This is a great time of year to rise before dawn to hear the chorus of birds. Many are still singing exuberantly as they continue to court (some species have multiple clutches each year) and establish territory.
Use the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer’s interactive Minnesota Bird Songs web page (https://bit.ly/2Wu2Y5R ) to learn the songs of 24 common backyard birds.
This is also the time of year when baby birds of various species hatch, including Baltimore orioles, house finches, American robins, gray catbirds, chipping sparrows, house wrens, mourning doves, barn swallows and tree swallows. Listen for the incessant chirping as hatchlings plead for their parents to bring them food. Broken eggshells on the ground are another indication that the babies have arrived.
If you find a nest that you can peer into, look to see if all of the babies are of the same size and color. If not, there’s likely a cowbird chick or two mixed in with the brood. Brown-headed cowbirds do not raise their young. They lay their eggs in another bird’s nest and let the other parents do the work. Since the young cowbird is generally larger, it gets fed first, hurting the chance of the other young to survive. This cunning yet cruel practice is known as parasitic nesting behavior.
In early to mid-June, check the shallow prairie marshes for a variety of waterfowl and water birds along with their young. Look for swans, geese, rails, grebes, coots and ducks. The Prairie Wetlands Learning Center in Fergus Falls is an excellent choice to view these birds. And be sure to check lakes in the northern two-thirds of the state for newly hatched common loon chicks. They can often be seen riding on their parents’ backs. Minnesota has more loons than any other state, aside from Alaska.
If you love loons, the Minnesota Loon Monitoring Program is a great way to get involved with wildlife studies on lakes near you. Volunteers are needed to visit each lake one morning during a 10-day period (late June through early July) and count the number of adult and juvenile loons. The observations are then shared with the DNR. Thanks to hundreds of volunteers, there is more than 20 years of data on more than 600 lakes.
The DNR is also asking for help monitoring other species of birds associated with lakes, rivers or wetlands that are currently nesting, nest-building or with young. If you’re interested in assisting, check out the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program.
Did You Know?
Occasionally, a baby bird is found on the ground. Some nestlings are inadvertently pushed out by their growing siblings, yet others may be fledglings attempting their first flight. Would you know what to do?
According to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota, featherless birds need to be in a nest. If possible, try to locate the bird’s nest and carefully replace it -- the parents will not reject it due to human contact or scent. If you cannot locate its nest, leave the baby bird on the ground so the parents can find it and continue providing care. Fledgling birds, however, often leave the nest before they’re ready to fly. These fledglings should be left alone since their parents are usually watching over them.
The University of Minnesota Raptor Center also recommends leaving fledgling raptors alone since they are often unsuccessful on their first flight. They may remain on the ground a few days while strengthening their wings. However, if it appears that the fledgling is hurt and needs assistance then please contact the Raptor Center for advice.