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

Birds left out of Presidential candidate debates

No, I didn't expect birds per se to make it into the debates. A long list of subjects were touched on, but the one most important to birds -- and to us -- never got out of the gate. Candidates ignored it, which is no surprise. The journalist moderators also ignored it, which should be to their shame. Global warming should have been high on the list of topics the candidates addressed. Nothing will have more influence on our future than climate change. Ignoring what is already happening will not make it stop or go away.

Songbird habitat program: thank pheasants

‘Clean water deal aids birds.’


That was the headline Wednesday, Oct. 12, on the outdoors page of the StarTribune. In this case, ‘birds’ referred to pheasants, game birds. 


As explained in the story’s opening, “Minnesota has tentative agreement with the federal government to fund a massive clean water conservation program that will double as the centerpiece of the state’s pheasant plan.”


The intent of the plan, of course, is to have more pheasants. You might think this is strictly a hunting issue. No, no, no.


Grasslands, pheasants or not, are nesting home to dozens of non-game birds — songbirds, shorebirds, raptors. 


Meadowlarks, several species of sparrow, Bobolinks, godwits, phalaropes, and other bird species use grasslands, particularly those adjacent to water, like wetlands. Raptors hunt over grasslands for the small mammals that also call that habitat home.


It’s intent is to diminish farm runoff that pollutes surrounding lands. This is done “by planting grasses, restoring lost wetlands, and surrounding streams, rivers, and lake with vegetative bufffers.


The story quotes a DNR source as saying the proposal is “huge.” It is, for anyone who loves birds of any feather.


We need more grasslands. Hunters have clout that birders do not. I don't think we're going to see the governer and secretary of agriculture signing off on such a project aimed strictly at songbirds. If providing more sport for hunters is how it gets done, that’s fine with me. Do it. Do it again.


Incidentally, Pheasants Forever is one of the game associations to which I belong. It has my membership because it is habitat oriented. Hunters are our allies.

This hen pheasant uses grassland for protective cover and nesting. Songbirds do the same.

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