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An open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond

Detroit Lake birding festival May 16-19

The 21st annual Detroit Lakes Festival of Birds is set for May 16-19.


Featured presenters are Carrol Henderson who has tales of his 45 years in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, plus Noah Strycker talking about his 2015 world-wide Big Year. He recorded more than 6,000 bird species on that record-setting trip.


Friday and Saturday feature guided field trips to wetlands, forests and prairie.


Wednesday evening the festival kicks off at the Holmes Theatre with Kevin Kling and Zeitgeist presenting the show “For the Birds.”


Program and registration at

Zugunruhe -- the name for the drive to migrate

Ponds, lakes, and rivers — at least those with open water —are filling with courting ducks. Why did the birds arrive what amounts to early, when there is lots of ice, little water, and no good place for a nest?

It's called zugunruhe --zoo-gun-roo -- a German term for the restless feeling birds experience at migration nears. The birds' endocrine system releases hormones in response to longer daylight hours. The birds at first increase their activity level, spending more time flying, movements that orient them to their migration direction.

And then, off they go, here they come.

Birds wintering near the equator, where daylight hours are constant throughout the year, act the same way. Scientists are uncertain how this happens, speculating it could be because of the changing angle of the sun.

Before the birds begin migration they will eat heavily to gain weight. They need the calories for the upcoming long flights.

Once breeding season ends the birds' reproductive organs shrink, reducing weight to make flight easier. The reverse is happening now, those hormone signals causing the reproductive system to grow again to accommodate breeding.

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