Birding In Cook County

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.

View the Superior National Forest Bird Information Website and Checklist.

Other Birding Resources 

The boreal forest is home to the largest and most diverse array of wild birds. In recognition of its efforts to conserve wild birds and their habitats, the Superior National Forest has been named by the American Bird Conservancy as one of 100 Globally Important Bird Areas. With 155 nesting species, the Superior National Forest has the greatest number of breeding birds of any national forest!

A Birder's Guide to Cook County, MN

This guide will help you find the birds of Cook County, one of the best birding areas in the upper midwest. The shore of Lake Superior and the wildlands of the northeast are natural treasures that are especially rich in birds. Descriptions of the locations can be found inside, along with information about how to make the most of your birding during each season of the year.

Notes from the Experts

We've spoken to numerous bird experts in the region. Everyone has their own secrets on how to best find the birds in the wild, but some things remain constant across the board. Here are some of the top tips we’ve gathered from the pros.

Preserving the habitat for the birds

To preserve this region for the birds, please adhere to the Birding Code of Ethics. 

1. Promote the welfare of birds and their environment.

2. Respect the law and rights of others.

3. Ensure that feeders, nest structures, and other artificial bird environments are safe.

4. Group birding, whether organized or impromptu, requires special care.

Please follow this code and distribute it and teach others. This Code of Birding Ethics has been developed by the American Birding Association (ABA)

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Berry Picking

Where can you find blueberries, strawberries, chokecherries, pin cherries, raspberries, and thimbleberries growing wild? Cook County, Minnesota is…


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