Keeping An Eye Out For The First Spring Arrivals

Geese and other waterfowl push the snow line.

Local birder and Willmar Schools science teacher Randy Frederickson asks the question that is on all of our minds: “What is up with this winter and lack of spring?”

He points out that the prolonged winter is taking a toll on birds, with reports of some small owls starving.

Yet there is hope. Waterfowl are already knocking on the door, with occasional sightings of geese being reported. Geese and other waterfowl typically push the snow line, and if they cannot find open water or food, wait or return.

While our cold spell is forecast to continue, now is the time to start looking skyward for the first signs of spring. Frederickson was good enough to put together the following list on what we can expect to see in the upcoming weeks. The list is based on the earliest reported arrival dates for these birds. We’re not likely to break any early records this year.

A complete look at arrival dates for bird species in Minnesota can also be viewed on the Minnesota Ornithologist web site

Here’s a local list of what’s coming to our area based on early, not median dates for most species:

Horned larks- (our first true migrant)- early February;

Geese and ducks– late February to early March, species dependent, and contingent on weather for all except diving ducks;

Red tail hawks and eagles– some overwinter, but the rest mid February;

Kestrel, red winged blackbird, eastern bluebird, robins– early March, a few of all of these overwinter;

Killdeer, woodcock, sandhill crane, gulls– mid March

Purple martin– April 10, plus or minus five days;

Phoebes, yellow rumped warblers, harris and white throated sparrow– mid April;

Baltimore oriole– early May

House wren – May 10, plus or minus

Most warblers, rose-breasted grosbeak, Hummingbird– mid May

Nighthawks, bobolink– late May

Frederickson noted that many of the Neotropical migrants – hummingbirds, orioles, warblers and blue herons among them- are almost certain to be later than usual, but a late spring doesn’t mean that much for them.

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