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Winter Bird Feeding for Beginners PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ashely Adams   
Monday, 16 December 2013 18:54

Nothing livens up the dreary gray-white winter landscape like the splashes of colors provided by winter birds.  Cardinals, blue jays, and goldfinches brighten up any yard with their plumage.   Not to be outdone, chickadees, sparrows, and woodpeckers make up for what they lack in color by their seemingly endless energy.  With the right care, you can enjoy all these birds and more from the comfort of your windows.

The shape and location of a feeder can affect the birds that visit your home.   Ground feeders are great for gamebirds, sparrows, and doves.   Platform, hopper feeders, and hanging feeders attract many different types of songbirds such as cardinals, finches, titmice, and chickadees.

For food sources, you can’t go wrong with black oil sunflower seeds.  Many birds love these seeds.   Not interested in the shell mess left behind?   There’s shelled sunflowers you can purchase as well.   Nyjer (or thistle) seeds are beloved by finches.   Another popular option is suet, a cake of hard fat with seeds and dried fruits mixed in.   Insect eating birds, such as woodpeckers, enjoy this food source.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinals are a winter favorite! (Photo Credit: Larry Burdick)

There are other ways to make your background more hospitable to winter birds.    Birds will enjoy heated water dishes for drinking.    Putting feeders near trees provides shelter from the elements.    Certain trees, such as fruit bearing trees, can even act as natural feeders.   You may also consider putting up roost boxes to provide cover for your feeder birds and even a safe place to hide from predators.

Looking for new feeders?   Don’t forget about the Sanctuary Bookstore, which carries locally made Stovall Products feeders and bird houses!


More Information:

Bird Feeder Information

Bird Friendly Coffee and Wallet Friendly Deals PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ashely Adams   
Friday, 22 November 2013 20:19

Birds do not seem to understand the concept of sleeping in.  What better way to get yourself going to pick up that first-of-year northern bird than with a cup of coffee?   As it turns out, your next cup of Joe could in fact not only help you find birds, but protect them as well!

While we do our best to preserve songbirds habitats here in the north, that’s only half the story.  Our beloved songbirds who overwinter in tropical locations are falling victim to the increasingly un-environmentally sound growing methods.   Coffee plants are naturally shade tolerant species, growing in the understory.  However, there has been a push to promote slash-and-burn methods to open up more sunny patches and increase yield, destroying habitat.  There’s also been higher use of pesticide which can harm songbirds.

Thankfully, you don’t have to choose between the birds and your coffee.   The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has implemented a certification system that shows you which coffee has been grown in more traditional, environmentally friendly ways.   The downside with bird friendly coffee is that it’s hard to find.  Luckily, the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary is a proud provider of Birds and Beans Coffee, which is not only bird friendly, but organic and fair trade as well.

Chestnut sided warbler

Chestnut-sided Warblers depend on traditional coffee plantations.  You can help out these birds by buying our Birds and Beans Chestnut-sided Warbler coffee!  (Note: Coffee does not  contain actual warble.)  Photo Credit: Josh Haas

Speaking of fair trade, many of our other Bookstore goodies are fair trade.   Fair trade goods are produced in developing countries.  They can be goods or foods that are made or harvested in sustainable ways.  Fair trade goods are also purchased in ethically sound ways, providing livable wages, allowing workers to unionize, and not using child or other exploitative labor.   In the Bookstore you’ll find fair trade crafts, jewelry, bags, and others.

Does this opportunity to shop and do some good sound great?  Well, you’re in luck!   On December 11th, the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary will be having a holiday open house!  All goods will be fifteen percent off.  Perhaps you are still uncertain about if this delicious coffee is for you?  How about grabbing a sample and some birds for your list?   If that sounds up your alley, join us for the December Birds & Coffee Walk at 9am Wednesday, December 11th.  

Birds and Coffee Walk Information
Holiday Open House Information
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center Bird Friendly Coffee Certification
Coffee and Conservation

Duck, Duck, Goose! Fall Migration and Identification Opportunities PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ashely Adams   
Friday, 08 November 2013 17:41

It’s that time of year we all look forward to.  No, I’m not talking about holidays or watching your favorite football team.  I’m talking about fall migration!   As the days shorten and the cold takes hold, many birds say sayonara to their summer homes and head for warmer shores.    Believe it or not, the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary is a must see for anyone interested in spotting these autumn visitors.

Greater White-fronted Goose

This Greater White-fronted Goose was spotted in early October.  You never know what will turn up!

While many of the songbird migrants have moved on, now is a great time to catch up on your waterfowl viewing.   While Canada Geese and Mallards are a year-round sight, now’s your chance to see them in their greatest number.    Not to be out done, Ruddy Ducks have congregated on Wintergreen Lake, peaking around one hundred.   Visitors may see a handful of Northern Shovelers, spinning around in the water as they attempt to skim up plant matter.   Teal, Scaup, Ring-Necked Ducks, and many more species dot the lakeside.   If you’re lucky, you may find a rarer migrant.   Perhaps you will spot a Snow Goose or a Tundra Swan on your next visit?


The Redhead duck is an aptly named fall migrant.  (Photo Credit: Josh Haas)

Have all these waterfowl got your head in a spin?   Can’t tell a Gadwall from a Wigeon?   How about attending our upcoming Waterfowl Identification class?   It will be Saturday, November 16th from 9-11am.   Cost is $25 for members and $35 for nonmembers.  However, the ability to improve your waterfowl IDing skills is priceless.  Preregistration is required, so call 269-671-2510 or email birdsanctuary@kbs.msu.edu today!

More Information
Waterfowl Identification Class Information

Waterfowl Identification

New Osprey Platform on Lake Loop PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ashely Adams   
Tuesday, 05 November 2013 19:39

Despite the less than the hospitable weather, things were hopping at the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary on October 19th.   Visitors brave enough to laugh in the face of the chill and wet of late autumn may have noticed some work happening on the far side of Wintergreen Lake.   A local Eagle Scout, Levi Vandyke, was installing a much anticipated Osprey nest platform.  Anybody interested in seeing the finished work is welcome to go on the Lake Loop and check it out.  While we’re not planning on seeing too many Ospreys this time of year because Ospreys are now migrating to the southern coast of North America and parts of South America.  We will be monitoring for activity come spring time!

Osprey nest platform

Levi with his Osprey Nest Platform.

Ospreys are amazing raptors.  Ospreys, also known as sea hawks or fish hawks, feed almost exclusively on fish.  As such, they have many unique adaptions that other raptors don’t.   They have rounded talons, tiny spikes on their feet, and reversible back toes; all designed for keeping a grip on slippery fish.  They have nostrils that close when diving in the water, as well as eyesight good enough to see a fish from over 100 feet above the water.   These amazing predators have the second widest distribution of a single species of raptor in the world with populations spanning every continent except Antarctica.

Ospreys suffered sharp declines in populations during the 1950s-1960s due to the spraying of DDT, but have recovered thanks to bans on DDT pesticide as well as reduced persecution.   That doesn’t mean that Ospreys have it easy.   They often nest on power lines, creating a precarious situation for the birds and electricity loving people.

The platforms, besides making wonderful substitutes for power lines, are a great way to encourage osprey to nest in the area.   They offer a safe area for the birds to nest while keeping predators away.
We hope this new nest platform will encourage our piscivorian raptors to nest in a safe habitat where many people will enjoy it for years to come.

More Information:
Platform Plan

Osprey Watch

Myths and Legends of the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary Birds PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ashely Adams   
Monday, 21 October 2013 18:26

Here at the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, we get visitors from all over the world.   It’s amazing to listen to everyone’s stories and hear what the birds mean to that person. Birds are not only important parts of our ecosystems, but our cultures as well.   So, let’s take a minute to explore some of the stories and myths that involve our Sanctuary birds!

The Bald Eagle is an awe-inspiring bird.  It’s really no wonder looking at them why our country’s forefathers would pick it as our national symbol.  Eagles have likely been the inspiration for many legendary birds.   Many cultures featured stories about giant birds with amazing strength.  Some great examples are the Roc that would carry away elephants, the Native American thunderbirds that could cause lightening, and the Chinese Peng who transformed from an equally giant fish.



A roc carrying away an elephant (Source: Wikimedia Commons-Edward Julius Detmold)

And what about our nocturnal birds of prey?  Well, owls come with a mixed reputation.   In Mesoamerica, many of the indigenous people considered the owls as symbols of death, sorcery, and other less than pleasant aspects.    Owls are also an ill omen in Arab mythology.   However, not is all doom and gloom for our owl friends.   Owls can be associated with wisdom, thanks in part to their relationship with Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom.

The swans here at the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary and all over the world are often held as symbols of grace and beauty.   In Norse mythology, two swans drank from a sacred well in Asgard, home of the gods.   The water was so pure that it turned the swans white and all of their offspring after.   Swans are also closely tied to love, due to their monogamous pairing.   It’s not a stretch to imagine Tchaikovsky drew a lot of inspiration when making his ballet Swan Lake from the behaviors of wild swans.

What of other birds found here at the Sanctuary?   Hummingbirds, full of vigor and with a propensity for aggression, were believed to be the reincarnated souls of warriors to the Aztec people.  Swallows were a good omen for sailors, likely letting them know the shore was nearby.  Our symbol of spring, the American Robin, earned its red breast from being scorched after fanning a fire to save a man and a boy according to Native American legend.  The clever Crow is a trickster hero in Aboriginal Australian lore, in one tale bringing fire to humans.


The Aztec war god, Huitzilopochtli, was heavily associated with hummingbirds.  (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

While this gives you only the briefest glimpses into the legends and other stories surrounding birds, I you have learned a little about the significance birds have to everyone around the world.  If nothing else, hopefully you will be able to view the Sanctuary birds with a new perspective the next time you visit!

More information:

Some Birds of Prey in Folklore

Poetry by W.B. Yeats on Swans

Birds in Native American Lore

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