Fargo birders look forward to the sights and songs of spring

Over the next two weeks, the region will see a variety of migrating birds flying north for the summer months.

Warbler chestnut sided
The chestnut-sided warbler is one of about two dozen warblers that migrate through the area over the next two weeks.
Forum Communications file photo

FARGO — Fargo-Moorhead is due for a large influx of overnight visitors — but don’t worry, they won’t swoop in and take up all of the hotels or jam up restaurants.

While these guests won’t contribute to the economy, they will make the quality of life richer for the eagle-eyed viewer.

Over the next two weeks, the area will see a variety of migrating birds flying north for the summer months.

“There can be all sorts of cool stuff showing up,” says Torre Hovick, an associate professor teaching range habitat ecology at North Dakota State University.

Hovick will help people spot feathered visitors Saturday morning, May 14, as part of the Fargo Birding Festival at Forest River Park.


The event, a joint effort between the Fargo Park District and Audubon Dakota, offers a glimpse at some of the flying visitors in the south Fargo park, designated as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society and Birdlife International.

The Fargo Public Library will also have a presence, providing activities for kids.

Hovick is also scheduled to host Moorhead Parks & Recreation’s River Paddling Excursion: Birds of the Red on May 18 , though that is tentative due to high waters on the Red River.

“The big draw are tropical migrants that go to Central America and South America for winter,” Hovick says.

The number of warblers, those small, vocal and colorful birds, in particular will be pronounced.

“They are kind of seasonal specialties,” he says. “On a really good day in migration you can get over 20 species. That would be a really good warbler day.”

While there may be a variety of warblers coming through the area, they don’t tend to stray into residential areas, staying closer to wooded spots.

“Typically warblers are eating insects, finding them on trees just as leaves are coming out,” Hovick says. “They are hard birds to get to come to feeders.”


The scarlet tanager is a neo-tropical migrant, wintering in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, then migrating as far north as North Dakota and Minnesota.
Ron Miller / Contributed

He says other birds of interest that could be spotted may be the red-bodied, black-winged scarlet tanager, the orange and black Baltimore oriole and the rose-breasted grossbeak, which may visit bird feeders.

“They have a pretty loud and identifiable song,” Hovick says.

Looking out at about 30 sparrows on the bird feeders in his backyard, he adds that there could be as many as a dozen varieties of sparrows over the next couple of weeks.

“We’ll rack up a few of those,” he says.

birding photos seth owens
An American tree sparrow sits on a limb in Grand Forks County.
Contributed / Seth Owens

On a recent morning out birding, he spotted a northern mocking bird, seldom seen in the Red River Valley.

Early morning, the first three hours of sunrise, is the best time to go birding as they are often looking for food to fuel their continued migration.

“They tend to sing the most frequently then,” he says, but he adds that windy conditions make it hard to hear and then spot birds.

There will be a few binoculars to share on Saturday, so participants are encouraged to bring their own.


Those who want to take part should dress in layers as it will be cool first thing, but will warm up by mid-morning. Closed-toed shoes and long pants are recommended in case birders go into tall grass. A hat to shield the sun is helpful.

While these migratory birds will be back through the area when they fly south for winter, Hovick says now is the time to catch them.

“In general, spring is better. In spring the males of every species are looking their best and easy to identify,” he says.

“The Red River Valley has a wonderful number of parks that get a surprisingly diverse variety of birds passing through this time of year,” he says. “It’s really a spectacular place to be.”

If you go

What: Fargo Birding Festival
When: 7-11 a.m. Saturday, May 14
Where: Forest River Park, 500 Forest River Drive, Fargo

For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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