American Goldfinches nest in July

Many outdoor activities may fall prey to the “summer doldrums” during these warm and steamy months…but backyard bird feeding is not one of them.

If you don't feed the birds in the summer, you will miss out on a growing cast of birds that are displaying their most dazzling plumage and interesting behaviors. High on the list for entertainment value is of one of our most luminous backyard birds — the goldfinch.

During July, long after most birds have started their families, the American Goldfinch is just beginning its nesting process for the first and only time of the year. You do not want to miss this exciting time of vibrant song and fascinating courtship behavior.

Goldfinch nesting coincides with the availability of plant down for nest construction and the abundant supply of their preferred food to feed their young.

Young goldfinches are dependent on their parents for at least three weeks after fledging. Their energetic begging, chasing and harassment of their parents for food at your feeders are truly some of the biggest payoffs of participating in the bird feeding hobby.

Goldfinches love to eat fresh, dry Nyjer® (thistle), and they also enjoy sunflower chips. Make sure you have plenty on hand to take advantage of one of the most exciting times of year to feed birds…it’s a sure cure for the summer doldrums!

Source: WBU Nature News

Photo Share: Gray bird with a black bill and yellow belly

The Eastern Phoebe’s song is one of the first indications that spring is returning. They are among the first migrants to return to their breeding grounds, sometimes as early as March.

Phoebes rarely occur in groups, and even mated pairs spend little time together. Males sing their two-parted, raspy "fee-bee” song throughout the spring and defend their territory aggressively from others Eastern Phoebes, but tolerate different bird species.

Once limited to nesting on natural cliffs or river banks, this adaptive bird has over the years found success in building mud nests on protected nooks on bridges, barns, and houses.

They are a medium-sized flycatcher, with a dark grayish-brown head and back, and pale yellow to buff belly. Their most distinctive behavior is the "tail-wag". When landing on a perch, Eastern Phoebes sweep their tail widely up and down and then side to side as they look out for flying insects.

The Eastern Phoebe consumes mostly flying insects like wasps, ants, flies, midges, and cicadas. Flycatching is their main method of obtaining food, usually done from a perch less than 30 feet off the ground. They have also been observed eating fruit when insects are unavailable.

After they complete one to two broods they migrate back south in September–November, finding wintering habitat in the central latitudes of the United States south to Mexico.

Thank you Holly for sharing your photo! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to
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There are two oriole species found in Michigan

I was telling my neighbor about my struggle to attract orioles. He says he has several species of orioles visiting his Wild Birds Unlimited feeders. How many species are there in Michigan? ~ St. Johns, MI

There are 9 oriole species in North America. The Baltimore Oriole and the Orchard Oriole are the 2 species that nest in Michigan as well as the Eastern half of the U.S. The Bullock's Oriole and the Scott's Oriole are found in the Western Regions. The Spot-breasted Oriole is found in Central Florida. And the Altamira Oriole, Audubon's Oriole, Hooded Oriole and the Streak-backed Oriole are mainly found in Mexico and some southwestern states.

The Baltimore Orioles have adapted well to human settlement and often feed at nectar/jelly/fruit/mealworm/suet feeders. The Orchard Oriole also may come to eat at our backyard feeders but are not as common. One studyfound they ate 91% insects and 9% plant materials during the breeding season.

The confusion on the number of species of orioles in Michigan may be because their physical description can vary depending on whether you see a breeding or non-breeding male, female, young, or 1st year oriole.

Adult Baltimore Oriole males have a bright orange body and a solid black hood and back. Their wings are black with white wing bars, and the tail is orange with black streaks. Adult females are paler than males and can range in color from yellow to orange with a brown tweed to blackish head, back and wings. Juveniles are yellowish-brown with dark brown wings that have a white wing bar. And immature Baltimore Orioles are variable. Typically they resemble the female until they grow their adult plumage after they are a year old.

Breeding Orchard Oriole males have dark orange or brick red bodies and a black hood, back and wings. The wings also have chestnut epaulets and a white wing bar and tips. In the fall the non-breeding male grows chestnut-tipped feathers which may obscure the black coloration.

Breeding Orchard Oriole females are bright greenish yellow below, olive-green above with brownish wings that have two narrow white wingbars. Non- breeding females are duller in color.

Juvenile Orchard Orioles of both sexes are similar in appearance to adult females, but they are browner above and more yellow below

Second year males are similar to adult females, but have a solid black bib and black between the eye and bill. How much black adult plumage varies considerably between individuals, with some males of this age having blacker feathering than others. 

Related Articles: 
- Facts on the Baltimore Oriole
- Where do orioles winter?
- Close-up of Baltimore Oriole
- When can I expect my orioles to arrive?

Photo Share: Eastern Bluebirds feeding mealworms

Stopping at the local hangout
Picking up dinner for the family

Hi Sarah,
This will be the last baby bluebird photo. Our monitoring is done for this batch so we don’t have a early fledgling:) They allowed me to sit and take their pictures. Please use or don’t use whatever you like. I just love to share what we are so blessed to see and catch on camera!

Fat and happy
Love 'em! Thank you so much for sharing.
I notice Bluebirds and Robins are pretty good at worm wrangling.

However when I watch my oriole, it seems he just doesn't have the knack to take more than one home at a time.

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

Wild Birds Unlimited has lots of Gifts Made in the USA

Almost everything in Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, Michigan is Made in America. We are a little business and we support other little businesses. Most of our products are from small companies that don’t sell to big box stores:

1) Tube Feeders, Hummingbird Feeders, WindowFeeders- Aspects, Inc. out of Rhode Island is our main supplier of tube, window and hummingbird feeders. Their philosophy is to make the best feeders possible in their USA facility and stand confidently behind it with a Lifetime Guarantee. I consider both their products and customer service to be excellent! I have several of their feeders and have sold thousands more to satisfied customers.

2) Hoppers, Houses, Suet Feeders – Birds Choice out of Chilton, Wisconsin have reused and saved over 6 million plastic jugs from going into the landfills by manufacturing products from recycled materials. Quality materials, excellent workmanship, patented unique designs, and customer service are the core of all Birds Choice products made in Chilton, Wisconsin, U.S.A. by a team of conscientious employees. So if you buy a recycled hopper feeder with a lifetime guarantee, you are not only supporting an American worker but you’re also supporting the environment!

3) Squirrel Proof Feeders – Droll Yankees was started in 1960 by Peter Kilham and his boyhood friend Alan Bemis. Peter cared about using quality materials, in innovative designs that birds loved and people found easy to use. Droll Yankees out of Plainfield, CT, strives continually to maintain those high standards of design and functionality, and are proud to be recognized as makers of “The World's Best Bird Feeders.” They make the popular Squirrel Proof Flippers, Whippers, and Dippers. They all work fabulously and come with a lifetime guarantee. The only complaint I receive from customers is that they buy them to watch the squirrel “flip” from them but the squirrels just leave them alone instead!

4) Houses– We have some really nice functional bird, bat, duck, owl, and squirrel houses made by Stovall Products. They are not only made in America but are actually Made in Michigan. Stovall products promote environmentally green practices by using hand sorted discarded cedar pieces. The shop is heated with scrap wood, cooled with natural shade, nestled in a glen of 25+ acres of beech/maple/oak forest in Michigan. Rumored staffing of woodland gnomes with a payroll of nuts and berries is still not verified.

5) Bird Baths - Allied Precision Industries, out of Elburn, IL are specialists in manufacturing quality heated bird baths and water wigglers. Their durable, plastic heated bird baths are made in the USA and provide a reliable source of water when natural sources are frozen, even to temperatures below -20° F. It mounts easily to deck railings or can be placed on our stands. It features a built-in 150 watt, fully grounded heater that is controlled thermostatically to conserve energy. When the temperature is cold enough to freeze water, the bath will turn on.

That is just a sampling of the products we carry. Come in any time and I can tell you where all our products are made and help you find appropriate gifts for anyone that appreciates nature.

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Blue daisy like flower on the side of the road

Anyone traveling on the roadways in June is bound to see the sky-blue blossoms of chicory dancing in the wind. Common Chicory Cichorium intybus is also known as blue daisy, blue dandelion, blue sailors, blue weed, bunk, coffeeweed, cornflower, hendibeh, horseweed, ragged sailors, succory, wild bachelor's buttons, and wild endive.

Its cultivation in North America began in the 1700's and ended in about 1950 when it became more economical to import chicory. During that time, chicory escaped cultivation and spread throughout the United States.

Chicory was utilized as a medicine for a wide range of health conditions, adopted as a coffee substitute by Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War, used to make a yellow dye with the flowers and blue dye with the leaves and also as a food crop for people and livestock.

Most parts of the plant are edible. Chicory leaves, often found in salads, are also known as endive, frisée, escarole or radicchio. The chicory tap root can be roasted and brewed as a caffeine free coffee substitute, or it can also be boiled and eaten like a vegetable.
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Starling and sparrow nesting together

I saw the most interesting thing yesterday. A starling parent was being harassed by 5 baby starlings and one baby sparrow for food. I watched closely as he fed one starling baby then another and another and finally the baby sparrow. What do you think about that? By the way I LOVE your posts! ~ Holly, Michigan
I watched something similar too. We have starlings and sparrows that are nesting in a window flower box. Both the European Starlingsand House Sparrows are "secondary cavity nesters," birds that require natural or man made holes or crevices to nest. Both birds also breed close together, feed in flocks, are very gregarious and find it easy to coexist with people.

Incubation for the sparrow lasts for 10 to 14 days. After the eggs are hatched, both males and females feed the young through regurgitation for another couple weeks until they fledge. Incubation of the starling eggs lasts about eleven days and then the parents feed them only soft, animal foods until the young leave the nest after 21 to 23 days.

If the nests were close together and the babies fledged at the same time there may be a little confusion. Both the starlings and sparrows are omnivorous and can adapt to numerous kinds of food. The starling parent’s instincts might kick in at the sight of the small open mouth of the sparrow eliciting an inborn response to feed.

Thank you for sharing your interesting observation.

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How to identify baby Mourning Doves

I see a lot of mourning doves at my feeder. How do I tell which ones are the babies? ~ Mason, MI
juvenile Mourning Dove at East Lansing, MI Wild Birds Unlimited store
Mourning Doves can be found throughout most of North America and are considered among the top ten most abundant birds in the United States. While the average longevity for a typical adult is only about 1.5 years, the oldest known free-living Mourning Dove, as proven by bird banding research, was more than 31 years old. This is the longest life-span ever recorded for any terrestrial bird found in North America.

Male and female Mourning doves
Mourning Doves are a medium-sized with a grayish brown back, a buff underneath, black spots on the wings, and a black spot shaped like a comma below and behind the eye.

They have a small, thin black bill, red legs and dark brown eyes. Males are larger than females and show more color with a bluish cap, pink chest and neck feathers and three white outer tail feathers. The female is graced with an olive gray cap and a tan breast. Neck feathers can be greenish or pinkish with one or two white outer feathers.

Mourning Doves sit on their eggs for about 2 weeks, feed the babies in the nest for about 2 weeks and then care for their young for about a month after they've fledged. Both male and female mourning doves share in incubating and feeding their young.

Juvenile Mourning Doves look like the parents except for a little white at the end of each feather and a lack of iridescent feathers.
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Very Full Moon! Largest full moon of 2013

What’s going on? The last couple days our cats at the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store have been acting like LUNATICS! One customer said it was the full moon.

On June 23, 2013, the moon is the closest and largest full moon of the year. The moon will not be so close again until August, 2014. At its fullest and closest, the moon will appear about 12 percent larger than usual in the sky.

"It doesn't matter where you are, the full moon you're seeing will be the biggest for 2013," Michelle Thaller, the assistant director of science at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said. "… That 12 percent size different can mean as much as a 30 percent change in the brightness, so this will be a particularly bright supermoon."

The moon will be rising from the east right around sunset, Thaller said. It will appear huge and low on the horizon before rising brightly into the sky for the night. Sunday should be ideal viewing.

You can also watch a live webcast of the supermoon on beginning on Sunday beginning at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 June 24 GMT)
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Small gray bird with white belly at feeder

Are titmice year-round in Michigan? ~ East Lansing, MI

Male and female titmice look alike to the human eye. Their feathers are all gray on the back, and the belly is a lighter gray or white. On the sides of their belly is a little blush of chestnut feathers. They also have unforgettable big black eyes and a black bill which is accented with black feathers on the forehead. They can pop a gray tuft of feathers up on the top of their head when singing or posturing for position at the feeder.

The Tufted Titmouse is a year-round resident of Michigan and other eastern United States with mixed deciduous-coniferous forests. They eat a variety of bugs like caterpillars, beetles, wasps, ants, bees, treehoppers, and spiders. At the feeders they like sunflower seeds, nuts, suet and mealworms.

Tufted Titmice are monogamous, forming pairs that can last years. Once they've chosen a territory they stay and defend it year round. They look for natural cavities usually made by woodpeckers and sometimes bird houses to build their nests.

Daddy titmouse feeds the his female partner while she's incubating eggs and also the young when they hatch. Once the babies have grown, the juvenile titmice may remain with their parents on their natal territory during the winter months, forming a family flock. Or juveniles may leave the territory and join unrelated family units.

In early spring, most young disperse from their winter flocks, establish territories, find mates, and begin to breed. However some offspring  may remain even longer on their natal territories to help their parents raise their siblings. 

Related Articles:
- Is it “Titmice” or “Titmouses”?
- Camouflaged Titmouse Fits Right In
- Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive
- Why is the Titmouse Tongue So Short?
- Tufted Titmouse fun facts

Photo Share: Rose-breasted Grosbeak male and female

Thank you for sharing the fabulous photos of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak male (top) and female (bottom) at the the seed cylinder feeder. If anyone would like to share a photograph of nature send it to and I'll put it on the Friday Photo posts. 

Treefrog in Bird House

hi, How do I discourage tree frogs from settling in my birdhouse?  Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Tree frogs are notorious for birdhouse squatting.
As their name implies, Gray Treefrogsspend much of their lives high off the ground, in the treetops. They are nocturnal amphibians that wake up to feed on moths, crickets and other assorted insects at night.

Tree frogs are 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, have large, sticky toe pads and can change color from gray, to green, or brown, so they can blend in with their environment.
After a hard night of hunting, the little frogs need to find a place to rest. When the sun rises some frogs hide among tree leaves, while others crawl  under bark or knotholes. If there aren’t any natural hideouts available, they can make use of hidey holes under siding, roofs, and even birdhouses.

Little is known about territoriality in frogs. I would just leave him alone and I’m sure he will move along. If you have frogs moving in several days in a row, open the clean out door in the house so it isn’t a dark and cozy place to sleep.

Related Article:
- The difference between Frog and Toad

Help baby birds with window decals

Right now there are still young birds around learning the ropes and unfortunately, many times it's the inexperienced birds that fall victim to window strikes. Birds also strike windows as they quickly try to escape predators, hitting glass in a moment of panic. And during spring and fall migration, window strikes increase as birds unfamiliar with the area pass through.Window strikes are hard to totally eliminate, but there are ways to reduce them and/or reduce their severity:

1. Locate feeders and birdbaths within 1-2 feet of them so they can't gather enough speed to cause significant injury or about 20-30 feet from windows so birds have time to change direction. Window feeders also alert birds to a window.
2. Window screens will reduce injury even if a bird flies into it. Use them where practical.
3. Decals like Window Alert placed on the outside of windows have had the most positive feedback from customers. Each decal contains a component which brilliantly reflects ultraviolet sunlight. This ultraviolet light is invisible to humans, but glows like a stoplight for birds.

If you do have a window strike and the bird is injured CALL FOR ADVICE! The best course may be no interference. For a complete list of Michigan Licensed Rehabilitators visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at:
Or to search for a local wildlife rehabilitation group by zip code at:

Northern Cardinal

 Northern Cardinal


Weight : 1.25–2 oz.
Length : 7.5–8.5"
Wingspan : 10.25–12"
Sexual Maturity : 1 year
Breeding Season : March–August
Number of Eggs : 2–5,usually 3–4
Incubation Period : 12–13 days
Fledging Period : 10–11 days
Breeding Interval : Up to 4 broods a year
Typical Diet : Seeds, berries and insects
Lifespan : Up to 28.5 years in captivity

Key Features

  • Both male and female sing year-round and have an extensive repertoire of calls.
  • Bright-red plumage and bold nature make the bird a familiar sight.
  • The cardinal rarely migrates and usually does not wander more than a few miles from its home.
  • Can adapt to habitats ranging from deep forests to city gardens.

Found in Canada, the United States from Maine to Florida and as far west as Minnesota and the western prairies in the Southwest, south to Mexico and Belize; also in Bermuda and Hawaii.

The Northern cardinal displays a unique combination of bold song, color and character; it prefers to stay close to the place of its birth and rarely migrates.


Also known as the red-bird, the northern cardinal lives in dense thickets along field borders, in hedges, swamps, stream banks, parks and gardens. The habitat of this mainly nonmigratory bird is temperate, but its range can include desert conditions. On the arid Marias Islands off Mexico, the cardinal gets enough water by drinking the early-morning dew. The cardinal lives year-round from the Dakotas, southern Ontario, and Nova Scotia to the Gulf Coast, and from southern Texas west through Arizona and south through Mexico to Guatemala. The bird was introduced in Hawaii in 1929.


Seeds, fruits, insects and spiders make up the cardinal’s diet. In the wild, the cardinal gleans food from nearby trees and shrubs. Its wedge-shaped beak allows the bird to eat all kinds of seeds, which it holds with its grooved, upper mandible while moving the lower mandible forward to crush and husk the seed. The bird then swallows the seed’s inner “meat.” During fall, the cardinal ascends to tops of trees and bushes in search of grapes and berries; in the winter, the bird picks up seeds and forages around haystacks at farms. The more domesticated cardinals collect food from town gardens as well as from backyard bird feeders, favoring sunflower seeds and cracked corn. Their full menu includes 51 kinds of insects and spiders, 33 kinds of fruit and 39 types of seeds.

The cardinal’s song plays a role in all aspects of its life, from
socialization to courtship to nesting. The male swells his throat,
spreads his tail and drops his wing as he sways from side to side,
appearing to delight at the sound of his own voice. Females begin
singing their softer song in March, while males sing year-round. Both sexes defend their territories, usually a few acres in size, through the songs that they sing. The female drives out intruding females, and the males fiercely guard against other males. Songs also serve as signals, letting respective partners know when they are coming or going. The young can sing as early as 3 weeks old, but they do not aquire adult phrasing for two months.

Did you Know 
  • Northern cardinals are named for the brilliant red robes worn by the Roman Catholic cardinals.
  • The cardinal is the state bird of several northern and southeastern states, including Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.
  • According to Cherokee legend, the northern cardinal was originally brown in color. The bird helped a wolf, which, in thanks, told the cardinal where to find a rock with red paint. The cardinal then painted himself red.


Fiercely loyal, the cardinal forms strong bonds and mates for life. During courtship, the male not only serenades his prospective mate but also feeds her. The love serenade is clear and sweet, often lasting all day. Nest building starts in March and April. The female builds a cuplike nest made of dry leaves and twigs, usually in a tree 4–5' above ground near a stream used for drinking and bathing.She adds grass and grapevines to complete the woven structure, before adding a final lining of softer materials, including rootlets and hair. It takes her about 3–9 days to complete the structure; she builds for a few hours in the morning, then a few more in the evening. The male continues his song as the female incubates the 3–4 dull white eggs with brown spots. The hatchlings are blind and helpless, with pink skin sparsely covered with gray down. Depending on the region, the cardinal pair raises from 2–4 broods during the season. The male brings insects to the young, which have large gaping mouths with red linings — easy
targets when being fed. The male also guards the first nest, while the female prepares a new nest, usually about 30' away. Once the new young hatch, the juveniles of the first brood, about 3–4 weeks old, are chased from the parents’ territory.


With the northern cardinal’s ability to adapt to almost any environment, this abundant species does not appear to be in any immediate danger. The bird has adapted to the Everglades of Florida and the evergreens of New York, the deserts of Mexico and suburban gardens of New Hampshire. Though sought after for the caged-bird trade in the 19th century because of its songs and brilliant plumage, the northern cardinal is currently protected. Its domestic nature, brilliant color and pleasant song make the bird welcome at bird feeders in gardens and backyards in populated areas throughout its range.

The northern cardinal is a familiar and welcome sight in its yearround homes, with its rich red plumage and melodic songs.

The short, wedge-shaped  red bill has sharp edges,  which allow the cardinal  to crack open large and  tough seeds. The lower  mandible is broader  than the upper mandible  and very strong.


The predominantly brown female has a crest similar to the male’s; her tail, however, is proportionately shorter than the male’s. The base of the bill has a blackish-gray area, but it is not as noticeable as the male’s.

Male plumage
Apart from its black mask and bib, the male cardinal’s colorings are eye-catching shades of scarlet. The male’s brilliant red plumage is slightly glossed; the tufted crown is pointed, and can be raised and lowered at will.

The strong legs and feet are adapted mainly for perching. The feet have three toes facing forward and one behind; all toes have slender claws for support.


The young cardinal resembles an adult female, but is a richer brown with a darker bill. Its crown feathers are not as long as an adult’s. By the end of the first fall molt, the juvenile will attain adult plumage, but the bill-color change takes a few extra weeks.

Related Species
The northern cardinal is one of several species in the genus Cardinalis. Its closest relative in North America is the pyrrhuloxia, C. sinuatus; a South American relative is the vermilion cardinal, C. phoeniceus. These birds are among 47 species in the family Emberizidae. The family includes the yellow cardinal, Gubernatrix cristata, as well as the red-capped cardinal, Paroaria gularis.

When will the birds be done nesting in my grill?

Hello, I have a few questions. We noticed a blackbird flying in and out of a hole in the back of the grill a couple weeks ago. When I opened the lid I found a nest and four blue eggs. My boys have been so excited to peek every morning. Now that the eggs have hatched is it still OK to peek at the birds? Should I prop open the gill a little so the babies can get out? This has been an excellent learning experience and my boys are as thrilled as I am to watch nature but my husband wants to know when he can have his grill back? Thanks!

The European Starling Sturnus vulgaris is found across the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Southern Canada to Northern Mexico. The usual nesting sites are holes and crevices in trees, buildings, rooftops, the occasional grill or bird houses.

Starling parent and juvenile
Adult starlings are about 8.5 inches and both male and female have similar iridescent black feathers. Males sport a bluish spot at the base of their beaks, while the female displays a reddish pink speck. Juvenile birds are very loud and have dull dark gray or brown feathers when they fledge. In the fall all the starlings will go through a molt and grow replacement black feathers with white tips which make them look like they are speckled with stars.

Breeding season generally begins in late March with nest building. It’s best to check a nest in the afternoon, since most females lay their eggs in the morning and are absent from the nests in the afternoon. A starling’s average clutch is 5 glossy light blue or white eggs. Incubation of these eggs lasts about eleven days with the female doing most of the nesting. During the first few days of incubation, observe the nest from a distance and approach when the female leaves the nest to feed.

Once hatched, the chicks are helpless. The parents feed them only soft bugs and suets and as they grow older the variety food grows wider. Both parents feed and care for the young. When young are close to fledging, resist the urge to peek. We don’t want the young to fledge prematurely. If you do see a bird has popped out too early, put him back. Birds don’t care if their baby smells like a human.

After 21 to 23 days the birds will leave the nest the same way the parents enter and exit. You do not need to prop open the grill. The parents will take their babies away from the nest and teach them to feed themselves over the next couple weeks.

They do not return to the nest once they have fledged so you can then clean out your grill for your backyard barbeques.

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Chickadees all look pretty much the same to the human eye

I just saw some baby chickadees. They came out of the nest fully dressed in their brand new suits and hats. They were so cute! However I did notice, because of an earlier post you wrote called “Identify Younger Birds at Your Feeders” that they all had shorter tails then the parents. I love the blog and just wanted to share the experience with someone who might appreciate the scene. ~ Webberville, Michigan

Baby Black-capped Chickadees in nest boxImage by Dunbar Gardens via Flickr
Thank you for writing. I do appreciate your description of baby chickadees and agree 100%, they’re too cute! I’ve been watching a family at my house too. Black-capped Chickadees bop about from feeder to bush, bush to feeder. They weigh about a ½ ounce but aren’t intimidated in the least by the Blue Jays or Starlings at my peanut feeders.

Male, Female, and juvenile chickadees all look pretty much the same to the human eye. After the female incubates her eggs for about two weeks, practically naked nestlings hatch. Their eyes are closed and there is a little gray down on their heads and wings.

Well fed nestlings grow quickly and fledge from their nest box or tree cavity about two weeks after hatching. Mom and dad birds may bring food to the box and refuse to feed them while still inside to encourage them to leave the nest at this time.

Once the baby birds have fledged they move around in a family group. At first they depend on the parents but soon catch on to picking out objects that might be food. This is the best time to watch them at the feeders. But eventually, the parents take the young farther and farther from the nest site. The once guarded boundaries of chickadee territories are now open to family groups. 

This family vacation or training period lasts for about 3 to 4 weeks and then the tight cohesive unit will disperse. Scientists aren’t sure what triggers the break, but the young take off suddenly in different directions. They settle down finally, long distances from their natal territory.

The young hook up with other young birds new to the area and join local adults to form winter flocks. Once settled in their new territory, most will remain in the same general area for the rest of their adult lives.

Wonderful information as always! I’m so sad my babies will leave soon, but I’ll keep the feeder full and hope I entice some of those new, young, swingers to my territory for the winter. Thank you very much. Jan

Growing up to be just like dad

Most swans mate for life. Males are called cobs, females are called pens and young are called cygnets. Swans families stick together for about a year. The cygnets get adult plumage at about 15 months but can enter the water soon after hatching.

To achieve flight, swans face the wind, run along the surface of the water for 15 to 20 feet, flap their wings, and beat the water with their feet alternately until they have gained sufficient headway to launch into the air. During flight in v-shaped formations, swans achieve speeds up to 100 miles an hour with a tail wind.

Some daddy birds feed their babies

This month, your yard will become home to a new generation of birds. But as you're watching fledglings chase their parents, beg for food and learn the necessary skills to survive their new world, look for the presence, or absence, of father birds.

Adult male birds' roles in raising their young differ greatly from one species to another. For example, male hummingbirds do nothing to help raise the young; their only contribution is to mate with the female and guard his territory. While the chickadee and nuthatch males feed their mates when they are incubating and brooding, and both adults feed the young.

But the Bird Father of the Year goes to the Downy Woodpeckers which have only one brood in the north. Downys nest in tree cavities that the male excavates. Then after 3 to 6 eggs are laid, both male and female share daytime nest duties. The males also incubate and brood at night and roost in the nest until their offspring fledge after two weeks. Once fledged, Downy males will also help feed the young and assist in leading them to food sources such as backyard bird feeders for the first few weeks.

Downy Woodpeckers are fascinating to watch as they propel themselves up the side of a tree, using their tail as a spring, hopping along, stopping from time to time to investigate a nook or cranny that may hide a juicy insect. Their bill is less chisel-shaped than that of other woodpeckers, and they use it like a pick for dissecting insect tunnels just under the bark. The bill is also used like a pair of tweezers to pick tiny insect eggs from the surface of leaves and bark.

To attract downys to your feeder, you can offer sunflower seeds, peanuts, suet, seed cylinders or mealworms. These energy-packed foods will entice your birds and their young to your yard for an up close view.
View video at:
Source: WBU Nature News

Photo Share: Should you remove unhatched eggs from a nest?

Hi Sarah,
First baby bluebird
We wanted to share these pictures with you. Our two houses are both occupied with Bluebirds & Black Capped Chickadees. We got that little feeder at your store and its perfect. We take the mealworms out twice a day to feed them.

I read you can train them to come, so I whistle when I go out at breakfast and after supper. She comes out of her nest box as soon as she hears me whistle. He is always nearby as soon as the mealworms are down. It’s so amazing to see!

Tonight we went out a third time to get you the picture on the feeder. She didn’t come out of her box. We are wondering about the bluebird eggs though. The first one hatched on the 8th. Shouldn’t the others have hatched by now? I read usually within 24 hours latest 72 hours. I will check again tomorrow at the dinner feeding.

Do you know if they will remove the other two eggs if they are not fertile? The Chickadee is harder to look at she is always on the nest we have been surprised twice by her so we are leery to keep checking. If you have any input or suggestions on these eggs, please let us know.

I have more pictures I’ll send another time I never have enough hours out in the summer:) Holly

Thank you for the photos!

One of the best resources I’ve found for information on bluebirds is


In Eastern bluebird nests, about 17% of eggs do not hatch. Sometimes you don't know an egg didn't hatch because the parent removes it.

Reasons can include the following:
Two baby black caps

  • Not enough time has passed.
    • Most birds lay one egg a day. They don't start incubating the eggs until they lay the last egg. This helps ensure the eggs all hatch together. So just because you don't see adults around doesn't mean the nest is abandoned.
    • Depending on when incubation begins, eggs in the same nest can hatch a day or several days apart.
    • It could be a new egg from a previous nest
  • The eggs were not fertile (because one or both of the parents was infertile.) Note: when bluebirds realize the eggs are not viable, they may build a new nest on top of the other eggs, remove them, or bury them in the original nest material and lay more eggs. The parents may have a series of unsuccessful broods where no eggs hatch (unless one or more eggs were fertilized by a different male due to an extra-pair mating.)
  • The eggs got too hot or too cold.
  • Pesticide/chemical exposure?
  • Defective embryo (e.g., malformed due to temperatures, etc.)
  • The eggs were addled (possibly rolled around too briskly when the female was startled, or suffered other trauma).
  • The eggshell broke
  • The egg belonged to a different species (e.g., a cowbird egg.)