Photo Share: House Wren

House Wren Fun Facts
• Breeding from Canada southward to the southern tip of South America, the House Wren has one of the largest ranges of any bird found in the New World.

• House Wrens prefer to nest in cavities, natural or man-made bird house, 5 to 10 feet above the ground, close to shrubby areas or under the eaves of buildings, along fencerows or in large trees.

• A male House Wren may lay claim to a nesting cavity by filling it with more than 400 small twigs. If the female likes what she sees, she will then take over, adding the nest cup and lining it with grass, inner bark, hair, and feathers.
 
• The stick-filled cavity of the House Wren nest provides “stilts” for the nest cup which allows rainwater to collect in the bottom of the nesting cavity without endangering the eggs or young.
 
Joshua Chrisman (Creator and Admin of Michigan's Wildlife on www.facebook.com/MichigansWildlife) sent us lots of  of lovely pictures that he took last year. Most of the pictures are taken around the Greenville, Grand Rapids, Stanton, and Saginaw areas. Some were also taken in the Upper Peninsula as well. I will be posting them gradually over the next few weeks on our Friday Photo Posts.

Thank you for sharing your photos! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com and I'll put it on the Friday Photo posts. 

Choosing a seed blend to feed wild birds

I need some help in choosing a bird seed blend ~ East Lansing, MI

When choosing a seed blend to feed wild birds I always make sure sunflower is the first ingredient. I also like seed blends with nuts. Sunflower seed is the favorite of most seed eating birds like cardinals, finches and titmice and the peanuts will attract bug eating birds like chickadees, wrens, jays and woodpeckers.

To make the most of your birdseed budget, choose seeds that attract the birds you want to watch. The following shows the results of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service studies on food preferences of birds:
a) Black oil – Fresh oil sunflower seed is attractive to most seed eating bird species.
b) Striped – The larger shell is harder for some birds to crack but Tufted Titmice and Blue Jays prefer.
2. Peanut pieces – Are attractive to numerous species. Lots of bug or suet eating birds choose peanuts for their high protein and fat levels.
3. White Proso Millet– Is the preferred food for ground feeding birds like juncos, doves and sparrows.
4. Safflower seed– This was not included in USFWS studies but is a favorite of House Finches and is considered acceptable to most other bird species except blackbirds and starlings. (Squirrels don't seem to care for it either.)
5. Nyjer (Thistle) - Is not related to weed thistles. The high fat content and small seed shape makes it attractive to finches.
6. Cracked Corn - Eaten about one-third as often as white proso millet and attracts blackbirds.
7. Red Proso Millet– It can be used as a substitute for white proso; however, not as preferred
8. Golden (German) Millet – Is the least preferred of the millets
9. Milo (sorghum) – Large red round seed found in a lot of cheap blends. It is unattractive generally to all species. Jays, cowbirds, and grouse may eat it in Michigan. More of the western ground feeding birds might eat milo.
10. Oats - Only starlings found hulled oats attractive.
11. Wheat – Unattractive to most species.
12. Canary seed - Unattractive to most species. House Sparrows and cowbirds will eat canary seed.
13. Flax seed - Almost completely ignored.
14. Rape seed (canola seed) - Least attractive feed in the study. Quail and doves may eat.

Where to Purchase Seed
We have tons of fresh seed delivered every week to our two Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI. Our seed is also sifted to take out all the sticks and field debris. Wild Birds Unlimited is dedicated to offering fresh, top-quality seed. 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, mealworms and more.

What is your best blend?
For the East Lansing  Wild Birds Unlimited store, customers’ preference by far is WBU No-Mess Blend. Our unique No-Mess Blend contains sunflower seeds, peanut pieces and white proso millet without the shells. No shells on the seeds make for a tidier feeding area, since there's nothing on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything happily.

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Northern Cardinal Mating Rituals

I've had a steady colony of Cardinals coming to my feeder for the past six years. They live in the pines in my front yard and all spend time at the feeder in the back yard. Their number has grown from two pairs to three and now to four over these few years. Imagine my surprise that just now I looked out to see NINE pairs. I have several different feeders and they were all over them. Any thoughts? Is it nearing the time when they breed? I've always thought that once paired they stayed together - do they still group during the mating season? ~ Garden City, MI

February is the toughest month for birds to find food so that may be why you are seeing more birds at the feeders. Also most cardinals form pair bonds around February-April. Males and females that have paired up in previous seasons are often the first to pair up as the new breeding season begins, sometimes even as early as January.
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When the males begin to sing they are claiming a territory. Older males usually claim their old territory while young males have to move around to find an open territory and an available mate. Extra cardinals now could also mean they are young birds looking to establish a breeding territory.
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Actual nesting begins usually sometime between early April and mid-May and ends sometime between mid-July and early September depending on where you live.
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Northern Cardinal Mating Rituals
Male cardinals sing to establish territories and attract mates. Females that hear singing may approach and then fly away when spotted by the male. While the male chases the female he continues to sing and spread his tail and wing feathers to give the females a good look. This may continue for several days and help the female determine the male’s health.
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As the courtship continues both the male and female begin to sing duets. Cardinals can sing several different song types but during the duets they coordinate songs. Scientists think this is another way for the female to determine her potential mate’s quality.
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Next the males bring tasty treats that they feed to the females. A male’s ability to forage efficiently and provide good quality food is an important consideration for a female that depends on a male to provide food for her while she is incubating eggs and later feed her babies.

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Strange Feather Variation: Red and white cardinal

Hello, would you please help me identify this species of Cardinal (?) or bird in the following pictures. I have never seen a Cardinal quite like this. It was eating from the bird feeder with the other Cardinals and other birds. This particular bird showed up a couple of weeks ago and was still here this morning. Thank you for your help, Don & Lois from Crossville, TN

Thank you so much for sharing your observation with us. It is a female cardinal with a feather variation caused by leucism. Leucism is a condition characterized by reduced pigmentation in animals.
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Right now scientists describe two kinds of Leucistic birds, pale and pied. Pale leucistic birds will have the same markings, but extremely pale. Pied Leucistic birds, like the one in your photo, have patches of white. Leucistic birds are relatively unusual but much more common than albino birds which are completely white with pink eyes, legs and bill.

Unfortunately they usually don't have as long a life span. It doesn't affect their health but they are easier for prey to spot and have a harder time attracting mates. So consider yourself lucky!

Read more at Project Feeder Watch's website: Plumage variations: Albinism or Leucism?

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Finch feeder that doesn't lose seed.

We have recently put out a golden finch feeder that is about 18 inches tall and 3 inches in diameter with 6 perches. We are thrilled that it is being heavily populated but am wondering if I need to get a second feeder because there are so many finches that they are fighting for the perches. Is this normal? Also, they sure are messy! Is the mess on the ground thistle shell or waste from the fighting?

Excellent, excellent questions! I love the happy, warm, song of the goldfinches especially in the cold months. I started with one finch feeder and now have five. It’s not uncommon for flocks of finches to flutter down from the tops of trees to wait for their turn at the feeder. Or as you noticed, announce to a fellow feathered friend their time is up and push their way in to feed.

We always have a lot of finches but this year customers have been reporting an increase in the numbers of American Goldfinches as well as an irruptionof several other bird species. Canada’s natural seed crops were horrible last year and lots of birds that usually like to winter further north have ventured south to find food.

Because of this increased traffic it is very important to keep your feeders clean. These flocks of birds are going to be stressed and susceptible to disease. Feeders should be cleaned at least once a month, year round. Disassemble feeders and immerse them completely for three minutes in a mild one part vinegar to nine parts water solution. Scrub with brushes (we have these), rinse thoroughly, and let air dry. Or Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing - will clean your feeder for $5.00.

Another tip is that if the finches stop eating after the feeder is half empty; don't wait for them to finish their plate because they won't. Goldfinches are notorious for leaving a tube feeder half full. To keep your birds happy you have to empty the older seed (if it's still good) into a different container, fill the bottom of your feeder with new seed and top it off with the older seed. The birds will probably eat down to that certain level again and you'll have to repeat the process.

Mesh feeders are my favorite!
And now to the mess. Nyjer® (thistle) is a tiny black birdseed cultivated in Asia and Africa that is high in calories and oil content, and loved by American Goldfinches. Nyjer® does not sprout weeds and is not related to the purple, prickly, Canada thistle weed.

Unfortunately Nyjer® has a lot of shell. The finches use their bills to twist the seed and sip the oil and then drop the shell. What looks like wasted seed on the ground is probably just tiny shells. If any seed does happen to fall you may see Mourning Doves or Juncos picking out any leftovers.

I like to use straight Nyjer® (thistle) in my feeders. The squirrels don’t bother the feeders and I know the goldfinches love this seed. Don’t use any finch blends with canary seed, rape seed or flax seed. In feeder studies these seeds along with milo, oats and wheat were found to be the least attractive to birds and will be tossed to the ground.


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Sharp-shinned vs Cooper’s Hawks

A sharp-shinned hawk?  I heard an odd noise and looked outside - he's maybe four feet from the window and looks quite cozy.  We get Cooper's hawks from time to time, but never this close to the house. ~ Kate from East Lansing, MI

They are indeed excellent photos of a Sharp-shinned Hawk! The heavier streaking down the belly and square tail with a notch in the center make me believe he’s a sharpie.

Sharp-shinned (Accipiter striatus) and Cooper’s (Accipiter cooperii) hawks can be hard to ID. The birds have a lot of variation in plumage and size and there is no single field mark that distinguishes one species from the other.

Sharp-shinned Hawks average 10-14" long. Females are larger and can appear nearly as large as a male Cooper's Hawk. Where Cooper's Hawks average 14-20" long and males are smaller and can appear nearly as small as a female Sharp-shinned Hawk.

The following are ID tips from Project Feeder Watchfor the Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper's Hawk:

1) The tail feathers of Sharp-shinned Hawks appear squared with a notch in the center, whereas a Cooper's Hawks tail looks rounded.
2) Cooper's Hawks have a barrel shaped chest. Sharp-shinned Hawks are widest at the shoulder and get distinctly narrower down to the hips.
3) A Sharp-shinned Hawk's head looks small compared to the body, and a Cooper's Hawk's head looks large.
4) Cooper's Hawks are usually larger than Sharp-shinned Hawks.
5) A juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk has very thick, rufous stripes that extend down the lower belly while the Cooper's Hawk has very thin, dark vertical streaks that fade away on the lower belly.
6) Sharp-shinned have very thin toes and legs, compared to the Cooper's Hawk.
7) The color of the nape of an adult Cooper's Hawks is pale with a clear contrast to a dark cap. Juveniles of both species can show a pale nape, however.

More identification tips and challenges can be seen on Project Feeder Watch's Accipiter Photo Gallery page: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/AboutBirdsandFeeding/accipiterphoto.htm

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Celebrate Michigan's birthday with some fun facts


On January 26, 1837, President Andrew Jackson signed a bill making Michigan the nation's 26th state. "Michigan" is believed to come from the from the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigami, meaning "great water" and referred originally toLake Michigan itself. The Great Lakes account for one-fifth of the world's surface freshwater supply.

In 1836 a pair speculators from Lansing, New York sold land to a non-existent city in mid-Michigan known as "Biddle City." The New Yorkers arrived to discover that the plots they had purchased were located in a marsh or underwater. Some of the pioneers stayed, and developed a village in what is now Old Town Lansing a mile north of the non-existent "Biddle City."

In 1847, the legislature passed a law to locate the state capital in mid-Michigan because many were concerned about Detroit's proximity to British-controlled Canada, which had captured Detroit in theWar of 1812. Unable to publicly reach a consensus because of constant political wrangling, theMichigan House of Representatives privately chose the Township of Lansing as the capitol out of frustration. The sleepy settlement of fewer than 20 people transformed quickly into the seat of state government and individual settlements began to develop along the Grand River.

State Symbols:
Bird - American Robin
Fish - Brook Trout
Reptile - Painted Turtle
Wildflower - Dwarf Lake Iris
Flower - Apple Blossom
Tree - White Pine
Stone - Petoskey Stone
Fossil - Mastodon

Fun Facts:
Michigan is simultaneously known for its cities, supported by heavy industry, and its pristine wilderness. Michigan has the largest state park and state forest system of any state. It is home to a number of areas maintained by the National Park Service with 78 state parks, 19 state recreation areas, and 6 state forests.

Michigan State University was founded in 1855 as the nation's first land-grant university and was the first institution of higher learning in the nation to teach scientific agriculture.

Michigan was the first state to provide in its Constitution for the establishment of public libraries and the first state to guarantee every child the right to tax-paid high school education.

Vernors ginger ale was created in Detroit and became the first soda pop made in the United States. In 1862, pharmacist James Vernor was trying to create a new beverage when he was called away to serve our country in the Civil War. When he returned, 4 years later, the drink he had stored in an oak case had acquired a delicious gingery flavor.

The Kellogg Company has made Battle Creek the Cereal Capital of the World. The Kellogg brothers accidentally discovered the process for producing flaked cereal products and sparked the beginning of the dry cereal industry.

The Detroit Zoo was the first zoo in America to feature cageless, open-exhibits that allowed the animals more freedom to roam.

Michigan has more than 11,000 inland lakes, more than 36,000 miles of streams and 116 lighthouses and navigational lights.

The Upper Michigan Copper Country is the largest commercial deposit of native copper in the world. Detroit is known as the car capital of the world. Alpena is the home of the world's largest cement plant. Rogers City boasts the world's largest limestone quarry. Elsie is the home of the world's largest registered Holstein dairy herd. Michigan is first in the United States production of peat and magnesium compounds and second in gypsum and iron ore. Colon is home to the world's largest manufacture of magic supplies. Grand Rapids is home to the 24-foot Leonardo da Vinci horse, called Il Gavallo, it is the largest equestrian bronze sculpture in the Western Hemisphere.

Sources:
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Photo Share: Kingbird, Flycatcher and Swallow



Joshua Chrisman (Creator and Admin of Michigan's Wildlife on www.facebook.com/MichigansWildlife) sent us lots of  of lovely pictures that he took last year. Most of the pictures are taken around the Greenville, Grand Rapids, Stanton, and Saginaw areas. Some were also taken in the Upper Peninsula. I will be posting them gradually over the next few week on our Friday Photo Posts.

Thank you for sharing your photos! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com and I'll put it on the Friday Photo posts. 

Wild Birds Unlimited - Tidy Cylinder Feeder

This Tidy Cylinder feeder has an attached tray that reduces the amount of seed debris that falls to the ground and allows cardinals to perch comfortably. It is easy to fill; simply drop one of our exclusive seed cylinders into the feeder, hang it, and watch your birds enjoy.

Our exclusively-formulated Cranberry, Supreme Fare and Safflower seed cylinders are held together tightly with gelatin so the birds have to work to grab seeds. Instead of birds swooping in, grabbing a bite, scattering seeds and taking off, Seed Cylinders give you a few extra moments of enjoyment and no seed spray.

The Cranberry and Supreme Fare cylinders have pecans as the first ingredient. After I put out one of these pecan rolls, I like sit back and watch the action. Why pecans? Pecans are a very high energy food and the birds appreciate a good meal during this stressful time.

If you don't have a baffled Wild BirdsUnlimited Advanced Pole System and worry about the squirrels, you can choose to use the Safflower cylinder to keep squirrels and blackbirds away.

I can tell you that Seed Cylinder feeders are undemanding. They are easy to clean, easy to fill, leave very little mess and attract a wide variety of birds. The feeders are popular with beginners and for people like me who have been feeding birds for almost 40 years.
 
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Are your House Finches getting redder?

I believe that my house finches have been getting redder and redder over the years. Do you think some day they'll be as red as a cardinal?

Good nutrition is important for birds, too!
House Finch eating seed cylinder on Wild Birds Unlimited Dinner Bell feeder
Today House Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) are a familiar sight at mid-Michigan bird feeders if you offer sunflower, safflower or Nyjer® (thistle) seed. These talkative little 6 inch birds get their name from their habit of hanging around human houses. Their cheery warble and variety of chirps are a constant around the feeders and you may find their nests in your hanging baskets, wreaths, or nearby pine trees.

They are very good at adapting. The House Finch was not always a local bird. In 1940, they were captured illegally in California and imported to New York by pet dealers. Fearing prosecution, the dealers released their “Hollywood Finches” on Long Island and since then the finches have spread to all corners of the east and have even rejoined their relatives in the west. But have they also been getting redder?

Male and female House Finch on WBU Hopper Feeder
Adult males are rosy red around the face and upper breast, with streaky brown back, belly and tail. Adult females aren’t red; they are plain grayish-brown with thick, blurry streaks and an indistinctly marked face. The amount of red the male finch has can vary depending on the amount of carotenoid pigments he eats during his fall molt. Many brilliant red, orange, and yellow color displays of birds are the result of carotenoid pigments deposited in the feathers.

Carotenoids are the class of hydrocarbons, widespread in nature and important pigments in living organisms. They are found in foods that are deep green, yellow, orange, and red like fruits, vegetables and seeds.

Normal male House Finches exhibit individual variation in coloration, with their plumage ranging from pale orange to bright red, but the brighter males have an advantage with the females. Carotenoid-based feather coloration has been found to be an important criterion in female mate choice because brighter finches usually have better foraging ability, better health, more testosterone and less parasite loads.

Your redder finches may just be well fed older, more experienced birds or in fact may be evolving into redder, more vibrant house finches of the future. The research is still out on the bird's 'carotenoid circle of life', but you made a very good observation. Thank you for sharing.
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Feeding the birds will not make them "lazy," or "dependent."


Backyard bird feeding is a convenient way to enjoy wildlife. A recent Census Report reveals that over 65 million Americans, young and old, feed wild birds. Watching birds is the fastest growing hobby in the country, second only to gardening. Like having a pet, watching birds seems to make people feel good.

When's the best time to start?
There is no best or worst time to start bird feeding. In general, whenever the birds are stressed they will appreciate a reliable supplemental food source. That means if you were ever thinking about bird feeding, January and February are actually the months that a backyard bird feeder can make a difference.

Typically, feeders serve as a supplemental source of food for birds in your yard. Fruit and nut bearing bushes and trees supply a natural food source as well as native flowers, such as coneflowers, black eyed Susan’s, and cosmos that are allowed to go to seed and stand through the winter. In the last couple months of winter the natural sources have gradually become more and more scarce and birds may switch to utilizing feeders to survive from day to day.

In fact February is designated National Bird Feeding Month because it's one of the most difficult months in the U.S. for birds to survive in the wild. In mid-Michigan the plants are still dormant and haven’t begun to produce new food for the birds and the bugs are still scarce.

Also, low temperatures force birds to burn up to 10% of their body weight in stored fat each night to stay warm and this fat must be replaced every day.

Be sure to keep your feeders filled with the high-energy, high-fat foods that provide your birds with the crucial nutrition they need to survive. Studies indicate that Black-Oil Sunflower, Fine and Medium Sunflower Chips, Peanuts, White Proso Millet, Safflower, and Nyjer® Thistle are among the most preferred seed types. Please don’t waste your money on cheap seed. Cheap filler grains like oats, wheat and milo decrease the price per pound of a mix but aren't eaten by the birds and are left to rot on the ground.

And don't forget the Suet. It is the most concentrated source of energy you can offer wild birds. Our Suet is made with only the highest quality processed beef kidney fat. Special processes remove impurities that cause low melting points and spoilage problems.

When's the best time to stop?
If you enjoy feeding birds, there is no reason to stop. You can do it year-round. Feeding the birds throughout the summer will not make them "lazy," or "dependent."

Backyard bird feeding is an entertaining and educational pastime that can be enjoyed by children and adults. It provides a needed stress relief and brings families together. There is no designated time to feed the birds. Most people feed year round.

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

Consider that the average wild bird weighs less than two nickels and you’ll realize that the winter can be a very punishing time for your backyard friends. Birds that come at dusk on a cold evening are hungry, and it's nice to make sure that they always find something to eat.

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Fun Facts on Squirrels

January 21 is National Squirrel Appreciation Day and I was wondering about the origin of the name “squirrel”.
Why are squirrels called squirrels?
Wikipedia explains that the word squirrel came from the early 14th century Anglo-Norman word esquirel and from the Old French escurel, which is the reflex of a Latin word sciurus. This Latin word was itself borrowed from Ancient Greek word σκίουρος, skiouros, which means, are you ready… shadow-tailed. This is probably because the squirrels use their bushy tails to shade themselves.

So for everyone who thought squirrel meant “clever creature sent to drive me crazy” or “batty rat that can figure out any bird feeder” now you know it means "beautiful beastie with a bushy tail".

Why do squirrels chew on everything?
Squirrels, nibble, gnaw and chew on anything and everything to sharpen and shorten their teeth that grow continuously. Squirrels’ teeth grow very fast and they wear them down by cracking nuts, trimming trees, and attacking bird feeders. If they didn’t, we’d have saber toothed squirrels running around.

How fast are squirrels?
The backyard tree squirrels in mid-Michigan are fast. They chase each other around and avoid predators at an average speed of 10-20 miles per hour. They have long, muscular hind legs and short front legs that work together to aid in leaping. They can jump 10 feet from a tree to a bird feeder or straight up an average of 4 ft. The hind legs of squirrels are double-jointed. This helps them run up and down trees quickly.

How big is a squirrel’s brain?
You are what you eat. A squirrel’s brain is about the size of a walnut, one of their favorite foods. They can eat their own body weight (approximately 1.5 pounds) every week. Squirrels are mostly vegetarian but sometimes they do eat small insects.

Little brown bird walking up the trunk of tree

It’s such a treat when I spot the Brown Creeper circling the locust tree right outside my window. They're not a frequent visitor like the nuthatches but it’s always a welcome site to see a creeper not so much creeping up a tree but dancing up the trunk of a tree, checking all the crevices in the bark for hidden bugs or larvae. 

Brown Creeper Certhia americana 
Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Creeper (Certhiidae)

Description: The creeper has a long stiff, pointed tail to help it climb tree trunks, and a long down curved bill to probe insects from bark. Its brown back feathers with buff white streaks, white eyebrow feathers, and white belly feathers make them nearly indistinguishable from a piece of bark.

General: The cryptic Brown Creeper usually hangs out in old-growth forests and will nest behind loose bark of a dying tree. The base of the nest is attached to the bark with webbing from cocoons or spider egg cases, and then a cup is made of fine pieces of bark, fibers, leaves, mosses, and feathers.

Behavior: Brown Creepers are the only tree creepers in North America. Feeding mainly on invertebrates found on tree trunks, they start at the bottom of a tree, spiral upward, then float down to the base of the next tree and begin again. A group of creepers are collectively known as a "sleeze" and a "spiral" of creepers.

 
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Different kinds of sunflower seed

I’ve been reading lately about how birds like oil sunflower. Can you explain what that is and how it’s different from other sunflower seed? ~  Saint Louis, Missouri  

That is an excellent question! Sunflower seeds are the fruit of the sunflower plant. Black Oil Sunflower and Striped Sunflower are the two different varieties used to feed birds.

Most seed eating birds are attracted to black oil sunflower seeds. The black in the name describes the all black hull. The oil in the name refers to the higher oil content per gram in this smaller sunflower seed. Cardinals, chickadees, finches, sparrows, nuthatches, and many other birds prefer black oil sunflower over any other seed because of its high fat content and thinner shell which makes it easier for birds to open.

Striped sunflower is larger and has a tougher striped shell. Jays, titmice, cardinals, grosbeaks and woodpeckers love striped sunflower and can handle the tougher, larger shells. 

Sunflower seeds can also come hulled, which means the shell has been removed. Our unique No-Mess Blend features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds means no hulls on the ground and the seed won’t sprout either. Hulled sunflower seeds will attract the same birds, but there is no mess left below the feeder.

Sunflower seeds are considered the number one choice to feed and attract the greatest variety of birds. At Wild Birds Unlimited we will help you choose the right seed – and the right feeder – for the birds you are trying to attract.

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Roseate Spoonbill



Roseate Spoonbill Facts

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Ciconiiformes
Family: Threskiornithidae
Genus: Ajaja
Scientific Name: Ajaja ajaja
Common Name: Roseate Spoonbill
Group: Bird
Number Of Species: 1
Location: Gulf Coast, Central and South America
Habitat: Shallow wetlands and mangrove swamps
Colour: Pink, White, Red, Black
Skin Type: Feathers
Size (H): 60cm - 80cm (23.6in - 31.4in)
Wingspan: 110cm - 130cm (43in - 51in)
Weight: 1.2kg - 1.8kg (2.6lbs - 4lbs)
Diet: Omnivore
Prey: Minnows, Shrimp, Insects
Predators: Alligators, Coyotes, Humans
Lifestyle: Diurnal
Group Behaviour: Flock
Water Type: Fresh. salt or brackish
Life Span: 10 - 15 years
Age Of Sexual Maturity: 3 - 4 years
Incubation Period: 3 weeks
Average Clutch Size: 3
Name Of Young: Chick
Age Of Fledging: 1 month
Conservation Status: Least Concern
Estimated Population Size: Sustainable
Biggest Threat: Water pollution
Most Distinctive Feature: A long, spatula-shaped bill
Fun Fact: The only Spoonbill in the western hemisphere!




Roseate Spoonbill Classification and Evolution
The Roseate Spoonbill is a large species of wading Bird, found from the Gulf Coast of the United States to Argentina at the tip of South America. The Roseate Spoonbill is one of six Spoonbill species found across the world, and although they all inhabit warmer, tropical climates, the Roseate Spoonbill is the only one that is found in the western hemisphere. Like all Spoonbill species, the Roseate Spoonbill is named for it's spatula shaped beak, which becomes flatter and broader towards the end, allowing the Roseate Spoonbill to scoop food out of the water with ease. They are closely related to other large wading Birds including, Herons, Storks and Egrets and are often mistaken in Florida for Flamingoes, particularly by tourists.


Roseate Spoonbill Anatomy and Appearance
The Roseate Spoonbill is said to be one of the most distinctive Birds found in North America, with their pink and white plumage, orange tail-feathers, red legs and eyes and black feet. Like all wading Birds, the legs of the Roseate Spoonbill are thin and very long, allowing them to walk about in the shallow waters without getting their head or feathers wet. Their distinctively long beak is very sensitive to enable the Bird to easily detect the presence of prey, and has two small slits close to the top meaning that the Roseate Spoonbill can still breathe whilst it's beak is submerged in the water. The skin on their head is featherless and often has a greenish tinge to it, leading to their lighter coloured beak.


Roseate Spoonbill Distribution and Habitat
The Roseate Spoonbill is found along North America's Gulf Coast, most notably in Texas and Florida. It's range extends through Central America, down to Argentina at the bottom of the South American continent, and they can also be found on islands like the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Cuba. The Roseate Spoonbill can be found in fresh, salt or brackish waters, where the water level is low and is close to roosting sites. The Roseate Spoonbill is most commonly found in shallow wetlands from bays and estuaries, to mangrove swamps and tidal ponds. Despite drastic falls in population numbers in the USA in the late 1800s, the Roseate Spoonbill colonies there are now healthy and sustainable through much of their native regions.







Roseate Spoonbill Behaviour and Lifestyle
The Roseate Spoonbill is a very sociable Bird that inhabits it's wetland homes with other Roseate Spoonbills, and they are also commonly found in the presence of other waders including Herons, Egrets and Ibises which they are closely related to. The Roseate Spoonbill is a fairly large Bird, making it's flying style long and slow. They fly together in small flocks in diagonal lines with their necks and heads outstretched, when moving between habitats or migrating to their annual nesting sites. The Roseate Spoonbill is often seen in small flocks when feeding but they have also been found to do this on their own as well. In the wild, they are known to be particularly shy Birds, with the whole colony known to fly away if startled, but have been known to adapt well to Human disruption when kept in captivity.

Roseate Spoonbill Reproduction and Life Cycles
The Roseate Spoonbill is a colonial nester, meaning that they gather in large numbers to produce and rear their young, possibly for protection. Roseate Spoonbills reach sexual maturity at the age of 3 or 4, when they migrate to appropriate nesting grounds to find a mate. Once paired up on coastal islands, both the male and female construct a nest in trees, thick bushes or reeds where up to four eggs are laid per clutch. The Roseate Spoonbill chicks usually hatch after an incubation period of around three weeks, and fledge after about a month. The young Roseate Spoonbills have white plumage with a slight pink tinge, and often won't develop the colourful adult feathers for at least a couple of years. Both the incubating of the eggs and the feeding of the chicks is shared by the male and female parents.

Roseate Spoonbill Diet and Prey
The Roseate Spoonbill is an omnivorous animal that uses it's spoon-like beak to catch small animals in the water. The Roseate Spoonbill sweeps this distinctively shaped bill from side to side close to the bottom of the water, creating little whirlpools of water that trap prey inside them, enabling the Roseate Spoonbill to feed. Although they will eat a number of both plant and animal species, small Fish such as Minnows are the primarily source of food for the Roseate Spoonbill, comprising roughly 85% of it's diet. The rest is made up with the consumption of other small aquatic organisms like Shrimp, Molluscs and aquatic Insects that lurk close to the muddy bottom, along with a number of aquatic plant species.









Roseate Spoonbill Predators and Threats
Despite the large size of the Roseate Spoonbill, it is not uncommon for them to be hunted by hungry predators. Alligators in the water, along with felines like Pumas and Jaguars are the most common predators of the adults in their natural environment, but it is Humans that pose the biggest threat to them, mainly through hunting. The eggs and more vulnerable chicks of the Roseate Spoonbill are in even more danger as they are preyed upon by a variety of species including Raccoons, Coyotes and Hawks. One of the biggest threats to Roseate Spoonbill populations today is the loss of their native habitats, mainly seeing that many of these natural wetlands have been either drained or pollution has caused the water to become contaminated.

Roseate Spoonbill Interesting Facts and Features
Despite it's very distinctive appearance, the Roseate Spoonbill is often mistaken for other Birds like the Flamingo, particularly when in flight, even though they are generally smaller in size and have a longer, wider beak than these pinker Birds. Not only is their distinctive spoon-like bill useful for catching food though, but there are also very sensitive nerves at the end, which causes the Roseate Spoonbill's beak to snap shut quickly when it comes into contact with small aquatic organisms. It is widely believed that the reason for the bright pink plumage of the Roseate Spoonbill, is due to the algae eaten by the Crustaceans that these Birds consume (in a similar way to the Flamingo but not quite as bright).

Roseate Spoonbill Relationship with Humans
The Roseate Spoonbill is known to be very wary of Human presence, quite probably because the populations in Florida particularly, where hunted almost to extinction in the mid to late 1800s for their plumage. It is thought that populations were originally affected as these Birds commonly socialize with other waders including Egrets, which were a prime target for hunters who sold their lush feathers to go into the making of luxury ladies garments in particular. With the almost extinction of this species in North America at the turn of the century, awareness of their loss became more apparent, finally leading to their protection and conservation of their habitats in the mid 1940s.

Roseate Spoonbill Conservation Status and Life Today
Today, the Roseate Spoonbill is listed as an animal that is of Least Concern of becoming extinct in the wild in the immediate future. With populations having re-built and sustained themselves since they were listed as a protected species in the 1940s, this big wader is once again found in large numbers through much of it's natural range. However, despite not being hunted so much any more by Humans, the Roseate Spoonbill is being affected by habitat loss in many areas, which is mainly caused by water pollution.

Photo Share: Cedar Waxwing

Joshua Chrisman (Creator and Admin of Michigan's Wildlife on www.facebook.com/MichigansWildlife) sent us lots of  of lovely pictures that he took last year. Most of the pictures are taken around the Greenville, Grand Rapids, Stanton, and Saginaw areas. Some are also taken in the Upper Peninsula. I will be posting them gradually over the next few weeks on our Friday Photo Posts.

Thank you for sharing your photos! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com and I'll put it on the Friday Photo posts.