The spring migration is well underway with lovely early spring migrants adding uplifting color to our drab landscape. Watch for eastern bluebirds and red-winged blackbirds, as well as the first waves warblers including yellow-rumped, orange-crowned, palm, Tennessee and Nashville warblers. And towards the end of April, keep an eye out for ruby-crowned kinglets and scarlet tanagers.
Adding to the beauty of the season are the sweet spring songs of American robins, red-winged blackbirds, house finches, tufted titmice, hermit thrush and eastern phoebe. Birds sing more enthusiastically in the spring as they attempt to attract a mate and defend their territory. Springtime birds also have an expanded repertoire of songs which are generally more complex than their year-round calls. Listen carefully for the diverse songs, especially at dawn. The article Why Do Birds Sing? by Watching Backyard Birds helps explain the difference between calls and songs.
Another sound to listen for is the drumming of woodpeckers. These birds use the sounds of drumming to call in a mate and announce that the territory has been spoken for. Learn more at The Spruce's Understanding Woodpecker Drumming.
Shorebird migration heats up in mid- to late April. Check the shallow wetlands and mudflats for yellowlegs, willets, dunlins and other sandpipers. Learn about various shorebird species, their behavior, and tips for identification at the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer's Spot a Shorebird. Birders will also want to check out Migration Rest Stop, a lovely and informative waterfowl poster offered by the Zumbro Valley Audubon Society.
To discover some great places to go birding, check out Minnesota Monthly's Your Guide to Birding in Minnesota by Erica Wacker. And see how much you know about migration by taking the Bird Watchers' Digest quiz: Bird Migration Facts You Might Not Know.
Did You Know?
Another April attraction is the unusual mating dance of the prairie chicken in northwest Minnesota. Consider renting a blind on booming grounds to view this spectacular display. Learn about 6 prime viewing sites at the Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society website. From early April through the first week of May, sharp-tailed grouse are conducting their annual mating rituals. To reserve a blind, contact the MN DNR in Baudette at 218-634-1705, ext. 222.
Are you eager to see your first hummingbird of the season? To follow the migration north, check out Hummingbird Central's Spring 2021 Hummingbird Migration Map & Sightings.
The MN DNR's efforts have paid off and Minnesota now has more bald eagles than any other state in the lower 48 states. Witness the recent additions on the DNR EagleCam.
Fun and Educational Activities
If you're looking for ways to get your child interested in birding, the Audubon Society offers lots of fun activities to peak their interest! Check out Audubon for Kids.
The Sax-Zim Bog is one of the top birding sites in Minnesota. Begin planning your spring or summer visit by watching Enjoying Sax-Zim Bog in all seasons: Spring and Summer Stratagies!
The Zumbro Valley Audubon Society will host a Woodcock Walk Field Trip at Chester Woods Park in Eyota on Thursday evening, April 15. Watch woodcocks perform one of the strangest and most interesting mating rituals of the spring. Masks and social distancing required.
A Live Animal Meet & Greet will be held April 16 at the Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center in Hastings. Participants will have a chance to meet a number of the center's ambassador animals outside of the visitor center.
Lowry Nature Center in Victoria will be the site of multiple Bird Banding programs on Saturday, April 17. See wild songbirds safely trapped, studied and banded with numbered rings, and discuss what scientists learn from these banded birds. This program is held entirely outdoors. Reservations required.
The Salt Lake Birding Weekend will be held April 23-25 at locations near the town of Marietta. Volunteers will guide birders around Salt Lake, Big Stone Refuge, area lakes, wetlands and native prairies in Lac qui Parle, northern Yellow Medicine and southern Big Stone counties. This event is free and open to all who are interested. No pre-registration is required.
The Zumbro Valley Audubon Society will host a Root River Field Trip to search for early migrating birds and spring wildflowers at Root River County Park in Olmsted County on Sunday morning, April 25. Masks and social distancing required.
The Zumbro Valley Audubon Society Monthly Bird Walk will be held at the Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester on Saturday, May 1. Join this casual walk in search of early spring migrants. Masks and social distancing may still be required.
Stillwater’s first Migratory Bird Festival will take place Saturday, May 15 at Pioneer Park. This family-friendly activity features a raptor “guest” from Carpenter Nature Center, and bird-centric information and activities from Master Gardeners, Wild Ones, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and others. Morning bird hikes will be led by Washington County staff. 651-303-2594
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.