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, December 31, 2017

#birdyourworld: Year of the Bird

In 2018, we mark the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the most powerful and important bird-protection law ever passed. In honor of this milestone, nature lovers around the world are joining forces to celebrate the “Year of the Bird” and commit to protecting birds today and for the next hundred years.

From http://www.audubon.org/yearofthebird: "We never need a reason to celebrate birds here at Audubon, but in 2018 we’re going to make an especially big deal of them. That’s because not only is it the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act—a pivotal piece of legislation that continues to save countless birds’ lives—but birds are facing many new and serious threats. And so it’s with great excitement that we’ve teamed up with National Geographic, BirdLife International, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to officially make 2018 the Year of the Bird.

You can find out more about how you can #birdyourworld this year at the official Year of the Bird website. Throughout 2018, we’ll ask you to take simple actions that will help protect birds and provide you with themes that are sure to inspire. Each month, you could make your home and your communities’ buildings bird-friendly, or you could join a community science project for a day, or you could help birds stay safe during migration. Many of the actions are designed to engage others—your friends and family—with the natural world right alongside you. And you don’t have to wait to get started: You can start now by beginning to plan your spring planting with our Plants for Birds database. All of these small actions will help ensure that we’ll have birds to love for the next century—and beyond.

To stay informed go to:  https://www.nationalgeographic.org/projects/year-of-the-bird/

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Squirrel food

Photo by Jim Bauer
Even when it's cold out, squirrels need to eat. They have food that they have hidden and also eat nuts, fruits, and berries for calories and fat to see them through the winter. Squirrels can also eat bugs, soil, mushrooms and animal bones. Squirrels need water too if they want to remain hydrated during winter.

Related Articles:
How do I keep squirrels off my bird feeders? http://bit.ly/yiZsML
Squirrel proof bird feeder reviews http://bit.ly/waJs9o
Why are Squirrels Called Squirrels? http://bit.ly/yhktkr
How many species of squirrels are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/yYt6Nb
Black Squirrel History & Facts http://bit.ly/AxiqPz
"Frisky" Fox Squirrels http://bit.ly/AndeTw
Why squirrels chew http://bit.ly/AjVzFW

Friday, December 29, 2017

Wren in winter

I was watching out the window when a Carolina Wren zoomed the feeder. It poked and pushed until it was the only one feeding. The sparrows and squirrels stood off to the side to wait their turn. Carolina Wrens seem to be bursting with energy and I enjoy having them in the yard.

Our Carolina Wrens do not migrate but are very sensitive to cold weather. Severe winters result in a marked decline in their numbers. Having a known source of food is essential for providing wrens with the energy, stamina, and nutrition they need to survive. For this reason, it is a good idea to put out a feeder to help these birds (and other bird species as well) survive the winter.

Carolina Wrens are primarily insect eaters, but suet, peanuts, seed cylinders and mealworms are good substitutes for scarce insects during winter. They can be attracted to your feeders by providing a brush pile close to your feeding area. I have a pine tree and a bushy viburnum to give the birds cover. They feel more secure with a place to seek refuge nearby.

I also have a wren house that it can sleep in at night. A good idea to encourage Carolina wrens to stay and feed in or near your yard is to provide houses or roosting pockets near the bird feeders. Roosting pockets are little shelters, much like birdhouses (but smaller and not meant to be used as a nesting site), where the birds can roost and hide from the wind chill. The combination of roosting pockets and bird feeders during winter is one sure way to attract Carolina wrens in your area.

So take a second look at all those brown birds that are visiting. That bossy one is probably a wren.

Related Articles:
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/yAR4pm 
- Quick Fun Facts on Wrens http://bit.ly/v5XVoU
- Surviving Winter, the Bird Way http://goo.gl/SF0Yga
- Roosting Pockets: Warm Shelter from Frosty Winds http://goo.gl/QOPbMw

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Photo Share: Feathered frost

 Do you know what kind of ice this is?
This deposit of ice crystals is known as Hoarfrost and sometimes is so thick that it might look like snow. Hoarfrost crystals form in the winter like dew would form in the spring. When a lot of water is in the air from melting snow during a couple sunny days and then temperatures drop from above to below freezing overnight, frost forms. A fast freezing rate can produce numerous smaller interlocking ice crystals, that look like a downy feather pillow exploded.

Good observation! 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.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

5 resolutions to keep your birds healthy all winter


1. Clean Feeders - Feeders should be cleaned at least once a month, year round. Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) - East Lansing, MI will clean your feeder for $5.00. Or you can disassemble feeders and immerse them completely in a 1:9 vinegar: water solution for three minutes. Scrub with brushes (available at WBU), rinse thoroughly, and let air dry. Also clean the area around the feeders to help eliminate the build up around the feeder.
2. Fill Feeders – Throw out seed that is over 3 months old! It is dried out and will do your birds no good. 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. Wild Birds Unlimited has fresh, regionally formulated seed blends to provide the most nutritious food for your birds.
3. Feeder/Hardware Maintenance - Check you feeders to see if there are any repairs that need to be done. Make sure feeders are hung so they are easy to reach and fill.
4. ProvideRoosting Spots - Nest boxes turn into roosting boxes in the winter for bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, sparrows, and other birds that might stay all winter in mid-Michigan. You can put up roosting pockets woven of all-natural grasses available at Wild Birds Unlimited to offer essential protection in the winter.
5. Prepare Bird Baths - Birds also need a source for water in the winter. In our area, weather can turn cold fast and freeze the water in bird baths. It’s best to place a plastic or metal bath out with an added heater or a buy a heated birdbath. If you’re not sure what you need, Wild Birds Unlimited will give you accurate information on how to support our local birds. 

Related articles:
What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/z7Eurx
Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
What seeds do wild birds eat? http://bit.ly/wKyQNB
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/xbkaPP
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Photo Share: Gorgeous cardinal

Had this gorgeous cardinal at our feeder today. Thanks for explaining what they are. (Strange Feather Variation: Red and white cardinal http:/strange-feather-variation-cardinal.html)
Linda Cain - Central Illinois
Http://cain81art.blogspot.com
Variations in plumage can be based on the sex of the bird, its age, seasonal changes caused by molting, or genetic mutations. Some examples of genetic color variations include: Albinism, an absence of melanin resulting in an all white bird. Melanism, a bird with feathers that are darker than normal. Xanthochroism, yellowish or orange pigments replacing normal red coloration. Pale Leucism, a genetic mutation that prevents melanin and other pigments from being deposited normally on feathers, resulting in pale or muted colors on the entire bird. And your lovely female cardinal has Pied Leucism, white patches caused by an absence of pigment in some feathers.

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.

Monday, December 25, 2017

“In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous.” - Aristotle



With the holiday season here, we are setting our work aside for a moment to extend our sincere appreciation to the friends and customers who make our jobs so enjoyable.

May your holidays be filled with family, friendship, and the magic of our world.


Wishing you peace for the holidays.

Wild Birds Unlimited
2200 Coolidge Road Suite 17
East Lansing, MI 48823

http://lansing.wbu.com/

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Store #cat diary

What Dolly and I are up to today: Marathon 'tubing, eating in bed with a heated blanket, and playing with some toys.

Very long tongue

Most people know woodpeckers use their beak like a chisel searching for insect larvae in the barks of trees. But the bugs don’t want to get eaten and they tuck tight in tiny crevices to hide. That’s when the woodpecker has to pull out a secret weapon, his tongue.

Woodpeckers’ tongues act like a spear with sticky barbs that can extend up to 4 inches. The tongue starts out on top of the mouth, passes through the right nostril, between the eyes, divides in two, arches over the top of the skull and around the back part of the skull passing on either side of the neck, coming forward through the lower mouth. The tongue on a Red-Bellied woodpecker, along with some other species of woodpecker, is so long that it can extend at least three times the bill length.

Tiny bones within the entire length of woodpecker's tongue fold up like an accordion. When a woodpecker contracts his muscles the tongue is propelled out of the bill. When the muscles relax the tongue shortens. The woodpeckers' tongue is also super sensitive. It contains muscles that move it side to side as well to search for food and feel for unseen insects behind dead wood.
 
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

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Photo Share: Tufted Titmouse

The Tufted Titmouse is a very appealing visitor at the feeder. Often with flocks of chickadees, most Tufted Titmice live their entire life within a few miles of their birthplace. They forage for insects, spiders, snails, various berries, acorns, and flower seeds.

Wild Birds Unlimited's No-mess blend is very attractive to titmice. In fact the shelled sunflower and peanuts in the blend are the favorite of many feeder birds. Tufted Titmice typically select one seed at a time and hide it within 130 feet of the feeder, under bark or under objects on the ground. You can also add a suet, seed cylinders or mealworm feeders to keep these birds happy.

Males and females form pairs that persist until the death of one of the mates. The titmouse family bond is so strong that the young from one breeding season will often stay with their parents long enough to help them with nesting and feeding duties the following year. They are fairly confident birds and can be trained to come at the sound of human voices and take food from their hands, though not as easily as their cousins, the black-capped chickadees.

Related Articles:
Is it “Titmice” or “Titmouses”? http://bit.ly/yImBcF
Camouflaged Titmouse Fits Right In http://bit.ly/w0f2us
 
Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
Why is the Titmouse Tongue So Short? http://bit.ly/yds9Mm
Tufted Titmouse fun facts http://bit.ly/AfIA7H

Friday, December 22, 2017

Where my cardinals went

A mild November and December combined with the biggest apple, berry, seed and nut crop this year has resulted in fewer Northern Cardinals gathering at our feeders. This is very good news for the birds, a little less for all cardinal enthusiasts. But after the fruits are consumed and when the snows start to blow, you will start to see the return of the cardinals. Hopefully, healthier, brighter and in greater numbers!

Related Articles:
Northern Cardinal Fun Facts http://bit.ly/twE6NV
How the Northern Cardinal bird was named http://bit.ly/tSKZYs
Cardinal Bird Feeders Made in the USA: http://bit.ly/qXJPFM
How to Attract Cardinals: http://bit.ly/pjh7mO
What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/rAArXw
What are the different types of cardinal birds? http://goo.gl/CUI43

Thursday, December 21, 2017

It is a new year for the birds

Along with the cold winds and snows, birds must also face fewer daylight hours to forage at a time when they need to increase their calories to stay warm. The winter solstice, the longest night of the year, usually occurs on December 21 to 23 each year in the Northern Hemisphere.

But after the winter solstice this week, the days will start to get longer. For the birds it might be considered the beginning of the "real" New Year.

It's hard not to admire our hardy winter birds in Michigan. When I go out to fill the feeders in the morning and hear the nuthatches and woodpeckers “laughing,” I feel happy that they’ve made it through the night.

And remember if you feel a little guilty about just throwing away your Christmas tree, its usefulness can be extended by placing it outside near feeders for added shelter against the weather and predators. In a matter of minutes, the old tree is providing a new natural cover.

The birds had an advantage with the milder November and early December which allowed them to seek natural foods. Though it might seem strange to humans, wild birds prefer to forage over visiting feeders.

However, as the temperatures dip and natural food sources may become covered with snow or locked in ice, the supplemental food and water we provide is more widely appreciated and has a bigger impact on the birds’ survival.

Related Articles:
Groundhog’s Day on Feb. 2 is a "cross-quarter" day. http://bit.ly/vUF7Qk
Singing Birds Herald The Arrival of Spring. http://bit.ly/uJbzCe
Why do they call it Indian Summer? http://bit.ly/twFccE
Why do leaves change color in the fall? http://bit.ly/spkqnF
What’s the difference between a full moon and a new moon? http://bit.ly/tKg5gO

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Winter Bunnies

Most of the bunnies you see in Michigan are the Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus). They have speckled brown-gray fur, big eyes, and a tail that is puffy white on the underside. In the winter its fur may be more gray than brown. Rabbits actually belong to their own order and are properly called lagomorphs. Many people mistakenly believe that wild rabbits and domesticated pet rabbits are the same species, but the domesticated rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) belongs to another genus and is only distantly related.

Eastern Cottontails have two different fur coats each year. During the summer they have short brown fur with a white belly. During the winter the fur becomes longer and grayer, with a white belly. All year long the underside of the tail is white. This white tail is the source of their common name.

They may live up to two years in the wild, but where predators are numerous they seldom survive more than one year. Hawks and owls are some avian predators, and foxes, raccoons, skunks, and opossums are some mammals that prey on rabbits.

Rabbits are crepuscular, meaning they're most active at dusk and dawn, and are generally found in areas with dense cover. They also do well in suburban and urban areas where lawns, gardens, and various shrubs meet their habitat requirements.

Rabbits feed on leafy plants during the growing season and the buds and bark of woody plants in the winter. They produce two types fecal pellets (the round, dry ones and cecotropes). The cecotropes are produced in a region of the rabbit's digestive tract called the cecum. The cecum contains a natural community of bacteria and fungi that provide essential nutrients. They must re-ingest these fecal pellets to reabsorb nutrients from its food because their diet of plants is hard to digest efficiently, and they have to make two passes at it to get everything out of the meal.

Besides the plants essential to their diet, rabbits also need safe resting places like fall brush piles or dense shrubs in which to escape from predators. 

Related Articles:

- Ways that animals survive the winter http:/ways-animals-survive-winter.html
- When do bats hibernate? http://goo.gl/IES4Bt
- Do Voles Hibernate? http://bit.ly/rTcbQI
- When do Chipmunks hibernate? http://bit.ly/uGhBOB
- Do opossums hibernate during winter? http://bit.ly/u4ORP6
- Do skunks hibernate? http://bit.ly/xVKDXP

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Party Recap

Dolly (cat) and I are still recuperating from the Open House on Saturday! If you can believe it we actually had twice as many people attend, but thankfully it was at a nice steady pace at the register instead of all at once like last year. We didn't run out of everything either! Just almost everything.

My mom once again made a table full of unbelievably lovely goodies and also helped me with customers. While my brother worked tirelessly with customers' questions and stocking seed cylinders, bagging seed, and carrying packages to cars.

I ordered twice as many seed cylinders this year and we still ran low on a lot but we only ran out of the Large No-Mess cylinders. The reorder may be in by Saturday. In the meantime we do have Hot No-Mess, which is the same but with a little spice added to deter squirrels. And we had more seed and suet delivered today and will have an even bigger load coming on Friday.

Wild Birds Unlimited has been in East Lansing for over 12 years now and we always try to offer freshest birdseed blended for the birds that live in our area, full of the nutrition they need to survive the cold weather. Thank you very much for your continued support of our nature shop and everyone that made the Open House a huge success AGAIN! I wish you every Happiness this Holiday Season and throughout the coming New Year!

Much Joy, Sarah

Monday, December 18, 2017

More about Red-headed Woodpeckers

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Red-headed Woodpeckers were once so common that orchard owners used to pay a bounty for them, and in 1840 Audubon reported that 100 were shot from a single cherry tree in one day. In the early 1900s, Red-headed Woodpeckers followed crops of beech nuts in northern beech forests that are much less extensive today. At the same time, the great chestnut blight killed virtually all American chestnut trees and removed another abundant food source. Red-headed Woodpeckers may now be more attuned to acorn abundance than to beech nuts.

Just from 1966 to 2014, they have experienced a 70% decline in population and are on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action. The species is also listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. After the loss of nut-producing trees, perhaps the biggest factor limiting Red-headed Woodpeckers is the availability of dead trees in their open-forest habitats and urban areas. Management programs that create and maintain snags and dead branches may help Red-headed Woodpeckers.

Today you can look for Red-headed Woodpeckers in scattered, open woodlots in agricultural areas and in mature stands of forest, especially oak, oak-hickory, maple, ash, and beech.

And if you live nearby they may visit if you have suet, sunflower seeds, corn, acorns, beechnuts, pecans, and many kinds of fruits (including apples, pears, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, mulberries, and poison ivy fruits).

Red-headed Woodpeckers are fairly easy to identify thanks to their large blocks of solid color. Adults have bright-red heads, white underparts, and black backs with large white patches in the wings, making the lower back appear all white when perched.

Red-headed Woodpeckers give all kinds of chirps, cackles, and other raucous calls. Their most common call is a shrill, hoarse tchur, like a Red-bellied Woodpecker’s but higher-pitched and less rolling. To read more and listen to a call go to: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/red-headed_woodpecker/sounds

Related Articles:
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
- Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX
- How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/tJ7e6S
- Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/tQ5lwt
- How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Birds in cold climates especially appreciate these high-energy foods.

Your feeders serve as a supplemental food source for birds except during periods of extreme stress. For example, in severe winter weather, feeders provide a source of food that enables them to survive from day to day. So make sure your foods are "worth their weight" with quality high-calorie, fatty foods.

You can attract insect-eating birds such as chickadees, woodpeckers and nuthatches to your yard by
offering nuts or suet cakes. While many seed eating birds like cardinals, doves, and juncos prefer sunflower chips or millet and finches also enjoy Nyjer (thistle). Birds in cold climates especially appreciate these high-energy foods.

Stop by our store for more expert advice plus quality foods that are "worth the weight" to help your birds thrive this winter. https://youtu.be/winter food

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Holly plants have long been associated with winter Holidays

For birds Holly is one of the most versatile and useful plants with more than 400 species that range in size from creeping shrubs to trees 100 feet or more tall. Cardinals, waxwings, woodpeckers, catbirds, thrashers, mockingbirds, bluebirds, robins and other thrushes all appreciate snacking on berries during the short days of winter.

Early Europeans used holly as ornamentation during their winter solstice celebrations. The winter solstice, which occurs in late December in the northern hemisphere, was the longest night of the year and signified the gradual lengthening of days and coming spring — a cause for celebration. Holly's symbolism of the new season made it an appropriate and colorful ornament for winter festivities.

Related Articles:
- How the Christmas Tree tradition started http://goo.gl/hpYcTZ
- Edible ornaments for the birds http://bit.ly/tXDnSB
- Decorate a Tree for Your Birds http://bit.ly/t3QtGV
- 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

Friday, December 15, 2017

Photo Share: Line up for the feeders

Feeding frenzy today!
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, December 14, 2017

What bluebirds eat in the winter

Female bluebird photo by Finiky
Eastern Bluebirds gather together in large family flocks starting in August until September after nesting season has ended. These large nomadic groups roost at night in the woods and wander around foraging for food.
.
Their diet changes from mostly worms and insects to fruit, nuts and berries from trees, bushes, and vines. A tray feeder full of suet nuggets, mealworms, fruits or nuts along with open water may have you attracting bluebirds year round in mid-Michigan. If you have a heated birdbath they may show up in large numbers for afternoon drinks and feather preening.

We often think of migration as birds traveling thousands of miles south to winter in a tropical climate. That’s true for some birds even some bluebirds. The bluebirds that nested in Canada may skip over Michigan to winter in the southern states, but in mid-Michigan and below, many bluebirds are year-round residents. 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. They all gather in huge family groups in the fall however to increase their survival through the winter.

Related Articles:
What do American Robins eat in the winter? http://bit.ly/wQh59Q
The best heated bird baths http://bit.ly/uIHnB7
Bird of the Week: Eastern Bluebird http://bit.ly/xgm1V4
Ultimate Bluebird House http://bit.ly/A4kliS
The Migration of Eastern Bluebirds http://bit.ly/yCLcQH

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

#Cat Photo Share: Dolly Daze

These cold, short days, along with the increased busyness of December has had Dolly seeking a little solitude in her isolation box and in front of the Tube. Nobody can bother her when her stories are on! (I think she may have a problem.)
What is she watching? Her favorite is https://www.youtube.com/seahue 

She sits a little bit too close. But because cats' eyes are so large, most can’t focus on anything less than a foot in front of them. She swings her whiskers forward to feel the birds up close. 

Related Articles:
Well Hello, Dolly! http://hello-dolly.html
Dolly is making new friends! http:/dolly-is-making-new-friends.html
Birds invading the store http://rush-through-winter.html
My Baby isn't fat http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2017/11/my-baby-isnt-fat.html
Indoor cats with bird-watching windows. http://indoor-cats-dont-get-bored.html
Wild Cats Unlimited http://wild-cats-unlimited.html
Dolly talks to the birds http://yank-yank.html

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Why bird need open water in the winter

How to find food, water, shelter and avoid predators are essential to birds' survival.

Though food is scarce in winter, dehydration can be the biggest threat to birds. While birds can eat snow and ice, it takes much more energy for for them to warm it to body temperature than it does for them to drink unfrozen water.

Water is not only important for hydration, but it also helps birds preen their feathers. During those freezing nights, they fluff their feathers to trap heat like a down jacket. Without water to conduct a proper preening, birds' feathers won't stay positioned. When feathers are in alignment, cold air can't pierce through to the skin, and make them lose body heat and freeze to death.

You can use a heated bird bath or add a heater to your existing plastic, metal or stone bird bath to make some water available even on the coldest day and attract birds that may not visit feeders very often. Heated birdbaths do not create warm water, but just keep it from completely freezing.

Related Articles:
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/tfT7Ca
Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw
Help Birds Beat Their Winter Woes http://goo.gl/ZlDTw
Are there heated birdbaths? http://heated-birdbath.html


Monday, December 11, 2017

Easy to make pine cone feeder for the birds

This quick project is a fun way to spend time together as a family and teach your kids to appreciate wildlife right in your own backyard.

All you need is a pine cone, peanut butter suet and some good seed.
  1. Tie some raffia around a dozen pinecones
  2. Soften a cake of PeanutButter suet by placing it in the microwave for 20 seconds.
  3. Spread over pine cone generously.
  4. Roll cone in a bird seed blend with a lot of sunflower seed and nuts to attract the widest variety of birds.
While some birds fly south when the weather turns cold, others are year-round residents or fly as far south as mid-Michigan to tough it out. With this project, you and bring the winter birds up close for further observation into their life. Watch which seeds are the favorite and what birds are more dominate at the feeder. You can also determine if there is more activity on snowy (harsh weather) day or clear days. And you can also just be entertained by all the activity at the feeder!

Related Articles:
Share Nature's bounty http://bit.ly/tgPkrv
Make edible ornaments  http://bit.ly/tXDnSB 

Decorate a Tree for Birds http://bit.ly/t3QtGV 
Filling Up on Fatty Foods http://bit.ly/tUElnw
10 Gifts for Birdwatchers: http://bit.ly/uZojYY
Unique gifts for someone that has everything http://goo.gl/MBsT2V

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Snow birds flock under feeders

Right before the snow hit I had a huge wave of at least 25 Dark-eyed Juncos fly in under the feeders. Juncos spend their summers further north in the in the coniferous zones of the northern United States and Canada. They venture south starting in October to spend the whole winter with us in mid-Michigan.

Dark-eyed juncos usually hop or walk to move along the ground. They are social during fall and winter spending the days in flocks of 15 to 25 birds. These flocks can mix in with other native sparrows.

Dark-eyed juncos usually migrate to the same area every winter. Each flock stays in an area about 10 to 12 acres in size. There is a social hierarchy within the winter flocks. Males are dominant over females and adults are dominant over the younger birds. Dominant birds rush at or peck at other birds to chase them away.

Related Articles:
Fun Facts About Juncos http://bit.ly/pgewJn
What birds like Safflower seed? http://bit.ly/puRjIr
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/nURO99
Do the same birds show up at the same feeders year after year? http://bit.ly/GMaOYV

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Cardinal symbolism

The Cherokee believe that the cardinal is the daughter of the sun. Legend has it that if you see a cardinal flying upward, toward the sun, you will have good luck.

The red Northern Cardinal is easy to spot in a snowy landscape and is often associated with Christmas and the winter season. The cardinals stay in Michigan year-round and don’t migrate. Their population has expanded alongside the growth of the human population.

Historically, cardinals were most numerous in the south eastern portions of USA, but they have been steadily increasing in numbers in northern Michigan into Canada. The western boundary of their range is also spreading from the Dakotas to western Texas with a few cardinal populations in New Mexico, southern Arizona, and California.

The “Cardinal” name was derived from the vivid red plumage of the male, which resembles the robes of the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church. The word comes from the Latin cardo, meaning hinge. Something that has cardinal qualities are of the greatest importance; other things hinge around it.

The red robes of church bishops, red holly berries, Saint Nicholas's crimson suit, the beloved red poinsettia, and red amaryllis also bring this bright color into the season as a symbol of life: This year is over, but another is soon to be born.

Related Articles:
- How the Christmas Tree tradition started http://goo.gl/hpYcTZ
- Edible ornaments for the birds http://bit.ly/tXDnSB
- Decorate a Tree for Your Birds http://bit.ly/t3QtGV
- 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

Friday, December 8, 2017

Photo Share: Sparrows roosting

In North America there may be some local movements in response to weather changes but House Sparrow populations do not migrate extensively. Some sparrows like to roost right next to the feeders to break their fast at first light.

They are very social birds and make a lot of noise as they settle down and wake up in the morning. Male and female House Sparrows make single cheep notes to indicate submissiveness in flocks, deter intruders, and warn others.

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, December 7, 2017

The Joy of Bird Feeding

The delight of seeing so many active and energetic birds at your feeders, and knowing that you are having a positive impact on the quality of their lives, makes feeding the birds a real joy; especially this time of the year. The best part is that this joy is available to everyone.

Across North America, more than 180 bird species can be attracted to yards with the right food, water and shelter. That's a lot of joy and all of it right outside your window.

Winter is a great time to watch the different types of birds at your feeders. Woodpeckers are busy eating mouthfuls of suet. Juncos and sparrows hurriedly scour the ground for millet. Finches take turns at the finch feeder. Jays raucously grab peanuts and nuthatches and chickadees industriously horde sunflower seeds.

Stop by your nearest Wild Birds Unlimited store this month and share the joy of the birds with us. We have the best seed, feeders, nature gifts and advice, and we can help you introduce this wonderfully joyful hobby to your neighbors, friends and family.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Winter Blue Jay

The Blue Jays are found from southern Canada throughout all of Michigan and down to Florida and northeastern Texas. The western edge of the range stops where the arid pine forest and scrub habitat of the closely related Steller's Jay begins. Recently, the range of the Blue Jay has extended northwestwards so that it is now a rare but regularly seen winter visitor all along the northern US and southern Canadian Pacific Coast. As the two species' ranges now overlap, the Blue Jay may sometimes hybridize with the Steller's Jay.

Steller's Jay by http://commons.wikimedia.org
I usually see Blue Jays year-round in mid-Michigan but some may be migratory. Much about their migratory behavior remains a mystery. Some are present throughout winter in all parts of their range. Young jays may be more likely to migrate than adults, but many adults also migrate. Some individual jays migrate south one year, stay north the next winter, and then migrate south again the next year. To date, no one has worked out why they migrate when they do. Likely, it is related to weather conditions and how abundant the winter food sources are, which can determine whether other northern birds will move south.

My Blue Jays love Peanuts in the Shell. The Blue Jay mainly forages in the wild for nuts, seeds, soft fruits, berries and bugs. At the feeders they like any kind of nut, Oil Sunflower seed, Striped Sunflower seed and Suet.

Related Articles:
- Why do Birds Scatter Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/w4vRPP
- Blue Jays aren't blue http://bit.ly/roVPVX
- What Feeder Do You Recommend for Blue Jays? http://bit.ly/txd8ja
- Blue Jay Fun Facts http://goo.gl/wJgMmJ
- Do birds know winter is coming? http://goo.gl/EilIa6
- Why Blue Jays go bald in the fall http://goo.gl/gAX3x 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Expect an increase in birds visiting as temperatures dip and snow falls

As the temperatures continue to dip and snow begins to fall, you will notice an increase at the feeders. 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:
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/tfT7Ca
Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/uKZs6v
Food & water from bird feeders can impact birds’ survival http://bit.ly/tsnvpP

Monday, December 4, 2017

Owl courtship begins in December

Although many birds do use song as a mechanism of individual recognition and contact, the primary reason for song especially in males is advertisement of themselves! The male bird sings to declare his individual territory and to attract a mate and mating is not one of the biological functions for most birds in the winter season.

An exception to the rule is owls. One of  the best things about December is hearing the first calls of the Great Horned Owls as they begin their courtship. The hooting of the owls becomes noticeable mid-December in Michigan. On a clear night, even in the suburbs where I live, you'll hear the birds calling back and forth usually from midnight until dawn. Their distinctive territorial call, "hoo-hoo hoooo hoo-hoo," can be heard from miles away.

Related Articles:
- Snowy Owls http://bit.ly/ylJmQq
- Eastern Screech Owl http://bit.ly/wMQBZj
- Great Horned Owl http://bit.ly/zmlFqY
- Barred Owl http://bit.ly/yAoDx8
- Great Gray Owl http://bit.ly/tAewYm
- Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/z9q3Dg

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Snowy Owls on the move

Snowy Owls are yearly visitors to Michigan, but their numbers can fluctuate quite dramatically. When the lemming and vole populations are very high in the north the survival rate of Snowy Owls is high. These higher numbers of owls result in many first year males venturing south in search of food.

The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) is a large, yellow-eyed, black billed white bird that is recognized easily. It is about 2 feet tall with a 4–5 foot wingspan and can weigh over 6 pounds. The adult males are very white, while the females and young birds have some dark scalloping on their feathers. Their heavily-feathered taloned feet, thick feathers and coloration make the Snowy Owl well-adapted for life north of the Arctic Circle in temperatures as low as 40° F below zero.

If you see one perched on a telephone pole or on your roof during the day, that’s OK, Snowies are diurnal. This means unlike other owls; the snowy owls are active and hunt during the day as well as the night. Snowy owls can hear the pitter patter of prey beneath 10 inches of snow. They feed primarily on lemmings in the Arctic tundra during the breeding season and eat other rodents, fish and some birds during the winter.

Snowy owls are monogamous generally but can choose a new mate each season. Their courtship behavior begins in midwinter until March or April. The males try to attract females by flying in an undulating manner sometimes with prey in their mouth. Then on the ground the male turns his back to the female, fluffs up his feathers, spreads his tail feathers to impress the females. If this is not enough, the males also kill and display prey to the females.

After a mate is chosen the female scrapes a shallow nest in the ground. Every 2 days the she lays an egg. The average clutch is 3 to 11 white eggs, depending on prey availability. Males often “hoot” to defend their territory. They also make many other calls, including a “rick, rick, rick”, a “kre kre kre”, a mewing and a hiss. These calls are often used by an adult that is defending a nest.

After about a month of incubation, one chick covered in snowy white down, hatches about every two days. Both parents feed and protect the chicks for 5 to 7 weeks until they are able to hunt for themselves.

Once nesting is complete they do not remain in pairs but become solitary and territorial. The average lifespan of these magnificent birds is 10.8 years.

Related Articles:

Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/t6elFd
What is the largest owl in Michigan? http://bit.ly/tAewYm
How Can Owls Fly Silently? http://bit.ly/sAQxy8
Amazing Vocals of the Barred Owl http://bit.ly/sguMqL
Small Michigan Owl Visits Neighborhood http://bit.ly/tlzaoN
An owl can turn its head up to 270 degrees http://bit.ly/vTQWOg

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Barred Owl perched

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Barred Owls don’t migrate, and they don’t even move around very much. One study showed that of the 158 birds that were banded and then found later, none had moved farther than 6 miles away.

Barred Owls eat many kinds of small animals, including squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, rabbits, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates. They hunt by sitting and waiting on an elevated perch, while scanning all around for prey with their sharp eyes and ears. They may also perch over water and drop down to catch fish. They swallow small prey whole and large prey in pieces, eating the head first and then the body. Sometimes they temporarily store their prey in a nest, in the crook of a branch, or at the top of a snag to eat later.

Related Articles:
- Snowy Owls http://bit.ly/ylJmQq
- Eastern Screech Owl http://bit.ly/wMQBZj
- Great Horned Owl http://bit.ly/zmlFqY
- Barred Owl http://bit.ly/yAoDx8
- Great Gray Owl http://bit.ly/tAewYm
- Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/z9q3Dg

Friday, December 1, 2017

How the crane got his red head and long legs

From Wikimedia Commons: A Native American (Cree) legend tells about a young rabbit who wished to ride the moon, and only a crane was willing to take him there. As Rabbit hung to the Crane’s legs, his weight caused them to lengthen, which is the reason for cranes having such long legs. Also, gripping the crane’s legs so tightly caused the rabbit’s paw to bleed. When they reached the Moon, Rabbit touched Crane's head with a bleeding paw, leaving the red mark cranes wear to this day. And according to the legend, on clear nights, Rabbit can still be seen riding the Moon.

Related Articles:
Whooping Crane Migration http://goo.gl/avz5lG
Sandhill Cranes migration http://sandhill-cranes-migration.html 

Sandhill Crane breeding: http://goo.gl/9GkgEH  
Lucky Duck saved from frozen pond: http://goo.gl/HClYGP

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Red-bellied Woodpecker eating Sunflower seeds

Yesterday I ran out of suet so I did not expect to see many woodpeckers. But, a red-bellied woodpecker came up and started eating sunflower seeds. He came up, ate a few, and flew away several times. I have never had this happen before. Is it normal?
Red-bellied Woodpeckers eat a wide variety of food. In the late spring and summer their diet consist mainly of insects, spiders, and other arthropods, and suet. In the fall and winter there are more acorns, nuts, and pinenuts in their diet as well as seeds extracted from annual and perennial plants and fruits and berries.

You may sometimes see Red-bellied Woodpeckers make several quick trips to the feeder because they like to take food away and wedge it into bark crevices. Just like squirrels, some birds like chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, blue jays and woodpeckers will hide or cache their food 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 keep their stash a secret from competitors and help them survive during bad weather and when food sources are low. They can find each hiding spot accurately even a month later.

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Geese at night

I see geese sleeping on the river behind my house each night. Are they different flocks migrating through or just birds flying back and forth. Why do they sleep on the water? ~ Lansing, MI

One of the first signs of fall is the shifting flocks of Canada Geese migrating in a long, honking, irregular “V” across sky. Flying in “V” formations conserves their energy. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of him, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. It also allows each bird an unobstructed field of vision, so flock members can see each other and communicate while in flight.

The Canada Goose is a year round resident of mid-Michigan’s riverbanks, ponds, golf courses and farmlands. However the Canadian and Upper Peninsula geese do migrate down to the southern U.S. from September to November. They eat aquatic vegetation, grasses and grains. If one area freezes or their source of food is depleted, they fly to more hospitable grounds.

Often called the Canadian Goose, the Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is one of the most recognizable birds in Michigan. At 16-25 inches long with a wingspan of 50-68 inches, both the male and female are large long-necked geese with black bills, black heads and necks with white throat patches that extend up the cheek. The body is brown with a brownish-white breast and belly. At least 11 subspecies of Canada Goose have been recognized and as of 2004 some of the smaller subspecies were designated their own species like the Cackling Goose.

Geese and other waterfowl like to sleep in the water for safety.
Any predator coming toward them through the water would send vibrations and warn the birds of any danger approaching.
You may also see geese on the shoreline sleeping while they stand on one foot and one eye open. Always on the lookout for danger, the ability to sleep with only half a brain and one eye open is called unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USWS).

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Nature's impact on our wellbeing

Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical well-being, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. As the holiday season comes into full swing, it is important to take time to relax and rid yourself of some of that seasonal stress. What better way than to enjoy bird watching in your own yard!

With over 25 years of research and experience, Wild Birds Unlimited® is proud to offer you the highest-quality birdfeeders and birdfeeding equipment on the market today. Any feeder you choose should be easy to fill and easy to clean. Look for quality too. Most Wild Birds Unlimited feeders come with a Lifetime Warranty. Next determine what birds you want to attract. There are certain feeders that are made for specific birds (i.e. finch feeder, hummingbird feeder, squirrel proof feeder). Finally decide where you are going to put the feeder. Is it going to hang in a tree, on an Advanced Pole System, on a window, or off a deck? The best place to put a feeder is where you can view it easily.

Selecting the proper bird foods to place in your feeders is also important, because different birds have different food preferences. All our blends are made of the stuff birds like to eat! We learned long ago the better the blend, the better your bird watching! Bargain bird seed may have inexpensive seeds like milo and wheat mixed in to bulk up the bag. However, in most regions these seeds are not eaten by bird feeder birds and is left to sprout, rot on the ground or worse, attract rodents. No-mess blend is our most popular blend. With sunflower seeds, peanuts, and millet with the shells removed, everything in the bag is devoured leaving no mess behind.

Michigan has over 400 species of birds. A few of the most common birds seen at a seed feeder in mid-Michigan are the Cardinal, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, House Sparrow, House Finch, American Goldfinch, European Starling, White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, and Mourning Dove.

Bird watching is a wonderful hobby for people of all ages. It can be enjoyed almost anywhere at any moment of the day. All in all, bird watching is relaxing, fun, and educational.

Related Articles:
Close-up look at the seeds wild birds eat http://bit.ly/IET0hP
How to keep moths out of bird seed http://bit.ly/IESK2h
How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://bit.ly/rTLSqJ
Seed Storage Cans and WBU Seed Scoops http://bit.ly/uBaSwO
The strange journey of the sunflower plant http://bit.ly/uFlz65

Monday, November 27, 2017

#GivingTuesday: Where Wild Things can get help

At last count Nottingham Nature Nook rescued over 168 birds in 2017, as well as many distressed mammals like fox, raccoons, skunks, bunnies and dozens of squirrels. Some might say let nature take it's course and leave these animals to die. That would be the right thing to do if Nature was the one doing harm.

The National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) estimates that over 75% of the animals cared for by wildlife rehabilitators like Nottingham Nature Nook are affected in some manner by human activities; some studies have that number as high as 85%-95%. Nest tree destruction, vehicle collisions, unrestrained pets, illegal or legal wild “pet” trading, intentional or unintentional poisonings including oil contamination, window collisions, and non-target trapping or shooting result in wildlife distress.

Wild Birds Unlimited's customers have donated thousands of dollars to help support the operating costs of Nottingham Nature Nook and today you can make your donation go twice as far. Up to $2 million in donations to nonprofits will be matched by Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation starting on Nov 28 at 8 AM ET.


Nottingham Nature Nook (NNN) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in East Lansing that raises and releases wildlife babies as well as cares for injured adult animals. If you would rather donate directly, a check can be made to Nottingham Nature Nook (NNN) 16848 Towar Ave, East Lansing, MI 48823. (517) 351-7304

Or Donate $5.00 or more at Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing, MI store and we will give you a little "Thank You" gift as a small token of our appreciation.