Line illustration

Where to go Birding in Minnesota Right Now

Image Caption
Yellow warbler on crabapple tree - <a href="" rel=" noopener" target="_blank"></a> 
Image Caption
Yellow warbler on crabapple tree - 

Monthly Birding Update - December 2022

While the southbound migration is down to a trickle for Minnesota's nesting birds, boreal birds are arriving daily. 

December is a great time to view numerous owl species, often drawing birders from around the world. And don't miss this opportunity to see large numbers of eagles along the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota’s bluff country. 

Happy birding!

Please note that this will be the final Explore Minnesota Birding Update. Explore Minnesota will be consolidating its Birding, Fishing, Fall Color and Winter Trails updates into an all-new monthly e-newsletter that will focus on outdoor recreation. In addition to regular features about birding, it will include information on where to find other outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the state, such as hiking, biking and paddling. The new e-newsletter will launch in March 2023, and if you are a subscriber to the Birding Update, you will automatically be subscribed. We hope you’ll enjoy all the new features!

Quick links

Nature Notes  |  Did You Know?  |  Upcoming Events  |  Birds to See

Green heron - Mike Lentz

Green heron - Mike Lentz

December Nature Notes

While December marks the end of the southbound migration for Minnesota's nesting birds, it is the beginning of a special birding season when arctic birds arrive from the north. Birds to watch for include boreal chickadees, evening grosbeaks, pine grosbeaks, hoary redpolls, common redpolls, gray jays, red-bellied woodpeckers, snow buntings, pine siskins, white-winged crossbills, red crossbills, purple finches, northern shrikes and red-breasted nuthatches. Individuals of many of these species have already arrived!

Another much-anticipated event is the arrival of northern owls rarely seen in the U.S., including snowy, boreal, northern hawk and great gray. In previous years, these owls have drawn birders from all over the world. The Sax-Zim Bog in northeastern Minnesota, an Audubon Important Area, is one of the best sites to view boreal birds. If you want to experience the Sax-Zim Bog but you're hesitant to head out on a chilly winter day, try birding vicariously with Sparky at Virtually Live 12 Sax-Zim Birding filmed in November 2020. For those that enjoy birding in winter, download the Sax-Zim Bog All-Season Birding Map! To learn about the importance of boreal forests, check out Sentinels of the Boreal.

This is also a great time of year to view bald eagles, especially at open water sections on the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota. At times, hundreds of eagles and a variety of other waterfowl can be seen. Some of the best viewing sites are the city park in Red Wing, Read's Landing south of Lake City, and areas near Wabasha. Learn more at the DNR's Bald Eagles in Winter web page. The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge offers weekly counts of numerous bird species on their Recent Bird Sightings web page. When visiting the area, be sure to stop at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha where wild bald eagles can usually be spotted through two-story floor-to-ceiling windows.

Sponsored Content

Great egret - Chris Hurst

Great egret - Chris Hurst

Did You Know?

Wondering what you can do to help birds this winter? The DNR offers an informative guide about which types of feed and feeders are best for wintering birds in Minnesota at Winter Bird Feeding Tips. Looking to spruce up your backyard for the holidays while welcoming hungry winter birds? Check out DIY: Outdoor Holiday Decorations That Double as Delectable Treats for Birds.

This year marks the 123rd Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The CBC is the world's longest-running wildlife census, both a social and citizen science event. Bird counts are held from Dec. 14, 2022 through Jan. 5, 2023 at sites throughout the U.S., Canada and many other countries in the Western Hemisphere. The information gathered at specific sites over a 24-hour period is summarized by scientists to gain insight about bird populations and patterns. Volunteers of all skill levels are needed, and there are dozens of bird counts in Minnesota looking for participants. Please refer to Minnesota's CBC map for specific sites in Minnesota and current contact information.

Sponsored Content

Sandhill cranes at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge - Bruce Elllingson

Sandhill cranes at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge - Bruce Elllingson

Upcoming Birding Events

  • Zumbro Valley Audubon will hold their Monthly Bird Walk on Saturday, Dec. 3 at Quarry Hill Nature Center. Participants stay for any length of time. This event is free and open to the public. No registration required.
  • Attend a Beginning Bird Walk at Old Cedar Avenue at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington on Sunday, Dec. 4. Participants will have an opportunity to learn about using and choosing optics and field guides for bird watching, as well as some of the better locations to search for birds at the refuge and other locations around the Twin Cities. Afterwards, the group will take a walk and search for birds that migrate to the refuge in the winter. Birders of all ages and skill levels are welcome.
  • Bird Language will be offered at the Bloomington Education and Visitor Center at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday, Dec. 4. Gather on the slopes of the Minnesota River Valley to learn what the birds are telling us about our surroundings. Please dress for the weather as the group will split the time between the classroom and outdoors. 
  • The Sax-Zim Bog in Meadowlands will offer their popular Winter Raptors Field Trip on Saturday, Dec. 10. Colorful winter finches often get lots of attention from visitors to the Bog in the winter months, but finches are not the only winter visitors to see! This field trip will search the open ag-land and roadsides of the Bog for visitors from the Arctic, such as rough-legged hawk, northern shrike, northern hawk owl and more.
  • A Bird Watching Trek at Bass Ponds will be held at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington on Saturday, Dec. 10. Participants will have an opportunity to search for birds that overwinter on the refuge or are late migrants, study the different species of birds and learn about some other local locations to search for birds in winter.  Birders of all skill levels are welcome to attend these walks.   
  • Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul will be the site of Winter Bird Feeding Tips on Saturday, Dec. 10. Learn how you can attract more species by using a variety of seeds and feeders.
  • On Sunday, Dec. 11, attend a Bird Watching Trek at Wilkie Unit in Shakopee within the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Participants will have an opportunity to search for birds that overwinter on the refuge or are late migrants, study the different species of birds and learn about some other local locations to search for birds in winter. Birders of all skill levels are welcome to attend these walks.   
  • An Eagle Viewing Field Trip will be offered by the National Eagle Center in Wabasha on Saturday, Dec. 17. This field trip provides a unique opportunity to see both bald and golden eagles soar across the skies of the Upper Mississippi River Valley and surrounding blufflands. Learn about eagle biology, behaviors and how to identify the different species on your own with the help of expert naturalists.
  • The Zumbro Valley Audubon Christmas Bird Count will be held Saturday, Dec. 17. Participants will meet at 7:15 a.m. at Silver Lake in Rochester, and each team will cover a section of the Rochester count circle. To pre-register or for more information contact Clifford Hansen at 507-281-0249 or [email protected].
  • Itasca State Park in Park Rapids will host two birding events on Dec. 20: Itasca State Park Winter Bird Count and Kid’s Science Discovery: Backyard Birds. The Winter Bird Count is part of the larger nationwide Audubon Christmas Bird Count, an activity that has occurred for 123 years! Explore Itasca's count area in search of our winter bird residents. Stay a few hours or spend the whole day. Information collected is used to track migration patterns and changes in winter bird species abundance throughout North America. Please register for this program. Backyard Birds is geared for students looking to take the classroom outside. Itasca is a wonderful outdoor learning space to explore the natural world. Registration for this program is required.
  • Christmas Bird Count at Pipestone will take place at Pipestone National Monument on Friday, Dec. 30. Volunteers will meet in our visitor center at 7:30am for complimentary coffee and donuts, break into groups and head out to count birds. This is a great event for the whole family and provides crucial data about wildlife. 
  • Tettegouche State Park in Silver Bay will be the site of Falcons, Live! on Friday, Dec. 30. Join peregrine falcon researcher, Jackie Fallon, and her live birds for an up-close look at a peregrine falcon and other falcon species. Learn about the wildly successful recovery program that brought these amazing predators back from the brink of extinction. Make sure to bring a camera! Later that day, Jackie Fallon will offer another Falcons, Live! program at Gooseberry Falls State Park in Two Harbors.
  • Sax-Zim Bog in Meadowlands will offer Winter Birding Field Trips on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. The intention of these field trips is to give an introduction on how to approach birding in the Sax-Zim Bog in the winter months. Owls will not be the target species; the group will search for all winter birds in the vast Sax-Zim Bog.

Upload Your Photos


More Minnesota Birding Resources

Check the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union web site for the most recent bird sightings and rare bird alerts.

For additional information, consider joining the Minnesota Birding community on Facebook.

Get help from the experts to plan your trip

Want to know the best spots in Minnesota? How about tips on how to make the most of your time in a specific city? Our Minnesota experts can answer your questions, offer advice, or plan the perfect Minnesota trip for you. For free.

Stay up to date with our Minnesota newsletter

Sign Up

Plan your trip with our free travel guides

Order Now