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Where to go Birding in Minnesota Right Now

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Yellow warbler on crabapple tree - MikeLentzPhotography.com 

Monthly Birding Update - October 2022

Some birders consider October the best time of year to see rare and unusual species! 

Sandhill cranes are preparing for migration, and they are an awesome sight as they gather in fields and wetlands. Groups of larger raptors are abundant at Hawk Ridge and along the Mississippi Flyway. Find out how to identify these birds in flight. October is a lovely and colorful time of year — consider adding a fall color drive to your next birding trip!

Happy birding!

 

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

Green heron - Mike Lentz

Green heron - Mike Lentz

October Nature Notes

The fall migration is different than the spring migration. In the spring, there is an urgency to relocate to secure prime nesting sites and a mate. In the fall, birds may travel more leisurely, stopping to rest and feed when conditions allow. Learn more at The Basics of Bird Migration

While some species of birds have already departed, this is prime time to see many of the larger migrant species such as swans, sandhill cranes and large raptors. And some birders consider October the best time of year to see rare and unusual species. Be sure to check out the live bird migration forecast maps from BirdCast — just enter Minnesota in the Migration Dashboard field to view a three night migration forecast! Also check out the new Winter Finch Forecast and find out which species are likely to be seen in Minnesota this winter.

Vast numbers of sandhill cranes are moving southward and can often be seen at Minnesota wildlife refuges during the month of October. Sandhill cranes are large birds nearly 4 feet high with a wingspan up to 7 feet wide. The cranes gather and feed in harvested fields during the day and rest in shallow water at night — dawn and dusk offer the greatest shows. The graceful flight and raucous calls of thousands of sandhill cranes is a rare and memorable experience. One refuge known for drawing large numbers of sandhill cranes is Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Zimmerman. When visiting, be sure to bring along a self-guided tour map to help you navigate the park. And learn about upcoming Sandhill Crane Tours below.

Impressive numbers of hawks, falcons and other raptors continue their migration over Hawk Ridge which is located on the Lake Superior flyway. This flyway allows bird to avoid the vast open waters of Lake Superior. The larger raptors generally migrate during the month October. Just some of the raptors you can expect to see include bald eagles, golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, broad-winged hawks, red-shouldered hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, northern goshawks and turkey vultures. Raptors can be difficult to tell apart, especially when seen from a distance. Learn identification tips at the Audubon’s Three Basic Ways to Identify Hawks, Eagles, Falcons and Other Raptors. Before heading out, check the Hawk Count to learn daily statistics for nearly 20 species of birds viewed from Hawk Ridge.

The Mississippi River is one of the four main bird migration routes in the United States, with hundreds of bird species passing through. The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge is part of this flyway and considered to be a Globally Important Bird Area. During the month of October, birders can see large flocks of migratory birds, as well as beautiful fall color lining steep wooded bluffs rising hundreds of feet above the river valley. If you plan to search for birds in Minnesota's bluff country region, be sure to read Explore Bluff Country & The Mississippi River Valley.

Fall colors are rapidly transforming; consider adding a fall color drive to your next fall bird watching trip. Also, check out 6 Hot Spots for Watching the Fall Bird Migration!

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Great egret - Chris Hurst

Great egret - Chris Hurst

Did You Know?

Migrating birds need energy-rich food, as well as meals that don't require a lot of energy to locate. Some of the best foods for migratory and resident birds include black oil sunflower seeds, white millet or millet mix, nyjer and suet. Peanuts are also a great source of energy — shelled nuts allow birds to expend less energy to consume. If possible, leave a large area of brush clippings roughly 10 feet away to provide birds a safe retreat. A clean source of water is also beneficial. Once your feeding station is set up, watch for hungry sparrows, blackbirds, cardinals, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, woodpeckers and finches. Also keep an eye out for returning dark-eyed juncos, the "harbingers" of winter.

The plight of the prairie chicken is a reminder of what happens when habitat is destroyed. Minnesota’s prairie chicken population has dropped to just a few thousand birds due to the decline in tallgrass prairies. Find out more from the Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society. According to an article in BirdWire, the loss of three billion birds over the last 50 years has rallied birders to help save our birds. Learn how we can make a difference at 7 Simple Actions To Help Birds

In honor of the spooky celebration at the end of October, try to match the eerie sounds with their sources at Can You Identify the Birds Behind These Creepy Calls?, courtesy of The Audubon Society.

Participate in a world birding event Oct. 7-9 during Global Bird Weekend! This citizen science project aims to bring birders together as a global community, raise awareness of the plight of birds, and encourage conservation practices to make the world a better place for birds. Individuals and teams should submit their findings on eBird. If you are new to eBird, get started here!

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Sandhill cranes at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge - Bruce Elllingson

Sandhill cranes at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge - Bruce Elllingson

Upcoming Birding Events

  • The Zumbro Valley Audubon Society Monthly Bird Walk will be held at the Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester on Saturday, Oct. 1. Attend a casual walk through the park and stay as long as you like. Bring binoculars if you have them.
  • The Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center in Hastings will offer a Bird Hike program on Saturday, Oct. 1. Join an expert birder on a morning hike around the Nature Center. Learn to identify birds by sight and sound. Field guides and binoculars are available to use or bring your own.
  • Eastman Nature Center in Osseo will be the site of a Weekend Bird Hike on Saturday, Oct. 1. Join staff on a casual bird hike to look for birds that are common around the area as well as birds that are migrating south for the winter. Bring binoculars or borrow a pair from the nature center.
  • My Child & Me: Big Year of Birds Sketching & Nature Journaling will be offered at the Edgewood Picnic Area at Hyland Lake Recreation Area in Bloomington on Saturday, Oct. 1. Join others who like to draw, write and spend time outside as you begin a new nature journal. A simple journal and sketching supplies will be provided, as well as a captive raptor to observe.
  • Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Zimmerman will host their annual Wildlife Festival on Saturday, Oct. 1. This free, family-friendly event is open to the public from 10a.m. - 2 p.m. at the Oak Savanna Learning Center. Highlights include presentations and booths with live animals, horse-drawn wagon rides, nature crafts, bird education, wildlife discovery, Eagle's Nest Nature Store, silent auction and local food trucks.
  • Global Bird Weekend will be take place Friday through Sunday, Oct. 7-9. This citizen science project aims to bring birders together as a global community, raise awareness of the plight of birds, and encourage conservation practices to make the world a better place for birds.
  • Big Bog State Recreation Area in Waskish will be the site of Outstanding Owls on Saturday, Oct. 8. What makes an owl an owl? What owl species reside at Lake Bemidji State Park? What challenges do owls face and how can we help them? Learn the answers to these questions and more. After the presentation, make a fun owl craft!
  • Take a Birdwatching Trek at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington on Saturday, Oct. 8. Join refuge naturalist Craig Mandel for a bird walk and learn about the birds that visit the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge during their fall migration. See nesting birds travelling south to warmer climes, as well as the arrival of some birds from the north.
  • Mille Lacs Kathio State Park in Onamia will offer an Autumn Nature Walk: Woods, Wings & Wildlife on Saturday, Oct. 8. Discuss the Kathio fall forest, as well as the birds and other animals that make the park their home. Meet in front of the Interpretive Center.
  • Sandhill Crane Tours will be offered by Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Zimmerman on Thursday, Oct. 13, Saturday, Oct. 15, Thursday, Oct. 20Saturday, Oct. 22, and Wednesday, Oct. 26.  Join refuge staff for a free behind the gates tour with the potential to see thousands of staging Sandhill Cranes. Spotting scope and binoculars available to borrow. Registration is required.
  • Participate in Birding for Beginners at Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul on Saturday, Oct. 15. Join the park naturalist for a birding hike and learn about the basic techniques of bird identification. Binoculars and bird guides are available for use. Pre-registration is required.
  • Lake Bemidji State Park in Bemidji will present Outstanding Owls on Saturday, Oct. 15. What makes an owl an owl? What owl species reside at Lake Bemidji State Park? What challenges do owls face and how can we help them? Learn the answers to these questions and more during this presentation. After the presentation, stay to make a fun owl craft!
  • A Bird Watching Trek will be offered by the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge at the Bass Ponds unit in Bloomington on Sunday, Oct. 16. Birders of all skill levels are welcome.
  • Eastman Nature Center in Osseo will be the site of a Every Body Can Bird on Thursday, Oct. 20. Accessible and inclusive birding is for every body! Attend this free program to practice birding by ear and enjoy the company of other birders. Go birding with a naturalist on the sidewalk around the nature center and move inside to the Observation Room. Binoculars are available to borrow, and birders of all ages and skill levels are welcome.
  • Head to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Education and Visitor Center in Bloomington on Thursday, Oct. 27 for Audubon Speaker Series: Research on Minnesota's Red-tailed Hawks.
  • The Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center in Hastings will offer a Public Bird Banding program on Friday, Oct. 28. Join CNC’s expert bird banders as they catch, band, and release songbirds on our Minnesota campus. Banding runs continuously and visitors may come and go at any time.

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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.

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