Tech tips for spotting birds -- and why we love to watch them

In spring, half a million sandhill cranes gather on the Platte River.
From mid-February to mid-April, half a million sandhill cranes gather along the Platte River. Emaciated when they arrive from Mexico and the southern U.S., they fatten up to migrate on to Minnesota, where some move on to sub-Arctic and Arctic nesting grounds.
Stephen Wilkes | National Geographic

As you spot the great egret, one of the stalkers of Minnesota lakes and ponds, send a word of thanks skyward for the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that helped keep the species alive. Before the act became law in 1918, egrets and other bird species neared extinction from sport shooting and being killed for their feathers to decorate women's hats.

More than 1,000 species of birds are protected under the act, including some of the more than 300 bird species regularly found in Minnesota.

The January 2018 issue of National Geographic
The January 2018 issue of National Geographic
National Geographic

It wasn't until 1972 that Minnesota's birds of prey, including eagles and hawks, were added to the protected species list.

In this centennial anniversary of the act, National Geographic launched its Year of the Bird initiative, an effort dedicated to celebrating and protecting birds. Novelist Jonathan Franzen wrote the January cover story for National Geographic's launch of the initiative, "Why Birds Matter."

Franzen talks with MPR's Mike Edgerly about his connection to birds, and how they are both different and similar to humans, and they'll discuss threats still facing migratory birds.

Joining them is Minnesota birder — and bird blogger — "Big Ben" Douglas talking about the joys of birding in Minnesota, how he uses technology to help find birds, and get some tips for the best birding spots in Minnesota.

Click on the audio player above to hear their conversation.

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