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Birding in the winter

Many bird species found in the arboretum during the early spring to late fall have flown South for the winter, though there are species who stay in Minnesota during the cold winters. One advantage to birding in the winter is that there is a much more manageable number of species to identify, perfect for the casual or beginning birder. Some of my favorite birds to observe during the winter are listed below.

One popular and easy bird to identify is the Northern Cardinal. You have probably seen them before: they have bright red bodies and a tuft of feathers extending from their heads, making them an eye-catching and brilliant bird to observe. This species displays sexual dimorphism: the male birds are bright red all over, whereas the females are dull brown with red wings.

Another fantastic bird to view is the Cedar Waxwing. These magnificent birds have yellow markings and red waxy secretions on their tail and wing feathers respectively, have a silvery yellow body, and have black markings around their eyes that look like masks. Their main source of food comes from berries, so look for them hanging out in packs around bushes with winter berries. You may hear their high-pitched trill before you see them.

The American Goldfinch is often found around backyard bird feeders. The birds’ color will appear more dull during the winter, but will still be identifiable by their black and white striped tails and dull yellow heads. Listen for their po-ta-to-chip sounding call while you walk across the prairie in the arb, a place where you are likely to come across them.

The Downy Woodpecker is a common, but beautiful, species seen year-round in the Arboretum, and all across the United States. They can be identified by their black and white-checkered body and distinctive red tuft on the back of their heads. Listen for their singular bright chirps, or their beaks knocking against dead wood.

Birding can be a very joyful experience during the long winters, and listening to bird song and seeing their playful spirits will implore you to get outside!

One Comment

  1. Janet Scannell Janet Scannell January 28, 2020

    I would love it if you had pictures in this article. Thank you for encouraging my winter birding.

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