How to keep a woodpecker off wood siding

Woodpeckers can cause a great deal of property damage and sleepless mornings. In one study, the birds stopped drumming 50 percent of the time within two weeks or so whether the homeowners did anything or not. My personal recommendation is to try to break the woodpeckers drumming before it becomes a habit. Hopefully I can suggest a solution that will work with your woodpecker.

Why Woodpeckers Peck Your Home
Woodpeckers damage structures for basically three reasons:

1. Searching for insects or hiding food (Some people find feeding suet distracts a woodpecker from their house.)
2. Creating cavities for nesting and shelter (Sometimes putting a woodpecker house helps deter damage.)
3. Drumming (Drumming is a means of communication between woodpeckers. Like some birds sing, woodpeckers drum. There are different drumming calls that they may use: mating; alarm; or territorial. This can be heard over long distances, if they use a surface with adequate acoustic properties.)

Laws Woodpeckers are a federally protected bird under the North American Migratory Bird Act. So you can't use lethal control on woodpeckers without contacting your Federal Wildlife Officer.

Strategies to Control Woodpecker Damage
Unfortunately, there is no easy guaranteed solution. So with that being said, try the following strategies:

1. Check for insects. Woodpeckers feed on insects in wood.
2. Cover all damage as soon as possible. Place aluminum flashing over the areas where the woodpecker is pecking. The flashing will stop the pecking at that spot because: a) it is metal, b) it changes the sound, and c) woodpeckers don't like shiny objects. Just make sure that the woodpecker is not living in your home.
3. Scare the woodpecker away using one or more of the following:
  • Mylar tape: Wild Birds Unlimited has some Mylar tape (1-inch-wide strips) flutter ribbon you can hang in the area. Woodpeckers don't like shiny objects. If you don't have Mylar, hang tinfoil, aluminum pie plates, or old CDs or DVDs.
  • Mylar balloons: The dollar stores usually have shiny Mylar balloons you can hang in the area.
  • Garden hose: One animal damage controller recommends placing a garden hose with a sprinkler set at an angle to reach where the bird is drumming. The woodpeckers leave after a few squirts because they don't like hanging on to wet structures.
  • Attack spider: This is a relatively new (2003) technique. A large spider drops down at the first knock to scare woodpeckers through sight and motion. These can be found at party stores now. It also scares little trick or treaters. Bonus!
  • Owl effigies: These are only effective if you are willing to move them around on a daily basis. I don’t really recommend these but we usually carry them at Wild Birds Unlimited.
  • Exclusion techniques: If woodpeckers are damaging your siding under an eave, hang some netting from the eave line down to the ground. If the net is extended away from the house wall, the woodpecker can't get close enough to damage the wood.
Also, as soon as you notice problems, take action quickly before the woodpecker decides your home is a nice place to live.

If the attack is on windows and not just an accidental window strike, the likely behavior is a reaction to the bird seeing an intruder on its territory. A simple solution to this problem is to cover the window with screens or rub the window with a bar of soap to decrease the reflection. The Mylar tape or balloons also work to keep the birds away from your windows.

Source: MSU Extension-

There are eight woodpeckers found in Michigan.

1. Downy Woodpecker - At about 6 inches, it’s smallest woodpecker in North America and the most frequent visitor to backyard feeders year-round. They have a white belly and back and their black wings have white bars. The males have a red patch on the back of the head. It’s called downy because of the soft feathers on its back.
2. Red-headed Woodpecker – These woodpeckers have an unmistakable bright red head, black wings and white belly. They spend the summers in all of Michigan but aren’t as common at birdfeeders.
3. Red-bellied Woodpecker - They are common throughout most of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula year-round. 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.
4. Hairy Woodpecker – At about 9 inches, these medium woodpeckers look like their smaller downy woodpecker cousins. They aren’t as common at suburban birdfeeders.
5. Pileated Woodpecker – Male and female Pileated Woodpeckers both have a flaming red crest but the males have a red “moustache”. There is no real consensus on whether this bird’s name is pronounced “pie-lee-ated” or “pill-ee-ated”.
6. Northern Flicker – Unlike most woodpeckers, this species spends much of its time on the ground, feeding mostly on ants. Both the male and females have a red chevron on the back of their heads, black bibs, speckled chest, and a brown, barred back and wings. The males have a black “mustache”.
7. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sapsuckers don’t actually suck sap- they lap it up with a tongue that resembles a paintbrush. According to, “The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker in eastern North America that is completely migratory. Although a few individuals remain throughout much of the winter in the southern part of the breeding range, most head farther south, going as far south as Panama. Females tend to migrate farther south than do males.”
8. Black-backed Woodpecker – I’ve never seen this bird. It is a year-round resident of northern Michigan and the U.P. According to Ted Black in his Birds of Michigan field guide, the blacked-backed are reclusive birds that are most active in recently burned forest patches where wood-boring beetles thrive under charred bark.

Bad News / Good News on the upcoming bird watching season

Red-breasted Nuthatch
The bad news is that Canada’s natural seed crops were horrible this year and lots of birds that usually like to winter further north are going to have venture south to Michigan to find food. The good news is that Canada’s natural seed crops were horrible this year and lots of birds that usually like to winter further north are going to have venture south to Michigan to find food. So we are going to have a few “new” birds at our feeders this winter.

Every year ornithologist Ron Pittaway analyzes the cone and berry crops of the boreal forest to predict if certain birds will irrupt into the northern U.S. or remain further north. A bird irruption is an irregular migration of a large number of birds to areas where they aren’t found typically, motivated usually by the search for food. This year Ron Pittaway's 2012-2013 Winter Finch Forecast predicts several birds may irrupt into Michigan.
Pine Siskin

I was surprised when a customer told me that she saw a red-breasted nuthatch in early September. Then I also saw several sitting casually by me as I refilled my feeders. And when I listened, I heard all the laughing in the air. Their song is a nasal, happy, laughing call similar to woodpeckers. When these birds visit Michigan, they usually hook up with other local nuthatches, woodpeckers, and chickadees to forage for food.

A few Red-breasted Nuthatches at our mid-Michigan feeders during the winter is common but to see such a widespread irruption beginning mid-summer indicated a cone crop failure in the Northeast. Feeders to attract Red-breasted Nuthatches to your yard should hold seeds like sunflower, peanuts or suet.

Common Redpoll
A few more birds the report expects us to see this fall and winter:
- Pine Siskins currently in the Northeast should move south this fall and winter because cone crops are poor.
- Common Redpolls because the white birch seed crop is poor to fair across the north.
- Purple Finches because both coniferous and deciduous hardwood seed crops are very low this year in the Northeast.
- Pine Grosbeaks because the mountain ash berry crop are hard with low moisture content because of the drought in the boreal forest.
- Bohemian Waxwings because the mountain ash berry crop in the boreal forest was affected by drought.
- Evening Grosbeaks because coniferous and hardwood tree seed supplies are low.

For the full 2012-2013 Winter Finch Forecast go to:

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Eastern Rosella

Keeping and Breeding the Eastern Rosella
by Shane Fairlie

Due to its striking colour, pleasant whistle and general hardiness, the Eastern Rosella, (Platycercus eximius) has always been a popular aviary bird, having first been bred in Spain in 1863.


For people like me who have trouble imagining what a bird looks like from a written description, the best advice to give on Eastern Rosellas is to look at any Rosella foods label and imagine their emblem 32 cms long. The bird pictured on their labels shows the colouration of an adult male Eastern Rosella, giving a far better likeness of the bird than I could describe. Females and immatures are a duller version of the male with the females also having a considerably smaller head and narrower bill.

A recent study by Professor Walter Boles of the Australian Museum's Ornithology Department showed that, on average, the broadness of bills in Eastern Rosellas was 12.9 mm in males and 10.5 mm in females, This is an easily recognisable difference when sexing these birds.

Sexing of immature birds is relatively easy using the comparison of both head and bill size and also the fact that the young cock bird's cheek patches are usually larger and cleaner. If it is possible to observe the birds in the hand then a few brown feathers directly behind the eye usually denotes a female.

The normal opinion is that full adult plumage is obtained after their first full moult at about 12 months of age, however, my view is that it really takes two years to obtain full colour plumage, although the last year probably only accounts for approximately 10 percent of improved colour.


Apart from the nominate form, there are two recognised subspecies of the Eastern Rosella - the Golden Mantle (Platycercus eximius cecilae) and the Tasmanian race (Platycercus eximius diemenesis).

The Golden Mantle differs from the nominate race by having the feathers of the mantle, back and wings edged with a rich golden yellow. The green on the rump and vent also takes on a bluer hue.

The Tasmanian race is an overall bigger and brighter bird with larger cleaner cheek patches. The overall length of this bird is about 34 cms.


The nominate race inhabits a wide ranging area of the East Coast, varying from north-eastern New South Wales through to Victoria and South Australia, and is fairly common throughout its range.

The Golden Mantle subspecies takes over from the nominate form in its north-eastern range and extends into south-eastern Queensland.

The Tasmanian race, as its name suggests, inhabits an area that covers a wide range of Tasmania and, as with all species of Eastern Rosellas, it shows a preference for more open lightly timbered country as opposed to denser forest growth.

There is also a population of this bird established on both islands of New Zealand, having been introduced from captive stock many years ago. There is varying opinion on the origins of the Eastern Rosellas that inhabit parts of the Mt. Lofty Ranges and suburban areas of Adelaide, with the two streams of thought being that the birds are native to the area and the other view being that the birds originated from released stock earlier this century. Whichever is true, the fact remains that these birds are indeed well established and seemingly improving in numbers every season.

In fact, Eastern Rosellas are now regular visitors to many Adelaide suburban gardens and also to many inner city areas where they can regularly be seen feeding in Adelaide's parks in the company of both the Red-rumped Parrot (Psephotus haematonotus) and the Adelaide Rosella (Platycercus adelaidae).


I have read of Lutino, Par-yellow, White-winged, Pastel and Cinnamon Eastern Rosellas being bred, but I have neither seen these birds or pictures of them. Two mutations of this bird that I have seen in the flesh (or feather) is the Black or Melanistic mutation and also the Red mutation.

The Black Eastern, as its name suggests, is a predominantly black bird, but still carries white cheek patches and cock birds retain a red chest, which makes this recessive mutation easy to sex.

These birds are slowly being established in New South Wales aviaries and are also now being kept by South Australian aviculturists. My personal view is that apart from novelty value this mutation does absolutely nothing for me in comparison to a richly coloured normal bird.

The red mutation is an altogether different bird with its full body being a rich blood red, but retaining its snowy white cheek patches with its wings being almost a normal colouring apart from some red edging on its feathers. These birds are well established in the Harkaway aviaries of Syd and Jack Smith near Melbourne and as a matter of interest their foundation stock were five wild trapped (legally) red birds caught locally.

These birds have seemingly been around in the wild for some time as Gould first listed these birds as a new species in 1837 and named it the Fiery Parakeet (Platycercus ignatus) and had a skin that was taken from the Moreton Bay area of Queensland. Another skin taken from near Temora in New South Wales is held by the Western Australian Museum.

The longevity of this mutation in the wild (albeit in small numbers) puts a different light on the normal argument of mutations not surviving in the wild.

These birds are absolutely striking in an aviary, but as my good friend P.E. Adelaidae stated - 'If you want a red rosella why not save yourselves thousands of dollars and buy a pair of Crimson or Western Rosellas'. That's a viewpoint that I personally find hard to argue against.


The Eastern Rosella is relatively easy to cater for and has been known to live and breed in quite small aviaries, however my preference is for larger aviaries. Visitors to my place invariably inform me that my aviaries are too big for the birds housed in them, but I think my results speak for themselves. What may look to be too big an aviary outside of the breeding season, with only two adult birds sitting in it, takes on a completely different view in breeding season when we have as many as 10 to 12 young birds in with their parents. Due to the large aviary size, these birds can be left together for many months without any mishap or jealousy shown by the parent cock bird to his offspring.

Two seasons ago we had four breeding pairs of Easterns and their aviary sizes were: one aviary 6.5 metres x 1.7 metres; two aviaries 5.5 metres x 1.3 metres and one aviary 4.3 metres x 1.1 metres, with all aviaries being 2.1 metres high.

Our experience was that the birds in the larger aviaries were much less flighty and overall much more settled than would otherwise be the case. Another interesting thing we have noticed is that with the extra width we provide, our birds tend to fly past at hip height to the side of us rather than attempt to fly over our heads. My opinion now is that aviary width is just as important as height in making our birds feel secure when we enter their aviary (unless of course the aviary provided is in the range of 2.8 metres plus high).

All our shelters are approximately one third of the overall size of the aviary, are draught free and have a liberal layer (five centimetres) of shell grit on the floor. All our flights are bare earth and are vermin proofed by the usual method of burying a kick plate 30 cms under the ground and extending it to 45 cms above the ground. This kick plate extends the full perimeter of all the aviaries and as well as keeping mice out it also offers protection from cats during extremely hot weather, when our birds frequently sit on the cool shady earth of the flights rather than on one of the perches provided.

Late autumn and early winter is our 'spring cleaning' time and all our aviaries are emptied of birds and furnishings, disinfected and painted and repaired if necessary, and fresh shell grit and new perches put back in, our birds are then wormed and put back in their newly cleaned home.

One aviary furnishing that we have found invaluable is the tree branch of a sturdy nature that has numerous horizontal branches on which we spike their daily fruit rations. We have found that this not only keeps their fruit off the ground but also keeps our birds active by having to climb and hang onto a branch to enjoy their fruit. These 'fruit branches' are placed halfway along the flights, and, although they are open to the elements, all the fruit is generally eaten before sun, wind or rain has a chance to spoil it.


As with most aviary birds (excluding lorikeets) hard seed forms the basis of our Easterns' diet, and while a small parrot mix would be suitable our preference is to feed individual bowls of Sunflower, Japanese and White Millet, Canary Seed and Hulled Oats. By doing this we have noticed quite a varied preference of seeds between different pairs at different times of the year.

Our birds hard seed diet is supplemented by apples, oranges, silverbeet, broccoli, sweetcorn, pomegranate, sprouted seed, seeding grasses, tree branches (both gum and Cotoneaster) and insect cake. All these items are fed when available (when either cheap or free) but we purposely try to change our feeding patterns from an austerity diet in winter to a more varied and available diet during spring and summer. By doing this we attempt to copy Mother Nature and put our birds in a 'breeding mode' by making readily available different foods suitable for feeding their young. In the past we have fed soaked seed but we have discontinued this because we saw no benefit for the amount of time it took. This was replaced by sprouted seed, which is bought loose at the local supermarket quite cheaply.


The breeding season for Eastern Rosellas commences in August and can go through to January. We pack our logs with a dampened mixture of peat moss and chainsaw shavings and hang them in the shelters in mid to late July. Eastern Rosellas are easily catered for with their nesting requirements, taking to a medium or large parrot box just as readily as a log.

As soon as a nesting receptacle is put in the aviary the cock bird usually commences to display to the female as part of his normal courtship. The display of the Eastern Rosella is unmistakable, with much tail wagging and drooping of wings, accompanied by a soft chattering that seems to all combine to put the hen into a nervous state. Following this the cock bird usually feeds the hen and then copulation normally takes place. In some devoted pairs the cock bird feeds his hen all year round, but this is an exception rather than the rule.

Eastern Rosellas can be double-brooded and we have one pair that do this regularly, in fact they are what I would call the perfect pair of birds, in that they have never had a sick day, are double-brooded, always have 100% fertility and have never failed to raise a chick, which indeed makes them a very rare pair of birds.

Having owned this particular pair of birds for quite a few years it has given us a good chance to breed from their progeny (not together) and compare the results. It is interesting to note that none of their offspring have been double-brooded. By contrast they usually go to nest at what I would consider to be a relatively late time for Easterns (late October - November). These young birds have however all continued to show their parents pleasing traits of good fertility and ability to raise their young without mishap.

First year birds mated to each other have had fertility ranging from one egg in a clutch of five, to three fertile from a clutch of four. All these birds achieved 100% fertility in their second year.

We initially used to supply a second log to our double-brooded pair but, although it was thoroughly inspected, it was always passed over in favour of renesting in their old log once their first clutch had completely vacated it.

All our cock birds spend considerable amounts of time in the logs with their hens, both during incubation and while the young are in residence, although they have never spent nights in the logs.

Incubation takes approximately 21 days and even though I'm the worlds worst 'sticky beak' I don't recommend inspection of nesting logs. I have tried nest inspection in the past and I have always found it impossible to flush the hen off the nest. Hens invariably dive into the nest at the first sight of people, and when viewing the nest with the hen present, she will back down onto her eggs or chicks and spread her wings out and open her beak in readiness to defend her young. This behaviour makes proper viewing impossible and also puts at risk any eggs or young due to accidental breakage or injury.

The young normally start to leave the log at about four weeks of age and I do not hesitate to put them back in the log if I think they have left too early or if inclement weather is forecast. This minor interference has always been accepted by all our parent birds.

Previous articles on this bird have stated that the cock bird commences to feed the chicks at about twelve days of age but this theory was blown out of the water by the video shown at our recent Minchin Memorial Meeting. This video showed a cock bird feeding a newly hatched chick. When the chicks fledge, their flight shows all the clumsiness of a new bird, but closer observation shows that their main problem is in stopping rather than in judging distances. This can be born out by the fact that our young birds always land feet first when they crash into the wire rather than head first as is usually the case, also in all the Easterns we have bred not one bird has scalped itself. This is another area in which a larger aviary has an advantage, with younger birds being far less panicky in a bigger area.

Although the young are usually independent at about three weeks out of the nest, we leave all our young in with their parents for many months after that with virtually no problems at all.

Barring mishaps, a well housed and cared for pair of Eastern Rosellas should still be a viable breeding proposition well into their late teens.


Eastern hens tend to be very shy if their log is left in the aviary all year round, diving into their log as soon as they hear anyone approach their aviary. For this reason, we either take their log out or cover over the entrance hole during the non-breeding season.

Eastern Rosellas enjoy nothing like a good bath and, therefore, we provide a large water dish, although this is normally replaced with a smaller one during breeding season to prevent any mishaps with new chicks. Despite their joy at having an early morning bath it is very rare to catch these birds in this vulnerable position, as they are soon out of the water at the slightest hint of anything out of the ordinary.

Their alertness is the main reason that we have purposely housed our Easterns in corner aviaries, wherever possible, as they act as an early warning system to alert our other birds to the advances of a prowling cat or the like.

Their distress call is invariably heard before the danger is actually seen, thereby putting our birds on alert without the accompanying panic.


Whilst it could never be said that Eastern Rosellas have the trusting and confiding nature of a Bourke's Parrot or the comical antics of a Princess Parrot or Blue Bonnet, they nevertheless have much to recommend them as an aviary occupant.

They are extremely hardy, and relatively easy to cater for and would make an ideal addition to anyone's collection, be they an experienced aviculturist or a beginner just starting off in birds, as I was when these beautiful birds came into my life.

One thing that I could not stress highly enough is that people select good quality unrelated stock when selecting their birds. Also, we must breed these birds true to type and not intermix subspecies with the nominate race as is so often the case. Every bird breeder has a duty both to himself and his hobby to breed pure species and subspecies whenever it is possible if we are to maintain the integrity we seek.

Although total numbers of these birds in aviculture is relatively high, there are quite a few inferior birds amongst them, as well as numerous wild-trapped birds that are really not a viable breeding proposition.

As with the Princess Parrot, it is high time Eastern Rosella breeders culled their poor quality birds and concentrated on breeding a good standard of bird, rather than just trying to achieve a maximum head count.

Hopefully, the days of hearing people say “She doesn't look real good, but she breeds too well to get rid of” are on the way out, especially when used in reference to such a widely kept bird as the Eastern Rosella.

Photo Share: Black-capped Chickadee

The Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) is a small, North American songbird that is notable for its capacity to lower its body temperature during cold winter nights, its good spatial memory to relocate the caches where it stores food, and its boldness near humans.

If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to and I'll put it on the next Friday Photo post. 

Yellow-bibbed Lories

Yellow-bibbed Lory

Before the early 1990s, the yellow-bibbed lory (Lorius chlorocercus) was nearly unknown in U.S. aviculture and, even then, only a handful of the birds were imported from the Solomon Islands. In 1998, a captive breeding consortium, called the Solomon Island Parrot Consortium (SIPC), was formed and received permission from the government of the Solomon Islands and permits from USFWS to import 30 pairs of each of the six species of lories found in the Solomon Islands.

These 60 yellow-bibbed lories were the first species imported under this permit. From these original 60 birds, there are now enough birds that they are beginning to show up as pets from time to time. They were bred for the first time in United States in 1989, in the Seattle aviaries of Jan van Oosteen, who is considered the force behind obtaining this group of 30 pairs.

Yellow-bibbed lories, like the rest of the genus Lorius, are large (11 inches), stout birds with fairly long, wide tails. All of the Lorius species have green wings and mostly red body feathers and all have black-capped lories (except for the chattering lories and yellow-backed lories). As with nearly all lories, two eggs are laid in each clutch and incubation is about 26 days. Yellow-bibbed lory chicks hatch covered in dense white down and they have brown beaks.

As pets, whether here or in their native land, they are excellent, as are the others of their genus, which include the chattering and yellow-backed chattering lories and all of the black-capped lories, purple-bellied, white-naped and the purple-naped lories. The chattering and black-capped lories are the only species, besides the yellow-bibbed lory, that are likely to be encountered as pets. The others are either non-existent in the United States, or are far too rare and are, therefore, kept as breeders.

Diet Differences For Yellow-Bibbed Lories
Many lory species do quite well on a diet of nectar and some fruit, but this is not so with the yellow-bibbed lory. They should be fed about 25-percent solid food along with their nectar. By solid food, I refer to a variety of fruit (no citrus) and vegetables, maybe a bit of pound cake, a carrot or perhaps some cooked brown rice. Even a few sunflower seeds wouldn't hurt. 

They also must be provided with a supply of fresh water, even if the nectar takes care of their liquid intake. They love to bathe, but prefer rubbing around in wet foliage.

Yellow-Bibbed Lories Are Talented Talker
As with all of the Lorius, yellow-bibbed lories are loud, gregarious birds with a great ability to mimic all sorts of sounds, including the human voice. I believe that they the least vocal of the genus, though it can't be said that they are quiet. They are among the best talkers of all of the lories. 

They are also extremely intelligent birds, perhaps the smartest of the lories, and, as such, they need plenty of mental stimulation, lots of toys of various types, time out of the cage with the owner or a companion bird. Warning! If you're considering a companion bird, be aware that the larger lory species are very quick to injure or even kill another bird, so much caution should be exercised should you wish to attempt this. Certainly it can be done, but do it with care. It's actually quite easy to introduce two birds as youngsters. Older adult birds might have the aggressive problems.

Personal Experience With Yellow-Bibbed Lories
As one of the original members of the Solomon Island Parrot Consortium, I was also able to obtain birds from our original importation in 1998. The birds were supposed to arrive already sexed in the field by an Australian veterinarian, but we took no chances and each of the participants had their birds re-sexed — good thing, as about 25 percent were wrong. We traded them around amongst ourselves until all were satisfied that all was fair and then went about setting them up for breeding. 

I had already been successful in breeding chattering lories and black-capped lories, so I set the yellow-bibbed lory up in the same type of breeding cages. These were suspended cages or California Breeders, as they are sometimes called. They were 3-feet square by 6-feet long, about 3-feet above the ground on metal supports. Half of the roof was covered, and the other half open to the elements, which in San Diego County are never too harsh. The nestbox provided was 12-inches square and 24-inches deep with a 3-inch diameter entrance hole. The boxes were hung outside of the cage, in the safety aisle. 

I found the yellow-bibbed lory easier to breed than either the chattering or the black-capped lory and just as easy to hand-rear. I left many with the parents as well, and they did a fine job of raising the young. 

The diet was, as mentioned earlier, nectar and a variety of other foods. All of my birds stayed within the SIPC when I downsized my aviary several years ago. The SIPC is no longer in existence (although there is talk of trying to revive it), so any existing yellow-bibbed lories are no longer tied to the consortium and are free to be sold as pets or to other breeders. I don't know of any in zoos in the United States, but there very well might be some in off-exhibit breeding set-ups.

If you are lucky enough to come across one of these special lories for a pet, remember to offer the largest cage you have room for or can afford, lots of different toys (they need not be expensive, as a lory will make a toy from most anything), and give plenty of your time to keep it happy. You'll both be rewarded. 

Chickadees at Night

What’s the best-selling hardcover book at Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing this year? Surprise. It’s Chickadees At Night, a picture book for all ages by Michigan resident Bill O. Smith.

Bill O. Smith first fell in love with chickadees when he heard them singing on a cold winter morning. The idea of a book began with a simple question. Where do chickadees go at night? And then suddenly the words began to arrive: "With chickadee caps on chickadee heads/do they sleep eight across on chickadee beds?"

what do chickadees wear for pajamas?
This book is illustratedbeautifully with paintings by Charles Murphy, and is sure to be a family heirloom! Each time you read it you'll see something new. This fun and thoughtful book takes you on an adventure. It sparks your imagination about what chickadees do before they go to bed and what they do at night. 

Chickadees At Night is meant for storytelling. The reader has as much fun as the listener. And I especially enjoy the last page which contains “Chickadee Nuggets,” a list of fun facts that are nice to know and share with others like "chickadees actually use at least fifteen calls to talk to each other about such concerns as danger, territory, and food supply. 

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Eclectus Parrot


The Eclectus parrot has grown in its popularity as a companion parrot. Many parrot owners are drawn to them due to their astounding colors and their ability to talk. Many Eclectus owners claim that their Eclectus speaking ability is equal to that of an African Greys.

Pet Quality

If an Eclectus parrot is well socialized, they will go to anyone and make great family pets. There have been Eclectus Parrots placed in homes of families with children and each family member is able to have their own special bond with the bird. They are very affectionate and intelligent parrots, with nice mellow personalities. Their laid back personality is sometimes mis-construed as "boring" when the Eclectus is young and first brought home. That certainly does change as their "little" personalities develop as they mature. Females are violet-blue and red, the males green with red and turquoise under the wings.


The Eclectus Parrot require a dietrich with fresh fruits and vegetables. This need is attributed to the fact that the Eclectus has a longer intestinal tract than your "average parrot". It has also been proven that the fresh food you provide that is high in vitamin A is much more important than feeding them pellets. For that reason Eclectus need plenty of sweet potatoes, dark green leafy vegetables and almonds in their diet. As a matter of fact, their beaks are not designed for cracking nuts, they are designed to peel fruit. You should always avoid feeding an Eclectus colored pellets.

Noise Level

A very well behaved Eclectus, prefers talking to squawking, in fact many of them are absolutely excellent talkers, learning whole sentences and speaking in different voices at a fairly young age. It is highly recommended that while you are away from your home that you provide your Eclectus with the company of the television or radio.  If their area is too quiet, they will learn to make their own noise.  You need to be sure to equip them with the ability to learn acceptable vocalization.

Housing Requirements

The general rule is that any time a parrot is added to your home that you purchase the biggest cage you can afford and has the appropriate bar spacing. With the Eclectus parrot a large cage I important but because they are not hugely destructive, the strength of the bars is typically not an issue. Despite the fact that the Eclectus is not a strong chewer, they do enjoy pulling apart their toys. It is recommended to provide them with an array of soft wood and plenty of other toys that they can "fiddle" with including bells, swings and toys they can hang from.
When choosing between purchasing a play top ore a dome top cage it is strongly recommended to go with the dome top cape. The dome top cage provides much more room inside the cage that that of the play top. The dome top provides more room to "spread their wings" and have fun while they are in their cage for "cage time". A play top on the cage is not a good idea due to the fact that the Eclectus is predisposed to become quite territorial and should not be allowed to spend long periods of time playing on their cages. When it comes to maintaining your birds pet potential we recommend providing a separate play stand that is away from the cage to enhance their out of cage experience. We personally have play stands located in most areas of our home which enables us to keep a bird or two with us as we go throughout our daily routines. The Eclectus is easily trained to "stay where you put them" and will quite happy hanging out on a play stand that is equipped with lots of stuff for them to do.

Life Span

The life span of an Eclectus parrot used to be the young age of 6 years old. The advances that have been made through out the past several year ha help us to learn the importance of their diet needs. If you are feeding your Eclectus parrot the proper diet, they do have the potential to live as long as an African Grey.

Eclectic Facts

Eclectus Parrots live from 40 to 50 years. They are about 14" long.
Female parrots have red and purple feathers with black beaks
Males are green with orange beaks.
Usually the female of the species is more aggressive than males.
The female may become quite moody during breeding season after they have mature at about 4 years of age.
Eclectus Parrots come from Australia, New Guinea and the South Pacific.
Minimum cage size is 32"W x 32"L x 48"H
Eclectus Parrots are sensitive to smoke and strong odors.
Provide perches of different widths, diameters and textures to help keep a Eclectus Parrot's feet healthy.

Debunking 10 bird myths as winter approaches

1. Little birds hitch rides on bigger birds to journey southNo birds ride on the backs of other birds to go south. Even the littlest birds in Michigan, the ruby-throated hummingbirds, migrate thousands of miles south each fall to reach their winter homes in Mexico and Central America under their own power. They fly about 23 miles a day by themselves, not in flocks or on the backs of geese.  
2. All birds fly south in the winter - In general, it's estimated that of the over 200 species of birds nesting in Michigan, about 90 percent migrate to some extent. Whether it’s from the U.P. to mid-Michigan or from our state to Mexico or Central America depends on the bird. Some permanent or non-migrating backyard birds are Downy Woodpeckers, Black-Capped Chickadees, White Breasted Nuthatches, or House Sparrows.  
3. Don’t start feeding birds until it snows - Birds have a varied diet and the best way to help them develop brighter plumage is to create a habitat with lots food high in fat in protein in the fall. Young birds like chickadees and titmice find new territories to hook up with other young birds at the end of summer and join local adults to form winter flocks. If you are feeding a good birdseed blend now, you will attract lots of birds that will remain in the same general area for the rest of their adult lives.  
4. I can use last year’s seed this year - In warm weather or if you store your seed inside buy no more than 2-3 weeks supply of seed at a time. And never pour old seed on top on new. During the winter, foods will generally be fine for at least 3 months if stored properly in a cool, dry place. At Wild Birds Unlimited, we guarantee our bird food will be fresh and a healthy choice for our local birds.  
5. Birds will eat any seed - Food is essential to provide birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition to endure the elements. Our Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI are dedicated to offering fresh, top-quality seed that is also sifted to take out all the sticks and field debris. Our no-waste bird seed blends are made from 100% edible seed and have been exclusively formulated for the feeding preferences of our local birds. No cereal fillers—just fresh, high-quality seed your birds will love. We also carry a wide variety of other bird foods—suet and no-melt doughs, seed cylinders, mealwormsand more. We do not include cheap filler grains like oats, wheat and milo that decrease the price per pound of a mix but aren't eaten by the birds in Michigan.  
6. The birds will starve if stop feeding them - Some people believe that once you start bird feeding, it should be continued. Or that feeding your birds in the summer will make them too lazy, too dependent or keep them from migrating at the appropriate time. All of these old myths have been dispelled by modern research and observation. Bird feeding is a fun and educational hobby. Birds appreciate the food but never become dependent on your feeder unless there is a severe storm that prevents them from foraging.  
7. Birds’ feet will stick to metal perches - Unlike humans, birds don’t have sweat glands in their skin to produce any moisture to freeze to metal in the winter. Heat and moisture are accumulated in sacs, transferred to the lungs and eliminated through the mouth.  
8. Heated bird baths are like hot tubs for birds - If your area freezes like mid-Michigan, you can provide a heated birdbath for your birds. This isn’t like a hot tub. The bath just remains free of ice and open to the birds. Most people understand the importance of water for drinking but many do not realize just how important it is in bathing for birds. Because feathers are critical for flight and insulation, birds keep them well-maintained. A good part of a bird's day is spent just cleaning and grooming its feathers by bathing, scratching, and preening.  
9. Bird houses are only used in the spring - At night or during bad weather birds often find shelter in tree cavities, birdhouses, or under the eaves of houses. Bird houses left up all winter also might attract young birds scouting out future nesting sites.  
10. Hawks in the yard will kill all my birds- Ultimately, the only thing you can do when a hawk comes to dinner is wait it out. Most hawks that settle in at feeders do so for two or three weeks and then they are off again to different territory. The presence of hawks at your feeders should in no way cause you to discontinue feeding birds. Just take a few simple steps to protect them and enjoy a season of bird feeding. 

Woodpecker feeding on the ground

We live in Chesaning, Michigan and we feed a whole variety of beautiful birds all year long. I can identify most of them but yesterday a new one showed up. I’ve seen it pecking on the tree but it seems to like to feed on the ground like a robin. It’s a gray and black bird with red on its head.

The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is a medium-sized woodpecker native to most of North America. Unlike most woodpeckers, the flicker spends a lot of time hopping around the ground like a robin looking for bugs, especially ants.

Adults are brown with black bars on the back and wings. A black bib is on the upper breast and the lower breast and belly are beige with black spots. Males in Michigan can be identified by a black moustache stripe at the base of the beak, a red chevron on the back of their head and bright yellow feathers on the undersides of their wing and tail.

The northern populations of the Northern Flicker are migratory, with fall migration taking place September to November. So if this Flicker is new to the area it may see your yard as a good place to winter from its summer home in Canada. They do come to feeders for seeds, nuts and suet. So maybe if you have a suet feeder out it would stick around during the day. Or watch any fruit bearing trees and bushes to catch him eating.

Blackpoll Warbler: Greatest warbler migrant

Blackpoll Warbler in fall olive yellow plumage
The Blackpoll Warbler, a bird that weighs less than a wet teabag, is one of the greatest warbler migrants according to Ted Black in the Birds of Michigan Field Guide. They leave New England from late August to early October and fly nonstop up to 88 hours until they reach South America. This almost 2000 mile journey would be the equivalent of a human running continuous 4-minute miles for 3 days!

To accomplish this flight, the Blackpoll Warbler nearly doubles its body mass and takes advantage prevailing winds, sometimes flying at heights of 20,000 to direct them to their destination. 

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Sun Parakeet

by Theresa Jordan

 Considered by many to be the most beautiful of the commonly available conures, the sun conure has enjoyed an elevated popularity status in the world of companion birds for many years --- and with good reason. Their multi-faceted personalities will delight even the most experienced of bird lovers, and their breath-taking coloring will attract the attention and pique the curiosity of any non-bird person! If there's one conure that people will recognize on sight once they've seen one, I'd have to say it would be the beautiful sun!
Hailing from the northeastern coast of South America, sun conures are approximately 12 inches in length, including their long tail. Their body build is slender, and their feathers are bright, iridescent shades of orange, blue, yellow and green. Unlike some other species which have definite coloration patterns, the sun conures sometimes have a combination of these colors over almost any part of their bodies. Young suns tend to have feathers which are predominantly green, while older birds sport more of the yellow or reddish-orange. This change of feather coloring from green to the brighter oranges, golds and yellows is most noticeable on the back, abdomen and head of the bird as it matures. General plumage is yellow and green while the cheeks, forehead, abdomen and down to the lower back are tinged with bright fiery orange. The outer webs of the primary flight feathers are a deep blue while the primaries are bright green; the secondaries are also green. The upperside of the tail is colored an olive-green with blue tips; the under tail-coverts are green with a marked yellow tinge; the median and greater upper wing-coverts are green with yellow edging. All of these colors become brighter and more vivid as the bird matures, with some birds sporting almost totally yellow tones in their body color. The beak and feet are both black.
The personality of the sun conure can best be described as inquisitive and playful. They are active, spunky and curious, and love to play with a multitude of toys. Their antics during play-time are comical, and they are quite entertaining to watch as they jump, swing, and generally have a wonderful time, seeming to proclaim to the world that they are happy to be alive! During play, they seem to prefer wooden toys that can be chewed up since they have strong chewing tendencies, and can reduce a medium-sized wooden toy to shreds in a matter of hours. They also love toys that promote activity and require a high energy level, (as opposed to "puzzle" toys that require work or intense manipulation); such as swings, rings, and long plastic chains to swing from. Bells are also a big hit, and the louder, the better! Toys are wonderful environmental enrichments, and are vitally important for the psychological well-being of any bird, as well as being fun and entertaining. Providing adequate toys and rotating them on a regular basis will prevent your bird from becoming bored. Suns are also active climbers and will hang by one foot from the top of the cage, while swinging back and forth. I also like to provide my suns with vertical chains and rope, as I feel this helps to promote exercise and aids in the prevention of foot problems. Sun conures are also very adept at learning tricks, and can be potty trained with minimal effort on the owner's part.

Sun conures love attention, and like to be handled and cuddled by their owners, but many tend to be cautious and reserved with strangers. One trait I have seen in several companion sun conures (including my own two) is the willingness to lean back into their owner's chest while sitting on the owner's hand or arm. Both of our sun conures love to do this, and both will also lie very still on their backs in the palms of our hands, turning their heads to and fro so that we can reach exactly the spots on their necks that they want to have scratched! Tame, hand fed suns are very devoted to their owners, preferring attention from their chosen humans above other activities. They also have an elevated environmental orientation level, sometimes having a tendency to be "nervous" or "jumpy", and stopping their activity to investigate and/or listen intently if they hear any noise. They have a reputation for being the "sentinels" of their human's home, and are quite adept at notifying their owners of any perceived "intruders".

The talking ability of the suns is a bit limited although they sometimes can learn to speak several words quite clearly. Their natural call can be loud and raucous, although I personally believe that young, hand-fed sun conures that are raised -away- from and out of earshot of the parents calls do not learn the "scream" that has been associated with the conure family. I base this belief on personal experience; my 3-year old sun conure was hand-fed by myself during a time when we had no other birds in the house except for quaker parrots, and she very rarely vocalizes with that high-pitched "scream" that conures are usually famous for. She does have a "Come Here!" call that is higher in tone than the quaker's call, but it doesn't seem to be any -louder-, per se, just higher pitched. On the other hand, nor has she ever learned to utter a single word, despite being cage-mates for the past 2 years with a quaker that has an extended vocabulary.

I always try to stress the prevention of behavior problems, and most especially with this species due to their infamous ear-piercing, and seemingly earth-shattering, screams. A conure that is raised with firm, yet gentle guidance and is taught it's position in the "flock" at an early age will need minimal, if any, behavior modification when they mature. It is vitally important to their psychological and mental well-being to deal with a companion parrot in ways that will earn their trust and respect, not their fear. Dealing with a bird using negative reinforcement can obviously change an undesirable behavior, but if the bird is responding out of fear of the human, we are doing nothing to earn it's trust, and the erosion of this vital aspect of the relationship will only lead to additional, and more complex, behavior problems.

Our recently acquired sun conure, Frankie, (2 year old female) was given to me by a caring, concerned woman who kept a multitude of different pets, and felt that Frankie was not receiving the attention that she deserved. Her explanation of why she felt she needed to find Frankie a new home did not include the fact that Frankie was a "screamer", which I suspect was the main reason for her desperate quest. During the first two days in her new home, Frankie screamed almost incessantly. Since she came to me with a large, roomy cage (along with many toys, food and accessories) I chose to house Frankie in her own familiar cage temporarily. I felt this would lessen the chance of contributing any further to her elevated stress level at being in a totally new environment.

After interviewing Frankie's former owner again in an attempt to gain some insight into the possible cause of Frankie's screaming, (at which time she reluctantly admitted that "Yes, Frankie -does- get a bit loud at times"), I concluded that Frankie's screaming was simply a bid for increased attention. Simply, when she screamed, her former owner picked her up. When the screaming intensified and became more frequent, Frankie was eventually moved to an empty bedroom with the door closed, where she had remained for a week. At this point, the owner contacted me, and requested that I take Frankie into my home.

Behavior modification techniques were initiated immediately. Frankie's schedule was the same as my other companion birds, and we began socialization methods that included all members of the family. This part was relatively easy, since Frankie would accept attention and handling from almost anyone! We responded to her screaming by whispering to her if we were in close range, and by calling back to her if we were in another room. We also use these techniques routinely with our other birds, and I'm sure this helped Frankie's adjustment since she was very attentive and watchful when we interacted with the others. Under close supervision, we allowed her to play with the other birds on the gym, and gave her one-on-one attention in the evenings, with plenty of cuddling. In less than a week, Frankie's screams for attention had subsided dramatically. Within 10 days, they had disappeared completely. At present, Frankie is a happy, well-adjusted bird, content with the amount of attention and love that she receives. Her only screams are those that are normally expected: in the morning when we rise, and in the evening; parallel with our other birds.

Because their activity level is high, I would recommend that sun conures be housed in a cage that is 20" x 20" with a depth of at least 36". This allows for adequate placement of food and water bowls as well as 2 perches and at least 3 toys. Be sure that your chosen cage has the correct bar spacing (3/4" to 1") for conures, as birds can get their heads stuck between bars that are spaced too far apart, and can break tail feathers and catch or injure their wings on bars that are too close together. A cage that has a play-gym on top would be ideal for added room. Most sun conures love water and don't have to be encouraged to bathe. Many will utilize their water bowls for bathing as soon as they are placed in the cage, so an extra bowl of clean water offered on a routine basis will most likely to be used to splash in! My suns do not like to be sprayed with a water bottle (though I know of many that do), but will bathe daily if they are provided fresh clean water every morning.

Sun conures are not sexually dimorphic (males and females look alike), and should be DNA or surgically sexed if knowing the gender is important. They are physically capable of reproducing and raising young at the age of 2 years, though their first clutch is often infertile. Suns are well established in aviculture, and are considered by many to be the most prolific of the Aratinga conures. While there is always a pair or two that simply aren't good parents, on the whole they do a wonderful job of raising and feeding their babies. Clutches usually consist of 4 to 5 eggs, with a normal incubation period of 23 days. Hand feeding this species is easy for experienced hand feeders, and babies usually fledge with no problems at around 50 days of age.

While the personality and characteristics of any bird are individual to their species, my own experiences with the gorgeous sun conure, albeit sometimes complex, has been nothing but positive and I encourage anyone looking for a companion conure to research these personable, fun and feisty wonders of the winged world!

Sun Conure Facts.

COMMON NAME: sun conure
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
ORDER: Psittaciformes
FAMILY: Psittacidae
GENUS SPECIES: Aratinga (bright and macaw-like) solstitialis (sun)

DESCRIPTION: Golden feathers with green on wing tips; lower beak tinged with red; young sun conures appear more olive green
SIZE: 30 cm (19.6 in.)
WEIGHT: 240 g (8.4 oz.)
DIET: Seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables
INCUBATION: Approximately 23 days
CLUTCH SIZE 4-5 eggs
SEXUAL MATURITY: Capable of breeding within 2 years, although early clutches may not be fertile
LIFE SPAN: 30-35 years
RANGE: Northeast part of South America (Brazil, Guyana, and Eastern Venezuela)
HABITAT: Savannas, forests, and palm groves
CITES All Psittaciformes are listed as at least CITES II, although sun conure numbers appear to be stable

1. Due to the small quantity of conures in the wild, little is known about this bird.
2. Though they are not known as a truly social bird, pairs and small groups may be seen feeding in the treetops together.
3. Conures have a tendency to spend long periods of time in their nest, even when not breeding.
4. They are playful birds and are said to be clown-like.
5. Because of their sharp screeching calls, they are often known as "little macaws".


Though these birds are not endangered, these birds are often sought for pet trade. In some areas though, over-population is a concern.