A Birder's Guide to Cook County, MN

Download a FREE birding guide to Cook County MN

Cook County has a bounty of birds. We have over 155 different species of birds in the surrounding Superior National Forest, and in 2001, those three million acres were designated a Globally Important Bird Area.

The variety of forest and terrain, including deciduous and conifer forest, bogs, streams and lakes, create a huge range in habitat. Add the very large body of water represented by Lake Superior to the mix, and you can understand why spring and fall migrations are times of especially rewarding birding.



Other Birding resources: 

Black-backed Woodpecker by David Brislance_UL (Medium)The Boreal and Migration Birding Courses, sponsored by North House Folk School, are designed to intrigue birders at all levels (888-387-9762). A Birder’s Guide for Cook County is available for the asking at the Grand Marais Visitor Center (888-922-5000). Come and get your checklist started – or lengthened.

In spring, you may spot Tundra Swan, Sandhill Crane, Rusty Blackbird along the shore; Boreal Owls and Northern Saw-whet Owls begin nesting in the forest.

The summer breeding season, late May through early August, lures birders inland with twenty species of warblers, Evening Grosbeak, Olive-sided, Yellow-bellied, and Alder Flycatchers–and that’s just the beginning of the list.

The fall migration is larger than the one in spring, beginning with the sight of thousands of Common Nighthawks in late August. The sheer quantity of birds moving down the shore makes this a world-class migration route. Songbirds in August and September, raptors in September and October. October is the biggest month for rarities of any kind.

But the remaining species in winter (often begins in November and extends into March or April) are considered to be the most sought-after. Forest specialties include a variety of owls, Boreal Chickadee, Bohemian Waxwing, Red and White-winged Crossbills – to name just a few. Bald Eagles are a real success story in conservation, and they are seen year-round, near lakes in summer, and around the Grand Marais Harbor in winter, as long as there is open water.