Websites track rare-bird sightings
MOORHEAD - What's yellow, would fit in your pocket and has a red crown? Nancy Otto wondered the same thing when a small bird matching that description showed up at feeders in the yard of her north Moorhead home. It was May 14, which is about the ...
MOORHEAD - What's yellow, would fit in your pocket and has a red crown?
Nancy Otto wondered the same thing when a small bird matching that description showed up at feeders in the yard of her north Moorhead home.
It was May 14, which is about the time migrating birds, famished from their travels, are hunting for a free lunch.
Consulting her reference book, Otto identified the stranger as a western tanager, a bird that mostly sticks to the western states and rarely makes an appearance this far east.
The visitor stuck around for a few days, apparently fueling up, and Otto was able to snap a photo of it before it disappeared.
A birder for 20 years, Otto said that while the rare sighting was fun, she enjoys watching all birds.
"Just seeing them gives me pleasure," said Otto, a Moorhead City Council member.
Audubon Fargo-Moorhead's website - fmbirders.org - says the western tanager is considered an "accidental" visitor to this area.
The website has recorded just four reports in Cass and Clay counties.
Otto's sighting of a western tanager was reported to the birding website eBird.org, where it caught the attention of Bruce Fall, a staff member of the biology department at the University of Minnesota and a regional editor for eBird.org .
As an editor for eBird, one of Fall's duties is to verify unusual sightings.
He said Otto's photo of a western tanager was enough to substantiate her report.
"That particular species is not normally found in Minnesota, but in a typical year, there might be anywhere from a couple to half a dozen reports somewhere in the state," Fall said.
Genevieve Thompson, executive director of Audubon Dakota, said it's difficult to know why some birds stray far from their usual range.
She said an arctic gull, a species of bird that normally spends its life in arctic regions, once found its way to this area and stuck around for about two weeks.
Thompson said the eBird website is useful for keeping track of rare as well as common bird species, and it is a valuable research tool for those who watch for shifts in migratory routes.
"In addition to just being cool, it's a great way to access things," she said.
- For help identifying a bird, visit www.whatbird.com .
- To report a rare sighting, contact Audubon of Fargo-Moorhead at (701) 298-3373, or go online to eBird.org , a website that compiles bird-sighting reports from across the western hemisphere and beyond.
- The Minnesota Ornithological Union - moumn.org - and the North Dakota Birding Society - ndbirdingsociety.com - also track bird sightings.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555