPx
Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Photo Share: Roadside Flowers

School's out and Evan was nice enough to share what he found on a walk. And I think he deserves extra credit for the impressive bubble lettering!

"It was a short walk, but the path was filled with color. Queen Ann Lace, Crown Vetch, Morning Glory, Chicory, Red Clover, Daisy Fleabane, Dandelion, Thistle Flowers and tall grasses grew. 

They are unaided by gardeners, exposed to car exhaust and chemicals put on the Winter road, but still they thrive and make me happy." Evan

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.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Why raccoons wear a mask

Photo via Holly: "One of our 5 babies (trouble makers:) Too cute!”

Just why do Raccoons wear a mask? Probably not because they are night time feeder bandits. Maybe just as the ancient Egyptians used kohl eye makeup to protect their eyes from the harsh glare of the sun, the black around the eyes helps ‘coons see better at night by reducing glare. Or the black fur may emphasizes their eyes for display behaviors, like mating rituals or aggressive posturing.

And just look at those feet and hands! The most important sense for the raccoon is their sense of touch. The "hyper sensitive" front paws are protected by a thin horny layer which becomes pliable when wet. This makes their sense of touch enhanced when underwater.

I know they can be little monsters but with diminishing green spaces it's impressive that they have adapted to human-dominated landscapes. Please do not attempt to trap and remove raccoons from the property. Not only could you be taking a momma away from nursing babies, trapping and removing these intelligent beasties will do nothing for long-term control, as the newly vacant niche will quickly be filled by raccoons from surrounding areas. Relocating raccoons—even to wild or wooded areas—is illegal in many places and will likely result in their death.

Related Articles:
5 Amazing facts about Raccoons http://Interesting raccoon.html
How to keep raccoons from your yard http:/keep-raccoons-from-your-yard.html
The Beast! - A new indestructible suet feeder http://indestructible-suet-feeder.html
Trapping and relocating wildlife is the kiss of death http:/relocating-wildlife.html

Raccoons use Mission Impossible-style tactics to help baby over a wall: https://youtu.be