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, October 17, 2017

Regional Differences of Northern Flickers


Image red-shafted via Wikipedia

Image of yellow-shafted via Wikipedia
From AllAboutBirds.org
North America has two easily distinguished races of Northern Flickers: the yellow-shafted form of the East, which occurs into Texas and the Great Plains, and the red-shafted form of the West.

The key difference is the color of the flight-feather shafts, which are either a lemon yellow or a rosy red. Yellow-shafted forms (the ones we have in Michigan) have tan faces and gray crowns, and a red crescent on the nape. Males have a black mustache stripe. Red-shafted forms have a gray face, brown crown, and no nape crescent, with males showing a red mustache stripe. Hybrids look intermediate and are common at the edges of these two groups’ ranges.


Related Articles:
- Northern Flicker Roosts Alone in the winter http://bit.ly/zouUF6
- Northern Flicker Stops by for a Surprise Visit http://bit.ly/Aouqjf
- Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/yGoOUc
- Why Flickers Flick Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/Ar0Rin
- How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/x5PGT1

Monday, October 16, 2017

Tiny wild white mushrooms under pine in michigan

These adorable white mushrooms popped up under the pine outside the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI after all the heavy rain. One day just pine needles and the next a carpet of little umbrellas.
Related Articles:
Photo Share: Puffball Mushroom http://puffball-mushroom.html
Mushroom that make Reindeer Fly? http://reindeer-fly.html
Photo Share: On a Morel hunt http://morel-hunt.html

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Birds look like dancing leaves

Flitter, flutter... those "dancing leaves" I saw under the feeder this weekend were actually new birds visiting! Little brown birds with plain gray underparts, and conspicuous white throat and yellow lores above the eyes between black-and-white or black-and-tan stripes on the head means the White-throated Sparrows have come to town! Watch for them doing the chicken scratch dance under the feeders.

White-throated Sparrows show up in mid-Michigan right before the first frost in the fall. They can be spotted hanging around for a couple weeks in flocks of mixed sparrows before they continue to their wintering grounds in the eastern states below Michigan and in small numbers in southwestern states.

You may hear the birds before you see them. Birders describe their song as "Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody". Be on the look-out for the White-crowned Sparrows too. They usually pass through around the same time as the White-throated. Their visits to feeders tend to be early and late in the day. And Dark-eyed Juncos are sure to follow.

Watch the video:  https://youtu.be/sL_YJC1SjHE
 
Related Articles:
White-throated Sparrow fun facts http://white-throated-sparrow-fun-facts.html
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/oy9XGz
Which one of these birds is not like the others? http://bit.ly/qM1LQt
What birds winter in Michigan? http://bit.ly/rqQgU2

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Pecking order

What is the true pecking order? Little was known about encounters between birds of different species until now. A recent citizen science project conducted by Project FeederWatch has collected and analyzed thousands of reports on the drama taking place every day at the feeders.

And the results are in: When it comes to fighting over food, bigger is better but woodpeckers are best. The outcome of aggressive encounters between birds frequently determines which bird species gains access to food. Eliot Miller, a post-doctoral researcher studying feeder hierarchies at the Cornell Lab, says: “We’re finding that you can take that rather complicated, messy set of nearly 2,000 interactions between 85 different species and assemble those species into a fairly good approximation of a pecking order — a linear dominance hierarchy.”

But it is not all black and white. Observations revealed some unexpected relationships like how European Starlings are dominant to Red-headed Woodpeckers, and Red-headed Woodpeckers are dominant to Red-bellied Woodpeckers, but then Red-bellied Woodpeckers are dominant to European Starlings. Other unexpected findings were who turned out to be the least dominant. Doves, buntings, and grosbeaks seemed to be less dominant than expected based on their body size.

Take a look at the video and see pecking order in action:  https://youtu.be/uLieJQ3azOk
See the Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers dominate at the feeder over the cardinal, chickadees, finches, titmice, and the lowly nuthatches trying so hard to impress.
 
Sources:
Who is the toughest bird? https://feederwatch.org/blog/who-is-the-toughest-bird/
Fighting over food unites the birds of North America in a continental dominance hierarchy https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/01/30/104133


Related Articles:
Do Birds Eat Only at Certain Levels? http://goo.gl/vgE94
Why feed birds in the fall http://goo.gl/Jq4Aj
You get more birds if you feed year-round http://goo.gl/IsJKJ
Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://bird-guild.html
Black-capped Chickadee: Nature’s Backyard Charmer http://goo.gl/ji1vh

Friday, October 13, 2017

Photo Share: Northern Harrier

Credit: Doug Racine/USFWS

The Northern Harrier is a long tailed hawk with a white rump patch. It is often seen soaring in a "wobbly" fashion low over marshes, wet meadows, and open fields with wings held out in a shallow "V."

This is the only Michigan hawk that nests on the ground, typically in tall grasses or under shrubs near wetlands. They feed largely on small rodents, particularly meadow voles. Harrier numbers are much reduced for reasons believed related to the destruction of its marsh habitat by humans. They are listed as a species of Special Concern by the Michigan DNR. Northern harriers, once known by the fitting name of "marsh hawk," are found Statewide, but now nest most commonly in the eastern Upper Peninsula. They migrate and winter, further south away from areas that receive heavy snow cover.

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Woodpeckers looking for houses

Do woodpeckers nest this time of year (fall). I had a woodpecker work two whole days on making the wren house hole bigger.

In our mid-Michigan area woodpeckers only nest once a year. But many are year-round residents and look for a place to roost during the cold months. Bird houses imitate the natural cavities provided by trees. Wild Birds Unlimited has several functional houses for woodpeckers as well as roosting pockets made of woven grasses or felted wool that you can also put up as a shelter.

And if you need to shrink the woodpecker expanded hole on your bird house for the wrens next spring we have metal and wood portal protectors to cover any damage and resize the hole.

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Barred owl hunting in day

A Barred Owl can sometimes be seen hunting before dark. This typically occurs during the nesting season or on dark and cloudy days.

Barred Owls usually help their young find food for the first four months of life. Gradually parents stop feeding and ignore all their owlets pleas for food and encourage them to learn to hunt.

Then in the fall, hormones in adolescent owls trigger their search for a new home away from their natal territory. Young owls also may be seen in the day sometimes. Their lack the skill in catching dinner may encourage them to search for an advantageous perch to swoop down on mice, voles, moles, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, foxes, opossums, and birds.

Related Articles:
- Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/t6elFd
- Amazing Vocals of the Barred Owl http://bit.ly/sguMqL
- Owl attacks on humans http://attacks-on-humans.html
- Small Michigan Owl Visits Neighborhood http://bit.ly/tlzaoN 

- How to spot owls more easily http:/spot-owls-more-easily.html

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What Field Sparrows eat

Field Sparrow photo via Wikimedia Commons
Pay attention to flocks of sparrows under your feeders. Mid-October is the Field Sparrows peak migration through Michigan. They winter in most of the south eastern states below Michigan. You may see these smaller, warm-colored birds foraging in flocks that contain multiple species of sparrows during migration.

Field Sparrows eat mainly grass seeds, throughout the year. Grass seeds make up less than 50% of their diet in the summer, but more than 90% in the winter. In the summer they also eat adult and larval insects and spiders. At the feeders they would look for millet, or sunflower seeds.

Related Articles:
White-throated Sparrow fun facts
http://white-throated-sparrow-fun-facts.html
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/oy9XGz
Which one of these birds is not like the others? http://bit.ly/qM1LQt
Chipping Sparrow Juvenile with adult male http://goo.gl/8U5Ud2
How to get rid of sparrows http://goo.gl/9tAwkY

Monday, October 9, 2017

How birds keep cool

How the birds are faring in this warm fall weather? Is this warm weather good for the birds?
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Birds use several different techniques to beat the heat. They pant like a dog to breathe out, some of this heat, leaving them feeling cooler. They wait out the hottest part of the day in a shady location and puff out their feathers so air can reach their skin. And the combination of growing itchy winter feathers and cooling their body temperature may make the birds hit the bird bath more often.

Warm weather isn't bad for the birds. The cold weather we usually have in the fall would have made them burn fat faster, so your birds won't be eating as much this warm fall. And when you do see them at the feeder it will be more often at dawn and dusk when it is the coolest.

Winter finches illustration via Wikimedia commons
Besides the warm weather we've also had the best cone crop in a decade or more along with abundant seed, nut, and fruit crops. The annual WINTER FINCH FORECAST 2017 - 2018 by Ron Pittaway predicts that fewer birds will have to venture south this winter to find food. This is not an irruption year for siskins, redpolls, or grosbeaks. While this is good news for the birds, it is not so good news for people who wait for those special winter birds to visit. But the crops always fluctuate. An abundance this year means more birds will survive the winter to breed successfully and then all those babies will possibly venture south to find food next year.

Related Articles:
Why do birds poop in the bird bath? http://bit.ly/whKqHg
Tips to Maintain a Birdbath http://bit.ly/zGiSbQ
Water Wiggler Attracts Birds and prevents Mosquitoes! http://bit.ly/wKl40q
Why Birds Preen http://bit.ly/wcoC9d
The best heated bird baths http://bit.ly/xkyLlW

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Feeding birds pumpkin seeds

Now is the time for fall harvest. As you start preparing for the holidays, don’t forget about your birds! Here are a few ways to take advantage of seasonal items to attract birds to your yard:

1. Squash and pumpkin seeds Whether you are carving a pumpkin, or preparing a pumpkin pie, set aside the seeds. Nuthatches love them, and many other birds will eat them as well. You also may have noticed squirrels rearranging the face of your Jack O’Lantern as they have quick nibble.
2. Apples When you are making apple pies don’t throw away the apple cores. There are a number of birds which may be attracted to apples, including House Finches and cardinals. You can also roll birdseed in with extra pie dough and bake it in the shape of a bagel. When cool hang from trees. The pie crust usually has lots of fat which is substitute for the insects that birds eat but are not plentiful in cold weather.
5. Nuts Many insect eating birds greatly appreciate this high protein food. Too much salt isn’t good for the birds, but a few leftover party nuts mixed with other bird seed can be a treat. You can also collect nuts from the trees in your neighborhood, including acorns and walnuts.
6. Peanut Butter Smear peanut butter on a tree trunk. You’ll be surprised how many cute birds this will attract up and down your tree. Or spread Peanut butter on pine cones, old bread, or cookies. Then roll them in birdseed and hang them on your bushes with raffia string.
7. Ornamental Corn Autumn decorations for your home can also provide the birds with food. Blue Jays and Squirrels will enjoy ornamental corn.