The other day it was really nice out, a good day to get out and walk. As I was walking along the road I heard the soft tapping of a woodpecker. A few years ago at the Detroit Lakes Birding Festival when we were looking for Black-backed Woodpeckers, the leader said to listen for soft tapping. I have remembered that and have found several of the three-toed Woodpeckers using this tip.
After a little bit of searching, I found the bird on a downed log. She then flew up to another tree and I could see it was a female. The females lacks the yellow cap.
In Minnesota there are two species of Woodpecker that have 3 toes, as compared to other Woodpeckers who have 4 toes. Besides the Black-backed, there is the American Three-toed Woodpecker. The American 3-toed is not as common as the Black-backed.
In the old bird books the Black-backed is called the Arctic Three-toed Woodpecker. I almost like that name better.
But, the real Snowbird has just arrived in northern Minnesota over the past week, and that bird is the Snow Bunting!
These little birds congregate along the roadside in late fall, as you drive by they swirl up into the air. From the car windows, they look like little white birds as their wings flash a lot of white.
In the fall they are brown and white, but in the spring the males are a bright white and black. Now their feathers have worn down to a muted brown to match the females and juveniles of the year. It helps in their camouflage as they forage in the grass. Snow Buntings will continue their migration to the grasslands of the prairie in the central U.S.
This year’s fall migration has been crazy! The roadways have been filled with migrating birds. Many are being hit by cars. I have never seen so many Yellow-rumped Warblers. The Warblers along with Juncos and White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows make up the bulk of the numbers. But there’s another LBB (little brown bird) that moves through in the fall, the Lapland Longspur.
Look for the comma shape on the bird’s face for a good field mark.
The name Lapland Longspur is interesting. It would suggest that these birds have something to do with Lapland. Lapland is a region located in northern Finland, it is the homeland of the indigenous Sami people. This bird does occur in Lapland, but also all across the polar arctic. They breed on the arctic tundra and then migrate south through out North America, Asia and Europe. There are 3 recognized sub-species.
The Longspur description refers to the hind toe, which is longer and aids in scratching around in the soil. In the US, there are other Longspurs: Smith’s, McGown’s, and Chestnut-collared.