May 02
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Baby Barred Owls

Baby Barred Owls

We are excited to announce we have partnered with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology to give families nationwide something to hoot about with a live Barred Owl Nest Cam. Children and their parents can join in the excitement by tuning into the live streaming video to see what a day in the life of a Barred Owl family is like. Not only do families get a unique glimpse into the lives of one of nature’s endearing bird species, but they are also able to learn about the different stages of their development and watch the fledglings as they venture out on their own.

Through the live video, which can also be found on AllAboutBirds.org, as well as the Wild Birds Unlimited website, children have the opportunity to explore the remarkable lifecycle of these dynamic creatures as they watch the baby owlets open their eyes, stretch their legs and wings, interact with their family, and evolve into young owls. The Barred Owl Cam is a great way to introduce children to nature while building science skills by encouraging to use their imagination to make observations such as “What will Dad bring next; a snake, a fish or a crayfish?”

“I have been watching the owl cam during work and find it incredibly relaxing,” said Rachel Smith of Real Realm Distribution, Inc., who learned about the owl cam at a recent conference she co-attended with Wild Birds Unlimited employees. “I have shared the cam with fellow colleagues as well as friends. It has really opened our eyes and has helped my son learn about Barred Owls.”

For the past 15 years, Jim Carpenter, Founder & CEO of Wild Birds Unlimited, has hosted a camera-equipped owl box in his wooded backyard. Set more than 30 feet high against the trunk of a pignut hickory tree, the box was home to a series of occupants throughout this winter, including squirrels and raccoons. Earlier this spring, a mama Barred Owl set up residence in the nest box to raise a family with her mate. In March, she has laid three eggs which all hatched in April.

“I am very honored that our owl cam was chosen by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology to be a featured cam on their website,” said Carpenter. “They have been true professionals giving guidance and encouragement throughout the project. The Lab has enabled us to expand the network of viewers from customers of Wild Birds Unlimited to a world-wide network of viewers. It is a rare privilege to be able to watch these wonderful owl parents raise their family with an incredible diverse food selection from the woods and fields behind my house. My hope is that even more people watch this wonderful cam as it helps us understand the miracle and importance of birds in our environment.”

To help celebrate the Barred Owl Cam, Wild Birds Unlimited and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology are encouraging people to help name the owlets. On May 6 and May 7, viewers can visit the contest page to vote for their favorite names. The winning names will be announced on May 8.

The young owls will leave the nest at approximately four to five weeks of age and remain in the branches of the nest tree until they are able to fly at around 10 weeks of age. They will stay together with their siblings throughout the summer and are fed by their parents. Then, the young will strike out on their own in late summer when the parents slowly wean them from feedings. Who will be the first to leave home and venture out on their own? Stay tuned to find out!

ABOUT WILD BIRDS UNLIMITED
Wild Birds Unlimited is the original and largest franchise system of backyard bird feeding and nature specialty stores with more than 280 locations throughout the United States and Canada. Wild Birds Unlimited specializes in bringing people and nature together with bird feeding and nature products, expert advice and educational events. Wild Birds Unlimited recently ranked No. 9 overall and No. 1 in the Retail category on Franchise Business Review’s prestigious 2014 Franchisee Satisfaction Awards Top 200 Franchises list. Visit our website and shop online at www.wbu.com. To learn how you can open your own Wild Birds Unlimited, visit www.wbufranchise.com.

Mar 14
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Watch this entertaining video to see some beautiful birds nesting!

Feb 27
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“Last week was bitter cold and the birds were crazy at the feeders. This week is warm and sunny and there are no birds in sight. What’s going on?”

Birds need calories to stay warm. They get their calories from food for which they are constantly foraging. The feeders in our yards are a supplement to birds’ daily food intake.

Normal winter weather will bring a steady flow of bird activity to our feeders. However, when the weather turns severe (cold rains, ice, snow, frigid temperatures, etc.), the activity at feeders can seem crazy-busy. The birds need more calories to stay warm under these conditions and are using your feeders as a very helpful source of energy.

When the weather warms up, the birds need fewer calories, their foraging decreases and the activity at your feeders will naturally decrease.

Keep an eye out for crazy weather patterns and keep your feeders clean and the food fresh. The birds will thank you.

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Dec 05
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Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Every winter the Dark-eyed Junco departs from its northerly breeding grounds of summer and descends upon the lower 48 states. Some western and northeastern states have them year-round where they can be heard singing their pretty trilling song.

For those who only have juncos in winter, we only get to listen to their call and chip notes. Have you ever heard their call notes? Their “tew-tew-tew” call sounds like they are communicating in morse code.

Listen to the call here, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/82346

You can listen to the song and chip notes here, http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Dark-eyed_Junco/id

Want to try and attract them to your yard?

Juncos are primarily ground feeders and are drawn to the millet and mixed seeds around the base of feeders or ground-tray feeders. They prefer blends like No-Mess or Deluxe.

They prefer to roost in evergreens at night; but, will also use tall grasses and brush piles. They return to the same roost location regularly, sharing it with other flock mates.

Now is a great time to attract Junco’s so you can listen to them throughout the season.

Nov 22
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Male Allen's Hummingbird eating WBU Bird Bug Bites Suet. Photo courtesy Debbie Shewfeld, WBU team member at the Torrance, CA store.

Male Allen’s Hummingbird eating WBU Bird Bug Bites Suet. Photo courtesy Debbie Shewfeld, WBU team member at the Torrance, CA store.

Hummingbirds consume more than just nectar. They must have a source of protein and at least half of their diet is small insects and bugs.

But a hummingbird eating suet?

Check out the above photo. Debbie, an employee at the Wild Birds Unlimited of Torrance, CA, put out a fresh Bird Bug Bites Suet Cake and an Allen’s Hummingbird showed up for a bite to eat.

Beyond Bird Bug Bites Suet, we have occasional reports that Ruby-throated and Anna’s Hummingbirds frequent Jim’s Birdacious Bark Butter (a spreadable suet-based product). This usually just happens during the winter.

Hummingbirds that over-winter in areas are usually doing so because they are finding localized insect sources that are often around open bodies of water. Of course, they are sourcing nectar as well.

It is not common for hummingbirds to eat suet. But, stranger things have been known to happen.

Sep 27
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APS Feeding Station

Don’t have birds coming to your feeders? Take heart! They are eating from the abundance of natural foods right now; but, they are still watching your feeders and occasionally coming in to grab a snack.

Additionally, birds are currently choosing their winter territories. Access to feeders with quality foods not only provide a great snack today but can influence their decision to choose your yard for meals during the rough winter weather.

So, keep a little bit of food in your feeders right now to help make sure the birds are regular visitors later.

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Jun 14
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Kissing cardinals on the WBU Dinner Bell Feeder

Kissing cardinals on the WBU Dinner Bell Feeder

Downy Woodpecker Dad feeding son

Downy Woodpecker Dad feeding son Bark Butter

Dads provide for us, care for us, teach us and guide us. In honor of Father’s Day and dads everywhere, including the bird world, here is some fun bird-Dad information.

Have you ever seen birds kissing? Northern Cardinals and Western Scrub-Jays do this. The male feeds his mate seeds during courtship and it appears they are kissing. You can often see this near bird feeding stations. He does this to show he can be a good provider to raise a family.

Chickadee and nuthatch dads provide in a different way. They feed Mom while she sits brooding their eggs. Once the babies hatch, Dad tirelessly helps feed them, constantly running out to the “store” for more food.

But, the Father-of-the-Year Award goes to the Downy Woodpecker. He provides for the family by sharing daytime nest duties with Mom; but, he is the one that incubates the eggs at night. Once the babies hatch, he roosts at night in the nest-cavity with the young until they fledge. And then, he teaches the young where to find food. Now that is a dedicated provider.

Thanks for providing for us, Dads.

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Apr 16
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Immature Female Rufous Hummingbird

Immature Female Rufous Hummingbird

WBU High Perch Hummingbird Feeder

WBU High Perch Hummingbird Feeder

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Did you ever wonder how a hummingbird will show up in your yard and check out the hummingbird feeder or hanging nectar plant that was there last year but hasn’t been put out yet this year? How do the birds know? It’s almost like they remember the nectar-rich food source. It is amazing that a bird would remember, especially one with the brain the size of a BB. Consider what a hummingbird does each year. They migrate great distances going south to winter in southern Mexico and northern Panama. They travel as far north as Alaska and Canada for breeding. Up to a 2,500 mile trip one way. An impressive feat performed by such a small-brained bird weighing about one penny. Bird banding records show many hummingbirds pass through the same yards, on the same day, year after year. Males return to stake claim on the same territory as the previous year. Females return to the same tree for nesting and sometimes re-use last year’s nest. One study found a female reused her nest for five years in a row. It is amazing how the smallest bird in the world can be so formidable with its memory and come back to feed from a nectar feeder it remembers from last year.

Hang your hummingbird feeders now and keep the nectar fresh. Those amazing jewels of nature are migrating back for the summer.

Mar 29
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Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

Though the recent snow storm in the Midwest doesn’t reflect it, spring officially sprang last week. Have you been listening to the ever increasing dawn chorus (see March 4 post)? It’s a sign that birds will soon be nesting. Your chickadees and bluebirds may have already started new home selections which means precious, little eggs aren’t far behind. Do you have the right nesting-food resources to help birds thrive?

Foods that nesting birds seek include protein and calcium and are found in a number of WBU offerings such as any of the WBU Plus Blends, Jim’s Birdacious Bark Butter Bits and mealworms.

WBU Plus Blends, compared to other blends, provide a more balanced nutritional offering at feeding stations to meet the needs of nesting birds and increase the frequency of visits to feeders. Not only do they provide much needed supplemental energy for the high demands of the nesting season, but also the added calcium is the perfect ingredient to help strengthen egg shells for nesting birds and an essential building block as baby birds grow.

Bark Butter Bits are high in fat, protein and calcium and are a convenient nugget way to attract a wide variety of birds and know you are providing the desired nutrients for nesting season.

Mealworms are quite a treat for the birds and you. Birds naturally eat insects for the high-protein value, and much of a nestling’s and fledgling’s diet is insects. Offering mealworms provides that stable supplement. Mealworms are not slimy or icky. They’re like a caterpillar without the fur. Besides, you don’t have to touch them. Use a plastic spoon to scoop them into a feeder.

It’s the perfect time to offer nesting foods to help birds thrive, and you get to enjoy attracting them to your yard for a more intimate look while they raise families.

Mar 04
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You head to work early; it’s still dark and cold. It’s too dark and cold to make a logical reason to be up, and already you can hear them – those crazy birds aren’t just awake, they’re already whooping it up with their trills, melodies and crescendos. You are witnessing what is often called the “dawn chorus” – that period of time before the sun shows itself, but when the great outdoors is already filled with beautiful sounds of nature. The birds that you hear are mainly males, doing what male birds do best, protecting/claiming their territory and/or trying to attract a mate.

There are a few theories about why birds sing so vigorously during those per-light hours. For many years, the prevailing theory was that those early hours are typically the coolest and driest hours of the day and this lack of atmospheric variables allowed bird songs to travel the farthest, giving their voices better range, sending a message to other males that they should stay away…and the farther away the better. It was also assumed that females could be attracted from farther distances.

In the 1990s, scientists discovered that this theory had some holes in it. When they studied the range of two sparrow species who participate in the dawn chorus, they found that their songs travelled just as far, if not farther, at noon as in the pre-daylight hours. They conducted their studies on both woodland and grassland sparrow species and found that their results were the same. They found that the individual bird’s songs (believe it or not, each individual bird has a slight, but recognizable song) were more consistent and clear in those pre-dawn hours than at any other time of day, primarily due to lack of wind. So, if you are a male bird trying to attract a mate or stake out your claim to a territory, it’s more important to make sure that your fellow feathered friends or foes know that it’s you singing away than it is to be heard over a long distance.

A completely different theory is that “early bird” singing has little to do with the effects of heat, humidity or wind but has everything to do with proving how strong those sweet, but strong, male birds are. You see, the way to impress the fairer sex (females) and to scare away your competition (other males looking to encroach on your territory), in the bird world, is to be big, strong and vigorous. It is thought that the better you can sing during the most challenging time of the day, the better mate and more challenging competitor you will be. So, if you can sing loud and strong in the early morning, before you have time to warm up and have a good hearty breakfast, the better mate and stronger defender of your territory you will be.

Both theories seem to make sense to me, and I think that a combination of both theories is the genesis of the dawn chorus. In any event, the reason behind the “why” becomes less important to me each and every time I get the privilege and honor of hearing this mysterious, beautiful and wonderful event. I encourage you to set your alarm early this spring, and go outside to experience one of the finest wonders of nature.

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