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Checking on a Bluebird Trail

This morning I had the opportunity to tag along with George Brown as he checked nest boxes along the bluebird trail he maintains. You may recall from a previous blog post that George is the Ramsey and Washington counties coordinator for the Bluebird Recovery Project (BBRC). Checking on the nest boxes weekly is a critical function of maintaining a bluebird…

Precocial or altricial? Describing hatchlings' degree of development

Altricial vs. Precocial Bird Young

By Guest Contributor MELISSA BLOCK Have you ever noticed that newly hatched birds all look different? For example, baby cardinals are born helpless, bald, eyes closed and heads bobbing. In contrast, Wood Duck babies—which look like miniature versions of their parents— jump from their nest box after just 24 hours. Ornithologists classify birds as either altricial or precocial  to describe…

The State of Irruption (so far)

Report by guest contributor MELISSA BLOCK (Minnetonka, Minnesota) This has been a crazy winter irruption this year—for some locales. It was predicted that we would not get a big influx of Pine Siskins this year, but we did, only early in the season. Most of them have now moved farther south. I know I was excited when I saw some…

Pine Siskin

Be ready for irruptions!

Minnesota’s occasional winter birds An irruption is defined as a sudden change in population density of a species in a location. Simply put, it’s an influx of a bird species (or multiple species) that we don’t usually see in our area. Irruptions can occur in response to an increase in a species populations or a change in movement patterns based…

The Mystery of Molting: Video

Birds spend a great deal of time caring for their feathers because their lives really do depend on them. A bird’s feathers keep them warm and dry, camouflage them from predators, attract mates during breeding  season and, most importantly, give them flight. Here’s a video based on guest contributor Melissa Block’s article in the September/October 2013 edition of our Bird’s-Eye View newsletter. Here, she explains…

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Winter’s Raptors

During the winter, when the leaves are off the trees, is a great time to spot hawks. With shorter daytime hours, the hawks are especially busy hunting for their next meal. Here are a few hawks you may see in our area over the winter. Rough-legged Hawk These beautiful hawks visit us during the winter from the Arctic. These hawks…

Some birds that stay the winter tend to congregate in larger flocks.

How Birds Adapt to Winter Weather

While we simply get out our heavy coats, hats, gloves and boots for the winter, our backyard birds go through some amazing changes to make it through the cold and snow. Behavioral Changes We can all notice some of the behavioral changes birds make during the winter months. Some birds migrate. The other birds that stay tend to congregate in…

Warblers Cover

Minnesota’s Warblers

  Up to 20 different species of warblers pass through the Twin Cities area between mid-April and the end of May, with the bulk passing through between the 5th and 15th of May. If you’d like to catch a sighting or two of these colorful migrants—in your backyard or around town—Minnesota birding expert Bob Janssen has helped us to prepare…

Spring Arrival Dates

Spring Migrant Arrival Dates

  Prepare Your Yard for Spring Migrants To be sure, one of the joys of feeding birds is hosting migratory birds for a brief time each spring as they make their way to summer breeding grounds. With some preparation—and a little luck!—you may be able to entice one ofthese migrants to stay and raise their broods in your own backyard.…

It’s Time Again for Winter-Visiting Finches

Welcome Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls This is the time of year when you may begin to see some less-common visitors to your backyard feeding stations. Every few years, we experience an “irruption”—an influx of typically northern-dwelling birds—into our Twin Cities Metro Area and beyond in Minnesota. The irruption is often due to poor crops of conifer seeds (pine and…