In search of winter birds

  • Article by: BILL MARCHEL , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 5, 2013 - 6:49 PM

A number of winged creatures will call Minnesota home for the winter. Some tips on finding and attracting these colorful cold-weather residents.

view larger photos

  

 

When Minnesotans think of migrating birds, they often lament losing the colorful birds of summer. Orioles, warblers, robins, hummingbirds and others leave us in late summer, traveling many miles to warmer climes. For now they are just memories. ¶ We can, however, delight in the fact that some bird species migrate from Canada and the Arctic for a four- or five-month stay in Minnesota. Believe it or not, our cold state — one of the coldest — is a winter destination for some of the prettiest species. Birds such as common redpolls, pine grosbeaks, Bohemian waxwings, snow buntings and several species of owls find our cold weather to their liking. ¶ Of course, many beautiful birds are year-round Minnesota residents, too. Perhaps the most popular is the diminutive but ever active black-capped chickadee. Even on the most blustery winter days, chickadees are out and about. They can be found readily in almost every habitat type and, of course, are easily attracted to bird feeders. ¶ Blue jays are another permanent resident of Minnesota. Scorned by some because of their bossy attitude around bird feeders, many birders find them strikingly attractive, and can’t imagine a winter without them.

Another full-time Minnesota resident is the northern cardinal. What can you say about the brilliant red males? They’re so radiant they seem out of place on the gray-white winter landscape — as if they are unreal. Female cardinals are much more subtle in color, but even they are a lesson in beauty.

So far it has been a fairly slow year for birds migrating into Minnesota. But it’s still early in the winter season. Flocks of Bohemian waxwings have already been spotted in various locations in northern and central Minnesota. Expect more and other species in the coming weeks.

Bohemian waxwings, colorful and often very tame, are usually seen in large flocks during winter as they feed on the remaining fruit of mountain ash, crabapples and buckthorns. Waxwings are highly nomadic, but travel only as far as needed to find food. Good spots to check are city parks, cemeteries and any place where ornamental fruit trees and shrubs have been planted.

Pine grosbeaks are often found in the same locations as waxwings. The adult males are a vivid pink and the females and young males a dull gray with yellowish heads. Like many winter birds, Grosbeaks are easily attracted to back yard bird feeders where their favorite food is sunflower seeds.

 

Bill Marchel, an outdoors writer and photographer, lives near Brainerd.

















 

  • related content

  • Cabin Country: Our family cabin, in three acts

    Thursday December 12, 2013

    My “cabin/shack”story began in 1948. I was 9 years old and my family — Mom, Dad, my 4-year-old brother and...

  • Pheasant hunting memories: 'We laughed at our good fortune'

    Thursday December 5, 2013

    As pheasant season draws to a close, a hunter recalls the late-season trip when his luck turned.

  • How to ... Hunt ruffed grouse this late in the season

    Thursday December 5, 2013

    BRAINERD, MINN. – October has much to offer the Minnesota hunter — ducks, geese, bowhunting for deer. As for ruffed...

  • Jim Gilbert's Nature Notes: Keeping safe on and around lake ice

    Thursday December 5, 2013

    Soon after freeze-up, the ice sheets on lakes can be heard cracking, thundering and rumbling. These loud, long roars and...

  • Do This Now: Editor-selected events at state, regional and local parks

    Thursday December 5, 2013

    1 Bird watching trekMinnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Dec. 7, 8-10 a.m.Meet at the refuge’s Wilkie Unit, in Shakopee, for...

  • Common redpolls, like this colorful male, often invade Minnesota in huge numbers during winter. Look for them in weedy fields or at back yard feeding stations.

  • A male pine grosbeak makes a mess of himself as he feeds on crabapples. Pine grosbeaks migrate to Minnesota during winter. Some years they are common, other years they are scarce.

  • Bohemian waxwings migrate to Minnesota during winter. They can be found in flocks of 50 or more as they feed on most any fruit still clinging to branches.

  • Like cardinals, blue jays are common year-round. They can be bossy and aggressive, but their striking color cannot be denied.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Oakland - J. Lester 7:07 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
NY Islanders 6:00 PM
Boston
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Ottawa 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
Carolina 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Tampa Bay 7:30 PM
Dallas
Colorado 8:00 PM
Calgary
Los Angeles 9:30 PM
San Jose
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close