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

Thousands of Tundra Swans are massing on the Mississippi River

Observers this past weekend reported more than 5,000 Tundra Swans massed in the Mississippi River near Brownsville, Minnesota. That's south on Highway 61, near LaCrosse, Wis., about a 2.5 hour drive from Minneapolis. Between Brownsville and south to Reno, Minnesota, are three viewing decks. Also check the river at Alma, Wisconsin (from the Minnesota side).

The birds move from their Canadian nesting grounds to wintering areas on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The river is a place for the birds to rest and refuel. They will be here until driven out by rough weather. Thursday might do it for some of the birds. Friday through Sunday are forecast to be much better days. The birds are worth a trip if you're looking for a weekend adventure.

Take Highway 61 out of Hastings. Look for Bald Eagles along the river from Red Wing south. For information call Wings Over Alma at 608-685-3303.

Kiskadees seen in SD near Minnesota border

Three Great Kiskadees were seen this past weekend about 15 miles from the western border of Minnesota. One would be outstanding. Three is almost impossible. Are observers certain? The bird — first just one, then three — was brought to the attention of members of the South Dakota Ornithologists’ Union, in attendance their its fall meeting in Brookings, 10 miles from the bird’s location. The meeting adjourned for a short field trip. 


Yes, they are certain. 


Two more kiskadees were found while looking for and watching the first bird. The birds are/were visiting two farms, feeding on flies (kiskadees are members of the flycatcher family). The farm owners had been watching one or more of the kiskadees for THREE months, realizing the species was unusual, but not knowing who to tell.


Kiskadees are birds with a northern range just touching the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. They are seen throughout Mexico. There are scattered reports of sightings outside of Texas. There are no reports other than this weekend’s for Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, or Iowa. The previous verified sighting nearest Minnesota was in Kansas.


The kiskadee below was photographed along the Caribbean shore in southern Mexico. It was about to swallow that crab. The bird is slightly larger than a Hairy Woodpecker. It's a small crab.


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