Wherever You Live in the state, you have a good chance of seeing at least a few common birds in your own backyard. In fact, Minnesotans who are spending more time close to home might be surprised to learn how many species they can spot. In my residential St. Paul neighborhood, for instance, I've recorded 107 species either in or from my yard over the past three years, which is more than one-third of the total number of bird species seen in Minnesota each year! Hawks, owls, swans, vultures, sparrows, and even the rare cerulean warbler—I've seen them all.
If your yard has trees or shrubs, your chances of seeing other species increase dramatically. If you're a keen observer, you might also notice birds flying over your house. If you don't have your own yard, or if yours isn't conducive to attracting birds, hike to a nearby park or green space and you'll likely find more success.
Some birds are harder to spot, even for an experienced birder. Thankfully, most of our backyard birds can be readily identified by their calls and songs. Start by listening for bird sounds and then tracking down the birds that are making those sounds. Eventually you'll become familiar with at least a few different species, and you'll know when you hear something new that you haven't heard before. Keep learning and adding new birds, and take advantage of online resources and smart phone apps that help with identification by both sight and sound.
How to spot more birds
• Be patient! Especially during the summer months, bird activity will vary considerably throughout the day. Early morning and late afternoon/evening are usually the best times to see birds.
• Put up a bird feeder. Different types of bird feeders attract a variety of birds throughout the year.
• If you're lucky, your local birds will find the new food source rather quickly, but sometimes it takes a few weeks for the birds to become familiar with new feeders.
• A pair of binoculars will help you get a closer look at birds, and a good field guide is essential for learning how to identify the birds you see.
• Spend time outside! Especially in summer, you'll undoubtedly see and hear more birds outdoors than you will from inside.
• According to the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union, 313 bird species have been observed in at least nine out of the past 10 years in Minnesota.
• Around 235 bird species nest in Minnesota annually.
• House wrens, house sparrows, and house finches—as their names suggest—are most likely to be found near human habitation.
• Cooper's hawks have adapted well to urban and suburban settings over the past few decades and are now one of the most common backyard raptors in North America.
Bob Dunlap , DNR zoologist