Now I know which seeds my birds like but how do you know what is the best suet? ~ Eaton Rapids, Michigan
When you come into Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI you can choose from a variety of high quality seed and suet cakes that will attract a wide number of different bug eating birds like woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and wrens.
What is suet?
Our Suet is made with only the highest quality processed beef kidney fat. It is the most concentrated source of energy you can offer wild birds.
Is there really a difference in suet cakes?
Not all suets are created equal. When you are choosing your breakfast cereal, you might choose a less healthy, colorful, sugar loop and pay the price later with less energy and a blah afternoon. But birds must always be on alert and in top form, especially during times of stress like nesting season or long winters. You should always read the nutritional labels and strive to provide wild birds with food that is healthy and has the proper nutrition.
How do I read suet labels?
The first ingredient should always be rendered beef suet. Some people feed straight suet only. If you want to offer more protein the next ingredient should usually be peanuts or tree nuts. Never, never buy suet where milo, oats, wheat, processed grain by-products or artificial flavorings are in the ingredients. These filler ingredients are used to make a cheaper cake but the birds have to pick around and pick out all this filler to reach a little suet.
The Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store’s best seller is the peanut butter suet cake, which has only three ingredients: rendered beef fat, chopped peanuts and peanut butter. Again, no milo, no wheat, no corn, and no millet - no filler ingredients!
What is the Guaranteed Analysis?
Looking at the Guaranteed Analysis, you will see several lines of information: Crude Protein, Crude Fat, Crude Fiber, and Moisture. What does all that mean to a consumer? A good suet cake will have a minimum crude protein of around 6% and crude fat of 35% (the more the better). And it’s acceptable for suet to have a maximum crude fiber of 12% and moisture of 10%.
I know this can get confusing. You just want to feed the birds. That’s OK. At Wild Birds Unlimited we are dedicated to the promotion of responsible feeding. Anything we sell in the East Lansing, Michigan store is good for the birds; no fillers, no by products, just top-quality food. If you have any questions feel free to ask and we can suggest what will work in your yard to attract the best birds.
Wow thanks for all the info. I’ve been using your peanut butter bar and the birds seem very happy and I’m happy with all the birds! I guess you’re right, why worry; if I shop at your store I know it’s the good stuff. Will this question make it on to your blog? I love to read it every morning.
Yes! You had a very good question. Thanks for reading and now participating in the blog. Sarah
For more colorful birds in the spring, feed your birds better-quality food in the fall. Most backyard birds, with the exception of American Goldfinches, go through only one full molt a year in the fall. They replace their tired old feathers with a new set that will last until next fall.
You may have noticed that the European Starlings have more speckles on them right now than they did during the summer. The new feathers have whitish tips, giving the bird the appearance of “stars” covering their body. Over the winter sunlight and weather dulls the speckled look and then the bird becomes uniform dark brown or black. Just in time to impress the females in the spring.
Eastern Bluebirds and Northern Cardinals, two of the most colorful birds in the area, also produce a new set of feathers in the fall. The tips of the new body feathers are brown/gray and make the bluebirds and cardinals appear a bit dull in the winter. These feather tips also wear off and leave the birds much more colorful in the spring.
Feathers are made of more than 90% protein, primarily keratins, so every molting bird needs extra proteins to grow strong feathers for proper flight and effective insulation. At the feeding stations during cold weather the birds are looking for seeds that provide the most calories too. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a landmark study of bird food preferences in 1980 for several bird species and found most backyard songbirds exhibited the greatest preference for oil sunflower, peanuts, safflower, nyjer, and millet. They avoid buckwheat, milo, oats, wheat, canary, flax, rapeseed, and rice.
Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess Blend is our best selling blend. It has everything the birds want and leaves no messy shells behind. For more info on our unique No-Mess Blend bird seed which features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left, click HERE.
Whatever seed, seed cake, or suet you choose at Wild Birds Unlimited, we guarantee it will be fresh and a healthy choice for our local birds. And now you know that birds with a better-quality diet have better-quality plumage.
Researchers that want to study migrating birds have problems gathering data on what birds eat, when or if they have pit stops, and the effect of the weather. One solution to this problem was to build a $1.5 million wind tunnel to study a captive bird’s metabolism and flight. Researchers can adjust temperature, humidity and barometric pressure and study the effect on birds.
How to get birds to work with you in wind tunnels
From an interview with Science's Elizabeth Pennisi:
“A year old, the tunnel presents researchers with an unprecedented opportunity to probe the mysteries of migration in exquisite detail. But money can't buy birds that are keen to fly in a wind tunnel, and the team has had mixed success finding willing avian partners. An early project using starlings did well, despite taking place when the tunnel was not quite finished. It netted "Super," a bird that always cooperates and will even fly into the wind tunnel on its own accord. But a study involving robins took months to identify five somewhat cooperative fliers; switching to Swainson's thrushes worked better. One immunological project involving a shorebird called a ruff is stranded because the birds show no inclination to take to the air. And the researchers have just started testing warblers to see if high-protein or high-carbohydrate diets make a difference in energy use during flight.”
Some early test results from biologists at the University of Western Ontario in Canada discovered that the birds on long migrations conserve water by burning muscle and organs instead of fat.
The protein in muscle doesn't provide as much energy as fat, but it can release five times as much water - enough to keep birds going during their nightlong flights, according to a study published Friday in the journal Science.
Scientists believe that understanding how birds use protein during migration could help them better understand the environmental challenges facing animals that migrate.
Hi everyone, I wanted to share these pictures and tell you how they came to be. This little guy (Great Horned Owl) was sitting on my sidewalk in front of my house. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. So of course I ran in grabbed my camera and took a bunch of pictures Then I started calling every rehab center I could find in the book. Being Saturday all I could do was to leave messages. Very frustrating.
I had to go to work at the Art Gallery for a few hours. When I got back he was still sitting in the landscape by the front of my house. I tried again some of the numbers for rehab centers. Finally I got a call back from one in Eaton Rapids. She told me how to handle the little guy so successfully getting him in a box we were able to get him there.
She said he was starving and that was the third Owl that had been brought in in the past few days. I learned that he was probably a late spring baby and was never properly taught how to hunt. His wings were fine but just very thin. They started him on fluids first and then they will feed him mice and rats (uck!)
Thank God there are people like Louise Sagaert from Wildside Rehabilitation and Education Center for people like me and you to be able to take our injured wild critters to. I slept easy knowing that he was safe and taken care of. Have a great day! I know will........Linda Moore
That was a very compassionate story with thankfully, a happy ending. If anyone sees an animal in distress and is unsure what to do, call an expert. For future reference the following is a small list of the local rehabilitators:
East Lansing, MI ♦ 517.351.7304 ♦ Cheryl Connell-Marsh ♦ birds and small animals
Lansing, MI ♦ 517-646-9374 ♦ Tiffany Rich ♦ white tailed deer, squirrels, raccoons; Vet. Tech. on center.
DeWitt, MI ♦ 517.930-0087 ♦ Wildside Rehab and Education Center ♦ birds and small animals
Eaton Rapids, MI ♦ 517-663-6153 ♦ Wildside Rehab and Education Center ♦ birds and small animals
Holt, MI ♦ 517-694-9618 ♦ Carolyn Tropp email@example.com ♦ Waterfowl, small birds and mammals
Howell, MI ♦ 517-548-5530 ♦ Howell Conference and Nature Center ♦ All wild animals except bats, skunks, starlings, raccoons, pigeons, or house sparrows.
Bath, MI ♦ 517-819-0170 (day) 517-641-6314 (evening) ♦ Denise Slocum ♦ Small mammals
You can see some of Linda Moore's artwork at Haze Art Gallery in Old Town on Grand River Ave. and Maple Street Mall downtown Mason. She also received a little more information about her owl: I had an update from Louise. He made it through the night, he's peeing, and eating. Hallelujah!
I hope when he's recovered you can release him back into your yard.
Good morning Sarah, the latest update is Orlando the Owl is doing very well. He is still in an incubator but will be put in a regular cage tomorrow. Louise says he in getting pretty feisty too. Have a great day!
I never really though of re-releasing the owl. Wouldn't they have to somehow teach him to hunt first? And do they eat other birds? I wouldn't want him killing off my little subjects. Who would I take pictures of? Ha....
Great Horned Owls eat a lot of rodents like field mice, voles and even skunks. They also eat frogs, toads, and snakes. They hunt at night so most of the time they eat animals that are active at that time. Owls do eat a few birds too. Usually in the spring when they are feeding babies and are having trouble finding enough food. But overall they are a good bird to have in the neighborhood. Sarah
My husband kept telling me we had a Red-headed woodpecker at the feeder while I was at work. I was so excited about having a new bird at the feeder until I realized he was talking about our very frequent visitor, the red-bellied woodpecker. He said that that was a dumb name and that he was still going to call him Mr. Red Head. Will you explain why it’s called Red-bellied Woodpecker?
People often call the Red-bellied woodpecker by a list of common misnomers like red-headed or ladder-back woodpecker because of their gleaming red caps and striking black and white barred backs. Since virtually all woodpeckers are black and white with patches of bright colors on various parts of their bodies, the Red-bellied was named for the unique pinkish tinge on the belly, common to both genders.
However, the sight of a red belly usually isn’t the fist thing you see when it visits your yard. This can only be seen if the bird is facing you. But don’t expect to identify this bird that way. You need to look for the red head first. Adult males have a red cap going from the bill to the nape of the neck. Adult females have a gray crown and a red patch on the nape of the neck and another above the bill. Juveniles have no red at all, just a dark gray crown.
One of the most common woodpeckers, it is found all along the eastern half of the United States. This woodpecker is unusual in that it will sample any food it finds. It eats seeds, fruit, acorns, insects and loves suet when it’s available. In the fall and winter it will store its food in the barks of trees to pull out and eat later.
Special cells on the end of their bills are constantly replaced because of the repeated pounding. Woodpeckers are important to many other bird species because they drill new nest holes each year and leave the old cavities for birds like swallows, owls, bluebirds, and a huge array of small birds like wrens and chickadees to use.
Thank you for your interesting blog! I have been feeding chipmunks in my yard for the last four years. They are adorable and fascinating to watch. I am curious to know how much food can they fit in their cheek pouches?
I could find no volume measurements while researching chipmunks. However I have personally observed our chipmunks carry five peanuts in the shell at a time: two in each cheek pouch and one between its teeth. I have also watched him pack in 31 peanuts without shells.
Studies have found that some animals hoard simply out of instinct. A chipmunk spends much of its day collecting and storing seeds, which are its most important source of food. When preparing food for storage, the chipmunk uses its tongue to shift the seeds backwards and stuff them between their teeth and the extensible skin in the cheek area.
The capacity of these cheek pouches increases with maturity. When the cheek pouches become full, the chipmunk deposits the seeds in its nest or buries them in shallow holes that it digs in the ground around his burrow and then covers with earth, leaves, and other litter.
Eastern Chipmunks’ lifespan on average is only one year due to predators and man made dangers. They have two breeding seasons. The first begins in February and the second in June. They can have up to nine babies but average four.
Many people are frustrated by the amount of food they take away from bird feeding stations but chipmunks do have a purpose. They eat a lot of bugs and small rodents and are eaten by hawks, fox, owls, and other predators. And Mother Nature uses the chipmunks to spread plant seeds and fungi all around.
Eastern chipmunks live in shallow burrows made by digging and carrying away the dirt in their pouched mouths. These burrows can be up to 30 ft. in length with several different exits concealed with leaves and rocks.
The chipmunks’ cheek pouches also transfer food to their tunnels. They keep large stores of food in their burrows and build nests on top of this treasure. Eastern chipmunks, however, do not hibernate continuously through the winter, nor do they "fatten up" before retreating to their burrows. When the temperatures reach freezing, chipmunks go into their burrows to hibernate but wake up periodically to snack on their stored nuts and seeds.
Hi. This summer I was blessed with a new family of bluebirds – mom and dad, and SIX fledglings. Just incredible; they're the first bluebirds I ever got to "know" (photos of some kids and mom/dad above). - Molly in Decatur, GA
Does WBU carry bird nuts? I'm in the UK now and have been watching birds eating bird nuts from a wire cylinder. Then in the Pound Store (our Dollar Store) I found bags of them for one pound. They looked like oddly shaped peanuts with the red skin still on. Sue
Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI sell peanuts in the shell and out. We also offer four seed blends that have peanuts to attract a wider variety of birds.
There are several types of peanuts. Each of the peanut types is distinctive in size, flavor, and nutritional composition. The birds will eat any peanut as long as it’s still fresh and full of oil. The pound store may have cheap peanuts but make sure they aren’t stale.
Birds don’t have heated houses or sweaters they can snuggle in when the winds blow. An ample supply of high-calorie foods such as black oil sunflower, nuts and suet is crucial to a bird's survival. Food is the most essential element, providing birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition they need and it should be as fresh and full of fat as possible.
Thanks for the info. I wasn't planning to buy any seeds here. I really wanted to know if they are available in the States in an animal food quality, but fresh and appealing to the birds. I'll be back there in a couple of weeks. Do you carry the wire tube feeders for the peanuts?
I’s a great idea to add a peanut feeder right now to attract birds such as titmice, jays, chickadees, woodpeckers and nuthatches. With cold weather approaching the birds will appreciate the extra fat and protein from peanuts and you can have fun watching the antics of birds that come to peanut feeders.
At Wild Birds Unlimited you can choose from a variety of peanut feeders. Two of the most popular peanut feeders are the Mesh feeders and the peanut bell feeders.
Our mesh feeders come in different sizes and colors. They have a lifetime guarantee, are made in the USA and the birds love them. I would also recommend a Wild Birds Unlimited weather guard to protect the seed from the coming rain and snow.
The other feeder I have is the Birdie Bell. It is a secure, all-weather holder that's easy to fill and so far indestructible. I fill it with a peanut bell-shaped seed block every 2 weeks. The bell feeder can also be filled with cat hair and cotton for the birds to use in their nests. I have three of these.
Now that fall is almost here you'll notice a lot of plants are trying to spread their seed. Blue Jays carry acorns far from their parent trees. Goldfinches spread lots of flower seeds. Cedar Waxwings spread fruit seeds.
And if you take a walk in the woods you may pick up hitchikers on your socks. Those annoying burs that snag on almost anything including your best friends furry coat. But did you ever look at those burs under a microscope?
Walking through a patch of woods one day in 1948, a Swiss engineer named Georges de Mestral wondered what made burrs stick to his clothes. He took a close look at the seeds of burdock and discovered hundreds of "hooks" that caught on everything. Inspiration struck and de Mestral thought if he could figure out how to duplicate the hooks and make loops he could develop a nonmetallic, zipperlike fastener.
After a lot of trial and error Velcro was invented. Velcro, a combination of the words velvety soft and crochet hook, was submitted for patent in Switzerland in 1951. The newly invented nylon was perfect for making two strips of fabric, one with thousands of tiny hooks and another with thousands of tiny loops.
Velcro is now used all over from fastening kids shoes to astronauts space suits.
I appreciate all the questions and kind feedback. If you need information or would like to share a story or photo you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I answer emails as soon as I can and then post my responses in the blog eventually. I try to space the posts out evenly over the month.
It's never a bother to answer questions. At Wild Birds Unlimited, we strive to offer the best customer service, top quality seed, feeders, and information to make sure you have the best backyard bird feeding experience possible.
Thank you for supporting our local business, Sarah
Store location: Wild Birds Unlimited 2200 Coolidge Rd. Ste.17 East Lansing, MI 48823
Every time I go to fill the feeders in the fall I see that the birds are dropping feathers all around. Long stiff feathers, short fluffy feathers, gray, blue, yellow… There are several different kinds of feathers which serve several different functions and now that the birds are going through a molt you can take a closer look at the differences.
Generally five types of feathers cover the body of a bird: contour, semiplume, down, filoplume and bristle. Contour feathers are the feathers that cover and protect the bird. They are sort of staggered like scales on a snake. The most common contour feathers that people find on the ground are the tail and flight feathers. At first look they may seem the same, but tail feathers are usually more balanced with a stiff center shaft and flight feathers have a wider and narrower side to help cut through the air. In between the contour feathers are semiplumes that provide both support and insulation. Underneath the contour feathers are down feathers. The purpose of down feathers is to trap air between the feathers and the bird’s skin to insulate it. Some birds, such as baby chicks, are born covered in down.
Other feathers act as sensors. Filoplumes are bare except for a few barbs. They grow around contour feathers and may help birds sense the position of feathers in flight. Bristle feathers look like little stiff hairs and grow around some birds’ beaks or eyes. Bristles may help birds such as swallows catch prey by funneling insects toward the mouth. They may also protect the eyes. Woodpeckers have bristles over their nostrils that help keep wood chips out. Bristles may also act like a cat’s whiskers helping a bird feel what’s around it.
Because feathers are critical for flight and insulation, birds keep them well-maintained, especially in the winter. After a bath the birds obtain oil from the uropygial gland and reapply it with their bills to straighten and waterproof their feathers.
Some birds that don't have the preen gland like pigeons and herons also grow powder down feathers. These feathers grow continuously and never molt. Instead the barbs at their tips constantly disintegrate into a fine, talc-like, water-resistant powder.
My niece and her new husband are moving in to their first house and I want to give them a bird feeder. What would you recommend for a family just starting the bird feeding hobby. I want a good quality feeder that won't fall apart in 3 months but nothing big. ~ Holt, MI
The Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) East Lansing, Michigan store actually just developed a budget-friendly Green Solutions line of feeders. I have been test marketing them since April and the feedback has been fabulous!
Even though the Green Solutions line isn't as high-end as our other WBU line, it's still high quality and may meet the needs of some cost conscience shoppers. The feeders are smaller and all hang but they are still made in the USA from recycled plastic containers and have a lifetime guarantee like most of our feeders.
They are an attractive light green in varying sizes and styles. There are 3 different hoppers, 2 tray feeders, and a fly-thru feeder. All are excellent for the beginning or experienced bird feeding hobbyists.
The Green Solutions feeders are all easy to clean with a unique expanded rust-resistant mesh screen bottom that provides excellent drainage to keep seed dry and fresh and promote healthy bird feeding. The feeders recycled plastic will last forever, and most important, the design will attract a wide variety of birds.
Wonderful! I gave my son Ben the WBU window feeder you recommended 3 years ago when he moved into his first apartment. He's moved a couple times since then but he told me after each move, when he watches the birds, it feels like home. See you soon. Jennifer
Anniversary of the Highway Beautification Act Claudia Alta Taylor, later known as Lady Bird Johnson was nicknamed in childhood by a nurse that declared she was as "purty as a ladybird". The reference was actually to the black and red ladybird beetles we call commonly "ladybug" in Michigan.
But the reference to beauty in nature was very apt. Mrs. Johnson was an active worker on innumerable projects to protect the environment. Throughout her time as First Lady at the White House, she fought to make American cities more beautiful and played a big part in passing the Highway Beautification Act, in the Senate on September 16, 1965.
The act called for control of outdoor advertising along the nation's growing Interstate Highway System. It also encouraged scenic enhancement and roadside development. Patches of wildflowers were seeded in interstate medians. Green spaces were created. Her beliefs regarding the importance of national beautification can best be summarized in her statement that "where flowers bloom, so does hope."
In 1982, Mrs. Johnson founded the National Wildflower Research Center, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the preservation and re-establishment of native plants in natural and planned landscapes.
I know you wrote you leave your hummingbird feeder up until you haven’t seen a hummer for two weeks. I’m leaving my feeders up later than I usually would and I’m pleased that I’m getting these occasional fat hummingbirds like you said. I bought the saucer style feeder that you recommended as the best, but I don’t fill it all the way now. Can they still reach food or should I fill it to the top every time?
At the end of September in mid-Michigan, you’re not going to see the regular hummers that you enjoyed all summer. So it’s alright to fill your saucer feeder only half full. Hummingbirds actually have a long flexible tongue that is good for reaching into long flowers or the bottom of your feeder. The tongue itself isn't just muscle but includes a series of small bones folded accordion-like. When a Ruby-throated Hummingbird flexes its tongue muscles, these bones unfold and allow the hummer to extend its tongue almost an inch past the tip of the nearly inch-long bill. And believe it or not, a hummingbird's tongue can lap at the rate of 13 times per second.
I’m glad you’re still enjoying the hummingbirds. Keep the questions coming.
Tropical Storm Irene hit Cape Cod on Sunday 28 August. I was hoping to band the next day possibly capturing a species not typically found in our area, but instead spent four hours alone that morning resetting nets and cleaning up debris. We set our nets low the day before the storm hoping they wouldn’t get blown around too much. Luckily the nets were in good shape but it took forever to clean out the small bits of debris out of them and pick up branches cluttering the net lanes.
The week produced few migrants for September. I imagine the 3 storms- Irene, Katia, and Lee had some influence keeping them away from our little spot on the cape. Our first Pine Warbler for the fall season, most likely born on the island, came in on the 30th. I didn’t have my camera that day so Jo-Anna graciously forwarded her picture of the Pine to me, a HY female.
We handled 73 birds that day, including another Yellow-breasted Chat , Red-eyed Vireos, and Yellow Warblers, plus our usual suspects, more than half being Gray Catbirds.
Our fourth Northern Waterthrush was banded on 1 September.
This bird had a nice example of rusty tertial edges (those three feathers closest to the body) evident on juveniles.
Our first Warbling Vireo for the year arrived too. They have a less distinct facial pattern compared to Philadelphia Vireos
and the contrast of color between the head and back is duller.
For good measure we checked the outermost primary feather (p10) and sure enough it was approximately the same length as the primary coverts, which is barely visible in the Philadelphia Vireo.
Three Baltimore Orioles were banded on the 2nd, a beautiful adult male
and 2 juvenile males. After their first prebasic molts, young males have orange-edged lesser and median coverts seen in the photo below.
This male had also molted its inner greater coverts, retaining the outer four along with molting the uppermost tertial feather (s9).
This young male was trying his darnedest to pry open my fingers holding his legs.
An Eastern Phoebes was captured this week, still in full juvenal plumage with none of the buff-edged greater coverts replaced.
We picked up a young male Hairy Woodpecker going through his first prebasic molt. Red feathers were still present on top of his head, but a few new red body feathers were emerging on the back of his head.
He was busy replacing his primaries, but like other woodpeckers during their first prebasic molt, his primary coverts were retained with the outermost primary (p10) extending well beyond the primary coverts.
A Downy Woodpecker was also captured, this time a SY (second year) male going through his molt. He was replacing his primaries and his outer primary coverts,
plus his secondaries (with a browner middle secondary retained).
His inner primary coverts will be replaced during his molt the following year, with an occasional primary covert or two possibly retained then.
This unfortunate Gray Catbird was born with a deformed bill.
The upper mandible was askew making it difficult for the young bird to eat although the weight was within normal limits.
Many of the primaries were also either broken off or malformed while growing.
3 September brought in our first Blackpoll Warbler, an adult female.
A first year House Wren, still in full juvenal plumage was almost as wriggly in the hand as it’s cousin the Carolina Wren.
The barring on the wing lining up in neat rows is an easy indicator that it had yet to begin it’s molt.
Another Traill’s Flycatcher was captured on the 5th
and we are starting to get numerous HY American Goldfinch with the first one banded on 30 Aug.
Thanks to Judith Bruce, Jo-Anna Ghadban, Gretchen Putonen, and Jessica Rempel for helping this week. We were also lucky enough to have visiting banders James Junta and Mike help us out on the 5th.
The following birds were captured (with numbers), seen, or heard during this past week.