December 2, 2016

The street is dark and the building looks mysterious, shrouded in ivy with a single light over the door.
Across the street, high in the top of a tree, I could see two squirrel’s nests and a group of starlings silhouetted against the night sky.
 I let myself in for the evening shift at the Bird Center.
There are only 4 birds to care for, a robin, a swallow, one dove, and an oriole. It is warm and cozy and the birds will soon be asleep.
The pigeon was released at Gallup Park. It flew over to the bridge that crosses the Huron River. The pigeon thought it was a perfect day to be out.  It was mild and sunny and there was a couple sitting on a bench, eating lunch and watching yellow leaves floating by in the current. The pigeon thought about flying over and see if there was something to eat.

I hope everyone had a fine Thanksgiving! I had dinner with good friends who live just outside of town in an old farmhouse with plenty of cats and a nice flock of chickens.
 I’ve seen quite a few wild turkeys out in the country and I thought it would be fun to learn more about the Wild Turkey. He is quite handsome!
Trivia About Wild Turkeys
From Fun Facts about Turkeys
Because it is a native bird with a proud demeanor and protective instincts, the wild turkey was Benjamin Franklin’s preference for the national bird, not the bald eagle that is more of a scavenger and will rob other birds and animals for prey.
Due to overhunting and deforestation that eliminated wild turkeys’ habitat, these birds were nearly extinct in the 1930s. Today, there are more than 7 million wild turkeys and their range is spread throughout North America
There are approximately 5,500 feathers on an adult wild turkey, including 18 tail feathers that make up the male’s distinct fan. Many of the feathers are iridescent, which gives the turkey its characteristic sheen.
Wild turkeys have very powerful legs and can run at speeds up to 25 miles per hour. Their top speed in flight is 55 miles per hour. Domestic birds, on the other hand, are bred to be heavier so they provide more meat and therefore cannot fly.
These birds are omnivorous and will try many different foods. Most of their diet is grass and grain, but wild turkeys have a varied diet and will also eat insects, berries and small reptiles. The average lifespan of a wild turkey is 3-5 years, and the oldest known wild turkey lived to be at least 13 years old. In the wild, turkeys range from 5-20 pounds. A wild turkey’s gobble can be heard up to one mile away and is a primary means for a tom to communicate with his harem.
The wild turkey’s bald head and fleshy facial wattles can change color in seconds with excitement or emotion. The birds’ heads can be red, pink, white or blue. The flap of skin that hangs down over a turkey’s bill is called a snood, and can also change color.
Wild turkeys see in color and have excellent daytime vision that is three times better than a human’s eyesight. They have poor vision at night, however, and can become more wary as it grows darker.
Just hatched wild turkeys are precocial, they are born with feathers and can fend for themselves. Young turkeys leave the nest within 24 hours to forage for food with their mothers. Wild turkeys were first domesticated in Mexico and then exported to Europe. European settlers brought domesticated turkeys back to the New World with them as colonists, but also hunted the wild birds they found.

Rachel Schwartz is our Bird Team Volunteer Coordinator. She is responsible for answering the many emails from people interested in volunteering at the Bird Center. She sends out applications, helps to arrange training and schedules for new volunteers, and puts the information into the volunteer calendar. In addition, Rachel edits and sends out my newsletter. I couldn’t do it without her help
Thank you Rachel for everything you do. You’re the best!!
“I’ve volunteered at the bird center for 3 years now and this was the first year I helped with coordinating the volunteers. I’ve been taking care of pet birds and other critters since I was little and have been an avid birder for many years. When I met Casper (our ambassador starling) and learned about the bird center at the Ann Arbor Bird Show a number of years back, it was a natural fit for me to volunteer. Even with the sometimes hectic pace around the center with so many mouths to feed and baskets to clean (and always being kept busy at home with my Goffin’s cockatoo and Quaker parrot), it is somehow relaxing to me to work my shift! It is an honor to be able to work hands-on with these beautiful creatures!”

October 21, 2016

We have 26 birds at the Center.  We will be open and accepting birds this fall and winter with new hours, open from 9AM-7PM.  Please call in advance if you need to bring a bird.
VOLUNTEERS!! HELP NEEDED for the move to AA Animal Hospital and cleaning the Bird Center

It’s almost time to move out for the election again!
It’s already been arranged with AAAH, and we’ll be moving out on Sunday November 6th at 10:00 am. We’ll have about 15 baskets (an estimation) and supplies to move, as well as cleaning to do. It would be nice if the people who volunteer to help move come at 10:00 am, and those that volunteer to clean arrive at 10:30 am.We’ll begin returning on Wednesday, November 9th, at around 12pm, to make sure we’ve given the election staff enough time to gather their things. We will need people to help move birds and supplies back and a few people at the center to get set-up to operate again.


We are all set with volunteers to transport on Sunday, November 6, but still need cleaning help. As of right now, we have no volunteers for Wednesday, November 9 for transport or set-up. If you can help on either on these days, please let us know.
 This is Volunteer Makarand Datar’s first season at the Bird Center.  He stopped by our table at the Mayor’s Green Fair. It was immediately clear that he was really interested in birds and the opportunity to work at the Center, and he filled out a Volunteer application .
After several months on the job, he shared some thoughts about volunteering.
           “I have always been fascinated by wildlife and natural history and it started with birds.  I remember watching birds for hours from the back window of our apartment looking toward a giant Jackfruit tree.  Often times, birds would come very close and the feeling of birds trusting me felt very rewarding.  I guess I am losing track here but that’s how I first got into birds.
Given that human activity has interfered with birds: may it be with their migration or habitat loss or with unwanted chemicals (or maybe cats), the Bird Center offers an opportunity to intervene for the right reasons.  I am very impressed by all the hard work of staff, interns and volunteers, and I find it a positive act to help out a little bit myself.  I get to see birds close by, learn about them from experts and be amazed by the fighting spirit and resilience of injured and baby birds.  This is why I volunteer at the BC.”
We have a Whipoorwill that came in with an apparent head injury, and is doing very well. Here is some information about this fascinating bird.

Eastern whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferus)

Eastern whip-poor-will biology

Due to its rather secretive behaviour and cryptic coloration, the eastern whip-poor-will remains a relatively unstudied bird, with little known about its behavior and ecology. The eastern whip-poor-will forages at dusk and dawn and during moonlit periods at night.  It typically makes short flights after insects from a perch in a tree or from the ground, and is also known to investigate rotten logs and leaves in search of food. The eastern whip-poor-will has a strictly insectivorous diet, consisting mainly of ants, beetles, flies, grasshoppers, moths and caterpillars.
At the start of the breeding season the male whip-poor-will is known to establish a fairly large territory, and from here produces loud, distinctive
whip-poor-will” calls from a variety of perches in an attempt to attract a suitable mate. The timing of breeding varies greatly with location, occurring sometime between late April and early July across most of its range.
The eastern whip-poor-will is a ground-nesting species, with the female laying a clutch of two eggs directly among leaf litter on the forest floor. The newly laid eggs are cream or greyish-white, and are marbled and dotted with lavender-grey blotches and yellowish-brown or pale brown spots. This coloration fades fairly quickly and the eggs become well camouflaged to match the leaf litter, allowing them to remain undetected by most predators.  The eggs are incubated mainly by the female, although sometimes by the male, for around 19 to 21 days, during which time the adult birds remain motionless on or close to the nest throughout much of the day.
Hatching of whip-poor-will chicks appears to be closely tied to the lunar cycle, with most young hatching a few days before a full moon. It is thought that this strategy may have developed to allow the adult birds to forage throughout the night during the full moon period, enabling them to catch enough insects to supply the chicks with sufficient energy to grow. At around eight days after hatching, the whip-poor-will chicks develop black-speckled feathers to provide them with additional camouflage, after which they move from the nest site into denser cover. The male provides much of the care to the chicks after they leave the nest site until they are able to fly at around 20 days old, while the female often lays a second clutch of eggs nearby

Eastern whip-poor-will range

The eastern whip-poor-will breeds throughout North America, from Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia and Ontario in southern Canada, and south throughout the United States. It also breeds in Honduras.
This species winters from north-eastern Mexico and the Gulf Coast of the United States to Central America, including Costa Rica, Panama and Cuba  .
The Volunteer appreciation party was a success! Lots of delicious food and a beautiful cake!
It was great to see so many volunteers and interns.


Special guest, Blue, our Blue Jay Ambassador was a big hit with everyone, making the rounds with Ken and entertaining us with her imitation of a ringing cell phone.
Harvey Mieske, Ken and Blue, and Don Garlit
Supervisors Gabby and Rachel
THANK YOU to our wonderful hosts Dorothy and Ken
Volunteers Laurie and Phyllis
Georgette, Intern Remy and volunteers Laurie and Bee
We’re having some rainy days, but it’s still warm. There are a few last roses in my garden, and yellow chrysanthemums are blooming on the path to the Bird Center.  The trees are changing so fast, and the leaves are especially brilliant this year. How about a walk in the County Park? Project Grow at the Park has  many large gardens and there are still some veggies growing..



October 4, 2016
 Everyone is invited to the
    Volunteer Appreciation Party
  Sunday October 16 2-4 PM
     3 Hermina Court Ann Arbor
       There will be refreshments
Bring a bird-related book for the book exchange.
There are 39 birds at the Bird Center.  I counted 37, but just as I was leaving, a young dove and a pigeon came in from the Humane Society.
We have quite a few pigeons so I thought I’d look around for some interesting facts about them.
Rock Pigeons, or Rock Doves are a common sight in any city and most of us don’t think of pigeons as intelligent or important birds.
Read on!
Rock Pigeons are widespread and common birds of urban, suburban, and agricultural areas throughout North America. They are highly variable in plumage, but most look like this one. Red, blackish, and pied variants are also common. Introduced to North America in the early 17th-century by colonists who brought domestic pigeons to Atlantic coast settlements.  Wild Rock Domestics readily go feral, and have done so widely throughout the world.Domestic and feral pigeons are among the most intensively studied of all birds. Knowledge of avian flight mechanics, thermoregulation, water metabolism, endocrinology, sensory perception, orientation and navigation, learning (the original subjects in Skinner boxes), genetics of color, pattern, behavior and other characteristics, and Darwinian evolutionary biology have depended heavily on research using domestic and feral Rock Pigeons.
Rock Pigeons have an amazing history – domesticated over 5,000 years ago, they were used to carry messages from one place to another, as they have an innate ability to find their way home.  They were even used in World Wars I and II to send messages between members of the U.S. Army. People continue to train Rock Pigeons today to carry messages and race.
There are also “fancy” pigeons, and this one came in to the BC without injuries.
It is an Oriental Frill. Note the fluffy chest and feet feathers, small beak and crest.  They are primarily bred for shows but are also used as racing pigeons. It was likely grounded during a pigeon race.
Darwin is known to have crossbred fancy pigeons, to study variation within species, this work coming three years before his groundbreaking publication, On the Origin of Species.
No other domestic animal has branched out into such a variety of forms and colors.
Oriental Frill
The 2 Barn Swallows will be overwintering at the Center, as they were not ready to make the long migration to Central and South America.  Here, they sit at their favorite spot on a window sill.
Michigan’s only venomous snake
Eastern Mississauga rattlesnake listed as threatened by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Statewide DNR News
Sept. 30, 2016
Eastern Mississauga rattlesnake listed as threatened by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday that it has listed the eastern Mississauga rattlesnake as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act, stating that nearly 40 percent of the snake’s historical populations are now extirpated (no longer exist) and an additional 15 percent is of uncertain status.
Most Mississauga’s are located within the southern portion of Michigan, with none occurring on the Upper Peninsula’s mainland.
“Conservation of this rare snake is critical because it plays an important role as a predator of small mammals,” said Dan Kennedy, Michigan Department of Natural Resources endangered species specialist.
These snakes live in wet prairies, marshes and low-lying areas along rivers and lakes, and may also live in uplands during part of the year. They often hibernate in crayfish burrows, but they also may be found under logs and tree roots or in small mammal burrows.
The Mississauga is a small snake with a thick body, heart-shaped head and vertical pupils. The average length of an adult is about 2 feet. The snake’s tail has several dark brown rings and is tipped by gray-yellow rattles. They eat small rodents such as mice and voles, and will sometimes eat frogs and other snakes. They are docile, secretive snakes that will try to escape rather than defend themselves or fight.

I love crows and always am on the lookout for articles that demonstrate their ingenuity.

Recycling Tokyo Crows Build Their Nests Out of Coat Hangers

By Sumitra on April 18th, 2014
Crows are known to be highly intelligent birds, and it looks like they can now teach us a thing or two about recycling and stealing. The Asian Jungle Crow, a large-billed crow, actually builds its nest out of coat hangers that it steals from people’s homes!
Crows make use of pretty much anything they find lying around to build their hardy nests. House Crows generally build crude structures, made of interlocking twigs gathered from surrounding trees and shrubs. They weave the twigs together with little pieces of metallic wire that strengthen the nest structure. In some nests, the clever crows incorporate knotted lengths of thick plastic instead.
But perhaps the most amazing crow nests are the ones built around Tokyo, Japan. Twigs and other natural materials are hard to come by in the busy metropolis, so the birds settle for the next best thing, and that seems to be coat hangers .I for one am truly baffled by these hanger nests. As a person who is continually battling tangled coat hangers in my closets, I do admire these crows that managed to put such intricate structures together.
The days are noticeably shorter, but I am still surprised when it’s dark at 7PM.
Don’t forget that our hours are now 9AM-7PM.
Enjoy these early fall days!  The perennial garden at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens is worth visiting, as are the trails where you’ll see the trees beginning to change color.
I recommend checking out Sunlight and the Seasons, one of the online Annenberg workshops for teachers and learners.