For the Birds Radio Program: More migration updates

Original Air Date: March 23, 1987

More birds are returning! (4:00) date confirmed

Audio missing


![Red-winged Blackbird] ( “Red-winged Blackbird”)

(Recording of a Red-winged Blackbird)

The territorial call of a Red-winged Blackbird in a cattail marsh is one unmistakable sign of spring. One Red-wing was calling at Indian Point in Duluth March 7, and one was in Superior March 12, so if you believe birds are better at predicting weather than people are, this is a good sign that we’re going to have an early spring.

Red-winged Blackbirds are extremely territorial, and if you spend any time in marsh areas, you quickly notice the males perched on cattails, exposing their bright red epaulets and calling at one another. Some ornithologists describe their call as “O-ka-lee.”

(Recording of a Red-winged Blackbird)

According to one Folger’s Coffee commercial on TV, Red-winged Blackbirds are so rare and exciting that birders wake before dawn and drag their lovers out to remote wilderness areas just to glimpse at them. Whoever does Folger’s advertising obviously doesn’t know a hawk from a handsaw–even Columbian farmer Juan Valdez has probably seen Red-wings hiking down from his mountain-grown coffee beans. The red- wing is one of the most abundant bird species in North and Central America. From early spring through late fall this is a common roadside bird, sitting on cattails, telephone wires, and even on the gravel. It’s easy to identify from a car even if at the speed limit because of its red shoulder patch. The red-wing is a serious pest in the Central U.S. in winter, when it flocks in huge numbers to feed on grain.

A more welcome harbinger of spring is the Purple Martin. Although flocks of them won’t actually return to the Northland until April, individuals called scouts sometimes make quick trips up here in March. If you’re hoping to attract martins to your yard, this is the time to set up your martin house, or to make sure last year’s is cleaned out. If House Sparrows invade your nest boxes, it’s legal to dump out their nests. I have a soft spot for sparrows, but they aren’t a native American bird, and so aren’t protected by federal or state laws.

This is a good time of year to take an evening walk, if you want to hear owls. In most city neighborhoods, Great Horned Owls are the most common nesters. They have a soft, mellow hoot with no particular rhythm pattern.

(Recording of a Great Horned Owl)

In more wooded areas, Barred Owls can be heard. They have a strident hoot which follows the rhythm pattern “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?”

(Recording of a Barred Owl)

The luckiest people, those living up in bog country, hear the deep, contant beat of the Great Gray Owl.

(Recording of a Great Gray Owl)

In woods of mixed conifers and popples, the tiniest of midwestern owls, the Saw-whet, sometimes calls.

(Recording of a Saw-whet Owl)

North of Isabella the rarest of all northern owls, the Boreal, has been heard calling at night.

(Recording of a Boreal Owl)

This is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”