For the Birds Radio Program: E-mail questions

Original Air Date: July 12, 2001

Laura answer’s several questions a listener sent.

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Every now and then I get an e-mail from a listener with questions about birds. Brandi Mansfield, who is pretty new to Duluth, had several interesting questions about birdlife in the North Woods.

First she asked about Hermit Thrushes, “I see them in migration, but the only brown thrush I hear in summer is the Veery. I love the song of the Veery, but all my maps indicate that Hermit Thrush should be here, too. Are Hermit Thrushes found in the city parks in Duluth? Do I need to go someplace specific to hear them?”

Hermit Thrushes seem to need larger forests than we have right in town. I hear them frequently at my mother-in-law’s in Port Wing, Wisconsin, on my own Breeding Bird Survey route, which is north of Two Harbors, and several other places I frequent. They’re reasonably common in somewhat mature forests just about anywhere in the northland.

Brandi asks, “Once I was able to hear a few Wood Thrushes in the big parks near Fond du Lac, but never north of there. Are they “city” birds, or not so much? Should I be able to see them in migration in Duluth?” The answer is that we’re at the northern extreme of the Wood Thrush range, and although I sometimes hear them on my BBS route, they are far less common up here than Veery, Hermit and even Swainson’s Thrush. I sometimes hear them when I’m biking the Western Waterfront Trail or, more often, along the Munger Trail. But like all brown thrushes, they don’t sing much on migration.

Brandi wondered if she’ll ever see or hear a Whip-poor-will up here. This one would be a life bird if she ever manages to encounter it. I wish I could give her a definite plan for seeing one, but all I could honestly say was good luck. Whip-poor-wills are in a dangerous decline in my opinion. In May, 1983, I actually had one IN MY BACKYARD in Lakeside during migration. I used to hear them regularly on Burntside Lake near Ely, too, but even there they seem to be disappearing. Every now and then they appear on Park Point during migration. People with Whip-poor-wills are darned lucky, even if it doesn’t seem like it at 2 in the morning when they won’t stop calling right by your bedroom window.

Brandi writes that the Canada Warbler is one of her “bad-luck” birds. Quote, “It seems like I NEVER see them, migration or summer. I know they are out there, since other people report them on the bird hotlines, but no matter how hard I try, I just don’t see them. I can have a wave of 15 other species, with Cape Mays and all, but never, never, never Canada. Am I nuts? Jinxed?”

If you hit it exactly right, you can encounter LARGE waves of Canada Warblers, but they don’t seem to associate with other warbler species, arrive a bit later than most of the other warblers, and seem to be declining somewhat. They aren’t all that common on their breeding grounds, either. Pay a lot of attention to backyard warblers right now, because they are starting to flock and migrate and during fall migration you just never know when or where a Canada Warbler is going to pop up.

If you have questions about birds, send them to me at