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Good Question: Are Birds Built For This Weather?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The first robin is often thought of as a sign of spring. But the first hundred robins hanging out in your front yard? That’s the sign of a Good Question.

Jay Kane of Plymouth emailed WCCO after he noticed his yard had been invaded by hoards of these songbirds.

“Never seen this many birds in this area at all,” Kane said.

The trees outside Kane’s home look like they’re going to collapse under the weight of the robins, with dozens of them perching on the tree branches.

“I opened the door and let the dog out this morning, and it was like a scene from ‘The Birds’ – they just scattered,” he said.

It’s a little freaky, and very unusual, according to bird expert Sharon Stiteler – author of ‘1001 Secrets Every Birder Should Know,’ which will be released in May.

“The robins are in their migratory flocks. Some are pushing north. Some are setting up territory here. And the birds that need to go north can’t go north because of the crazy weather,” Stiteler said.

According to Stiteler, the birds would be further north in a normal year.

“The birds that are stuck in our yard now would be up in Duluth or heading in to Canada. So they’re just going to get kind of a late start this year,” she said.

Normal migration is hitting a snowy and icy wall, so all these birds are now hanging out in the Twin Cities.

“What are they doing for food? Obviously with the snow they’re not pecking worms,” Kane said.

Not to worry, said Stiteler.

“They can find all sorts of things, and robins are resourceful,” she said. “A lot of the hackberry trees that we have here still have berries on them. They’re looking under leaf litter, they’re looking at the trunks of trees, they’re finding spider eggs.”

The snowy, cold weather does have Stiteler concerned about some of our feathered friends.

“The birds that are really in trouble right now are the swallows that return early. Tree swallows have been seen by the hundreds soaring over open water at places like Coon Rapids Dam,” she said.

Tree swallows eat flying insects, but because of the cold weather -there simply are not enough flying insects around, Stiteler said.

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