White-winged Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera) is a colorful, medium-sized finch. It occurs in the temperate and subpolar regions of the Northern Hemisphere. In Minnesota it is common to uncommon in the northeastern coniferous and mixed forests, occasional to rare in the remainder of the state. Migration is irruptive, with large numbers visiting the state one year and none the following year.
White-winged Crossbill is found mostly in coniferous forests with spruce, tamarack, and eastern hemlock, sometimes in deciduous forests, and sometimes in towns. Adults feed mostly on spruce and tamarack seeds, but also on the seeds of other coniferous trees and deciduous trees, and occasionally on insects.
White-winged Crossbill breeding male is pinkish-red with black wings and tail. There are two bold white wing bars on each wing. This is the feature that gives the species its common name. The tips of the bill are crossed over, an adaptation that helps when extracting seeds from a spruce seed cone. Females are greenish-yellow streaked with brown.
Cape May Warbler (Setophaga tigrina) is a small perching bird but a medium-sized New World Warbler. Its breeds in Canada from Nova Scotia to the Northwest Territories, and in the United States in northern New England and the Upper Midwest. It builds its nest in a mature forest near the top of a tall spruce or balsam fir tree usually near the trunk. In Minnesota it breeds in Arrowhead region. It winters in the West Indies. It is an uncommon migrant in most of the state in May and from early August through October. It is rare in the west. It feeds on insects, especially spruce budworm, and on flower nectar and fruit juices.
Cape May Warbler adult is about 5″ in length and has a wingspan of about 8″. On the breeding male, the upper parts are dark olive green, the chin, sides of the neck (“collar”), and rump are yellow. There is a large chestnut-brown ear patch and a dark eye line. The bill is thin, dark, and slightly curved downward. The breast and flanks are yellow with dark stripes that converge on the throat. The undertail coverts are white. On each wing there is a distinct white patch. The tail is short. The female is paler overall and has two thin white wing patches. The crown is olive-gray and there is a grayish cheek patch.
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) is a medium-sized sandpiper. It nests in meadows and open woodlands from Alaska to Quebec, and winters mostly in South America. It is a common to locally abundant migrant throughout Minnesota from late March to early June and from July to October. In Minnesota it is found in marshes, wet meadows, mudflats, and flooded agricultural fields, and on the shores of lakes and ponds. It eats mostly flies, beetles, and other insects, but also spiders, small fish, snails, crustaceans, worms, and seeds.
The population of Lesser Yellowlegs is declining due to habitat loss in part the result of climate change. However, the species range is extremely large and the species is not considered vulnerable.
A Lesser Yellowlegs looks similar to a Greater Yellowlegs but is smaller. The adult is 10″ to 11″ in length and has a wingspan of 24″. It is a slender shorebird with a small head, a thin bill, and long, bright yellow legs. The nonbreeding plumage is uniformly gray on the upper side with fine, dark streaking. The underparts are white with small gray spots. There is a dark line from the bill to the eye. The bill is straight, thin, entirely black, and about the same length as the head.
Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi) is a medium-sized tyrant flycatcher (family Tyrannidae) but a large “flycatcher” as that common name is applied. Only Great-crested Flycatcher is larger. It has the longest migration of any North American flycatcher. Breeding grounds are the Rocky and Cascade Mountains from Texas to Alaska, across Canada and the northern border states to Newfoundland and Vermont. In Minnesota the breeding range includes the northeast third of the state. Wintering grounds are mostly in Panama and the northern Andes Mountains from northern Venezuela to western Bolivia.
Olive-sided Flycatcher is the only North American flycatcher to feed exclusively on insects caught in flight. When feeding it perches at the top of a tree or on a dead branch, launching occasionally to catch a flying insect in the air, and returning often to the same perch. Small insects are consumed in the air. Larger insects returned to and beaten against the perch to subdue.
Flycatchers are notoriously difficult to identify by plumage alone. Olive-sided Flycatcher is one exception to this rule. It is easily identified by its white breast and contrasting dark “vest”. It is further distinguished by its large size; indistinct pale wing bars; whitish undertail coverts with well-defined, dark, V-shaped markings; and inconspicuous eye ring.
The song of both male and female Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis cardinalis) is a series of clear, bubbly notes that have been describes as woit, woit, woit, chew, chew, chew, chew, chew or pichew, pichew, tiw, tiw, tiw, tiw, tiw (Sibley); and cheer, cheer, cheer or birdie, birdie, birdie (Cornell Lab of Ornithology). It is a learned song and varies by region.
In the spring a male seeking to attract a female gives an inspiring vocal performance that must be listened to for several minutes to be fully appreciated. It begins with a series of just five or six notes; woit, woit, chew, chew, chew. After a pause of few seconds the series is repeated, increasing the number of chew notes by just one. This continues for several minutes, each time the series increasing by just a single note. The series will often get to 18 to 20 chew notes. One series I counted reached 24 chew notes. You do not have to be a female Northern Cardinal to be impressed by such a performance.
I have yet to hear a recording or read an account of this extended series of calls.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is the smallest breeding bird in the eastern United States and southeastern Canada. It is seldom seen but easily recognized because it is the only hummingbird that breeds in or migrates through Minnesota. It is a migratory bird, arriving in Minnesota in late April and early May. It is a solitary breeder—after mating the male has nothing more to do with the female or its offspring. In the fall, adults migrate across the Gulf of Mexico or along the western coast of Mexico to Central or South America.