Northeastern Minnesota Birding Locations

This northern Minnesota birding locations web page includes many of my favorite spots for watching and photographing birds. If you wish to visit any of these locations, please fill free to contact me. While I am not a professional birding guide, I love the Northland and welcome sharing my knowledge. (see “about me” for information about birding with me including my email address).

In addition to these web sites, make certain you investigate the Minnesota Birding News App, which has information on birding locations and sightings.

  • Crex Meadows Wildlife Area: Although in Wisconsin and a bit south of Duluth, this wetlands area has some of the premier birding in the country during Spring and Fall migrations. Ever dreamed of seeing 20,000+ Sandhill Cranes flying in from feeding at sunset? If the answer to that question is yes, then a visit to Crex Meadows should be in your future.
  • Forest Hill Cemetery Ponds: Located off Woodland Avenue in Duluth, this cemetery has two ponds which attract waterfowl and other birds. The resident domestic geese tend to attract other waterfowl to the ponds, particularly during the Spring and Fall migrations.
  • Hartley Nature Center: Located off Woodland Avenue in Duluth, this nature center / park has an extensive trail system for hiking. Although there is a small lake in the park, it does not tend to attract very many waterfowl. Instead the park is a good location for viewing songbirds once the leaves and wildflowers appear in the late Spring. The wildflower garden next to the nature center building is a great place to observe hummingbirds. Warblers like the thickets just downstream from the pond.
  • Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory: Raptors and songbirds do not like to migrate across large bodies of water, in this case Lake Superior. During the fall migration, the ridge located above Duluth and accessed via SkyLine Drive in east Duluth is a birders paradise. Winds out of the northwest which force migrating birds against Lake Superior will often mean lots of bird activity on the ridge. During September and October bird counters and naturalists will be present to answer questions for the general public.
  • Lake View National Golf Course: This golf course is located 20 miles north of Duluth on the northeast side of Two Harbors. Birds love the golf course’s ponds, deep forest which borders the course, and the proximity to Lake Superior. Birding is best in the spring and fall when golf is shut down for the year.
  • Minnesota Point (Park Point / Wisconsin Point):  Drive to Sky Harbor Airport at the end of Minnesota Point / Park Point. A hiking trail starts just to the left of the airport gate. This trail allows one to walk all they way to the Wisconsin harbor entry. During the spring and fall migrations it is quite often possible to see hundreds, if not thousands of ducks in the bay. Once leaves and wildflowers appear, other birds will also make their presence known. Don’t forget to check out the lake side during your hike for ducks. If the smelt and herring are staging for their spring spawn, the ducks will know it!
  • Old Vermilion Trail: This dirt road is about 14 miles north of Duluth (see link for location). Yours truly maintains some feeder stations in this forest area which has great bird habitat including pine and deciduous forest, wetlands, meadows and streams.
  • Pagami Creek Wildfire Region: Forest fires generate great birding areas. A wildfire actually brings a region back to life, and ultimately betters both the animal and birding habitat. Certain kinds of birds, often rare otherwise, preferred burned out regions. The Pagami Creek Wildfire Region may be accessed via Tomahawk Road off state highway #1 a bit west of Isabella, Minnesota. The road is not plowed in the winter.
  • Sax-Zim Bog (Festival): This region has the best boreal winter birding in the lower fourty-eight. If your desire is to see Great Grey Owls, Northern Hawk Owls, Snowy Owls, Grey Jays and Pine Grosbeaks … just to name a few birds, this region which is about 40 miles north of Duluth off US Hwy #53 near Cotton, Minnesota should be on your bucket list. Read more about the Sax-Zim Bog via the New York Times!
  • Western Waterfront Trail: This natural gravel / dirt hiking trail in west Duluth is a great place for viewing waterfowl, and songbirds. The trail routes next to the St. Louis River channel and wetlands which makes for great bird habitat.
  • Wisconsin Wetlands: Lake Superior keeps northeastern Minnesota cold during the early Spring. Winds that blow from the south do not have to cross over the cold waters (38F in March / April) of Lake Superior; thus in northwestern Wisconsin within 20 miles of Duluth there are two wetlands area that turn on “way before” the North Shore of Lake Superior. In addition to migrating waterfowl, these two areas hold grassland birds almost never seen in the boreal forests of Northeastern Minnesota.

Birding Facebook birding groups which often have a northern Minnesota Focus:

Minnesota Rare Bird Alerts:

View my bird photographs via Flickr: (view this blog’s image index)

13 thoughts on “Northeastern Minnesota Birding Locations

    1. Given I live in northern Minnesota … in the Boreal forest, I can not speak to the Minneapolis area which has a hugely different climate from NE Minnesota. However, by February snow buntings and other Arctic birds will start coming back through the region. In early March, our northern owls will head back north of the border. By April if one heads to the south shore of Lake Superior, some some birds will reappear. However over on the North Shore the migration will be 3 to 4 weeks behind the south shore (cold limits bugs and plant development). The winds blowing across cold Lake Superior make that much of a difference. Finally, May is the big migration period. The actual dates will vary with the winds and the warmer weather. Strong winds out of the north will shut the migration down, whereas a good south wind will get things going. Everyone likes to hitch a ride on the wind. Check out my archives found in the right margin of the web site. You can pull up posts by month. There are now four years of information. This will give you a decent idea for which birds are migrating when!

  1. We are planning a fall trip starting on Oct. 8 heading north from Illinois. What birds might we see at this time of year near Duluth or would you recommend another area of Mn?

    1. For early October in northern Minnesota, most of our summer birds are long gone down the migration trail to the south. Thus I would focus upon three area, raptors, ducks, and a few song birds. If your weather is decent with good sun and winds from the north, go to Hawk Ridge. Folks think September for migrating raptors, but the locals know that some great migration days occur in October.

      The waterfowl migration is really just getting going in early October. Try the pond at Hartley Nature Center, or the MacQuarrie Wetlands in NW Wisconsin. Finally, song birds from extreme northern Canada including horned larks, snow buntings, and laplund logspurs will be migrating down the shore and roads next to Lake Superior. If the weather is not too blustery, try a quick visit to McQ7ade Harbor. Check out the grounds for songbirds.

  2. I am coming from Colorado to Hawk Ridge and surrounding area around the third week in October. Recommend motels in the area?
    Too early for Great Gray Owl and Hawk Owl at Sax-Zim bog?

    1. Much to early for Northern Hawk Owls. These birds are winter visitors. Great Gray Owls are year round residents of Sax-Zim Bog. If you get a dark cloudy day, head over to the bog two hours before sunset. Drive very slowly down McDavitt and Admiral roads.

      1. For a motel, I like the South Pier Inn. It is in the Canal Park area, which gives you access to the restaurants, and Canal Park, but is just on the other side of the Aerial Bridge … cool views but much quieter.

  3. Hi
    Love your blog.
    Kelly loop is this on hwy 1. What town is it by and or north of isabella south of hwy 2?

  4. Hi, we are planning to come up to Duluth next week. Are there specific areas we should visit to see birds? We are staying overnight at Duluth.

    1. Depending upon the amount of time you have available, make a trip up to Sax-Zim Bog. Download a birding map from the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog web site. Arrive at sunrise and bird Admiral and Mcdavitt Road at sunrise for Great Gray Owls, stopping at the feeder on Admiral to look for the Boreal Chickadee (bring peanut butter). From Admiral then drive west on Zim Rd towards the feeders at Mary Lou’s. At Yoki Rd on Zim there has also been a hawk owl.

  5. Hi I will be in Duluth on Friday afternoon, unfortunately I don’t have a lot of time, maybe an hour or so. Is there anywhere worth while where I maybe be able to see a few birds?


    1. Try Canal Park. There has been a male long tailed duck hanging out with the goldeneyes. Later in the day a significant number of gulls will perch on the canal piers with some occasional rare species.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *