Many are under the impression that once the spring migration is over, so is the best birding for the season. I heartily disagree! If you want to get to know the birds that nest in Minnesota, summer is a great time for birding. Males are still protecting their territories with song, and the young are leaving the nest and learning to fly and find food.
When you’re a beginning birder, it is best to start with the birds in your own neighborhood. Repetition always is important for me when I’m learning birds, and you will see and hear the birds around your home more frequently than anywhere else. Migrating birds added to the mix only makes learning more complicated and can be overwhelming.
Summer birding does offer some unique challenges for birders. While young robins have lots of speckling and less brilliant coloring, many species, like chickadees and cardinals, look very much like adults. If you take the time to watch the way the birds behave, you can better distinguish fledglings from adults.
As someone who enjoys learning the songs and calls of birds and how they relate to behavior, I sometimes find myself stumped by different sounds I cannot identify. Often these different sounds are coming from young birds just out of the nest. These fledglings are just learning to fly and will be very dependent on their parents for food and protection for some weeks yet. They stay in contact with their parents using sounds that sometimes remind me of a small human child.
I once watched a young nuthatch on a tree that was constantly yap-yap-yapping as a parent came with food every few minutes.
Recently I was very annoyed by the constant squeaky sounds of grackles on my brother’s lawn. When I realized they were fledglings just learning how to hunt insects in the grass, it was a little less annoying and more interesting to watch their behavior.
Though the young looked just like their parents, they appeared to be begging for food, and when a noise startled them they followed their parents to a tree.
On a recent bird walk in the Garden, we were puzzled by a constant brief squeal coming from a tree. Each time we got closer to the sound it would move away. Finally we caught up to the sound and found it was a young flicker, letting its parents know where it was.
In late summer you may be lucky enough to visit the Garden on a day when young goldfinches have just left the nest. The sunflowers on the prairie will be filled with young birds constantly calling “feed me -- feed me” to their parents.
Early mornings are the best time to see and hear bird activity during the summer. Robins and cardinals start singing at around 4:30 a.m. By midday it’s too hot for all but the red-eyed vireo to be active and even his song is sluggish.
I hope you’ll get out and enjoy the birds this summer. Check the Garden schedule for a Saturday Morning bird walk by calling the Martha Crone Shelter at 612 370-4903 or check the MPRB web site.
Following is a list of many of the birds that nest in or near the Garden (or are commonly seen in summer):
Note: This article was published in the Fringed Gentian™, Summer 2005, Vol. 53 No. 3
A Great Place for Birding – why the Garden is great for birding, including in May after the Spring migration.
Early Birders Catch the Wonders – what wonders are seen during the year on the Saturday Morning Birding walks.
EBWG as a Migration Rest Stop – an article addressed to the birds about the benefits of Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden as a migration rest stop.
Many Colors of Feathers (The) – about the color of bird feathers and why we see the colors the way we do.
Native Plants - for the Birds – about interactions of plants, insects and bird life. Illustrated.
Warblers - Spring Warblers and the little time there is to see them. (This is a 1.0mb pdf file)
Winter Survival of Warm-blooded Critters – how some of the birds and animals survive the winter in the Garden.