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

Winter robins eating minnows again

There always are robins spending the winter here, in the metro area. Wayzata has had a flock of maybe three dozen loyal to the city for the past several years. They move around, of course, but if you want to see a robin in winter — a robin eating fish — check behind the bait store located in the strip of stores on Wayzata Blvd., which there is the service road on the north side of I-394 as it enters town. I first found the birds there two years ago, surprised at their diet. They were there two days ago. They eat — perhaps live on — the dead minnows tossed behind the store each morning as the minnow tanks are cleaned. People ask how that sign of spring can make it through the winter without worms. The bird’s diet obviously is varied enough to include fish. Are these birds returning to a known food source or are new birds making the discovery each year? Most likely the former.

What is that junco doing on that feeder perch?

There are birds we see in our yards that we rarely or never see perched on our feeders. Those we see in our yard are members of the sparrow family. Most are migrants — White-throated, White-crowned, Lincoln’s, American Tree, Chipping, Song, and Swamp would be most usual.


There is one exception: Dark-eyed Junco.


Juncoes are a common winter bird here, moving south from their Canadian breeding grounds.

A friend who lives in northeast Minneapolis recently mentioned a junco perched on one of his feeders, the first time he had seen that, he said. So, the next day I saw three juncoes feeding from the perches of our feeders. I’ll assume I just hadn’t paid attention until he mentioned it.


They will take seed knocked to the ground by other birds using the feeders, or you can spill some yourself. 


Seed spread on the ground near cover can bring some of those migrant sparrows to your yard in the spring, a nice change from the usual neighborhood visitors.


There is one other exception, of course, the House Sparrow, which is not a sparrow at all. Officially in the family known as Old World sparrows, they not native here, imports from Europe. And, officially, they are not sparrows in any case. They are members of the weaver finch family. (Take a close look at the woven mess that is their nest.)




Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii  |  

Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations

parts per million


January 10, 2017

405.95 ppm


January 10, 2016

401.96 ppm


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