Wintry weather confuses Minn. wildlife - KMSP-TV

Wintry weather confuses Minn. wildlife

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By now, it's clear that most Minnesotans think winter has overstayed its welcome, but the continued chill is causing some issues for the critters that call the great outdoors home.

The whole circle of life is currently on hold -- no flowers for bumble bees, too cold for tadpoles, and the birds are in a bind when it comes to finding food.

There are more than 100 species of birds that migrate through Minnesota after wintering in the Gulf of Mexico. The loons are beginning to return to their northern lakes -- even if their accommodations aren't quite ready for check in.

"They're probably not too happy about that, but they don't have a choice," admitted Carrol Henderson, of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. "But, there will be plenty of fish in the river. That's one of the birds that can adapt until things get better."

Henderson said other species are in for a surprise. Birds that feed primarily on insects, like the purple martin and swallows, could be in trouble if things don't warm up soon.

"If that hatch is delayed, sometimes they may actually starve to death when they get back to Minnesota," he said.

Bald eagles don't migrate, but a camera placed inside a nest captured what can happen when the three eggs were laid a little too soon.

"They were observed off the nest long enough during a really cold spell that we believe those eggs froze because a month and a half later, the eggs didn't hatch," Henderson explained.

While a few backyard birds may have already settled in, there are few worms in sight. That means robins will often feed on fruit trees while others flock to nearby bird feeders.

"I think the birds are fine," said Joan Swanson, at Wild Birds Unlimited. "We get very depressed about it because we're emotionally attached to the weather."

Yet, water fowl like geese will find it too cold to incubate their eggs when they return.

"In many years, the Canada goose will start nesting in the first week of April and they've got goslings hatching by the third or fourth of May, which is yet this week," Henderson said. "I don't know that that's going to happen this year."

Given the mess a goose can make, anyone hoping their loss might be a net gain for humans should think again because according to the DNR, the geese may just try again if the first clutch of eggs doesn't take.

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