For the Birds Radio Program: Baseball Bird List

Original Air Date: Sept. 1, 1995

What kinds of birds can you see at a Duluth Dukes game? The answer may surprise you. (3:32) Date confirmed.

Audio missing


Last week, my family went to a baseball game to watch the Duluth-Superior Dukes play. It was jolly fun. There were lots of people we knew since it was Cub Scout Pack 15 night, and although the St. Paul team won, the Dukes played well.

Naturally I brought my binoculars. Ten-power Zeiss binocs may be a bit more than the action requires. I could see exactly which players needed a shave, and watched the spit coming between one player’s teeth before he ejected it in its full frothy splendor. After that, I pretty much watched the action with my own two eyes, but the binoculars still came in handy. Red-winged Blackbirds and grackles fly over Wade Stadium on their way to their night roost. They made an interesting break when the Dukes were doing poorly. A flock of Canada Geese winged past, moving en masse from a favorite dinner spot to their waterbed-room. And a flock of pigeons wheeling about madly was followed by a hungry Peregrine Falcon—probably one of the ones that nest on bridges here in Duluth. It made an excellent start to my newest bird list: the list of birds I’ve seen at baseball games.

We haven’t been to too many Dukes games so far, but last year I watched nighthawks migrating over the stadium, which I also added to my list. I watched lots of baseball games on TV when I was a girl. My dad was a Chicago firefighter who was stationed for many years at the firehall on Waveland Avenue, right outside Wrigley Field. My husband Russ and I used to go to Cubs’ games when we were dating. Back then, I didn’t know a hawk from a handsaw, so I wasted many afternoons when I could have been amassing a solid baseball bird list. I’m sure there were nighthawks, Chimney Swifts, and swallows winging overhead, along with the usual urban riffraff like pigeons and starlings, but I never noticed them. But fortunately, it’s never too late, and I plan to attend many baseball games in the future, always with my binoculars.

Outdoor sports afford surprising opportunities for birding. My children’s soccer games are usually rich with birds, bazillions of migrating nighthawks, along with robins, warblers, and other songbirds hanging around the edges of fields. Last week a Killdeer called out cheers throughout my daughter Katie’s game.

Big urban sports fields aren’t quite so rich in birds, but one or two seasons ago, a Sora—that is, a tiny marsh bird that normally skulks in cattails—ended up on the sidelines of a nationally televised football game. It must have been a boring game, because the camera stayed on the bird almost as much as on the game. Normally rails don’t have enough discretionary income to attend professional football games, but this one was apparently a real fan.

Soldiers Field in Chicago probably attracts a rich assortment of fly-over birds. The first Snowy Owl I ever saw was flying over Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago. But I guess I’ll have to stick to kids’ games and minor league baseball if I want to build up a respectable game list. It’ll be a cold day in Tucson before any bird figures out how to get into the Metrodome, except, of course, for those pesky Blue Jays.