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Bird health and diversity across Minnesota: A discussion with Jerry Niemi

A Connecticut Warbler perches on a bare branch in Koochiching County on June 8, 2024. It is a small yellow bird. with a grey head and neck, large black eyes, and a white ring around the eyes.
Ryan Shaw via iNaturalist
A Connecticut Warbler perches on a bare branch in Koochiching County on June 8, 2024.

Bird expert Jerry Niemi joined Tuesday's KAXE Morning Show to discuss his new book, "Breeding Birds of Minnesota: History, Ecology, and Conservation."

KAXE's Tuesday Morning Show strives to take an in-depth look at some natural resource-based issues important to Northern Minnesota. Producer Mark Jacobs and hosts Heidi Holtan and John Latimer discuss not only the problems, but highlight some creative solutions.

DULUTH — Gerald "Jerry" Niemi has spent a half-century studying Minnesota birds, most notably as director of the Center for Water and the Environment at the Natural Resources Research Institute in Duluth.

Now retired, he and his collaborators Lee Pfannmuller and Janet Green recently published a book titled “Breeding Birds of Minnesota - History, Ecology, and Conservation."

The content of the book is based on over 9,000 bird counts conducted by over 700 trained volunteers between 2009-13. These plots covered 98% of the townships in the state.

The book serves as an update to TS Roberts’ "Birds of Minnesota" from 1932. Jerry joined the KAXE Morning Show to talk about the book, the process and interesting findings since the 1932 publication.

The book is available through the University of Minnesota Press, independent booksellers and online. Click above to listen to the full interview!

This segment is a follow-up to the Bird Decline series, produced by Mark Jacobs, which investigates the causes and complexities of bird declines in Minnesota.

The book "The Breeding Bird Atlas of Minnesota" sits on a wooden table. The cover shows four pictures of native birds.
Charlie Mitchell
The Breeding Bird Atlas of Minnesota, by Lee A. Pfannmuller, Gerald J. Niemi and Janet C. Green.


Introductions (0:00-1:20) 
Foundational work (1:20-3:38) 

Changes since 1932 (4:38-7:19, 13:35-15:49) 

  • Population recoveries (4:48-5:03) 
  • Biodiversity hotspots in Aitkin County and beyond (5:03-6:52) 
  • Population declines (6:52-7:19, 13:36-15:49) 

Co-authors Lee Pfannmuller and Janet Green (7:19-8:50) Conducting research through 98% of townships in Minnesota (8:50-13:20) 

  • Choosing sample sites (9:20-12:04) 
  • Researcher skills (12:04-13:20) 

Regional and national habitat changes (15:49-16:29) About the book (16:29-18:20) 
Conclusion (18:20-18:32) 

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Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

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