It’s no surprise why birding is one of the top things to do in northern Minnesota all year-round. Cook County has a bounty of birds and is a destination for ornithologists and casual birders alike. 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.
Plan Your Birding Adventure by Season
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.
In spring, you may spot Tundra Swan, Sandhill Crane, and the Rusty Blackbird along the shore. You may also see 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 20 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.
Learn About the Birds of the Superior National Forest
The wide variety of classes offered through North House Folk School is designed to intrigue birders at all levels (888-387-9762). Visit one of the premier nature centers in the region for an opportunity to learn hands-on through bird banding during migration, and a naturalist workshop at Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center in Schroeder, or identify the boreal birds at Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center on the Gunflint Trail. Explore on your own, download our free birding guide or contact the Grand Marais Visitor Center (888-922-5000) for a copy.