It's Birding Time

by Steve Johnson, Supervisory Outdoor Recreation Planner

This is a great time of year for birding, since 40 percent of the migrating birds in North America travel the Mississippi flyway and everything seems to be on the move right now. This year is a bit special in that the chilly spring has delayed ice-out north of the Twin Cities, so lots of migrating birds have laid over here longer than normal. If you saw flocks of common loons last week on area lakes, your eyes weren't playing tricks on you.

The Mississippi River corridor in the Twin Cities sees 248 species of birds, a bit less than the 284 species on the bird list for the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge or the 307 species listed for the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge found downriver of Lake Pepin.

While the Canada goose is so common here they've become a pest, you may have never seen a Greater white-fronted goose (in the photo), which is a rare migrant through this area and is more likely spotted passing through South Dakota this time of year. It's the only goose with black patches on its chest (which doesn't explain its name). This bird shows up on all three bird lists cited above, but only on the river in the metro area do we have a Cackling goose on the list.

Yes, all geese cackle. But the Cackling goose looks like a Canada goose, only smaller. It winters on the Texas gulf coast and breeds north of Hudson Bay. Its visits here are pretty fleeting, since it has a long way to fly, and you're unlikely to see one on the golf course.

Meanwhile, get out in the woods along the river and look up. The warblers are coming. Thirty species of warbler are coming our way.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105
Saint Paul, MN 55101


(651) 293-0200
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