Why do some Red-eyed Vireos not migrate?

Monday, August 17th, 2009

The Red-eyed Vireo is a ubiquitous bird species found throughout the eastern United States, across the northern tier of states to Washington and well into Canada. It is one of our neo-tropical migrants, arriving here in the spring to breed, migrating back to South America in late summer. It winters throughout northern South America. However, there is a population of the same species that is equally ubiquitous throughout South America. These birds don’t migrate to North America. They make short seasonal movements in South America, but do not leave the continent. So, why and how did some of these birds make their way, a long way, north while others found suitable nesting habitat for food for young with much less effort? I don’t know. The question came to mind while I was examining the excellent range maps in the book “Field Guide to the Songbirds of South America.” Written by Robert S. Ridgely and Guy Tudor, it was recently published by the University of Texas Press. While I have no plans to travel to South America where this book would be extremely useful, I found the range maps for those of ‘our’ nesting migrants that winter in South America very interesting. Guide books dealing with identification and range of North American birds often show only North American ranges. A peek at their winter distribution in South America is illuminating. The book, of course, covers hundreds of species we never see. It has 760 pages and 256 pages of color plates and range maps for more than 1,500 bird species. It’s yours for $49.95 paperback or $125 hardcover.


Photos of threatened species

Monday, July 6th, 2009


A program known as ARKive is working to compile audio-visual records for the 16,300 animal, plant, and fungi species whose survival currently is considered threatened. Target species come from the Red List maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The photos and recordings gathered so far can be seen and heard on a really cool Web site at www.arkive.org. It’s an incredible resource, available to all. The program has been active for five years. Eventually, ARKive, based in the United Kingdom, wants to provide Web records of all known world animal, plant, and fungi species. Check it out. Do it when you’re not in a hurry. Several species of birds regularly seen in Minnesota are on the list, including this Parasitic Jaeger.

2,500 trips for nesting material

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Cedar Waxwing, a nomadic species found throughout Minnesota, has never been a bird I see routinely. There has not been a place where I could expect to see them. This year, however, I am seeing them almost daily in the breeding bird atlas territory I am surveying. They’re in willows, along edges, flying overhead. Perhaps I’ve just become more aware. This is a bird with an expanding population, which also helps. They breed here and there, returning to former breeding sites less frequently than other songbird species. I was fortunate the other day to watch a waxwing gather nesting material and carry it to a nearby tree. Try as I did, I couldn’t see the nest under construction from my viewpoint about 60 feet away. The bird was taking the fuzz from the flower of a cattail. It can take up to 2,500 trips over five to six days to collect the fibers needed to create the nest. cedar-wax-nesting-4-2296.jpg  

Hey, look at me

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Many male shorebird species use wing patterns as part of their courtship displays. The display colors often are located on the inside of the wings. The wings are outstretched or raised during the display. Here we have a Willet doing his best to attract the attention of a female. He’s as close to her as he can get when he begins (look close, she’s there). You can see that she turns out to have little apparent interest. These birds were photographed in North Dakota two weeks ago.


Sparrows in the shade

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Fox Sparrows were at my backyard photo blind Sunday. I’ve set up in front of a brush pile in a wooded part of the yard. Given the sun’s angle, however, not more than 10 percent of my camera’s field of vision was in shade created by tree trunks. But that’s where the sparrows spent 90 percent of their time. They’d dash from the cover of the brush through the areas brightly lit by the sun and on into the shade where they foraged for seeds. I assume the birds favor the shade because they are less likely to be seen there by predators. This Fox Sparrow was posing in the protection of the brush pile. fox-sparrow-trib-2232.jpg 

Turkeys, where they belong

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

I found a flock of about 20 Wild Turkeys (photo below) this morning in a patch of woods near our home. It’s a small remnant of the Big Woods that in pre-settlement times covered much of Minnesota from here south. There are several Big Woods remnants in this area, two of them designated Scientific and Natural Areas (SNA) by the DNR. One is Wood-Rill, off Long Lake Road in Orono, the other Wolsfeld Woods off County Road 6, also in Orono. Access for the latter is from the northwest corner of the Trinity Lutheran Church parking lot. The woods are wonderful right now, the trees bare, visibility great. It was easy to watch the turkeys as they foraged. Pileated, Downy, and Red-bellied woodpeckers were loudly rapping courtship messages. Black-capped Chickadees were singing. Bluebirds were in a nearby meadow, with robins and Red-winged Blackbirds. You can find information about SNAs at www.dnr.state.mn.us/snas/index.html. SNAs are special places, well worth visiting.  turkey-tribune-1968.jpg

Wild turkey sighted in downtown Minneapolis

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Thursday morning on his way to work, Star Tribune designer Bruce Bjerva saw a wild turkey at the intersection Park Av. and 5th St.

“I live in Afton, so I know turkey,” he said.

Just like the proverbial chicken, the turkey was trying to cross the road, a busy intersection that includes the light rail tracks. Bjerva thinks the turkey was a female — because of the shape and size — but he’s not certain. Passerbys were gawking and pointing at the bird, which seemed a bit confused.

Did you see the downtown turkey? Log on and let us know.  We’d love to see a picture. Did anyone snap one?

 Guest blogger Connie Nelson

Birding horror story

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Take a look a this. The story is scary. The photos the victim took before becoming trapped are very good. The friend who sent this to me labeled it, Another Reason Not to Bird Alone.http://www.howardsview.com/Jetty/Jetty.html  l 

Why birders should buy Duck Stamps

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Yesterday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced $26 million in grants under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and $11.5 million in Duck Stamp-related refuge acquisition for the National Wildlife Refuge System. The money will be used to protect and restore more than 200,000 acres of wetland areas and wildlife habitat in the U.S. and Mexico.These acquisitions include additions to Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina, San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge Pondicherry Divisions in New Hampshire, Grand Cote National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana, Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, North Central Valley Wildlife Management Area in California, and Grasslands Wildlife Management Area in California.These are your Duck Stamp dollars making a difference for habitat. Ninety-eight cents of every dollar spent on Duck Stamps goes towards land acquisition that benefits hundreds of species of non-game birds as well as hunted waterfowl. Duck stamps are available at most post offices. The sign was photographed at a Minnesota waterfowl production area financed by Duck Stamp money. I was there to listen to and watch Sedge Wrens.  duck-stamp-dollars-7971.jpg 

Track migration via radar

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

You can track the migration movement of birds with weather radar. Local birder Roger Everhart checks such a radar site, posting a link to that information on his Web site,  http://minnesotabirdnerd.blogspot.com. Take a look at last night’s image (below). You can see the storm line, and behind it the red circles that indicate bird movement heading north but stalled because of the weather. Checking these radar images gives you a heads-up on the arrival of migrants. Roger will be updating this information regularly as we move into spring. He invites you to visit his Web page. picture-2.png