Bird Watching

The Superior National Forest offers many excellent opportunities to watch birds.  It is a highly diverse forest in its vegetation, age and patch mosaic.  This results in many diverse habitats for birds and a list of 225 regular species plus 45 casual species.  On this list 163 species breed, including 24 species of warblers.  The importance of the Superior National Forest for birds was recognized by the American Bird Conservancy as one of 50 Globally Important Bird Areas of the United States ( ).

There are several factors that make the Superior an ideal place for birds and bird watching.  First, it is a large area with about 4 million acres within the statutory boundary of which 60% is under federal ownership and 25% more is managed by other public agencies.  This allows access to many good birding areas.  Second, about 90% of the Superior is in natural vegetation, either forest, shrubland (including harvest sites), and bog/marsh/fen; another 9% of the landscape is water that includes 2,000 lakes and ponds. Its forests are a mixture of the northern boreal forest types and the southern deciduous forest types; many species are near the edge of their range on the Superior.  The developed land is mostly in hamlets with adjacent fields plus the small cities of Hoyt Lakes, Ely and Grand Marais.  A significant portion of the statutory boundary of the national forest is along the Lake Superior shore in Cook County.  This provides a unique opportunity for birding along a major migratory flyway.

Each season creates a different birding experience.  Spring and especially fall migration bring concentrations of birds especially along the ridges and shore of Lake Superior. Many vagrant species have been found there; the list of birds that are classified as accidental for the Superior National Forest and adjacent Lake Superior is over 50 species.  Winter is also a time of searching for rare species, especially northern finches, woodpeckers and owls.  The summer breeding season provides opportunities for exploring back roads and diverse habitats to discover some of the bird specialties of this northern forest.

Unusual observations should be reported to the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union at their home page ( ).  On that page, click on rare birds and reporting birds.

Related links to information about birds:


Photo of Bay Breasted Warbler


Boreal Owl

Photo courtesy of Steve Wilson

Photo of bird


White-throated Sparrow

Photo courtesy of Lang Elliott NatureSound Studio
Photo of boreal owl


  Bay-breasted Warbler

Photo Courtesy of Randy Mehoves

Randy Mehoves Photography

Photo of parula warbler


 Parula Warbler

Photo courtesy of David L'Hoste