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.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Backyard Birds: Welcomed Guests at Our Gardens and Feeders review

Stan Tekiela is the author of one of our most popular field guides, Birds of Michigan. One reason it is so hard to keep on the Wild Birds Unlimited shelf is because the photographs depict the birds so beautifully. As a professional naturalist, wildlife photographer and author, Tekiela is able to capture the birds in action.
His new book Backyard Birds: Welcomed Guests at Our Gardens and Feeders is my favorite kind of bird book. The photographs are gorgeous and the information tidbits are fascinating! It will interest  young to old, and even people who aren't "birdwatchers".

This coffee table book delves into the lives of backyard birds through Tekiela's personal observations and research. Every important aspect of the birds lives, from nests, egg development, feathers, feet, feeding, flight, migration and survival, is portrayed in this informative book. You are sure to learn something new and gain a new appreciation on the lives of our wonderful backyard friends.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Photo Share: DIY Grape juice

The grapes are ready! I have been debating what to do with them this year and I decided on juice.

1 pound of grapes will make one cup of juice. We got a couple of pitchers full of grape juice and we only picked about a third of them.

The birds and the chipmunks have been sampling the grapes for a couple of weeks there will be plenty left on the vine for them.

This was another fabulous observation by my guest blogger and nephew Evan. I hope you look forward to these posts as much as I do. And if you or any of your kids or grand-kids want to guest blog about something in nature, send it to it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it. We would love to share your child's thoughts and experiences with the outdoors.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Bird sounds like pee wee

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
If you've ever taken a walk in the woods you've probably heard the familiar Pee-ah-wee song of the Eastern Wood-Pewee.  But when you look up it is hard to spot this inconspicuous olive-brown bird.

Fall migration for the pewee begins mid-August and peaks in early September in mid-Michigan. Like other flycatchers, pewees usually don’t come to feeders. However they may visit wooded backyards during migration to rest and refuel. They are solitary during migration and on the wintering grounds in South America. You can watch their migration on the eBird Occurrence Maps for the Eastern Wood-Pewee and watch a male singing on video:  https://youtu.be/
Related Articles:
Michigan warblers begin migrating http://goo.gl/37QhV
Michigan's Kirtland's Warbler Continues to Exceed Recovery Goal http://goo.gl/Q3xQ0
Small Mysterious Black & White Bird Visits Mid-Michigan http://goo.gl/VOl3s
When is bird migration over? http://goo.gl/1Fiq6

Monday, August 28, 2017

Black-throated Blue Warbler migration

Keep your eyes open for the Black-throated Blue Warbler. I always spot him at the suet feeder mid-September. In general, they leave breeding grounds late Aug to mid-Sep, and arrive in winter areas in early to mid-Oct.

Black-throated Blue Warblers nest in northern Michigan. The female which is olive brown and tan with a faint black eyebrow, looks very different in appearance from the dark blue and black male. They are among most trusting and tame of their family and it is a treat to spot them as they migrate to their winter home in the deciduous and evergreen woodlands of the Gulf coast states and the Greater Antilles.
 
Related Articles: 
Provide a safe habitat to encourage migrating birds http://provide-safe-habitat.html
Blue-headed Vireo's peak migration http://blue-headed-vireos.html
Wagging Warbler http://wagging-warbler.html
Black-and-yellow Warbler http://black-and-yellow-warbler.html
Nashville Warbler not from Tennessee http://nashville-warbler.html 
Bay-breasted warbler pictures http://bay-breasted-warbler.html  

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Yellow and gray bird mixed in with the goldfinches

Female American Redstart photo via Wikimedia Commons
Late summer can be a busy time, not only in your day to day activities but also at the bird feeders. Goldfinches are feeding their babies, young birds from other bird species are dispersing, birds are molting, and new birds are passing through during migration.

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Cleaning bird feeders

Late summer is a stressful time for finches. Parents are caring for young, all the birds are growing new feathers, and there is a lot of competition at the feeders. This is the most important time to keep your feeders clean! Whenever birds are concentrated in a small area, the risk of a disease spreading within that population increases.

Bird-Feeding Guidelines:
1. Space your feeders widely to discourage crowding.
2. Rake the beneath feeders to remove droppings and old, moldy seed.
3. Change your bird bath water every other day and scrub and rinse at least every 2 weeks.
4. Soak your feeders at least once a month if not more with a 10% vinegar or bleach solution (1 part vinegar and 9 parts water) and be sure to scrub well around the feeder ports. Or Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing can wash your feeders year round. Just bring a feeder in and pay $5.00. We will disassemble, soak, scrub, and reassemble your feeder and have it ready for you the next day we are open. Or prepay $20.00 and you will receive a Bird Feeder Wash Card that is good for 5 washes. This will give you a savings of $5.00! 

Related articles:
Do I need to clean my bird feeder? http://bit.ly/HNX410
What to know about feeding birds in the spring http://bit.ly/HOjECH
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/umlwXg
Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/HNZTPx

Friday, August 25, 2017

Photo Share: American White Pelican

I love this photo. We took this photo in Door County, WI in May. I love the Double-Crested Cormorants behind the Pelican. We also went birding at Horicon Marsh last week (August) and the Pelicans did not have the bump on there beak. Do you know why this is? Thank you 😀 Laura Mathews
Thank you very much for sharing your wonderful observations! I'm not an expert on American White Pelicans but I did look them up on https://www.allaboutbirds.org/.

It says during the breeding season, adults grow an unusual projection or horn on the upper mandible near the tip of the bill. The horn is shed after the birds have mated and laid their eggs. Very interesting.

The Double-Crested Cormorants look unreal.

Thank you for sharing! 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, August 24, 2017

Frequently Asked Questions about Hummingbird Migration

Am I supposed to take down my feeder on Labor Day? DO NOT take your feeders down on Labor Day. In mid-Michigan, you can leave your hummingbird feeder up until mid-October. The rule of thumb is if you haven't seen a hummingbird for two weeks in the fall it's safe to take your feeder down. Depending on where you live it is usually at the end of September to the middle of October. The hummingbirds aren't in as big a rush to go down south as they were to find nesting grounds in the spring but they will leave us whether there is a feeder up or not.

Why are there more hummingbirds in the fall? Nesting season is over for the hummingbirds in Michigan by the end of June. Once breeding territories no longer have to be guarded, hummingbirds wander widely. Just before they answer the call to travel south, hummingbirds eat in excess to build a layer of rich fatty fuel just under their skin. You can notice the extra fat along the belly, back, and throat. A hummingbird actually gains 25 – 40% extra body-weight to have enough fuel to migrate thousands of miles south. You will notice them getting fatter and fatter and then one day they fly to their wintering grounds.

Do I make the nectar recipe stronger to give them more energy? It's not necessary to make your sugar solution stronger. The 4:1 ratio is the closest to the favorite flowers that hummingbirds visit. That would be four parts water to one part plain white sugar. Click HERE for the nectar recipe.

Should I make the sugar solution weaker to encourage them to leave? I would continue to feed the hummingbirds the same nectar solution until they are fat enough to move further south. Don't rush them. Let them leave when they have enough energy and the weather is favorable.

Do hummingbirds migrate on the backs of geese? Some think that the rumor of hummingbirds hitching a ride with geese was started by Mr. Audubon himself. During migration hummingbirds fly about 23 miles a day by themselves, not in flocks or on the backs of geese. Individual adult males get the urge to leave first, followed soon after by the females, and then finally the juveniles. Amazingly, once the young have gained enough weight, they find their own way to the same winter habitat as their parents - someplace where they have never been, using the GPS in their head.

Where do Ruby-throated hummingbirds spend the winters? Most Ruby-throated Hummingbirds winter in southern Mexico, Central America, South America, and the West Indies. A few remain along the Gulf coast and on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Related Articles:
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
Fun Facts about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds http://goo.gl/jcjcr
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
Why the color on a hummingbirds’ throat flashes http://bit.ly/JZ31qX
When did people start to feed hummingbirds?: http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Rufous vs Ruby-throated hummingbird

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the most common hummer in Michigan but keep your eyes open for another fall vagrant! The Rufous Hummingbird is the most widely-distributed hummingbird in North America. They are more typically a western species, some even nesting as far north as Alaska. But more and more rufous hummers have been documented in Michigan.

They turn up at backyard sugar water feeders in late August and sometimes are reported hanging around even as late as November. Provided sufficient food, they able to tolerate temperatures down to −4 °F. Our common Ruby-throated hummingbirds usually migrate south by October.

Male Rufous Hummingbirds are a little larger than the ruby-throated, have rusty orange sides and bellies and a vivid red throat, while females are mostly green with a spot of orange on the throat. They winter mainly in Mexico and Panama.
Photos from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-throated_Hummingbird/id
Like our Ruby-throated, they feed on nectar from flowers using a long extendable tongue or catch insects on the wing. These birds require frequent feeding while active during the day and become torpid at night to conserve energy.

Related Articles:
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
Fun Facts about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds http://goo.gl/jcjcr
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
Why the color on a hummingbirds’ throat flashes http://bit.ly/JZ31qX
When did people start to feed hummingbirds?: http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR

How Many Species of Hummingbirds are There in Michigan? http://how-many-hummingbirds.html

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Missing birds

Before vacation we were filling our feeders twice a day. Now we’ve been back for over a week, and the feeders are full but the birds are missing. Will they eventually return and if so, when?

They’ll probably return to your feeders when there is bad weather and it is less efficient to forage.

Right now birds all over America are migrating or establishing winter grounds. Young birds like House finches, chickadees and titmice find new territories to hook up with other young birds at the end of summer and join local adults to form winter flocks.

During this transition time your feeder may be overwhelmed with birds one week and empty the next week. With all the natural seed and fruit around, birds may take note of your feeders but look for other sources just in case. Birds don’t depend on feeders to survive which is good because some people aren’t dependable.

You can also go through a little check list to eliminate the most obvious reasons for fewer birds at the feeders.

1. Make sure your seed is fresh. One way to do this is to crush your seed on a piece of paper and see if any oil comes out. When birds are molting, migrating or battling the weather every meal counts, if your seed has dried out your feeder will be skipped. (Wild Birds Unlimited receives a fresh load of seed each week).

2. Clean your feeders at least once a month. Make sure there is no mold in the bottom of your feeder. This can be dangerous to the birds. To prevent mold in bad weather use Feeder Fresh™ (a silica grit that absorbs water and humidity, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand). You can also shelter your feeder from the elements by using something like WBU Weather Guard.

3. Look for predators. Hawks or cats can deter birds from feeding in your area for a short time.4. Look at the weather. During years where there are more seeds, fruits, nuts and berries produced naturally you'll have less birds than during years where there are droughts and poor crops.

Just be patient and I'm sure the birds will put you back in the feeder visit rotation.

Related Articles:
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/umlwXg
Prepare Your Yard for Fall Bird Feeding: http://bit.ly/pkJUmW
Do I need to clean my bird feeder?: http://bit.ly/nYKz40
Best foods for birds in winter http://bit.ly/6fkng
How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://bit.ly/tRYvG9

Monday, August 21, 2017

5 tips for bird bath maintenance

1. Find a Better Birdbath When you’re choosing a birdbath, look for one with a basin that you can clean easily. Make sure it has a nice lip for birds to perch and a gentle slope to the middle, no deeper than 2 inches. A textured bottom also makes for easy gripping.

2. Replace Water Frequently  The best way to keep your bird bath clean is to change the water every other day. This prevents algae build-up, mosquito development, and keeps the water fresh.

3. Use a Birdbath Cleaning Brush Wild Birds Unlimited has an 8" brush that is well suited for scrubbing birdbaths without scratching. It has stiff, tough polypropylene bristles that will do the job well, and features a comfortable molded poly handle.

4. Remove Stubborn Stains To remove any stubborn stains pour warm water with a scoop of our safe enzyme based cleaner to dissolve bird droppings, mold and mildew stains. Or mix 9 parts water with 1 part of distilled white vinegar. The natural acidic ingredients of vinegar will break down any existing algae, while not harming any birds or animals that visit your birdbath. Rinse thoroughly after.

5. Prevent Stains from Returning If you add a cap-full of this bio-enzymatic product specially formulated for birdbaths, it prevents algae and hard water stains. Our Bath Protector is non-toxic, biodegradable and safe for wildlife, aquatic life and plants. Algae spores transfer to your birdbath from objects that fall out of nearby trees and will grow at a faster rate when exposed to direct sunlight. The best placement for your birdbath is an open, shaded area away from trees.

Related Articles:
- Why Birds Preen http://bit.ly/wcoC9d
- What kind of bird bath is the best? http://goo.gl/tXz65
- Do Birds Sip or Slurp? http://bit.ly/yAHTTV
- Why is bird poop white? http://goo.gl/zQXiT
- The best heated bird baths http://bit.ly/xkyLlW

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Why hummingbirds have a Pinocchio nose

You may have noticed the beak or bill on a hummingbird is longer in proportion to their body than other birds. This is so they can reach deep down into tubular flowers to get nectar. Both flowers and hummingbirds benefit when a hummingbird comes by for a drink.

Ornithophily is the process by which plants are pollinated thanks to bird activity. When a hummingbird comes to a flower to get a meal, it brushes against the male parts of the flower and gets dusted with pollen grains that are transferred over to pollinate the next flower. As a result, species of hummingbirds and species of flowers often evolved together, or co-adapted.

Most bird-pollinated flowers have lots of nectar, often at the bottom of bright red, orange or yellow tubular petals. Bird pollination is considered a costly strategy for plants and it evolves only where there are particular benefits for the plant. High altitude ecosystems that lack insect pollinators, those in dry regions, or isolated islands tend to favor the evolution of ornithophily in plants.

Sources: 
The Important Role of Birds in Pollination  http://www.role-of-birds-in-pollination/

Related Articles:
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
Fun Facts about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds http://goo.gl/jcjcr
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
Why the color on a hummingbirds’ throat flashes http://bit.ly/JZ31qX
When did people start to feed hummingbirds?: http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR
Hummingbirds hunt and eat insects as well as nectar http:/hummingbirds-hunt insects.html

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Advantages to flocking bird behavior

Have you noticed all the birds flocking?

I walked in to the store this morning and saw several flocks of birds flying. Many birds form flocks year round like doves, starlings, waxwings, crows, jays, and finches. Some gather in flocks after nesting season is complete.

Most blackbirds in mid-Michigan have already gathered in flocks and flown further south. In late summer, young birds from certain species like cardinals, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches have dispersed from their family to look for winter flocks. Other species like robins and bluebirds stay in a family unit and join other families until spring. Flock numbers can vary from a few birds to millions depending on the species.

Advantages to flocking bird behavior:
1) Protection - When birds join forces to flock together they can spot predators quicker and then mob, distract or confuse attackers.   
2) Foraging efficiency – Sometimes scout birds are sent out in different directions and report back to the flock where the best food can be found. You can hear Blue Jays and American Crows call out in the mornings, signaling to fellow flock members where to find the best food.
3) Finding mates – After nesting season, young chickadees fly off to find a flock to winter with along with a mate for next spring.
4) Continuing Education – Young bluebirds form family groups in the fall. Parent birds continue to teach their young how to survive until they disperse in the spring to find their own mates.
5) Fly in formations – Certain birds’ aerodynamics conserves energy and allow flock members to see each other and communicate while in flight.
6) Roosting – When large flocks congregate at night, their shared body warmth can help them survive extremely cold temperatures. 
 
Related Articles:
- Northern Cardinals Flock in the Fall http://bit.ly/yzzIAI
- Do hummingbirds migrate together? http://bit.ly/Asq1WR
- How to Attract Cedar Waxwings http://bit.ly/AlxIQX
- Where Bluebirds go in the Winter http://bit.ly/y2frQD
- Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://how-birds-band together.html

Friday, August 18, 2017

Photo Share: Growing fruit trees from seed

I was making fresh lemonade and wondered how long it would take to grow a lemon tree. 3 years ago I planted an orange seed and this year I got oranges. 2 years ago I planted a grapefruit seed and I have a nice, little tree but no fruit yet. Today I'm planting a lemon seed. Maybe in a few years I will be making more lemonade. I hope it grows a lot of lemons for it.

This was another fabulous observation by my guest blogger and nephew Evan. I hope you look forward to these posts as much as I do. And if you or any of your kids or grand-kids want to guest blog about something in nature, send it to it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it. We would love to share your child's thoughts and experiences with the outdoors.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Why fruit changes color as it ripens

Late summer is a when a lot of fruit is coming in to season. We have a young apple tree that produced 6 apples this year. Only one left now. Just as they turn ripe some critter snatches it away (as it was meant to be in the plants' plans).

Now I am watching the concord grapes turning from sour green to the sweet blue-purple color. There were so many this year that I'm sure there will be enough that the chipmunks, jays and me to grab our fill.

Watch the video on why fruit change color as they ripen: https://youtu.be/xvHJdTyBKk8

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Seein' red

The House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus is a familiar sight in mid-Michigan today. These 6″, talkative little birds get their name from their habit of hanging around houses. They build their nests in the hanging baskets, wreaths, or in trees, and their cheery warble or a variety of chirps is a constant around the bird feeders. The amount of red the finch has can vary depending on the amount of carotenoid pigments consumed in its food during molt.

Last week's younger finch with downy head feathers sticking up.
I wrote before about how the young House Finches were sporting baby feather plumes on their head. Now you are going to see a lot of young house finch males putting on their big boy colors. The girls will remain brown and creamy but the you will start to see red on the boys.

Related Articles:
Compare House Finches and Purple Finches http://bit.ly/oOogOf 
What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/vn2HK3
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/rT5Hfj
Why male and females are a different color http://bit.ly/ueILUf
Baby cardinal with two distinctive head feathers http://goo.gl/J0isco
Funny looking birds showing up at the feeder http://goo.gl/9CB7Fk

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Confident body language gestures of doves

"Sing it to the wing" translates to 
people speak as "Talk to the hand"
Through their body language, Mourning Doves are one of the most expressive birds in the backyard. The one wing up is often seen when a chipmunk or another bird approaches the feeding area. It backs off the interloper temporarily.

Other things I'm seeing are the puffing of neck feathers and chasing. At the beginning of fall, doves tend to gather together in loose flocks. The social structure is determined by a series of challenges between the birds. The bird that retreats the fewest times is considered dominant.

At the end of winter the birds separate into male and female groups and dominance within the single sex groups is established. The most dominant male soon scoops up the most dominate female and form a pair bond for the season. They are the first to pair, establish a territory and nest.

During courtships males perform a noisy flight display and then approach the female with a bow and a coo. Once she accepts the male they preen each other and stay very close. The male sometimes “drives” the female. He follows close behind and gives her a peck when she stops walking in areas where other males might be around.

Source: Ecology and Management of the Mourning Dove by Thomas S. Baskett
Photo from: https://www.pinterest.com
Related Articles:
A closer look at Mourning Doves http://mourning-doves.html
Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://bit.ly/wMKEKF
How Do You Keep Doves From Dominating a Feeder? http://bit.ly/zDAwR2
Do Birds Sip or Slurp? http://bit.ly/N6syCY
Mourning Dove nesting facts and figures http://goo.gl/WeLWy

Sunday, August 13, 2017

What to do when there is a hawk in your yard

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

Dolly (cat) and I were just watching all the baby finches out the window. I was telling her they were easy pickings with lots of crunchy bits. A hawk must have heard the baby bird calls and thought the same thing. He didn't get a finch but a sparrow (perhaps plumper). The hawk looked like a young Cooper's Hawk based on the yellow eyes, size, rounded tail and thick vertical chest streaks.

What do you do when a hawk visits? I watch a little bit and then avert my eyes when the feathers start to fly. The presence of hawks at your feeders should in no way cause you to discontinue feeding birds. The Cooper’s Hawk, must catch and eat at least one item of prey every day to survive. Sparrows are the most frequent prey at the store. These hawks also eat small rodents, such as mice, chipmunks and voles.

Twenty minutes after the "incident" the birds were back at the feeders.

Additional steps to take if you have hawks in your yard:
  • First and foremost, federal and state laws prohibit the capture, killing, or possession of hawks and owls. Raptors attracted to bird feeding stations are a problem only when they perch nearby all day. The birds return as soon as the Hawk flies away. So enjoy a close-up look at these magnificent birds while they are in your yard.
  • If you feed birds, place your feeders where there is ample natural protection. Evergreen shrubs and trees can provide an easy escape for the birds.
  • Keep in mind hawks in the neighborhood play an important role in controlling bird and rodent populations and usually ignore cats, dogs, and people.
  • Ultimately, the only thing you can do when a hawk comes to dinner is wait it out. Most hawks that visit only do so for two or three weeks and then they are off again to different territory.
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

Chestnut-sided Warbler begins fall migration

Chestnut-sided Warbler in breeding colors from Wikimedia Commons
Chestnut-sided in winter colors from Wikimedia Commons
During the breeding season (spring-summer), the chestnut-sided warbler has a yellow cap, black mask, plain white belly, yellowish wing bars and chestnut streaks along his sides. The breeding female is a little duller. After nesting they undergo a complete transformation. They have a gray and olive green coat with a white eye ring.

The Chestnut-sided Warbler is insectivorous predominately. Look for them as they hop from branch to branch with their tail cocked in search for insects on the underside of leaves. They may also be seen at suet feeders and bird baths.

They are nocturnal migrants that may join other warbler flocks and occasionally forage with them from mid-August to October as they fly south to spend their winter in Central America.

Watch the migration from spring to fall on eBird's occurrence map: http://ebird.org/chestnut-sided-warbler migration.  It's interesting to note that the flight up in May is through Texas and the flight down in the fall is through Florida.
Related Articles:
Michigan warblers begin migrating http://goo.gl/37QhV
Michigan's Kirtland's Warbler Continues to Exceed Recovery Goal http://goo.gl/Q3xQ0
Small Mysterious Black & White Bird Visits Mid-Michigan http://goo.gl/VOl3s
When is bird migration over? http://goo.gl/1Fiq6
Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/uMSTs6

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Plants growing under the feeder

Pokeberry bloom to berry
Someone recently asked if we changed the ingredients in the Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess blend bird seed because there were plants growing under the feeder. The blend is made up of sunflower seed, peanut pieces, and millet without the shell or hull. It is 100% edible and should not grow anything.

However this summer has been just warm and wet enough for weeds to grow like crazy. But if they aren't coming from the bird seed why do they come up right under the feeders? Well it doesn't come from our bird seed but from the birds themselves. Once they load up with fresh, high fat, high protein, quality bird seed, the have to unload some weight to fly away.

Birds don't just eat at bird feeders. They search widely for food from a variety of plants that produce seed heads and fruit and then excrete the undigested seeds where they perch. If the conditions are right the seed will grow and produce more seeds for the birds to spread even further away.

I don't get a lot of weeds but I pull a few out every time I fill the feeders. Occasionally I get a weed that I like and leave alone. One of my favorites is the Pokeberry, a native Michigan perennial also found throughout the Northeast. They can get out of hand and spread but a few near the feeder are pretty and attract some nice birds including warblers passing through in the fall.

Related Articles:
How to choose the best suet cake http://bit.ly/xATYPQ
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh
Why do Birds Scatter Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/vZ6gzM
Choosing a seed blend to feed wild birds http://goo.gl/xUGKA

How to get rid of weeds under the bird feeder without using poisons http:/get-rid-of-weeds.html

Friday, August 11, 2017

Photo Share: Racing Pigeon makes a pit stop

We had an unexpected visitor the other day at my Fly-thru feeder. I believe it was a Homing or Racing Pigeon? These pigeons are a variety of Domestic Pigeon (Columba livia domestica) that is able to find their way home over extremely long distances. They are selectively bred and trained to complete tests of speed (37 mph on average) and navigation, according to the researchers. On weekends in the Spring and Fall, thousands of racing pigeon fanciers have birds competing in races at distances from 100 to 600 miles.

My visitor had a white band on his leg so I'm pretty sure it wasn't a Rock Dove venturing away from some bridge. It was huge but quite beautiful with a smokey gray body, strong black wing bands and a rainbow of colors on his neck. He was in very good shape, but if I you ever find a distressed pigeon with a band, the owner can be traced through the National Pigeon Association’s (NPA) website at www.npausa.com.

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, August 10, 2017

Hawks and hummingbirds

I love this time of year! Activity at the hummingbird feeder is way up. A hummingbird has to gain 25 – 40% extra body-weight to have enough fuel to migrate thousands of miles south. You will notice hummers getting a fresh set of feathers and fatter along the belly, back, and throat.

In order to conserve their strength, sometimes they’ll guard a particularly tasty food source like a hummingbird feeder or flowering bush. I have one hummingbird female that is taking it a little further. She is in charge of my whole yard right now. The hummingbird feeders are hers, the flowering bush is hers, finch feeder is hers, the seed feeder is hers, it is all hers.

The other night when she wasn't perched on her swing, she harassed the songbirds, baby raccoons, squirrels and even a young Cooper's Hawk wasn't exempt from her bossiness. The hawk gave a casual glance but I think knew this was one fight that should be avoided.

In fact biologist Harold Greeney found breeding hummingbirds often cluster below hawk nests. His report revealed hawks don’t prey on hummingbirds or their nests—there’s not enough meal in a hummer to be worth the effort, apparently. But the hawk inadvertently protects the hummingbirds from other predators.

In the end, the time this female hummingbird wasted patrolling the rest of the critters in the yard, allowed other hummers to sneak in a few meals from some of the several hummingbird feeders that are scattered around the yard. It is good to put up multiple feeders at different locations to relieve the stresses of late summer feeding and allow as many hummers as possible fuel up.

Related Articles:
What is the nectar recipe for hummingbirds? http://goo.gl/MK3AU
Fun Facts about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds http://goo.gl/jcjcr
The Best Hummingbird Feeders http://bit.ly/L4yY3i
Why the color on a hummingbirds’ throat flashes http://bit.ly/JZ31qX
When did people start to feed hummingbirds?: http://bit.ly/o8Y8HR

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Bee carrying a feather

A bird had an unfortunate end in my yard:(  Curiously, I saw a bee taking a fluffy feather from the pile left behind. Why do you think this happened?

My recreation of the event
I don’t know but I could make some guesses:

1. It might have been a wasp. Bees are vegetarians but most wasps are predators and could be going after bird tissue.

2. In dry weather, foraging workers might carry feathers home to capture fluids or dew.

3. Some birds wipe ants on their feathers (a practice called anting) to help combat parasites on themselves. Squashed ants produce defensive chemicals and perhaps the bee used these anted feathers to protect the hive from parasites.

Watch the video of a feather being carried away: https://youtu.be/Hq02gMmPPMI

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Will wren abandon the nest?

We had a wren house that fledged 4 babies on 8/1... After we brought the house in to clean it only to see a wren perched on the birdhouse pole trying to figure out where their house went to...

OMG! So I ran downstairs to the basement and brought the house back outside...still not cleaned yet on the inside (only the nest removed). They hopped in and out and then flew to the neighbor’s yard to build a nest. Darn! I just didn't know they would try to nest in the house immediately afterwards. The day the babies fledged was 8/1. They came back yesterday on 8/2!!!!

I have learned a valuable lesson the hard way. Next time...if there is ever a next time, I will wait til late October before taking down the birdhouse to clean. Currently one of the adults is bringing a couple of the fledglings around our gardens and still feeding them. So my question is...will they try and build a nest in the house the same time next year, or did I ruin that prospect?


Wrens can be tricky. I’m fairly sure that you weren’t seeing the same two birds nesting again in the same box. Either male or female may leave their first mate to finish up raising the young alone and seek a new mate for a second or third breeding attempt during a season. Males can build several false nests and, if experienced, may even have a couple families going at the same time or consecutively. Females may also leave the male with the young to start another family with a new male.

But even though they didn’t choose your box for the late nesting, putting it back up may have sealed the deal for a female to nest again. Females have all the power in choosing a mate and in northern populations and only settle with males in control of territory with more than one potential nest site.

Wrens and chickadees are good at emptying out an old nest but it is always good to check to make sure the nest doesn’t have any unhatched eggs or pests between clutches. A thorough cleaning can be done in the fall. Most nesting is done after Labor Day in my area.

Once you clean and refurbish the house I’m sure you will have another resident next spring. It sounds like you have a good habitat for them to raise young. In northern populations, few pairs stay together from one brood to the next or from one season to the next season. Mate-switching is very common. With all the successful baby birds in your area there is bound to be a female that finds your home enticing.

Source:  https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/houwre/behavior
Related Articles:
Cute Woolie Bird Houses!
http://bird-houses.html
Male vs female House Wrens http://male and female wrens.html
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
House Wren vs. Carolina Wren
http://house-vs-carolina-wren.html

Monday, August 7, 2017

Mess under bird feeders

My goldfinches seem to kick a lot of the thistle to the ground. Should I put a tray on my feeder?

What looks like wasted seed on the ground is probably just lots of tiny shells. Unfortunately as small as nyjer "thistle" seeds are, the black part on the outside is merely the shell finches split open efficiently to extract the high fat, high protein oil within.

Fortunately this seed has been heat treat so that if one seed does escape a finch’s grasp it won’t sprout. I would recommend you rake the area occasionally or plant a ground cover under the feeders. You could also add a tray to collect the shells to dispose of regularly.

Finch feeders have very small feeding ports to control the flow of the teeny tiny Nyjer® (thistle) seed but still allow skinny-billed finches to extract a seed. There are two popular styles. One is a stabilized, polycarbonate tube that has a perches for the birds to stand on and pick a seed from a slit in a tube. The other is a mesh tube where the birds cling to the mesh and pluck seeds from any open spot.

When choosing a finch feeder always look for something easy to fill and easy to clean. The Wild Birds Unlimited finch feeders in East Lansing, MI have Quick-Clean bases that makes maintenance a snap, a Lifetime Guarantee and are also made in the U.S.A. You can’t go wrong!

Related Articles:
Prevent soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a
How to Attract Goldfinches http://bit.ly/A6CwjB
How often do you clean a bird feeder? http://bit.ly/wTk0c7
Where do you place finch feeders? http://goo.gl/avIs2

Sunday, August 6, 2017

What will the solar eclipse look like in Lansing, Michigan

The Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, Michigan will see a partial solar eclipse on Monday August 21, 2017. The eclipse will peak at 2:24 pm, when the moon obscures 79.8% of the sun. A shadow of the moon will start to cover the sun at 1 pm, and it’ll pass over most of the sun slowly until almost 3:45pm.

A Vox.com graphic can show you what you’ll see, and the time you’ll see it, in your zip code: https://www.vox.com/interactive-map

Even though we don't have a total eclipse in our area you will still notice a dramatic drop-off in light and temperature. You may even hear the birds stop chirping because of the lower light. 

"The birds behave as if the disappearance of the sun means evening, and the return of the sun means morning - in time-lapse of course," Wolfgang Fiedler notes. The ornithologist works at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany.

Bird watchers have observed birds return to their sleeping places, fall silent during the short period of the eclipse, and then start singing more intensely when this ends, as if it were daybreak. "Obviously, the birds interpret the differing light conditions as sunset, night and dawn. But they are not harmed by this," Fiedler clarifies.

Related Articles:
Singing Birds Herald The Arrival of Spring. http://bit.ly/uJbzCe
Why do they call it Indian Summer? http://bit.ly/twFccE
Blood Moon http://blood-moon.html
LUNATICS! http://largest-full-moon.html
What is winter solstice? http://winter-solstice.html
The difference between full moon & new moon http://difference-between.html

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Truly a Red-headed Woodpecker

The Red-headed Woodpecker has declined in population over the years probably due to habitat loss. However the chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease outbreaks have helped provide many nest sites and foraging opportunities for the woodpeckers. They have also been sighted more and more utilizing suet feeders.

Red-headed Woodpeckers are sexually monomorphic. This means that males and females look exactly the same to our human eyes. They have bright red heads, necks, throats and shoulders. Their wings and tail are bluish-black. They have a white belly and a large square area of white on their rump. Their bills are long and chisel shaped, which is important for drilling into trees. Young red-headed woodpeckers look similar to adults, but their heads and necks are buffy-brown instead of red.

Red-headed woodpeckers are a little larger than our 6 inch Downy Woodpeckers. They are 8-10 inches long and weigh about 2.5 ounces.

In fall, many Red-headed Woodpeckers migrate south to mid-Michigan from Canada, depending on food supply. Like the other woodpeckers they eat suet, peanuts, acorns, beechnuts, pecans, and many kinds of fruits (including apples, pears, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, mulberries, and poison ivy fruits).

Sources:  http://www.umich.edu/redheadedwoodpecker
 & https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-headed_Woodpecker/id

Related Articles:
There are eight woodpeckers found in Michigan. http://eight-woodpeckers.html
Photo Share: Picture of a red-headed woodpecker http://red-headed.html
Checkerboard Bird: Rare visitor to mid-Michigan feeders in winter http:/checkerboard-bird.html
What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp 

Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/tQ5lwt 
How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI

Friday, August 4, 2017

Photo Share: #Cat Napping In Birdbath

Keep Your Cat Happy
To provide the best possible life for your indoor feline…

The Purrfect Spot
Climbing and exploring are irresistible to cats, and just so you know, bird baths make the perfect napping spot. But be sure to place them in front of a sunny window.

Interactive Playtime
Toys do not have to be expensive (a feather, leaf, or prickly pine cone), but they should be rotated regularly to keep each play activity fresh. And remember nothing is so important that you can't stop when they want a little one on one time. Time spent with a cat is never wasted.

Window to the World
Provide your cat a view of bird feeders from a window ledge. Or let her look out the screen door. Squirrel and bird friends often stop by to chat.

Grow a Kitty Garden
Many cats will nibble on grasses, and for a special treat, consider growing some catnip now and then.

Dolly had a wild childhood and never asks to go outside. She has safe, fun, enriching and healthy indoor life. By taking steps to protect your cat and let them enjoy their life indoors, you are being a responsible pet owner and protecting your pet in the best possible way as well as protecting wild birds.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Daddy goldfinches feed babies

I like baby chickadees' little voices as well as the begging calls of other baby birds but there is just something about a baby goldfinches squeaky voices that bring me great joy! Yesterday I heard the first batch at my feeders at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing. It seems like they are a couple weeks ahead of schedule. So make sure your feeders are clean and full of fresh seed. They like Nyjer® (thistle) or sunflower seed at the feeders.
Adorable baby American Goldfinches right outside my window!
Male goldfinches play a key roll in creating a family. American Goldfinches generally begin nesting in late June or early July. Females incubate the eggs for an average of 15 days while males bring food to the nest and feed females via regurgitation. After the chicks hatch, males take on most of the responsibility for looking after the chicks. Females chase intruders away from the nest, forage, and also contribute to feeding the chicks through regurgitation. Chicks can fly in an average of 14 days, but are dependent on their parents for roughly 3 or 4 additional weeks.
 
Source:http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Carduelis_tristis/
Related Articles:
Prevent soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a
How to Attract Goldfinches http://bit.ly/A6CwjB
How often do you clean a bird feeder? http://bit.ly/wTk0c7 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Female Purple Finch

The Purple Finch looks very similar to the more common feeder visitor, the House Finch. But during winter Purple Finches venture from the woods to a wider variety of habitats, including shrublands, old fields, forest edges, and backyards.

Purple finches are social during the fall and winter, and often form flocks of 2 to over 200 with others of the same or different species. Common mixed-groups include other finches such as pine siskins or American goldfinches. These groups often roost in conifers and are frequent feeder visitors throughout the winter months. Watch for them at your Nyjer (thistle) feeder or feeders that offer sunflower or safflower seeds.

Female Purple Finches are more strongly streaked and have a more distinct facial pattern than female House Finches. The males are rosy pink with brown on the back and the females are brown birds with coarsely streaked bellies, a whitish eyestripe and a dark line down the side of the throat.

Related Articles:

House Finches: Those Year-round Red Heads http://bit.ly/oOPJYR
Where do you place finch feeders? http://bit.ly/qr78Dd
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/rT5Hfj
Why male and females are a different color http://bit.ly/ueILUf
The difference between House Finch and Purple Finch http://difference-between-house-finch.html