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.

Monday, July 24, 2017

How to attract finches to new feeder

The most important place to hang a feeder is where you and your family can watch it easily. That said, I’ve found the goldfinches feel more comfortable with the feeder in or near trees. These tiny social birds can be skittish about predators around a feeder. They perch at the top of a tree, check out the area and then filter their way down to a feeding station when it appears safe.

American Goldfinches are vegetarians. If you want them in to come in your yard plant flowers that produce seed heads like milkweed, yarrow, asters, cosmos, black-eyed-Susans or Coneflowers. And add feeders that have Sunflower seed or Nyjer® (thistle).

At my house they can get sunflower from the feeders that are filled with the Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess blend. In my finch feeders I like to feed the straight Nyjer® (thistle) for a couple reasons. First it does not grow weeds and has been heat treated to prevent the growth of any noxious seeds. Second, it is a seed that attracts goldfinches mainly and other birds as well as squirrels and raccoons avoid feeders full of only nyjer.

My favorite feeder is a Mesh Finch Feeders. Several birds can feed at a time, the seed airs out, it's easy to clean, easy to fill, has a lifetime guarantee, and is made in the USA. However if you're thinking of switching feeders remember that it may take several days for Goldfinches to accept a new feeder. If you don't see any action, shake the feeder and check the seed to make sure it's still fresh. You may have to change the seed if they haven't found it in a month's time.

But this is a very good time to feed them! Goldfinches nest in late summer and early fall. This is when you will see a dramatic increase in the number of finches in your yard. It's a joy to see a flock of goldfinches raining down to the feeder or dancing in the flowers in search of seeds. And the happiest sound in the late summer is the call of baby goldfinches!

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 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Yellow warbler migration

I had a visitor that was all yellow like a goldfinch but was the shape of the wren. Do you know what it was?
Yellow Warblers have begun migrating! At the first glance of yellow you might think American Goldfinches but female and immature Yellow Warblers are also notable for their overall plain yellowness. And male Yellow Warblers are a bright, egg-yolk yellow with reddish streaks on the neck and belly.

They are among the first of the warblers to move en masse up the North American continent in spring. They’re also among the first to fly back south in July. They winter mainly in mangrove forests of Central and South America.

They migrate at night so you may wake up one morning to see a new bird gleaning bugs frenetically in bushes or checking out your suet feeders. The activity of other birds may be a signal that your yard is a safe stop-over site. They will stay only long enough to rest, refuel, and wait for favorable winds to fly further south.

Now until the end of November, the numbers and variety of birds appearing in your yard can actually change every morning as many small songbirds migrate. Species such as warblers, vireos, orioles, grosbeaks, tanagers, buntings, blackbirds, and sparrows all migrate overnight.

As you might imagine, migration takes a toll on the birds. It is not uncommon for birds to lose one-fourth to one-half of their body weight as they migrate thousands of miles. Birds need to accumulate fat to help maintain their energy reserves before the journey. Sometimes, however, reserves are not enough and that's when your yard with plenty of food, water and shelter can be a lifesaver.

Watch the video: http://macaulaylibrary.org/video/484113

Saturday, July 22, 2017

How long it takes for a baby bird to find food on his own

Wild Birds Unlimited Macomb captured that transitional moment when a baby bird realizes that food doesn't have to come from a parent's mouth. Some birds take a little longer than others, but this juvenile on the video figures he's old enough to feed himself.

It is fascinating to watch parent birds bring the kids to the feeders and help them to figure out what they were supposed to do with the food in front of them.

The fledglings follow their parents and either wait quietly or call incessantly and flutter their wings until fed. After one to three weeks, the parents will stop feeding their fledglings in hopes that they catch on to feeding themselves and may even peck at them if they persist in begging for food. Watch the video of one advanced juvenile going straight to the source: https://youtu.be/aWQCjkbsfSA

Related Articles:
- What to do if you find a baby bird http://goo.gl/vPVAhx
- After chickadee babies have fledged http://bit.ly/yAYbP4
- Baby Starlings are big, noisy, brown birds http://goo.gl/yHR2m
- How baby birds in a nest get their drinks http://goo.gl/q8dkv
- Feeding and Raising Bluebirds http://goo.gl/MKRPn
- How Do I Know If It's a Baby Hummingbird? http://bit.ly/IHzCSh

Friday, July 21, 2017

Photo Share: Dolly is making new friends!

Yesterday was a big day for Dolly (cat). Besides helping me do computer work, she made a couple new friends! First I walked in and she had somehow invited a baby red squirrel in for breakfast and a mid-morning run around the store. Eventually Reddy squirrel took a nap in one of the displays and Dolly, bored with situation, took her usual break in the backroom. That's when a customer helped me escort the Reddy out. He didn't really want to go, but we convinced him finally that it was a good idea to find some other friends to lunch with outside.

In the afternoon a baby House Finch ate lunch with Dolly. Then, (I don't know what this says about Dolly's conversational skills), also took a nap on the sill. Dolly still chatted away at the bird and even tried to wake it up by tapping on the window. Finally daddy House Finch saw the situation and warned him away from starting friendships with cats. But the baby did come back several times to sit with Dolly throughout the day anyway.

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, July 19, 2017

Coyotes in Michigan suburbs

I think I saw a coyote in my yard. Are they common?
From the Michigan Department of Natural Resources:

The presence of Coyotes in subdivisions and urban or suburban areas, while surprising to many folks, is a result of encroachment of human environments into their natural habitat (from development of rural areas).

There is wide variation in the coyote's color, but generally their upper body is yellowish gray, and the fur covering the throat and belly is white to cream color. The coyote's ears are pointed and stand erect, unlike the ears of domestic dogs that often droop.

Coyotes generally feed at night. They are opportunistic and will eat almost anything available. Small mammals such as mice, voles, shrews, rabbits, hares, and squirrels are preferred foods. However, insects, fruits, berries, birds, frogs, snakes, plants, and seeds round out their diet. In areas with high deer numbers, carrion resulting from vehicle deer collisions, natural causes, and crippling losses is an important source of food. In urban areas, coyotes are attracted to garbage, garden vegetables, and pet foods.

People are most likely to see coyotes during their breeding period, which occurs in Michigan from mid January into March. And then again in the fall when pups begin dispersing from the den site to establish home ranges of their own. These young dispersing animals sometimes wander into urban areas.  

Related Articles:
- Gray Fox in Michigan http:/gray-fox-in-michigan.html 

- Red Fox in the neighborhood http://goo.gl/u0CUqc
- How many species of squirrels are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/yYt6Nb  

- Do opossums hibernate during winter? http://bit.ly/u4ORP6
- Do skunks hibernate? http://bit.ly/xVKDXP

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Store your Nyjer® (thistle) in a cool place

Nyjer® (pronounced NYE-jer) is a trademarked name for a little black seed used by the wild bird feeding industry that is favored by the finches. It is also known as "thistle" by backyard birdwatchers because the seed looks so similar to the “noxious weedsCanada thistle and Bull thistle. A noxious weed is a plant that has been designated by an agricultural authority as injurious to agricultural or horticultural crops, natural habitats or ecosystems, or humans or livestock.

Nyjer® does not grow weeds. It is heat treated for sterilization. However it does leave a lot of shell waste below the feeder. Nyjer has a thin shell that the finches efficiently pinch between their bill, extract the seed and drop the inedible part below. At an active feeder, all those shells accumulate quickly into a little black pile.

Nyjer's high oil content makes it an excellent energy source for active birds, and it's best used in our specially designed finch feeders.

It is important to keep the food fresh because finches can be picky eaters. Nyjer has a thin shell and is vulnerable to spoilage while in the tube. Once seed starts to get moldy or becomes stale, finches will look for fresher forage. Replace Nyjer in feeders every three to four weeks if it is not being eaten actively. Store your Nyjer cool dry spot for a longer shelf life, and buy in quantities that will be used up in a few weeks.

Related Articles:
Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle http://bit.ly/Nt8Xxu
Goldfinch Migration http://bit.ly/MzGSPD
Are Goldfinches here in the winter? http://bit.ly/PZu5ML
Goldfinches: The Last Birds Nesting http://bit.ly/PZuejj
Bird of the week: American Goldfinch http://bit.ly/PZum2a

Monday, July 17, 2017

Keep crows away from baby robins

Aim trying to protect a baby Robin from Magpies and Crows. I did get a few worms in to him no problem. Is there anything else I can leave nearby?

You can feed robins mealworms, or chopped nuts, apples, grapes, and suet. In the wild they eat worms, insects, pecans, walnuts, acorns, apples, cherries, and dogwood fruit from trees and the berries bayberries, blackberries, blueberries, greenbrier, honeysuckle, juneberries, juniper, madrone, mountain ash, mulberry, pokeberry, pyracantha, raspberry, sassafras, serviceberry, spiceberry, sumac, viburnum, and woodbine.

Nestlings of all kinds can be vulnerable to attacks from predators, such as crows, grackles, and many other species of birds, mammals, and reptiles. There is not much you can do except stand watch and shoo the predators away.

Many robins and doves become prey, but statistics show that they are still some of the most common birds found all across the United States. Because they are so common, an attack on our little Robby is like an attack on a close friend. They announce spring has arrived with their beautiful songs and then nest near our homes. It is hard not to feel protective of their fledglings.

But the crows aren’t just being mean, even though you might see them pecking a baby to death in front of your eyes. They are hunting for food, probably for their own young. They are remarkably adaptable birds that will feed on a wide variety of foods, including seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, bugs, worms and many kinds of animals such as birds, mice and roadkill.

In the big picture they are not doing anything wrong, even though it may make you heartsick. They feed on prey that is plentiful. Both birds eat suet. Maybe you could get a tray feeder and put a suet block out to distract the crows until your fledgling can fly away.

Related Articles:
Crows: Are they Feathered Apes? http://bit.ly/LvWgge
How Do I Deter Crows at the Feeder? http://bit.ly/LWbhMB
Why are “black” birds considered bad by most people? http://bit.ly/LWbxeD
Why are the Robins Attracted to Water? http://bit.ly/qP9aTs
Fledgling Robins Find Their Way http://bit.ly/pqrhSL
Why robins are called Robin http://why-robins-are-called-robin.html

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hummingbirds are beginning to bulk up

Credit: Bill Thompson/USFWS
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds span the ecological gap between birds and bees- they feed on sweet, energy-rich nectar that flowers provide and pollinate the flowers in the process.

Many avid gardeners and birders have long understood this interdependence and cultivate native, nectar-producing plants in their yards to attract these delightful birds. Even non-gardeners can attract hummingbirds by maintaining a clean sugar water feeder in a safe location.

Weighing about as much as a nickel, a hummingbird is capable of briefly achieving speeds of up to 62 miles per hour. It is also among the few birds that are able to fly vertically and in reverse. In a straight-ahead flight, hummingbirds beat their wings up to 80 times per second, and their hearts can beat up to 1200 times per minute!

Each year Ruby-throated Hummingbirds migrate across the Gulf of Mexico- an incredible, nonstop journey of more than 500 miles. In order to accomplish this, these little birds first double their body mass by fattening up on insects and nectar before departing in late October.

Source:
1. Birds of Michigan: by Ted Black
Related Articles:

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Blackbirds are getting ready to leave Michigan

Are you seeing fewer blackbirds? Nesting season is almost complete for the blackbirds. From August to September they will be floating around with their families.

You will see fewer and fewer at the feeders as they molt and grow new winter feathers. By October the blackbirds in Michigan will already be in the the southern United States and Central America winter homes.

Winter flocks can include different blackbird species and starlings numbering in the millions. Each morning the roosts spread out, traveling as far as 50 miles to feed, then re-forming at night. In fall and winter, they congregate in agricultural fields, feedlots, pastures, and grassland.

Related articles:
- Fun Facts on Red-winged Blackbirds: http://bit.ly/q05Bos
- All about the Red-Winged Blackbird: http://bit.ly/qAeiyj

- When black birds fly south http://bit.ly/Q1qDAk
- Bird Basics: How are birds classified? http://bit.ly/Q1reSr

Friday, July 14, 2017

Photo Share: Trumpet Vine Tree

Evan's assignment today was to take the camera and find something interesting in nature. He came back with the Trumpet vine bloom. I asked what caught his eye and he said because it was a weird tree.

I've trained my Trumpet vine to climb a pole and go around and around until it looks like a tree. You don't have to be gentle. Wack, Wack it back and twist tie it into a shape. It seems the harsher I treat it the more it blooms. This year was the best.

Good observation Evan!

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, July 13, 2017

Molting geese unable to fly in July

I was taking my cardboard out to recycle today and saw three Canada Geese strutting down the road in front of the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI.

It is the molting season for Canada geese. They rejuvenate their flight feathers for their Fall migration beginning in mid-June and throughout the month of July. Unlike other birds which will loose one feather at a time and still be able to fly, geese will loose all of their flight feathers (or molt) and will be unable to fly for a period of about 6 weeks. Please drive carefully!

Related Articles:
- Have you ever heard of a wedge of geese? http://goo.gl/2oDPB
- Goose Gaffe? http://goo.gl/sDx9H
- Strange deer and goose pairing http://goo.gl/im8Pj
- Why geese sleep in the water http://goo.gl/X9gV9
- Why do geese fly in a V formation? http://goo.gl/h1icv 

- When Canada Geese Migrate in mid-Michigan http://canada-geese-migrate.html