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.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Best nestsing material

I want to put nesting material out to help with the nest building. How early should I start doing so? – Thanks

You should put materials out early in spring, when the first robin starts to patrol your yard for worms. You can continue to offer nesting materials as late as August, because some birds nest two or three times over the course of the summer and the American Goldfinches don't even begin to nest until late summer.

The birds that winter in our area, (chickadees, bluebirds, titmice, house finches, sparrows, and cardinals) may begin collecting nesting material as early as March. Other birds that migrate north to Michigan to nest (wrens, hummingbirds, swallows, orioles, buntings, grosbeaks, and warblers) begin nesting in May.

At Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing, MI store we have cotton nesting balls, bison down bags, alpaca wool, and Birdie bells full of grasses, cotton, animal hair and feathers.

Or you can collect: twigs, cotton or wool yarn cut less than 3 inches, human hair or animal fur (cat or dog), feathers or dried decorative grasses.  We DO NOT recommend dryer lint. Lint hardens after getting wet providing a poor nest for baby birds. Thread, plastic material and lint are the 3 big no, nos for nesting material.
Offering birds construction material to build a nest is just one more way for you to attract a wider variety of bird activity to your yard!
Related Articles:
5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses http://bit.ly/xETceZ
Common Bird House Problems http://bit.ly/wrWzyN
Which Way Do You Face a Birdhouse? http://bit.ly/AD43TW
Don’t use treated lumber to build a birdhouse http://bit.ly/x2pIG0
When do birds begin nesting? http://bit.ly/wbJ3kE
DO NOT Collect Dryer Lint for the birds to use as nesting material! http://bit.ly/wC5HcO

Monday, February 19, 2018

#MusicMonday – Overcoming Stage Fright

Music is meant to be performed. But what do you do when you have stage fright. I like to play music for myself but sometimes have an urge to share, but I have terrible stage fright. So what to do. One of the easiest ways to share the music is to play in a band. The New Horizons Band at the MSU community music school allows me to practice music for myself and also to perform in a group with support from all of my fellow musicians. But I like to play some music that is different from the band. Some music just wouldn’t work for a band or orchestra. I still play for myself. I even sometimes record myself (see an example here) to see how I sound from in front of the instrument – it is recorded in an old timey format to match the old timey music. It can be quite different when you hear yourself perform for yourself. But it is different than sharing music with an audience. What I have found to be the best cure to stage fright is to simply practice to overcome stage fright like you would practice an instrument. That means going out and playing music. It doesn’t have to be on a stage in front of a large audience. In the summer, I like to play on my front porch for the neighbors as they walk around the neighborhood. During the winter, I occasionally play in the Wild Birds Unlimited store. I am going to try to practice overcoming my stage fright for the next few weeks on Saturday mornings around 10am at the East Lansing store on my tiny stage. In the band I play saxophone but for these tiny stage performances, I’ll bring my travel banjo. I hope to see you there.
Wildwood Flower: https://youtu.be/VwibHSyWhlE

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Will sing for food: If you feed more, birds will sing more!

The thing I miss the most during the winter months is waking up to birdsong. This morning a cardinal was outside my window chipping and warbling good morning. And the goldfinches were tweet, tweeting hello. You can hear the birds' excitement about the days getting longer with the increase in singing. A key part of a bird’s brain is affected by seasonal change. When birds are exposed to longer days, hormones stimulate the pituitary gland indirectly to prepare birds’ bodies for the upcoming breeding season and results in increased singing.

Goldfinches are getting ready to put on their yellow feathers!
Birds can sing at any time of day, but during the dawn chorus their songs are often louder, livelier, and more frequent. Early morning, light levels are too dim for birds to do much foraging but it’s a great opportunity to sing.

Also singing loud and proud first thing in the morning tells everyone within hearing distance that you were strong and healthy enough to survive the night. This is attractive to potential mates, and lets your competitors know you’re still around and in charge of your territory.

If you feed more, birds will sing more
In a recent study, early morning songs of two groups of birds were recorded and compared; one group had received supplemental food and the other had received no additional food. “The researchers found that well-fed birds sang more than the birds left to fend for themselves. This suggests that singing is an announcement or a “badge of status” based on the conditions the bird finds itself in. The dawn chorus is a social network, the bird’s version of Facebook, where they update their neighbors and potential mates about what is happening in their lives.”

So keep your feeders full. Food is the most essential element, providing birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition they need. Some birds are starting to choose nesting territories already and will be looking for food, water, nesting material and nesting boxes. In return, for our support, we receive beautiful bird song and a backyard that is bird family-friendly.

Related Articles:
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/H42e6s
- What seeds wild birds eat http://goo.gl/Un35yR
- What to do if you have soggy seed in your bird feeder http://goo.gl/kfTpi
- Early birds also get the best mates http://early-birds-also-get-best-mates.html

- How Birds Sing http://how-do-birds-sing.html

Saturday, February 17, 2018

A Simple Way to Help Birds This Weekend

Dark-eyed Junco (slate)
by Sue Barth
This weekend, February 16 to 19, 2018, you can help scientists learn more about birds to better protect them. How? By counting birds for as little as 15 minutes! Join the Great Backyard Bird Count wherever you see birds—whether that’s in your backyard, at the local park, or even just looking out the window at your feeder. Enter your sightings online or on the mobile app. It’s that easy and can make a big difference for birds.

To learn more about what scientists discovered the past 21 years and how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, visit birdcount.org. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada and is made possible in part by founding sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.

The 21st GBBC is additionally notable because it is the February call-to-action for the Year of the Bird, a 12-month celebration of birds to raise awareness of how people can help birds by taking simple actions each month. The Year of the Bird is led by National Geographic, the National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International, and more than 100 participating organizations. Learn more about Year of the Bird at www.birdyourworld.org.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Photo Share: Cardinals and Crabapples

A lot of people wonder what Dolly (cat) does in the back room most of the day. Well morning duty entails watching birds in the burning bush on the side of the Wild Birds Unlimited store. As the sun shifts she switches to the back window to watch the birds in the crab apple tree.

Natural foods, such as fruits, nuts and seeds provided by trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers will attract a variety of songbirds! Cardinals, House Finches, Dark-eyed Juncos, American Robins, Cedar Waxwings and woodpeckers are just a few of the regular visitors we've watched in the crab apple tree all winter. The tree this year was especially full of fruit. Right now the top and middle of the tree has been picked clean and so they are working on the edges.

These birds have survived a long hard winter and they know an apple (or more) a day keeps sickness away. Apples contain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that help improve their health. Crab apples also help Northern Cardinals develop brighter plumage because they contain carotenoids.

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, February 15, 2018

Why birds count and Why count birds

1.  Eat pests: Birds are technologically advanced, highly motivated, extremely efficient, and cost-effective, insect-pest controllers.
2.  Pollinate: Animals provide pollination services for over three-quarters of the staple crop plants that feed human kind and for 90% of all flowering plants in the world. 
3Disperse seeds: Some plants take advantage of birds pooping all over the place to disperse their seeds.
4.  Unite a nation: The United States started the trend for national birds when it made the Bald Eagle its avian representative over 200 years ago.
5.  Help win wars:  Birds taught the military about camouflage, flight, sentry systems, and during World War I and World War II, the U.S. military enlisted more than 200,000 pigeons to conduct surveillance and relay messages. 
6.  Save people: Birds act as "sentinels" for environmental health hazards by providing early warning of human health hazards in the environment. During the 1960s, when birds of prey began dying, people were alerted to the dangers of agricultural chemicals such as DDT.
7.  Promote conservation and environmentalism: The Passenger Pigeon, once the most common bird in North America, went extinct by 1914 due to over hunting which aroused public interest in the conservation movement and resulted in new laws and practices to prevent many other species from going extinct.
8.  Feed people: Eggs and meat from birds have sustained people for centuries. 
9.  Clothe and comfort: Feathers provide fashion, warmth, and comfortable cushion.
10. Entertain: The antics of our garden birds keep us amused and may inspire future scientists to make further discoveries about these ancient creatures that might one day save the world.
The Great Backyard Bird Count gives you the opportunity to make them count even more than ever by participating in this annual event which links citizens with scientists in an effort to collect important data about backyard birds.

The GBBC is a joint project of Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society and is sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited. It takes place each February. Count the birds in your backyard, and then simply report the information online. Your information becomes part of an extensive data base that is analyzed by scientists to better understand important trends in bird populations, range expansions, habitat changes and shifts in migration patterns.

Make your backyard count even more for the birds when you participate in this year's GBBC. And to ensure the birds all show up to be counted, visit our store for the widest variety of great bird food products!

With the 2018 Great Backyard Bird Count coming up this Friday, it's time for a last-minute check that you've got everything you need and that you can get into your existing account or create one if you've never participated in the GBBC before.
You can also check out the GBBC FAQ section and the eBird Help section.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Choosing a proper mate: Do birds fall in love?

A bird's ability to have many healthy offspring may depend on choosing the right mate. In North America most birds form bonds for at least a single nesting. These pairings allow birds to split domestic duties for protecting eggs and caring for hatchlings.

Other pair bonds include mating for life, either by pairing up again each breeding season or remaining with each other year-round. Cardinals, jays, doves, and robins are some of the common backyard birds that spend several seasons together with the same partner.

Even cowbirds which lay their eggs in other birds nests are largely monogamous.

One exception to the social pattern of monogamy with backyard birds that comes to mind is the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. After a brief courtship and mating, the female builds a nest and raises her family alone. Male hummingbirds do not help raise the young.

Related Articles:
Can birds predict your Valentine? http://bit.ly/ztZyzK
Love and the Birds: The Origin of St. Valentine's Day http://bit.ly/zJnkV2
What are Lovebirds? http://bit.ly/xnq0Hz
Do Birds Mate For Life? http://bit.ly/ysg81B
How Birds Mate http://bit.ly/zRvpJ1

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

#GreatBackyardBirdCount (#GBBC): Learn about the Tufted Titmouse

Get to know the Tufted Titmouse before The Great Backyard Birdcount (#GBBC)

Tufted titmice are about 6 inches long and have wingspans of about 10 inches. Both males and females have white undersides, gray backs, rusty-brown sides, pointed crests on their heads, and large dark eyes. They do not migrate extensively and are common year-round in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

Tufted titmice are active birds often seen flitting about in trees and searching beneath twigs for insects or bug larvae. They travel and roost during the winter in small mixed flocks of titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, Brown Creepers, and woodpeckers.

At the feeders they are attracted to striped and oil sunflower seeds, nuts, suet, seed cylinders and mealworms. Tufted Titmice typically select one seed from a feeder at a time. They shell it and hide the kernel within 130 feet of the feeder from which they obtained it under bark or under objects on the ground.

Males are dominant over females and they 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.

Related Articles:
- Is it “Titmice” or “Titmouses”? http://bit.ly/yImBcF
- Why is the Titmouse Tongue So Short? http://bit.ly/yds9Mm
- Tufted Titmouse fun facts http://bit.ly/AfIA7H
- Bird guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://goo.gl/d0VzDD
- How to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count http://goo.gl/Bc2uGD

Monday, February 12, 2018

#MusicMonday: Mind Challenge

Here is a riddle to start your Monday. What can you sit on, sleep on, and brush your teeth with? A lot of people like to be challenged but are embarrassed to admit when they don't know the answer. Learning to play an instrument as an adult or relearning after a break is the same thing. The idea of the challenge to learn the instrument is intriguing. It puts a goal in front of you. But you are afraid to fail. To a young person learning, it is an everyday occurrence, a challenge that must be met head-on whether they want to or not. Learning new things all the time in school is their life. To an adult, a professional who has been out of school for a while, it is a forgotten feeling. Many of us wish to be young again but we don't want to go through the challenge or embarrassment of having to learn new things again.

Back to the riddle. The answer to this one is very simple but you have to change the way you think about the question and break it down to its parts. Playing music is not a simple endeavor either, there are many small steps to become accomplished. Each note you learn is an advance. Each piece of music you play moves you forward. Each solved riddle keeps you learning, keeps your mind young and you feel good about accomplishing your goal and overcoming the challenge. Michigan State University Community Music School’s New Horizons Band is still recruiting new members. If you’ve never played before, there is someone in NHB to teach you what you need to know to solve the riddle. If you’ve ever wanted to have fun making music, now is the time to learn. You can look for me when you get to class and I’ll make sure you get the answers to your riddle. The answer to today’s riddle, by the way, is a chair, a bed and a toothbrush. Simple.

Related Articles:
Music Monday http:/music-monday.html
MSU Community Music School http:/msu-community-music-school.html
At one time, everyone was a beginner http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2018/01/music-monday-at-one-time-everyone-was.html
Am I too old to join a band? http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2018/01/am-i-too-old-to-join-band.html
The perfect saxophone sound. http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2018/01/musicmonday-perfect-saxophone-sound.html 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Photo Share: #Caturday bird watching

Coralee LOVES watching the birds on the window feeder!

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.

Related Articles:
Newton #cat is making new friends! http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2018/01/newton-cat-is-making-new-friends.html
Goldfinch at window http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2017/11/female-goldfinch-winter-plumage.html
#NationalCatDay: #Cats at the window feeder http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2017/10/nationalcatday-cats-at-window-feeder.html
Photo Share: Dolly is making new friends! http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2017/07/photo-share-dolly-is-making-new-friends.html

#GreatBackyardBirdCount (#GBBC): Learn about the Blue Jay

Get to know the Blue Jay before The Great Backyard Birdcount (#GBBC)

The Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata is a large common songbird at most mid-Michigan bird feeders. With their perky crest, blue, white, and black plumage and noisy calls, jays seem to polarize people into either hating or loving them. Their name “Jay” has its origins from the Latin “gaius” meaning “gay or merry.” The species name cristata originates from the Latin word crista, meaning “crested.”

I am a lover of the jays. After I fill the feeders I whistle to the jays. They give a return call and by the time I’m settled back on the couch with my tea and cat, a family of Blue Jays has appeared at the feeders for me to watch. Blue Jays are known for their intelligence and complex social systems, and have tight family bonds. They often mate for life, remaining with their social mate throughout the year.

Blue Jays make a large variety of calls. The most often heard is a loud jay jay. They also make clear whistled notes and gurgling sounds. The whistle I give in the morning is probably heard by a scout bird looking for breakfast possibilities. He reports back to the family with his whistle of what is available in my yard. I fill my many different feeders regularly with the best Wild Birds Unlimited Seed Blends along with nuts, sunflower seeds, seed cylinders, and suet.

The jay family isn’t the only one listening either. Their discovery of good feeding sight is announced loudly enough that a whole community of birds eventually shows up to take their turn at the feeders. Jays also are very good at giving early warnings of hawk, cats, or other predators in the area. 
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