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by ARLnow.com Sponsor September 15, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

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Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

As Halloween approaches, many people are taking time to learn about one of the holiday’s well-known icons and one of nature’s most misunderstood creatures: bats.

A lot of people do not understand the useful role bats play in helping control insect populations. Most of the myths about bats have created such fear that the topic of bat conservation is rarely discussed.

They do not drive around in fancy cars and have really cool, destructive gadgets. They also don’t have super hero friends. Although humans if they change some of their bad habits, could be those superheroes.

They do not fly into your hair. More than likely they fly near you when you are outside because you are attracting flying insects- which they love. On average one bat can consume 600 to 1,000 insects an hour. Over the course of the night, that would equate to 6,000-8,000 flying insects including mosquitos. They also eat coach roaches, beetles and flies.

Bats have vision, but it is very limited. They navigate at night and find their prey through a process call “Echolocation.” Think of it as a sophisticated type of sonar. Echolocation uses sound waves to determine where objects are in space. Bats use this to navigate and find food in the dark.

To echolocate, bats send out sounds waves from their mouth or nose.   When these sound waves hit an object, such as an insect, they produce echoes. The bats follow those echoes for a tasty meal. Some species of insects have developed a false echo that when emitted, will misdirect the bat and allow the insect to escape.

Bats are the only flying mammal on the planet. Air Force-funded projects have been created to learn how the wing motion and structure work on these mammals in an effort to create better flying machines.

There are 16 different species of bats in Virginia. Three of these species of bats, Virginia Big-Eared, Gray and Indiana are federally endangered. The Rafinesque’s bat is state endangered. The Big Brown Bat, Evening Bat and Little Brown Bat are three common species you could see at night. These three are the most likely to take up residence in a building.

If a bat is found indoors with people, the VA Department of Health recommends capturing the bat and having it tested for rabies. While less than half of 1 percent of all bats actually carry rabies, this is a time of caution. If you must handle the bat in any way, heavy gloves should be worn. But it would be better to contact a professional to help with the safe removal of the bat.

In recent years, significant populations of several hibernating bat species have declined. The cause of death is connected to Geomyces destructans, a cold temperature-loving white fungus, commonly known as White-nose Syndrome (WNS). Little Brown and Northern Long-eared Bats appear to be the species hardest hit.

WNS has been reported in 19 states in the U.S. and four Canadian provinces. It is believed that infected bats are depleting their fat reserves more quickly during hibernation, awaking more often and/or for longer periods of time. The fungus spreads across the wings causing scarring and, in the worst case, complete holes.

Secondarily, the fungus agitates the bats during hibernation causing them to wake thus expending energy. With no food source to be had during the winter, bats must rely on their fat reserves to make it through. The smallest species are most at risk because they simply are not large enough to store enough fat to last the winter.

What can be done to help? The Organization for Bat Conservation (OBC) suggests building or buying a bat box to provide roosting sites. They also suggest planting moth-attracting wildflowers to give bats an additional food source. Also, leave up dead or dying trees, as long as it is safe, to provide bats with natural shelters.

The OBC, in conjunction with Wild Birds Unlimited, has developed a bat box that meets OBC specifications and provides the features that successfully attract bats. In addition, a portion of the sales from each OBC bat box goes to OBC for bat research, rescue and public education.

These are truly amazing and beneficial creatures. The more people know about bats, the less frightening they are. If you have questions about bats, bat conservation and/or attracting bats to your yard, visit Wild Birds Unlimited, in your area.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor September 1, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

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Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

It’s that time again. The sun begins to set a little earlier every day. The heat of the day does not reach as high as it did before. The gardens are beginning to go to seed. And your loved ones are beginning to leave the nest and head out on their own.

No, not those loved ones. The wild birds in your backyard. Off the nests and fully grown, they are out to explore. Some will set their GPS and head down south. There, in warmer climates, they will spend the winter.

Hummingbirds are ready to go. All they need are a couple of strong cold fronts from the north to set them flying. They will not fly against a strong southerly flow of wind, because too much energy will be spent. Hummingbird plants are drying up so a feeder will go a long wait to refueling them for their journey.

Keep your feeders loaded with fresh nectar (Four parts water to one part sugar) until early October. These tiny jewels of a bird will feed anywhere from seven to 12 times an hour to keep bulking up for the long flight south.

Nighthawks are grouping up and have already started their long migration south.  Look to the skies just before dusk and you may see hundreds of these hawks gliding south. Common grackles are also beginning to develop their large flocks for their journey.

When they come through your yard later in the fall, in 300-bird flocks, your yard can not sustain them. They too eventually will move down to warmer climates and more open pastures.  If they are attacking your feeders, switch to white safflower seed.  They will not eat this and will leave your feeder alone. When they have left your neighborhood, you can switch back to your birds favorite blend of food.

We will lose a few of our summer birds, but we also are very fortunate to receive a number of birds for the winter. Most common birds coming through here are the many species of hawks. Every time I go out to deliver a bag of seed to a customer’s car from now until November, I will look up into the sky, because there will be an excellent chance that I will see a raptor gliding in a thermal in the sky.

Coopers Hawk, Sharp Shinned Hawk, Golden Eagle, Northern Harrier and Red Tail Hawk are just some of the raptors who migrate down on the wind rivers to settle in for the winter. If you have never been to “Hawk Mountain” near Kempton, Penn., you should give yourself a weekend gift. This mountain from now until November will put on a raptor aerial show like none other.

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by ARLnow.com Sponsor August 18, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

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Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

Last week, my son and I traveled to a different world. It was still on the planet Earth. It was still in the United States. It was actually in Wisconsin. But it was a different world.

For you see, my son and I travelled to the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Where you can stand on a bridge or hill and have a 360 degree view of beauty. Beauty in the form of tall Spruce, Norwegian Pine, Cedar, Oak and Maple trees rising up to the sky. Clean, strong, perfect in their shape and form; not pulled down or suffocated by invasive walls of vines and killing weeds. A sky that is at once crystal clear cerulean blue, and slate grey and robin’s egg blue. A sky that changes in a blink of the eye from bunny rabbit soft pillow clouds to massive Cumulus Nimbus “Big Momma” thunderstorms that dare you to get in their way.

And a landscape that offers you wide open vistas that are not decimated into 4,000 irregular pieces by telephone lines, power poles, billboards, buildings or cellular towers which allows you to watch these majestic storms roll over the corn and wheat fields, laying down their torrential rains from 45 miles away.

A world where animals and birds live and die as the natural order set it in place. Where loons make daily recordings of their spooky and siren call. Where geese fly low over water with their natural call as they settle in for the night.

Ducks swim mightily up the Wisconsin River as if going to the gym to build up strength for the coming seasons. Great Blue Herons stand straight and erect on shallow ground waiting for the unsuspecting fish to come into striking range. Where squadrons of Cedar Waxwings put on nightly aerial shows that rival Cirque de Soleil as they feed on flying insects and ripe berries from the shrubs. Warblers, sparrows and Kingbirds all feast on the flying insects; which there are no shortage of.

If you see one mosquito, you see 10,173 in every 10 square feet of space. In other words, the size of one adult male, six feet tall. But mosquitos drift and they like water. And when they fly over a watery surface and hungry carnivores lie waiting underneath, the show is about to begin.

Panfish species of fish, aptly named for fitting in a frying panning heated with butter, explode out of the water with mouth wide open to gorge themselves before nightfall. When the water is stone cold grey and still like a sheet of ice, the fish bug show is mesmerizing. Nature though has one more surprise in store before the day ends.

With a clear view of the horizon and with a water canvas for the foreground, the sunsets can create colorful masterpieces for up to two hours. The bright yellow setting orb begins to pull in colors of orange and tan and sienna and red into its sphere. With charity in its heart, the sun then explodes out these colors it has gathered and paints the sky. Minute after minute the sky changes. And just when you think the sun is done, lost below the horizon, it paints with more colors a masterpiece.

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by ARLnow.com Sponsor August 4, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

So, you are driving down the road and you are very hungry. You pull over to a new place that you have never tried. But you notice the place is really crowded and looks very run down and dirty. Would you go in and try it?

Feeding the birds is a very popular hobby in North America, second only to gardening. With that many customers coming to our backyard restaurants, it is very important to provide birds with a safe feeding environment. Responsible bird feeding techniques are crucial in helping to keep birds healthy safe.

Normally, people who feed the birds do not receive complete and accurate information on bird diseases or how to safely offer food and water to the birds. It is essential for those who enjoy the bird feeding hobby to understand the importance of proper feeding methods to promote bird health.

When the hot and humid days of summer come upon us, the food we put out for the birds can become spoiled if not properly taken care off.  Many quality seed blends do not have shells. This unprotected food can become moldy and buggy if left out for too long. Heavy rains and humid days can also accelerate the spoiling process.

Wild Birds Unlimited Recommends Responsible Bird Feeding

The following strategies will help improve the health and safety of birds:

  • Clean bird feeders, bird baths and all hardware regularly with a 10 percent bleach (one part bleach to nine parts water) solution. Rinse thoroughly and allow to completely dry before refilling feeders.
  • Use Wild Birds Unlimited EcoClean Feeders. These feeders have a special technology built-in that keeps the feeders clean and there is no need for chlorine bleach.
  • Always keep the ground below and around feeders clean. Discard seed debris and bird droppings on a regular basis. One great way to do that is to purchase a small 6 gallon “Shopvac” from your local hardware store. This powerful tool will clean up the ground in a very short time.

Wear a simple painter’s mask to make sure you do not breathe in any dust or particles from the bird droppings. Then discard in a paper leaf bag for your trash collector. Seed Shells do not make good compost.

  • Give the birds more space. If using multiple feeders, place the feeders farther apart from one another. This will reduce crowding and the potential for disease transmission between sick and healthy birds.
  • Only use feeders that can be easily cleaned. Wooden feeders are difficult to sanitize. A fine grade sandpaper can be used to clean any dropping residue or potential mildew or mold.
  • Tray or platform feeders are fun to use. But if your area has too many birds visiting the feeder, you may need to use a cage cover over it to regulate the flow of breakfast, lunch and dinner avian guests. Think of the cage as a good bouncer at the door of your popular food establishment for the birds.
  • Limit the amount of seed you provide during these hot months. Offer only as much food as the birds will eat in one or two days. Rake up waste material in the area before refilling.
  • You can use Seed cylinders, which are condensed bird food that fits on special feeders. These are good to use if you are going out of town and want to leave your bird food restaurant open. Make sure you have a rain guard over the cylinder to protect it from too much rain. Some cylinders can last two to three weeks, depending on the size and type of cylinder.
  • Always discard any seed that has become wet.

Wild Birds Unlimited is committed to keeping everyone safe and informed about issues that may affect the hobby of bird feeding. People’s safety and the health of wildlife are our primary concern. Take some simple steps to keep your bird food restaurant healthy and the OPEN sign up.

For more information about backyard and responsible bird feeding practices, stop by Wild Birds Unlimited at 2437 N Harrison St, Arlington, VA, to speak with a Certified Bird Feeding Specialist.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor July 21, 2017 at 6:30 pm 0

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Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

Most birds undergo a seasonal transformation in summer, losing and replacing their feathers in a process known as molting. Bird and nature enthusiasts can help birds with the molting process by providing foods rich in protein.

Molting describes when a bird replaces some (partial molt) or all (full molt) of its feathers. Birds will also molt if they have lost feathers that need to be replaced immediately. You should not be surprised if you look into your backyard and see a bald cardinal, a chickadee with a Mohawk or a robin with a Bieber haircut!

Different species of birds molt at different times of the year and for different reasons. Some birds molt twice a year. During spring/summer, birds (especially males) molt to a much brighter, more colorful breeding plumage to be more attractive to potential mates. The male American Goldfinch is one of the more spectacular molting changes of your common backyard bird. In the fall/winter, birds return to a less attention-grabbing, non-breeding plumage.

Molting is a critical part of birds’ lives. It’s a complicated process that takes time and energy, and it takes place as birds carry on with their other daily routines.

Feathers are more than 90% protein, primarily keratins. Because of the nutritional demands on their bodies to produce feathers and feather pigment, birds must increase the amount of protein and fats in their diets.

Molting can be so physically demanding that many species of birds cannot fly during this time. Some birds such as geese, ducks and swans will molt in seclusion to avoid predators.

Offering bird foods high in protein and fats in backyard bird feeders is helpful during molting seasons. Foods such as Nyjer (thistle), peanuts, mealworms and Jim’s Birdacious Bark Butter aid birds in replacing their feathers and help ensure that their pigmentation is bright. Having the right food in your feeders isn’t just a wonderful way to see a variety of birds, but it’s also a way to provide birds with an easy-to-find food source during a very crucial time of their lives.

That is also why it is important for you to have your feeders filled when you leave town for a vacation. In order to meet your birds’ needs, it is important to have at least one foundational feeder that dependably provides food every day. Studies have demonstrated that a constant, and reliable source of supplemental food helps to improve health and body conditions. Good food: Good Molting: Good healthy bird. 

JOIN OUR TEAM! Some of our team members have migrated to new horizons. We are now accepting applications for 4 new members. We are hiring for a Full time Manager, Part time Manager, and two Sales Associates. We are energized to bring joy to our customers hobby of backyard bird feeding, and we strive to do that with excellence. If you want to explore being part of our flock, stop in and pick up an application! Ask for Michael or call 703-241-3988

by ARLnow.com Sponsor July 7, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

American Goldfinches are beautiful year-round residents. Their brown feathers molt in the spring, giving way to beautiful golden feathers for the summer, and they molt again in the fall.

A lot of people think that Goldfinches leave us in the winter, but they stay right here. They just unfortunately loose that gorgeous yellow color, but still will come visit your feeder.

Goldfinches are our acrobat seed eaters: they enjoy eating upside down. They enjoy eating from a mesh feeder filled with sunflower chips, Nyjer (thistle) or a mixture of both. The mesh feeder allows them to cling and eat at any angle.  This allows dramatically reduces invasive birds like the English Sparrow from getting on the feeder.

You can also add a rain guard on top to keep the seed dry. It can take a week or two for a full feeder of Nyjer to be eaten. Keeping it dry for the goldfinches consumption keeps the food from getting clumped up and possibly spoiled.

What is Nyjer? Nyjer is a seed that is grown in Ethiopia and India and is a registered trademark of Wild Birds Unlimited. People are typically worried that it grows if it fell out of the feeder.

It is not hot enough to grow here but if it does it makes beautiful yellow flowers. Thistle is a wild plant that grows all over. You may see if along highways. That plant grows a purple flower and the leaves are very prickly. We sell Nyjer and although it might grow a bit, it is not the invasive thistle you see everywhere.

Nyjer is a thin black seed that can spoil if moisture is present. It should be stored in a dry cool place and it should be replaced every three to four weeks in a feeder. If the seed becomes moldy you should dump it out and clean the feeder, let it dry overnight and refill with fresh seed. Nyjer is a highly nutritious food with a high oil content.

American Goldfinches are also our late nesters. They will have their broods in August, so keep those feeders filled with fresh seed. Be sure to keep your birdbaths filled too; for they love moving birdbaths and drippers. If you have purple coneflowers or black eyed susans in your yard they will pick at the seeds in them.

We have a good variety of finch feeders in stock and rain guards to add to them. We carry 5, 10 and 20-pound bags of Nyjer.  Our seed comes in fresh once and week. We can guarantee with fresh seed and a little patience you will get the gold.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor June 23, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

Come on, jump in! The water is fine. And just in time with the first really hot weather of the summer. So, for humans, we have many options to stay cool. But what about the wild birds in our backyards? Going to the movies is not an option.

During the hot, dry conditions of summer, wild birds will continuously look for reliable sources of water.

Water is crucial to birds, sometimes more so than food. Water is vitally important when it’s extremely hot, because birds do not sweat and must remove excess body heat through their respiratory system. So when temperatures rise, birds’ respiration rate increases, sometimes to the point where they can pant like a dog. This activity dehydrates birds.

A reliable source of water also allows birds to bathe regularly, a critical part of feather maintenance and staying in top-flight condition. However, offering water does not have to be difficult or expensive.

There are many ways to set up a water station to offer birds a safe and clean place to bathe and drink.  From a simple plant dish to a 400-pound granite sculpture bath, any and all water features will be accepted. But they must be safe and they must be secure.

Attract more birds by offering water in a bird bath. These water sources are normally elevated to protect birds from natural predators. Bird baths with sloped sides permit visitors to move from shallow to deeper water, and they accommodate different sized birds that need to drink or bathe.  The bird baths should be shallow so there is no accidental drowning; two-inch depths are the norm. Dark colored baths retain the heat in the winter whereas light colored dishes stay a little cooler in the summer.

Some people use misters and drippers to provide birds with water. These devices are connected to the hose bib on the side of the house with a Y connection.  This allows for a separate hose to be attached for yard work and filling up the bath.

In my front yard, I have a six-foot slope with three baths in line. A water dripper is attached to the top bath and the excess water drips into the second and third baths. The excess water then drips onto my fern garden.

The baths are constantly receiving fresh water for the birds.  The moving water prevents the mosquitoes’ larva, that may be deposited in the water, from hatching.  When located near foliage, misters give birds the opportunity to “leaf bathe.” Birds exhibiting this behavior will flutter against wet plants or leaves to release droplets onto their feathers.

Open sources of water, such as bird baths, can cause a potential mosquito problem. For this reason, many people use a Water Wiggler, an agitator that creates ripples in water (mosquitoes cannot/do not lay eggs in moving water). Also, water in motion is far more attractive to birds than a stagnant pond.

Water is essential to wild birds’ survival and many people see that necessity as an opportunity to be entertained by the birds.  Make sure your birds pool is open and filled with good clean water before they jump in.  Then grab a “slushy” and enjoy. No lifeguard needed.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor June 9, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

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Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

For 25 years now, my business, Wild Birds Unlimited, has been helping bring people and nature together with the hobby of backyard bird feeding. All types of people, from very young to very old, have come into my retail store and purchased products to feed the wild birds in their yards.

When I first started my business, I found that people feed for various reasons. Many people grow up with this hobby learning from their parents. Many feed the birds as a way of helping the birds survive in an ever-changing urban environment. But year after year, from behind my counter I discovered many more reasons why people feed the birds.

We are very fortunate to have four seasons of different climates in our area. With each season, nature and the birds change. Winter, spring, summer and fall all bring different challenges for survival. Each season brings a different level and type of joy to our backyards. From 20 bright red cardinals on snow covered winter tree branches to four fuzzy bird heads peeking out of a nest in the spring, there are visual joys to absorb all year long. Bird feeding is a yearlong hobby.

We are all connected to nature, that is all around us, in different ways.  I, for one, find no pleasure in cutting grass every eighth day, in searing heat and dripping humidity, with 7 billion gnats, per square foot, attacking me. So, for the past 30 years, in the two homes I have lived in, I dug up my lawn and planted a hummingbird, butterfly and bee garden.

I enjoy the beauty the flowers give me, the sounds the many different types of bees give me and the joy of the hummingbird zipping around my Bee Balm and Cardinal flower. The eight feeders on my back deck give me nonstop action as I sit and write this story in my office. I am surrounded by natural life.

One of my customers told me every night he and his wife would pour a glass of white wine and sit in their small backyard and watch the birds. It was their church he said. It gave them peace and tranquility. This became so much more important in his later life when his health was fading.

One day, a familiar customer came into my store to purchase seed. When I asked how she was, she started crying. Tragically she has just lost her oldest son. But she said she had to feed her birds. For many of us there is an incredibly strong emotional connection, that cannot be broken, with the natural world around us.

Many of my customers feed the birds as a sense of environmental duty to help the different species survive. There is a weekly routine I have with some customers when they come into my store and ask me: “do the birds need us?”

I will look out my storefront window and tell them 100 years ago if we were standing in the same spot and looking, we would see fields and trees and flowers. Now all we see looking out the window is concrete and asphalt and wires and buildings. With that perspective, it becomes clear that the more the natural habitat is removed, the more the wild birds will be challenged to find food and survive.

In that way, yes, the birds do need our help. That does not mean you cannot take a two week vacation this summer to go to the beach. The birds will find other sources of food. They will also readily come back to the little restaurants you have in your yard once you fill them up again.

My customers — my friends — have created and embraced the hobby of bird feeding in their yards for their own special needs.  Be it emotional, spiritual, environmental or physical, the feeding of the wildlife including chipmunks and squirrels, along with the birds, fulfills a need which enhances their lives. It is only natural that nature does that. For we are just a part of our natural world. It is just that the birds sing better.

With apologies to Mick Jagger, Bono, Beyonce and Willie Nelson!

by ARLnow.com Sponsor May 27, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

Hummingbirds visit us for a short period of time from the Spring until Fall. There are 18 species of Hummingbirds in North America. The most common hummingbird seen in Northern Virginia, is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

They commonly are referred to as the Emeralds and Rubies in our sky. These little beauties can fly backwards, upside down, weigh about the weight of a penny and lay the world’s smallest egg. They typically only lay 2 eggs a brood the size of a blueberry.

Hummingbirds eat about every 10 minutes and they drink up to twice their body weight in nectar every day. When using a Hummingbird feeder, we recommend filling them with a 4 part water to one part sugar solution. This solution can be made by using plain table sugar, no Splenda or Equal. Boil your water and add in the sugar, let it dissolve. Once it is cool you can pour some into the feeder and place the remaining solution in your fridge.

The solution should be changed every two to three days and every other day when it hits 90 degrees outside. Most WBU stores carry 8oz and 24 oz packages of sugar as a convenient way to make the solution for these flying jewels. We also recommend adding a rain guard to your feeder to help protect it from getting watered down. Another great tip is to keep it in the shade or near some flowers. Bee Balm, Cardinal Flower and Bleeding Hearts are great perennials to plant in your sunny garden. When the hummingbirds are not at your feeder they can be found drinking nectar from flowers, eating small gnats, spiders, aphid and flies.

How do you feed these little guys? Well we have a great selection of feeders to choose from. We have beautiful glass ones called droplets, or glass ones that look like a potted plant. The sphere feeders can do double the work, when it’s not a hummingbird feeder it can be used as a small watering dish or hold mealworms. Our number one best sellers are our Wild Birds Unlimited brand. That are easy to clean, can be put them in the top rack of your dishwasher or simple rinsed at the sink of your kitchen.

Our WBU feeders come with an ant moat molded into the nectar dish. Ant moats are an important item to add onto any hummingbird feeder to prevent the ants from getting into your nectar.  Just add a little bit of water to the ant moat and a drop of oil to keep it from evaporating too quickly. These can also be used when hummingbirds season is over, for bark butter bits, mealworms, or water.

The NEVER list: never add food dye to your feeders, flower nectar is colorless and pure, that’s what your hummers want. Never use honey, it spoils too quickly and if it ferments cause a fatal fungus to form on hummers tongues. Never use sports drinks, fruit juices or other sugary substances like soda.

Look for these little jewels flying through your yard this weekend. Then come into our store and put a pin in our “Hummingbird Location Map” so we can all see where these beautiful little emeralds and rubies are!

by ARLnow.com Sponsor May 12, 2017 at 3:45 pm 0

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Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

Today I want to tell you about the benefits of feeding Jim’s Birdacious Bark Butter. Bark Butter is a peanut butter, calcium and rendered beef suet concoction. It was created by Wild Birds Unlimited president Jim Carpenter to attract Brown Creepers to his yard.

Bark Butter can be smeared on any tree, seed cylinder, suet plug feeder, or a specialty Bark Butter feeder. It is a sticky recipe that allows it to be smeared with a fork, but not stick to the fork.

Many of our customers have used it on the sides of their seed cylinders for added calcium during nesting season or added fat for cold winters. Birds will grab on to any of these surfaces to grab a bite-sized chunk and fly away with a delicious meal.

As I told you, Jim created Bark Butter to attract his Brown Creepers which wouldn’t come to any other food he offered. Well he got them plus so many more birds. Jim found that about 140 species, from the East Coast to the West Coast, are eating his Bark Butter product and the list keeps growing.

Nuthatches, woodpeckers, chickadees, mockingbirds, catbirds and cardinals are just a few of the many interested birds. Birds that migrate through our area also loved Bark Butter. Summer tanagers, bluebirds, indigo buntings and many warblers are frequent visitors to Bark Butter feeders.

Why Bark Butter and not peanut butter you ask? Well for one peanut butter is loaded with sugar, salt and other unnatural ingredients that are not intended for birds.

Two, even if you buy organic it is full of salt that can dehydrate a bird quickly. The soft pliable texture of Bark Butter allows the adults birds to bring new fledgings to the feeders to eat. Bark Butter also comes in a “Bit” size formula which can be added to any regular seed and nut feeder.

Bark Butter can be a great addition to any backyard. Everyone can benefit from this nutritious snack. Mama and Papa birds can easily grab a chunk and feed it to their young, Nuthatches can creep up and down a tree trunk and enjoy a nibble and you can enjoy watching your feathered friends snack on a nutritious meal while sitting back drinking your cup of coffee.

Spread the Bark Butter on a large tree at dusk and you have a great chance to see “Flying Squirrels” come down and feed. Flying Squirrels are very common in this area.  But they are nocturnal and quite secretive.

Bark Butter and Bark Butter Bits is the most popular food you can offer the birds in your backyard.  Easy to use and absolutely no mess to clean up makes this a great food source to offer your wild birds.  We are the only store in the Northern Virginia area that carries this unique food.   Stop on by and pick up a tub.  Your birds will be very happy you did.

For an extended list of the birds that eat Bark Butter, go to www.barkbutter.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor April 28, 2017 at 3:35 pm 0

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Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

Most of us welcome the coming of spring with warmer weather, longer days and the colorful beauty of flowers and plants. With this change of seasons, we often have customers who come in and tell us this will be the last bag of food they will purchase until the fall. They tell me that the birds have plenty to eat and do not need the feeders anymore. Yet for those who feed the wild birds in their yards, this is exactly the opposite time you should stop feeding.

Most of our local birds who reside in our yards are seed, nut, fruit and insect eaters. Of those four foods, there is really only one that is in abundance naturally. As you swat your arm, you know which one that is. There are very few seeds, nuts or fruits out in the natural world in the spring.

In my front yard, which has been turned into a flower garden, all the plants are just coming up. There is no food on these green and flowering plants. Holly tree berries have been eaten during the winter. Large trees, such as oaks will not produce acorns until the Fall.

Now combine this with the fact that the wild birds in your backyard are much more active in the Spring. They are fighting for territory. They are finding mates. They are building nests. They are raising the young chicks. They are much more active during these longer days. The bird’s nutritional needs are greater with a reduce source of food to forage.

Even my perennial hummingbird plants are just coming up and will not be in flowering stage for another three to four weeks. But the hummingbirds are already here. You can be sure they are looking for a source of high energy food, i.e. sugar water, which will help them whether they stay here all summer of migrate north.

With the spring nesting season upon us, offering seed blends and suets with calcium is highly recommended. This added calcium will help with egg production and nestling growth. You can find the extra calcium in many seed blend mixes and suets. Another great source of protein is mealworms. Why give them bugs when so many insects are flying around? Giving the adult birds an easy source of high protein for their young, in the form of a juicy mealworm, can help the chicks and the parents. In addition, many migrating, insect eating birds, will come to a mealworm feeder. This may include warblers, thrushes and vireos.

Even if you do not see these birds up in the newly leafed tree canopy, you can hear their varied songs at the break of dawn. This free concert, in the spring mornings, is one of the bonuses of spring.  That brings us to another bonus of continued feeding.  During the winter, we are closed inside our homes looking out at the birds.

With the springtime, we are now free from the shackles of the cold wind and actually outside with the birds. The colors, the songs, the activities; we are right there in their midst to observe and enjoy. This is one of the hidden joys that I get from feeding birds in the warmer months. Not only do they need the source of food, but my presence outside makes me feel like a part of the environment.

Springtime for many of us is a more leisurely pace with less layers of clothing and more outdoor activities. Springtime for the birds is a more hectic pace with migration, breeding and raising their young. Feeding the birds now will help to ensure you have beautiful songbirds in your yard all year long.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor April 14, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

Flying Colors column banner

Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

Who wouldn’t like a healthy meal full of protein? Well maybe you wouldn’t if the meal were live mealworms. But if you are a wild bird surviving in the wilds of Arlington, then you certainly would.

Everyone who enjoys the hobby of backyard bird feeding knows about the different choices of bird foods to offer their backyard visitors. In many yards you will see different feeders offering seed, nuts and suet. But many people are missing out on attracting a much greater variety of birds by not offering bugs, specifically, mealworms.

Mealworms, whether they are alive or dried, offer a tremendous source of protein and fat. During the nesting season, most birds need the protein as they build nests, breed, and raise the chicks in the nests until they fledge. I am sure you are probably saying, “Let them eat all the mosquitos in my yard!” Well, some birds will and do.

But a juicy mealworm is a better meal for the adult and baby birds than a tiny mosquito. It would be like comparing going to dinner at Ruth Chris’ to 7-Eleven. At least, that is what the birds told me.

Here is the great thing about offering a feeder filled with dried and live mealworms. During the migration season of the songbirds, which is occurring now, you have the opportunity to try and attract 20-30 different species of birds that do not eat seeds. For the next two months, warblers, thrushes, vireos, flycatchers and other birds will be migrating through our yards and parks. When they travel, they use up a lot of energy.

So a quick and easy rest stop at a new restaurant will be very attractive to them. Mealworms are the larvae of the non-flying beetles. When offering them in feeders, they mimic natural insects. This is just too good to pass up for birds.

Offering this as an add on to their other bird foods, give the birds a good source of fat and protein. Live mealworms provide approximately 22 percent fat and 18 percent protein. Dried mealworms provide the birds 32 percent fat and 49 percent protein. Whereas live mealworms are more attractive to the birds than the dried mealworms, the dried mealworms are easily added to other foods for the birds to eat. Most insect eating migratory birds readily eat this live treat.

When feeding live mealworms, you will need to use a feeder with slippery sides. There are many styles made of wood, plastic, metal and glass. The slippery sides prevent them from climbing out. In my yard, I will put out 50 or so at a time. This feeder is close to my sliding glass doors in my back office and offers me a great view of the birds. The smaller bird feeders help to prevent the bigger birds, like the European Starlings, from dominating the feeders.

Mealworms typically come in containers of 500 worms. They can be kept in your refrigerator for up to a couple of months. Even if your significant other sleepwalks and raids the refrigerator for a midnight snack and grabs a handful, they will be fine. Some cultures eat mealworms regularly as a snack.

Feeding mealworms is part of the “new school” of bird feeding. When you stop in, we will help you understand this new way of feeding to see how you can incorporate “mealworms” in your bird feeding stations. We carry a variety of glass feeders and trays to get you started. Live and dry mealworms work well in these feeders.

Don’t miss out on this great chance to feed this unique food to the breeding and migratory birds.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor March 31, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Flying Colors column banner

Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

Are you ready? Have you laid out the welcome mat? More accurately, have you installed any new houses that your new neighbors would be interested in moving into?

In your great backyard, side yard and front yards, wild birds are looking for homes. They are singing, courting and ready to mate to start new broods of families. For cavity nesting birds, this means looking for safe and solid places to build nests and raise their young.

There are at least 12 different species of birds that will build nest in cavity boxes in our area. The most common birds are House Wren, Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse and a variety of Woodpeckers. Depending on the size of the bird, the box will have a few different characteristics.

A very small hole size of 1″ to 1 1/8″ in diameter will restrict most birds and give the House Wren a safe place to breed. The larger the hole size, the greater the number of birds you could have checking out the house. Most floor sizes of our common cavity nesting bird boxes will be around 4″ by 4″. The larger woodpeckers, such as the Hairy Woodpecker and Red Bellied Woodpecker, require a larger floor space in the boxes. They also require a larger hole opening and usually are deeper to accommodate the larger chicks.

We at Wild Birds Unlimited feel there are three very important characteristics that must be adhered to, to make the box attractive to the birds and a success in breeding.

  1. There must be adequate ventilation at the top of the box. If there is a spike in early spring temperatures or a second late spring brood, the box must be able to vent the hot air that could build up in the box. If you find a decorative house that has a metal roof, make sure it is a light color that will reflect the suns rays and not a dark colored roof that will absorb the heat of the rays.
  2. The nesting boxes must have good drainage. This is very simply a number of small holes or a small slight opening in the bottom to allow water to drain out. Even if the box has a large roof overhang, a strong wind driven rain could enter the opening and flood the nest.
  3. There should be a simple method to clean out the nest after the chicks have fledged — left the nest — to give the birds an opportunity to breed again.

You can also help your feathered friends by hanging out nesting material.  Examples of safe nesting material are dog hair, cat hair, your own hair, yarn, string, or alpaca wool, which we carry in our store. These materials can be placed in a small suet basket. Please do not use dryer lint, it is full of chemicals and when it gets wet it gets clumpy and hard.

After nesting season is over in late summer, you could take the box down and if it is wood, sand down the sides and bottom to clean any waste. This will also help remove any mites and other insect webs or cocoons from the inside. Recycled plastic houses can be cleaned with a 1 to 10 solution of bleach, rinsed very well and then left out to dry. All houses can be left out for the birds to use all year long as a roosting area when very harsh winter conditions arise. Installing a “Roosting Box,” which is different from a house, would be potentially more successful during these times.

When young birds fledge, and leave the nesting boxes for the first time, they are not strong enough to fly. They usually leave the box and are on the ground for some time.  The adult parent birds are always around. If you see them bouncing around on the ground and squawking, do not pick them up. The adults are getting them to stretch and strengthen their wings.

But please do not allow your indoor cats to go out during this vulnerable time.  If your neighbor has a cat that comes into your yard, ask them to please keep them inside or controlled in their yard. It has been scientifically proven that all cats love to sit in an open sunny window with the remote control to the TV and watch The Discovery Channel, The Weather Channel and the Kardashians! But maybe not in that order.

If you need a chart of the cavity nesting birds in our area, we have them available free for you in our store. We can also go over in detail types of wood to use and decorative additions you can make to your house, should you chose to build one yourself.

The love songs are unmistakable. They are all throughout the neighborhoods. Set up some new homes and invite the new neighbors to start a family.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor March 17, 2017 at 2:55 pm 0

Flying Colors column banner

Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

There are rainbows in your backyard. There are rainbows in your front yard. There are rainbows on your patio and on your deck.

You have rainbows in the early morning, mid-afternoon and early evening. Rainbows come during all the seasons. But what is unique about these rainbows is that they do not go away. They actually sit, perch and fly around. You can even bring one of these rainbows right to your hand with a little patience.

Bird - Flying Colors share imageThe rainbows I am talking about by now you have figured out. They are the dozens of beautiful wild birds that visit our yards all year round. All the colors of the rainbow show up. The radiant red male cardinal. The brilliant blue of the Bluejay. The golden yellow of the Goldfinch. Those are only a few of the many wild birds, that we, as landowners, have become stewards of. Being good stewards we provide food, water, houses to raise the young and habitat to live.

The “hobby” of backyard bird feeding is the second most popular hobby in the Unites States right after gardening. Over 60 million Americans feed the birds in their backyards in one form or another. It is very easy to attract anywhere between 20-30 different rainbows in your yard. You do not need a large size yard to accomplish this. By setting up a couple of feeders with different food types in your yard, you will attract many different birds. Fresh birdseed, rendered suet cakes and live mealworms are just three types of food that are very to many birds eat. We used to have a window feeder attached to the back office window. This location was right above the rear parking area of my shopping center. And yet over the course of 2 years we attracted more than 24 different birds to his small feeder. One of my former employees actually had her apartment balcony designated as a “National Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat”.

Most of us have yards with diverse habitat which are filled with these rainbows. And boy can they sing! The symphony started a couple of weeks ago, and is spreading throughout the neighborhood. I have no problem with dozens and dozens of birds waking me up in the morning with their beautiful songs and drowning out the roar of car tires in rush hour traffic. I say bring on the choir! So, this is a very exciting and fun time in the yards, even if it is still a little cold in the mornings. But get a little adventurous and put on a good coat, knit cap and warm gloves. Get that hot coffee or chocolate and sit out in your yard as the sun comes up. You will create some musical memories.

Your yards and world are filled with rainbows. Bring these rainbows into your Arlington backyard. And, whenever and wherever you go outside, marvel at the brilliance, beauty and diversity of the flying rainbows in our world.

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