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Need a new and safe activity that will get you outside and stimulate the mind! How about birding? Birds aren't privy to the current travel restrictions and now is a great time take account of our winged friends singing their songs outside of our homes. 


For me, Spring means relief from the cooped-up feeling that a five-month long winter inspires. While in-person social time must wait, there are many feathered friends in our yards and parks, regardless of Stay-at-Home orders. 

Birding is a great way to exercise your powers of perception and memory, and springtime is an excellent time to watch the birds. Our ‘Stay-at-Home’ songbirds (like Cardinals, Chickadees, and most species of Woodpeckers) have begun their mating displays and nest selection. Meanwhile - despite travel bans - migrating species are arriving daily on their way north, from as far as South America. The flashiest of these migrants, the Baltimore Oriole and Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, arrive next month, but others like Warblers, Bluebirds and Robins are already here. Cornell Ornithology Lab has a great online map for tracking migration progress. (Pro tip: select “year-round, current year” for date before you type in the bird’s name).

If you are interested in feeding birds, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has helpful guidance by season, while Project Feederwatch (from Cornell Lab) provides a lot of useful general information

For the parents reading this, there are several resources for introducing children to birding. Cornell Lab offers the aptly-named Science & Nature Activities for Cooped-Up Kids, while the DNR has a similar list for children to tap into (including printable coloring sheets and videos) as well as stories for "young naturalists" complete with teacher's guides. Kids can make their own birdfeeders (including the ubiquitous peanut butter-covered pinecone). There are also plans for birdhouses and feeders for those with woodshops (and adult supervision).

Curious who that little feathered fellow is on the feeder or what bird woke you up with its glorious song at 5:30 in the morning? Luckily for you, there are various online ID aids. The National Park Service (NPS) has a handy beginners’ guide to birding along with a simplified ID guide which breaks down likely backyard species by color and size. All About Birds from Cornell Lab provides ID help and life histories for 600+ species of North American birds, also available as a free app called Merlin (click 'Get Instant ID Help' in the app). The Macaulay Library provides natural history images, video and audio (searchable by species). The DNR provides species checklists for Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas and State Parks, while the NPS has a good checklist for the Twin Cities area via their Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. 

Finally, for the virtual birder, there are a variety of webcams available. The DNR offers an EagleCam (now with sound!) and a FalconCam (based high above downtown Saint Paul), as well as others. Cornell Lab also offers a plethora of bird cams from around the world.

Written by

Rudi Brockfeld
Resource Sharing Assistant
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