Friday, June 6, 2014

Southern and Western Birds in the Midwest

It feels like only yesterday that I wrote my Birding is Fun! article on chasing all kinds of rarities and lifers. That's partly due to the fact that the phenomenal birding has not slowed down!  We've had an amazing push of southwestern and western species in Minnesota this spring.  Many of the birds in this post are vagrants, but not all them.  Since we border South Dakota, we often catch the very eastern edge of the range of certain species.  Here is a rundown of the great western birds I've had the privilege of seeing this past month.

Western Kingbird

While looking for warblers this spring, I bumped into my lifer Western Kingbird!  These birds are found occasionally in Minnesota.  To give you an idea of this bird's signficance for my region, a fellow birder who's been birding for over a decade has only seen them twice in the county.  I was very excited to find this one.

American Avocet

Among the many great shorebirds to drop by this spring were four American Avocets.  These show up every spring somewhere in Minnesota, so it was quite big deal when they dropped in to visit our county for a day before moving on.

White-winged Dove

This might be a common bird for people reading this post, but take a look at a range map and see just how far out-of-range this bird was when it landed an hour-and-a-half away from my home in Minnesota.  This was a spectacular lifer.

Cattle Egret

This bird is not unexpected in Minnesota, but it is a "good" bird anywhere in the state.  I got this lifer the same day I chased the White-winged Dove.

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilts are super rare here.  Imagine everyone's excitement over a nesting pair of them at the sewage ponds of a small town just 10 miles from the White-winged Dove and Cattle Egrets above.  This was not a lifer as I saw some in Arizona a couple months ago.  It was still a very fun bird to see in my home state.

Female Black-necked Stilt siting on a nest with four confirmed eggs.

Loggerhead Shrike

This bird is another one that is very scarce in Minnesota, though it may be quite common down south and out west.  It's always a banner day to see one here. This shrike was seen on the same trip on which I saw the White-winged Dove, Cattle Egrets, and Black-necked Stilts.

Upland Sandpiper

The Upland Sandpiper shows up with some regularity in the western half of our state. Always fun to see.

Blue Grosbeak

This bird is a regular breeder in the very southwestern corner of Minnesota.  In fact, Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne is the go-to place to see them here.  Lately it seems this species is popping up further north and east.  What a bird this is.  Wow.

If you can believe it, I've been experincing even more great birding than this.  These are just the western/southwestern birds.  If you want to see all the shorebirds, warblers, and other life birds I've had the pleasure of finding and seeing, stop by the blog at A Boy Who Cried Heron.


  1. Josh, a great series of interesting birdlife. I love your Avocets, but then I was blown away by the Cattle Egrets looking to be at the road verge --- they're with an Intermediate Egret, or White Egret? It's not their Mum, right? That's pretty special to get the two kinds together like that I thought.

  2. Thanks, Carole. It's a Great Egret with the Cattle Egrets, and it was a photo op I couldn't resist.

  3. Wow, what a joy to see these normally western birds in your area! Sounds like you have had a great birding season. Wonderful photographs of these rarities, Josh!

  4. Thanks, Julie! It's been quite a ride this spring!