Minnesota Birding

Birding is a favorite activity in the Crane Lake Area. We have a variety of bird species that call this area home. With Crane Lake as the centerpiece, birders can navigate miles of shorelines and wetlands to find their feathered friends. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just getting started in birding, you won’t be disappointed with the bird-watching opportunities here. So pack your binoculars and bird book and let Crane Lake show you a bird’s eye view of Minnesota!

A guide to the Birds and Wildlife of the Voyageur Country is available for download at www.birdvnp.com. Call or e-mail: 800-362-7405 or vacation@visitcranelake.com for a brochure.


Bird Species Spotted in Crane Lake

Alder Flycatcher
American Bittern
American Crow
American Goldfinch
American Redstart
American Robin
American White Pelican
Bald Eagle
Belted Kingfisher
Black-and-White Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Black-Capped Chickadee
*Black-Throated Green Warbler
Blue Jay
Blue-Winged Teal
Broad-Winged Hawk
Brown Creeper
Brown-Headed Cowbird
Canada Goose
Canada Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Cedar Waxwing
Chestnut-Sided Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Clay-Colored Sparrow
Common Goldeneye
Common Grackle

Common Loon
Common Raven
Common Yellowthroat
Double-Crested Cormorant
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Wood-Pewee
European Starling
Evening Grosbeak
Gray Catbird
Great Blue Heron
Great Crested Flycatcher
Hairy Woodpecker
Hermit Thrush
Herring Gull
Hooded Merganser
Least Flycatcher
Magnolia Warbler
Marsh Wren
Nashville Warbler
Northern Flicker
Northern Oriole
*Northern Parula

Pileated Woodpecker
Purple Finch
Red-Breasted Nuthatch
Red-Eyed Vireo
Red-Winged Blackbird
Ring-Billed Gull
Ring-Necked Duck
Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Ruffed Grouse
Song Sparrow
Spotted Sandpiper
Swamp Sparrow
Tree Swallow
Warbling Vireo
Western Palm Warbler
White-Breasted Nuthatch
White-Throated Sparrow
*Winter Wren
Wood Duck
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Crane Lake Bird Watching

A blue heron rookery can be viewed just north of the Northwest Bay Beaches on Crane Lake. These nesting sights are recognized by the Audubon Society as one of the largest. Moose, black bear, wolves, mink and lynx are elusive but can be seen if you are persistent. More commonly seen are bald eagles, osprey, loons, beaver, deer, ducks, pelicans, cormorants and otters.

Gull Island near the center of Namakan Lake, is worth the trip just to view thousands of seagulls that have established the island as their primary nesting sight.

Contact the bureau for the latest birding guide designed exclusively for the Voyageurs National Park. Contact us and we can send you a copy or we can tell you where you can purchase it.

Why Minnesota birding?

Minnesota is located where western prairies meet boreal forest and southeastern river-valley ecology. These three major habitat types give Minnesota a significant and highly varied bird population: 421 different species of birds have been recorded here, about half of those recorded for all of North America. Northern and east-central Minnesota lie in a narrow forest belt (that stretches from the New England states across the Great Lakes) that supports a higher diversity of breeding songbirds than anywhere else in the United States and southern Canada. Minnesota’s extensive forest region is considered by leading ornithologists as one of only four remaining areas in the United States where the long-term conservation of forest birds can be accomplished. (The other three areas are the extensive forests of Maine, the Great Smoky mountains, and the Adirondacks.) The American Birding Association asked its members to list the species of North American birds they most wanted to see. Of the top 12 species listed, six can be found in Minnesota: Boreal Owl, Great Gray Owl, Connecticut Warbler, Northern Hawk Owl, Yellow Rail, Snowy Owl. Gyrfalcon, another highly sought bird, also can be found in Minnesota most winters. The official list of bird species recorded in Minnesota stands at 422. Of that number, 305 species can be found in the state on a regular, annual basis. About 260 species nest here.

Minnesota Birds Checklist – Download, print and take with you!

Events and Dates

December · Christmas Bird Counts: Usually mid-month Saturday. Many of these are held each year throughout the state as part of a historic national bird census.

December · Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union Paper Session and Annual Meeting: The first Saturday of December, Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis campus (annual).

Month-by-Month Birding in Minnesota
January · All birders return to “go.” This is the month for true Minnesota species, but interesting visitors occur: Snowy and Great Gray owls, Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs, Redpolls, and Tree Sparrows, among others.

February · Beginning of spring migration. Horned Larks are first returnees. Great Horned Owls are incubating eggs.

March · Waterfowl begin to return to the state. Bald Eagles follow open water north.

April · Early in month, shorebird migration. Late in month, the first of Minnesota’s summer birds are arriving.

May · The huge push north of migrants and Minnesota nesters. This is the busiest month on a birder’s calendar, the month for “big days”* and birdathons.

June · Majority of resident nesters on territory and courting.

July · Beginning of fall migration, first shorebirds moving south.

August · More shorebirds and some raptors begin moving south.

September · Serious fall migration of our nesting species. Movement of swallows and nighthawks. Peak migration for smaller raptors.

October · Larger raptors moving south. First winter finches arrive. The single best month for finding rare and unusual birds here.

November · Last of ducks moving out of state. Swans gathering on Mississippi River near Winona are at peak numbers. Bald Eagles numbers peaking in migration.

December · Christmas Bird Counts. The final migrants leave. If northern owls invade the state, this is one of the months when they will be in evidence (also November and January).

Big Day, a competitive (but friendly) birding event. A “big day” is an event in which birders (one or more) attempt to see as many bird species as possible within a defined geographic area (such as a county) during a particular period of time (usually 24 consecutive hours). This is a game. It has rules. Scores are kept in the form of the records.

Highest Statewide Big Day Total: 192 species on 5/21/83 by Kim Eckert, Paul Egeland, Henry Kyllingstad, Terry Savaloja.

Birding FAQS

Crane Lake is home to a variety of bird species including but not limited to Bald Eagles, various species of Hawks, Herons, Loons, Owls, and Kinglets. A complete bird checklist can be found on the website.

Birding can be enjoyed throughout the year at Crane Lake, but visitors are especially encouraged to come during the spring and fall migrations.

There are many locations for birding in Crane Lake, whether you are on the water or on land. Specific locations include the Crane Lake Voyageur National Park and the Superior National Forest.



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