Start getting your houses in order

According to the MOU (MN Ornithologists Union), the winter season for reporting birds is over. We are now in the Spring reporting period! That’s because birds are starting to migrate north. Many birds are already making their way into southern Minnesota and it won’t be long until we start seeing migrants up here in Crane Lake.




In fact, we’ve already had some migrants return, the American Crow. Yes, Crows leave the Crane Lake area for a short time in the dead of winter, usually in December and January, and they return during the month of February. In the coldest months the Raven rules Voyageur Country. Resident Ravens stick around to defend their territories, while Ravens from further up north migrate south to northern Minnesota. It seems the more northerly races of Common Raven are bigger than the resident Common Ravens.

Spring is always a time that everyone, including wildlife, looks forward to – It can be said that there is a re-birth every year.

Now is the best time to get out and clean out any nest boxes that you may have. It always amazes me how early some birds come back to nest.

Early in the year, the smallest sliver of open water will attract Hooded Mergansers, Wood Ducks, Common Goldeneyes and many other waterfowl. The above ducks are cavity nesters and they’ll be scoping out possible nest sites as soon as they return.

Another bird that returns super early is the Eastern Bluebird. I have seen reports where they have already returned to southern MN. So the other day I waded through the deep snow to perform routine maintenance on the Bluebird house that I have.

Last year I watched the box sporadically as it wasn’t on my property. I was disappointed that I didn’t get any Bluebirds, but I did get a blue bird to nest in the box!

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

 A Tree Swallow!

Trees Swallows are beautiful blue birds too – and like Bluebirds they arrive back on their breeding territories really early – earlier than any of the other species of Swallow.

Remote pond

Remote pond



In the Crane Lake area, Tree Swallows and Bluebirds nest in dead tree snags, many times in a beaver pond where there’s a lot of “beaver-killed” trees. Unfortunately, the imported European Starling also likes to nest in cavities – so they have created a competition with our native birds and have forced certain native species to decline, especially the Bluebird.



One way you can help our native birds is by putting up Bluebird houses. A variety of bird species will use the houses, and they have one very important difference – the entry hole is too small for a Starling to enter! So even up in the north country where it seems there are many natural tree cavities for a bird to nest – a house put up by a human may actually help some birds.

More information about Bluebirds and their houses can be found here:




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