Fall migratory birds continue their journeys to wintering sites, with some significant migrations occurring during the month of October.
Vast numbers of sandhill cranes are moving southward, and can often be seen at wildlife refuges throughout the state in October. Sandhill cranes are large birds nearly 4 feet high with a wing span up to 7 feet wide.
The cranes gather and feed in harvested fields during the day and rest in shallow water at night — dawn and dusk offer the greatest shows. The graceful flight and raucous calls of thousands of sandhill cranes is always a memorable sight.
One refuge known for drawing large numbers of sandhill cranes is Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Zimmerman. Before visiting, be sure to bring along a self-guided tour map to help you navigate the park.
Impressive numbers of hawks, falcons and other raptors continue their migration over Hawk Ridge along the Lake Superior flyway to avoid flying over open water. The larger raptors generally migrate in October. Just some of the raptors you can expect to see in large numbers include bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, broad-winged hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, northern goshawks and turkey vultures.
The more unusual birds of prey, rough-legged hawks and golden eagles can also be seen in October.
The Mississippi River is one of four main migration routes in the United States, with hundreds of bird species stopping along the river to eat, bathe and rest each spring and fall.
This flyway is even more special during the month of October due to spectacular fall colors that line the banks of the river.
Did You Know?
Migrating birds need energy-rich food, as well as meals that require a minimal amount of energy to locate.
Some of the best foods for migratory and resident birds include black oil sunflower seeds, white millet or millet mix, nyjer and suet.
Peanuts are also a great source of energy — shelled nuts are especially good since birds don’t use as much energy to consume them. If possible, leave a large area of brush clippings roughly 10 feet away to provide birds a safe retreat.
A clean source of water is also beneficial. Once your feeding station is set up, watch for hungry sparrows, blackbirds, cardinals, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, woodpeckers and finches.
Keep an eye out for returning dark-eyed juncos, the “harbingers” of winter.
As birds establish their feeding patterns, you should be rewarded with a flurry of activity throughout the fall and winter months.