Feathered family fun: Home birdwatching contest connects kids and parents with natural curiosity

teams around the country counted 134 total species during last weekend’s virtual event.




7 minute read

Via Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center:

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has changed our world. Sickness and hardship have negatively impacted families across the globe, but Carpenter Nature Center is working hard to try to bring some joy to people’s lives. Although this pandemic has created many obstacles, we are doing our best to respond with positivity and creativity.

The Safe-at-Home Youth Birding Competition proved to be a fun, educational, uplifting opportunity for dozens of families. In total, 48 teams participated in the competition.

The make-up of teams was diverse regarding age and geographic location. While most teams were located in Minnesota and Wisconsin, there were participants from Iowa, North Dakota, Missouri, Idaho, Florida, and California!

Northern cardinal (Greg Seitz, St. Croix 360)

Many teams consisted of members of the same household, but some teams included participants from across town, across the state, and even across the country.

The Roneses Team consisted of cousins from Cottage Grove and Duluth, Minnesota:

“We saw a dove, chickadee, sparrow, robin, hawk, cardinal, crow, and a white crane! Evan’s cousin Tanner, who is in Duluth saw a Pigeon, Robin, Seagull, common grackle.”

– Melissa , The Roneses

The Loony Larks were from Minnesota and North Dakota. The Wandering Warblers consisted of children from Minnesota and Iowa.

Interstate teams resulted in list with birds that are not native to the St. Croix River Valley. For example, The Kostkas, some of which were bird watching in Idaho, saw California Quail, Bullock’s Orioles, and Black-billed Magpies.

Young birders from 8 states participated!

Children of all ages AND adults enjoyed birding during our competition, and did their best to contribute however they could:

“My two-year-old basically spent the day shouting bird every time she saw one, and my five-year-old surprised me. She self-identified at least half of these without help, including a nuthatch.”

– Jay, Team Higgins

“My daughters bird watching consists of ‘mom/grandpa what’s that one?’ or ‘What was that? Did you hear it? It sounded like…(proceeds to make a noise that actually sounds nothing like what she just heard)’ She does this over and over and over all day long! She has a few bird books, so we try to get her to match it to a photo in her books since she can’t read. But she points out anything she sees flying.”

– Laura, Team Kostkas
Great egret (Greg Seitz, St. Croix 360)

“[The kids] ended up really enjoying it, and it got my husband and I really interested in what was going on in our yard too!”

– Emily – The Hudson Bluebirds

“My oldest definitely got some lifers yesterday. The youngest one did great, as suspected, with pointing out the ducks.”

– Steph , The Loony Loons

Even non-human family members assisted with locating and identifying birds!

“The German Shepherd alerts us to owls… All night…..”

– Alicia, Team Daffy Duck
Killdeer (Greg Seitz, St. Croix 360)

Some participants were up with the sun to look for birds, while others stayed up into the night to try and find nocturnal species:

“The girls were up at 6 to watch the bird feeder. We saw a Chestnut-sided Warbler in our backyard for the first time!”

– Aleisha, The Pink Ponies and Hippoplatymoose

“The boys are pleading to stay up late to look for the Great Horned Owl, but mom is calling it. We had lots of fun messaging back and forth with our cousins all day.”

– Christine, The Bird Boys

“We sat out on the deck for a while tonight hoping to hear an owl, but no luck. We also did a lot of listening to different bird calls online to try to identify what we were hearing.”

– Kali, The Talented Taylor Talons

Some teams recorded dozens of species, while others saw only a handful of birds, but either way, everyone seemed to have great time!

“We didn’t have much luck today in our neighborhood for birding. But the kids had fun and kept their eyes glued to our feeders by our dining room windows during mealtimes. They spotted a few on our walk in the early afternoon too.”

– Theresa, The Bunny Family

And as you can see, we had so many creative team names, and the stories behind them were so fun and interesting!

“Our team name is the Crazy Cardinals, because we have three cardinals that have been trying to get in our windows for 3 days!”

– Kelly , The Crazy Cardinals
Yellow-bellied sapsucker. (Greg Seitz, St. Croix 360)

Participants had so much fun that many have found a passion for birding and are continuing to look and listen for our feathered friends:

“Thanks for putting this together. We honestly probably wouldn’t have bird watched otherwise. But our youngest especially really loved it, so I think we will do it again!”

– Penny, The Bored Bluebirds

“The kids needed a reason to spend some more time away from screens, so this is good for them. They are out- side again today, which is a good thing.”

– Kristene , The Sunny Day Bird Watchers

“Although we didn’t find as many birds as we would have wanted, the experience was such an amazing adventure and it was really really fun! We also learned so much about the common birds that live around here! This was such a fun event, and I’m so thankful we got to be a part of it! Thank you so much for taking your time to organize this.”

– Olivia, Chirp Off the Old Block

“[The kids] had an absolute blast! We’ve always been bird lovers but this really took it to the next level for them. I came down to the kitchen at 6 am and they were in the yard, sitting on a blanket by themselves. We appreciate you making this an extra fun thing to do during such a strange time!”

– Rhiana, The Halverson

Thank you to all who participated! We hope you had as much fun as we did “birding in place”. We may host another event like this in the future.

Keep an eye on CNC’s social media for more fun opportunities, and be sure to join us for next year’s Hastings Area Earth Day Birding Festival!


Wood duck (Greg Seitz, St. Croix 360)

Overall, we had 41 total teams submit their final species lists!

  • First Place: Team Cali Kids, with 50 species
  • Second Place: Team Crushin’ Crossbills, 37 species
  • Tied for Third Place: Team Loony Larks & Team A Chirp Off the Old Block, 36 species each

Regional (MN/WI) highest number of species:

  • Crushin’ Crossbills: 37 species
  • Single Regional Household with Highest Number of Species: Team Sunny Day Birdwatchers, 30 species

16 to 18 years old

PlaceCityTeam Name# Species
1stRosemount & Edina, MNCrushin Crossbills!37
2ndHudson, WI & Elysian, MNA Chirp off the Old Block36
3rdGarden City, MNFarmyard Falcons29
4thWhite Bear Lake, MNKelcher’s Hawks13

11 to 15 years old

PlaceCityTeam Name# Species
1stMaplewood, MNSunny Day Birdwatchers30
2ndHastings & Cottage Grove MN, Jacksonville FLThe Tweethearts27
3rdRogers, MNHalverson Hawks26
4thRiver Falls, WIMillenium Falcons17
4thRiver Falls, WIPink Ponies & Hippoplatymoose17
4thPrescott, WIThe Bored Bluebirds17
 Spring Valley, WIDaffy Duck14
 St. Paul, MNCount Birdula10
 Hastings, MNBeckenators10

10-years-old and under

PlaceCityTeam Name# Species
1stSan Jose, CACali Kids50
2ndCottage Grove, MN & Moffit, NDLoony Larks36
3rdFarmington, MN & Robins, IAWandering Warblers26
4thWoodbury, Cottage Grove, & Two Harbors MNBird Boys20
4thWoodbury, MNRivard Red-tail Hawks20
 River Falls, WIJunco Johnsons19
 Hastings, MNThe Talented Taylor Talons19
 Hudson, WICove Cardinals17
 Sauk Center & Shelvin, MNEagle Eye17
 Prescott, WIKnox Family17
 St. Paul Park, MN & Boise, IDTeam Kostka15
 Eden Prairie, Burnsville, Minneapolis, Minnetonka, MNLoony Loons14
 Hudson, WIKanye Nest14
 Hastings, MNCrazy Cardinals12
 White Bear Lake, MNWaxing Gibases12
 Corcoran, MNS2 Chickadees11
 Hudson, WIThe Hudson Bluejays11
 Cottage Grove, MNThe Roneses11
 Mendota Heights, MNBluebill Browns10
 Stillwater, MNTeam Higgins10
 Roseville, MNThe Chickadees9
 Rosemount, MNKlotz Cohort9
 Shoreview, MNRoving Wrens9
 Hastings, MNThe Catbirds8
 Shoreview, MNBunny Family7
 Cannon Falls, MNA-Team6
 Plymouth, MNMonkeyPants5
  Team Messick in Honor of Don Messick3

Minnesota-Wisconsin cumulative list (98 species)

  1. Snow Goose
  2. Common Loon
  3. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  4. Canada Goose
  5. Double-crested Cormorant
  6. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  7. Mute Swan
  8. American White Pelican
  9. Eastern Bluebird
  10. Trumpeter Swan
  11. Great Blue Heron
  12. American Robin
  13. Tundra Swan
  14. Great Egret
  15. Gray Catbird
  16. Wood Duck
  17. Turkey Vulture
  18. European Starling
  19. Gadwall
  20. Osprey
  21. House Sparrow
  22. American Wigeon
  23. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  24. Purple Finch
  25. American Black Duck
  26. Cooper’s Hawk
  27. House Finch
  28. Mallard
  29. Broad-winged Hawk
  30. American Goldfinch
  31. Blue-winged Teal
  32. Red-tailed Hawk
  33. *Chestnut-sided Warbler (very early)
  34. Northern Shoveler
  35. Great Horned Owl
  36. Pine Warbler
  37. Northern Pintail
  38. Belted Kingfisher
  39. Yellow-rumped Warbler (myrtle)
  40. Canvasback Red-headed Woodpecker
  41. Eastern Towhee
  42. Lesser Scaup
  43. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  44. American Tree Sparrow
  45. Common Goldeneye
  46. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  47. Chipping Sparrow
  48. Hooded Merganser
  49. Downy Woodpecker
  50. Field Sparrow
  51. Common Merganser
  52. Hairy Woodpecker
  53. Vesper Sparrow
  54. Ruddy Duck
  55. Pileated Woodpecker
  56. Lark Sparrow
  57. Ring-necked Pheasant
  58. Northern Flicker
  59. Fox Sparrow
  60. Wild Turkey
  61. American Kestrel
  62. Song Sparrow
  63. Rock Pigeon
  64. Peregrine Falcon
  65. Swamp Sparrow
  66. Eurasian Collared Dove
  67. Eastern Phoebe
  68. White-throated Sparrow
  69. Mourning Dove
  70. Blue Jay
  71. White-crowned Sparrow
  72. *Chimney Swift (very early)
  73. American Crow
  74. Dark-eyed Junco (slate-colored)
  75. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  76. Purple Martin
  77. *Scarlet Tanager (very early)
  78. American Coot Barn Swallow
  79. Northern Cardinal
  80. Sandhill Crane
  81. Tree Swallow
  82. Red-winged Blackbird
  83. Killdeer
  84. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  85. Western Meadowlark
  86. Franklin’s Gull
  87. Tufted Titmouse
  88. Yellow-headed Blackbird
  89. Ring-billed Gull
  90. White-breasted Nuthatch
  91. Common Grackle
  92. Herring Gull
  93. Black-capped Chickadee
  94. Brown-headed Cowbird
  95. House Wren
  96. Baltimore Oriole (early)

Teams saw a grand total of 134 SPECIES!

Some households reported birds that would have been uncommon for the time of year or for their area, and required extra documentation to confirm the sighting.

CNC Director Jennifer Vieth and volunteer judge Pete Nichols checked each list for accuracy!

Unverified birds from MN/WI:

  • Northern Hawk Owl
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Least Flycatcher
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Boreal Chickadee
  • California Gull
  • Northern Mockingbird

Missouri, not listed above (+1)

  1. Red-shouldered Hawk

Idaho not listed in MN/WI/ MO (+3)

  1. California Quail
  2. Bullock’s Oriole
  3. Black-billed Magpie

Florida not listed in MN/WI

  1. Black Vulture
  2. Anhinga
  3. Laughing Gull
  4. Carolina Chickadee

California, not listed in MN/WI/MO/ID/FL (+28)

  1. Lesser Goldfinch
  2. Blue Gray Gnatcatcher
  3. Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)
  4. Northern Harrier
  5. California Scrub Jay
  6. Golden Eagle
  7. Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  8. Black Phoebe
  9. Bushtit
  10. Spotted Towhee
  11. California Towhee
  12. Raven
  13. Northern Mockingbird
  14. Acorn Woodpecker
  15. Bewick’s Wren
  16. Blue Gray Gnatcatcher
  17. Northern Harrier
  18. Golden Eagle
  19. Yellow-billed Magpie
  20. Band-tailed Pigeon
  21. Yellow-rumped warbler (Myrtle)
  22. Western Bluebird
  23. Hermit Thrush
  24. Burrowing Owl
  25. Say’s Phoebe
  26. Black Vulture
  27. Savannah sparrow
  28. Anhinga
  29. Pine Siskin
  30. Oak Titmouse
  31. Golden-crowned Sparrow
  32. Carolina Chickadee
  33. Anna’s Hummingbird
  34. Nuttall’s Woodpecker


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Feathered family fun: Home birdwatching contest connects kids and parents with natural curiosity