This is your monthly Explore Minnesota Birding Update.
Our world has changed in so many ways, but our feathered friends continue to bring us joy through their beauty, uplifting songs and funny antics. Embrace the comfort they bring to our ever-changing world. Happy birding!
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 the 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.
Minnesota lakes, rivers and wetlands offer the sights and sounds of many waterbird species and their young. Look and listen for herons, egrets, swans, geese, mergansers, grebes and ducks along with their broods, some of which can be quite large. Learn more about brood size in a fun article by the National Audubon Society at Here’s Why This Mama Merganser Has More Than 50 Ducklings.
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 offer information about great blue herons and heron rookeries at Now Showing at a Rookery Near You. Be sure to view the video for some fun footage of young herons.
Consider renting a rowboat, 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. For watercraft rental at Minnesota’s state and regional parks, check out Minnesota’s Great Outdoors.
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, and they are 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. Learn more at Understanding Waterfowl: The Amazing Molt by Ducks Unlimited
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.
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 or shrubs to keep the water cooler on hot summer days and to provide the birds an easy escape if threatened.
Fun and Educational Activities
The National Audubon Society has created a great DIY project for adults and children to grow bird seed. Learn more about this fun activity at DIY Seedling Pots to Grow Your Own Bird Food.
Bird lovers will enjoy the many birdy puns in For the Birds by Matt Clark, courtesy of Bird Watcher’s Digest. See if you can catch all 47 bird species in this song.
The appearance of a hummingbird in its colorful, shimmering plumage is a delight to all. Encourage more visits this summer using a quick and easy nectar recipe. Learn more through the DIY Hummingbird Nectar video by the National Audubon Society.
Check out the DNR’s EagleCam to witness test flights by the young eagles. The nest will remain their home for a while longer while they master flight and hunting skills.
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.
Common loon with chick / Don Dammert
Great blue heron / Allie Hoeft
Green heron / Al Ferber
Fishing great egret / Chris Hurst
Roosting egrets / Liz Stanley
Swans in a row / Wayne Bartz
Common merganser pair / Travis Novitsky
Male hooded merganser / Dani Porter Born Photography
Western grebe / John Morrison
Cormorants at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge / Cristine Nicholson