The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden
P. O. Box 3793
Minneapolis MN 55403

A Great Place for Birding

May in Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden & Bird Sanctuary

by Tammy Mercer

When Eloise Butler and subsequent Garden curators planted such a wonderful variety of plants for us to enjoy, they were also creating a wonderful and diverse habitat for a large variety of birds.

The Garden offers mature forest habitat with some dead and dying trees. In our neighborhoods, we cut down old and dying trees in our yards because they are no longer attractive, or because we don’t want them falling on our homes in a storm. But these old and dying trees are important homes to a variety of wildlife, and are particularly valuable when surrounded by other mature trees.

With the habitat provided in the Garden, we hear and see many birds that are seldom seen in most neighborhoods, including red-eyed vireos, great-crested flycatchers and pileated woodpeckers.

The wetland in the middle of the Garden is a great place for birds. The wetland is surrounded by forest, creating an edge habitat. This is ideal for many birds because they can find insects in the open areas and are close to cover when danger appears. There are also many kinds of shrubs in and around the wetland. Catbirds need dense shrubs next to open spaces or slow-moving water. Common yellowthroats also make a home in these shrubs. Mallards often nest in this wetland, too.

Bog Edge Habitat
Wetland Edge Habitat. Photo G D Bebeau.
Mallards near the Mallard Pool. Photo G D Bebeau.

The Garden also has an upland area with prairie/oak savannah habitat. This area is home to nesting pairs of indigo buntings and provides a buffet of seeds for many other species of birds. We may not particularly like thistles, and the non-native species can be very invasive. But they are crucial to the American Goldfinch. Not only do the seeds provide food for them, but goldfinches use the fluff as well, to line their nests.

With all the fruiting shrubs and other plants in the Garden, migrating birds find a critical rest stop with food to fuel their long journey. The diverse habitat produces an abundance of insects, seeds, fruits and water for both the spring and fall migrations.

Come to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden to see a wonderful variety of birds in a variety of habitats.

The month of May is an excellent time to try to catch migrating warblers and other birds, but here are so many birds nesting in the Garden that you’ll find the birding to be very rewarding all summer as well.

Contact the Martha Crone Shelter (612 370-4903) to determine the schedule for early morning conducted bird walks.

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch. Photo G D Bebeau.
Field thistle
Field Thistle (Cirsium discolor) Seeds. Photo G D Bebeau.

Early morning Birding Group
Tammy Mercer (with hat) leading a morning birding group. Photo Friends.
Tammy Mercer
Tammy Mercer has been trained as a naturalist and works with the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board and has conducted birding programs at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary. Photo Friends.

Note: This article was published in the Fringed Gentian™, Spring 2005, Vol. 53 No. 2

Other articles related to birds by Tammy Mercer:

Early Birders Catch the Wonders – what wonders are seen during the year on the Saturday Morning Birding walks.

EBWG as a Migration Rest Stop – an article addressed to the birds about the benefits of Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden as a migration rest stop.

Many Colors of Feathers (The) – about the color of bird feathers and why we see the colors the way we do.

Native Plants - for the Birds – about interactions of plants, insects and bird life. Illustrated.

Rewards of Summer Birding – summer birding and distinguishing fledglings from adults.

Warblers - Spring Warblers and the little time there is to see them. (This is a 1.0mb pdf file)

Winter Survival of Warm-blooded Critters – how some of the birds and animals survive the winter in the Garden.