Is it safe to feed the birds out in the open?

Because of the snow last night, the tree directly behind my apartment snapped at the base and is completely unsalvageable. My birds had been using that tree and a congregating/roosting spot. Should I still feed “my” birds even though they will now have limited cover? I have a huge bush about 50 feet away, but will that be enough protection for them being that there are also hawks in the area? Feeding birds is a huge thing for me (I state the obvious…), but I also don’t want “my” birds to be sitting targets for “my” hawks. Thoughts? ~ Lansing, MI

I’m sorry you lost your feeding tree. I had lots of bendy trees but none broken. Hopefully today's sun will melt a little of the snow and give my trees and bushes a little relief.

Feeding in the open shouldn't be a problem. When hawks hunt, they perch on a tall observation post. One of the many birds you attract should be able to signal the alert to warn of predators or they can band together to chase the hawk out of the area.

Ground feeding birds would be the most vulnerable to attacks. Now that the protection of the tree is gone, birds eating at a feeder with a roof or under weather guards or awnings are a little safer. But also with no trees and underbrush to dodge, a panicked birds’ forward speed isn’t reduced, which maximizes the chances that they can escape.

Studies estimate that only 10 percent of a hawk’s pounces are successful, and the majority of the birds the hawk takes are usually the weakest of the flock. So try to refresh you snowy/iced feeders and continue to feed.

These icy days are the worst for the birds. Their natural food sources may have become covered with snow or locked in ice. At those times, bird feeders are often their only source of food available. ~ Sarah

I’m glad your trees are okay. Bendy is good, laying horizontal is…so not.

Thank you for your response! I’m glad that losing the tree won’t be too much for them to handle. I figured they could probably deal with it, but I also know that having shelter is a good thing. I definitely fed them this morning (when the tree was still semi-upright), and will continue to do so, especially with winter looking like it’ll stay for a while. Have a good day!

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Photographing Snow

Wilson Alwyn Bentley (1865-1931) was frustrated by his inability to sketch the snow crystals that he was examining on his microscope before they melted. At the age of seventeen he decided to learn how to use a relatively new device called a camera. Finally in 1884, after two years of trial and error, Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley became the first person to successfully photograph snow crystals, which are commonly known as snowflakes.

Through remarkable determination he went on to become a true pioneer in the field of atmospheric science, as well as an innovative, talented photographer.

Over his lifetime, Bentley published sixty articles on snow, dew, frost and raindrops. In 1931, Snow Crystals, a book with 2,435 illustrations was published. Unfortunately he died that same year from pneumonia.

The black and white photo is a sample of Bentley's work. A link to the Bentley Snow Crystal Collection at the Jericho Historical Society is at http://snowflakebentley.com/index.htm.
 
Another informative website on snow crystals is Snowcrystals.com.
 
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Wild Birds Unlimited has best birdfeeders

I want to buy the best bird feeder as a gift. What do you suggest?

There are a lot of feeders to choose from. With over 25 years of research and experience, Wild Birds Unlimited® is proud to offer you the highest-quality birdfeeders and birdfeeding equipment on the market today.
  1. Any feeder you choose should be easy to fill and easy to clean.
  2. Look for quality. Most Wild Birds Unlimited feeders come with a Lifetime Warranty.
  3. Determine what birds you want to attract. There are certain feeders that are made for specific birds (i.e. finch feeder, hummingbird feeder, squirrel proof feeder).
  4. Decide where you are going to put the feeder. Is it going to hang in a tree, on an Advanced Pole System, on a window, or off a deck? The best place to put a feeder is where you can view it easily.
Some of our most popular, easy to fill and easy to clean, backed with a lifetime guarantee feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI and why:
  1. Squirrel Buster PLUS™: This is our best selling feeder. It has a large capacity and is easy to maintain. Built-to-Last Construction. Most birds are attracted to it including the cardinals. Oh and it’s SQUIRREL PROOF! Oh yes it is!
  2. WBU Recycled Hopper: Made from recycled milk jugs, these feeders are 100 times more popular than the old wooden box feeders. They look good, last forever, and all seed eating birds can use it comfortably. It’s easy to fill, it has a removable seed tray to allow for easy cleaning and dry seed, and it can be hung or pole mounted. Made in the U.S.A.
  3. WBU Dinner Bell: Fill this versatile bird feeder with seed, mealworms, or a seed cylinder and see how many different birds you can attract. The dome provides protection from bad weather. It can also be hung or pole mounted using the WBU pole adaptor. Made in the U.S.A.
  4. WBU Mesh Finch Feeder: The mesh tube not only lets finches land and feed in whatever position they choose, but it also allows air circulation to keep your Nyjer Thistle as dry and fresh as possible, something that's very important to our picky eaters.This feeder may be hung or pole mounted using the WBU pole adapter. Made in the U.S.A.
  5. WBU Recycled Plastic Tail Prop Suet Feeder: Common birds that eat suet are downy, hairy, red-bellied, chickadees, and nuthatches. The paddle simulates a tree trunk and offers birds a place to prop their tail while they feed. It won't rot, crack, fade, or warp like wood can and are easy to fill and clean. Made in the U.S.A.
  6. WBU Hummingbird Feeder: This specially designed feeder has a red cover that is highly attractive to hummingbirds, a built-in ant moat that keeps bugs out, and feeding ports that prevent rain water from diluting the nectar solution. Bees aren’t attracted to the saucer style feeder. It may be hung or pole mounted using the WBU pole adapter. Made in the U.S.A. This feeder is only up from April to October in mid-Michigan. Ruby-throated hummingbirds fly south for the winter.
These are just some of the best feeders to start the hobby of backyard bird feeding. I didn’t even get to the Oriole feeders, window feeders, tray feeders, ground feeders, or other specialty feeders. But don’t be overwhelmed. Wild Birds Unlimited doesn’t just sell bird feeders and bird food. We also give you accurate information about our local birds. It is our goal for you to have the best possible experience from your bird feeding hobby. Backyard bird feeding is the most relaxing, fulfilling, educational and exciting hobby that anyone can enjoy.

At Wild Birds Unlimited, we are Your Backyard Bird feeding Specialist®, here to help bring you, and nature together. Come in and we'll help you decorate your yard with birds this winter!

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Why should we care about birds?

How is Wild Birds Unlimited still in business? Does anyone even care about wild birds? All they do is poop all over the place. ~  twitter.com/kevin2110 

Scientists believe that modern humans arose about 200,000 years ago, but only reaching recognizable behavioral traits about 50,000 years ago. While modern birds arose more than 100 million years ago according to molecular evidence.So I imagine the birds might feel you are the one mucking about in their world. But let’s take a closer look to see if there is a reason we should care about birds.

10 things birds do for us:

1.  Eat pests: Birds are technologically advanced, highly motivated, extremely efficient, and cost-effective, insect-pest controllers. Native Americans lured Purple Martins into their villages by hanging up gourds with holes cut in the sides. It's estimated that martins each eat over a thousand winged insects in a day. Long ago farmers also knew how owls ate mice, bluebirds and swallows ate bugs in the fields, chicken and grouse ate fleas and ticks and encouraged the birds to live nearby. Just as smart people today still put up bird houses to reduce the bug population in their yards. 
2.  Pollinate: Animals provide pollination services for over three-quarters of the staple crop plants that feed human kind and for 90% of all flowering plants in the world. In addition to countless bees, butterflies, and other invertebrates, birds and mammals also serve as pollinators. Hummingbirds pollinate wildflowers that help recolonize deforested areas and prevent erosion. And according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, orioles serve as "important pollinators for some tree species, transferring the pollen from flower to flower on their heads."
3Disperse seeds: Some plants take advantage of birds pooping all over the place to disperse their seeds. The loss of birds could change plant communities and lead to the local loss of particular plant species. Imagine no hot sauce on your burrito. The seeds of Capsicum plants are predominantly dispersed by birds and many of the food products featuring capsaicin include hot sauce, salsa, and beverages. And a single Blue Jay can cache or hide as many as 5,000 acorns up to 2.5 miles away by carrying several nuts at one time in their esophagus. As a result the rapid northward dispersal of oaks after the ice age may have resulted from the northern transport of acorns by jays. 
4.  Unite a nation: The United States started the trend for national birds when it made the Bald Eagle its avian representative over 200 years ago. In 1789 George Washington became our Nation's first President and the American Bald Eagle became our Country's official bird. President John F. Kennedy later wrote: "The Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the Bald Eagle as the emblem of the nation. The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolizes the strength and freedom of America."
5.  Help win wars: The study of wild birds’ many survival techniques has been integral to the establishment of many military improvements. Birds taught the military about camouflage, flight, sentry systems, and during World War I and World War II, the U.S. military enlisted more than 200,000 pigeons to conduct surveillance and relay messages. 
6.  Save people: The classic example of animals serving as sentinels is the "canary in the coal mine". Well into the 20th century, coal miners in the United Kingdom and the United States brought canaries into coal mines as an early-warning signal for toxic gases including methane and carbon monoxide. The birds, being more sensitive, would become sick before the miners, who would then have a chance to escape or put on protective respirators. So during the 1960s, when birds of prey began dying, people were alerted to the dangers of agricultural chemicals such as DDT. Birds act as "sentinels" for environmental health hazards by providing early warning of human health hazards in the environment.  
7.  Promote conservation and environmentalism:The Passenger Pigeon, once the most common bird in North America, went into a catastrophic decline in numbers and then extinction by 1914 due to over hunting. The senseless slaughter of the passenger pigeon aroused public interest in the conservation movement and resulted in new laws and practices which have prevented many other species from going extinct.
8.  Feed people: Eggs and meat from birds have sustained people for centuries. 
9.  Clothe and comfort: Feathers provide fashion, warmth, and comfortable cushion.
10. Entertain: The antics of our garden birds keep us amused and may inspire future scientists to make further discoveries about these ancient creatures that might one day save the world.

Bird watching is a wonderful hobby for people of all ages. Currently one third of the U.S. populations feed wild birds. It can be enjoyed almost anywhere at any moment of the day. If you have any more questions, I can answer them in the blog or you can come into our Wild Birds Unlimited shops for help.

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Plain, little, brown striped bird that looks similar to a sparrow

Pine Siskin Carduelis pinus
Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Finches (Fringillidae)

Description
The adult male Pine Siskin is grayish brown with conspicuous brown striping. The wing and base of the tail have conspicuous yellow trimming. The Siskin is about 4.5 to 5.25 inches long, and weighs about 12g (1.5 oz).
 

Behavior 
Pine Siskins eat seeds of alders, birches, spruce, and other trees. They also feed on thistle and other weed seeds, forbs, buds, insects, and spiders. They are attracted to salt licks and salt treated highways in the winter and sometimes drink sap at drill wells created by sapsuckers.

General

As winter approaches, Pine Siskins become considerably plumper to help them survive. Each bird can pack sufficient seeds into its expandable esophagus to support itself through five hours of rest at -4 degree Fahrenheit temperatures.


Most years, siskins do not stray too far from their breeding territories in the northern tier of the United States and across Canada into Alaska. The “mast” produced by northern conifers is usually plentiful, and siskins use the seeds as fuel to survive the coldest winters.

Mast is a noun of Anglo-Saxon origin (m├Žst) that refers to the accumulation of various kinds of seeds and nuts that serve as food for animals. The process by which trees produce mast is known as masting. The curious thing about masting is that it is not a continuous process, but rather is cyclic. Approximately every three to five years certain trees produce enormous quantities of seeds and in between the masts they will produce almost none.

So in years when mast production is more uniformly depressed, Pine Siskins irrupt southward looking for food.

At a casual glance, Siskins look like plain, little, brown striped sparrows that mostly confine themselves to evergreen forests. In winter months, they congregate and move about in flocks numbering from a few individuals up to thousands of individuals. Even though these birds occur across North America, many have never seen this bird, or having seen it, did not realize it as a distinct species. When they do arrive, they mix in with flocks of goldfinches at Nyjer® (thistle) feeders, and brighten up a drab winter day with their loud and cheerful "zzziip" song. (The word "Siskin" is of Scandinavian origin and means "chirper".)

According to Ron Pittaway’s Winter Finch Forecast only a very small number of siskins are expected to irrupt south into mid-Michigan. But make sure to wash your feeders at least once a month or bring them in to our Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, Michigan for us to clean.

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Will bluebirds eat grubs from my compost bin?

Bluebirds belong to the thrush family, Turidae, whose members are known for their singing ability and their appetite for creepy crawlies. The Turidae family is comprised of 19 species including the popular American Robin and three distinct species of bluebirds; the Eastern, Western and the Mountain Bluebird.

Most people that feed bluebirds give them mealworms. They can consume about four grams of food per day or about 12% of their body weight.

I don’t know what type of grubs you have in your compost but bluebirds might eat them. Bluebirds feed primarily on ground-dwelling insects, crickets, spiders and beetles.

When bluebirds hunt for food they sit on elevated perches until they spot an insect. They’ll then drop to the ground and capture it with their bill in a behavior known as “drop-hunting.”

Other species that also might eat grubs include: woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, robins, waxwings, wrens and mockingbirds.

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Edible ornaments for the birds

My little helper.
While you are enjoying the many tasty treats that abound this holiday season, don't forget to share some goodies with the birds. Decorating a tree for our feathered friends and other wildlife is an activity the whole family can enjoy.
 
One of my favorite crafts is a pinecone dipped in birdseed. They are so much fun to make I thought I'd share my secret recipe. So if there are any little hands out there that need to be kept busy over the holiday break, this is a fun and easy project.

Pinecone Treats for the Birds

What you need:
¼ cup powdered unflavored gelatin
2 cups water
12 medium pinecones
2 cups WBU No-Mess blend bird seed
Raffia to hang

Place water in a glass bowl that is big enough to dip in a pinecone. Heat the water in the microwave for 50 seconds. The water should only be warm, but this should be supervised by an adult.

1. Pour the powdered gelatin in the water and stir until it is dissolved.
2. Dip the pinecone into the gelatin water
3. Roll pinecone in a bowl of bird seed.
4. Set the dipped pinecone on wax paper and let it dry for a couple hours.
5. Once it’s dry, tie a raffia ribbon around the cone, hang on a tree outside and watch all the birds flock.
6. Or place the pinecone in a cellophane bag and you have the perfect party favor for your guests to take home.

Additional Treat Ideas
Other decorations that can be strung and placed on trees include popcorn, fresh cranberries, thick fresh orange slices, peanuts in the shell, dried apples or dried figs. You can also string rice cakes, crab apples, baby dried corn bundles, or grapes.

Natural rough brown string, ribbon and raffia can be used for hanging the decorations. The birds will use this material for nesting in the spring.

For more easy recipes to decorate a tree for the birds go to: http://www.wbu.com/education/brochures/DecorateATree.pdf

What to feed turkeys

This may be a funny question to ask on Thanksgiving but, we have a Wild Turkey visiting our bird feeder and I’d like to feed her. She’s interesting to watch. What do they prefer to eat?

Turkeys are fun to observe! Wild turkeys like open areas for feeding, mating and habitat. They use forested areas as cover from predators and for roosting in trees at night. A varied habitat of both open and covered area is essential for wild turkey survival. If you live in a suitable area you may find turkeys frequenting your bird feeders in the early morning and late afternoon.

Wild Turkeys are omnivorous, foraging for nuts as well as various seeds, berries, roots, grasses and insects. Turkeys also occasionally consume amphibians and small reptiles like snakes. If you want to feed Wild Turkeys, I would recommend our Wild Birds Unlimited Wildlife Blend. It’s a nice mixture of peanuts, sunflower seed and corn. Our Choice Harvest Blend also has enough tree nuts, sunflower seeds, dried cherries, and suet nuggets to satisfy any turkey as well as a wide variety of other birds.

Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo
The birds have a naked blue/red head, dark glossy, iridescent body feathers, and a barred copper colored tail. The males are brighter than the females and have a central breast tassel and red wattles on the face and neck. The adult males, known as toms or gobblers, normally weigh between 16 and 24 pounds while the females, known as hens, usually weigh between 8 and 10 pounds.

Once common throughout Michigan, the turkey population is starting to recover from overhunting and loss of habitat in the 20th century. A group of turkeys has many collective nouns, including a "crop", "dole", "gang", "posse", and "raffle" of turkeys.

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Happy Holidays to You and Your Family

Like most people, the holidays make us reflect on the people who mean the most to us.

We at Wild Birds Unlimited would like to take this opportunity to thank you for continuing to support our small stores.

We hope you and your loved ones have time to enjoy one another and the the wildlife around you during this special time of year.

Stop by the store this month if you have a minute and see how you can decorate your yard with edible birdseed ornaments.

If we don’t see you, we wish you and your family a happy holiday season.

Wild Birds Unlimited
2200 Coolidge Rd. Ste.17
East Lansing, MI 48823


email: bloubird@gmail.com
web: http://lansing.wbu.com/
blog: http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/
twitter: http://twitter.com/birdsunlimited
facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lansingwbu

Hummingbird in the Snow

Hello, I live in Canal Winchester, Ohio and still have 2 maybe 3 Hummingbirds that are still here.  I thought 4 weeks ago they were stragglers but can tell since I have kept the feeders up  they are the same ones.  I have one that is red necked another that has white on his neck and belly and another that is all green.   Since this is November 20, 2011 why would they still be here and will they eventually fly south.  I'm really concerned with the weather getting colder. Any suggestions....I'm baffled but love still seeing them. ~ Canal Winchester, Ohio

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)

It’s not unheard of for hummingbirds to still be around in November. The Ruby-throated hummingbird Archilochus colubris is the most common hummingbird in my state of Michigan and your state of Ohio. The females and juveniles are all green with a white underbelly. The male is the same except for the bright red throat patch. eBird has reported them in November at Blendon Woods Metro Park in Ohio.
  
The Rufous Hummingbird Selasphorus rufus isn’t the most common but it is the most widely-distributed hummingbird in North America. The males have a red-gold iridescent throat and chin with a back that may be green or rufous.  Females are greenish above with rufous-washed flanks, and a whitish belly.

It is not unheard of for them to stick around until after it snows. eBird has a few documented in Michigan and Ohio late into November and December. They winter in Mexico but these feisty birds can survive in extremely cold temperatures if there is food available. Some people have even shared stories of how they wrap their hummingbird feeder in Christmas lights to keep the nectar unfrozen. Click HEREfor a photo of a Rufous in the snow.

If you spot a bird that you think is unusual for this time of year you can check with local birding groups, or Wild Birds Unlimited stores or go to eBird.org. For a real-time, online checklist program, eBird has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on birds’ distribution.
 

Thank you so much for the information.  I won't worry about them now that I know this is not uncommon. I have several girls in the office that share the love for these little birds so it will be fun to forward your information to them. Once again.....Thank you and Happy Holidays

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No birds at the feeders

I have two feeders out all year, three come winter, plus suet, a ground feeder for chipmunks and squirrels (which often is bypassed for the hanging feeders), and a heated water bowl. I deal with the hawks that are around, and chalk it up to nature if they take a bird, and only once had a hawk feast on my roof with a squirrel he nailed in the next yard. So I’m accustomed to birds leaving for a few hours, but coming back. 

However, for the past two days, the majority of the food in the feeders and even the ground have gone untouched. Aside from a couple of chickadees and nuthatches, and 3-4 mourning doves, I’ve seen not one sparrow (where I could easily have 30-40 swarm my yard as soon as they heard the door open at the usual hour). Moreover, no starling, grackle, redwings, cardinals, woodpeckers or blue jays. It’s scary quiet for two days now…in the entire neighborhood.

What could be the cause? We’ve been having temps a little warm for November here in Chicago area, then we had two very cold below freezing nights and high winds, but the birds have tolerated  worse before. Could they have vanished because of too many hawks in my feeding area? It hasn’t stopped the squirrels. I thought perhaps someone was tampering with my food or setting out poison with seeds, but I am not seeing dead birds either. What could be the reasons? It’s so eerie with no song birds in the air or in the trees.
 
Right now birds all over the world are migrating or establishing winter grounds. During this transition time your feeder may be overwhelmed with birds one week and empty the next week. With all the natural seed and fruit around, birds may take note of your feeders but look for other sources just in case. Birds don’t depend on feeders to survive which is good because some people aren’t dependable. They’ll probably return with bad weather when it is difficult to forage.

You can also go through a little check list to eliminate the most obvious reasons for fewer birds at the feeders.

1. Make sure your seed is fresh. One way to do this is to pinch the seed on a piece of paper and see if any oil comes out. On cold days where every meal counts, if your seed has dried out your feeder will be skipped. (Wild Birds Unlimited receives a fresh load of seed each week).

2. Clean your feeders at least once a month. Make sure there is no mold in the bottom of your feeder. This can be dangerous to the birds. To prevent mold in bad weather use Feeder Fresh™ (a silica grit that absorbs water and humidity, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand). You can also shelter your feeder from the elements by using something like WBU Weather Guard.
4. Look for predators. Hawksor catscan deter birds from feeding in your area for a short time.

5. Check with local birding groups to see if you are the only one reporting fewer birds.

I can only imaging the eeriness of having no birds. Where I live in mid-Michigan there is always a constant mix of changing birds. When I walk out to fill the feeders in the morning I hear the Whoosh of birds flying from the trees. Then as I fill the feeders they slowly filter down like falling leaves and hassle me to move quicker. I love it.

I wish you and your birds well, Sarah

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Turkey Trivia: Fun Facts about the American bird

• The turkey was Benjamin Franklin's choice for the United State’s national bird.
• Today, wild turkeys are being reintroduced into many areas across the USA. Overhunting and the disappearance of their favored woodland habitat has resulted in the decline in turkey populations.
•According to Wikipediathere are six subspecies of turkeys across the USA
•Only Alaska and Hawaii don’t have native turkeys
•The turkey is covered by about 6,000 iridescence feathers of varying colors of red, green, copper, bronze and gold. The gobbler, or male turkey, is more colorful, while the hen is a duller color to camouflage her with her surroundings.
•The average life expectancy for wild turkeys is one and a half years in the wild and 13 years in captivity. Besides hunters, the birds are prey to a variety of animals like raccoons, bobcats, foxes, eagles, owls and much more.
• Wild turkeys have very powerful legs and can run faster than 20 miles per hour and fly up to 55 miles per hour.
• To attract mates, males display their fanlike tail, bare head, and bright snood and wattle. They also perform a little turkey trot and make a distinctive gobble that can be heard a mile away. After mating males have little to do with the females.
•The ballroom dance the "turkey trot" was named for the short, jerky steps that turkeys take.
• Females lay 4 to 17 eggs in a ground nest under a bush, incubate the eggs for up to 28 days and feed their chicks only for a few days after they hatch. Young turkeys quickly learn to fend for themselves as part of mother/child flocks that can include dozens of animals.
• The adult males, known as toms or gobblers, normally weigh between 16 and 24 pounds while the females, known as hens, usually weigh between 8 and 10 pounds. Very young birds are poults, while juvenile males are jakes and females are jennies. A group of turkeys has many collective nouns, including a "crop", "dole", "gang", "posse", and "raffle" of turkeys.
•A native of North America, the turkey is one of only two domesticated birds originating in the New World. The Muscovy Duck is the other.
•Turkeys originated in North and Central America, and evidence indicates that they have been around for over 10 million years.
•There are a few explanations on how Turkeys were named. One is that in the days when geography was a little sketchy, Europeans sometimes referred to any exotic import as Turkey (i.e. Turkey Bird, Turkey rug, Turkey bag).
•Turkeys don’t migrate. They can be seen grazing fields and woodlands during the day and roosting in trees at night.  

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Will the hawk eat all my birds?

I have just witnessed a hawk fly right by me when I was filling water for the birds in my yard yesterday afternoon.  That same morning I saw it fly by my shepherd hook birdfeeder and all the birds and squirrels ran or flew off.  The hawk appeared to swoop down further down my yard where I couldn't see from my window if it snatched up a bird.  Two days ago, was the first time I saw one perched on our back fence in the early evening with its back towards our backyard just looking around then flew off.  
 
I was startled and at the same time scared.  I just bought a new bird feeding station at WBU. Now, I am afraid to feed the birds.  I feel like they are Hawk bait just waiting to happen.  Yes, the Hawk is a magnificent bird, but I don’t want to witness it eating my backyard birds.  I feel like taking all my bird feeding items back to the WBU store which I haven’t opened yet, and just quit feeding the birds altogether. I'm crushed.  I still have a Robin around and a very cute and friendly Chickadee whom is not afraid to come close to me when I am filling the feeder.  If he, the Robin, or any of the other beautiful birds get eaten I will be truly heartbroken and sick.

I came across your article about Hawks visiting birdfeederswhen I was trying to look for some solutions to this problem.  I guess there really isn’t any one.  Is there? 

There is a natural order. Hawks eat squirrels and other rodents as well as a few birds. But crows, jays and small songbirds dive-bomb hawks, as a strategy to survival. Prey species can band together to try and chase the hawks out of the area. If they can't do that, you will at least hear an alert call to warn other birds that danger is near.

You have to remind yourself that nature is real. Weather happens, predators and prey happen, and lots of life happens. Bird watching, to my mind, has an honesty that comes from the built-in acknowledgement of the natural elements that dance in and out of view and are woven through our encounter with nature.

I can't remember a time I haven't fed the birds, from the common House Sparrows to the surprise visits of birds like the teeny tiny kinglets. I think all birds are a wonder and continue to fascinate me every day! Birds give me peace. They are everywhere and have survived for centuries even with massive global changes.

Currently one third of the U.S. populations feed the birds in their yards. They watch the birds in the winter to brighten the long, dark, dreary days, and then watch the beautiful migratory birds that come in the spring all excited for nesting. Next comes watching the baby birds at the feeders demanding food from parents and finally the large variety of birds that gather after nesting to make the long journey south or to bulk up for winter again.

In the summer you’ll see different birds at your feeders than you do during winter, like hummingbirds and other nectar-eating birds. And many such as orioles, finches and warblers, show off their vibrant spring and summer plumage spreading color throughout your yard.

Birds only supplement their diet up to 10 to 20 percent at feeders. Most birds like to forage for food. And most native flowers, bushes, and trees like birds to help pollinate their flowers, eat harmful insects, and disperse their seeds. Landscaping your yard to provide native plant cover and natural foods for birds is also good way to attract birds and provide them with sanctuary.

I think you need to go back to your WBU store to discuss your concerns. ~ Sarah

Hi Sarah, Thanks for replying and sharing your thoughts and information with me.

I’ve always loved birds, too.  My parents would always feed them, and I would be part of that. I’ve learned to have compassion and enjoy their simple beauty from them.   I’ve raised two baby robins until they were ready to go on their own.  This past summer I had two baby Mourning Doves hatch in my hanging flower pot.  They two flew off when they were ready with no interference from me.  They were just darling.  I've always loved nature and animals and continued since I was a little girl to seek refuge in their peace and beauty.  Nature has always been a wonder and beauty for me.

I know there is a natural order concerning the food chain.  I find some comfort and assurance with the information you have given me about how birds survive predators.  I am going o continue to feed the birds and set up my new feeding station as I have planned. Thank you.

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Funny Squirrel days at the feeder

Sarah, I thought you would appreciate these photos for your Friday Photo.
I looked up and saw this magnificent hawk sitting on the feeder with a squirrel eating oblivious to any problem ahead of him. I took the picture through the window. The flash on the camera went off for the first two photos but he allowed a third before he flew away (without the black squirrel).
I laughed when I saw this squirrel doing much needed dental work on Mr. Jack O'Lantern. Please feel free to post these photos if you like. ~ Lansing

Thank you so much for adding a little fun to our Friday blog. Sometimes I feel guilty selling so many of the best squirrel proof feeders and squirrel baffles at our Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing but obviously I don't need to worry. Squirrels always find a way to fill their belly and if they're lucky, nice people like you share yummy treats. Have a great day! ~ Sarah

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Best field guide for Michigan birds

Birds of Michigan 
By Ted Black and Greg Kennedy
360 pages, 5.50" x 8.50", paperback

This is a wonderful book for beginning or advanced bird watchers in Michigan. It has detailed illustrations of 302 bird species with specifications of their size and any unique markings. It includes descriptions of the birds’ habitat, nesting, feeding, and voice. The birds are also grouped and color coded for quick identification by species.

One of my favorite features is a very handy quick find reference of all of the birds at the beginning of the book. It also lists Michigan birding groups and which local nature center or park will have a particular species of bird.

This is a very handy book to have around even if you don't plan on doing more than watching the birds at your feeder. I also recommend Stan Tekiela Birds of Michigan book & CD set if you want to see photos of birds or hear their songs.

 
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Question about House Wren Migration

From your web site I see you may be willing to answer a question. Raking up the final (hopefully) leaves of fall today, Sunday, November 13th, I still have my summer house wren angrily complaining of my presence in his yard. I would thought he would have started south by now. Is he just enjoying the warm fall and leaving late or are there wintering house wrens? Thank you, Dave

Most House Wrens in North America migrate to the southern U.S. and Mexico for winter. You didn't say where you live, but here in mid-Michigan, House Wrens are gone usually by October. But the migration south isn't as hurried as the migration north. Birds may linger as long as there are still a lot of food sources available.

If you go to http://ebird.org/ you can submit your observation of a House Wren in November and check out how many other people have also had sightings. I went to ebird.org, clicked explore data and then went to range and point maps. I put in House Wren and the date range from Nov to Nov. My results are at: http://ebird.org/ebird/map/houwre?neg=true&env.minX=&env.minY=&env.maxX=&env.maxY=&zh=false&gp=false&mr=on&bmo=11&emo=11&yr=2001-2011&byr=2001&eyr=2011

It's more common to have a Carolina Wren year-round. Carolina Wrens are larger, lighter brown, and longer tailed than House Wrens and have a white chest and eyebrow stripe. However, both birds are very susceptible to frigid weather with ice and snow. An otherwise healthy wren population can be hit hard by storms and survival might depend on feeders. So stock up on peanuts and suet. Thank you for writing, Sarah

Thank you for your reply. Sorry that I did not state that I am right here in Ingham county.   Stockbridge to be exact. I am sure it is a house wren. I would have figured this bird would be less territorial since nesting season is long gone. Though this pair did have two clutches. So I am surprised at the territorial vociferousness this bird still exhibits. Have enjoyed birding since my ornithology class over 35 years ago. Though not as much effort is put into it as in years past. Again, thank you for your help and input. Happy birding, Dave

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Do birds like dried mealworms?

Will the birds that like live mealy worms also be attracted to the dried variety?

Mealworms-Another treat to attract wild birds.
Feeding live mealworms (Tenebrio monitor) as a special treat has become a very popular way to attract a different variety of wild birds.

Mealworms are the larvae of a beetle with a high protein level. Some birds attracted to mealworms include: bluebirds, wrens, robins, jays, sparrows, cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, and more.

Mealworms can be offered from just about any bowl, and there are some feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited especially for feeding mealworms. The WBU Dinner Bell feeder (Pictured below) is one of our most popular feeders.

Most people “train” the birds to come at the same time, same place every day. Some people whistle or wear a bright hat to signal the birds you are about to feed. Our experience has shown that the early birds like to get the worms. Birds are hungry in the morning and it’s always nice to start the day with a good breakfast. You can also feed them in the evening before they roost.

Now to your question. It's hard to switch from live mealworms to dried. It's like switching from steak to beef jerky but beggars can't be choosers. Some people have found if you soak the dried worms in water or apple juice first the transition is easier. Both are available at our Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI. Thanks for the very good question!

Will a turkey drown if he looks up in the rain?

My grandpa is a farmer and he told me last year that a turkey is so stupid it will drown in the rain if he looks up. He said when it starts to rain they look up and water goes down their throats and they will drown. I told him we have wild turkeys that come by our house in Southampton and when it rains they just go under a bush. What about you? Have you heard of a turkey drowning in the rain? ~ Suffolk County, New York

The idea that turkeys drown in the rain is a new to me too. I looked it up on snopes.com and found that it seems to be a common urban legend but not true. Below is an excerpt from a good article by the Oregon State University Animal Sciences department that explains more:

Turkey may be top choice for the holiday feast, but the live birds don't have much of a reputation for smarts. The result, turkey has become synonymous with dumb.

Tom Savage, a poultry scientist in the Oregon State University Animal Sciences Department, is tired of all the ridicule turkeys have had to endure. The researcher has spent a lot of time with turkeys and feels strongly that the use of the turkey as a metaphor for stupidity is unfair and inaccurate.

"I've always viewed turkeys as smart animals with personality and character, and keen awareness of their surroundings," said Savage. "The dumb tag simply doesn't fit." Backing up his claim, Savage referred to the story about how turkeys are so stupid that they sometimes look up at clouds overhead while it's raining and keep staring skyward until they drown.

Although he has never heard of this actually happening, Savage noted that some turkeys do cock their heads back, stare up at the sky, and hold that position for up to a minute or more. But the behavior is a genetically-caused nervous disorder called tetanic torticollar spasms, he said. "It's an example of how a misunderstood animal behavior becomes identified as proof that the animal is extremely lacking in intelligence," Savage said.

He admits that some of the turkey's unique characteristics probably do encourage people to think turkeys are stupid. For example, domestic turkeys tend to look awkward, particularly when they are running. Savage counters that this is because they have been bred to be heavy, meaty birds, much larger than their sleeker wild cousins.

Savage responds that wild turkeys are very good fliers so it's not unusual that domesticated turkeys instinctively try to fly. But, of course they can't fly very well, or far, because they're too heavy, he said.

A realist, Savage acknowledges that improving the turkey's reputation for intelligence is an uphill battle. Just the same, he insists on doing what he can to debunk the myth of the dumb turkey. "I'm an advocate for turkeys," he said, "except on Thanksgiving."

Full Article by Author Bob Rost: "OSU animal scientist debunks dumb turkey myth." Oregon State University News, November 19, 2003. http://extension.oregonstate.edu/news/story.php?S_No=92&storyType=news

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Blue Jay Fun Facts

Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata
Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Crows and Jays (Corvidae)
  • Blue jays are bright blue birds with blue head crests, black wing markings and black necklaces.
  • They are a large songbird about 10-12 inches but weigh only about 3 ounces
  • Bright and bold, blue jays often travel in noisy family groups in late summer and fall. Their discovery of good feeding sight is announced to the whole community of birds. They also are very good at giving early warnings of hawk, cats, or other predators in the area.
  • Their name “Jay” has its origins from the Latin “gaius” meaning “gay or merry.” The species name cristata originates from the Latin word crista, meaning “crested.”
  • The longevity record for banded Blue Jays in the wild is over 17 years, the longest of any of the jays.
  • A single blue jay can cache or hide as many as 5,000 acorns up to 2.5 miles from their original source and retrieve them when needed. They can do this by carrying several nuts at one time in their esophagus.
  • Blue Jays will shuffle through the seeds until what they are looking for is found. They'll pick a seed up in their bill to test the weight. If it's not heavy enough they'll pick up another to compare the weight of the seeds. It's not worth their while to eat or cache seeds that are dried out or bad.
  • Blue Jays eat fruit, nuts, berries, seeds, and suet. However if you offered a buffet, their first choice would be peanuts in the shell.
  • Blue Jays have no blue pigments in their feathers. The blue color is due to refraction, not pigmentation. So a Blue Jay feather will not loose its color no matter how long it is bleached by the sun, because the color is not a pigment and therefore can't fade.
  • Studies show that the first year Blue Jays go further south to winter in a more plentiful habitat. While their crafty parents, perhaps knowing several survival tactics, stay the whole year.
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Will wild birds eat bacon grease?

If you have never fed Suet, you may have missed some great birds. Suet is one of the top three foods to feed wild birds. Birds have high metabolic rates. It is not unusual for birds to consume 1/4 to 1/3 their body weight worth of food a day! Offering suet cakes provides a high caloric energy source.

Common birds that eat suet are downy, hairy, red-bellied, and pileated woodpeckers. Chickadees, northern flickers, nuthatches, and starlings are also avid suet eaters. By adding Suet to your wild bird's menu, you will also attract wrens, warblers, thrushes, brown creepers, blue jays and even bluebirds if they are in your area.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology “bacon drippings are an animal fat and many birds love the taste. But bacon virtually always has detectable amounts of nitrosamines, carcinogenic compounds formed from some of the preservatives used in bacon. In particular, the very high cooking temperatures used to fry bacon are conducive to nitrosamine formation. So despite the fact that birds love it, bacon and bacon fat pose too much of a risk to the long-term health of birds to warrant using it.” 
 
Suet is raw beef or mutton fat found around the loins and kidneys. You can trim the fat from the meat you buy or just purchase straight suet to render for the birds.

If it’s cold enough for snow you don’t need to render the suet. You can just put the suet in a feeder or onion bag and let the birds peck at it. In the wild, birds will munch on the fat from dead animals like deer or road kill to get the high calories they require to survive cold weather. But they won’t eat it if it goes rancid.

That’s why most people buy the prepared suet cakes we sell at Wild Birds Unlimited. Our suet cakes are made with only the highest quality processed beef kidney fat. Special processes remove impurities that cause low melting points and spoilage problems. Or you can render suet yourself.

image via Wikipedia
How to Render Suet:

1. Chop the fat.
2. Melt the fat on the stove over a low heat
3. Strain melted suet through a fine cheesecloth.
4. Let cool and harden.
5. Repeat steps 2-3. If the fat is not rendered twice, the suet will not harden properly.
6. Pour into a bread pan
7. Slice and serve after suet is hard

You can add peanut butter, dried fruit, nuts or seeds to make a variety of suets.

Other Suet Recipes: http://www.sialis.org/suet.htm 
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