Birds can be easy to spot but hard to identify. More than 200 native species reside from Duluth up the North Shore plus some unusual birds can be seen on the highly traveled Lake Superior migration route. For identification, look for an app, or buy a field guide book. Minnesota’s state bird, the common loon, can be observed nesting, diving and swimming on inland lakes, spring to fall, while non-breeders linger on Superior’s shores. You will most likely spot Canada geese and snow gees plus a variety of ducks on Superior, too. One year round resident is the Herring gull, [mistakenly, but commonly called a seagull].
Some big birds you may spot along the shore include the bald eagle, which stands up to 3-feet tall with wingspans up to 7-feet. Immature bald eagles are often mistaken for golden eagles, which are slightly smaller and have an amber head and neck. Of the same size, is the turkey vulture, characterized by its red, featherless low-held head. The large great gray and snowy owls are up to four times the size of the native boreal and saw-whet owls. And then there is the pre-historic, red-capped pileated woodpecker [pictured here].
The Hawk Migration
Lake Superior and northwest winds funnel migrating hawks down Superior’s shoreline each September. In mid-September, thousands of broad-winged, red-tailed, and rough-shinned hawks ride the thermals. In mid-October, sharp-shinned hawks, Cooper’s hawsk and goshawks pass through. The osprey, largest of all hawks, builds nests along inland lakeshores. At 2-feet tall, with a five-to-six foot wing span, and a terrific head-first dive that makes a last minute minute switch to feet first, you’ll know the osprey when you see it.