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Bird Watching with Kids

Tips for young birders…

 Bring the birds to you!  When it’s cold outside you can really help out the birds by providing them with food.  After all, it takes energy to stay warm.  A bird feeder can be like a drive-thru restaurant for birds to get some quick energy and a quick pit stop where you can watch for different species and behaviors.  Some birds like to pick up seed off of the ground, other will stay at a feeder for awhile, and others will take food to the nearest branch.  Garden centers and big box stores both offer a variety of feeders and seed.  Bags of seeds will say which birds the mixture will attract.  If you do not want to share the food with squirrels, pay a little extra for a squirrel proof spring-loaded feeder or place it carefully where a squirrel can not reach (tougher than it sounds!).

Go see birds!  Since birds can fly to a habitat that meets their needs, consider going for a hike at a local nature center, state park, national park, wildlife refuge, or city park.  Would you like to see birds that live in a forest, prairie, wetland, or shore?  Timing brings variety to the landscape and your observations- winter, spring, summer and fall all have beauty of their own.    “Important Bird Areas”  are the 57 most important places for birds in MN we are working to protect. Check out mn.audubon.org for locations.  Besides out my back window, some of my  favorite places to view birds in the Twin Cities metro area are:  

-Elm Creek Park Reserve, Maple Grove, MN

-Springbrook Nature Center, Fridley, MN

-Lake Elmo Park Reserve, Lake Elmo, MN

-Afton State Park, Afton, MN

-Tamarack Nature Center, White Bear Lake, MN

-Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Recreation Area, Bloomington, MN

-Theodore Wirth Park, Minneapolis, MN

What to bring?  Make your bird-spotting more enjoyable by bringing along these things:

-Bird guide book or birding field guide phone app

-Clothing appropriate for the weather

-Comfortable walking shoes

-Binoculars or spotting scope (binocs for tots are shown below)



Did you know that?  Minnesota has the more golden-winged warblers than other states, but the bird is still very close to the endangered species list.  Golden-winged Warblers are in trouble.  The species likes a mixture of young forests, wetlands, shrub lands, and mature forests but not woods that are too dense.  Helping restore habitat for this bird also helps other animals like moose, lynx and more.  Here’s a great article that explains more:  http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_27331019/feds-aim-keep-minnesota-songbird-off-endangered-species

Abundant Owls.  Mass movements of an animal population is called an irruption.  The 2013-14 was a year for owl fans to remember with record sightings in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Will there be as many snowy owls in 2015?  Keep an eye out!  It’s not yet completely understood why some years the owls move further south into the midwest from Canada, but most scientists believe it’s related to the food source.  One place to find out more is http://www.projectsnowstorm.org.

Play. Learn. Love.

January 2015