For the Birds Radio Program: Bird Report

Original Air Date: Feb. 15, 1989

Molly and Ken Hoffman in Grand Marais are the people to beat in this year’s backyard bird list contest. (3:44)

Audio missing


Bird Report

(Recording of a Boreal Owl)

A couple of weeks ago I received a letter from a couple of birders that I have long admired who live on the Gunflint Trail. Molly and Ken Hoffman sent a list of the birds they’ve seen in their yard this year, and so far they’re the people to beat in our winter bird contest. They’ve listed 15 species since January first. Gray Jays, Blue Jays, Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, and Pine Grosbeaks all regularly come to their feeders. They’ve seen ravens flying overhead and Common Redpolls at their birch tree. Red Crossbills come to their pine tree, but probably because of the extensive spruce budworm damage in their area, White-winged Crossbills have been absent—white-wings have a definite preference for spruce cones, while Red Crossbills prefer pine. Black-backed Woodpeckers and Pileateds both come regularly—these two species eat insect larvae tunneling through decaying wood. Spruce budworm provides a veritable feast for woodpeckers.

But their best birds of all have been a Great Gray Owl that timed its appearance for a day when two visitors from Florida were visiting, and that most elusive owl of all, the Boreal, which regularly sits on a dead pine stub at nighttime, apparently eying the voles beneath the feeder. Not only do these lucky people get two species of voles—they also get Northern Flying and Red Squirrels and a Pine Marten. The only mammals I get in Duluth are a shrew and a host of gray squirrels.

Most years people right in Duluth see more birds than people out in the country, but so far this season the best I’ve been able to find is 12 species. I do get a few species that you wouldn’t expect on the Gunflint Trail in winter. Starlings and House Sparrows are urban birds, which gravitate to street lights and neon signs for warmth when the temperature drops below freezing. White-breasted Nuthatches are more common in deciduous forests and open areas—like my yard—than they are in deep coniferous forest. I also have 2 crows, 5 juncoes, a pair of Mourning Doves, and 6 Pine Siskins.

The total list of species reported by all our listeners so far is almost up to 30 species now. It sure would be nice to get a final total of 40. I hope you’ll send your list in—it gives us good information about where the birds are, and it gives you a chance to win a prize. Explorations—the wonderful children’s store in downtown Duluth, is donating books for the children under 12 who send in the biggest Minnesota and Wisconsin yard lists, and we’ll also have prizes for the top adults winners in both states. And remember, we’re also giving a prize to an entry chosen at random, so even if you only see one species you still have a chance to win. List every species you see in or from your yard between the first day of January and the last day of February. And, as a final incentive, everyone whose entry is received at Duluth Public Radio by March 10 will automatically get a certificate vouching that he or she is a genuine bird brain, issued by Baker’s Blue Jay Barn, “Up the Shore a Ways.” So start keeping your list today.

(Recording of a Boreal Owl)

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