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Minnesota gets first new bird atlas in 81 years

Nov 07, 2017 08:26AM ● Published by Editor

Left: A pileated woodpecker rests on a snag in Lakewood Township. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com) Right: The statewide survey for the new breeding bird atlas found nesting pairs of red-bellied woodpeckers as far north as Duluth and Bemidji, with some seen as far north as the Ontario border. (Photo by Ken Thomas)

By John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune on Nov 6, 2017

It took eight years, 700 volunteers and thousands of hours in the field but Minnesota has its first new breeding bird atlas since 1936.

The new, interactive online atlas is considered the bible of Minnesota's native birds, documenting species that nest and raise their young in the state's forests, prairies, suburbs and cities.

Volunteers joined researchers from the University of Minnesota Duluth's Natural Resources Research Institute and Audubon Minnesota, fanning out across 2,353 townships — some 99.5 percent of the state.

They made more than 1 million bird observations, recorded 380,000 different contacts and confirmed 249 species as nesting across the state.

Work began in 2009 with major funding from the Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund, state lottery profits allocated to natural resource projects. It took four years of field work and then another four years in the office to analyze the data, painstakingly separating good data from lesser stuff.

A nest with young or eggs got an absolute confirmation, males repeatedly singing might be a "probable" and birds hanging around a suitable habitat might be a "possible" or "observed." Whether they made the list of 249 depended on the species, said Jerry Niemi, ornithologist, senior program manager for the NRRI and a lead author of the atlas.

Birding experts followed up in virtually all areas to confirm what the volunteers found, said Lee Pfannmuller, ornithologist who helped head the project for Audubon Minnesota.

A comprehensive account of the status and distribution of Minnesota's breeding birds hasn't been compiled since 1936 when T.S. Roberts published his second edition of "Birds of Minnesota." But even Roberts didn't cover as much of the state.

"Nobody has ever done anything this comprehensive in Minnesota," Niemi said, noting field observers covered even huge roadless areas of the state like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the Agassiz/Red Lake peatlands.

So far the atlas is only available online, but Niemi said preliminary talks are underway with the University of Minnesota Press to publish a hard copy. He said the value of the atlas will be more obvious in 20 and 40 years, when he hopes the next statewide surveys are conducted in the same way, to measure the progress and plight of Minnesota's birds.

As expected, the new atlas confirmed the success of bald eagles, osprey and peregrine falcons, all of which were in short supply when Roberts conducted his survey but which have rebounded beyond most expectations. Already in decline in the 1930s due habitat loss and indiscriminate shooting, those species nearly went extinct by the 1960s due to toxic pesticides.

"The raptors really are an amazing success story. Already by (Roberts') time they had been nearly shot out of existence. Roberts lamented how few raptors remained," Niemi said. "Their numbers went down even more due to DDT. But they have really become a conservation success story."

Minnesota now has nearly 10,000 nesting pair of bald eagles.

"I remember in the '70s when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service thought a good recovery goal would be 300 nesting pair of bald eagles in northern Minnesota. Now we have thousands all over the state," Pfannmuller said.

When Roberts compiled his treatise in 1932 he wrote that "the days of the trumpeter swan as a bird of Minnesota have long since passed." Now, Pfannmuller noted, thanks to reintroduction efforts by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the atlas survey found an estimated 17,000 trumpeters across 72 of Minnesota's 87 counties with nesting confirmed in 55 counties.

Other species haven't done as well, especially those that thrived in prairie grasslands and hardwood forests, habitats that have declined markedly over the last 81 years as agricultural crops and development have spread. Species common in 1936 like the Sprague's pipit and chestnut-collared longspur "are almost gone now," Pfannmuller. Other species in big trouble compared to 1936 are the piping plover and the cerulean warbler.

Another, the baird's sparrow, "is gone," essentially extirpated. A dozen species Roberts found in 1936 were not found at all this time.

Pfannmuller said Roberts wrote glowingly about the wide distribution of the black-crowned night heron in wetland areas. "Now, even compared to the 1970s, we're not finding many at all," she said. "We don't know why."

But Pfannmuller said some new species are moving north across the state, some in response to a warmer climate. Red-bellied woodpecker, once seen only along the Iowa border, have now been confirmed nesting in Duluth and have been see as far north as International Falls.

"We're seeing more cardinals farther north than ever before, and the red-bellied woodpecker is moving north. ... Part of that is the warmer winters and part of it is backyard feeding," she said. "We've lost some species, we've seen some news species. ... I think, overall, Minnesota birds are doing pretty well."

For the birds

The website at mnbirdatlas.org includes an interactive map and can be searched by species. Each species has information on where it is found in Minnesota, population estimates and conservation efforts as well as history.

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    Blue Water Suite is open for a one of a kind stay. Located above the Blue Water Café, lots of r...


  • Anxiety/Depression Support Group for Women

    11/29/2017
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Weekly support group for women. $2.00 suggested donation. No registration required. Please joi...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    11/29/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Tatertot Hotdish/Fruit/ Dessert/Milk


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    11/29/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Spaghetti/Salad/Pudding/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    11/29/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Beginning Swedish language- 4 sessions

    11/29/2017
    05:30PM — 07:00PM

    Beginning Swedish Language - 4 sessions Instructor: Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux Dates: November 1st,...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    11/29/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    11/30/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    11/30/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    11/30/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    BBQ Chicken/Baled Potato/Coleslaw/Jello/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    11/30/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    11/30/2017
    06:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    11/30/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/01/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/01/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/01/2017
    12:00PM — 12:55PM

    Polish Sausage/ Sauerkraut/ Potato/Dessert/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/01/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/02/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/02/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Trails Final Check

    12/02/2017
    09:00AM — 02:00PM

    We welcome you to join us at 9 a.m. at the Groomer building on Caribou Trail to do the final trai...


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/02/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/02/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/03/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/03/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/03/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    12/03/2017
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/04/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/04/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/04/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Chicken Stew with Dumplings/Brussels Sprouts/Fruit/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/04/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Co-Dependents Anonymous

    12/04/2017
    05:30PM

    Co-Dependents Anonymous is a Fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healt...


  • Open Mic Every Monday at 6PM!

    12/04/2017
    06:00PM — 11:55PM

    Grand Marais Music Collaborative presents "Open Mic Night", every Monday at Grandma Ray's! The s...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/04/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/05/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/05/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Overeaters Anonymous

    12/05/2017
    11:00AM

    Overeaters Anonymous is a fellowship of individuals who, through shared experience, strength and...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/05/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Tuna Hotdish/Salad/Fruit/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/05/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Trivia Night at Grandma Ray's

    12/05/2017
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    Trivia Night from 7:00-9:00pm every Tuesday down at Grandma Ray's.


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/06/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/06/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Anxiety/Depression Support Group for Women

    12/06/2017
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Weekly support group for women. $2.00 suggested donation. No registration required. Please joi...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/06/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Meatloaf/Baked Potato/Beets/Dessert/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/06/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/06/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/07/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/07/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/07/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Linda Johnson's Treat!!!


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/07/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Light Up a Life

    12/07/2017
    05:30PM — 06:30PM

    The 9th Annual “Light up a Life” offers community members the opportunity to celebrate the life o...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    12/07/2017
    06:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/07/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/08/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/08/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Caregiver Coffee - Tofte

    12/08/2017
    10:00AM — 11:30AM

    Caregiver Coffee Join us to get to know other caregivers in a casual setting. Take part in a d...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/08/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Beef Stew/Salad/Biscuit/Dessert/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/08/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/09/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/09/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/09/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • In the spirit of gratitude, pride, and recognition of the community that has valued and fostered ...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/09/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/10/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/10/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/10/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    12/10/2017
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/11/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/11/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/11/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Boiled Dinner/Biscuit/Fruit/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/11/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Co-Dependents Anonymous

    12/11/2017
    05:30PM

    Co-Dependents Anonymous is a Fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healt...


  • Open Mic Every Monday at 6PM!

    12/11/2017
    06:00PM — 11:55PM

    Grand Marais Music Collaborative presents "Open Mic Night", every Monday at Grandma Ray's! The s...


  • Over 75 talented Cook County singers and musicians in the Borealis Chorale & Orchestra continue t...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/11/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


Minnesota Fire Danger
Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here