Tips on birding from local birder Judd Brink

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Nature brings us peace and solace through this unprecedented and uncertain time. The Brainerd Lakes Area offers plenty of places to get outside and enjoy the abundant nature—including many species of birds. You can also make your yard a bird sanctuary and watch right from your own window. We asked local bird expert Judd Brink to give us some tips to birding.


What kinds of birds can we see while out hiking?

The Brainerd Lakes Area should be at the peak of the spring bird migration by the middle of May.  The bird migration usually has waves of birds starting with waterfowl (ducks, geese, and swans) as soon as the lakes and rivers are free of ice. The next wave includes the birds of prey (hawks, falcons, osprey, and eagles). Large numbers of bald eagles can be seen along the Mississippi River in early spring with several nesting in the area. Where you hike and the habitat you explore will determine what birds you are likely to see.


Where are the places to see birds locally?

A few places to look for birds in the Brainerd Lakes area include the Northland Arboretum, Crow Wing State Park, Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, French Rapids, Kiwanis Park, and Rotary Park. The Northland Arboretum is the only local Important Bird Area that connects the cities of Brainerd and Baxter. Mornings and late afternoons generally are the best times to look for birds at these locations. I suggest that you contact them before visiting as some areas might be closed or have special restrictions.


What are some tips on finding birds?

My three “Ps” for better birding are patience, practice, and persistence. In general, there are three things to look for when identifying bird’s size, shape, and color. Also knowing the bird’s habits (what it does) and its habitat (where it lives) can give you more clues in helping you identify birds.

Look low, middle, and high for birds as they can be found at all levels from the ground to the tops of the trees. Learn and study the birds in your backyard and start a journal on what you see but also birds’ behaviors. This will help you find and identify birds when you are away from home. Start a yard list of birds documenting how many different birds can you see in your yard in one year—or during all years.


How can we make birding a family activity?

Bird watching is a great family activity! Bird watching is the second largest recreational activity in the country. Make birding a fun game to help kids get interested. You can do a scavenger hunt to find as many birds as you can. Kids are natural explorers so let them lead your birding adventure by picking what park or path you go birding. Kids can also paint or draw their favorite bird that they see while birding.


Can I make my yard into a bird’s paradise?

Yes, you can! The best way to attract and enjoy birds from home is to start with a bird feeder. You can also create habitat for birds and other wildlife with planting native fruiting trees or shrubs. Placing bird boxes in the yard is a fun way to study birds during the nesting season.


How can MN Backyard Birds help?

I offer birdscaping to help you attract and enjoy more colorful songbirds. If you live within the Brainerd Lakes Area, I am offering a complimentary consultation to see how we make your property more inviting and attractive for our feathered friends this spring.

For more info and to schedule a visit, contact Judd Brink at 218-838-4784 or by email at

Happy Birding!