The Passenger Pigeon became extinct on September 1, 1914

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
~ George Santayana (1905) Reason in Common Sense, volume 1 of The Life of Reason

The Passenger Pigeon, once the most common bird in North America, went into a catastrophic decline in numbers and then extinction by 1914.

Similar in looks to the Mourning Dove, they lived in enormous flocks and during migration it was possible to see up to a billion birds taking several days to pass. Some reduction in numbers occurred as a result of loss of habitat when the Europeans started settling further inland.

Over-hunting also played a large part in their destruction. Conservationists were able to get a bill passed in the Michigan legislature making it illegal to net pigeons within two miles of a nesting area, but the law was weakly enforced.

One of the last large nest sites of passenger pigeons was at Petoskey, Michigan, in 1878. Over 50,000 birds were killed each day and the hunt continued for nearly five months. In 1896, the final flock of 250,000 were killed by American sportsmen knowing that it was the last flock of that size.

The last Passenger Pigeon, named Martha, died at the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914. Within a few decades, the once most numerous bird on Earth was gone. However, the extinction 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.

Wild Birds Unlimited is deeply committed to educating the public about the importance of understanding our environment and preserving our natural wildlife habitats. All Wild Birds Unlimited stores donate a portion of proceeds to support education, conservation and wildlife viewing projects at wildlife refuges, parks, sanctuaries and nature conservancies throughout North America.

We’ve also developed many partnerships with organizations that support its core mission of bringing people and nature together. For a link to these partners click here:
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Roger Tory Peterson's Birthday August 28, 1908

Roger Tory Peterson (August 28, 1908 – July 28, 1996), was an American naturalist, ornithologist, artist, and educator, and one of the founding inspirations for the 20th century environmental movement.

The Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History website explains how Peterson’s seventh grade teacher liked to use nature to inspire her class to learn writing, art and science. While they hiked in the woods, Peterson and a classmate investigated a seemingly lifeless clump of brown feathers.

Peterson once recalled: “I poked it and it burst into color, with the red on the back of its head and the gold on its wing. It was the contrast, you see, between something I thought was dead and something so alive. Like a resurrection. I came to believe birds are the most vivid reflection of life. It made me aware of the world in which we live.”

At the age of 11, Peterson’s up close encounter with a resting Northern Flicker shaped the rest of his life.

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Sunflower seeds: The favorite seed of backyard birds

Native to Central America, the Sunflower was one of the first plants cultivated by humans for food, medicine, dye, and fiber for clothing and building materials. According to the National Sunflower Associationthe earliest known domesticated sunflowers north of Mexico were found in Tennessee, and dated to around 2300 BC. Over the generations the flowers were encouraged to produce bigger and bigger seeds.
Outside florets in bloom

In the early 16th century the plants beauty and usefulness was not overlooked by traders who took plants from the New World back to the Old World. In the 18th century Peter the Great of Russia discovered the sunflower in Holland and took seeds back to Russia. By the mid-19th century, sunflower oil was manufactured in Russia on a large and highly lucrative commercial scale.

It is thought that Russian immigrants took these sunflower seeds with them back to the New World and by the 1880s companies were offering the ‘Mammoth Russian’ sunflowers in US and Canadian catalogs.
Black oil sunflower seeds are almost ready

It took awhile for the United States to take full advantage of the sunflower and make it a cash crop. By the 1970’s, new technology and hybridization produced sunflowers with high yields of oil content and a seed easier to hull.

Then demand for the sunflower went to an all time high a couple decades ago when cholesterol-conscience consumers demanded the healthier choice of oil. Sunflower oil is high in the essential vitamin E and low in saturated fat. Food manufacturers started to use sunflower oil in an effort to lower the levels of trans fat in mass produced foods.

The bird feeding industry was also growing. One in three Americans feeds the birds and sunflower is the best seed overall for the backyard seed eating birds. As the demand for the seed grows, we are keeping a close eye on the crop reports. Because of the reduction in planted acres, the food industries' high demand, and all the floods, fires, and droughts, next year’s crop yield is questionable.

Fun Sunflower Facts:
Illustration of Vogel's formula  
of the pattern of sunflower florets

-The scientific word for Sunflower is Hellianthus. Derived from heliosmeaning sun and anthos meaning flower.
-Mature flower heads face east typically and do not move. The leaves and buds of young sunflowers exhibit heliotropism (sun turning)
-A model for the pattern of florets in the head of a sunflower was proposed by H. Vogel in 1979
-For 2011/12 Russia and Ukraine are the largest producers of sunflowers
-Sunflowers can be used to extract toxic ingredients from soil and were used to remove cesium-137 and strontium-90 from a nearby pond after the Chernobyl disaster, and a similar campaign was mounted in response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
-A sunflower grown in the Netherlands holds the record for being the tallest sunflower in the world. It measured 25 feet, 5.4 inches.
-The largest sunflower head was grown in Canada and measured 32-1/2 inches across its widest point.
-The most sunflower heads on one sunflower was grown in Michigan and had 837 heads on one plant. (Source: 2004 Guinness World Records)

Why birds circle in the air

If you ever drive on the highways, you’ll see at one time or another, big dark birds circling high on the air thermals. They are probably Turkey Vultures, Cathartes aura.

Feeding mainly on dead animals, vultures aren’t common backyard birds. But last weekend I saw one glide low right over my sister’s backyard. She lives on a river and the bird was probably scouting for washed up dead fish.

This big brownish black bird can have a wingspan up to six feet and was recognized easily not only by its large wingspan but also by its tiny, red, bald head. Male and female turkey vultures are identical in plumage and in coloration, although the female is slightly larger. Immature birds (under one year) have black beaks and heads. As the bird matures the beak gradually turns white and the head red.

Turkey vultures frequently circle and gain altitude on pockets of rising warm air, or thermals. They can soar for hours without flapping their wings. When they reach the top of the thermal, they glide across the sky at speeds up to 60 miles per hour and can cover many miles going from thermal to thermal without ever needing to flap.

The Turkey Vulture soars above the ground for much of the day, searching for food with its excellent eyesight and highly developed sense of smell.

Once only a southern US bird, by the 1960's they had extended their breeding range into Michigan. The popular theory is that the interstate highway system increased the availability of food in the form of roadkill.
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Photo Share: Mourning Dove Family

Juvenile Mourning Doves look like the parents except for a little white that tips the end of each feather. 
Male and female Mourning Doves are both gray brown overall, have black spots on the wings and black-bordered white tips on the tail feathers.

The adult male has bright iridescent pink feather patches on the neck sides and sometimes a pinker coloring on the breast. Females are similar in appearance, but a duller brown coloring overall.

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How drought affects hummingbirds


The HighView™ feeder has a perch that invites
hummingbirds to rest comfortably as they drink.
Made in the USA from Lifetime guaranteed
unbreakable polycarbonate.
Hummingbird feeders may be more critical than ever this year. Many residents in our area have reported a recent increase in activity at their hummingbird feeders. Because of the excessively hot, dry summer, the hummingbirds’ food source of nectar laden flowers is very low.

You can help by offering hummingbirds the correct nectar solution (sugar water) of four parts of water to one part of common table sugar. We advise against adding red food coloring, honey or any other sweeteners. Click HERE for the complete nectar recipe.

Place the feeder in a shaded location and change the nectar every 2-3 days to help prevent spoilage. Easy to clean and fill, the saucer style hummingbird feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited are the most popular. They have a lifetime guarantee, built in ant moat and don't leak. Bees usually leave these feeders alone but bee guards can be added to the ports if bees, wasps or ants become a nuisance.

Also, by hanging multiple hummingbird feeders around your yard, you make it difficult for a territorial hummingbird to patrol every feeder, allowing other birds to visit.

You can also leave all the spider webs you see outside alone for the hummers to pick clean and encourage fruit flys to your garden by tossing in old banana peels. The banana peels break down rapidly and fertilize the garden but more importantly attract small flys for the hummers to eat.

The next couple of months are your best opportunity to see hummingbirds. Adult hummingbirds as well as a horde of juveniles have begun to head south to Central America and their winter territories, traveling thousands of miles.

It's estimated that more than seven million Ruby-throated Hummingbirds return to the tropics each winter. As they make their way south, hummingbirds will take part in an eating binge that is unmatched at any other time of the year. The reduced amount of natural nectar sources will drive more migrants towards feeders to re-fuel. Hummingbirds require a high-calorie diet to build fat reserves for their long stretches of flying. You can literally watch hummingbirds at the feeder becoming roly poly.

Hummingbirds need the extra body-weight to convert into fuel to travel the 1,400 miles south. They also wait for favorable weather and take advantage of tail winds. Southbound ruby-throats rebuild their reserves in the early morning, travel about 23 miles during the day and forage again in the late afternoon to keep up their body weight. Watch for birds that blow in to your yard for a pit stop and then ride out on the next good wind.

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New blue-eyed owl discovered by MSU researcher

News Release: Aug. 2012 
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Two new species of owls have been discovered in the Philippines, and a Michigan State University researcher played a key role in confirming their existence.
Rasmussen, owl shot

(Top left: Cebu Hawk owl. Bottom right: Camiguin Hawk owl.)
Courtesy of Oriental Bird Club: original painting by John Gale.

“More than 15 years ago, we realized that new subspecies of Ninox hawk-owls existed in the Philippines,” Pam Rasmussen said. “But it wasn’t until last year that we obtained enough recordings that we could confirm that they were not just subspecies, but two new species of owls.”

The first owl, the Camiguin Hawk-owl, is found only on the small island of Camiguin Sur, close to northern Mindanao. At night, it gives a long solo song that builds in intensity, with a distinctive low growling tone. Pairs of owls give short barking duets that start with a growl. They also are the only owls to have blue-gray eyes.

The second new discovery was the Cebu Hawk-owl. Study of its structure and vocalizations confirmed that it was a new species. In fact, it was the unique calling or vocalizations of both owls that confirmed that the new classifications were warranted.

Rasmussen, field shot

Pam Rasmussen, MSU assistant professor of zoology
and assistant curator of mammalogy and ornithology
at the MSU Museum. Photo courtesy of MSU.
“The owls don’t learn their songs, which are genetically programmed in their DNA and are used to attract mates or defend their territory; so if they’re very different, they must be new species,” Rasmussen said. “When we first heard the songs of both owls, we were amazed because they were so distinctly different that we realized they were new species.”

The owls have avoided recognition as distinct species for so long because the group shows complex variation in appearance that had been poorly studied, and their songs were unknown. Both islands are off the beaten path for ornithologists and birders, who usually visit the larger islands that host more bird species.

Sound recordings of both new owl species and those from other islands are available free on AVoCet.

Bird asleep on the porch

Birds look quickly for a spot to roost as the sun goes down.
Imagine it’s your first time away from home; you are all alone in a new city, where do you go to find shelter? This is what happens to a lot of birds in late summer. Inexperienced birds have some inborn knowledge but there are also some things that have to be learned through trial and error. It’s not unusual to find birds early in the morning asleep on a feeder or maybe behind a nearby flower pot.

After juvenile finches become independent, they form large flocks that congregate at food sources. Scientist thought they also roosted together at night. However recent field work done by the Bird Population Studies at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology revealed that wasn’t true.

Researchers attached radio transmitters to nine groups of House Finches in Ithaca, New York, to help locate the birds at their roosts. They found the birds didn’t have large permanent roosts. Their nighttime layovers were temporary and seemed to be located wherever a finch happened to be foraging at the time.

If you watch your feeders in the evening you'll notice that when the sun goes down, most birds find shelter quickly in nearby bushes, but one bird might decide the corner of the porch is a secure enough retreat.

Source: Where Finches Sleep

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And they keep coming....

21 July- 14 August

Catbirds, catbirds,catbirds- man, have they had a productive year! We've had more 100+ bird days  late July/August this year than ever before and many days I have to keep half of our nets closed to keep up with all the birds.

We banded three more days in July after my last post on the 21st, 26th and 29th. I heard from the Bird Banding Lab again that another one of our birds had been found. This time a Gray Catbird, orginially banded as a young bird on 21 August 2010, was found dead in Orleans. Not sure how it died but I appreciate people taking the time to report the band.

Below is pictured a young Black-capped Chickadee, caught on the 21 July, officially our 25,000th banded bird!

Also on the 21st was our first of year House Wren, a juvenile,

a young male Yellow-shafted Flicker, 

and an early migrating Black-and-white Warbler. She may have bred in the Punkhorn Parklands, a large forested area in Brewster, and then flew to Wing Island  to go through her molting period.

I've had the pleasure this summer of teaching a college student, Ben Lagasse, the fine art of banding. He's been volunteering one/two times a week at the station and is presently working on extracting birds. On the 26th while he was at one net working on a catbird and I was getting out a Common Yellowthroat nearby, I heard yelling coming from his direction and seriously though he was being attacked by something! I quickly headed over to him and found a large Cooper's Hawk in the net right next to him. I quickly held her legs and removed her. Banders need to be aware at all times of the talons as they can cause injury. I handed over the Coop to Ben and he was quite brave to hold her as he hasn't been handling birds all that long. I finished clearing out the remaining few nets and we headed back to band her. Measurements and pictures were taken. Females are quite a bit larger than males. As I was looking at her wing trying to assess her age I must have loosened my grip a bit and BAM, I got footed! You can imagine how fast I let her go. I hope I never make that mistake again. Regardless, it was exciting experiencing a bird of that size and our first ever Cooper's Hawk to boot!

The 26th also brought our first young Cedar Waxwings, with their mottled appearance of the breast.

This one had orange-tipped tail feathers, usually yellow.

Eastern Phoebes have fledged from their nesting sites and many are showing up now on the island. The young birds have cinnamon colored edging to their wing coverts. You might notice my bandaged fingers from my hawk experience!

We've been hearing Eastern Kingbirds all around us with their calls sounding like sparking wires. Our first captured kingbird, an adult female also appeared on the 26th. Don't they have huge mouths? All the better for capturing insects on the wing.

Many of the young Baltimore Orioles are molting into formative plumage.

The young males grow in orange-tipped coverts.

July 29th proved to be our best day this summer, with 170 birds netted of 16 species. The majority of birds were catbirds of course (69), along with robins (24), Song Sparrows (21), chickadees (11), Baltimore Orioles (9), phoebes (7), and waxwings (6). We had a smattering of other species including our first Orchard Oriole for the year, a young male, pictured below.

Our totals for July were 513 birds netted, 408 of those new birds, of 27 species and effort was 78 birds/100 net-hours.  Not bad for July!

As we come into August the majority of Yellow Warblers,one of the earlier fall migrating warblers, have now passed through.

We don't capture that many Great Crested Flycatchers, but we did get this juvenile on August 1st.

Like phoebes, juvenile Great Crested Flycatchers have cinnamon colored edging to their coverts, which will have white edging as they replace them during their first prebasic molt.

I'm still waiting on American Redstart and Northern Waterthrush, two species we've normally captured by now for fall migration. We've had a lack of Empidonax flycatchers but did capture a Traill's (probable Willow) on the 14th.

We'll see what the next two weeks bring! I'd like to thank Ben Lagasse, Gretchen Putonen, Judith Bruce, Carolyn Kennedy, and Jessica Rempel for helping out at the station for the past month. The following is a list of birds seen, heard, or banded during this time period.

Total birds: 721                        Total species: 62

Total banded species: 27          Birds/100 net hours: 77


Double-crested Cormorant

Great Blue Heron

Great Egret

Snowy Egret

Green Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Canada Goose

American Black Duck


Cooper's Hawk-1 new

Virginia Rail

Black-bellied Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Greater Yellowlegs

Laughing Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Herring Gull

Great Black-backed Gull

Common Tern

Mourning Dove

Ruby-throated Hummingbird- 7 new; 1 recap

Belted Kingfisher

Downy Woodpecker- 4 new; 1 recap

Yellow-shafted Flicker- 2 new

Eastern Wood-Pewee

Traill's Flycatcher- 1 new

Eastern Phoebe- 18 new

Great Crested Flycatcher- 2 new

Eastern Kingbird- 4 new

Purple Martin

Tree Swallow

Barn Swallow

Blue Jay

American Crow

Fish Crow

Black-capped Chickadee- 16 new; 24 recaps; 1 unbanded

Tufted Titmouse- 1 recap

Red-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Carolina Wren- 10 new; 3 recaps

House Wren- 2 new

Eastern Bluebird

American Robin- 43 new

Gray Catbird- 300 new; 50 recaps; 8 unbanded

Cedar Waxwing- 7 new; 1 recap

European Starling

Yellow Warbler- 10 new

Prairie Warbler- 9 new; 3 recaps

Black-and-white Warbler- 1 new

Ovenbird- 3 new

Common Yellowthroat- 42 new; 19 recaps; 3 unbanded

Northern Cardinal- 6 new; 2 recaps

Eastern Towhee- 4 new; 2 recaps

Song Sparrow- 61 new; 21 recaps; 3 unbanded

Red-winged Blackbird

Common Grackle

Orchard Oriole- 1 new

Baltimore Oriole- 14 new; 2 recaps; 2 unbanded

House Finch- 2 new

American Goldfinch- 1 new; 2 recaps

House Sparrow

Photo Share: House Sparrow female feeding juvenile

Momma sparrow looks a little rough around the edges as she goes through her annual full fall molt, while you can see her fledgling has fine new feathers. After leaving the care of their parents, young sparrows have a high mortality rate. Only about 20–25% of birds hatched survive to their first breeding season.

House Sparrows are found year round in Michigan and can have 3 broods from May until late August. In the fall the birds roost communally and engage in social activities such as dust and water bathing, feeding and "social singing", in which birds call together in bushes.
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Keeping Bird Feeders Active in Summer

Though this month marks the beginning of the end of summer, there are still plenty of opportunities to help birds and maximize your backyard enjoyment.

Offer Water
Whether they are feeder visitors or not, birds need water for drinking, bathing and preening. Offering a dependable source of water is the simplest and most important step you can take to increase the variety of birds in your yard.
Birds must be ready to fly at all times, especially during migration. Bathing is a critical part of keeping their feathers in top-flight condition.

Deter Unwanted Visitors 
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in still water, so open sources of water can cause a potential mosquito problem. Use a Water Wiggler™ to create ripples and prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in your bird baths. Water in motion is also more attractive to birds.

Hummingbird Migration
Millions of hummingbirds are preparing to fly back to their winter ranges. Hummingbirds have been migrating between North and Central America for hundreds of years, some traveling thousands of miles each way. Studies show that most of the hummingbirds you see at your feeders in the fall, are replaced by a new wave of migrants within 24 hours.
A high-calorie diet is important to build fat reserves for their trip, so be sure to have your hummingbird feeders ready. It's not necessary to make your sugar solution stronger. The 4:1 water to white sugar ratio is the closest to the favorite flowers that hummingbirds visit. That would be four parts water to one part plain white sugar. 

Nectar Feeding Solutions
Easy to clean and fill, the saucer style hummingbird feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited are the most popular. They have a lifetime guarantee, built in ant moat and don't leak. Bees usually leave these feeders alone but bee guards can be added to the ports to prevent bees, wasps and ants from becoming a nuisance.

Aggressive male hummingbirds can bully others from visiting a feeder. By hanging multiple hummingbird feeders around your yard, you make it difficult for a territorial male to defend the area, allowing other birds to visit the feeders.
Offer safflower, and keep starlings and grackles from eating all your bird food and crowding your feeders. Safflower is a small, white seed that is high in protein and fat. Most song birds eat safflower, however, starlings, grackles and squirrels typically do not.
There are many ways to keep squirrels away from your existing set up. Using squirrel proof feeders, safflower seed and baffles can prevent squirrels from eating your bird food.

Remember the best way to attract the widest variety of birds at the feeder is to offer fresh seed at a clean feeder. If your seed has been clumping in the feeder after the rains or in the humid weather add Feeder Fresh.

Feeder Fresh added to the seed when you fill a feeder, absorbs water and humidity, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand. Feeder Fresh keeps the seed and feeder dry, keeps molds from forming, which reduces the chance of Aflatoxin and other mycotoxins.

Once the Feeder Fresh absorbs its own weight in water it will discontinue absorbing, and be identical to the silica grit that birds normally ingest.
Clean Feeders
Feeders should be cleaned at least once a month, year round but especially during times of migration. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing - will clean your feeder for $5.00. Or you can purchase professional cleaners like Scoot at Wild Birds Unlimited, or use a one part vinegar to nine parts water solution to clean all of your feeders. Disassemble feeders and immerse them completely for three minutes. Scrub with brushes (we have these too), rinse thoroughly, and let air dry.

Also clean the area around the feeders to help eliminate the build up around the feeder.
Visit Wild Birds Unlimited soon because have we everything you and your birds need to make the most of late summer.
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Coyote in the yard

A lot of customers have reported seeing coyotes lately. Coyotes are found throughout Michigan in rural to urban areas and are quite common but extremely good at remaining unnoticed by humans, even while living in close proximity. Their presence in subdivisions and urban or suburban areas, while surprising to many folks, is a result of increasing populations (both coyote and human) and encroachment of human environments into their natural habitat (from development of rural areas).

Coyotes’ breeding period occurs in Michigan from mid January into March. As fall approaches, pups begin dispersing from the den site to establish home ranges of their own. These young dispersing animals sometimes wander into urban areas. Coyotes are active day and night; however, peaks in activity occur at sunrise and sunset.

Coyotes can be difficult to distinguish from a medium sized German shepherd dog from a distance. Generally they have a slighter body build than most dogs with ears that are pointed and stand erect. Their upper body is yellowish gray, and the fur covering the throat and belly is white to cream color. When observed running, coyotes carry their bushy, black tipped tail below the level of their back.

Coyotes can often live six to eight years in the wild, however approximately 50-70% of juvenile coyotes do not reach adulthood. Coyotes are opportunistic and will eat almost anything available. Small mammals such as mice, voles, shrews, rabbits, hares, and squirrels are preferred foods. However, insects, fruits, berries, birds, frogs, snakes, plants, and seeds round out their diet.

The size of a coyote's home range depends on the food and cover resources available and on the number of other coyotes in an area, but it generally averages between 8 and 12 square miles. Mated pairs and 4 to 7 pups occupy the home range during the spring and summer seasons in Michigan.

Coyotes rarely attack humans. Bites from snakes, rodents, and domestic dogs are a far greater possibility than coyote bites, according to public health authorities. However, coyotes that are fed become accustomed to people and present a human safety risk. People should never intentionally feed or attempt to tame coyotes. It is in the best interest of both coyotes and humans if coyotes retain their instinctive fear of people.

The following important points can help minimize potential conflicts with coyotes:
  • Never approach or touch a coyote
  • Never intentionally feed a coyote
  • Eliminate all outside food sources, especially pet foods
  • Put garbage out the morning of pickup day
  • Clear out wood and brush piles; they are good habitat for rats and mice and may attract coyotes
  • Do not allow pets to roam free when coyotes are present - consider keeping pets indoors or accompany them outside, especially at night
Source: Michigan DNR,1607,7-153-10370_12145_12205-60378--,00.html

Why most woodpeckers are black and white

• The contrasting black and white pattern found on the backs of many woodpeckers helps to conceal them from predators. Known as disruptive coloration, this sharp contrast in colors helps to break-up and conceal the shape and outline of a woodpecker as it climbs the side of a tree.
• Considering the pounding it takes, why doesn't a woodpecker's bill wear down to a ragged nub? Wear down it does, but special cells on the end of the bill are constantly replacing the lost material. This keeps the chisel-pointed bill strong and resilient, while actually allowing it to be sharpened with every blow.
• A woodpecker's pointed tail feathers are especially strong and rigid. The tail bone, lower vertebrae and the tail's supporting muscles are also large in comparison to other birds. These modifications allow a woodpecker's tail to serve as a prop that supports their weight as they climb and cling to trees.
• The barbed tip of a woodpecker's tongue is very sensitive to touch and can both detect and impale insect larvae. The tongue is coated with sticky mucus that is secreted by large salivary glands; this coating helps to ensure that its prey does not slip away.
Hairy Woodpecker• Most woodpeckers' tongues are two to three times longer than their bills. The base of some woodpeckers' long, retractable tongues reach entirely around the back and top of the skull and end behind the right eye socket.
• To prevent small bits of debris from entering their nostrils while excavating trees, woodpeckers have tufts of stiff feathers growing over both nostrils. Woodpeckers also have a third eyelid to help protect their eyes from debris while drilling into trees.
• While excavating a cavity, a woodpecker's head can strike a tree's surface at speeds up to 13- 15 miles per hour and do it at over 100 strokes per minute. This is equivalent to a person crashing head-first into a tree while running at top speed.
• In order for woodpeckers to survive the 10Gs of force that they can sustain with every blow against a tree, they have the following special adaptations:
-The bones between the beak and the skull are joined by a flexible cartilage which cushions the shock of each blow.
-The skull is made of spongy, air-filled bone and the brain is packed very tightly into the brain cavity with little room to rattle around during impacts.
-The shear force from each blow is directed not to the brain, but downward towards very strong neck muscles that act as shock absorbers.
- A woodpecker's head and body are always in a perfectly straight alignment when hitting a tree to avoid breaking its neck.
• To help distinguish the difference between a Hairy and a Downy Woodpecker visiting your feeders, look for the Hairy's chisel-like bill which is much longer than the Downy, which often equals the width of the rest of the head. The Downy's head is twice as wide as its very short bill.


Ever wonder how many bird species are in the world?

Cover Art: Larry McQueen
I always say there are about 10,000 species of birds in the world. I say “about” because there are now at least 500 species more recognized than just 10 years ago. Many of these new species have been reclassified after the examination of their DNA, other birds species are just new discoveries.

While some scientists are exploring life on Mars, a team of Cornell University graduates, led by Michael G. Harvey, discovered a new bird in the Peruvian Andes. The small birds were spotted mostly in pairs, exploring the low canopy in search of berries and other snacks. They have black masks, white throats and bright, blood-red markings on top of their heads and spilling down the breast, along with a dusting of pale yellow.

Now named Sira Barbet (Capito fitzpatricki), the new species graces the cover of The Auk, (July 2012). Its scientific name honors John W. Fitzpatrick, a renowned ornithologist who led field expeditions to Peru in the 1970s and 1980s, and whose work helped identify six bird species new to science. He is currently the director of Cornell University'sLaboratory of Ornithology.

Photo share: Wild Cats Unlimited

Dolly made the birds disappear. We are now known as Wild Cats Unlimited.
You think she's kidding?

What American Red Squirrels Eat

Munching on a cone outside the
The American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) is one of three species of tree squirrel currently classified in the genus Tamiasciurus and known as pine squirrels (the other are the Douglas squirrel T. douglasii and Mearns's squirrel T. mearnsi). They are a medium sized (8 ounces) diurnal mammal that defends a year-round exclusive territory of about 2 acres. 

The diet of these tree squirrels consists of a variety of seeds, fruits, nuts, berries and they are especially fond of the seeds of conifer cones. These squirrels are common in Michigan and have been expanding their range wherever there are conifers.

White spruce cones mature in late July and are harvested by red squirrels in August and September. These harvested cones are stored in a central cache and provide energy and nutrients for survival over the winter and following spring.

Red squirrels also clip and gather truffles and other fungi and place them along the branches of trees to dry them in the sun. [1]
Posing pretty for my camera

Called the "tattle tales" of the forest, Reds chip, chatter and chase away any other squirrel, including other red squirrels, in their territory. Juvenile American Red Squirrels need to acquire a territory, shelter, and a pile of  food prior to their first winter or they will not survive. 

On average only 22% survive one year. If they do make their first year, life expectancy increases to an average of 2.3 years and with a maximum lifespan of eight years.

1. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia-

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Michigan warblers begin migrating

I know it seems early, but now is the time that a lot of Michigan warblers begin migrating.

Tennessee Warbler
The Tennessee Warbler nests in Upper Peninsula and Canada, but migrates through mid-Michigan from mid-August to October on its way south. They like to winter in open second growth forests and agricultural habitats, like shade grown coffee plantations in Mexico to Venezuela.

Tennessee Warblers have muted olive/yellow upper feathers, yellow eyebrows and dark eye-stripes, and all pale yellow under feathers except for white under tail coverts. But their voice is very loud and difficult to miss. Alexander Wilson named the bird after spotting it along the Cumberland River in Tennessee but it was discovered later it only passes through that state during migration.

The birds eat a lot of bugs and berries and at your feeder might enjoy suet and fruit. For more in-depth information on this mysterious bird click HERE to visit the Migratory Bird Center Website.

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