Spring weather is for the birds

Published 10:31 am Monday, May 6, 2013

AUSTIN — The recent bout of winter weather isn’t going to be a picnic for area wildlife, but it could have been worse.

Minnesota Department of Natural Area Wildlife Manager Jeanine Vorland said the heavy May snowfall could affect birds and animals that just recently made it back to the area.

“You know there’s going to be some losses,” she said.

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But for once, the crummy spring weather may be a good thing, as Vorland said the effects will be lessened since spring has been generally wet and cold already. Had a similar snowstorm occurred last year when there was an early, warmer spring, the weather likely would have been more damaging to area wildlife.

Much of the spring migrations and patterns are delayed this year, and some birds delayed their migration since the weather has been cold already, according to Vorland.

“It’s not necessarily the best to be the early bird,” Vorland said.

Vorland said the DNR already saw some mortality in song birds about three weeks ago after many were tired from their migrations and then there was an earlier round of spring snow and cold weather.

“We definitely saw some mortality with that,” she said.

However, certain birds will able to fly up to 50 miles to areas outside the heaviest snow. And while close to a foot of snow in May is rare, spring snowstorms aren’t a new phenomenon to the area. Vorland said many of the animals have adapted over time to weather the conditions.

“This is why wood ducks nest in trees,” Vorland said.

Vorland said the snow could be challenging for ducklings, goslings and pheasant chicks that sometimes hatch in early Mary.

“That could be very, very tough,” Vorland said.

But overall, Vorland said nesting may be a bit delayed, too, since the weather hasn’t yet turned consistently warm.

If some waterfowl lose hatchlings, Vorland said it’s early enough that they can re-nest later this year. However, she noted second nestings are often less productive than a first nesting.

The faster the snow melts, the less effect it will have on area wildlife.

“If it moves pretty quickly, then critters will recover more quickly,” she said.

While some people are hoping the weather will make for a less buggy summer, Vorland said the mosquitos and wood-ticks populations likely will not be diminished by the snow.

A many months of drought conditions, Vorland said the snow is just another needed dose of moisture to help grasslands and forests.