Simply Science: looking to the birds for signs of spring

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Even though it doesn't feel like it, spring is here. And just like the warm weather the birds are running late this year.

Without open water the cranes and waterfowl that typically migrate to and through Minnesota haven't made the trek north just yet.

"Once that water starts opening up, we'll start to see waterfowl coming back," predictsMark Martell, Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Minnesota.

There is one sign of the new season if you open your ears. Have you noticed birds have been chirping lately? Those are the cardinals and chickadees that spend the brutally cold winter months here with us. Just like many of us, they are ready for spring too.

Martell explains, "During the winter there's no advantage to singing; it just brings in the predators. But now the boys have to impress the girls, and the boys have to keep the other boys out of their territory and they do that through song. So that's what they're doing now."

So which fliers can we expect in the coming weeks?

"The herons, those are the large gray birds that you see at the edge of the water. I usually think of them coming back around Saint Patrick's Day. So for me, they're the real harbinger of winter ending," says Martell.

In time the temperatures will rise and the birds will appear. And with them, all the other signs of the spring season as well.


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