Apr 05
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Dad brings home a crawdad for dinner

Dad brings home a crawdad for dinner

Dad keeping a watchful eye

Dad keeping a watchful eye

Dad off to get more crawdads

Dad off to get more crawdads

Mom enjoying a crawdad for dinner

Mom enjoying a crawdad for dinner

How cool is this! Jim Carpenter, owner and CEO of WBU, got some great shots of the Barred Owl family doing what every typical family does, have dinner together. Thursday, April 3rd, we had about 4” of rain here in the Indianapolis area. So, the crawdads must have been out on top of their little clay chimneys. Dad, the good provider, caught one and brought it home for dinner.

Stay tuned, we are expecting the first egg to hatch very soon. Watch our livestream cam on our web site to check in on the family.

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Oct 17
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Richard Crossley, Nancy and Jim Carpenter

Richard Crossley, Nancy and Jim Carpenter

Richard Crossley discussing raptors at the Eagle Creek Ornithology Center

Richard Crossley discussing raptors at the Eagle Creek Ornithology Center

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Last week Nancy and I, along with our staff at the Wild Birds Unlimited of Indianapolis store, were honored to co-host a fund raiser for the Birds of Prey program at the Eagle Creek Ornithology Center. For a donation, attendees enjoyed a raptor identification program and hike with the acclaimed birder Richard Crossley. Richard Crossley is an internationally acclaimed birder, award winning author and photographer. Attendees also received their choice of Crossley’s Guide to Raptors or Crossley’s Guide to Eastern Birds. We raised $1,500 for the program.

Richard also gave a presentation and had a book signing at the Wild Birds Unlimited store on 82nd. St. in Indianapolis. As you can see in the photos, everyone had a wonderful time.

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 22
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It is hard to imagine, but the Wild Birds Unlimited corporate office sits in the middle of a fairly sterile suburban setting.

It wasn’t always so.

When WBU, Inc. moved into its current office space almost 20 years ago, the area surrounding it was mostly undeveloped fields, pasture and woodland. Prime bluebird habitat.

But as the years passed almost every one of these open spaces was developed into housing and office complexes. As a result, our bluebird boxes went unexplored and empty for many years. Even seeing a bluebird became a very rare event.

Until yesterday!

The buzz began around mid-morning with the first sighting literally outside our front door, a pair of bluebirds sitting on the sidewalk not more than three feet away!

As the bluebird alert filtered throughout the building, the front windows became the place to be. Our staff photographer grabbed his camera and began shooting away. There was a rush to the bird food closet to prepare a Bark Butter Bits® treat for our visitors. Dozens of staff members came out of their offices to get a glimpse of the royal couple.

Throughout the remainder of the day any gathering space with front windows became a tough place to meet as the bluebirds proved to be a strong and yet delightful distraction.

I am happy to report that the bluebirds are still distracting us today.

Needless to say, those of who make a living helping to bring the joy of birds to your backyard sure got excited when these bluebirds came to ours!

We have had a number of reports that seem to indicate that bluebirds are utilizing urban habitats more than in the past. Do you have bluebirds in your neighborhood?

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Mar 15
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Well, we finally had a real winter!

After the past few incredibly mild winters, this year’s cold and snow has been a little rough to take. And usually by this time in March, signs of spring are busting out all over. Usually, but not this year!

One of few hints of spring that is happening right now is the growing dawn chorus (see March 4 post) that I hear around my neighborhood every morning. The birds know that the spring nesting season is coming soon, regardless of the cold and snowy weather.

While the birds may be singing as if the promise of spring has actually arrived, March’s unpredictable weather doesn’t make their lives any easier. March is a transitional month where sunny, warm spring-like days can rapidly turn into cold, damp conditions that test their survival skills to the core.

This month also marks the lowest point of the year in the supply of birds’ natural foods. Insect populations have yet to develop, and the remaining wild seeds, nuts and fruits have either been utilized or become undesirable.

Because of these challenges, March is one of the most crucial months to continue feeding your backyard birds. You can be a true lifesaver, especially during prolonged spells of cold and damp weather.

A good seed blend is crucial and high-energy foods such as peanuts and suet will provide your birds with much needed fat and protein, while mealworms will help to counteract the lack of natural insects at this time of the year.

Providing birds with the right foods during the month of March can truly make a difference in the quality of their lives, and ours, too!

Because, if the birds weren’t already singing their dawn chorus…I am not sure I would believe that spring is ever going to get here!

What signs of spring are you seeing?

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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.

Feb 08
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It has often been said that the first sign of an American Robin foraging on the lawn means spring is on the way. But is the robin still a harbinger of spring?

Robins typically gather in flocks in autumn to migrate south to escape harsh winter weather. However, times seem to be changing.

More and more robins seem to be overwintering in more northern states and southern Canada. Even range maps show them to winter in the States including coastal Alaska and coastal and southern Canada. Check out the robins’ range map by clicking here.

Robins are not a typical feeder bird; but, they are known to visit feeders in lean times such as periods of harsh weather. Open water is always very attractive to robins and they can be enticed to some foods. Some of my favorite robin foods include the following.

* Raisins or currants soaked for a few minutes in water
* Live mealworms are a great treat and those in more northern areas can offer them in a heated dish filled with sphagnum moss
* Bark Butter Bits
* Sunflower chips

Foods are best offered in tray feeders whether on the ground or hanging. A hopper feeder with a wide platform works well. My personal favorite is the Dinner Bell feeder for offering food to robins because it has an accessible tray and a protective dome.

Are robins still a harbinger of spring? For the most part, I think they are. However, don’t be surprised to see a few robins around your neighborhood before spring arrives.

Where are you seeing robins?

Jun 14
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Downy Woodpeckers

Dads take on all sorts of roles in the bird world.

Proud Provider
Some birds grab “take out” meals. Chickadee and nuthatch dads feed Mom while she broods the eggs. Dad also helps feed the young once they have hatched.

On-the-Job Training
Pygmy and Brown-headed Nuthatch dads provide future-dads with on-the-job training. The young helpers assist Dad in raising the next brood by feeding Mom while she sits on eggs and feeding the nestlings as well as the new fledglings.

Dad’s Favorite Diner
American Goldfinch and Downy Woodpecker dads like to take the family out to eat. When the young fledge from the nest, dad leads them to great food sources as well as teaches them how to use his favorite backyard bird feeders. Check out the picture above of a Downy Woodpecker dad feeding his newly-fledged son.

What kind of “Bird Dad” activity is happening in your backyard?

May 09
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Killdeer Mom on Nest

We celebrate Moms this weekend. As you are celebrating or thinking about Mom or that special lady in your life, keep in mind bird moms.

Killdeer moms sit on the eggs when temperatures are cool and stand over them for shade when it’s too hot. Can you find Mom sitting on the eggs in the picture above?

Here is a picture showing how well camouflaged her eggs are in the nest.

Killdeer Nest & Eggs

As you are celebrating or thinking about Mom or that special lady in your life, keep an eye out this weekend for bird moms that are building nests, sitting on eggs or already feeding fledglings.

Stop by your local Wild Birds Unlimited store to share your bird Mom story or learn more about giving bird Moms a helping hand.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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