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Val Cunningham

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Recent content from Val Cunningham
A young barred owl with a broken leg is cared for at the Minnesota Raptor Center on May 19, in St. Paul.

University of Minnesota Raptor Center nursery gives injured baby birds a second chance

Life can be hard on young birds of prey.
Ruby-crowned kinglets are among early spring migrant songbirds to show up in Minnesota.

When to be on the lookout for peak bird migration

Check radar maps to learn your best chances for seeing spring and fall migrants.
Help the Raptor Center name two new great horned owl residents. Owl # 2, a male owlet, is missing an eye but is very curious.

Whoo can name the new owls at the Raptor Center?

Two injured owlets will become bird ambassadors. But they need names to go with their titles. You can help.
A ruby-throated hummingbird sits on her nest on a tree branch.

Birds are busy bees as nesting season opens

Grass, bark strips, mud, feathers or fur go into making soft beds for nestlings.
A robin with its head tilted toward the ground.

Do robins see worms or hear them? What's behind that head tilting?

Readers' birding questions answered: robins, wood ducks and cardinal pairs, safe nesting materials and seed gone bad, and more.
Amer Goldfinch female and male at feeder

Birdhouses don't attract most birds

It's nesting season, and as much as we'd like to help, most birds will never use any kind of birdhouse.
Female and male bluebirds perched on a nest box.

Take the group birding challenge: Find a Female Bird Day

How many female birds can you find in a day? Can you tell males from female birds? Some are easy, some are tricky, some are nearly impossible.
Three chickadees perched on a tube bird feeder.

6 ways to attract birds to your backyard

It's easy to make your yard a bird oasis.
Phyllis Terchanik’s great nephew holds still for a ‘dee.

Birds land on the hand that feeds them

Have seeds? Have patience? You may be in business.
An osprey with wings spread on a nest on a man-made platform.

Osprey are the medium-sized raptors with the 'W' wings

Elegant fishing hawks becoming a familiar sight again in the metro area.
A pair of bald eagles perch close to each other on a branch.

Look for eagle eggs to hatch in March

Readers write: Do bird feeders really help birds? Is there such a thing as too many goldfinches?
Four Canada geese whiffle in the air.

Whoa! What that geese tuck and roll is all about

Canada geese "whiffle" as they come in for a landing so they can slow down more quickly.

Drop-dead gorgeous red-tailed hawks are easy to identify — most of the time

Five bluebird eggs in a nest

Learn the secrets of bird nests

Ducks and songbirds make sure their young all hatch on the same day.
A cardinal pair in winter.

Cardinals stick together at the end of nesting season

Plus: Where to see eagles on camera, and overwintering bluebirds.

Some tips for making bird feeding enjoyable for you — and the birds

Minnesota's tiniest owls are fierce predators — and charismatic mysteries

Know your backyard woodpeckers: 7 birds you might see in Minnesota and how to tell them apart

Harriet and M15, the famous bald eagles from Southwest Florida Eagle Cam, collected nesting material to rebuild their nest after it was destroyed in H

Hurricane winds battered Florida's birds

Plus cardinals and pea vines, owl migration, loons in winter and more.
Red-bellied woodpeckers don't migrate. Does this help them live longer? Jim Williams photo

Do migrants or resident birds live longer?

It's tough on the migration trail, but winter is a challenge, too.
A green heron with its catch. Jim Williams photo

Curious young herons hang out on deck

Young birds are still learning about their world and might show up in odd places as they explore.
A yellow-headed blackbird looks gorgeous to us, and probably even better to others of his kind.Jim Williams photo

Why are birds so colorful?

Color serves birds in many ways, some of them invisible to humans.
A migrating prothonotary warbler needs habitats that provide insects. Jim Williams photo

Bird migration is a hazardous business

We can help migrating birds by offering places to feed and rest in our own backyards.
Do big-brained birds like crows hold funerals for dead flock mates? Jim Williams photo

Do birds feel grief?

The issue of birds having emotions has been controversial, but many say they do mourn the loss of a partner.
A pair of Eastern bluebirds get ready to nest. Jim Williams photo

Can young birds bake inside nest boxes?

Midsummer heat can be lethal to young birds in "inside" nests.
Even feisty hummingbirds can be chased away from feeders. Photo by Jim Williams

In nectar wars, orioles can outmatch feisty hummingbirds

Orioles sometimes bully hummingbirds to drive them away from sugar water feeders.
A red oriole perches with a more naturally colored oriole. photo by Phyllis Terchanik ONE TIME USE

Some orioles are being dyed a brilliant red by the food they eat

We're more familiar with the bright orange color of the typical male oriole.
Photo by Cliff Price:.A mallard uses his wings to push up from a pond.One time use

How ducks get cleared for takeoff

Some kinds of ducks use the water as a launching pad.

When it's time to fly the nest, some birds may be reluctant to leave

A goldfinch parent feeds its out-of-the nest young. Photo by Jim Williams

When it's time to fly the nest, some birds may be reluctant to leave

Parent birds push their young to disperse to get ready for the next round.
A heron raises three chicks in its rookery nest.Photo by Jim Williams

Herons and egrets sometimes share a rookery

Herons and egrets — and other species, too — can often be found nesting in the same stand of trees.
Photo by Don Severson:.A red-bellied woodpecker, with namesake red wash on belly. ONE-TIME USE

Large, vocal red-bellied woodpeckers take residence in Minnesota

A recent addition to our region stakes out its claim in forests and backyards.

Large, vocal red-bellied woodpeckers take residence in Minnesota

A ruby-throated hummingbird and a wasp face off in front of a nectar feeder.

If hummingbirds were no-shows at feeder, it's worth trying again

Learn about birds battling windows, telling eagles apart and chickadees seeming to bathe in snow clumps.
Phyllis Terchanik photo. ONE TIME USE WITH VAL's COLUMN ONLY.The female eagle returns to relieve the male of nest duty.

A glimpse of what's going on in those huge eagle nests

Eagle nests are huge, but youngsters use only a small part of it.

A glimpse of what's going on in those huge eagle nests

Wood ducks appear before songbirds arrive. jim Williams photo

Birds flood into Minnesota during spring migration

Billions of birds are on the move in our hemisphere.

Birds flood into Minnesota during spring migration

Spot horned larks as early as January. Photo by Jim Williams

Some of spring's migrant birds are here already

Larks, cranes and even turkey vultures are sure signs that spring is on its way.
Some bluebirds remain in our area all year. Photo by Jim Williams

Some bluebirds stick around Minnesota in the winter

If you think you see a bluebird in the dead of winter or a hummingbird in autumn, you can believe your eyes.
Two great horned owls at the International Owl Center in Houston, Minn.

How to tell which owl is hooting — or hiding — in your neighborhood

A guide to the owls you can see Minnesota — if you look carefully.

Solving the mystery of the tiny holes in goldenrod plants

Photo by Darlene Herbster— one time use only with Val's column. A downy woodpecker pecks into a goldenrod gall.

Solving the mystery of the tiny holes in goldenrod plants

Woodpeckers are the culprits behind those holes in the round balls (called galls) on goldenrod plants.
Photo by Rich Carlson—ONE TIME USE ONLY WITH VAL COLUMN, This blue jay will attempt to hide his peanuts away from prying eyes.

Think fast: Birds do, and they're smarter than we've given them credit for

Birds not only can think, they even may think faster than mammals do.
A pair of cardinals feed on sunflower seeds. Jim Williams photos

Birding Q&A: Can birds taste their food?

Cardinals almost surely taste the food they eat, and in fact, are big fans of black-oil sunflower seeds.

Minnesota birders hope for a rare, good snowy owl winter

The dark barring on its feathers makes this either a young male or a female of any age.Jim Williams photo

Minnesota birders hope for a rare, good snowy owl winter

Could this be one of those years when versions of Harry Potter's Hedwig turn up everywhere?

Short days, cold nights make winter tough on birds. But you can help.

Four species share these feeders—cardinal, pine siskin, house finch and goldfinch.

Short days, cold nights make winter tough on birds. But you can help.

Imagine eating 35% of your body weight each day. That's what it takes to get a chickadee through winter.
Peanuts bring in the blue jays.

Want more blue jays in your yard? Leave a treat for these peanut-crazy birds

If you want to make these big, handsome birds happy, set out some peanuts every day.

U's Raptor Center uses 'feather extensions' to help a hurt owl fly again

U's Raptor Center uses 'feather extensions' to help a hurt owl fly again

U's Raptor Center uses 'feather extensions' to help a hurt owl fly again

Raptor got replacement tail feathers in an age-old process called "imping" after being injured in a soccer net.
Pileated woodpecker

Bird antics abound in Minnesota: Readers share their favorite stories

Riding the rapids or ripping off hearing aids are just some of the bird shenanigans Minnesotans report.
A blue jay grabs a peanut to hide nearby. Photo by Jim Williams

Some birds hoard food in autumn

Blue jays and chickadees prepare for the coming winter by hiding food around their territories.

Some birds hoard food in autumn

Young screech owls make themselves at home in urban backyards, but you might not notice

Adult screech owl. Jim Williams photo

Young screech owls make themselves at home in urban backyards, but you might not notice

Pint-size owls, just 8 1/2 inches tall, might have nested right in your own backyard.
A hummingbird and hornet compete for nectar.

Birds and bees are not a good mix at feeders

Bees and wasps can drive hummingbirds away from feeders, but there's a work-around for that.

6 great places for fall bird-watching in Minnesota

Wood ducks

6 great places for fall bird-watching in Minnesota

So many parks and preserves featuring autumn's migrants are free and easy to get around in.
.Catbirds are welcome summer guests.

Minnesota's summer catbirds like Florida sunshine in winter

These handsome gray birds chatter and burble in the backyard all season long.
Photo by Cliff Price: ONE TIME USE ONLY with Val col

Once endangered bald eagles have landed in a better spot

Their population has largely recovered, but there's a cloud looming.

Once endangered bald eagles have landed in a better spot

Their population has largely recovered, but there's a cloud looming.
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When swans don't look like swans

Head-under-water feeding sessions can darken necks and heads.
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A young red-tailed hawk is sharing a nest with bald eagles in Door County, Wis.

Normally, the hawk would be prey, not a member of the family.
A common yellowthroat warbler feeds the much-larger cowbird chick it was fooled into raising.

The bird we love to hate: Cowbirds make others do their parenting for them

These crafty birds spy on other songbird species, looking for chances to drop an egg into their nests.

The bird we love to hate: Cowbirds make others do their parenting for them

These crafty birds spy on other songbird species, looking for chances to drop an egg into their nests.
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What's up with merganser-mallard pair?

Merganser and mallard make an unlikely pair.
Photo by Lew Troast Jr.:ONE TIME USE ONLY with Val's column

Minnesota's backyard songbirds go into overdrive in late spring

Once tiny birds tumble out of their eggs, the really hard work begins, as parent birds hustle to find enough food for their begging youngsters.

Late spring is crunch time for Minnesota's backyard songbirds

Once tiny birds tumble out of their eggs, the really hard work begins, as parent birds hustle to find enough food for their begging youngsters.
A magnolia warbler, one of the most beautiful warblers, overwinters from the southern U.S., to Mexico, south in Central America to Panama and in the C

Spring migration is peaking now in Minnesota: Get outside and enjoy the show

You don't have to be a birder to enjoy the spectacle of spring migration. Head outside to get a glimpse of the many birds passing through.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds (female is shown) travel an average of 1,500 miles on their way here. Find out when to expect them at journeynorth.org/humm

Spring migration is a great time to catch a parade of birds passing through

Birds rushing to summer nesting spots provide a show just outside your window.
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Warm winter brings Carolina wren, an unusual visitor to Minnesota

Backyard feeders are attracting red-bellied woodpeckers.
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Robins eat more than worms. They also know how to fish

A number of these handsome thrushes have taught themselves how to fish.
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What's your cardinal story? Readers share tales of the birds that brighten our winters

Did you hear the one about how a cardinal defeated a spider's web?