For the Birds Radio Program: More arrivals: migration update

Original Air Date: March 30, 1987

More birds are appearing every day, and Laura announces winners of the robin contest. (3:30) Date confirmed

Audio missing


(Recording of an American Robin)

One of the best things about doing this program is hearing from listeners. Three listeners have written to report robins seen the first week of March in Ashland and Mason, Wisconsin, and Virginia, Minnesota. They are the official winners of KUMD’s “first robin of spring” contest this year. The first major flight of robins into Duluth happened right on the first day of spring. I also heard from one listener who saw her first robin of the year all the way back on January 14th on the UMD campus. Although that bird doesn’t count as the first robin of spring, it certainly sounds like a valid sighting. Every winter there are at least a few robins reported from northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. In some places they winter around warm springs, where the soil never freezes and so earthworms are available year-round. But robins don’t live by worms alone. They’re extremely fond of berries, and one or two often brave the cold near a good supply of mountain ash berries or crab apples. Robins wear high-grade down underwear and have a high efficiency metabolic furnace, so even a severe Northland winter won’t kill them if they find enough food. I didn’t hear of any other wintering robins in the Duluth area this year in spite of the mild weather, probably because there wasn’t much of a berry crop. The UMD robin probably lighted out for more southern territory later in January or in February after Bohemian Waxwings used up just about all the berries in town.

I’ve been seeing and hearing about lots of Bald Eagles the past few weeks, and Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawks are starting to return, too. Some ducks and blackbirds are back, and on March 19 I heard a Belted Kingfisher rattling in central Duluth.

(Recording of a Belted Kingfisher)

My favorite birds, the Jays, are moving in migratory flocks now. One listener reported 25 Blue Jays and even more Canada Jays on Highway 2 between Duluth and Grand Rapids early in March.

Probably the most conspicuous bird in Duluth the past couple of weeks have been the Herring and Ring-billed Gulls. I’ve seen several flocks of gulls swirling in kettles like hawks–it’s a fine sight on a clear day–and just about any time I look up lately I spot a few gulls flying over. And Ring-billed Gulls are back, too–mooching at McDonalds and manning their lightposts at Target.

(Recording of a Ring-billed Gull)

This is a fine time to start a bird feeder–you’ll attract a lot of migrants on their Northland stopover. If you’ve been feeding birds all winter, make sure you rake up the seeds and hulls from the ground soon– in mild weather disease organisms flourish at messy feeding stations. Raking is a good spring project–while you’re outside you can listen for robins, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, new migrants, and the song of the junco.

(Recording of a Dark-eyed Junco)

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