Shelly Torkelson and the Hefty Horned Lark
Shelly Torkelson and the Hefty Horned Lark

Meet Wisconsin’s Fat Birds!

People vote online for their favorite fat bird photos.

Some super-fast horses raced in the Kentucky Derby on May 4. Another recent contest was for some very different animals — fat, feathery fliers. This was Wisconsin’s first-ever Fat Bird Week! Officials announced the winner of the silly event on April 30. A “hefty” horned lark is now the state’s favorite chubby chirper!

A group called the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (NRF) organized Fat Bird Week. They started by posting eight photos of fat birds online. The birds were all that were to the state of Wisconsin. Officials even gave the birds silly names to show off their bulky bodies. These included a “chonky” Canada warbler and a “rotund” ruby-crowned kinglet.

After that, folks hopped online to make their picks for their favorite fat fliers! They voted across seven rounds from April 19 through April 26. Folks cast nearly 8,000 votes in the contest! In the end, it all came down to the hefty horned lark and the gluttonous golden-crowned kinglet. The lark took most of the votes in the final round, making it the winner!

This kooky contest might seem one-of-a-kind. However, it was actually inspired by a similar event in the state of Alaska called “Fat Bear Week.” About 2,200 brown bears live in the state’s Katmai National Park, slurping up salmon from the Brooks River. Every year, park officials post photos of the big bears online. Voters then make their picks for the fattest bear of them all!

For bears, finding food is serious business. The animals spend long periods of time resting during the winter months, so they bulk up ahead of time to have enough energy to get through the winter safely. That means fat bears are often healthy bears!

Officials at NRF and its partner groups realized that birds often bulk up for a similar reason. Most species of birds during the winter months. They travel long distances in search of warmer weather. Shelly Torkelson is a leader with the NRF. “A lot of the birds in Wisconsin spend wintertime in central and South America,” she told News-O-Matic. “That is a long way to fly!” In order to have enough energy for those trips, the birds will snack on as much as they can ahead of time. Their menu includes bugs, berries, seeds, and nuts. So, just like bears, a fat bird is often a healthy bird!

Torkelson said the contest is “a way to get more people interested in birds and what they can do to protect those birds.” She explained that there are many ways kids can help out their feathery friends. You can work with adults to plant new plants. “Ask if any of these plants you’re planting are good for birds,” suggested Torkelson. Birds rely on many different kinds of plants for food!

Torkelson had one more suggestion for folks who want to learn more about birds — try birdwatching! Birdwatchers try to spot as many species as they can in their natural , from parks, to fields, to forests. Torkelson said, “It’s kind of like nature-based Pokémon!”

Updated May 6, 2024, 5:03 P.M. (ET)
By Tyler Burdick

Meet Wisconsin’s Fat Birds!

People vote online for their favorite fat bird photos.

Shelly Torkelson and the Hefty Horned Lark
Shelly Torkelson and the Hefty Horned Lark

Some super-fast horses raced in the Kentucky Derby on May 4. Another recent contest was for some very different animals — fat, feathery fliers. This was Wisconsin’s first-ever Fat Bird Week! Officials announced the winner of the silly event on April 30. A “hefty” horned lark is now the state’s favorite chubby chirper!

A group called the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (NRF) organized Fat Bird Week. They started by posting eight photos of fat birds online. The birds were all that were to the state of Wisconsin. Officials even gave the birds silly names to show off their bulky bodies. These included a “chonky” Canada warbler and a “rotund” ruby-crowned kinglet.

After that, folks hopped online to make their picks for their favorite fat fliers! They voted across seven rounds from April 19 through April 26. Folks cast nearly 8,000 votes in the contest! In the end, it all came down to the hefty horned lark and the gluttonous golden-crowned kinglet. The lark took most of the votes in the final round, making it the winner!

This kooky contest might seem one-of-a-kind. However, it was actually inspired by a similar event in the state of Alaska called “Fat Bear Week.” About 2,200 brown bears live in the state’s Katmai National Park, slurping up salmon from the Brooks River. Every year, park officials post photos of the big bears online. Voters then make their picks for the fattest bear of them all!

For bears, finding food is serious business. The animals spend long periods of time resting during the winter months, so they bulk up ahead of time to have enough energy to get through the winter safely. That means fat bears are often healthy bears!

Officials at NRF and its partner groups realized that birds often bulk up for a similar reason. Most species of birds during the winter months. They travel long distances in search of warmer weather. Shelly Torkelson is a leader with the NRF. “A lot of the birds in Wisconsin spend wintertime in central and South America,” she told News-O-Matic. “That is a long way to fly!” In order to have enough energy for those trips, the birds will snack on as much as they can ahead of time. Their menu includes bugs, berries, seeds, and nuts. So, just like bears, a fat bird is often a healthy bird!

Torkelson said the contest is “a way to get more people interested in birds and what they can do to protect those birds.” She explained that there are many ways kids can help out their feathery friends. You can work with adults to plant new plants. “Ask if any of these plants you’re planting are good for birds,” suggested Torkelson. Birds rely on many different kinds of plants for food!

Torkelson had one more suggestion for folks who want to learn more about birds — try birdwatching! Birdwatchers try to spot as many species as they can in their natural , from parks, to fields, to forests. Torkelson said, “It’s kind of like nature-based Pokémon!”

Updated May 6, 2024, 5:03 P.M. (ET)
By Tyler Burdick

Draw it AskRuss