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, 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.

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!
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
House Wren vs. Carolina Wren

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.
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

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The importance of water

During the hot and often dry conditions that make up the “dog days of summer," you will be doing yourself and your birds a big favor by providing them with a reliable source of water.

Water is very important to birds. Whether they are feeder visitors or not, birds need water. Offering a dependable source of water is probably the simplest and most important step you can take to greatly increase the variety of birds in your yard. It can also significantly increase your enjoyment of your birds by allowing you to watch their often comical antics as they drink, bathe and preen.

However, as entertaining as it is for us, water (or the lack thereof) can be deadly serious for birds. Birds must be ready to fly at all times, and bathing is a critical part of feather maintenance and staying in top-flight condition.

Water is also vitally important when it's extremely hot and a bird’s ability to regulate its body temperature can become stressed. Birds do not sweat and must remove excess body heat through their respiratory system. So when temperatures rise, a bird's respiration rate increases, sometimes to the point that it can be seen panting like a dog. This activity dehydrates birds and increases their need for a reliable source of water to replace lost fluids. 

Related Articles:
- What are the Dog Days of Summer? http://goo.gl/3b0nf
- Why do birds poop in the bird bath? http://bit.ly/whKqHg
- Water Wiggler Attracts Birds and prevents Mosquitoes! http://bit.ly/wKl40q
- Why Birds Preen http://bit.ly/wcoC9d
- What kind of bird bath is the best? http://goo.gl/01sug

Monday, July 31, 2017

Photo Share: Found a peanut growing in the lawn

Found a peanut 🎢🎡🎢🎢 Was it a squirrel, bird or Sarah that dropped it on the grasswhen filling the feeders? It takes about 10 days to start growing. Unlike most plants, a peanut plant flowers above ground but the peanuts grow underground. I haven't decided yet if I will give the new peanuts back or make peanut butter cookies.

This was another fabulous report 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.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Identify Monarch Butterfly

I was excited to see a monarch on my flowers outside the Wild Birds Unlimited store! It was battling the winds with expert skill.

The Monarch Butterfly has distinct black veins, and a black border with white polka dots on orange wings. The underside of the monarch butterflies' wings are paler than the topside. The wingspan of a full-grown monarch is four to five inches. The body of the monarch is black with more white dots.

Males and females can be told apart by looking at the top of their hind wings. Males have a black spot at the center of each hind wing, while the females do not. The spot is a scent gland that helps the males attract female mates.

While beautiful, this coloring actually sends a warning to predators that the monarch is foul tasting and poisonous.

Take a quiz to see if you can tell the difference between the similar viceroy and queen butterflies: http://look-alikes-fool-you/

Related Articles:
- Do Monarch Butterflies just wake up in the spring? http://goo.gl/5tkUk
- Monarch migration route http://goo.gl/L66ty
- Punctuation Butterflies: The First Butterfly of Spring! http://bit.ly/JHUpG1  
- How Fast Does a Monarch Butterfly Fly? http://bit.ly/ywhpZr
- Did you know butterflies have ears on their wings? http://bit.ly/x04qEi

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Late Summer is a good time to feed birds

6 steps to make the future brighter for birds

Habitat loss, disease, severe weather, window collisions and many other factors contribute to the decline in bird populations. Here are six steps you can take to make the future brighter for birds:

Land development is changing the habitat available for many birds. You can help by landscaping with native plants that provide natural food sources, shelter and protection predators. Man made feeders, nest boxes and bird baths also benefits birds.

2. Prepare a proper menu
Food is essential to provide birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition to endure the elements year-round. Wild Birds Unlimited has regionally formulated seed blends to provide the most nutritious food for your birds. The first ingredient in our top 4 seed blends is sunflower seed, the favorite of most of the backyard seed eating birds.
To help reduce the possibility of disease transmission in birds, clean feeders and feeding areas at least once a month. Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing will clean your feeder for $5.00 or you can disassemble and scrub your feeders at home. Keep seed and foods dry by adding Feeder Fresh; discard food that is wet or looks moldy. Birdbaths also need to be scrubbed with a brush and water should be replaced every three to days to discourage mosquito reproduction. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned every three to five days, or every other day in warm weather.

4. Birds and chemicals don’t mix 
Many pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are toxic to birds; avoid using these near areas where birds feed, bathe or rest.

5. Keep cats away from birds 
Outdoor cats are estimated to kill 500 million birds per year. Even the sweetest cats still have the instincts of their wild ancestors. When something flutters by, they must swat it down. Cats do what comes natural but you can help wildlife by restricting their access outside. A lot of our customers start bird feeding to entertain their indoor cats. It is a challenge to keep indoor-only animals stimulated and engaged mentally. A window feeder is one solution.

6. Reduce window collisions 
It is estimated that between 100 million and one billion birds are killed every year in the United States when they crash into glass windows. And even one billion deaths might be a conservative estimate. Decals like Window Alert placed on the outside of windows have had the most positive feedback from customers. Each decal contains a component which brilliantly reflects ultraviolet sunlight. This ultraviolet light is invisible to humans, but glows like a stoplight for birds.

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
- How to get rid of weeds under the bird feeder without using poisons http://goo.gl/fHlsE0
- Cats Indoors! http://goo.gl/YIOUpI
- How to Prevent Window Strikes during Migration http://goo.gl/KZRzKb

Friday, July 28, 2017

Photo Share: Spring Peeper

I had a real peeper at my window last night. He was only 1" long.

Spring peepers are nocturnal insectivores, emerging at night to feed primarily on small invertebrates, such as beetles, ants, flies, and spiders. They do not climb high into trees, but hunt in low vegetation.

The spring peeper is the most abundant of Michigan's singing frogs and is common statewide. They prefer damp woodlands, swamps, and marshes. However, they still need protection - local populations around small ponds and wetlands can be highly susceptible to pollution.

It is our responsibility to make sure that we will always be able to open a window on a warm spring night and fall asleep to the tinkle of the spring peeper.

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, July 27, 2017

Finding feathers on the ground

Have you noticed more feathers on the ground or bald birds at the feeding station? Or just seen birds eating much more than usual? Many birds are losing and replacing their feathers in a process known as molting. This complicated process requires a lot of energy and may take up to eight weeks to complete.

Most birds’ feather loss and replacement is gradual and you may notice they look a little ruffled. But then there are also a select few that go bald. Some Cardinals, BlueJays, and Grackles go through an abnormal molt that leaves them bald. Don't worry the feathers will grow back. However, the quality and depth of the red coloration of the cardinal’s feathers is the result of amount of the pigment ingested, and then deposited in the new fall feathers. A study done by the Ohio State University found that juveniles, less efficient foragers than adults, often have a duller red feather coloration.

You can help by offering high-protein bird foods, such as sunflower seed, safflower, peanuts, Nyjer® (thistle), suet and mealworms, to ensure that your birds have a reliable source of protein to help them during this stressful time.

For the customers at the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store, we recommend feeding the No-Mess Blend. Our unique No-Mess Blend contains sunflower seeds, peanut pieces and white proso millet without the shells. No shells on the seeds make for a tidier feeding area, since there's nothing on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells and the best food for the birds because it's fresh and full of protein.

Related Articles:
There’s more to a jay than any other creature http://goo.gl/8OrUq
Birds Molting: Out with the Old, In with the New http://bit.ly/M2Flrs
Raggedy birds during late summer feather molting http://raggedy-birds-during-molt.html
When is bird migration over? http://bit.ly/M2FgUD

How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://more-colorful-birds.html

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Do hawks hunt cats?

Hawks are in the area. Should I be worried about my cat? It's absolutely stunning to see these birds perched, waiting on a meal. Is it wrong to leave out some food for them? It just breaks my heart to see them eat the chipmunks and smaller birds.
Raptors hunt a variety of prey, including rodents, birds, rabbits, snakes, and insects. Large raptors, such as Red-tailed Hawks and Great Horned Owls, can attack small pets. But can they and will they are two different things. There is something in the walk of a cat that doesn’t say prey. But if a bird is desperate to feed young ones in the spring, and the size cat is similar to or not much larger than naturally occurring raptor prey, there is a slight risk.

We recommend that for animals less than 15 pounds, that you supervise all of their outdoor activities. And there are also several good reasons to just keep cats indoors. Outdoor cats are threatened by fleas, ticks, disease, vehicles, and harassment from larger animals. These threats are a much greater risk than raptors. For more information on this subject please visit the American Bird Conservancy/Cats Indoors Program.

In the fall it's very possible you'll see more hawks up close and personal as young raptors disperse from their parents and older birds shift to their wintering grounds. I don't recommend trying to feed hawks. If you want to bring some roadkill off the streets and set up a camera for viewing you could, but I would just let the hawks do their thing.

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 

Do you think the hawk would like to eat my tofu? http:/hawk-would-like-to-eat.html

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Leave birdhouses up for winter roosts

Is there a reason to leave the birdhouse out after the House Wrens leave?

House Wrens usually leave mid-Michigan by October to winter in the southern U.S. and Mexico. If their bird house is a material that doesn't winter well like ceramic or gourd I would clean it up and bring it in for the winter. If it is made of cedar, recycled plastic, or a material that weathers well, I would or leave the house up for the chickadees.

Black-capped Chickadees stay in Michigan year-round. And when the weather turns bitter cold Chickadees seek out natural cavities like knotholes in trees, or old woodpecker nests to roost. Where these are scarce, chickadees will use bird houses for shelter.

Related Articles:  
Keep Wasps from Building Nests in Birdhouses http:/keep-wasps-from birdhouses.html
Best Bird Houses http://bit.ly/AuLTJt
Why don't chickadees stay to eat at the feeder? http://bit.ly/AkKThH
After chickadee babies have fledged http://bit.ly/yAYbP4
What Do Black-Capped Chickadees Eat? http://bit.ly/zxi04X
Bird of the Week: Black-capped Chickadee http://bit.ly/A1YFQ4 

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