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Year-round recreation opportunities are plentiful on the Superior National Forest (SNF) for those who love the out-of-doors. The setting for adventure is the boreal forest ecosystem with fresh clean lakes and a colorful cultural history. <br><br> The water-rich Superior includes more than 2,000...
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Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory – Important Bird Area (IBA)
Description: Hawk Ridge is one of the best and most famous raptor migration sites in North America. Birds are reluctant to fly over Lake Superior, so they tend to follow the shoreline, funneling right through the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve. Located within the city of Duluth, more than 19 species of migrating birds of prey take advantage of the updrafts along the Minnesota shore of the Lake as they migrate south from mid-August through mid-November.

The mission of the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory is to protect birds of prey and other migratory birds in the Western Lake Superior Region through research, education and stewardship. A seasonal average of over 94,000 raptors migrate past the high bluff in autumn. It is no wonder this special spot has been named an Important Bird Area (IBA).

Before 1950, the only people who witnessed the raptor migration were local gunners who used the birds for target practice. The killing stopped through efforts of the Duluth Bird Club (now the Duluth Audubon Society).

The first hawk watch was organized in 1951. Systematic counting from the main overlook began in 1972, also the year the banding research station opened. About the same time, as the magnitude of the migration became apparent, the Duluth Audubon Society, with a loan from the Minnesota Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, donated funds to the City of Duluth to purchase the highest part of the Ridge. The city acquired approximately 200 adjacent acres in 1973 to serve as a buffer for the Nature Reserve. Under a trust agreement with the City, the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory manages the 365 acres as a nature reserve, open to the public for study and enjoyment.

Wildlife to Watch: Broad-winged hawks are the most numerous; more than 10,000 can be seen on a good day. Between September 10 and 25, the numbers of broad-wings may peak at more than 20,000 per day. Nineteen raptor species have been observed at Hawk Ridge over the years, including sharp-shinned, red-tailed, rough-legged and Cooper’s hawks, northern harriers, northern goshawks, bald and golden eagles, ospreys, turkey vultures, American kestrels and merlins.

Special Tips: Hawkwatching, unlike most other wildlife activities, is best during the middle of the day. Generally, the raptors don't start flying until 8 a.m. and they taper off after 4 p.m. So plan your trip during the middle of the day: between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. is best. The annual “Hawk Weekend” event in September is an incredible opportunity to experience all this site has to offer. Advance registration recommended.

Weather plays a huge factor in the quality of the flight. Winds from the west or northwest are best for bringing big numbers of birds. If you come up on a day with south or east winds, expect the flight to be slower.

Visit this site to practice raptor identification and to learn about birds from Observatory staff and volunteers, who are on site from September 1 through October 31. Watch the release of banded birds daily, participate in some of the site’s educational programs and enjoy the spectacular view Duluth Harbor and Lake Superior.

Binoculars or spotting scopes are essential in this area, but don’t let that stop you as Hawk Ridge has loaner pairs for visitors. Bring a fast camera with a telephoto lens in order to get good pictures of birds in flight. Opportunities are also available for close-up shots of birds in the hand. Bring warm clothing, too, as the wind may get very cold.

Other Activities: There’s a secret drama unfolding in downtown Duluth! High above the city, two peregrine falcons are raising a family on the side of a building. So, don’t be surprised if you spot a falcon soaring near Hawk Ridge or somewhere over the Harbor.

Visit Snively and Magney City Parks and Park Point Recreation Area/Minnesota Point Forest in Duluth for more wildlife watching.

Ownership: City of Duluth 
Size: 365 acres 
Closest Town: Duluth

RestroomsParkingVisitor CenterHandicap AccessibleRV Pullout

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:

Immature Northern Goshawk - Photo by Andrea Lee Lambrecht
Please use Map Link below

Driving Directions:
From I-35 traveling north: Take the 26th Ave. E/London Rd exit. Turn right onto London Rd/Highway 61. Turn left onto 45th Ave E, drive to the stop sign at Glenwood St. Turn left onto Glenwood. Drive ¾ mile to top of the first hill to Skyline Pkwy. This is a sharp right turn and easy to miss! Turn right onto Skyline and drive about one mile to the Main Overlook. Note: There is a lower overlook at ½ mile. Drive another ½ mile past the first overlook to get to Hawk Ridge.

Map Link

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory – Important Bird Area (IBA) : Wildlife Viewing Area