Birding Update

Credit to Explore Minnesota for this Birding Update.

Trumpeter swans with cygnets / Travis Novitsky

July Nature Notes

This is a special time of year when abundant warm and sunny days are enhanced by the sights and sounds of birds with their fledglings. Birders and non-birders alike are delighted by the sight of common loon parents with chicks on their backs. While loon chicks can swim just after hatching, they usually ride on their parents’ backs where they are most safe. Listen for the distinctive calls echoing across large Minnesota lakes. Haunting wails are used to communicate and relay location, and the laughter-like tremolos are used as an alarm call and to defend territory. Hear these and other calls at All About Birds’ Common Loon Sounds.

Common loon with chick / Don Dammert

Minnesota lakes, rivers and wetlands offer the sights and sounds of many waterbird species and their young. Look and listen for ducksgrebesswansgeesemergansersherons and egrets. Also enjoy the interesting antics of the American white pelican. These graceful fliers work together to corral fish into the shallows of southern and western Minnesota’s prairie pothole lakes. Some of the better locations to view pelicans are within the Western Minnesota Prairie Waters region such as the spillway on Marsh Lake near Appleton, the dam near Watson and the Minnesota River dam in Granite Falls.

Great blue heron / Liz Stanley

If you find yourself near a floodplain forest (low-lying areas at the bottom of river valleys), look upward and scan the tree canopies for rookeries where great blue herons, great egrets and double-crested cormorants nest. The Friends of the Mississippi River explain more about rookeries and great blue herons at Now Showing at a Rookery Near You.

Little blue heron / David Cahlander

Consider renting a row boat, canoe or kayak to get close-up views of shorebirds, waterfowl and wading birds. This is an excellent way to introduce a child to birding. Explore Minnesota offers a list of businesses and sites that offer boat rental. For watercraft rental at Minnesota’s state and regional parks, check out Minnesota’s Great Outdoors.

Green heron / Al Ferber

Did You Know?

Each summer, following nesting season, most waterfowl lose and replace their feathers. During this molting process, ducks, geese and other waterfowl species are unable to fly. They are also much more vulnerable. But towards the end of July, these birds will be able to fly once again. This is also when their young will be attempting to fly for the first time.

Great egret / Stanley Adrian

While the fall migration seems a long way off, a few shorebird species are already heading to wintering grounds in Central and South America. Some of the earliest species to migrate include lesser yellowlegs, short-billed dowitchers, least sandpipers, solitary sandpipers and pectoral sandpipers. Many of these birds have completed their short nesting period and their young are now self-sufficient. A second migration occurs in September when the young begin their journeys south. To view these early migrants, check the shallow wetlands and mudflats.

Roosting egrets / Liz Stanley

According to The Birding Wire’s Water Attracts All Birds, the best way to draw a variety of birds to your backyard is to provide a reliable source of water. Not only do birds need a consistent source of water to drink from, they need water to maintain healthy feathers. Partially filled bird baths offer a supply of shallow water so all birds, including smaller bird species such as finches and warblers, can drink and bathe. Try to place your birdbath in a shady area near trees and/or shrubs to keep the water cooler on hot summer days and to provide the birds an easy escape if threatened.

American white pelican / John Morrison

Birding Events and Programs

July 6, 13, 20 & 27, Ely
Birding at Bear Head 
Enjoy a guided walk to listen and look for the variety of bird species. A limited number of binoculars will be available for free checkout — please bring your own if possible. Insect repellent is recommended. Bear Head Lake State Park. 218-235-2520

Swans in a row / Wayne Bartz

July 10-24, Minneapolis
Bird Watching: Summertime Songbirds
Get up with the birds during this Wednesday morning series to discover what to look for when identifying birds in the field. Learn about bird songs, calls and other behaviors while strolling through prairie, woodland and along the river with a naturalist and keeping eyes and ears open for our feathered friends. Binoculars available. Coffee, tea and treats provided. Kroening Interpretive Center, part of North Mississippi Regional Park, at 4900 Mississippi Court. 612-230-6400

Canada geese and goslings / David Cahlander

July 13, Altura
Live Eagle Program
Want to see a live bald eagle up close? Staff from the National Eagle Center in Wabasha will be at Whitewater to share the tremendous comeback story of our national bird. They will introduce the bald eagle’s life history and why the Mississippi River and the blufflands are so important to the eagle’s survival. Whitewater State Park. 507-312-2300

Western grebe / Dan Tallman

July 13, Marine on St. Croix
Bird Nest Mystery
Head to the nature station for a chance to see and hear some of the incredible feathered creatures that live at William O’Brien State Park. A naturalist will take you on a journey into the secret lives of these mysterious animals. Binoculars provided. William O’Brien State Park. 651-539-4986

Female hooded merganser / Danielle Porter Born Photography

July 18, Minneapolis
Nightime Nature Fun
Join park ranger Sharon Stiteler and entomologist Jessica Miller as they use black lights and sheets to see what moths and insects visit Coldwater Spring at night. Also look and listen for other night active critters like deer, owls, raccoons or even coyotes. Take the trail from the main entrance at Coldwater toward the dog park. Head toward the big lights. Coldwater Spring, part of the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area. 651-291-8164

Male hooded merganser / Danielle Porter Born Photography

July 20, Meadowlands
Bog BioBlitz: Bog to Ridge BioBlitz VII
Friends of Sax-Zim Bog have made this a populra annual summer event. In 2018, more than 40 folks went in the field to learn about birds, orchids, butterflies, dragonflies, spiders, moths, wildflowers, fish and bog ecology. Over 400 species were recorded on that single day in July! Sax-Zim Bog. 218-341-3350

Cormorants at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge / Cristine Nicholson

July 20, Taylors Falls
Guess That Bird: Investigation Station
Minnesota is filled with a variety of birds of all colors, shapes and sizes. How well do you think you know them? Can you guess based on their looks or their songs? Some of them even sing their own name. Drop by the investigation station near the visitor center and test your skills with a naturalist. Interstate State Park. 651-465-5711

Lesser yellowlegs / David Cahlander

July 20, Roseville
Birds and Trees
Join the staff at Langton Lake Park for a stroll to observe and identify birds and trees, and consider their interactions. Meet at the parking lot on County Road C2 at the west side of the lake. Langton Lake Park. 651-636-6475

Least sandpiper / Larry Sirvio

July 23, Bloomington
Bass Ponds Bird Walk 
Attend a bird walk with Craig Mandel, Volunteer Refuge Naturalist, and search the Bass Ponds area for birds that call the Refuge home for the summer. Birders of all skill levels are welcome on these walks. Bring along your binoculars and favorite field guide. Preregistration is not required. For a map of the location and information on the numerous sites within the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge to view birds, check out Birding Spots. Bass Ponds at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. 952-240-7647

Solitary sandpiper / Bruce Lees

July 27, Taylors Falls
Who Soars Here?: Investigation Station
Look up above the river and you’ll see a variety of birds soaring in search of food. Who are these birds. Drop by this ongoing investigation station to find out. Interstate State Park. 651-465-5711

Pectoral sandpiper / Larry Sirvio

Minnesota birding report 2019

Minnesota bird report from White Birch Resort on Blackduck Lake.


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Explore Minnesota Birding Update – May 2019
Canada warbler; photo by Jon Swanson
This is your monthly Explore Minnesota Birding Update.

Happy birding!

May Nature Notes

May is the best month for viewing the greatest numbers and varieties of colorful warblers in full breeding plumage. Look for roughly 20 species of warblers including American redstartblack-throated greenblack-throated blueblackburnianblackpollCanadaCape Maychestnut-sidedcommon yellowthroat, golden-winged, magnoliaNashville, northern parula, orange-crownedpalmTennessee and yellow warblers. At the end of May, you can still view these stunning birds in the far northeast corner of the state.

According to an article written by Robert B. Janssen for the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, Frontenac State Park is a hot spot for viewing warblers. Find out why at The Warbler Capital. Before you go, check out the DNR’s Songs of Spring video for information on 10 warblers to watch and listen for in Minnesota.

Other stunning birds to watch for include Baltimore orioleindigo buntingscarlet tanager and rose-breasted grosbeak.

Late May is a great time to check Minnesota’s western prairies for marbled godwitsbobolinksdickcissels and sandpipers. The Pine to Prairie International Birding Trailoffers many excellent prairie sites to view these birds.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out your hummingbird feeders since ruby-throated hummingbirdsare beginning to arrive. Please be sure to thoroughly clean your feeders before filling them with fresh sugar–water nectar, and try to hang them in shady areas. It is also important to clean your hummingbird feeders every few days. Another way to attract hummingbirds is to plant native nectar-producing flowers and flowering vines and shrubs. Consider colorful options such as bee balm, butterfly milkweed, cardinal flower, great blue lobelia, honeysuckle, red columbine and wild blue phlox.

Did You Know?

The Audubon Society offers a great tool for learning about birds in your area through their Guide to North American Birds. Just choose a species or family of birds along with the region in which you reside to view a comprehensive list of possible birds in your area. When you click on each of the birds identified you will discover a wealth of information including songs and calls, habitat and information on migration.

Are you ready to plant your garden or spruce up your yard?  If so, consider plants that benefit the birds that live near you. The Audubon Society makes it easy via their Native Plants Database. Just type in your email address and zip code and you’ll discover a wide array of flowers, shrubs and trees best suited for specific species of birds.

Upcoming Birding Events

May 4, Hastings
Bird Hike
Learn to identify birds by sight and sound with local experts. Binoculars and field guides will be available to use or you can bring your own. Registration is recommended. Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center. 651-437-4359

May 4, Rochester 
Zumbro Valley Big Birding Day
Spend the day birding at numerous locations in the Rochester area and count as many species as possible while enjoying the beauty of the local parks. Come to one, two or all five of the walks, and enjoy an after-party at LTS Brewery at the end of the day. Participants should be able to walk on uneven ground. Bring binoculars. This event is not suitable for young children. For more details, check out the printable map and schedule.

May 4, Onamia
Spring Bird Migration
This talk and slideshow about the spring migration will include a lesson on the use of binoculars and tips on how to attract birds to your backyard. Mille Lacs Kathio State Park Interpretive Center. 320-532-3269

May 10-12, Lake City
Spring Warbler Weekend
Join experienced birders who will help you find and identify warblers, owls, orioles, and many other birds. Groups will take trails or travel by car in Hok-Si-La and nearby parks on the Mississippi River. Also enjoy gathering, socializing, eating and recording at Hok-Si-La Park. 651-340-3487

May 11, Stillwater
Birds, Buds and Blooms Walk
Enjoy a morning walk with a naturalist to locate spring birds and spring wildflowers. Brown’s Creek State Trail & Nature Reserve. 651-231-6968

May 11, Zimmerman
Bird Tour
View and learn about local birds during a morning bird walk. Binoculars are available to borrow. Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. 763-389-3323

May 12, Elba
Bird Banding Demonstration
Join a master bird bander for close-up experiences with birds. Program participants will have the opportunity to handle and release birds after they have been caught in nets, studied, observed and banded with an aluminum tag. An Intro to Trout Fishing, Peregrine Falcon program and Bluegrass Jam will also be offered that day. Whitewater State Park. 507-312-2300

May 15-18, Detroit Lakes
Detroit Lakes Festival of Birds
Observe up to 275 species of birds during the 22nd Annual Festival of Birds! Witness the spring bird migration in a unique transition zone of tall-grass prairie, northern hardwood and conifer forests and wetlands in the Detroit Lakes area. The festival kicks off with “The Return of the Peregrine Falcon” by Carrol Henderson at Maplelag Resort, followed by weekend bird tours, a bazaar, exhibitors and presentations. 218-847-9202

May 18, Zimmerman
Bird Tour & Spring Celebration
Celebrate World Migratory Bird Day on a morning bird walk to view migratory birds and pollinators. Afterwards, head to the Oak Savanna Learning Center for the Friends of Sherburne NWR plant sale, kids craft activities, engaging booths and presentations, and more guided hikes! Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. 763-389-3323

May 18, Chaska
A Day of Birding Walks and Workshops
Join birding enthusiasts and experts from around the region and celebrate the spring migration amidst spring flowers. The day is packed with featured presenters, workshops, classes, organization booths and guided walks. All must pre-register. Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. 952-443-1400

May 18 & 25, Ely
Birding at Bear Head
Join experienced birding guides for a stroll around Bear Head Lake, looking and listening for birds within the park. A limited number of binoculars are available for use. Meet at the Park Office. Bear Head Lake State Park. 218-235-2520

May 19, Elba
Bird Banding Demonstration
Join a master bird bander at the visitor center bird feeders for close-up experiences with birds. Program participants will have a chance to handle and release birds after they have been caught in nets, studied, observed and banded with an aluminum tag. An Intro to Trout Fishing, Peregrine Falcon program and Bluegrass Jam will also be offered that day. Whitewater State Park. 507-312-2300

May 19, St. Anthony
Walk with a Naturalist
Stroll through the park watching and listening for seasonal birds and wildlife. Bring binoculars if you have them. Free for all ages. Silverwood Park. 763-694-7707

May 25, Pipestone
Raptor Program and Migratory Bird Day
See owls, hawks and bald eagles up close! The UMN’s Raptor Center will bring raptors to the park for an interactive, educational program, along with a celebration of Migratory Bird Day at the park. Free and open to the public. Pipestone National Monument. 507-825-5464

May 25, Park Rapids
Take Flight! Spotting Spring Birds
Discover the songs and sights of Minnesota’s spring migratory birds. Join birder and instructor Ron Miller MD for a birding walk in Itasca State Park to discover recently arrived breeding birds, as well as species passing through on their northward migration. Itasca State Park. 218-699-7251

June 1, Hastings
Bird Hike
Learn to identify birds by sight and sound with local experts. Binoculars and field guides will be available to use or you can bring your own. Registration is recommended. Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center. 651-437-4359

Recent Bird Sightings

Check the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union web site for recent bird sightings and rare bird alerts.

For additional information, consider joining the Minnesota Birding community on Facebook.

American redstart; photo by John A. Anderson      

Black-throated blue warbler; photo by David Brislance

Blackburnian warbler; photo by Liz Stanley

Chestnut-sided warbler; photo by Jon Swanson

Golden-winged warbler; photo by David Cahlander    
Nashville warbler; photo by  
Northern parula; photo by David Brislance

Palm warbler; photo by Terence P. Brashear
Yellow warbler; photo by Travis Bonovsky

Baltimore oriole; photo by Wayne Bartz

Rose-breasted grosbeak; photo by Richard Vincent
Scarlet tanager; photo by Bruce Lees

Ruby-throated hummingbird; photo by David Brislance

Bobolink; photo by

Dickcissel; photo by David Cahlander

Stilt sandpiper; photo by Larry Sirvio