|Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory – Important Bird Area (IBA)|
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 ...
Duluth Parks and Harbor
|Description: Lake Superior, the largest natural freshwater lake in the world, and its spectacular North Shore cliffs, may be described as no less than world-class stunning. The charming old port city of Duluth perches on the point of the lake overlooking a picturesque harbor. There are few inland places in the United States that have the distinct look and feel of the sea—but this site does provide residents and visitors with such unique scenery and ambiance.
Surprisingly perhaps, this is a wonderful urban setting for wildlife watching. Duluth has over 11,000 acres of public open space and parkland within the city limits, as well as an extensive system of trails. Although Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, one of North America's best places to experience the spectacle of the fall raptor migration, and Park Point get more attention from birders, there are other places to visit to see wildlife.
Snively and Magney City Parks provide an excellent forest habitat for birding in Duluth. Because these parks have been preserved, their understory flora is intact and the conditions are probably very similar to those experienced by early European explorers and settlers. Except for ski trails, there is minimal development in these outstanding old northern hardwood forests filled with massive maple, oak and basswood trees. Fall leaf colors are fabulous and you’ll get great views of West Duluth and the St. Louis River from Skyline Parkway. This is a good place to see spring and early summer wildflowers typical of maple-basswood forests too. Look especially for trillium, bloodroot, leatherwood and baneberry.
Park Point Recreation Area, along with Minnesota Point Forest, is situated on a long sand dune sandwiched between Duluth and Lake Superior, separating the lake from Duluth Harbor. The area has been protected, so it retains some interesting old Great Lakes pine forests. Explore the open parkland, dense hardwood-pine forests, red and white pine forests and sand dune beach habitats to look for birds and small mammals.
Downtown and the Harbor offer unique bird sightings of everything from peregrine falcons to snowy owls to gulls. The waterfront is also a great place to wander in all seasons to look for waterfowl and waterbirds.
Wildlife to Watch: Peregrine falcons have taken advantage of hotel hospitality by nesting on a platform located near the top of the Greysolon Plaza building (former Duluth Hotel) in downtown. A project called “Peregrine Watch”, a collaborative effort between the City of Duluth and the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, sponsors educational programs on-site with spotting scopes and binoculars, pointing out the movements and activities of Duluth’s most visible raptor family. This is excellent spot to view peregrines close up as the birds hunt, nest and raise their young.
Spring and fall offer excellent birding as notable numbers of migrating birds move around Lake Superior. Many shorebirds and other migrants stop to rest on Park Point
during their yearly travels. In addition to songbirds, look for common terns, gulls and ducks. Some of the best birding will be on days with fog, rain or wind, because the birds are forced to stop there until the weather improves.
In Snively and Magney City Park, watch for hardwood forest songbirds, wood warblers and woodpeckers from spring through fall. You might catch a glimpse of indigo buntings, wood thrushes, chestnut-sided warblers and great crested flycatchers among others.
An astounding number of birds travel the migratory flyway that funnels down the North Shore of Lake Superior. A seasonal average of more than 94,000 raptors migrate past Hawk Ridge from mid-August through November. On any given day, it’s possible for you to see black and turkey vultures, osprey, bald and golden eagles, northern harriers, northern goshawks, American kestrels, merlins and peregrine falcons. Other hawks using the passageway, and seen in great numbers during migration, include sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, red-shouldered, broad-winged, red-tailed and rough-legged.
Spring migration is notable as well; so don’t overlook opportunities to see many of the same raptor species heading north in March and into spring. While the counts are never comparable to autumn tallies, it might be noted that in the first 16 days of March 2010, 895 bald eagles were observed.
Birding excursions in the Duluth area might turn up other northern bird species, such as Bohemian waxwings, boreal chickadees, hoary redpolls, crossbills, gray jays, black-backed and American three-toed woodpeckers. If you’re fortunate, you might spot a spruce or sharp-tailed grouse.
It’s possible to set eyes on owls in winter too. Great gray, boreal, northern hawk, northern saw-whet, short-eared and snowy owls have all been recorded in the area.
Some of the more uncommon gull species often linger into the colder months in the Duluth-Superior harbor and nearby locations. In recent years there have been sightings of Thayer's, Iceland and great black-backed gulls in record double-digits for this location. Careful observers have also turned up rarer vagrant gulls for this locale, including lesser black-backed, slaty-backed and Nelson's herring gull.
Mammals in the Duluth area range from the frequently seen white-tailed deer to the occasional black bear and fox. With careful scrutiny you might spot other species, including ermine, fisher, otter, pine marten and coyote. Small mammals, such as mice, shrews, squirrels, and chipmunks abound.
Check out the Hartley Nature Center to see frogs, toads, salamanders, beaver, birds and butterflies. This site is one of the hotspots on the Duluth Audubon Society's official birding map, and a favorite among those in the birding know. There are deep forests, open fields and high vistas to view birds of every stripe. Bring your binoculars and a field guide and have a great day. Also watch the event calendar for special public birding programs where you’ll get a chance to see live bird banding.
Special Tips: Minnesota Birding Hotlines, especially the one specifically for the Duluth area, are the best bet to find out which birds are being seen where.
City Parks: Biting insects may be abundant in the summer so bring insect repellent, a hat and long-sleeved shirt. Spring and fall days may be very cool due to winds blowing from Lake Superior.
Duluth is a cosmopolitan mecca in the north woods. There is an abundance of cultural events, museums and places of art, a variety of eating establishments, historic features, musical talent and vibrant activity. This city is a wonderful place to visit, sail, drink in the coastal atmosphere of this inland seaport and watch wildlife too.
Other Activities: Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory
Hartley Nature Center
3001 Woodland Ave.
Duluth MN 55803
Ownership: City of Duluth
Closest Town: Duluth
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: