Here are some of the coolest looking birds you will see and hear:
Although we don’t find tropical plants in Minnesota, these bird species are named after a tropical plant, “Palm,” which raises their families in the state’s northern regions. It is a small songbird that belongs to the New World warbler family
Palm Warbler is a dull brownish bird with distinctive yellow under the throat and tail. In Minnesota, these birds breed in bogs and areas with thick ground cover and evergreen trees in the boreal forest. Palm Warblers stop in weedy fields, fence rows, forest edges, and other areas with shrubs and trees during migration.
Palm Warblers play a significant role in maintaining the food chain in Northern American regions, including Minnesota. These birds eat insects, such as caterpillars, flies, and beetles, and consume hawthorn, sea grape, bayberry, and seeds during the winter.
Although these birds pick insects from the ground or low tree branches, research highlights that they can also catch some insects in midair. Palm Warbler’s size is 5 inches in length and 0.35 oz. in mass.
Named after a tropical plant, this bird is found in northern Minnesota. These are colorful and eye-catching birds and is an amazing sight for the birdwatchers. Their wagging and wiggling tail helps in easily identifying these birds. They are also found in the southeast side of the state during the winter months.
Catbirds are relatives of mockingbirds, name comes from the arrangement of their toes, and they have one of the most easily recognizable bird calls in the world. This species has a distinctive cat-like call. Besides, they can mimic the singing of other birds as mockingbirds and thrashers do.
The catbird usually lives in the east of North America and migrates two times a year to the south and southeast of the United States. Also, they can be found in Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean countries such as Bermuda, when the catbird migrates during the fall and winter.
The Gray Catbird’s preferred habitats include:
* Dense tangles of shrubs
* Streamside thickets
* Woodland edges
Typically, catbirds are in constant movement. They hop and flutter from a small tree branch to another and sit atop shrubs where they sing.
This species is a medium-sized songbird similar to a robin and a few inches smaller than Northern Mockingbirds. They have broad wings and legs longer than other birds of its size.
Specifically, gray catbirds from both sexes have an overall length of 22 centimeters.
At first glance, they look all gray; however, they have a couple of very distinctive features. First, catbirds have dark or almost black caps. Besides, they display cinnamon feathers under their long tails.
Gray catbirds have three toes pointing forward and one toe pointing back like other PASSERINE birds that can perch easily.
Catbirds feed themselves only with fruits and insects most of the time. They use their bills to uncover hidden insects such as beetles or earthworms. During summer, gray catbirds also eat ants, grasshoppers, and moths.
Regarding fruits, this species forages in trees and dense tangles of shrubs, and on the ground too for the following fruits and berries:
* Holly berries
* Poison ivy
The most long-lived gray catbird ever known lived for almost 18 years. But not all catbirds have the opportunity to live as much.
Gray catbirds migrate in the spring and fall every year; however, they may not always return to their original habitat. Recent studies determined that gray catbirds have around a 60 percent chance of surviving a whole year.
A catbird’s life is typically in danger due to nest predation, cars, and forest fires.
The winter bird, Cardinal, has a red color with a black mask around their bills and eyes and a red crest on their head. They also have a greyish part on the back of their neck. The beak is thick that helps them cracking seeds and nuts and has a distinguished orange color.
Cardinals are commonly seen during the winter months and you can also attract them in your backyard by providing them sunflower seeds. You will often observe the male and female Cardinals establishing their territories and making singing calls. The female Cardinal is a bit different in appearance from their male counterparts and can be orange. Although the crest is the same, the colors are different. They are yellowish-orange in color and have a black covering around their eyes and beak. During December and January, cardinals travel in small flocks and move to bushy and green trees to hide and seek protection.
The chickadee is another winter bird and is considered as the favourite bird of many birders. It is a tiny bird with a black cap on its head and has a small black bib like shape on the front side of their necks. These birds travel in small flocks and they are remaining in contact with each other by singing. They love eating insects and small eggs on twigs. The outer little branches of trees are also their beloved food.
During the cold winter nights, these birds seek shelter in cavities and tree holes that are carved by woodpeckers. Evergreen trees are also their favourite shelters.
At the beginning of February, these birds separate from each other and break their flocks. By the mid of February, Chickadees begin their singing calls as a welcoming sound for the winter season.
COLOR: Brown with some featuring dark brown or black chevron markings on the tail and tips of the wings.
LENGTH: About 5 inches.
WEIGHT: Average of .37 ounces.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: You can find house wrens throughout the Western Hemisphere from Canada to South America and the West Indies.
NESTING HABITS: House wren nests can be found anywhere there is a convenient, out-of-the-way space where they can make their homes. This includes trees, bushes, birdhouses, carports, storage boxes, and eaves.
* They are very energetic, and their songs are cheerful and bubbly
* There are 160 million house wrens worldwide
The house wren is a small brown songbird that is found throughout the western hemisphere. Although they are plentiful, this tiny bird is also quite shy and can often be heard more than seen. These birds may be small, but house wrens are notoriously territorial and will often stay alone outside of the breeding season. Even during winter, they are most often seen alone, although very rarely they will flock together.
They usually lay between three and ten eggs depending on a list of factors, including the amount of food available and temperature. Most will brood twice. House wrens will nest in cavities. You can find them in backyards nesting in brush piles, birdhouses, support beams, and among the clutter of open garages.
COLOR: The face, eyes, legs, claws, beak, and feathers are all black.
LENGTH: They are usually about 20 inches.
WEIGHT: Approximately 15 ounces.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: American crows can be found anywhere in North America, including Canada and Mexico.
NESTING HABITS: These crows almost exclusively nest in trees and large bushes off the ground. They build thick nests out of sticks and various other materials.
WHAT THEY EAT: These birds are not picky eaters and will sustain themselves on insects, fruit, grains, berries, spiders, snails, shellfish, earthworms, frogs, small snakes, carrion, garbage, seeds, and even the eggs of other birds.
* American crows are ⅔ the size of a common raven, and crows that live in western areas are slightly smaller than those living in eastern environments.
* The American crows that live in Florida and smaller than average with large feet.
* They are highly intelligent and have been known to use tools.
* Crows, like some other bird species, can mimic human vocal sounds and be trained to say certain words.
American crows enjoy being around people and are highly social creatures. They are most often seen in public spaces that are bustling with activity like city squares, roadside attractions, parking lots, parks, lawns, gardens, fields, and garbage dumps. They prefer open areas with flat land and usually avoid thickly forested areas or mountainous terrain. They can be eaten.
The American crow will lay one to six eggs at a time and spend around eighteen days incubating them. They usually live seven to eight years and can have up to two broods per year. Crows are often solitary creatures, but they are known to travel in groups called “murders.” This nickname was created in the past when the appearance of a crow was superstitiously considered an omen of impending death.
COLOR: The back and most of the head is metallic cobalt blue, while the throat and forehead are rusty browns. Their stomach and underwings are tawny. Adult male barn swallows are more brightly colored than females.
With steely blue-black wings, and tail Barn swallows have rufous to tawny underparts. The face and crown are brown with a cinnamon-colored throat and forehead. The white spots under the tail are difficult to see unless the birds are flying. It is essential to note that males are boldly colored compared to females.
Barn swallows are prevalent in rural and open country areas. They build their nests in garages, barns, piers, and under bridges. However, barn swallow’s habitat includes fields, semi-open lands, farms, lakes, and marshes. A barn swallow measures 17 cm in length, weigh 18 g and have a wingspan of 30 cm.
Barn swallow mainly feeds on insects especially flying insects such as wasps, wild bees, house flies, horse flies,, true bugs, and winged ants. Grasshoppers, damselflies, moths, spiders, and snails also comprise their diet, also insects or berries.
They mostly catch and eat food while in the air.
Naturally, barn swallows nest in sheltered cliff crevices or shallow caves. However, nowadays, you can find these birds nesting under eaves, under docks or bridges, and open bridges. The nest is usually a cup of mud with dried grass and lined with feathers.
LENGTH: Adults are about 6 inches.
WEIGHT: These are very tiny birds weighing in at a mere 0.65 ounces.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: They can be found throughout North America and surrounding islands.
NESTING HABITS: They like to use man-made structures for nesting in, such as rafters, beams, bridges, sheds, stables, and wharves.
WHAT THEY EAT: Barn swallows like to eat flying insects, including all types of flies, beetles, wasps, bees, ants, butterflies, and moths.
* Unpaired male swallows will sometimes murder the young of a mated pair to break them up, and then he will pair with the female.
* Juvenile swallows will sometimes help care for the nestlings of adult pairs.
Barn swallows are often found in open areas and near water. They spend the majority of their time feeding, socializing, and nesting. They are known for their graceful swooping motions while hunting flying insects. Barn swallows are generally monogamous, but sometimes two breeding pairs will join together for a breeding season. Pairs will stay together throughout the year, even during migration.
As their name implies, they tend to spend a lot of time around sheds, barns, houses, and dock areas where they can easily find crevices in the surrounding structures to build their nests. They usually lay three to five eggs per clutch and can have two clutches per year. Barn swallows have a rich social structure and often share tasks, and spend a great deal of time cultivating relationships.
COLOR: The back, head, and tail are a grayish-brown with deep rusted red on their belly and lower portion of their throat. The head is often slightly darker than the rest of the body. Male birds may have a much darker head and small blue streaks on the throat.
LENGTH: They are around 10 inches long.
WEIGHT: They weigh approximately 2.8 ounces.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: They have a wide range that goes from Southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
NESTING HABITS: Nests are usually made into natural joints in a tree or bush, and the materials used can vary from hair, fabric, and mud to sticks and pieces of shrubbery.
WHAT THEY EAT: American robins usually eat a strict diet of berries, fruits, earthworms, and various insects like caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers.
* American robins that live in western areas are often a lighter color than ones living in eastern areas.
* They can migrate for distances of up to 3,000 miles.
American robins are often seen bouncing around the lawns and parks throughout the states in their search for food. Their appearance in spring usually heralds an end to colder weather. American robins are most social during the winter, and they will often gather together in huge flocks in the evening and at night, where they will roost together. These common birds will have two to three clutches of eggs each breeding season. They usually lay three to five eggs per clutch. The incubation period for each can be up to two weeks. This bird is often seen as a helpful species because it decreases bug populations near homes.
COLOR: Hairy woodpeckers have brilliant red on the back of their head, but the rest of their body is alternating patterns of white and black.
LENGTH: 9 inches.
WEIGHT: Although they are around the same length as a robin, they often weigh less at around 2 ounces.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: These beautiful birds are found all over Northern and Central America, but they prefer forested mountain regions.
NESTING HABITS: They note our holes in tree trunks using their strong bill and line the inside with materials for their nest.
WHAT THEY EAT: Almost all of their food comes from insects living in or on trees. They eat beetles, larvae, bark beetles, moths, ants, spiders, bees, wasps, caterpillars, spiders, millipedes, and sometimes even crickets, grasshoppers, or cockroaches.
* Hairy woodpeckers from the Pacific Northwest are brown and black instead of black and white.
* Their size often varies by region, with Northern areas having larger woodpeckers than Southern areas.
* If you want to lure these birds into your backyard, try black sunflower seeds and peanuts. This is especially tempting to them during wintertime when food is more scarce.
These woodpeckers like to be in forested areas and are normally seen in parks, forests, cemeteries, suburbs, and tree stands. They will work in mated pairs to create nests and care for their young. When looking for a tree to build their nest in, they prefer dead or rotting deciduous trees. Hairy woodpeckers only have one brood per breeding season, and they lay between three and six white eggs. The incubation period lasts around twelve days. Both parents will take turns sitting on the egg and feeding the young once they hatch.
I was out for a walk in the woods in Minnesota last weekend when I saw a beautiful bird perched on a tree trunk. As I approached, I realized it was a hairy woodpecker. I was thrilled to see this bird up close, as they are not always easy to spot in the wild.
Hairy woodpeckers are known for their distinct black and white markings and their long, pointed beaks. They are found throughout much of North America, including in Minnesota. These birds are known for their strong pecking abilities, which they use to drill into trees in search of insects and other food sources. Seeing one in the wild is a rare treat, and I felt lucky to have had the opportunity to observe it in its natural habitat.
Also found in Arizona.
COLOR: These common birds are light brown with tawny underneath and black spots around their wingtips and tail.
LENGTH: They are about 11 inches long.
WEIGHT: Their weight fluctuates between genders but is approximately 5 ounces.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: Temperate areas around North America are the most common habitat for mourning doves.
NESTING HABITS: Their nests are often placed in trees and bushes. They are very delicate and made of small twigs, grass, and other thin materials.
WHAT THEY EAT: The vast majority of their meals are made of seeds. They also occasionally eat peanuts, wild grasses, weeds, herbs, and berries.
* They have a muscular pouch in their throat called a “crop” where they can store food for eating later. These pouches are large, and researchers have found over 17,000 seeds in a single crop.
You might know this bird by a few names. It is sometimes called the American mourning dove, turtle dove, rain dove, or the Carolina pigeon. These birds usually make coo-ing noises, but they can also whistle when alarmed. Mourning doves can have up to six broods in a single mating season, but they only lay two eggs. The incubation period for each clutch of eggs is two weeks. Mated pairs are monogamous and usually mate for life.
Unlike its huge name, the White-breasted Nuthatch is a small winter bird that is popular by the name “upside-down bird”. This bird has a habit of remaining upside-down on the branches of trees. This habit helps them see wintering insects easily.
These birds have a strong beak which helps them easily dig out eggs and insects from furrows and deep holes. Both male and female species of these birds set up their nesting and feeding territories in the same areas.
These birds feed on suet, sunflower seeds and corn.
Get a pair of binoculars to see them better from a distance.
Goldfinch stays in Minnesota throughout the winter season if the food is available. However, in the absence of food, they move to other parts of the state and travel in small flocks.
These birds and unique as they can change their colour during the winter season from yellow to a greenish colour. You will mostly see them in small flocks.
COLOR: The tail and lower back are usually a light brown, and the rest of the body is streaked equally brown and white. There may also be tawny or gray mixed in with the white.
LENGTH: They are around 5 inches.
WEIGHT: The song sparrow weighs about 1 ounce.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: These tiny birds can be found anywhere from Canada to the Southern parts of North America, including Minnesota.
NESTING HABITS: There is little consistency to the nesting habits of song sparrows. You can find their tint nests built into tall grass and bushes, far up in trees, or on the bare ground.
WHAT THEY EAT: Most often, they will eat from bird feeders, but they also eat spiders, beetles, grasshoppers, wasps, caterpillars, ants, and other insects that might cross their path.
Medium-sized and fairly bulky, song sparrows have a short, stout bill and a fairly rounded head. Their tail is long and rounded with broad wings. Typically, the song sparrow has brown upper parts with dark streaks on the back and white underneath. They are about 15 cm long, weigh 12 to 54 g, and have an 20 cm wingspan.
Song sparrows mostly feed on seeds and insects. In the summer, the diet is mainly insects, including wasps, caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, ants, and spiders. During the winter, song sparrows feed on seeds, mostly those found in weeds and grasses. Those in islands or near coastal marshes feed on mollusks, crustaceans, and sometimes small fish.
The song sparrows mainly forage on the ground, although sometimes they scratch the soil to turn up items. Sometimes these birds can forage in very shallow water (about an inch deep), up in trees or shrubs.
The birds flirt via low and dense vegetation or branches and moving to open grounds occasionally to find food. Their flights are short and fluttering with a downward pumping of the tail. Males usually sing from exposed perches.
Song sparrows build their nest on the ground under a shrub or clump of grass. If the female chooses a higher site, she builds it in low trees, shrubs, or marsh vegetation. It is very rare for songbirds to build their nests in tree cavities. The nest is usually an open cup of grass, weeds, and leaves or barks strips lined with animal hair, rootlets, or grass. The males chase the female during courtship and may perform a few fluttering flights in the bushes with their heads held high and necks outstretched.
* There are twenty-four recognized subspecies of song sparrow with you to fifty-two unique forms that usually vary based on region.
These tiny birds are very rarely still, and they flit about from branch to branch and across the ground looking for food. They enjoy parklands, fields, marshes, suburbs, and pastures. Song sparrows can live over a decade, but most only make it a year or two in the wild. They lay one to six brown and blue eggs per clutch and can have up to seven per mating season. Their incubation period is twelve days.
Blue Jays are another known species of winter bird that are found in Minnesota. Some of these birds are also seen in the south during the fall season. You can easily identify these birds by their blue colour. They also have a crest-like figure on their heads.
Blue Jays mostly feed on corn and sunflower seeds. They are mean and will fight other birds. Their voice resembles that of a hawk that scares other birds away and hence, keeps Blue Jays safe. These birds have a habit of storing a significant amount of food in their gular pouch. They also store food in the tree cavities and feed on it during the harsh weather conditions.
Juncos also migrate to Minnesota during the harsh winter months. They mostly come from Canada and then return after February. These birds travel in small flocks and they feed on grass and seeds. They seek shelter in the evergreen trees and have a total population of more than 500 million. That is why they are the most common sight for the birders during the winters.
COLOR: This little bird has a lot of personality. There is a bright rusted tuft on the top of their head and a black line running through their eye and across the side of their head. The vast majority of their body, throat, and underside is a light grayish, but the top of their wings and back and tail are a darker red-brown.
LENGTH: Adults of both sexes are about 5 inches.
WEIGHT: They are around 0.5 ounces.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: This bird is primarily found in grasslands and wooded areas in North America.
NESTING HABITS: They usually build their nests into low trees or shrubs, hidden behind branches or inconvenient crevices.
WHAT THEY EAT: Seeds and insects are the primary food sources for this species. They will eat birdseed, wild grass seeds, grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, spiders, and many other bugs that they encounter.
* The chipping sparrow range is over 13 million square miles.
These colorful little birds often travel in groups and flit around scrub brush and trees, singing cheerfully. They are often seen in backyards eating from bird feeders or in parks and along roadways scrounging for insects.
Chipping sparrows are not good at making nests. They are often not warm enough, and there are gaps between the sparse materials. Despite this, the sparrow will lay two to seven eggs at a time and incubate them for around twelve days. These birds have been known to live up to nine years in the wild.
COLOR: The common grackle is gorgeous with a dark purple-blue head, neck, upper back, and wingtips. The rest of the wings, tail, and lower back are a stunning metallic bronze that is dark enough to look almost black.
LENGTH: Adults measure between 12 inches.
WEIGHT: They are around 4 ounces.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: While they can be found throughout North America, the common grackle is mostly seen east of the Ricky Mountains.
NESTING HABITS: They often create their nests in tall trees above or near a water source like a lake or river. Usually, the nest is balanced over two nearby branches to add stability.
WHAT THEY EAT: Common grackle like to eat living things and most often feed on grubs, spiders, grasshoppers, caterpillars, millipedes, earthworms, and larger creatures such as crayfish, frogs, minnows, lizards, tiny rodents, and eggs.
* Common grackles will often nest in colonies of up to thirty pairs, with the male birds standing watch among the tree branches.
Common grackles are considered a dangerous pest to farmers who have cornfields. They will sometimes eat the ripening corn or the seeds. Because grackles move in groups, this can mean they can decimate whole sections of a field.
These beautiful birds may have up to two broods per mating season and lay between two and six eggs per clutch. The incubation period is around two weeks, and during that time, both parents will take turns sitting on the nest. Once the nestlings hatch, both parents will forage and bringing back food for their young.
This woodpecker is one of the smallest woodpeckers that is found in the northern woods. Their size is a bit large than a chickadee. The male downy woodpecker has a red spot on the back of their heads while the female does not have it. You can hear them “drumming” on the woods in the spring season. They feed on larvae, eggs and suet.
One of the largest woodpecker species in the United States, the Pileated Woodpeckers are as huge as that of a crow. They live in dark forests and rarely come out, but they do visit the backyards if you have food staples such as suet. February is the mating month of these woodpeckers when you will often hear they are echoing throughout the woodlands. They also produce the sound of “pileated drums” that sound exactly like an actual drum.
In Minnesota, these species are very common and is very rare in other parts of the United States. The favourite food of these woodpeckers is carpenter ants, and they search for them in deep furrows and inside the tree cavities of old trees. If you ever visit the woodlands, you will find many carved up trees that are being hunted by the pileated woodpeckers.
Golden-Winged Warbler – Just like the Palm Warbler species, the Golden-Winged Warbler is also another colourful and bright species of birds found in the north-eastern part of Minnesota. This bird is found in the summer season when it looks for its ideal habitat of woods and swamps. Such habitat is also serving as the breeding environment for these birds. These birds have a sunny-yellow mark of their wings like “Crown bird” and serves as its identification mark.
Redpolls are another winter bird species that are known to invade Minnesota during the winter season. You will find them moving in large flocks in this season. The year 2009 was marked as “redpoll invasion year” for these birds when they migrated to Minnesota in huge quantities. You will find them feeding on grass and seeds.
Red Bellied Woodpecker – This species of woodpecker can be identified by its black colour on their bodies with white stripes in between and have a crown on their heads having a flaming red colour. This crown is only seen on the male woodpecker’s head. Just like other woodpecker species, they feed on suet and ants.
Black Billed Cuckoo is another stunning bird species of Minnesota that is known to be a magnificent singer. It is a summer bird and is found all over Minnesota. The ideal habitat of this bird if leafy and full woodlands. It is known as a “Happy Bird” that loves greenery and loves to sing.
You can identify this bird with its long-tapered tail and having a curved bill. The eyes are also covered with a red ring. These features help the birders to easily identify this bird.
Common Goldeneye is a duck species that has an eye-catching appearance with a yellow eye, hence its name, “Goldeneye”. This species of duck is observed in the very northern part of Minnesota. The bird usually breeds in that part too and is a marvellous sight for the birders.
Common Loon is the state bird of Minnesota and no trip to Minnesota is considered done without seeing this adorable species. It is only observed in the central and northern region of Minnesota especially during the breeding season. Is characterized by their checkered bodies and sharp bills.
Trumpeter Swan is found all year-round in Minnesota, especially in the central region. It is known as one of the largest species of the swan that is heavy and huge and that is why is quite easy to recognize by the birders. It has an all-white appearance, and the bill is sloppy and dark having a red patch on it. Trumpeter Swans are magnificently white and beautiful.
Snowy Owl – Highly sought-after in the state, they are seen all year-round especially in the north-eastern region of the state. They also migrate to the south of the state during the outbreak years. The birders can find them in open areas such as along the lakeshores and open woodlands where reside on rooftops and high posts.
Another year-round bird species of Minnesota is Black-Backed Woodpecker that is typically observed in the central part of the state. The bird also migrates to the northern region of Minnesota. The ideal habitats for these birds are burned-out forests having coniferous trees. During the cold season, the birds move to the south of the state to find their habitat. These birds are one of the top favourite species for the breeders.
Known as one of the most intelligent species of bird in Minnesota, the Black-Billed Magpie resides in the northwestern part of the state. These birds are large, have long tails and they look quite elegant with blue and black colours on their bodies. These birds are known to be a special treat for the birdwatchers to see. billed Magpies are also found in other parts of the United States such as Minnesota, Colorado and Montana.
Minnesota is famous for its grasslands, prairies and beautiful lakes. Due to the perfect habitat that it provides, Minnesota also offers many birding opportunities to the birdwatchers. Not only in the summer and spring season, but Minnesota is also popular for its winter birds when many species of birds migrate here and find shelter.
You will be amazed to know that there are 422 bird species in Minnesota.
HOW DO BIRDS SURVIVE THE COLD WINTER DAYS OF MINNESOTA?
It is often asked by the birdwatchers that how do these winter birds survive the extreme cold and bitter temperatures of Minnesota especially when these birds are so delicate and weight so less?
More food and lots of eating is the key to meet the wintery needs of Minnesota winter bird species. If you are a birder then you must be aware of the role of proteins and high fats in the lives of these winter birds. It is good to provide your winter backyard birds with tons of protein in any form such as suet and sunflower seeds.
Winter birds also need special landscaping requirements such as shrubs with berries and fruits. Moreover, Crabapples, Chokeberries and Flowering Dogwoods are considered as special landscaping areas. Other natural sources of food that can be provided to winter birds are Bee Balm, Gayfeather, Sunflowers, Coneflowers and Sneezeweed.
These food staples are excellent in helping these little winter species pass through the coldest months.
THEIR NATURAL FURS:
There are many species of Minnesota winter birds whose bodies are naturally made to survive the cold and harsh wintery months. The bodies of these birds produce extra feathers naturally that serves the role of thick fur as in case of polar bears and white leopards. Feathers are greatest and excellent natural insulators, and they trap the body heat inside them so that none of them is lost. Thus, the winters birds fluff up in their feathery bodies and avoid the loss of heat in winters. That way, they can survive the bitter winter months easily.
The habitat of winter birds also serves as their “indoor” environment that allows them to stay warm. The winters birds have a habit of hiding behind the trees and branches that allows them to yield themselves from the winter months. These birds also look for natural cavities to protect themselves from the harsh winter elements.
Birding hotspots in Minnesota are:
- Hawk Ridge
- Sax-Zim Bog
- Felton Prairie
- Lost River State Forest
- Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge
- Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
- Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge
- Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge
- Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge
- Minnesota Valley River Birding Trail
I remember the day I went birdwatching in Minnesota as if it were a scene from a cherished novel, filled with the vivid colors and sounds of nature’s orchestra. It was a crisp autumn morning, and the air was fresh with the scent of fallen leaves and earth, a perfect canvas for a day of avian discovery.
I had always been fascinated by birds, their freedom to soar and their diverse melodies that filled the air at dawn and dusk. So, when I learned of a birdwatching event at a local wildlife refuge in Minnesota, I jumped at the chance to participate. I packed my trusty binoculars, a sleek pair with 8x magnification and a 42mm objective lens diameter, offering a wide field of view that was essential for spotting birds in their natural habitat.
Arriving at the refuge, I was greeted by a panorama of changing leaves; the maples were ablaze in oranges and reds, while the oaks held onto their deep, russet browns. The group I joined was a mix of seasoned birders and novices, all eager to catch a glimpse of Minnesota’s feathered residents.
Our guide was a seasoned birder, her eyes as sharp as the lens of the spotting scope she carried—a high-end model with a 60mm objective lens that promised crystal-clear views even at long distances. She briefed us on the types of birds we might encounter, from the common but striking red-winged blackbird to the elusive and regal bald eagle.
As we set out on the trail, our guide pointed out the calls and songs of different birds, teaching us how to distinguish one from another. The melodic whistle of the American robin, the rapid-fire tapping of a downy woodpecker on a tree trunk, and the haunting hoot of a distant owl all became part of the day’s soundtrack.
I recall the excitement that surged through me when I spotted my first bird of the day through my binoculars—a Northern Cardinal. Its brilliant red plumage was a stark contrast against the green foliage, and it seemed as if it were posing just for us, its crest standing tall and proud. I observed the details of its feathers, noting the size of about 8.3 inches in length and the robust build that made it look both noble and approachable.
LIST OF IMPORTANT BIRD AREAS (IBAs) IN MINNESOTA:
Avon Hills-Important Bird Area:
Avon Hills comprises of over 72,000 acres and is situated in Stearns County. The prominent features of this IBA consist of Swamp Lake, more than two waterfowl production areas, St. John’s University Campus and two-state natural and scientific areas called Avon Hills Forest SNA and Max Partch Woods.
Avon Hills is known as one of those blessed IBAs that is rich in waterbirds especially Wood Ducks, Blue-winged Teal, Common Loons, Common Mergansers and many other species like Pied-billed Grebes. In this region, you will find those species that are common in both southern as well as the northern part of the Minnesota state like Blue-winged Warblers, Cerulean Warblers and Red-shouldered Hawks.
Arden Hills (also known as Rice Creek-Important Bird Area)
Arden Hills is situated in the north-central region of Ramsey County. It is a natural area that consists of over 2,000 acres. It consists of urban landscaping that supports more than 66 bird species. Arden Hills has two main parts known as The Rice Creek North, also called Ramsey County Open Space and the second area known as Army Training Site. Both of these areas provide an amazing habitat to many bird species like raptors, passerines and waterfowls. All these species are contained within this urban area. The area also provides an opportunity for the birdwatchers to view this natural and amazing wildlife of these two twin areas.
The most common bird species seen frequently in these areas is Trumpeter Swans. A small number of Red-shouldered Hawks and Forster’s are also found in this area.
Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge-Important Bird Area
Agassiz National Wildlife is located in between two regions in northwestern Minnesota. These regions are known as prairie pothole and prairie tallgrass. During the peak migration season, this important bird area remains quite busy as over 50,000 ducks and 15,000 geese migrate to this place.
Watch out for the teeth-like serrated features found on a goose beak are known as tomia and grow from the beak cartilage . The shape and size of tomia vary from one bird to another, depending on the bird’s main diet.
It is one of the most viewed areas of birders during the migration season. The nests of some of the major bird species like waterbirds, Black Terns and Eared Grebes are also found in this area. America’s most popular Franklin’s Gull’s colonies also make their nests in this region of Minnesota.
Blufflands Root River-Important Bird Area
Another IBA in Minnesota is situated in the south-east of the state in an area known as “driftless area”. This area is counted among the top interesting areas of Minnesota regarding its geology.
This area consists of steep riverbanks, highland deciduous woodlands, deep river valleys as well as floodplain woodlands. Such habitat makes this area an ideal habitat for the migrating and breeding species of birds. The area also provides an excellent ground for agriculture.
There are more than 185 species of birds found in this area of Minnesota. Among them, 45-5- species requires a need for conservation. There is a great number of Cerulean Warblers and Acadian Flycatchers that are found in this IBA. Moreover, it holds the second largest population of a bird species known as Louisiana Waterthrush.
Big Bog-Important Bird Area:
One of the largest IBA in Minnesota, the Big Bog covers more than 1.7 million acres of area. It is also popular with the name “Red Lake Peatlands” and consists of an exceptional topography and habitat. It is well-known all over the United States for its distinctive features and unique terrain.
Big Bog is a widely spread area that is forested and has a boreal landscape. You will not find such landscape and latitude anywhere else in the United States, specifically in the eastern end forest.
This area lies in north-central Minnesota with its land residing within the Red Lake Indian Reservation. There are several natural areas, forests and state parks in this region providing an excellent habitat to over 280 bird species. Among them, there are around 12 species of breeding birds in this area, especially of warblers. The major users of this unique habitat consist of over 100 species of birds. There is a great diversity of species in this region and numbers alone cannot define them in the best possible way. The area is of extreme importance to the birders.
You will also find Boreal forest species in this area like Boreal Chickadee, Spruce Grouse, Three-toed Woodpeckers, Black-backed and neo-tropical warblers. It is the major breeding area for these species of birds.
Other than these, the area is also a major spot for Northern Hawk Owls as well as Gray Owls especially during the periods of November to March. Thus, this area of Minnesota holds an ecological significance due to its unique terrain and exceptional habitat.
Buffalo River-Important Bird Area:
Minnesota is full of wonderful things when it comes to providing habitat to dozens of unique bird species. Buffalo River State Park is another IBA that makes up one of the greatest undisturbed prairies in Minnesota.
This state park consists of more than 10,000 acres of indigenous and refurbished prairie. The site is known as on the highest quality and unique prairie sites, not only in Minnesota but in the entire United States. Margherita Preserve is also included in this area.
The exact location of this IBA is towards the east of Moorhead, Minnesota.
The habitat of this site provides an excellent habitat to grassland birds such as Marbled Godwit, Western Meadowlark, Upland Sandpiper, Short-eared Owl, Northern Harrier and Bobolink. There are also species of Grassland sparrows like Savannah, Grasshopper, Lark, Field, Clay-coloured and LeConte’s in this area. The Grassland sparrow species known as Henslow Sparrow is also found in this IBA. Furthermore, you will also find the Loggerhead Shrike in this area that is counted among the most threatened species of birds in Minnesota and is in a need of conservation.
Carlos Avery-Important Bird Area:
One of the easiest accessible sites in Minnesota, this area is a vast, multi-owner area that is located towards the south of Minnesota. There are a variety of habitats this IBA offers to more than 235 bird species. These species include 67 such species that lie in the red line of conservation need. There are 25 nests of Red-headed Woodpeckers in this IBA and perhaps the densest population of this species in the entire state.
Crane Meadows Rice-Skunk Lake-Important Bird Area
This IBA is situated in Morrison County and is an important one when it comes to migration of certain important bird species such as nesting waterbirds and waterfowls. There are also migrating populations of Sandhills Cranes that are found in this IBA.
The diversity of bird species in this area is very impressive as it contains over 200 species including 57 of those that fall in the category of Greatest Conversation Need. These species include Common Loon, Black Tern, Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, Bobolink, Grasshopper Sparrow and Loggerhead Shrike.
Des Moines River-Important Bird Area:
This portion of Minnesota is a centre of native habitats. It is heavily forested with several water trails. There are also watercraft campsites in this area.
This IBA comprises of a huge variety of wetland and grassland habitat. Due to these features, the diversity of bird species is very high in this area. This IBA also crosses the core area of Des Moines River that comes under the Minnesota Conservation Plan. There are around 250 species of birds that are found in this area, including around 130 breeding species. Hence, the area holds huge importance for Minnesota state due to the habitat and unique features that it offers.
Felton Prairie-Important Bird Area:
Felton Prairie is situated in Clay County and it lies near the Red River. The IBA is home to several grassland species of birds such as Henslow’s Sparrow, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Loggerhead Shrike, Prairie Chicken, Baird’s, Sprague’s Pipit, Yellow Rail, Hudsonian Godwit, Bobolink, Dickcissel, Hudsonian and Swainson’s Hawk.
Goose Lake Swamp-Important Bird Area:
This IBA consists of a linear pattern of wetlands and it lies within the Aspen Parkland. The area consists of a variety of state-listed bird species especially during the breeding season including Nelson’s Sparrows, Yellow Rails and Wilson’s Phalaropes.
Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge-Important Bird Area:
In this IBA, there are around 30 species of shorebirds, 2 dozen of waterfowl bird species, around 10 marsh bird species as well as multiple neo-tropical migrants due to the presence of shallow water. Avian predators are also found in this IBA due to prairie habitats.
Itasca State Park-Important Bird Area:
In Itasca State Park, there are more than 220 species of birds such as common loons, trumpeter swans, bald eagles and goshawks. This IBA is situated between Bemidji and Park Rapids and is home to the famous Mississippi River.
Heron Lake-Important Bird Area:
Heron Lake consists of several small lakes. There are many wetlands also situated in this area. There is a diverse mixture of various habitats such as emergent marsh, wet grasslands, shrubby willow groves. There is also an array of small woodlands and trees in the area that further provides an ideal habitat to many grassland bird species.
Due to agricultural development, this area has undergone many changes in its physical terrain in the past. That is why efforts are now being made to restore several bird species such as Heron Lake Bird to manage the diversity of these species. There are around 145 bird species that are found in the Heron Lake IBA and among them, 107 are found only in the breeding season.
Kettle River-Important Bird Area:
This IBA consists of forest wetland corridor that runs along the rivers and several other tributary stream and wetlands. There are also many large managed areas in this IBA including three state wildlife management areas. There are around 196 species of birds found in this IBA that includes 135 breeding species as well. The location of this IBA makes it a great migratory bypass for waterbirds and Bald Eagles.
Lake Maria-Important Bird Area:
Lake Maria IBA consists of 2 management areas. 200 bird species are observed in this area. Among them, 10 of these bird species are counted in the “state-listed species” and includes Common Tern, Trumpeter Swan and Wilson’s Phalarope.
Lake of the woods-Important Bird Area:
It is the largest lake in Minnesota state. Most of its part is in Canada. There are 25 islands, open wetlands and sedges in the United States portion of this lake. Due to this habitat, it attracts a large variety of migrating waterfowls in the fall and spring season. There are tens of thousands of Greater Scaup and Lesser species that migrate through this area. A small number of teal, Pintails and American Widgeon are also observed in this IBA. Canada Geese is also found here.
Lower Minnesota River Valley-Important Bird Area:
This IBA includes 50,000 waterfowl species in the spring and fall season supporting the migration of these species. It also supports the migration of 20 duck species. Moreover, around 260 bird species are observed here among them 100 are known to nest.