Heron

A great blue heron catches a fish in the retention pond near the DNR forestry building in Mora. 

 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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

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 toward 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.

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.

Water please

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.

 

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