Minnesota Bird Identification

Minnesota Bird Identification
Minnesota has 314 species of birds that either live in the state or are regular visitors to it, according to the Birding-Minnesota website. More species of birds are accidental to Minnesota's prairies, lakes and woodlands. This means that birdwatchers that are residents or vacationing in the Gopher State have many opportunities to find and identify a multitude of birds. It is prudent to have a reliable field guide when attempting to identify the birds of Minnesota, such as "Birding Minnesota" by Jay Michael Strangis.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Field guide to Minnesota birds binoculars notebook and pencil
  • Field guide to Minnesota birds
  • binoculars
  • notebook and pencil
Step 1
Become skilled at identifying wading birds such as the great blue heron, green heron, snowy egret and great egret. The number of lakes in Minnesota lends the state to having large populations of these birds. Look for birds with long legs and elongated sharp beaks. These birds wade into along the shoreline and stab at fish, frogs and other creatures with their bills. Take careful notes about how these birds behave. This may help in their identification.
Step 2
Scan the branches of trees for the movements of flycatchers. Minnesota is home to several species of these birds, such as the eastern phoebe, least flycatcher and olive-sided flycatcher. You will recognize these birds by their habit of flying off a branch, grabbing an insect and then quickly returning to its perch.
Step 3
Be on the lookout for the several bird species in Minnesota that are on the decline. The nearly all-blue indigo bunting, the eastern meadowlark with its bright yellow breast and the redheaded woodpecker are all losing valuable habitat. The Audubon Minnesota website lists them and species like the evening grosbeak, loggerhead shrike and whip-poor-will as among those that face such struggles.
Step 4
Use your birding field guides to discern between the many kinds of water birds commonly seen on Minnesota ponds and lakes. Swans, ducks, geese, loons, grebes, gulls, terns, sandpipers and plovers all live in the state for at least part of the year. The males typically possess the brighter plumage and are therefore easier to identify.
Step 5
Identify the state bird of Minnesota by its behavior and its call. The duck-like loon prefers undisturbed lakes and has the ability to dive as deep as 200 feet down in search of food such as small fish. The call of the loon is unmistakable---a loud yodeling call that at times resembles a hearty laugh. The common loon has a black head and a white "necklace" on its black throat.
Step 6
Watch for both raptors and game birds on the prairies of Minnesota. The birds of prey include many owls, the northern harrier, eagles, hawks, falcons and vultures. The game birds that exist in the open expanses of grasses include the pheasant, grouse, prairie chicken and turkey.

Tips & Warnings

Print out a Minnesota bird checklist and carry it with you in the field, checking off the bird that you feel you have positively recognized.

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