Great Backyard Bird Count (#GBBC) by the numbers

This is the last day of the Great Backyard Bird Count (#GBBC). Checklists are flooding in from all over the world and it’s great fun to see the live map on the website lighting up! Bird watchers have submitted nearly 98,000 checklists so far reporting more than 5,800 species from around the world. People in more than 150 countries and territories are putting their birds on the map.

Laying claim to the greatest number of species reported to the GBBC is always hotly-contested. As it stands right now, Colombia is leading the way with 883 species (wow) and look at Ecuador with 819 species! Traditional powerhouse India has so far reported 776 species from more than 8,600 checklists. Brazil, Mexico, and the United States follow. These numbers are constantly changing, of course. See where the world species totals stand right now.

Top-10 countries by checklists submitted:
  1. United States (61,883)
  2.  India (9,054)
  3.  Canada (7,055)
  4. Australia (1,720)
  5. Spain (1,336)
  6. United Kingdom (781)
  7. Costa Rica (716)
  8. Mexico (620)
  9. Taiwan (598)
  10. Argentina (564)
Totals as of Feb. 16 Look at current checklist totals.

If you’re wondering about reports for a specific species, try out the “Species Map” tool. Enter the name of the species you’re curious about in the space field. The date range is already set for the span of the GBBC. If you have a specific location in mind, you can enter that too. At first you’ll see purple patches. But zoom in closer and click on “show points sooner” in the right column to see red markers where the species has been reported. You can also explore specific regions, countries, states, and more with the Explore A Region tool. It’s fun to see what others are reporting for the GBBC!

Read more at: https://gbbc.birdcount.org/news/half-time-report/

Keep Counting!
Keep entering your GBBC checklists! You have until March 1 to enter your data from the four days of the count using the GBBC website. If you still have data to enter after March 1, you can do so directly in the eBird website.
Thank you–keep up the good work, bird watchers!

How to check the freshness of seed

I am starting to feed the birds again after a little break. The birds aren't touching the food. How do I know if the seed is still good?

One way to check to see if your seed is fresh is to crush some on a piece of paper and see if any oil comes out. When birds are molting, migrating or battling the weather every meal counts, if your seed has dried out your feeder will be skipped.

In the warm months, I wouldn't keep seed longer than a month. In the cool months you can keep seed all winter, no longer. Just as a box of crackers will go stale (even if the bag isn't opened), seed also goes bad. And while we'll survive the occasional dry cracker, birds have high basal metabolic rates & so use energy at high rates. They don't have time to waste on seed without a high oil content.

http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2009/02/product-highlight-storage-cans-and-wbu.html
Seed storage cans are an easy way to keep your seed out of reach of rodents. Make sure to leave the seed in their original bags so you are never dumping old seed on top of new.

You should also make sure your feeders are clean and there is no mold in the bottom of your feeder. This can be dangerous to the birds. To prevent mold in bad weather use Feeder Fresh™ (a silica grit that absorbs water and humidity, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand). You can also shelter your feeder from the elements by using something like Weather Guard.

Related Articles:
Keep seed dry and free of mold https://keep-seed-dry-and-free-of-mold.html

February is designated National Bird Feeding Month https://feb national-bird.html

Birds of Michigan Field Guide https://bird-identification of-michigan.html
#GBBC, The Great Backyard Bird Count! https://gbbc.html
Michigan Woodpeckers https:/Michigan woodpeckers gbbc.html
Birds sleep in short bursts https://birds sleep in short bursts.html
It is time for every birdy to count https://t-is-time-for-every-birdy-to-count.html
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Keep seed dry and free of mold

At our bird feeding store we clean feeders every day for $5.00 each and I have been cleaning a lot of feeders lately. In wet weather, the seed in the feeders might become moldy which very dangerous for the birds. 

If you are having trouble keeping your seed dry and fresh after a wet weather, two products that I recommend are weather guards and feeder fresh.


A Weather Guard is designed to keep bad weather from spoiling your seed in the tube. This is a clear plastic dome that slips on top of most of our tube feeders. It will not deter birds from feeding, in fact, many enjoy feeding under the shelter and out of the wet weather. It has a lifetime guarantee and is made in the USA.
 
And I recommend Feeder Fresh very highly. Yes, it works. I use it myself in bad weather. It is a desiccant that you add to the seed when you fill the feeder. It absorbs excess water, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand. Feeder Fresh keeps the seed in the feeder dry, keeps molds from forming, which reduces the chance of molds.
.
Once the Feeder Fresh absorbs its own weight in water it will discontinue absorbing, and be identical to the silica grit that birds normally ingest. It's also made in the USA. Feeder Fresh keeps my feeders free of mold which makes it easier for me to maintain clean healthy feeders.


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Birds of Michigan Field Guide https://bird-identification of-michigan.html
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Michigan Woodpeckers https:/Michigan woodpeckers gbbc.html
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Can birds predict your Valentine?

Curious about what your romantic future holds, you may want to look to the birds. Ornithomancy is an Ancient Greek practice of reading omens based on the birds. According to the ancient practice, the first bird that an unmarried person sees on Valentine’s Day can foretell their future partner’s character.

The following is a list of birds and the type of person you could end up with, supposedly, if you spot them on Valentine’s Day:
- Cardinal = Romantic person
- Chickadee = intelligent, long-term thinker
- Nuthatch = A scientist or mathematician
- Finch = A very sociable person
- Robin = A person in uniform 
- Turkey = Environmentalist
- Bird of prey = A politician
- Bluebird = Someone who makes people smile
- Pigeon = A homebody
- Wren = Likes material possession
- Blackbird = A spiritual, charitable guy
- Sparrow = A farmer
- Owl = An academic
- Hummingbird = One that travels
- Swan = A partner for life
- Duck = A homely but stable person
- Kingfisher = Has inherited wealth
- Goose = Someone who works in communications
- Dove = A happy marriage
- Woodpecker = No marriage
- Crow = No relationship
Finally if the big question is popped and you are contemplating what to say, sit outside and wait for a little birdy. If one flies past you on your left, the answer is "no" and you may want to change your plans. If a bird flies past you on your right the answer is "yes" and all will be well.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

#GBBC: Counting flocks of birds

How do I estimate the number of birds when there’s a roost or a huge flock?

First count the birds in a small part of the flock. Then estimate how many blocks of equal size would make up the entire flock. Multiply number of blocks by the number of individual birds you first counted to come up with an estimate.

Starlings and blackbirds always rank among “most numerous” during the Great Backyard Birdcount and you might find it difficult to give an accurate count when a flock descends under a feeder.

eBird has developed two bird counting tutorials to help you learn how to estimate numbers. The best technique to use when encountering large flocks of birds is to carefully count a sample, or section, of the flock then extrapolate your count to come up with an estimate. Check out these tutorials:



https://youtu.be/jW9ew3TKV1E

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#GBBC: It is time for every birdy to count

Studies prove that bird feeding and bird watching help lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Simply put, birds make us feel better. However recent history reveals, birds are in trouble. In a study published by the journal Science last fall, scientists revealed a decline of more than one in four birds in the United States and Canada since 1970—3 billion birds gone. In addition to these steep declines, Audubon scientists projected a grim future for birds in Survival By Degrees, a report showing nearly two-thirds of North America’s bird species could disappear due to climate change. Birds from around the world are facing similar challenges and declines. Birds warn us to the dangers threatening nature’s ecosystems, so what can you do to help? Start by counting birds for science.

A lot has changed since the first Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The 23rd annual GBBC is taking place February 14-17, 2020, in backyards, parks, schools, offices and anywhere else you find birds. Anyone can participate in this massive global citizen science project. All it takes is a 15 minute break. Count the birds you see and then enter that checklists at birdcount.org. All the data contributes to a snapshot of bird distribution and help scientists see changes over the years.

By looking at previous counts you can see one of the most obvious changes observed in bird populations is due to the varying weather conditions. eBird reports show many more birds are remaining further north than usual because of warmer winters. In mid-Michigan sightings of Carolina Wrens, Northern Flickers and Eastern Bluebirds are becoming commonplace when ten years ago it was very rare for them not to migrate further south. Participants also noted that they were seeing fewer birds at their feeders, compared to other years during the GBBC. That may also have something to do with milder weather. The birds may be finding more natural sources of food and visiting feeders less as a result.

If the warm weather continues, we could see the earliest spring ever for bird migration in the eastern United States: watch for waves of blackbirds, Tree Swallows, Eastern Phoebes, Pine Warblers, and Chipping Sparrows next!

Join Us for the Next Count, February 14-17, 2020

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

1. Create a free GBBC account if you have never participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count or any other Cornell Lab citizen-science project, or have not participated in the GBBC since 2013. If you already created an account for the GBBC in the past, or if you’re already registered with eBird or another Cornell Lab citizen-science project, you can use your existing user name and password.

2. Count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the GBBC. You can count for longer than that if you wish! Count birds in as many places and on as many days as you like—one day, two days, or all four days. Submit a separate checklist for each new day, for each new location, or for the same location if you counted at a different time of day. Estimate the number of individuals of each species you saw during your count period.

3. Enter your results on the GBBC website by clicking the “Submit Observations” tab on the home page. You may also download the free eBird Mobile app to enter data on a mobile device. If you already participate in the eBird citizen-science project, please use eBird to submit your sightings during the GBBC. Your checklists will count toward the GBBC.

The #GreatBackyardBirdcount (#GBBC): Michigan Woodpeckers

In a side-by-side comparison it's not as hard to tell the difference between the smaller Downy Woodpecker and larger Hairy Woodpecker. The Downy is about half the size of a Hairy and the Downy’s bill is shorter than its head, whereas the Hairy’s bill is as long its head.

1. Downy Woodpecker - At about 6 inches, it’s smallest woodpecker in North America and the most frequent visitor to backyard feeders year-round. They have a white belly and back and their black wings have white bars. The males have a red patch on the back of the head. The Downy’s name refers to the soft white feathers of the white strip on the lower back, which differ from the more hairlike feathers on the Hairy Woodpecker.
2. Hairy Woodpecker – At about 9 inches, these medium woodpeckers look like their smaller downy woodpecker cousins. They aren’t as common at suburban birdfeeders.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers have a similar silhouette. Red-bellies have more red on their head while the flickers only have a "V" of red on the back of their head and polka dots on their chest.
3. Red-bellied Woodpecker - They are common throughout most of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula year-round. People often call the Red-bellied woodpecker by a list of common misnomers like red-headed or ladder-back woodpecker because of their gleaming red caps and striking black and white barred backs. Since virtually all woodpeckers are black and white with patches of bright colors on various parts of their bodies, the Red-bellied was named for the unique pinkish tinge on the belly, common to both genders.
4. Northern Flicker – Unlike most woodpeckers, this species spends much of its time on the ground, feeding mostly on ants. They are more commonly sighted at suet feeders in the winter. Both the male and females have a red chevron on the back of their heads, black bibs, speckled chest, and a brown, barred back and wings. The males have a black “mustache”.
5. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are mostly black and white with boldly patterned faces. Both sexes have red foreheads, and males also have red throats. Sapsuckers are seen more and more often in mid-Michigan during the winters, but most head farther south, going as far south as Panama. They drill lines of shallow wells that fill up with sap that the sapsucker laps up with their brush-like tongue (not sucks). He also eats any bugs that happen to get trapped in the sticky stuff.
6. Red-headed Woodpecker – These woodpeckers have an unmistakable bright red head, black wings and white belly. They spend the summers in all of Michigan but are the least common at mid-Michigan feeders
7. Pileated Woodpecker – Hard to mistake this bird if it drops down on to your suet feeder. They are Michigan's largest woodpecker at sixteen and a half inches in length and a wingspan up to 30 inches. The males have a characteristic red "mustache," which is actually a stripe near the beak. The female's stripe is black. There is no real consensus on whether this bird’s name is pronounced “pie-lee-ated” or “pill-ee-ated”.

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Female birds often choose their mates


Photo by DrPhotoMoto https://creativecommons.org/
February is the month of love, perhaps inspired by some interesting behaviors exhibited by our bird friends. There was a popular notion in England and France during the Middle Ages that birds started to look for their mates on February 14. The reason for this assumption might be related to the fact that the birds started singing again sometime in mid-February. Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?-1400), an English poet mentions this belief in his Parlement of Foules (1382):
“For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day, Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”
[Translation "For this was Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird comes there to choose his mate."]

Bird courtship displays are integral to mating and raising young. Female birds often choose suitors based on appearance, the ability to provide food, evidence that the male can build the strongest and safest nest and other characteristics. If you have woodpeckers in your yard, you probably have heard the rat-tat-tatting on phone poles to attract their mates. Other species flash pretty feathers to females, touch bills or groom each other during courtship. Jays and cardinals often present food gifts to their potential mates while doves fluff up their feathers and “dance.”  And as the days get longer there will also be more birdsong in the air, to attract mates and stake out territories.

In North America most birds form bonds for at least a single nesting. These pairings allow birds to split domestic duties for protecting eggs and caring for hatchlings. Other pair bonds include mating for life, either by pairing up again each breeding season or remaining with each other year-round. Cardinals, jays, doves, chickadees, woodpeckers, bluebirds, and robins are some of the common backyard birds that spend nesting seasons together 'til death do they part. Even cowbirds which lay their eggs in other birds nests are largely monogamous.

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What you should feed wild birds

Can you give a definitive answer as to what seeds wild birds will and will not eat at my feeder?

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 bird store in East Lansing, MI. Our seed is also sifted to take out all the sticks and field debris. 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—suets, seed cylinders, mealworms and more.
What is your best blend?
For East Lansing, customers’ preference by far is blend with the shells removed. It is a unique blend that 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, it is the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything happily.
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Providing Safe Nesting Material for Birds

Nesting season is just around the corner. Many birds use man made houses while others construct their own nest. All songbirds need material to create the best bed for their baby birds. The wren starts his nest with a bundle of sticks that is lined with soft material, the chickadee likes a lot of soft fluff on top of a moss base, the bluebird uses grasses and pine needles, and the tree swallow gathers large bird feathers to line a shallow nest of grass and roots. Usually there is no lack of these materials in the wild, but it's fun to provide natural materials for the birds to collect right outside our windows.

You should put materials out early in spring, when the first robin starts to patrol your yard for worms. You can continue to offer nesting materials as late as August, because some birds nest two or three times over the course of the summer and the American Goldfinches don't even begin to nest until late summer.

The birds that winter in our area, (chickadees, bluebirds, titmice, house finches, sparrows, and cardinals) may begin collecting nesting material as early as February and March. Other birds that migrate north to Michigan to nest (wrens, hummingbirds, swallows, orioles, buntings, grosbeaks, and warblers) begin nesting in May.

We have natural Cotton Nesting Balls, and HummerHelper Or you can collect: twigs, cattail fluff, cottonwood down or Canada Thistle fluff, feathers, or dried decorative grasses. 

We DO NOT recommend dryer lint. Lint hardens after getting wet providing a poor nest for baby birds. Thread, plastic material and lint are the 3 big no, nos for nesting material.
Offering birds proper construction material to build a nest is just one more way for you to attract a wider variety of bird activity to your yard!

https://youtu.be/oVMcRGLmgu8
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Unique Handmade Woolie Bird Houses

Photo of chickadee, wren, and goldfinch taking turns using nest from winter to late summer by Sandra Hellmann
Today I just unpacked the new dZi Handmade Woolie Houses. After running a wild bird supply store for over 15 years I still get excited about new things to make a better bird world!

Now would be the perfect time to hang these up to provide shelter for the birds. We've offered these hand-felted bird houses for years. The new seasons designs just came in. They are fun, decorative and functional with a lot of good customer feedback. Yes, they are made to be hung outside for the birds. The 1/4" diameter opening is sized for small birds such as wrens, chickadees, titmice or nuthatches, and it can be enlarged for bluebirds or woodpeckers.

Each birdhouse is made with sustainable harvested materials such as sheep wool, a braided natural hemp hanging cord, and bamboo perch.  Rain will shed naturally from the water repellent wool, and if it does gets wet, it will also dry naturally. If birds don't choose to nest inside they can pull at the wool fibers for material to feather their own nests. Each birdhouse comes partially filled with recycled paper to maintain the shape in shipping that can be removed through the easy clean out door.

What is “Fair Trade”?
These felt birdhouses are made by artisans in Kathmandu, Nepal, by people that are paid a fair wage for their work. The production center is a clean, safe and environmentally responsible workplace that meets global ‘socially compliant’ workplace standards.
These are going fast! Come in soon to see the full selection.

Wild Woolie Felt Birdhouses
• Unique designs with super ‘Wow’ factor!
• Terrific price and a great gift.
• Fun and functional outside or inside.
• Made with natural water resistant wool.
• Sized for small backyard birds like chickadees.
• 100% Handmade and Fair Trade.
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Bird singing hey sweetie

Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus by Andrew Simon
Even though it seems early, keep your ears open for the loud whistled fee-bee-beeyee chickadees use to attract mates or strengthen pair bonding. In the Wild Bird Guides: Black-capped Chickadee, Susan Smith writes the loud fee-bees actually involve three notes. The first (fee) is high, the second (bee) is low, and the third (bee) is slightly higher in pitch than the second, like they are singing hey sweetie.

In the fall young chickadees leave the territory they were hatched and join non-family flocks to forage for food together all winter. The flocks usually are pairs of males and females. This monogamous pair formation is an essential part of flock formation and may last a lifetime.

Females choose their mates so males must keep the females engaged with song and tasty treats. Chickadees are year-round residents in mid-Michigan. This gives them an advantage in finding a good nesting territory. The end of January is not too early to see chickadees begin to explore potential nest sites (bird houses) so that as soon as the flocks begin to break up for breeding at the end of February, each pair can claim a territory within their home range.

In March, as chickadees dispute territory rights, the loud whistled fee-bee-beeyee songs become a familiar sound. You’ll hear male chickadees engage in prolonged fee-bees battles with their male neighbors.

 
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Nesting season begins with song

Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis by Michael Bowen
There is still a threat of snow in the air but you may have noticed that as the days get longer, the birds are beginning to sing more. What triggers this change in behavior?

A key part of a bird’s brain is affected by seasonal change. When birds are exposed to longer days, the cells start to release a thyroid-stimulating hormone, previously associated only with growth and metabolism. It indirectly stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete further hormones called gonadotrophins, causing male birds' testicles to grow and, results in increased singing during breeding season.

So now is the time to be thinking about providing nesting material and nesting boxes to attract wild birds in your yard because there is nothing like birds’ songs to herald the approach of spring.

https://youtu.be/C9LNexIoCW0
 
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