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Birds

  • The Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up next week, February 16-19. This annual citizen science effort is a collaboration between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, and Birds Canada to help scientists better understand the bird population dynamics and movements.
  • In the 1890s, a group of Shakespeare enthusiasts released 100 European starlings in New York City’s Central Park so that all the birds in Shakespeare’s works could be observed there. The rest, as they say, is history. By the 1920s they had spread west to Michigan and Wisconsin. The first documented starling in North Dakota came on March 30, 1938 near Upham, ND.
  • Winter in North Dakota can be a challenge, but it can also offer great experiences and traditions. Throughout the month of January, Dakota Datebook joins the celebration of winter in conjunction with the Northern Plains National Heritage Area and Sons of Norway Sverdrup Lodge for the inaugural “Vinterfest,” a celebration of all things winter.
  • Having a few bird feeders with a variety of food items provides good opportunities to see the local birds such as the chickadees and nuthatches during the winter. But there is always a bit of eager anticipation to see what unexpected birds show up at the feeders. Thanks to the Finch Research Network, we have an estimate of what might show up.
  • Perhaps you’ve been noticing some ducks on the marshes as you traveled over the summer months. If so, I’d bet that one of the most common ducks you saw was a small duck with a white crescent running down on the front side of its head. That is a male blue-winged teal. And if they haven’t left already, they will soon.
  • Were there chimney swifts before chimneys? Of course! It might surprise you, but historically, chimney swifts nested in hollow trees, cliff faces, caves, and the like. But things changed for the chimney swifts when Europeans settled the area and built homes with chimneys.
  • Some birds are known to lay their eggs in another bird’s nest. They then go off while the “host” parent, or parents, get stuck with all the parental care of these young, often at the expense of their own offspring. And brown-headed cowbirds are notorious for this practice, called brood parasitism.
  • Wood warblers are known for their bright and interesting colors. They’re a bit smaller than the sparrows we commonly observe. Most are on their way north to the coniferous forest to nest, but some species will stay and nest here in North Dakota. If you have noticed one of these small birds has a prominent yellow rump patch, it is a yellow-rumped warbler. They are one of the more commonly observed wood warblers we see during the spring migration.
  • We hear about sightings of whooping cranes in the state during their spring and fall migration, but how fortunate to be able to see these magnificent and rare birds?
  • North Dakota is smack dab in the middle of the Central Flyway. It covers more than half the landmass of the continental United States and extends into Central and South America. It’s like an interstate highway for migrating birds. Many different species rely on the diverse marshes and wetlands on their spring and fall journeys.