For the Birds Radio Program: Winter Bird Contest

Original Air Date: Dec. 8, 1989

Laura announces a new contest for listeners to report their birds. (3:49)

Audio missing


Winter Bird Contest

(Recording of a Blue Jay)

This is shaping up to be an excellent winter for birds. I’m getting reports of Pine and Evening Grosbeaks, crossbills, siskins, and redpolls throughout the Northland. Spruce Grouses are being seen in the Isabella area, and there have been as many as four different Varied Thrushes found in northeastern Minnesota. One Great Gray Owl was spotted a couple of weeks ago near Duluth. And of all things a Mockingbird turned up in Grand Marais two weeks ago. So it looks like we’re going to have a good winter backyard bird contest this season.

Of course, people living in a downtown high rise don’t have quite the same opportunity for attracting birds that people on the outskirts of a town do, but even if you get nothing more than House Sparrows, we need as many reports as possible to get a good data base, so to bribe you we are also awarding a prize for one entry chosen at random from each state in our listening area. Plus everyone who enters automatically wins an official “Bird Brain Certificate,” with my official logo—a mother Blue Jay sitting on her nest with three babies peeking out—suitable for framing or throwing darts at, depending on your personal opinion of jays. This attractive certificate is also hand written in pretty good calligraphy. Last year the ink stains on my fingers lasted well into spring migration, so don’t miss out—I don’t want this year’s inking to be in vain.

To enter the contest, all you do is keep track of the birds seen on or from your yard from the first of December through the last day of February, and send me your list by March 5th. I like it if you keep track of the dates that you see each bird, but it’s not necessary for you to win.

This year we’re adding a new category for people who spend most of their winter daylight hours actually working—send in a list of birds sighted from your office or other place of employment. Since Snowy Owls and large falcons often winter in cities, office lists can have some pretty good birds on them. I’ll also take lists of birds seen from classroom windows in this category, though kids need a note from their teacher saying it’s okay to be spending their school time gazing out the window. It would be fun to see which school could build the biggest list in the Northland. If you watch birds from home on the weekends or after work, send in two lists. For people who like to keep track of things in an orderly way, this exercise will also help you with your new year list come January first—and don’t forget that next year’s list is also the first chapter of a whole new decade list. If you’ve been putting off keeping a bird list, this is the perfect time to begin.

Every single entry gives us valuable data about the Northland’s birdlife, so we also promise to give you the satisfaction of knowing that you helped keep track of our birds during their most vulnerable season. Remember, the more varieties of food you provide, the most species you will attract at your feeders. Sunflower seed, peanut butter, cracked corn, mixed seed, and suet are all great ways to attract birds. John V. Dennis’s book, A Guide to Bird Feeding is the best single source of information about how to go about setting up and maintaining a feeding station. So what are you waiting for? Get cracking!

(Recording of a Blue Jay)

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