International Migratory Bird Day & Be a Tourist in Your Own Town

Location: Potter Park Zoo
June 2, 2012 - 9:00am - 6:00pm
Price: General Admission
Get a Be A Tourist passport, and admission is FREE!

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) is a celebration! It celebrates spring, and with it the return of millions of migratory birds to their breeding areas. Nearly 350 species of migratory birds travel between nesting habitats in North America and non-breeding grounds in South and Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Come on out to the Zoo to celebrate IMBD and Be A Tourist In Your Own Town. Potter Park Zoo in Lansing will have stations set up to teach you about mid-Michigan's migratory birds, and will have fun activities for the whole family!

To learn more about IMBD go to

20 Ways to Conserve Birds

In celebration of International Migratory Bird Day's 20th Anniversary, The following are 20 issues and simple solutions.  Imagine how many birds you can help finish their migratory journey, have a successful nesting season, raise young, survive the winter, if you just....

IMBD20thannivesarylogo1. Prevent Bird Collisions - Collisions are one of the most frequent causes of bird deaths. Put up window decals or window feeders to alert birds to glass.
2. Protect Birds From Pets - Unleashed dogs and cats can harm. Keeping your cat indoors and your dog leashed to save millions of birds each year.  
3. Clean Your Bird Feeders - Dirty feeders can spread disease. Disinfect and clean out old seed from feeders frequently and put fresh water in your bird bath.
4. Don’t Capture Wild Birds - Selling wild-caught birds as pets is illegal. Make certain that the breeder or pet store is reputable.
5. Use Cloth Grocery Bags and Reusable Bottles - Birds that mistakenly eat plastic trash can become ill or even die. Make sure to recycle plastic bags and bottles.
6. Recycle - Anything you recycle reduces litter and saves resources. Get creative!
7. Restore Natural Habitat - Birds need a place to live and many bird habitats are disappearing. Create a refuge in your yard.
8. Keep Your Distance - Birds need space for feeding, nesting, and other daily activities.
9. Leave Fledglings Where You Find Them - Baby birds need to learn how to live without your help. Stay away and let their parents teach them the ropes. You can help by keeping people and pets away. If you think a bird is truly an orphan, call a rehabilitator for instructions.
10. Slow Down When Driving - Cars kill millions of birds each year. Driving slowly gives you more time to respond if there is an animal in the road and gives the animal plenty of time to get out of the way.
11. Buy Bird Friendly Products - You can help preserve bird habitat in Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean by buying shade-grown coffee and chocolate. Shade coffee farms, which imitate native forests, have many more bird species than sun coffee farms.
12. Plant Native - Native plants provide food, nest sites, and cover for birds.
13. Teach Others About Birds - Talk to your friends about birds and start a club in your community to teach people about the challenges birds face. The more people know, the more they can do to help.
14. Get Outdoors and Enjoy Nature - You can appreciate the bird habitat near your home. Find a local park and go for a walk or just stroll around your neighborhood.
15. Take a Friend Bird Watching - Invite a buddy and see if you can spot more birds together.
16. Support Conservation - Join a bird club or other conservation organization to learn more and contribute to protecting birds. Volunteer with organizations that preserve habitat and help birds.
17. Be a Citizen Scientist - Many projects need helpers to gather data on birds and their habitat. Contact your local Nature Center, library or conservation organization to volunteer.
18. Reduce Energy Use - Riding your bike or walking reduces your carbon footprint and prevents pollution of bird habitats. Switching off the lights in your house not only shrinks your energy bill, but can also help prevent birds from colliding with your windows.
19. Avoid Chemicals - Birds may accidentally eat pesticide and herbicide pellets or prey that have been poisoned.  This can kill a bird or have toxic effects on their own health and that of their growing embryos, including deformation or suppressed immune systems.
20. Learn the Hunting Laws - Federal and local laws protect sensitive areas and manage the harvest of birds to ensure healthy populations. 

Learn More:

Wild Birds Unlimited has the Best Bird Food in Town!

Cardinals and Goldfinches love no-mess!
For seed eating birds in Michigan studies indicate that Black-Oil Sunflower, Fine and Medium Sunflower Chips, Peanuts, White Proso Millet, Safflower, and Nyjer® Thistle are among the most preferred seed types. At the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store, customers’ and birds’ preference by far is WBU No-Mess Blend.

No-Mess Benefits
Our unique No-Mess Blend features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds means no hulls on the ground and the seed won’t sprout either. I love it in my window feeder too!

Price of No-Mess
Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything. One 20# bag of No-Mess contains at least twice as much seed as a bag with shells.

Unique Wild Birds Unlimited Seed Blends
Besides the No-mess we have several other blends that are regionally formulated to attract the birds that live in our area. We do not include cheap filler grains like oats, wheat and milo that decrease the price per pound of a mix and aren't eaten by the birds in Michigan. Wild Birds Unlimited blends actually end up costing less to use while attracting more of the birds that you want to watch.

Seed Freshness
Seed comes in every Tuesday. If you come early enough you can watch me load tons of seed into the store. And if you want to buy bags of seed right off the pallets, you are very welcome.
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Dobsonfly: Large brown bark-colored bug with huge pinchers

The Dobsonfly is attracted to lights at night so it’s not unusual to see an adult in front of the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store from May until August. The first one I saw was at least a couple inches long with long scary looking pinchers coming out his mouth. Yesterday I took a photo of this female after I moved her from the front door to a nearby tree.

The dobsonfly spends two to three years of its life as a predaceous larva called hellgrammitein streams and rivers. When Hellgrammites get full-sized, they crawl from the water and find a safe spot to overwinter in a coccoon. The following summer, the adult Eastern Dobsonfly will emerge only to mate. They live just a few days and don’t eat.

The adult males have huge, ferocious looking jaws, which are used for nothing else but clasping the female during courtship. The adult females have much smaller looking mandibles. After the adult dobsonflies mate, the female lays eggs on a branch or on rocks near a stream. Between 100 and 1,000 eggs are laid in a mass with a white substance over it. The eggs resemble bird droppings, which may protect them from predators.

Hellgrammites, after they hatch, will either fall into the stream from an overhanging branch, or crawl to the water and the process starts all over again. There are over 220 species of dobsonflies found throughout the Americas and Asia, as well as South Africa. They are sensitive to contaminates in the water and a good indicator that the water is clean.

2. Insects of the North Woods by Jeffrey Hahn

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Big, noisy, brown birds in spring

What are those big, loud, gray or brown birds at the feeder? ~ East Lansing, MI
Adult and baby starling
A lot of baby birds fledge from the nest in camouflage colors of dark grays or browns. Then usually after a few weeks their adult plumage develops.

In the spring you’ll probably hear baby starlings before you see them. European Starling parents look a little confused by the large babies they’ve hatched. The babies follow parent starlings around with wide open mouths and loud demands for food.

Their babies almost look like a different species. They have fluffy dark gray feathers that can make them appear larger than their sleek black parents. I like to watch them bumble about the yard picking up things like sticks in the grass to test to see if its food before they spot a parent and run after them. The flight of the babies is pretty good but their landings sometimes need a little practice.
A juvenile European Starling (also known as Co...Image via Wikipedia
Juvenile European Starling

Soon they’ll start to grow a black and white spotted vest. Then eventually their whole body will be covered by iridescent black feathers with white tips before winter. The white tips give the bird a spotted look or the appearance of “stars” covering their body, hence the name starling.

Adult starling males and females mature to a length of about 8.5 inches and weigh about 3 ounces. Over the winter sunlight and weather dulls the speckled look and the bird becomes uniform dark brown or black. Both sexes also have reddish brown legs, and seasonal changes in bill color (yellow in the spring, black in the fall). Males sport a bluish spot at the base of their beaks, while the female displays a reddish pink speck.

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Patriotic Red, White and Bluebird

Male Eastern Bluebird Photo by William H. Majoros

Female Eastern Bluebird
A North American bird attracted readily to birdhouses in Michigan if they are in the right habitat which includes open fields and meadow edges is the Eastern Bluebird. This stunning bird has a bright rusty red chest, white belly and sky blue back that makes it look very patriotic.

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Black and white bird walking upside down on a tree trunk

White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis

Large nuthatch with blue-gray upperparts, black crown and nape, and white face and underparts. Tail is dark with white corners. Female is grayer.

The White-breasted Nuthatch is a common bird of deciduous forests and wooded urban areas. Known as the “upside down” bird, it is often observed creeping headfirst down tree trunks while searching cracks and crevices for insect food. The name Nuthatch probably results from the corruption of the word “nuthack” which refers to its habit of hacking away at a seed with its beak until it opens. At backyard feeders you may see them eating suet, nuts, or sunflower seeds.

Nuthatches are monogamous and defend a territory throughout the year. The female White-breasted Nuthatch rarely strays far from her mate and stays in constant vocal contact when they are more than a few yards apart playing the dominate role as “watchdog”, leaving the male more time to concentrate on hunting for food. They are feisty birds, and pairs generally defend a territory of 10 to 30 acres. They feast on seeds and insects found in trees, and many times will hide seeds from feeders in tree bark for a snack later in the day or breakfast the next morning.

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What’s the best bee-proof hummingbird feeder?

Hello, I've been having a problem with honeybees taking over my hummingbird feeders over the past week. Fortunately, none of my feeders are leaking. Do you have any tips you can share that would allow me to convince the bees to move on to the flowers in my garden, and to help my hummingbirds gain access to their feeders again?

The only sure defense against bees and wasps is to deny them any access to the nectar. Before I switched all my hummingbird feeders to the bee free Wild Birds Unlimited  saucer style feeders I occasionally had a bee problem too.

Originally all my hummingbird feeders were beautiful blown glass feeders. They looked wonderful in the garden but mainly fed the bees. After we opened the Wild Birds Unlimited stores I did a little more research.

I discovered bees don't like the smell of cherries. If you swab the ports with real almond or cherry extract (purchased at any grocery store baking isle), the bees will avoid the feeder. This really works but it wears off fast and you have to reapply the extract every day.

I gave up eventually and replaced all my hummingbird feeders with the problem free Wild Birds Unlimited saucer style feeders. I’ve talked about them before. They have a built in ant moat and bees don't like it because the nectar is down low. There are also optional bee guards you can attach to allow only hummers and no bugs access. Click HERE to read that article.

If you choose not to try a new feeder or swab the ports with real cherry extract, there are a couple other tricks to try.
  1. The Wild Birds Unlimited store in North Carolina recommends: “Use a super-concentrated sugar water mix (two parts water, one part sugar), and pour it into a shallow plate, preferably a big yellow one (bees seem to be attracted to that color). Put the plate on a ladder or stool near the hummingbird feeder the bees are using and they will probably move over to the plate. Each day, move the plate a foot or two further away from the hummingbird feeder and eventually the bees should stop using the feeder.”

  2. recommends: “If you choose not to try a new feeder and wasps persist, first try moving the feeder, even just a few feet; insects are not very smart, and will assume the food source is gone forever. They may never find it in its new location, while the hummers will barely notice that it was moved. If that doesn't work, take the feeder down for a day or until you stop seeing wasps looking for it. You'll see hummers looking for it, too, but they won't give up nearly as soon as the wasps. Also, reducing the sugar concentration to 1 part sugar in 5 parts water will make it less attractive to insects, but probably won't make the hummingbirds lose interest.”
I hope that helps.

Hi Sarah, Wow, thank you for that valuable information-and for the speedy reply. I put one of my feeders back up this morning, after 48 hours of being inside. Hopefully the bees will have forgotten all about them. If not, I'll be looking for cherry extract on my next trip to the grocery store.

My next feeder purchase will surely be your saucer feeder! Have a great weekend!

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Photo Share: Wood Thrush

The Wood Thrush is a shy, brown bird with a speckled breast that you are most likely to see running around your yard during spring and fall migration.
Photo by Steve Maslowski
Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology website AllAboutBirds.orgwrites, “The Wood Thrush is a consummate songster and it can sing “internal duets” with itself. In the final trilling phrase of its three-part song, it sings pairs of notes simultaneously, one in each branch of its y-shaped syrinx, or voicebox. The two parts harmonize with each other to produce a haunting, ventriloquial sound.
5-21 May

So far the spring season for us has been rather dismal for migrants. But then again I do live on Cape Cod, not a great place for spring bird migration, especially on the outer cape. I should know better but I always get pumped up only to be disappointed! If I want a place hopping with birds, I guess I should move to Veracruz, Mexico (eh, Manuel?). Enough whining, I actually feel very privileged to work with birds and they are all wonderful in their own right.

We had our first of two banding demonstrations on Saturday, May 5th and 15 brave souls endured the cool, overcast day. Our nets were only open for a few hours but we captured 29 birds of 11 species. It was a 3 thrush day including Hermit Thrush and we banded our first ever spring Veery, an ASY (after second year) bird, which was released before taking a photo but looks similar (except for the greater coverts)  to the first year bird below.

A real treat for some people in the group was the capture of an ASY Swainson's Thrush,

a life bird for some of them. This bird was just passing through on migration as it makes its way to north to breed.

We caught only 2 species of warblers this day one being a Nashville, an ASY male.

He had quite a bit of rusty feathers in his crown (partially hidden) and a distinct contrast between his gray head coloration and greenish back.

It was nice to have a Northern Mockingbird in the net. We haven't banded many since 2006. Pictured below is an AHY (after hatch year) male in breeding condition.

A female AHY Red-winged Blackbird (below) was found in our saltmarsh nets, not yet breeding.

On May 6th, Gray Catbirds and Nashville Warblers could be heard singing all over the island. We managed to capture 2 more Nashville's and our first Common Yellowthroat male (below), a return from 2010 when he was in his first year.

I like to try to take photos of each species as we capture them, but I tell you trying to get a good picture of a cardinal without getting assaulted, especially by an older male (also a return from 2010) is downright impossible sometimes. After I pried his beak off this finger

he gave me a good bite on my middle finger (is he trying to tell me something?)! See the telltale diamond shaped mark of a cardinal. Oh the things we banders go through for the study of birds... 

The only other new species for the day was a Tree Swallow, a breeding male.

Two more towhees arrived on the 7th, one a SY female,

with a molt limit in her tertials, replacing secondaries 8 and 9, but not s7.  

I could hear many Northern Parulas singing as well as Yellow Warblers that morning and we captured our first of year Yellow Warbler on the second net run.

On the 8th it was a treat to find an adult male Orchard Oriole. We've banded young birds before and I've had SY male Orchards but never an older adult in full breeding plumage.

Male Orchard Orioles delay their full adult plumage until their third year so a SY male would look like this:

While we normally band Field Sparrows in the fall, this AHY bird was another first ever for our spring season.

Prairie Warblers breed on Wing Island and they first arrived on the 5th but we didn't capture one until May 12th, a SY female.

We also banded our first of the year female Common Yellowthroat,

 a White-eyed Vireo,

as well as 2 Brown Thrashers.

May 14th was our best day so far with 57 birds handled of 18 species including recapturing the thrasher, but 33 were new birds like this gorgeous older adult male Magnolia Warbler,

two Northern Waterthrush,

a SY female Wilson's Warbler,

and a new species for our station, an ASY Wood Thrush! I used to hear and band Wood Thrushes often when I lived in central Massachusetts and really miss those birds. Hearing Veeries and Wood Thrushes as I walked through the woods was always so soothing. 

Other species for the day was a SY female Bluejay with a brood patch,

and Swamp Sparrows, which we don't band very often in the spring, but usually have many in the fall. I was able to capture both males and females for a good comparison on crown plumage. First an AHY male below with a good amount of rufous in the crown, 

and a female with a mix of brown, gray and black feathers.  

We've been seeing many of our residents in breeding condition now including this male Black-capped Chickadee on the 17th with a good example of an enlarged cloacal protuberance (CP for short). This area enlarges (notice the protuding area in the area of the lower abdomen) as the bird gets ready to mate and certainly aids us in establishing the sex of species where the plumage of males and females look alike.

Another Magnolia Warbler (we called them Maggies) was banded, this time a SY male.

I also banded a Song Sparrow that had pox evident on his lower mandible. 

No new species showed up again for the spring until the 21st when an ASY female American Robin, also with a brood patch, was banded.

I've been hearing Cedar Waxwings vocalizing since the 19th and finally captured one on the 21st.

I aged and sexed her as a SY female due to her lack of red waxy tips to her secondaries and small amount of yellow on her tail. 

The small amount of black feathering on her chin also points to female. 

We held another banding demonstration on the 19th but was too busy showing birds to people and neglected to take any pictures. They were fortunate to see a Ruby-throated Hummingbird up close and see how we band them. A cute story is of a young girl, perhaps 7, who came to the first banding demonstration and her mother told us she promptly went home and banded all her stuffed animals! They wanted to come back and see more birds of course, but her daughter was also intent on building a mist net (indoors)  in order to catch her 'birds'.

Many thanks to all who helped out at the banding station these past few weeks- Gretchen Putonen, Jo-Anna Ghadban, Jessica Rempel, Alice Wynn, Carolyn Kennedy, and Judy Keller. As usual, below is list of birds seen, heard, and captured (with numbers) throughout this 3 week period.

Total birds: 274                                        Total species: 76
Total banded species: 36                          Birds/100 net-hrs: 26

Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Northern Bobwhite
Black-bellied Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
American Woodcock
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Mourning Dove
Ruby-throated Hummingbird-2
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker-1
Hairy Woodpecker
Yellow-shafted Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Tree Swallow-1
Barn Swallow
Blue Jay-1
American Crow
Fish Crow
Black-capped Chickadee-23
Tufted Titmouse-6
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren-14
Eastern Bluebird
Swainson's Thrush-1
Hermit Thrush-1
Wood Thrush-1
American Robin-1
Gray Catbird-72
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher-4
Cedar Waxwing-1
European Starling-1
White-eyed Vireo-1
Nashville Warbler-3
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler-4
Magnolia Warbler-2
Black-throated Green Warbler
Pine Warbler-2
Prairie Warbler-5
Black-and-white Warbler-2
Northern Waterthrush-2
Common Yellowthroat-53
Wilson's Warbler-1
Northern Cardinal-5
Eastern Towhee-4
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow-1
Song Sparrow-19
Swamp Sparrow-5
White-throated Sparrow-5
Red-winged Blackbird-2
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird-1
Orchard Oriole-1
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch-25
House Sparrow