Michigan Birding 101 Session 2 - Backyard Birds

March 14, 2021

Welcome to our Michigan Birding 101 series.

This is Session 2 of a four-part series provided by Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension featuring tips and tricks and lots of great information from Extension educator Elliot Nelson. In this video, Elliot talks about the birds you are most likely to see in your own area and offers tips on identifying them.

We hope you’ll enjoy all four of the sessions and be inspired to head outside to do some birding!

Session 1 video – Basic Birding Skills: https://youtu.be/brQj2YNQj_w

Session 2 video – Backyard Birds: https://youtu.be/0-9a-5Pt258

Session 3 video – Winter Birding: https://youtu.be/3J6DKgz5NGM

Session 4 video – Magnificent Migration: https://youtu.be/Pfhgeqa0PhU

A special thanks to Darrell Lawson for sharing his Birding 101 tips as well as Skye Hass (https://borealisbirding.net/), Duane Utech and John Diephouse for use of their photos.

Video Transcript

Hello, hello, hello, everyone.

Welcome to another edition of Birding 101.

Michigan Birding 101.

Once again, we're so
happy to have you here

for another exciting class.

This week, I'm joined
by my friend, Kevin here

or wonderful, great blue
Heron with me at my office

at Lake Superior State University.

And of course, as always, I'm joined

by amazing extraordinary Cindy Hudson.

So we're going to get going
right here, right off the bat.

But I first wanted to just
remind you that this is a program

through Michigan State
University Extension.

So as you saw scrolling
through our screen earlier

we do have a commitment

to diversity and equity and inclusion.

And so this program is open to all.

And also we want to
acknowledge that our offices

and our lands were once tribal lands,

and we want to seek to continue to work

with our tribes across the state.

So with that being said,
we're going to get right

into our Birding for the week.

Hopefully you enjoy this beautiful picture

of a Pine Grosbeak from my
friend Skye over in Marquette.

And I do want to just
give a quick reminder.

So we have microphones and
cameras off for everyone.

The only folks who are going to have

their microphones and cameras on are me.

So you don't have to worry about that,

but you do have a chance to interact

through our chat function.

So the chat function is down

at your bottom of your screen there

and you can chat with
folks, share resources.

I'm going to ask you questions.

You can answer the questions there,

but I also want to point
out that we have a Q&A,

and this is where you should
ask your Birding questions

that we'll get to at
the end of the session.

We'll take your questions at the end.

If you put your questions in
the chat, they may get lost.

So Q&A for questions and
chat for everything else.

All right, with that out of
the way we're going to move on.

And our objectives for tonight are one,

We're going to have fun.

Let's have fun.

Let's get some questions answered.

Let's see some cool bird pictures

like those birds right
down there at the bottom.

And our second objective for today

is identifying some common feeder birds.

So last week we covered, how
do you use your binoculars?

Hopefully you had a good time with that.

Hopefully you've been
practicing throughout the week.

And now it's a time where we
want to start really looking

at birds with those binoculars

hopefully right in your own backyard.

And so we're going to cover
how you can bring birds

to your backyard and what
those birds might be.

And then finally, we're going
to cover how to make sure

that the birds that are in your backyard

are in a safe and productive environment

through maybe native
habitats and through thinking

about some of the risks to
birds in your own backyard.

So as we get going here,

I'm going to introduce
myself again really quick.

But again, I'm Elliot Nelson.

I work with Michigan Sea Grant.

As we have had a number of
people just join in here.

And Sea Grant is a program
through MSU Extension,

University of Michigan and NOAH.

And so we help to promote
the sustainable use

of coastal resources
across the Great Lakes

by both promoting coastal economies

and helping to protect and
sustain Great Lakes resources.

And so you might be asking
what do birds have to do

with the Great Lakes and Sea Grant?

That seems like kind of disconnected.

But the thing is that
birds are really important.

And last week we talked

about how they can be an
economic driver through tourism.

We talked about how they can be important

for a variety of other reasons

and that they might be
ecosystem indicators

and they are also good for our physical

and mental health through
the hobby of birding.

But birds also provide a bunch
of services that's right.

now they're not going to be handing you,

your cheeseburger at McDonald's
not that kind of service

but they provide ecosystem services.

And so ecosystem services
are all whole variety

of different things that
birds do that help keep

ecosystems functioning,
healthily, or even improve them.

So this is a seabird colony

and there are studies that show
where seabird colonies exist

on islands in the ocean.

Those islands are way more productive

in terms of their plant life,

because those birds are
pooping all over the place

and that poop has fertilizer in it.

And that fertilizer is being
brought from the oceans

from the fish they eat

and those nutrients are now on the land

so that plants can start
to utilize those nutrients.

Another example of an ecosystem service is

that birds provide seed
spreading services.

So it's estimated that in certain forests

about 90% of all the trees

and shrubs that grow there were
deposited by a bird pooping.

Again, I don't have a bit of a theme here

but it's actually that bird excretion

that has the seeds in it
that they may have brought

from another area.

And in some forest, it's
up to 90% of those trees

and shrubs came from the birds, crazy.

Last but not least of course

is another great ecosystem
service birds provide.

This is a barn swallow

and it's that they can
eat 850 insects a day.

That's a lot of insects, 850 a day.

And so if you don't like the
mosquitoes in your backyard,

then try to bring in some barn swallows.

They actually really like
living on a nesting structure

or tree swallows that nest
in like Bluebird boxes.

All right, so that's just a bit about

what birds do for us and
why Sea Grant's involved

with thinking about birds
and bird protection.

And of course the hobby of Birding

which is what we're all about today.

So you're probably ready
to start identifying birds,

get into your backyard,
getting going with it.

And you might be wondering,
well how many birds

am I going to have to learn?

Well, in Michigan, we have a checklist

with all the birds we have ever seen.

And there are 450 species
of birds on that checklist.

So that's a lot of species of birds

and you might be thinking,

"Hooy vey, how do you learn 450?"

And you never really know
what's going to show up

when new birds get added to every year.

This is a White-eared Hummingbird

and a White-eared Hummingbird
is actually a bird

of Mexico that barely occasionally ends up

in Southern Arizona or
Southern Texas, New Mexico.

It's really rare even there.

And back in 2005, I think it was,

one showed up in just North of Ann Arbor,

in Whitmore Lake area.

So you never know what
birds going to show up.

These are called vagrants
that get off course.

There's all these crazy
vagrants that show up.

I was able to see like a Great
Kingbird a couple of years

which is a bird from Florida.

It was really cool.

But that's not what you're going to see

in your backyard most likely.

We really only actually have 237 species

that breed in Michigan
that actually stay here

for the summer or winter
and raise their young.

So that cuts it down a lot.

These amazing things like this bird,

you can put it in the chat if
you know what this bird is.

I haven't had a chance to check the chat

in a little while.

I know that Cindy is
looking at it there for me

but does anybody know what this bird is?

This is one of the most
iconic birds in Michigan

because it is not found
anywhere else in the world.

It does not nest anywhere else

in the world other than Michigan.

And I see they're coming through now

it's the Kirtland's Warbler.

Yes, so the Kirtland's Warbler is a bird

andemic to Jack pine forest.

And so that's one of our
really unique breeders.

But again you're not going to see

all the breeding bird species in Michigan,

'cause you probably don't
have Jack pine forest

in your backyard unless you live

in the Grayling Gaillard kind of area

or certain pockets of the Upper Peninsula.

So when it really comes down to it

the birds in your backyard,

you're really only going to have

like 10 to 30 species to worry about.

So that actually makes it a lot...

It takes a lot of the pressure off

of having to learn 450 different species.

And so we're going to focus
today on that 10 to 30 species

or so that you might actually
have in your own backyard.

And we'll talk about how
to attract them there

and how to provide maybe food for them

and then how to work on
some of the identification.

And this is one of those ones

that might be in your backyard

that I think we covered last week

and that is a Dark-eyed Junco.

Okay, I want to know really quick,

how many people have bird
feeders in their backyard?

Do you feed the birds

and what's your favorite backyard visitor?

So please go ahead and
just put in the chat.

I'd love to hear

what are your favorite
backyard visitors that come

or that you maybe have
seen out your own window,

even if you don't have a backyard

you may probably have a window

somewhere in your house, I hope.

And what have you seen out that window

that you really enjoy seeing
and do you feed the birds?

So yes, I feed the birds

and which are some of your favorites?

I see, we've got some
answers rolling in now.

Ooh, Carolina wrens a
beautiful little bird.

We've got chickadees, and of
course the iconic cardinals.

Oh my gosh, the chat's just blowing up.

We do have a few hundred
of you on here tonight.

So I just love to see Baltimore
Oriole coming in, squirrels.

Yes, definitely lots of squirrels.

So as you continue to just populate that

with just the joy of
what you might be able

to look out your own window
and discover is there,

I'm going to keep moving forward

but please keep sharing some

of the cool things that
you have in your backyards.

So like we talked about,

we've got the birds providing
ecosystem services for us

and we may want to provide
something for the birds in return

or just to be able to draw in
that 10 to 30 species or so.

And so really when I talk it with birders

and a lot of times new birders or birds,

sometimes I talk to birds directly.

I'm not crazy, but maybe
a little bit. (laughs)

People ask me, "How do
I get those cool birds?

Why don't I have birds at my bird feeders?

I put something out and all I get,

that one squirrel that shows up."

Or maybe you do have
birds, but then people say,

"Oh now, I have this
giant flock of Blue Jays.

And they're always so noisy and
they're making all this fuss

and I don't have any other birds.

How do I keep those pesky ones away?

Or how do I, you know,
get the ones that I want?"

And those are kind of
the two cruxes of it,

how do you attract the bird species

and a diversity of species?

And then how do you kind of deal with some

of the conflicts that come up
when you start feeding birds?

And there's really three
kind of answers to that.

One is what are you feeding the birds

and how are you caring for that feed?

Two, what are your feeders like?

And three, where are you
putting this stuff? (laughs)

So let's dive in to some
of those different things.

And again, I love all the stuff
that's going on in the chat

and too anytime, please,
you can definitely share

in the chat to us, just the panelists.

But if you look at that chat,

you'll also notice that
you can click on the two.

Right next to two,

you can click on that and you can send it

to just the panelists or you
can send it to the panelist

and the few hundred
attendees we have here.

And we encourage you
to send it to everyone

if you're sharing fun facts or cool stuff.

So, all right, with that
being said, let's get into it.

All right, here we go.

This is what you're going
to feed the birds, seeds.

Most likely that's going
to be what you start with,

are seeds when you feed the birds.

And really there are a
ton of types of seeds

that you can get at most big box stores

or at a particularly bird focused store

like Wild Birds Unlimited
where I got these photos from.

And if you're going to buy anything,

if you're going to buy one kind of seed,

which one do you think is the most popular

out of these here?

These are your most common bird seeds.

And I do a peanuts down
there on the right too.

I just didn't have space to put there

but the most common seeds...

So I see a lot coming in.

There's one seed to rule them all really,

one seed that like almost
every bird is like,

"Yes, I want that.

I want that in my belly."

And that seed, as many
of you have said already

is the sunflower seed.

So black oil sunflower seeds

which are pictured here are filled

with that little kernel inside.

That's actually quite big
and quite easy to get to.

The Blackwell sunflower seeds

aren't that hard to break open.

If you've ever munched on
some flower seeds yourself,

you just can crack them open
really easily with your teeth.

And for that reason,

and because of how much
nut is actually in there

and how little effort it
takes for the birds to get it

they're big fans of sunflower seeds.

There's not too many species
of seed eating birds,

your most common backyard birds

that are going to turn their
nose up at sunflower seeds.

And you can even get them
cracked open without shells

which makes a clean up a little easier.

'Cause you don't have the
shells all over the place

and the birds like it even more then.

But of course, here's
the problem with that.

The birds aren't the only ones
that like sunflower seeds.

You also have deer that
loves sunflower seeds

and you have raccoons
that love sunflower seeds

and you have squirrels and chipmunks

that loves sunflower seeds.

So even if you have sunflower seeds out

you still might be having some issues

with not getting the birds
you want because certain birds

or certain mammals are
dominating your feeding station.

So you may want to try something else.

For me, I actually use corn
quite a bit in my yard.

So corn is a much cheaper alternative,

and it's like a third of the price

of black oil sunflower seeds.

Actually sunflower seeds
have a shortage this year.

So if you go buy them for the first time

they're not normally this expensive,

my own feed mill where I get
mine, they jumped up $10.

They went from 20 to 30,
which is a huge jump.

And that was because
there was a lot of issues

with the major that grow them this year

and in turn the weather.

So I supplement with corn,

which you can't leave out for
too long 'cause it will spoil

but the Blue Jays and my
blackbirds and the squirrels,

love corn and they will
eat even the whole corn

I actually don't use crushed.

I just use the whole corn stuff

and those Blue Jays and
blackbirds love that.

And so then that leaves my
sunflower seeds in my feeders

a little more available for the chickadees

and the Nut Hatches and
some of the other finches

I have that I really enjoy.

So thinking about that diversity
of feed is really good.

So you've got sunflower that
almost everything likes.

And then you've got corn,
which if it's whole kernel corn

you'll probably have bigger
birds like Mourning doves

and Bluejays that are eating
it and the squirrels love it.

But if that doesn't work for you

and you still really are trying to get rid

of the squirrels in particular,

you may want to try safflower.

And safflower is eaten
by a lot of bird species,

but it's a little more bitter.

So from what I hear squirrels

are less likely to eat safflower.

And if you have sunflower out

your birds would probably prefer sunflower

but you can switch over to
safflower or wean them onto that.

And I've heard that's really good.

Millet is in a lot of bird seed mixes

and it's also very cheap.

But there's not a ton of
birds that like the millet.

In fact, if you have a mix

like I see some people talking about,

if you put a mix a wild bird mix

that has a lot of millet in it

and a little bit of sunflower,

you'll see that a lot of birds just throw

all the millet on the ground

so they can get to
those sunflower kernels.

But the nice thing is that millet is eaten

by ground feeding birds.

So your Sparrows and
your Juncos and Towhees,

those birds that like to feed
right directly on the ground,

they will clean up that millet

that got kicked down there.

And so that can be a good option to add in

for your ground birds.

And then finally thistle,
it's a very small seed.

And a lot of times I find that

almost nothing hits the thistle.

And then all of a sudden,
especially in the winter

all of a sudden finches will go crazy.

So the only thing that
really likes thistle

or nyger is actually the
plant that it's grown

from now is your finches.

So finches love that.

So these are your main
bird seeds here, though.

And if you use a variety of them

and put them in different places,

that's really going to help you out.

All right, somebody says,

"Our dog is the only one
who eats the millet."

That is a conflict.

And we'll get to mammal
conflicts in a minute

but my dogs eat the corn
and it's always so annoying

'cause they don't like it,

but they just eat it anyway, dogs.

So what about other kinds of feeds?

So there are other category of feeds

which is not seeds that
I didn't really know

what category this is,
it's just the not seeds.

So here's the not seeds feeds

that you can also think about throwing in.

So one you can of course,
feed Hummingbird nectar,

which is really just all you need

is a three to one ratio of water to sugar.

You can boil that and
then put that in there

try to avoid the red dyes.

It may be that's for the birds.

You can also put out suet,
especially in the winter

you can buy pre-made suets,

or you can just go to the meat counter

of your local butcher,

and then ask for their beef fat trimmings.

And you can only just hang
out the beef fat remains.

Even some folks up here
where I'm in the UP,

literally they just put out the rib cage

from the deer that they shot in the fall,

after they've cleaned
all the meat off of it.

And that rib cage is covered
in some sinews and fats

and the Woodpeckers peck
on that all winter long.

Fruit is another option,

especially in the summer
people like to put out fruit

and spring for the Orioles and tanagers.

You can really put out
any kind of citrus fruit

or also jellies like great jelly,

but you can even put
out fruit in the winter

for things like Robins or Bluebirds

that might have stuck around.

And you can use the dried
fruit that you soak in water

as long as it doesn't have any additives

or anything extra like that.

Or if you really want to get expensive

you can start purchasing mealworms

for things that maybe don't
normally come to feeders

like Bluebirds that really
eat just fruit and insects.

And so mealworms can bring in diversity

but of course, starlings
and a lot of other things,

love mealworms too.

So may just spend a lot
of money on mealworms

to feed starlings.

So I see some more stuff
going on in the chat.

There are lots of really good question

or good comments going on.

And remember if you have questions,

please put them in the
Q&A, as the Q&A portion

is where we'll get to
the questions at the end.

If your questions are in
the chat we may miss them.

All right, so that's a
little bit of an overview

of the types of feeds
that you do want to buy.

I found this graphic
from Wild Birds Unlimited

in East Lansing.

And this is a little note on
maybe you don't want to buy,

so we're just talking
about the 99 cent bags

of bird feed that they
sell at like dollar stores.

And if you look at that you might realize

that some of the stuff they put in there

is basically not bird feed

or it's things that none of our birds here

in Michigan are going to
be really a big fun of.

So if you see barley, Milo,

especially oats or wheat
and your bird seed,

it's really just a cheap filler

that they're putting in there.

And it's just going to
be waste on the ground.

So avoid those cheap filler things

and really think more on those seeds

and some of those other
things you showed earlier.

And also, if you want to avoid
the mass of all the shells

you can spend your
money on a no mess plant

where the shelves have
all been removed already.

It's going to be a lot more expensive,

but by wait you're not paying
for the shelves anymore.

So it can come out somewhat even

or maybe only slightly more expensive.

And then you don't have all the shell mess

that will start to build
up as you feed the birds.

All right.

So moving forward,

and I just noticed something
really quick in the chat.

Somebody said that they know

that Hummingbird seed feed
mix is a four to one ratio

not a three to one ratio.

And yes, you can definitely
do a four to one ratio

especially in the summer

but you can do a three
to one ratio earlier

in the spring in particular,

because that'll be a
little more concentrated

when those birds are migrating.

And so that will really help them out

by giving them a little boost of sugar.

But then as the summer goes on,

drop it back down to the four to one ratio

and it won't spoil us fast.

So anyway, all right, we'll move on.

And next, so we've talked
about the type of feed

you could use.

And again, really, you can
just pick one of those.

The more you have...

Ooh, there goes my map back there.

The more you have diversity,

the better you might be
able to avoid conflicts

and the more types of birds you can get,

but really if you just have sunflowers,

a lot of birds can be happy.

But the next thing is
where do you put that?

So as we talked about there's some birds

that really like to feed
right on the ground.

Some bird species, their
native foods are on the ground.

They pick off seeds off the ground

and they spend a lot of
time hiding in shrubs

or in tall grasses.

And so you may want to put some
of your stuff on the ground.

This is my feeding station in my backyard.

And I actually will
just throw a little bit

of corn every day on the ground

or a little bit of black oil
sunflower seed in the ground.

You don't want to throw more

than one day's worth on the ground

'cause it will spoil pretty
fast, especially on the ground

but some birds like to
feed right on the ground.

Others might like something

more kind of mid elevation like here.

So they might be species that are used

to living in shrubs and feeding in shrubs

that are kind of mid elevation.

I can think of Cardinals, for example

really like that mid elevation.

So they'll feed it the ground

or the mid elevation kind of stuff.

Something like this to

my very expensive bird feeder right there

that has holes in the bottom

to let the water drain down
or something really low

like this other really expensive
bird feeder I have there.

I don't know if you can
tell I'm being snarky

but these are just some objects I had

that I found I could put bird seed on.

And then of course, high elevation stuff

in my front yard feeders,
I have a big evergreen tree

and I put stuff up pretty high there.

And again two, it's not just the elevation

but what you're putting
your feeders next to.

So if you have bird species
that really like trees

like your Nuthatches and your Blue Jays,

really like those taller trees,

you may want to put those
feeders near the habitat

that they are accustomed to.

Many birds like to perch on a branch,

hop over to the feeder really quick

and go back to that branch.

So if you have tall trees next
to your feeders, that can help

or you might want to put it next

to a shrubby area or a tall grass area.

Of course, most people
end up putting it out

on their short grass lawn but
of course the short grass lawn

isn't really a native habitat of anything.

It's just a human invention where like,

"Yey, we like really tiny little plants."

So we cut it.

But you can put it...

So if you have a non lawn habitat

somewhere in your backyard,

putting your feeders closer to that

may be the best way to go.

But also just a diversity is really...

Again if you want to see a lot of species,

try putting things in a
lot of different places.

And if you have your feeders
out for a little while

and you're really not getting
the kind of birds you want

or many birds try moving
them to a new location.

Again, those kind of areas
where birds have cover though

is really going to make them
feel a little more secure

so they can run out and
get some feed and come back

except for something like
a giant flock of blackbirds

which might just want to
run all over the lawn.

All right, I'm going to
keep going forward here.

All right, next, style matters.

Okay, so the style of bird feeder also

has an impact on which
birds you might get.

I can think particularly
of the platform feeders.

So like the two on the bottom left here,

these are more open spaces.

And as you saw from my picture before,

my platform fevers are a plastic chair

that I had laying around
and a plastic bucket.

It's better if your platform feeders

have some sort of drainage so
water doesn't pool in them,

often they're not covered.

And so you do want to keep
your seeds as dry as you can

or just put enough out that will be gone

at the end of the day.

But platform feeders are really good

for things like Grosbeaks.

So even in Grosbeaks especially
a slightly rare species,

becoming more rare in Michigan

really likes those open platform feeders,

Mourning doves will
either feed on the ground

or like those larger platform feeders.

But another kind of feeder is the tubes.

So tube feeders are
really great for finches,

chickadees, nuthatches
will like the tube feeders

as they like to crawl
vertically on things.

And then you'll have feeders with hoppers

which are really nice and convenient,

as long as a squirrel
doesn't get inside of there

which they're really good at doing.

These are feeders that then
you don't have to fill as often

because they have a closed in area

where the seed will stay dry

and it will slowly come out
as the birds eat more of it.

So it's nice to have a few hoppers,

especially if you don't want to go out

and fill your feeders every day.

And then for the thistle or
nyger I was talking about

you really have to have
a special feeder for that

since that seed is so small.

And so they sell, they call them socks

and that's really just
for one kind of feed

the others might be for a variety.

And then you can also get
wire cages that are attached

to your bird feeders, or
that go up against the tree

to put your suet into.

So again, though, just
trying to drive home

the point that there's a wide variety,

you don't have to have
all of these things.

If you want a diversity of species

try using a variety of feeders.

And as I showed you,

you really don't have to spend a lot

of money on fancy feeders.

I was just doing a four
edge birding club with kids

and we were doing the old
pine cone feeder thing

and that works great.

Roll of pine cone and peanut butter

and then roll that and seeds.

And you just have created
a totally biodegradable,

native plant that you can then
put out as your bird feeder

or you can use an old
chair like I did. (laughs)

So yeah, again, the key is diversity

and thinking about where to
put these in a diverse set

of areas with maybe a diverse set of seeds

but also do what works for you.

All right, so I'm going to
share just a couple minutes

of one of the coolest videos

from a really awesome
YouTuber who was an ex

or who used to be a NASA engineer.

And I'm going to show you
what I was talking about

with diversity and conflicts a little bit.

So I'm going to stop the
share for just a second.

Okay, so let's take a look

at this and see what's happening here.

- This is a bird feeder

and everything to my left is my attempt.

- Oops, sorry about that.

- I'm making a squirrel proof.

If they want the bird seed

they will first need to pass
through what is basically

an eight part Ninja warrior
obstacle course for squirrels.

This course is extremely challenging.

It is not for the timid of heart,

but out of the gate,

I will admit that in hindsight

that I completely
underestimated my adversary.

Now, if you're wondering why I would go

through all this trouble,

when you go back eight weeks ago,

when I found myself stuck
at home and very bored.

So I installed a bird feeder

and decided to become a bird watcher.

And it was just so lovely,
until they showed up.

Now, luckily my bird feeder
had a wire cage round it,

big enough for the birds to slip inside

but small enough to prevent the squirrels

from getting the food.

And that worked really
well until right here.

For me, this was like the
moment in drastic park

when they realized the
velociraptors can open door handles.

And once the door was open

it was clear this wasn't
their first rodeo.

They basically cleared this
whole tube of bird seed

by the end of the day.

Mind you, this bird feeder was advertised

as being squirreled proof.

So I bought another squirrel
proof for feeder to replace it.

It's got this outer cage
suspended by some springs.

And so if a bird comes and lands here

it doesn't weigh that.

And it has access to the seeds.

However, if a squirrel comes,
they'll grab onto this cage

it's weight will force the springs down,

thereby preventing access to the seeds.

I have no idea how the squirrels

could possibly outsmart
this, but let's see.

And this would work exactly as intended.

You can see the birds love it

but when the squirrel comes along,

the cage shifts down

and now all the seed ports are covered up.

Every time they tried,
it was the same results.

However, the next morning,

this guy manages to unclip the
springs that hold the cage up

which means the cage stays
in the lowered position

where it blocks all the seed openings,

problem with that is now
they can get to the lid

but this bird feeder
lid doesn't hinge open

to give direct access.

So he goes with a different tactic.

(metal clangs)

(bird sings)

Where he now has access to
all the bird seed he wants.

And so-

(laughs)

- All right, so I highly recommend going

and checking out that video.

It's a great little kind of deep dive

into how really good squirrels are

at getting into a squirrel proof situation

that you try to set up.

So people spend many, many hours trying

to get the squirrels to
not get their bird seed

because they prefer to feed the birds

instead of the squirrels,

there's really nothing wrong
with feeding squirrels.

- But I decided I would-

- So it was just an example

and we'll send the link to that video.

It's 22 minutes long.

If you saw at the start he ends up making

a giant squirrel obstacle course.

It's super entertaining.

Definitely go watch it.

But this brings up one of the points

that I've kept cutting back to every time,

which is, when you feed the birds,

one of the main things
you have to do is think

about the conflicts

that you might end up having with mammals.

So squirrels are manageable.

You could just resolve
to feed the squirrels.

That's what I've done.

I just try to feed them corn

'cause it's not quite as expensive

as the black oil sunflower seed,

but you can also run into conflicts

with things like deer.

And feeding deer actually can be illegal

in some places due to
chronic wasting disease

and can really be destructive
to your bird feeders.

And so you also might run into issues

with raccoons or possums
or things like that.

So with the squirrels,
you can just try to set up

a variety of feeders to
give them somewhere else.

Or you can try to squirrel proofings.

With these other ones,

if you really have repeated incidences

with these other mammals,

the best thing to do is
to take your feeders down

for a few weeks.

Hopefully those mammals will
move on to somewhere else

and you will avoid that kind
of conflict and destruction,

especially with bears.

We talked a little bit this last time

if your feeders get hit by a bear,

or if you know you're in a bear area

you may just want to take
them down in the spring.

But if your feeders
definitely get hit by a bear,

take it down 'cause if
you fill them back up

that bear will come back and
they are very destructive

and you don't want to run
into a conflict with bear.

Pesky birds are another example.

Some people get inundated
with this species here

which is a European Starling.

Obviously it's not from North America,

it's from Europe.

And these species fly in huge flocks

and they can clean out a
feeder really, really fast.

So again, either taking your feeders down

for a little bit or trying to find places

to feed those birds

and then providing kind
of more niche areas

for your smaller birds is
another kind of way to go at it.

And then finally adjustments you may need

to make particularly the time of year.

So having liquid nectar out
is probably not a great idea

in the winter when it's kind of freeze.

And then also having your suet fats out,

especially in the really
warm months of the summer,

those can rot and you
really don't want to feed

the birds rotten food.

And so you may want to pull your suets

in the summer or only leave
them out, small amounts

that'll be used up quickly.

All right, keep those questions coming.

We will get to them pretty soon here,

but the next thing is what
will you find in your backyard?

So we've talked about attracting
the birds a whole bunch

but now it's time to talk
about what those birds will be.

So this is one of our birds from last week

and I want you to really
quick put in the chat.

Let's do a quick review
of what we had last time.

What are some features that
you notice about this bird?

So put it in the chat.

What are some neat features
that you notice about this bird?

And remember, we're looking
for things like structure,

patterns that we find on that bird

and relative size is what
we can tell from a picture.

And you may know some of the behaviors.

So I'm seeing, coming
through the chat now.

It has a longer skinnier beak.

It has that kind of tone very
bright white on the bottom

and darker on the top.

Yeah, I'm seeing some
stuff about the tail.

A very short tail and that's
a great thing to pick up.

You can identify these even in flight

because they have such a short tail.

And so you can put in the name now,

if you know the name of this species,

but those are great features
that when you're birding,

you notice those features,

you write them down as quick as you can,

or you hold them in your head

and then you open up your field guide.

Like I have my national geographic here

and I would go to the nuthatch section

because yes, this is a
white breasted nuthatch.

So this is the first group of birds.

I'm going to cover a
couple groups of birds

that you might see in your backyard.

These are not taxonomic groups.

They're just the names that I came up

with for the way I grouped birds.

So please know these aren't
necessarily taxonomic groups.

They're just groups that I I find helpful

for thinking about the birds.

So this is a member of
what I call the cute ones.

So the chickadees, the
titmice and the nuthatches

and also the creeper here.

So these are some of the
most common feeder birds

you might end up with, tufted Titmouse

I will preface is only found
in the Lower Peninsula,

although the range is
slowly expanding North.

So we may have him in the UP someday

but they are not super migratory.

None of these species
are not really migratory

at least not in the way that
our Hummingbird or Orioles.

And these are the little tiny ones

that really like sunflower,
but we'll eat other stuff.

Brown creeper is one that
you might actually not notice

because they almost blend in perfectly

but they do actually feed
on suet from time to time.

I have one that comes to
my suet it pretty regularly

and they're very, very
good at blending in.

If this was just from the back

you might not notice it at all

but another cute one alone
that's kind of related

to Nuthatches, but in its own family.

All right, so good job with that one.

Those are the cute ones.

All right, how about this one?

Maybe throw out some features

and just identify it
right away if you can.

What is this bird here?

This is a great species
of the winter months.

All right, I see some
answers coming through,

yellow warblers is a good guess there,

but yes what's coming through
is an American Goldfinch

and this is a Goldfinch
and it's winter plumage.

So it's not the bright yellow
you may have been expecting

from the summer.

The males in particular in the
summer are very bright yellow

but this isn't it's winter plumage.

And you can see that nice triangular,

almost like a perfect triangle beak.

And these are the Big Beaks.

I call them the Big Beaks,
but they're just the finches.

So this is some of the finches,

particularly a Goldfinch is
probably our most common one,

Pine Siskin, somewhat common.

Now we have two here that I
want to go into a real quick

'cause this is a common ID conundrum here.

We have two finches on the right,

finch one and finch two.

And you might just look
at those picture and go,

"Oh, those are the same birds."

Be careful, there's some differences here.

See if you could pop in the chat,

what are the some of the differences

between these two birds?

They are very subtle, but
once you start to notice them

you'll be able to identify
these two somewhat easily.

So one person put in right
away, chest streaking

and that's one of the keys to this.

Color, this kind of is reddish.

One is sort of reddish and
two is sort of purple-ish

but I will say when you're in
the field and looking at this

especially if you don't
have them side by side,

reddish purple versus purple-ish
red can be pretty tough,

but the side streaking
on this bird is very fine

and pretty dense.

Notice the side streaking
on this bird over here

there's a few streaks, but
they're not as prominent.

And there's also that red
wash all the way through here.

Some of the other things I'm seeing is,

there's a red wash on
this bird's back and rump,

but on this bird, it is brown.

And then one of the other
key features is actually,

this is really a little
harder to tell in the field,

but the shape of the bill
here has a slight curve

and the common whereas
this one is straight

that line between the two.

And so if you know what one and two are,

you can put it in the chat.

I see some people guessing
right already, which is great.

Bird one is a house Finch,

which is arguably the more
common of the two house Finch

and purple Finch that we have.

And bird two is the purple Finch.

So purple Finch is a little more common

farther North in Michigan.

Although in winters
sometimes you'll find them

all over the state.

So that's the house in purple Finch.

And then finally on the bottom left there

we have, again, two species, the redpolls.

one is the common redpoll on the right.

And the bird on the left
is the Hoary redpoll

which is pretty rare in Michigan

but that's the Redpolls.

Okay, we got to keep things moving.

All right, so one more
kind of bird ID here.

So I'm going to stop
sharing again for a second.

So I have with me a couple
of birds skins from LSSU.

These are birds that died naturally

but their skins are preserved.

So here we go.

We've got two birds that look very similar

in terms of their pattern.

The pattern on these birds
is just black and white.

This one's a little roughed up here,

but these are actually
two different species.

And if I put them right next
to each other you'll notice,

okay, yeah, this bird is a
lot smaller than this bird

but it will say the
smallest version of this one

and the largest version of this one

can be very close in size.

So what we have here,

as some people have started
to put it in the chat.

We have a Hairy woodpecker here
and a Downy woodpecker here.

Aside from the size though,

so let's say you didn't see

these side-by-side crawling
right next to each other.

What if you just saw this one first

and then you saw this
one at a different time,

can you tell the difference in the size?

Maybe not necessarily,

if you don't have them side by side

and things are a little closer or farther.

So I'm seeing some people
put in a comments already.

What the big tell is when you
don't have these side by side

and that is the beak length.

So the beak length of a Hairy woodpecker

is almost as long as its head

or even in this case almost
slightly longer than its head.

The beak length of a Downy woodpecker

is maybe half the length of its head.

And so that's what we're talking
about with relative size,

with a bird identification.

When you can compare the
birds feature against itself,

you don't need both species side-by-sides.

You can tell that that long
bill that's just as long

or maybe even longer
than the head compared

to this tiny bill that's
maybe only half the length

of the bird's head.

And so that's one of the ways

you can work on those identifications.

All right, so again,
these are the hard heads,

the woodpeckers.

There's not too many, they're very unique.

So you'll probably see one and you'll go,

"Oh yeah, I know that's a woodpecker

'cause it's crawling horizontally."

The only other ones that
do that are Nuthatches

but they they're pretty much
a long stretched out body.

These birds do have a definite
head area and the body area

the head is 90 degree angle from the body

as opposed to Nuthatch which
might just be straight.

And we've got the Northern flicker

which is more common in the summer

but found in the winter too.

And a lot of places in Michigan,

we have the Hairy and
the Downy woodpecker,

the Pileated woodpecker and
we have the Red-bellied.

There's a few other woodpeckers,

but these are probably
the most common ones

you're going to see at your feeders.

All right, next, it's
time to the chunkers.

Alright, I call these
ones, the chunky fellows.

And this is definitely
not a taxonomic group

but these are the larger passerines,

passerines are an order of
birds, the perching birds.

So that's all the birds pretty much

that we're talking about today.

But these are the largest ones

you're going to have at your feeder.

So you got the Blue Jay, these noisy guys,

they're kind of chunky
and they're definitely

a larger bird with that big crest.

Oh yeah, there's some
fluff boys right there.

That's the Northern Cardinals

and you've got the red
male and the brown female,

pretty distinct.

American Robin, we got
that one down probably.

And then of course the
chunkest of them all,

the Mourning dove, really,
actually a beautiful bird

with a nice little iridescence on it.

Kind of slower bird doesn't move much

but these are large birds
that are pretty easy to ID.

Hopefully you can pick
up on those ones quickly.

There's not a lot to confuse those with.

All right, how about this one here?

I'm just going to ask for ID right away.

Who can get it in there the fastest?

What kind of bird is this?

Oh yeah, there we go, it's coming in.

All right, some of you are
definitely not beginning birders

or you've been doing it
at least a little while

even if you consider yourself...

Oops, a beginning birder.

So this is the Indigo bunting

and this is one of the boys of summer.

So there are certain backyard birds

that do come to your feeders

but you will only see
them in the summer months.

Of course they're not all boys.

I'm just thinking of that saying.

Anyway, so you've got the Indigo bunting

and actually down here on the
bottom right is another one.

And I just want to point that

out that they don't always look

that brilliant blue effect in the dark.

If there is a dark lighting,
they may almost look black

'cause that's really an iridescent blue

as opposed to true blue.

And so that is an Indigo
bunting down there

in the bottom right.

But you have Hummingbirds.

We really only have one
species in hummingbirds,

so that makes that easy.

Rosebreasted, Grosbeaks,

I'll talk about a couple
of other grosbeaks

that we have in the winter

but the Rosebreasted is the
one that we have in the summer.

And so the males and females
look a little different

and then the Baltimore Orioles.

All right, so there's the
boys of summer for you.

Just going to give you an overview here.

All right, this bird
is one that I get a lot

of questions about where
many folks are asking,

"I've never seen this
before, what is that?"

That is such an interesting bird,

and so if you know what this is,

put it in the chat real quick.

Let's see what guesses we have there.

Don't worry, a wrong
guess is totally fine.

We're not here to be right.

We're just here to learn.

So let's see.

Okay, so people are guessing
in the actual family

or kind of the group of birds.

I see somebody guessed a Young Robin

and that's a really good guess
and brings up a good point

in that young birds
really do look different.

So focus on the adult birds for now.

But as you get more
advanced in your birding,

do start to study your field guide

and look at what young birds look like.

But a lot of people are guessing something

in the Blackbird family,

and that is the right guess

because this is actually
a Redwing Blackbird.

And so that's a female Redwing Blackbird.

Like you can see down
here, here's another one.

And we don't see the females very often

because they are off
hiding raising their young.

The males are the big old flashy ones

that are out there
defending their territory

and making a lot of noise
and going all over the place.

Typical male. (laughs)

Anyway, the females though are more dull

so that they can be camouflaged
to care for the young.

And so you don't see them,

or they're not as obvious

but you can still note that the Blackbirds

have this kind of very
distinct dagger like bill.

And that helps you kind of narrow in

on at least things like Common
Grackles, Rusty blackbirds

which are only in the migration season

and Redwing blackbirds.

Cowbirds are another type of Blackbird,

but they have a more triangular bill

and they're a little more stubby overall.

Grackles have these really long tails

with the boat shape to them.

They're actually spoon shaped almost.

Whereas the true blackbirds like Rusty

and Redwing have more
of a spade shaped tail.

And so that's a good way to go at that.

Eye color can sometimes help,

but you know the younger birds
might have dark colored eyes.

And so really focusing on that tail shape

with these birds is really helpful

and overall structure

is what you're going to
really be looking at.

They can be a little tricky

and there's another one
I didn't put on here.

Brewer's Blackbird
that's really fairly rare

in most of Michigan.

So these are the main ones
you're going to want to go after.

And again, for the Grackle

it's that scoop shaped tail.

When you see them fly,
you'll really see that scoop,

those middle feathers are
lower than its side feathers.

Whereas the club's shaped tail

of a Redwing or Rusty
Blackbird is going to be

a really good way to differentiate there.

All right, so moving on, I'm
not going to get into the LBBs

the Little Brown Birds,

but this is a image from Richard Eden

who created an app called Bird Face.

I touched on this last time

we saw the similar
drawing from Greg Neice.

And this gives you a way to focus

on the faces of sparrows

because sparrows can be really tough.

But if you start to learn the patterns

like chipping sparrow has a rusty cap

a white eyeline and on a
black eyeline versus say,

American tree sparrow
that has arrestee cap

a gray eyeline, and then a rusty eye-line.

You can start to pick up on
those subtle differences.

And if you have questions specifically

about certain sparrows and how to ID them,

definitely put those into the Q&A section.

Again reminder that's
where to put questions.

And we'll try to get to
those in a few minutes here

as we wrap up.

So a couple last few groups,

this one here I'm just
going to move right on.

These are the Flying rats.

Okay, that might be a little derogatory,

but a lot of people
compare the Rock pigeon

to the Rat of the sky.

That's maybe not super fair.

They are quite a beautiful bird

and they can be trained
to be the Carrier pigeons

that you've may have heard of before.

But these are some of
our most common ones,

especially in urban and suburban areas

or really close to Ags and farms.

And these are three
species that have adapted

to live alongside humans.

The house sparrow in particular

is really only found
around human structures.

And all three of these
are non-native species

that get categorized as
the pests a lot of time

and they can be somewhat harmful.

It's debatable if you want to call

these invasive species or not.

They can be a little destructive sometimes

to the native species nests,

but these are going to be some

of your common feeder birds
that you're going to see.

So it's still important to
learn how to identify them,

how sparrows are an old world sparrow,

so they're not super closely related

to most of our native sparrows

and the males and the
females do look different.

Again, keying in on that
male female differences.

It is important to learn about

both of the sexually dimorphic species,

where the male and the
female like different.

Starlings and pigeons.

They pretty much look
the same male and females

but the female house sparrow
can often be a tricky one,

'cause it's pretty much
just dull brown all over.

All right, last but not least.

I'm going to try and wrap up here

in the next couple of minutes is,

so it's really great to feed the birds

but if you're a bird feeder station

and your goal for feeding the birds

doesn't include safety of the birds,

then you may want to
consider not doing it.

We want to make sure that
we're not harming the birds

through our different feedings.

So there's a few tips on how to make sure

that your backyard area or
your backyard feeding station

is not going to be harmful for the birds.

One of the first ones is to just clean.

So you do need to clean your
feeders from time to time,

dump out any seed that
may be falling in there,

use a mild bleach spray to sanitize them

on a fairly regular basis.

Let them dry out before
you put them back out.

Really moisture is one of the things

you want to really avoid.

And then that hauls the
shells that can build up.

Those can build up pretty thick

if you're feeding a lot of birds,

those black oil, sunflower, seed shells.

So you want to rake those away.

They'll kill your lawn if
you don't rake them up,

but you'll also want to make
sure that they're not building up

to a nasty rotting mess.

So keep it clean, same
with storing your seeds,

keep them dry, don't
store them on the ground.

If you have a waterproof container

or something to put them in.

And then just be aware
of the snake oil salesman

that might be out there.

I've seen a number of
really odd like deterrents

for certain birds or like
woodpecker deterrence.

And some of these might
be actually really harmful

to native species or even illegal.

It's illegal to kill

or harm a native migratory
bird species protected under

the Migratory Bird Treaty.

So you have to be really careful

if you are trying to get rid of birds

because exterminating them

may actually wind you up in some trouble.

The only ones that aren't protected

are those invasive or non native ones,

the Pigeon, the Starling
in the House Sparrow.

And so just be aware of those things.

Next is a little bit of a touchy one

but I'm just going to say it,

outdoor cats kill more birds

than almost anything
else in North America.

So it's estimated somewhere between one

and 5 billion birds every year are killed

by cats in North America.

And as much as we love
fluffy and we enjoy our cats

it is safest not only for the birds

but also the cats to keep them indoors.

Outdoor cats are essentially
a non-native predator

that is going to be attacking birds.

Even if you feed your cat,
their instincts are to hunt.

And so they will be killing birds.

And so the best thing to do
is to keep your cats indoors.

And you can use a little cardio

which is like a little cat patio,

or you can use a cat leash

if you really think
they need to go outside.

But especially if you're
getting a cat for the first time

the best thing is to keep them indoors.

There's a growing body of research.

The first paper that came out around

how many birds cats
kill was quite stunning

but there's continuing evidence

to show that that really is holding up.

And so keep your cats indoors, please.

All right, I'll get off my soap box now.

The next big risk you
have are your windows.

Birds can't really tell
that that's a window.

That's not something that's

in their evolutionary
biologists to understand.

And so they hit your windows quite often.

And so it's a really
fairly easy thing to fix.

They sell a wide of different things

you can put on your
windows that help break up

the reflection I just use in general,

normally at my house
decorative window clings

we have them for each different season

and we put them up,

it's best if they're on
the outside of the window

and that will help
prevent window collisions

or window strikes.

This is a huge issue in cities

where you can literally
go around in the spring

and see all the dead
birds around sky scraper

especially surely those
with reflective glass.

So I'm really encouraging
any new developments

to have bird safe windows

and to make sure your own
windows are birds safe.

And then finally pesticides,

insecticides in particular
have caused major declines

and things like purple martins

and other insect eating species.

So avoid using those like
grub killers for your lawn,

avoid using insecticides
even to some degree

the herbicides like Roundup
and things like that.

Those are going to impact the
bugs that are on those plants.

And then that's going to move
up the food chain to the birds.

So if you can keep it natural,
that's the best route to go.

All right, I'm going to
share one last thing.

And then we'll get to our Q&A time.

This is a video from Doug Tallamy

about how you can not
only not do certain things

in your backyard,

but you can actually add things

to your backyard to make
natural food sources.

Let's give us a watch.

- The ability for ecosystems to function

in our managed landscapes

in our suburban matrix is very poor

because we have landscape primarily

for looks.

We've treated plants

as if they were decorations

and forgotten all about
their ecological roles.

So we've sacrificed the ability

of all of the land that we've used

for our suburban neighborhoods
to make ecosystem services

that not only support other creatures

but they support us as well.

And that's one of the reasons

that we're doing the research we're doing.

We're trying to generate
enough data to convince people

that these landscapes
can be highly productive.

If you produce plants that
insects can not reproduce on

and develop on, you are creating

a really deep cooperate ecosystem.

What this homeowner has
done is put the plants back

into the suburban landscape.

Most of these plants are indigenous.

They are native to this area

which means they are important components

of the food webs that
originally were in this area.

So you have lots of wildlife around

and these plants are filtering our water.

They're sequestering, carbon,
they're supporting food webs.

They're supporting the pollinators

that keep those plants around.

They're producing oxygen.

All of the ecosystem
services that plants provide

are now happening right in this yard

because it's not one best lawn.

When I think of best plants

I think of what those
plants are doing and-

- [Elliot] Oops.

- Almost every instance,
Oaks come out on top.

In our region of the country,

the Mid-Atlantic States,

Oaks support 534 species of caterpillars

and remember the birds are eating

those caterpillars.

So that's 534 species of bird food,

coming from the Oak and your front yard.

There's no other tree that does it better.

Just for comparison sake.

If you had a Ginkgo in your yard,

which is from Asia,

it supports one species of caterpillars.

So there's a huge difference
in the productivity

of these particular trees.

I care about this because we
need these other living things

to run the ecosystems that
we depend on as humans.

So we could think of this

as we're not making a sacrifice here,

where we're doing what's
absolutely necessary

to keep ecosystems running to support us.

So it's for humans.

(bright music)

- All right, folks.

Well, I hope you enjoyed that video.

I had the privilege of
being able to listen to Doug

at a talk at a conference
in Michigan awhile back,

and just that stat that he shared,

that you could have a tree
that has 500 different species

of bird feed in your own backyard

if you choose to plant native.

So I can't say that my yard is perfect

or as lush and as
massive as some of those,

I got a lot of kids and it's a little hard

to put that effort into gardening

but it's actually a lot
easier than it used to be

with things like cotton
flowers and black-eyed Susans

and all these different
sorts of native species

that are more accessible now
than they used to be ever

before that you can put in your own yard.

So with that, we're going
to get to our Q&A time now.

If you want to learn
more about bird feeding

and how to make your yard
a better place for birds,

there's a lot of great books out there.

You can also check out.

I know some people share in the chat,

Tommy's has some great
books about native planting,

The Joy of Bird Feeding
from Jim Carpenter,

the founder of Wild Birds Unlimited.

We have a number of these
stores around Michigan.

That is a great book for really getting

the leads on how to do
the best job at the birds.

And with that, we'll
stay a little bit longer

since I only left about five
minutes for questions here

but we'll stay on a little
bit as to take your questions.

So what questions have
been coming in Cindy?

- [Cindy] Awesome, thank
you so much, Elliot.

I could listen to you
talk birds all night long.

(laughs)

- Be careful I probably could
talk for all night long.

- [Cindy] We're going
to go a little bit long

and people we understand
if you have to jump off

but we have been recording this of course.

And you can always just fast forward

to the Q&A if you had to jump off early.

If you want to stay on,
we welcome you to do so.

Hey, here's the first question, Elliot.

It's actually mine.

(laughs)

So I've never used mealworms,

are mealworms dried, or are
they alive and squiggly?

- I actually have never
used mealworms either.

Just probably partially
because of the price point

but they are generally
dried from my understanding.

So if you order them online or something,

I'm not sure if they sell live ones

- [Cindy] Oh, someone in the
chat says they do have both.

- They do have both.

- [Cindy] I'm sorry, but I'm
getting the dried ones then.

'cause that just kindof
grosses me out. (laughs)

- You may want to be really careful too.

If you're ordering a live insect,

you may want to really make sure

that it's not going to
become an invasive species

because even some things
that you can order online

they won't tell you that it
may be banned in Michigan.

Like for example, you can
order Red swamp crayfish

from Louisiana.

You can order them online.

They'll ship it to you in Michigan.

It is illegal to have a live
red-swamp crayfish in Michigan

'cause it is an invasive species.

So same thing if you're
buying insects online

or even from a store,

make sure if it's live

that it's not going to become invasive

- [Cindy] That's an excellent point.

Someone asked, and I don't
actually usually think

of these as backyard birds,

but for somebody's backyard they would be,

how do you draw purple
Martins to your yard?

So what's the best type of
a habitat for purple Martin?

- Yeah, that's a great question.

So purple Martins are an
amazing species of swallow,

a very large type, and they
are really in serious decline.

So they used to be all over Michigan,

but they are dependent
pretty much on human homes.

And so you don't attract purple Martins

through feed typically,

you attract them by
putting up Martin homes.

And one of the best
resources we have in Michigan

is the Michigan Audubon Society's

Purple Martin Conservation Initiative.

So this is a picture of
a purple Martin here.

And their conservation initiative

is actually trying to track these.

And people that are really
into purple Martins,

basically put up these homes for them

and care for these homes.

And you can see purple
mountain colonies are found

both along the lakes and inland,

but they do tend to be near water areas

and they're insectivores.

So again, the best things you
could do for purple Martin

one is to put up on purple Martin home,

and again check out

the Purple Martin Conservation Initiative

at Michigan Audubon for tips on that.

And then the second thing is,

again don't use insecticides.

Purple Martins need insects.

And we use so much insecticide these days

that it's really starting to cause

the extinction of the species.

So those are the two things you can do,

promote native habitat, I
guess would be a third one.

Don't use insecticides
and put up the homes.

- [Cindy] Awesome.

Hey, since we talked a
lot about feed and feeders

how often should a feeder
be emptied and cleaned

and how do we know if
seeds have turned bad?

- I hesitate to give exact answers

on those things because
there's a lot of variables.

Like I said before,

if your seed is getting wet,

if it rains and you have seed
that's open and not covered

or if your feeder leaks,
you probably want to change

that out on a daily basis
of it's getting wet.

That's why, when I put out my corn,

corn especially can turn in a day or two

and can get a fungus that
can actually kill birds.

So you really, especially in the summer,

don't want to put out more
than a day's worth of corn.

But I would just say,

In the winter months you
may be fine for a long time

with say your black oil,
sunflower, seed hopper out there.

It's not going to be as wet
and it's going to be cold.

So mold's going to be harder to grow.

And so you really just want
to check your feet regularly,

look at the signs of what's going on.

If it's wet and it seems
damp and things are clumping.

Get rid of that seed, throw it out,

dry it out and refill it.

But I'm not going to say exactly how long.

And then there was a second
part of that question.

I don't remember now.

(laughing)

- [Cindy] Oh, great, I'm sorry.

I have like moved on to another role.

(laughing)

- We'll just move on to the next one.

I need some dinner, I think.

(laughing)

- [Cindy] Dang it, I missed that.

I can't find it now.

Well, it's in the pile of stuff. (laughs)

When do you start feeding for Orioles

to come to your yard?

- Yeah, so for the Orioles,

April is probably

when you might want to start
putting out that stuff,

again, you have to be careful

with how long you leave those out

especially fruit or
nectar can start to rot.

But you can start putting it out in April

and then definitely by May

is when you're going
to start to really see

those things pop up.

Same thing with Hummingbirds.

You can put it out in April

and you can actually leave
it up through October

'cause we do get these late.

Occasionally most of the
Hummingbirds are gone in September

but sometimes we get these weird late ones

that stick around in October,
November, even sometimes.

And some of those end up
being those really rare ones

like that White-eared
hummingbird I was talking about.

We had a barrel hummingbird

which was another super
rare one that showed up

in October in Grand Marais.

So leaving those hummingbird
feeders out later

as long as you keep them
clean is the way to go.

- [Cindy] We'll hunt it
up so we can send it out

in the resources.

But I often track through
the hummingbird map.

There's a website you go to.

Because they track for
sightings all the way up

through the entire migration,

because there's a big
difference between honestly,

when a Hummingbird will
show up in Ann Arbor,

and then when it will show up in Lansing

and it'll show up in Grayling

and when it'll show up in Sault St. Marie,

so you can actually watch these maps.

And I have tracked when hummingbirds

have first arrived at my house.

And so I have done that for several years

so I can pretty much guarantee
that it's going to be

in this X amount of time period

that I need to make sure I
get my hummer feeders out.

So, has this been a
harsh winter for birds?

Do you think?

- So it's actually been
a really mild winter

for most of the winter
in terms of temperature.

We actually had quite a few species

that migrate based on food availability

or even temperature that
were really sticking around

for longer than normal.

I had blackbirds, grackles in particular

that stuck around through all of December

in my house in the UP and
that's really unusual.

So we had a milder winter

which can be somewhat good for the birds,

but what is really problematic

is that we are seeing
wild shifts in our winters

and that's really due to climate change.

Birds are acclimated and evolved to handle

what the normal weather patterns were.

What really messes up
birds is when we have

these really early maybe
melts in like February

or something.

And then maybe things
might start hatching,

bugs might start coming out,

but then we get that cold snap again

in March because it's really not supposed

to be that warm in February.

And that kills off all those bugs.

And now when our migratory species show up

in May expecting those bugs,
those numbers may be way lower.

So it's that irregularity that throws off

what we call phenology

and climate change is one of
the biggest issues that birds

are facing these days

because it's throwing off their phenology

what they're evolved to be used
to isn't happening anymore.

And so that's really...

And we do have really harsh
winters, really cold winters.

And that can be hard on certain birds

like waterfall, especially,

but it's the irregularity

that's really messing up
a lot of our song birds.

- [Cindy] What do you
think of window feeders?

I know you and I've talked
about that earlier today.

- We did.

I don't know if we came to a conclusion.

I'm not a bird feeder expert.

I've only owned a house
for about four years now.

And prior to that, I didn't feed the birds

'cause I was hopping around

in different apartments and stuff.

So, I have never had window feeders.

I've read some stuff that says

having your feeders really
close to your windows is okay,

'cause then the birds
don't have enough speed

to like leave the feeder
and hit the window.

But I've certainly seen lots of them.

I would say, consult your
local Wild Birds Unlimited

or check out some birding resources online

to get an answer to that.

'Cause I don't want to answer
it 'cause I just don't know.

- [Cindy] Well, I'm just going
to put my opinion out there

and that, again, just my opinion

but I've had both bird
feeder window bird feeders,

that are like ones that
have like the suction cup

that attached to the window
for the little birds,

they work fine.

But I also did it one
time for hummingbirds

and that I really found to be a problem

because hummingbirds are
incredibly territorial.

They're not sweet little
birds, you watch them,

they can be pretty wicked to each other

and they will get very territorial
and see themselves in the glass.

And then that can actually
cause a problem with that.

So just my opinion.

- Yeah, windows strikes
is definitely an issue.

So if you do have...

And then of course like
aggressive behaviors,

like seeing reflections.

So using those deterrents
on your window is helpful.

- [Cindy] And just regarding hummingbirds

and filling your nectar feeders,

you really need to keep
your nectar feeders clean.

So you should be changing
those out at a minimum.

I would think, especially
in the really hot weather

you should probably be doing it every day.

When we get the high 80s
and 90 degree weather

you might want to think
about doing it every day

or every other day.

And then when it's colder you
can go a couple of more days

and I wouldn't fill a feeder
necessarily all the way

unless you know you already
have hummingbirds coming

because you just waste feed that way

'cause you'll just have
to throw it out anyway.

Any other thoughts on that Elliot?

- You got it.
- And then,

I love this question here.

So I'm truly a beginner Birder

and I'm interested in learning about them.

The only thing I've fed the
birds is bread of all sorts.

Is it dangerous for the birds?

- I can't say exactly what the impact

of bread is on songbirds

but I do know that bread is
definitely harmful to waterfowl.

And my guess would be
that it's probably also

can be harmful to songbirds.

What can happen is if
they eat too much bread

on a consistent diet,

it can mess up mess up the
protein growth of their feathers

and cause disfiguration of their feathers

and prevent them from flying
or being able to swim.

So I can't say I know
exactly for songbirds

but I do know for waterfowl

you don't really want to feed them bread.

So I would be hesitant to do that

for your songbirds as well.

The other thing by putting out bread

you're really going to
then put out something

very attractive to mammals,

particularly raccoons
and possums and skunks.

They're really going to
be drawn to that too.

So you're just kind of
asking for trouble with that.

I would probably say in
general, avoid it all,

although you can
definitely do some research

to see if I might be wrong,

but I know it's not good

for a lot of a lot of animals.

So my guess is probably not
good for most of the birds.

- [Cindy] And you mentioned feathers,

so is it illegal to save feathers?

- So under the Migratory Bird Treaty

that I referenced earlier,

it's illegal to harm a bird

or just disrupt it from its
nesting or regular cycles.

It's illegal to kill it.

And it's illegal to
take parts of the bird.

So technically yes,

it is illegal to have
migratory bird feathers

or ones that are protected
under the Migratory Bird Treaty.

The three that I referenced
earlier, so the Rock pigeon,

the European Starling
and the House Sparrow,

you can have their feathers.

And the logic behind this is that

that Migratory Bird Treaty came at a time

where birds were going
extinct, left and right,

because the feather trade
for hats was out of control.

And everybody in London wanted a feather

in their cap like literally.

And so they were being
hunted left and right

for their feathers.

And even today, we still
have bird poaching issues.

And so that is why that is there.

And it is technically not
legal to have those feathers.

- [Cindy] Is a Blue Jay
a migratory bird then?

- It is protected under
the Migratory Bird Treaty.

- [Cindy] I have to change
some of my bird stuff.

I do know that having an eagle
feather is very, very bad,

don't ever have an eagle feather.

- There are additional
laws that protect Raptors

and then even more that
protect Bald Eagles.

So you're really getting
into trouble then.

- [Cindy] Yeah. (laughs)

Well we could go on and on, but we can't.

(laughing)

So I'm going to pull us
to a close at this point.

We have had a lot of really,
really great questions

but what I want to point out is that

we are going to be talking
winter birding next week.

And so there are several
questions that people pose

that really were related
to winter birding.

And so we'll make sure that
we we have a chance to pull

that information out as well.

And while Elliot and I would love to go on

because we could easily,
you guys need to go to bed.

Everybody's got to go to
work tomorrow. (laughs)

Please come back next week.

Tell your friends, thanks
for being here with us.

Take care, everybody.

You Might Also Be Interested In