Though it is one of the most common marsh birds in North America, the Sora is rarely seen but often heard. This small bird, which lives in local wetlands has a whiny call that you have probably heard if you have spent anytime near shallow wetlands.
Check out one of the many bird identification websites to hear the sound. Recently, one of our staff at the St. Croix Wetland Management District saw a Sora on the Star Prairie Waterfowl Production Area located on the east side of Star Prairie. Perhaps it was distracted while defending its’ territory but it did not seem to be concerned that everyone could see it.
Soras are a small bird weighing approximately 2 to 4 ounces, slightly larger than a robin. They lay their eggs on a small floating nest. The young leave the nest within a day of hatching and feed and travel through the dense wetland vegetation with their parents.
Soras eat aquatic invertebrates and seeds. They breed across the northern United States and southern Canada and winter along the southern coast of the U.S. to the north edge of South America.
Each year the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources completes a marsh bird survey with the help of many volunteers. The survey is conducted two to three times between May 1 and mid-June.
Since Soras and most marsh birds are very difficult to see, the volunteers broadcast prerecorded calls from survey points to detect the birds. The birds respond to these recordings by calling.
By listening for a set period of time, the volunteers record how many birds call back.
Scientists are able to develop an indicator of how many birds are using the wetlands in comparison to previous years. This type of information can help track population changes over time. If you are interested in more information about the Marsh Bird Survey check out the
Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative website at http://www.wisconsinbirds.org/.
The Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative is part of a national effort to link bird conservation efforts in the United States with similar efforts in Canada and Mexico.
You may ask, why is it important to link conservation efforts?
As one example, Soras breed in the United States and Canada and winter in Mexico and other Latin American countries. Efforts to conserve Soras and other “neotropical” migrants are dependent not only on wetland restoration in St. Croix County but also on sufficient wetland habitat along their migration route and then in Latin American countries where they spend the winter.
One missing link in their annual cycle could significantly reduce their population. This is true not only for Soras, but also many other birds we are familiar with, including meadowlarks and bobolinks. Though our local grasslands are important breeding habitat for these species, they also need grasslands along their migration route and sufficient wintering habitat in South America.
Spend some time this summer on your local Waterfowl Production Areas and maybe you will see a Sora, but chances are you will probably just hear them.
If you are interested in the latest bird sighting news on local Waterfowl Production Areas or just want to keep up with what is going on in the St. Croix Wetland Management District, check us out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/StCroixWMD.