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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Feb 05
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Flying Start Feeder

Flying Start Feeder

The annual four day event is a joint project between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Bird Studies Canada and the National Audubon Society. Wild Birds Unlimited is a sponsor for the event.

Participating individuals, families, schools and organizations are encouraged to count birds at bird feeders and in backyards, local parks or other locations. Those tallies should then be reported online through the BirdSource web site at www.birdcount.org. Scientists use that data to analyze bird populations, migration patterns, habitat needs and identify birds at risk of becoming endangered. Participants should watch birds for at least 15 minutes at the location of their choice on one or more of the count days. They are to estimate the number of birds they see for each species they can identify. Participants select their location on a map, answer a few questions, enter their tallies, and then submit that data to share their sightings with others around the world.

“Whether an active bird watcher or a newcomer to the hobby, we encourage everyone to get involved and our stores are more than willing to help people get involved in the GBBC,” said Jim Carpenter, CEO and Founder of Wild Birds Unlimited. “The yearly event is important in helping the world learn about birds. Bird populations are dynamic and are constantly in flux. It is impossible for scientists to observe and document the movement of birds on their own. By participating, people play a vital role in the ongoing initiatives to learn more about birds.”

The data for the count will be powered by “eBird,” an online checklist program for the world’s approximate 10,000 bird species. Birders can view what others see on interactive maps, keep their own records, and have their tallies recorded.

For more information about the GBBC, call or stop by your local Wild Birds Unlimited store. To find your nearest location, visit https://maps.wbu.com.

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. 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.

Jan 22
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Tufted Titmouse visiting a heated bird bath

Tufted Titmouse visiting a heated bird bath

If water sources are frozen, it can be very difficult for birds to find a drink. They may have to travel a long way to an open source or resort to eating snow (if there is any).

Birds need drinking water to maintain a healthy metabolism to stay warm and hydrated.

They need it for bathing to keep their feathers in top insulating condition and keep them waterproof.

Do you have nights with hard frosts or any freezing weather? Use a heated bird bath or add a heater to your existing plastic, metal or stone bird bath to keep open water available for the birds.

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.

Nov 08
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Here are a few tips to help your birds this winter from Chris Hanson, owner of the
Lakeville, MN store.

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Dec 19
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One of the greatest parts of the holiday season is how everyone celebrates with their own, sometimes very unique, traditions.

Perhaps you always host a Christmas dinner, or maybe you always go out looking at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve. Maybe your tradition is to open up all gifts on Christmas Eve so you can sleep in on Christmas Day.

One old Scandinavian Christmas tradition is centered on feeding the birds.

Many Nordic families offer food to the birds; traditionally, a sheaf of grain placed on a pole, fence or rooftop.

Those who do not have access to cereal stalks substitute a plate of grain, bread or seeds.

This bird food offering is placed outside on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning as a way to include the birds in the feasting that is taking place inside the home.

Visit Wild Birds Unlimited for seed to continue a bird feeding tradition or start a new one.

Whatever your holiday traditions may be, we hope it is a fun time with family, friends and the birds.

Oct 19
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WBU Seed Cylinder Feeder

Where are the birds? My feeders are quiet and I want to draw the birds back as well as encourage them to be loyal to my feeders.

This is common this time of year. Fall harvest foods are available and you can bet birds are taking advantage of them. The foods include insects, seeds, nuts, berries and fruits. Birds are still using your feeders to supplement meals even though it is intermittent or seems non-existent.

However, birds are also looking for and reviewing food locations for later winter use. They often show a strong loyalty to feeders with high quality foods in sheltered locations. During periods of cold, windy weather they may abandon feeders located in exposed areas like a yard with little-to-no cover.

Since birds are scrutinizing the quality of your food offering and how sheltered it is from severe weather, here’s what you can do to keep them loyally coming to your feeders all winter.

Place your feeders in sheltered locations out of the wind. Offer a small brush pile for birds to get out of the weather. Give feeders a cleaning. Keep feeders filled with quality foods. Keep foods fresh and dry making sure they don’t get clumpy or spoiled.

The birds will return and will repay you later by being loyal to your feeders during frigid winter weather.

Who’s visiting your feeders?

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Feb 08
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The 15th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is almost here; February 17-20, 2012. Participation is easy, fun and free.

As a GBBC participant, you may see birds you don’t know. To identify lesser-known birds, practice answering the following questions, looking at a bird from the top down. Use the numbers on the Song Sparrow pictured above for practice.

1. Silhouette
Look at the bird’s overall size, shape and posture. Is it the size of something familiar like a sparrow, robin or crow?

2. Head Markings
Does the bird have a colorful or striped cap, also known as a crown? Is there a stripe above or through the eye; does it have an eye ring or “spectacles?” Look for cheek patches or a mustache. Is there a white throat patch?

3. Body Markings
What are the overall back, breast and belly colors? What’s on the chest: a patch, spots, streaks or is it clear? Are the flanks (sides of body just below the wings) clear or streaked? Is there a white or yellow rump patch?

4. Wing Markings
Are the wings a different color than the body? Are there one or two wing bars (solid lines of color) or spots?

5. Tail Shape and Markings
Is the tail long or short compared to the body? Is it forked, squared, pointed or another shape? Are there certain colors or vertical or horizontal stripes?

Using these tips will help you quickly gather all the clues you need to positively identify birds during GBBC.

So, grab your favorite bird identification guide and invite a friend to join you in the fun of counting the birds for science.

Learn how GBBC helps scientists, especially this year, by clicking here. Learn all the details of how to participate at www.birdcount.org.

Where will you be counting the birds and who will be joining you for this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count?

Jan 11
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Do you remember lava lamps? I would watch mesmerized by those globs of “lava” as they floated up and down elongating, twisting and eventually pulling back into tight balls. I still sit and watch mesmerized by these dynamic shapes; but, I do it outside watching flocks of starlings.

European Starlings gather in flocks in the winter. These flocks, called a murmuration, can be a dozen birds or a few thousand birds; which is quite impressive.

What is more impressive than the sheer size of the flocks is the singular, fluid movement as if the murmuration was one entity moving in singular purpose. Just like the lava in lava lamps.

Other blackbirds gather in large flocks as well; however, the movement is not fluid and it seems like they just randomly follow each other. So what makes starlings different?

A study in Europe unraveled the mystery with some extensive computer analysis. It was determined that each starling watches 7 others irrespective of distance. They don’t have to be right next to each other as long as they can still see one another somewhere in the flock. By watching other starlings, and keeping a minimum personal-space distance, it allows the murmuration to move as one.

Keeping an eye on seven buddies also answers why there are “tight balls” of birds that break off from the main flock so fluidly just like the “globs” in a lava lamp. When one bird peals away from the murmuration, others follow.

Where have you watched a living lava lamp lately?

Want to see a video of this in action? Click here to see a video that went viral last fall on YouTube that shows a great example of a murmuration in all its lava lamp glory.

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