Old World Woodpecker uses Unique drilling Technique

Image from Super Punch, via A London Salmagundi
The Eurasian Wryneck, Jynx torquilla, is a weird kind of woodpecker. Instead of pecking, it drills into the tree head-on. Once it has bored a sufficient nest hole, the bird twists his head to sand-out the inside with his uniquely designed head feathers.

Dremel, a company known for their power tools, actually designed their most popular rotary tool after watching this bird cut, grind, sand, carve and polish a variety of materials.

Source: Wild Birds Unlimited mid-Michigan April Fool's Joke

The time lapse photograph (above) shows the Eurasian Wryneck, shaking his head, not really drilling into the wood. Happy April 1st!


Follow the link to read the real story:
http://sheabirdno1.blogspot.com/2013/04/remarkable-jinx-bird-has-moves-of-snake.html

Remarkable Jinx bird has the moves of a snake

Photo by XimoGalarza
The Eurasian Wrynecks (Jynx torquilla) get their common name from their ability to turn their heads almost 180 degrees. When alarmed, they can hiss and twist their neck in snake-like movements as a threat display. Their unique courtship ritual also has the male and female perched opposite each another, shaking their heads, and gaping their mouths to show the pink inside. These curious behaviors made people think that the wryneck was linked to witchcraft and would give people bad luck or "jinx" them.

The wrynecks are a small group of Old World woodpeckers that have large heads, long tongues and zygodactyl feet, with two toes pointing forward, and two backwards.

However their bills are shorter and less dagger-like and they lack the stiff tail feathers that the true woodpeckers use when climbing trees. For nesting they re-use other woodpecker holes rather than making their own. And their main food sources are ants and other insects found in decaying wood or on the ground.

The Eurasian Wryneck breeds in temperate regions of Europe and Asia and migrates to the tropical Africa and southern Asia to winter.

Watch a sample of their head twisting in the video below or at: http://youtu.be/LD52NLJw4Pk

Why do birds matter? Interesting answers from Audubon

Audubon Magazine recently did an article called Why Birds Matter where they asked avian enthusiasts to share their thoughts on birds. You can read all the responses, which ranged from poetic to practical, and personal to global at: http://www.audubonmagazine.org/articles/birds/why-do-birds-matter

I posted part of Hollywood director Wes Craven quote and I followed it with my own 10 reasons to appreciate birds:

“Since the beginning birds have lifted our eyes to the skies. They’ve shown us we’re not gravity’s slave, that flight is possible and limitless. It can hover and soar, dive and display, and take us from one end of the planet to the other in a single, impossible burst of energy and purpose. Inspiration is the gift birds have given us from the start. But now they give us a question as well. Like the canary in the mine, they hold the planet up to us like a mirror and ask: “Can you not see that if we pass away, soon you will as well?” That’s a good question, and since birds pose it, they matter a lot.” Wes Craven, Hollywood director

10 Reasons to appreciate birds:

1.  Eat pests: Birds are technologically advanced, highly motivated, extremely efficient, and cost-effective, insect-pest controllers. Native Americans lured Purple Martins into their villages by hanging up gourds with holes cut in the sides. It's estimated that martins each eat over a thousand winged insects in a day. Long ago farmers also knew how owls ate mice, bluebirds and swallows ate bugs in the fields, chicken and grouse ate fleas and ticks and encouraged the birds to live nearby. Just as smart people today still put up bird houses to reduce the bug population in their yards. 
2.  Pollinate: Animals provide pollination services for over three-quarters of the staple crop plants that feed human kind and for 90% of all flowering plants in the world. In addition to countless bees, butterflies, and other invertebrates, birds and mammals also serve as pollinators. Hummingbirds pollinate wildflowers that help recolonize deforested areas and prevent erosion. And according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, orioles serve as "important pollinators for some tree species, transferring the pollen from flower to flower on their heads."
3Disperse seeds: Some plants take advantage of birds pooping all over the place to disperse their seeds. The loss of birds could change plant communities and lead to the local loss of particular plant species. Imagine no hot sauce on your burrito. The seeds of Capsicum plants are predominantly dispersed by birds and many of the food products featuring capsaicin include hot sauce, salsa, and beverages. And a single Blue Jay can cache or hide as many as 5,000 acorns up to 2.5 miles away by carrying several nuts at one time in their esophagus. As a result the rapid northward dispersal of oaks after the ice age may have resulted from the northern transport of acorns by jays. 
4.  Unite a nation: The United States started the trend for national birds when it made the Bald Eagle its avian representative over 200 years ago. In 1789 George Washington became our Nation's first President and the American Bald Eagle became our Country's official bird. President John F. Kennedy later wrote: "The Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the Bald Eagle as the emblem of the nation. The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolizes the strength and freedom of America."
5.  Help win wars: The study of wild birds’ many survival techniques has been integral to the establishment of many military improvements. Birds taught the military about camouflage, flight, sentry systems, and during World War I and World War II, the U.S. military enlisted more than 200,000 pigeons to conduct surveillance and relay messages. 
6.  Save people: The classic example of animals serving as sentinels is the "canary in the coal mine". Well into the 20th century, coal miners in the United Kingdom and the United States brought canaries into coal mines as an early-warning signal for toxic gases including methane and carbon monoxide. The birds, being more sensitive, would become sick before the miners, who would then have a chance to escape or put on protective respirators. So during the 1960s, when birds of prey began dying, people were alerted to the dangers of agricultural chemicals such as DDT. Birds act as "sentinels" for environmental health hazards by providing early warning of human health hazards in the environment.  
7.  Promote conservation and environmentalism:The Passenger Pigeon, once the most common bird in North America, went into a catastrophic decline in numbers and then extinction by 1914 due to over hunting. The senseless slaughter 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.
8.  Feed people: Eggs and meat from birds have sustained people for centuries. 
9.  Clothe and comfort: Feathers provide fashion, warmth, and comfortable cushion.
10. Entertain: The antics of our garden birds keep us amused and may inspire future scientists to make further discoveries about these ancient creatures that might one day save the world.

Bird watching is a wonderful hobby for people of all ages. Currently one third of the U.S. populations feed wild birds. It can be enjoyed almost anywhere at any moment of the day. If you have any more questions, I can answer them in the blog or you can come into our Wild Birds Unlimited shops for help.

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When can I expect my orioles to arrive?

I always say orioles are the last to arrive in the spring and first to leave in the summer. They usually hit my mid-Michigan feeder at the beginning of May with a big song and dance. I have my feeder on the window at the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store and he'll sing right to the customers when he's happy and give me the look if I haven't had a chance to fill his jelly wells.

Then in June his visits are less frequent as he's busy incubating eggs and then sourcing out bugs for his babies and only stops by occasionally for a quick bite. Last year I put out mealworms in June and he brought up all his babies to feed right out side my window.

baby oriole waiting for a mealworm treat
In July he becomes more secretive. As Baltimore Oriole babies become independent, parents begin their fall molt and are more susceptible to predators as they grow a new set of feathers. Peak migration is August and September but some begin as early as July if they are done nesting.

Besides molting, birds also have to fatten up before they leave and wait for just the right weather conditions. Birds have internal barometers and can actually feel changes in air pressure in their inner ear. When a storm approaches, the air pressure goes down and the birds eat a lot more in anticipating of bad weather. Then these smart birds will take advantage of the strong tailwinds for the long journey south.

October through February most orioles hang out in the tropics. March and April some orioles begin moving north. On average, they probably travel about 150 miles each night in flocks, flying at about 20 miles per hour. If the weather is favorable, it will take an oriole about 2-3 weeks to complete his migration north to reach my window again by May.

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Photo Share: Blue Jay perched on chair

Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata

The name Jay came from the Latin “gaius” meaning “gay or merry.” The species name cristata originates from the Latin word crista, meaning “crested.”

Blue Jays eat fruit, nuts, berries, seeds, and suet. However if you offered a buffet, their first choice would be peanuts in the shell.

You’ll find that they will shuffle through the seeds until what they are looking for is found. They'll pick a seed up in their bill to test the weight. If it's not heavy enough they'll pick up another to compare the weight of the seeds. It's not worth their while to eat or cache seeds that are dried out or spoiled.

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Presence & Range of Malabar Giant Squirrels in Odisha



Driving through the Ghats of Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary we hear a loud rattling noise with a series of penetrative chucking call. The Malabar Giant Squirrel or popularly known as Shekru , the state animal of Maharashtra was somewhere nearby. Bhimashankar situated at a distance of 120 kms from Pune is one of the sanctuaries specifically created with the intention of saving the Malabar Giant Squirrels or Indian Giant Squirrels, endemic to the Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats and some of the Central Indian Hills. Here in Pune, very often one would come across weekend news articles on the plight of the Giant Squirrel, Habitat Loss, deficiency of fruit bearing trees, how pilgrims have been throwing garbage in the Eco-sensitive sacred grooves (Bhimashankar is one of the twelve Jyotirlings in India)and spoiling the Ghats.  

An Indian Giant Squirrel on the way from Jenabil to Dhurduruchampa in Similipal

When I start thinking of my trysts with the beautiful squirrel in forests of Odisha and start making notes , I am surprised that more often that not I have encountered this arboreal animal virtually in most of the sanctuaries and reserve forests that I have visited and that too with a lot of ease. That means they are thriving though vulnerable because of various reasons like habitat loss, hunting etc. One of the places where I have seen the maximum number of the Giant Squirrels is in Similipal. On one of the mornings of November while searching for the birds, I had almost 4 individual sightings on the Bhanjabasa- Sarua road in the southern part of the Tiger Reserve. They were virtually present throughout the forests and I have clicked individuals at Jenabil, Chahala and Barhakamuda. One of the reasons that can be attributed to their high density is the occurrence of contiguous canopies of trees with wider girth and considerable height. Giant Squirrels have been known to build multiple nests which is one of the protective measures against the predators like Raptors and Snakes. They keep on changing the nest for their sleeping purpose whereas one of the nests may be kept specifically for upbringing the younger ones. On most of the occasions, I have noted them eating leaves, barks and petioles whereas normal assumption that I used to carry is that fruits and flowers are the main food items for the squirrels. A lot of time is spent in sleeping during the afternoons whereas their activity is quite high in the dawn and dusk. From a photographer’s point, a Giant Squirrel is relatively easy to capture once sighted and is within the eye level ( the later being difficult owing to their activity in higher canopies). They would sometimes freeze their motion and would lie absolutely motionless clutched to the branches of the trees upon any intrusion. Kuldiha has also a fair number of Squirrel’s population and I can recall seeing numerous individuals on my way from Tenda gate to the Kuldiha Forest Rest House.  In these parts of Odisha (roughly north of Mahanadi River) , common name is Belra or Belara Moosa whereas towards south they are called Nepali Moosa. I may be wrong in this assumption which is mostly based on few discussions involving  the Giant Squirrels that I can recall off.
 
 On the banks of Mahanadi in Satkosia

 Near Kaliamba in Ghumsar

 Kuldiha has a good population of these beauties

 Near Brundaban Gate in Chahala,Similipal

 
On the Nalakhanja-Balidhar Road , Similipal

        Near Nekdanacha beat in UBK, Similipal

Ghumsar North especially forests in and around Kaliamba Rest House is full of Giant Squirrels and one has also made the nearby tree house it's home.  In Lakhari, I sighted only one individual during my three days of trip to the sanctuary. Mainly it can be attributed to the area being devoid of contiguous canopies with good height. The lone individual that I noted was in a specific area that was in and around a nullah and had a thick riverine forest for quite a distance.  Satkosia is an abode to this beautiful creature and sightings are quite frequent. Though lot of reports (virtually all) on Internet cite the presence of the Malabar Giant Squirrels in Debrigarh and Sunabeda sanctuaries, I am not sure of their presence in these forests. In case of Debrigarh, I have not sighted a single individual in my three trips to the sanctuary. Sunabeda being one of the similar forested areas along the Chhattisgarh border, I assume there would be none either. 

Indian Giant Squirrel Map 
(credit: Google Earth)

This article on Giant Squirrels is going to continue over next couple of years and the recordings would be entered in the map below.I regret not specifically looking out for the Squirrels in Kotagarh and Karlapat Sanctuaries during my earlier visits which might be having a good population. Hopefully Squirrel Map becomes more colorful in coming days. Any input from readers on their Giant Squirrel sightings in Odisha would be a great help in collating data (may not be absolute scientific which I am pretty poor at…:-), and making the Map more concrete.

In the meanwhile, the Shekrus of Bhimashankar would always keep me reminding of the Nepali Moosas of Odisha.

____________________________________________________________
References:

1) The Book of Indian Animals by S H Prater
2) Journal of Threatened Taxa, July 2011

Cedar Waxwing sipping sap from Sugar Maple

Cedar Waxwing sipping sap from Sugar Maple

Indigenous peoples that lived in the northeastern part of North America were the first groups known to have produced maple syrup. According to aboriginal oral traditions, as well as archaeological evidence, maple tree sap was being processed into syrup long before Europeans arrived in the region. 

Maple syrup is usually made from the xylem sap of sugar maple, red maple, or black maple trees, before they bloom in the spring. In cold climates, these trees store starch in their trunks and roots before the winter; the starch is then converted to sugar that rises in the sap in the spring.

The flow of sap is highly dependent upon weather conditions. Flow does not begin until after a time of hard freeze, followed by several sunny days with temperatures in the 40s.  The peak flow occurs early in the sugaring season when it freezes at night and is bright and sunny the next day with the temperature in the 40s. The flow will stop when daytime temperatures do not go above freezing, or when night temperatures do not go below freezing. The flow usually lasts roughly three to four weeks. 

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Bluebird house that keeps out Sparrows

We successfully had bluebirds nesting in our bluebird house twice. Unfortunately after that the house sparrows have been trying to invade our birdhouse and chase the bluebirds every time they get close to it. Do you know if sparrows would build their nest in a Peterson's bluebird house?

How to Deter Sparrows from your Bluebird Houses

One frequently asked question in the spring is how to keep sparrows away from bluebird boxes. House Sparrows are very clever and very persistent. You must repeatedly remove any nests that sparrows have built and leave the clean out door of the house open until the sparrows give up guarding the house.

The Peterson's Bluebird House, designed by Dick Peterson of Brooklyn Center, MN is a relatively new design that mimics natural woodpecker nests, a bluebird’s preferred nesting choice. It has an oval-shaped opening, narrow width and the small floor size to expedite nest completion. But I don’t think I would call it sparrow resistant.

The only house I’ve found to deter sparrows some of the time is the Slot Box nest.  The Slot Box design, as the name suggests, has a small slot below the roof for birds to enter instead of a round or oval hole. According to research at the University of Kentucky, bluebirds will use a slot entrance while sparrows prefer the round opening. In addition, sparrows don't like these shallower boxes and bluebirds don't seem to mind. Another advantage, is that the slot design makes it much easier for bluebirds to escape from the house in case a house sparrow enters to attack the bluebird. However field experience has shown that sparrows can adapt to many nesting locations and the slot box won’t deter all sparrows.
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If a sparrow is staking out one of your bluebird boxes, clear out the nest and open the box for a few days until the male sparrow leaves. If a bluebirdfamily has already started to make a house and sparrows are harassing them you can put up a sparrow spooker. Basically once the bluebirds are committed to a nesting site you can hang shiny flutter ribbon above the birdhouse (you can find this "scare tape" at our stores). Studies have shown that certain bird species, including house sparrows, will not fly under the ribbon. For more detailed plans to make your own sparrow spooker, click HERE to visit the very informative Sialis.org website.

Another possibility is to put two bluebird boxes back to back or within a few feet of each other. Bluebirds defend large feeding territories around their nests from other bluebirds. Experts recommend that bluebird boxes be spaced at least 300' apart. However when you pair bluebird houses within 10 feed of each other, it is possible to get a bluebird in one and a Tree Swallow in the other. Together the birds can coexist and battle any predators or interloping sparrows. More information on this technique can be found HERE.

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A look at the Easter Egg Tradition

Eggs: Nature's perfect package

From ancient times eggs have been decorated, exchanged, and shown reverence. Before the egg became closely entwined with the Christian Easter, it was honored during many rite-of-Spring festivals.

The egg represented the rebirth of the earth after the long, hard winter was over and was believed to have special powers. For Christians the egg symbolizes the rebirth of man.

Although the omens and the mystery of the egg have disappeared today, the symbolism remains, and artists, young and old, continue in the old world tradition of adorning eggs.

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Hawk courtship: Red-tailed hawks put on a showy display

One of the more raucous early spring bird calls comes from a common raptor in Michigan that is a little easier to see while deciduous trees are still bare. On sunny days in late March, male and female red-tailed hawks engage in a courtship of circling, swooping and diving, while repeating the cry, kee-eeeee-arr.

Red-tailed Hawks usually begin breeding when they are three years old. They are monogamous, and mate with the same individual for many years. In fact, red-tailed hawks usually only change mates when their original mate dies.

During spring courtship, the male and female soar together in circles at a great height. The male dives steeply, and then shoots up again at an angle nearly as steep. After several of these swoops he approaches the female from above, extends his legs, and touches her briefly. Sometimes, the pair grabs onto one other, clasp talons, and plummet in spirals toward the ground before pulling away.

The hawks quiet down after the female lays her eggs in a nest built high up in the crook of a tree. Both members build the nest, or simply refurbish one of the nests they’ve used in previous years. Nests are tall piles of dry sticks up to 6.5 feet high and 3 feet across.

Once leaves emerge, the hawks are much harder to see, as they spend their time silently perched in the tree canopy, watching for small rodents, such as squirrels, chipmunks, mice and voles. They may also feed on amphibians, reptiles and an occasional starling or mourning dove snatched from a bird feeder.

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Keep the birds from pecking the paint off your house: Put out eggshells

As birds prepare for nesting season some people in the upper Northeast could find that Blue Jays seem to have acquired a fondness for eating the paint off their house.

Research has shown that songbirds need calcium during the breeding season for egg laying and nestling growth. Paint manufacturers have used calcium carbonate, or limestone, as an extender pigment in paint for hundreds of years.

Some songbirds in search of calcium may have started to look in unusual places, unfortunately, because pollution has depleted it in the environment.

To stop birds from pecking off paint you can offer them alternative sources of calcium. It was discovered through trial and error that birds love eggshells, over paint. Eggshells are about 95% calcium carbonate.

To prepare this treat for the birds, rinse the eggshells and put them in a bag in the freezer. When you have a lot stored up, spread them out on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes at 250 degrees to make them safe for bird consumption. Or have fun smashing the shells of your hard boiled eggs into pieces and scatter them on a platform feeder or mix with your seed.

When you put eggshells on the menu you may even attract species that don’t usually come to seed feeders, like orioles, gnatcatchers, and some species of wood warblers. My squirrels also like eggshells.

And for gardeners, eggshells around the base of plants deter snails and slugs from crossing the sharp eggshells barrier to reach your plants. It also boosts the nutrients in the soil and can be mixed together with dried coffee grounds, which provides a high content of nitrogen, to keep your plants healthy.

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Sources: 
- Johnson, Anne Marie, What Are Those Jays Eating?  Birdscope, newsletter of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Summer 2001. www.birds.cornell.edu
- Chu, Miyoko and Stefan Hames. Wood Thrush Declines Linked to Acid Rain.Birdscope, newsletter of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Autumn 2002. www.birds.cornell.edu

Photo Share: Close-up with the Cardinal

The Northern Cardinal with its vivid red plumage, is a delightful year-round resident in mid-Michigan and prefers tangled shrubby bushes and evergreens in yards with feeders. They form faithful pair bonds, and will visit feeders together commonly in the early morning and evening. During the breeding season, male Cardinals may sing 200 or more songs per hour in the early morning hours and mated pairs will often sing duets together.
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 also taken in the Upper Peninsula as well.

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. 

Share your bird watching hobby: Let nature nurture

The delight of seeing so many active and energetic birds at your feeders makes feeding the birds a real joy during this time of the year.

That joy is available to everyone. By providing just a few simple things, such as fresh foods, clean water and shelter, the birds in your yard will bring you many hours of happiness and fulfillment.

Spring is a great time to watch the different types of birds at your feeders. Woodpeckers are busy eating mouthfuls of suet. Juncos hurriedly scour the ground for millet. Finches squabble at the finch feeder. Jays raucously steal peanuts and nuthatches industriously horde sunflower seeds. New faces pop up every day. Some staying for the summer nesting and some just taking a much needed break on the way to their final stop.

Bird feeding is a fun and educational hobby, and this is the season to share it with everyone. With Easter and Mother's Day fast approaching you should stop by the Wild Birds Unlimited store for the best seed and answers to any wild bird questions. You'll also see the newest baths, feeders, and nature gifts available to help introduce this wonderful hobby to your friends and family.

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Red Maple flower make a tasty treat for Cedar Waxwings

It hasn't been a very good year for watching the Cedar Waxwings at the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store. They are definitely a fun bird to listen to when I walk seed out to the cars.

Usually waxwings are here year round devouring the fruit, as they ripen, from apple trees that surround the store. However as many of you remember, last year Michigan produced a miserable fruit crop and the waxwings unfortunately had to find other food sources.

This week the Red Maple, one of the earliest trees to bloom, was full of the waxwings. Red Maple (Acer rubrum)is one of the most common and widespread deciduous trees of eastern North America. The common name comes from the early red flowers, springtime red winged seeds, and the red fall leaf coloration. Many birds enjoy the sweet flowers as a tasty treat like the waxwings, House Finches, robins, and cardinals.

Tips to keep your bird feeding area neat, not messy

Is there any way to feed the birds without all the mess on the ground?
 
Admittedly, birds can be finicky and messy.

Just watch them at your feeders. Most birds will use their bills to sweep through the food in a feeder to find the one seed they think is the best to eat. They don't seem to mind that all the other seed is being spilled onto the ground for you to clean up!

Here are some tips to help avoid this messy scenario and to turn your birds into tidier dinner guests:
  1.  Avoid using bargain seed blends!!! They often contain large amounts of cereal grain fillers like red Milo and wheat, seeds that birds don't like to eat and most of which ends up on the ground. By using a high-quality food, less of it will be rejected and left under the feeder.
  2. Use a tray. Any remaining spillage can be kept from falling to the ground by placing a tray beneath the feeder. Round trays are perfect to attach to seed tube feeders and rectangular trays are perfect for hopper feeders. Trays also provide a surface to attract birds that usually avoid elevated feeders and typically feed only on the ground.
  3. Offer no mess seed. You can also offer a seed out of the hull such as sunflower chips, or a blend of seeds out of the hulls such as Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Blend. Hulled foods leave much less mess and debris below feeders and are especially well suited for use around patios and decks.
  4. Use suet or seed cylinder feeders. Quality suet isn't messy and seed cylinders on a Wild Birds Unlimited Dinner Bell feeder can make tidy feeders. (See photo above)
Come in to Wild Birds Unlimited today. If you are going to bring your feeders up close to the house for the winter and want less mess, we have a variety of feeders and bird food to choose from to make your bird feeding hobby fun and hassle free.

Source: WBU Nature News

Do birds snore? Watch the video

Does any one else have a cat that snores? There are three cats that take turns as Greeter at the Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing. When one is on duty the other two find a safe place to “saw wood”. That got me wondering if birds snore?

Most birds are very light sleepers. Some birds even sleep with only half a brain and one eye open, always on the lookout for danger. Hummingbirds, however, can enter into a state of deep sleep called torpor to save energy. Torpor, similar to a type of short-term hibernation, reduces a hummingbirds’ metabolic activity and drops their heart rate from 1,200 beats per minute to 50 beats per minute.

Below is a videoof a female Amethyst-throated Sunangel (Heliangelus amethysticollis) in the early stages of waking up from torpor. The gaping of the bill might be a way to breathe deeply and bring in plenty of oxygen.

When they are disturbed in torpor, they try to warm up as quickly as possible. Initially, they are too cold for high-speed muscle action so they make shivering movements. The high pitched squeaking sound is likely a cute side-effect of the gaping for oxygen.

This recording was made by experts in tropical ornithology who placed the bird in a container that is attached to machines that measure how much oxygen the bird is consuming. The camera picked up the hum of the machines as well as the hummingbird.

All of the hummingbirds measured like this consumed much lower amounts of oxygen at a very stable level compared to other, larger birds, which suggests that they were in torpor, or a state close to torpor. Once the experiment was completed all the birds were released.

To watch the video on YouTube go to: http://youtu.be/pj5huCuhD_Q

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- Migration vs. Hibernation http://goo.gl/C1GtY 
- How Do Birds Sleep? http://goo.gl/EyGqT 
- Why geese sleep in the water http://goo.gl/GP784 
- Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://goo.gl/Aurhv

Can you name a feeder bird in Michigan that is green?

One of the gardeners’ favorite birds is fairy green. You may remember the flash of red the male shows but most of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is green.

Green is the first color most people think of when you talk about nature. So why are there so many brown birds? Green feathers would blend into the trees which are green all year-round like in tropical climates. But in Michigan brown and gray are the feather colors that actually make them harder for predators to see.

Our eyes allow us to see three primary colors in terms of light which are red, green and blue, but birds see a different colored world. Research has revealed the retinas of some birds are sensitive to light in the ultraviolet band, and seeing a broader spectrum of light can make as big a difference as watching black and white verses color television.

A spectrophotometer scan of songbird plumage where the birds are sexually monochromatic (males and females looking identical) like the cedar waxwings, titmice, chickadees and wrens, reveals they are actually sexually dichromatic (different once you take into account the colors including ultraviolet). To the birds themselves, males and females look quite different from one another.

In laboratory tests it was found that female birds preferred males with the brightest “invisible” plumage, perhaps proving that the UV- reflecting feather colors birds saw were very important.

Related Articles:
- A Birds-eye View: Are Hummingbirds Attracted to Red Feeders? http://goo.gl/Nyo6N
- How to Prevent Window Strikes during Migration with UV decals http://goo.gl/K7xRK
- Why Blue Jay feather really aren't blue http://bit.ly/roVPVX
- What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/vn2HK3

References:
M. C. Stoddard, R. O. Prum. How colorful are birds? Evolution of the avian plumage color gamut. Behavioral Ecology, 2011; DOI: http://beheco.oxfordjournals.org/content/22/5/1042.full

Dark-eyed Juncos leave mid-Michigan

The Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis is a medium-sized sparrow with dark gray plumage on its head, breast and upper parts which contrast with the white, outer tail and white belly. The female and immature juncos are less slate colored and tend to be browner than the adult male.

Dark-eyed Junco male by Simon Pierre Barrette
In mid-Michigan, it's almost time to say good bye to the juncos. These small birds prefer cold climates to nest, so they retreat north as spring arrives.

The juncos we see all winter in the Lansing area are typically males. Studies show winter junco flocks are 80 percent male in Michigan and 72 percent female in Alabama. Males risk harsh winters in the northern states in order to be the first ones back to their upper Michigan and Canadian breeding grounds to stake out a territory in the spring. As the days get longer and warmer, the boys migrate north.

Dark-eyed Junco female by Simon Pierre Barrette
So now in early spring, the jucos we see are mostly female. Once they fuel up they may linger a few days or continue north if the weather cooperates. You won't know until the next morning who you'll host for breakfast.

Juncos migrate at night at very low altitudes in flocks up to 100 individuals. Other birds like fox and tree sparrows may accompany the juncos. Flock composition can change from day to day during migration. Juncos prefer to forage and roost in groups during the day and may depart en masse at night but do not stay together during flight.

Juncos, like many other members of the sparrow family, eat a variety of insects and seeds mainly on the ground. What seeds they prefer can differ across the country.

Black oil sunflower seeds, millet, safflower, peanuts and peanut butter suet are some of the most popular foods that attract juncos to tray or ground bird feeders. You’ll also see the juncos scratching for grass seeds or insects in leaf litter and pine needles.

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