While Minnesota’s southbound migration is coming to a close, some birds are just beginning to arrive from the north. Arctic species to watch for include pine grosbeaks, snow buntings and dark-eyed juncos.
Some of the largest bird species are the last to leave Minnesota. Many of these birds follow the Mississippi River flyway.
Watch for bald eagles, golden eagles, American white pelicans, sandhill cranes and tundra swans. Large groups of tundra swans are a common sight on the Mississippi River backwaters in the fall.
Most of these birds are traveling south from their summer homes in Canada, Alaska and the Arctic Circle, stopping to rest and feed in shallow water areas until ice forms.
The spectacular sights and haunting sounds of huge concentrations of tundra swans is a memorable experience. To view these amazing birds (sometimes in the tens of thousands) check the Mississippi River backwaters in the Brownsville, Read’s Landing, Minnieska and La Crescent areas in November.
While in the area, consider a stop at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, where wild bald eagles can usually be spotted through two-story floor-to-ceiling windows.
Expect more irruptions
Boreal birds from the north often migrate south due to a variety of factors including poor seed crops, a decline in other food sources and good breeding seasons leading to overpopulation.
When large numbers arrive that are uncommon for a particular area, it is called an irruption. This year, ornithologists predict there will be a few species heading to the northern United States in unusually high numbers due to a lack of pine cones, bugs and rodents further north.
Keep an eye out for winter finches, red-breasted nuthatches, crossbills, pine siskins and redpolls.
Leave the leaves
If you haven’t finished raking your yard, that’s good news since “messy” yards are preferred by birds.
Contribute to science
Backyard birders can help scientists track the movements of winter bird populations, as well as bird distribution and abundance by participating in Project Feeder Watch. All you need to do is gather and report bird activity while enjoying the birds at your feeders.
This year’s Project Feeder Watch begins Nov. 14 — find out how you can participate at www.feederwatch.org