A Birder's Guide to Minnesota
~ Fifth Edition ~
• This new edition has been expanded to 464 pages and still includes bird-finding information for all 87 counties (1,400+ locations in all) and a 55-page annotated list with 447 species found in Minnesota through spring of 2022 (now 452 species through June 2023), with their status and distribution in the state, plus numerous tips on identification.
• New features added to this edition include birding contacts for each county, QR-code links to online maps and to regular updates with corrections & additions, and nearly 200 photos.
• Note that the First Printing essentially sold out (after only
four months!), but a Second Printing is now completed and became available in May – it includes several minor text revisions, a new cover, and non-spiral binding.
A Birder's Guide to Minnesota, Fifth Edition
~ CORRECTIONS and ADDITIONS ~
As of July 2023
(including those in the March 2023 and December 2022 updates)
NOTE: Since some of the content in the text had been written as early as 2019, some updates are already necessary, and the information in most of these is included in the recently released Second Printing. There are also more recent changes indicated in red below which do not appear in the Second Printing – these are in the Introduction, Annotated List, and the chapters for Redwood, Houston, Wabasha, Waseca, Chisago, Sherburne, Benton, Beltrami, St. Louis, and Cook counties.
This collection of updates will continue as needed to provide those who use this reference to Minnesota's birding locations with the most accurate and up-to-date information available. Accordingly, please contact the author with new information you become aware of so this can be passed on to other Minnesota birders: e-mail (), or phone/text (218 349 5953).
(My thanks to Jon Beck, Herb Dingmann, Gerry Hoekstra, Doug Kieser, Jim Lind, and Brian Smith who provided information for some of these updates.)
p. ii – A better website than birdnerdz.net for sales of this guide is .
p. 16 (W, SE & NE Regions) – Besides Minnesota’s three major biomes, Tallgrass Aspen Parkland represents a fourth (and relatively minor) biome. It is limited to parts of Kittson, Roseau, Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake, and Polk counties, has relatively little ornithological significance, and accordingly gets little attention in this guide.
p. 18 – Avenza Maps is no longer recommended for storing maps in the book's QRs. This app is unable read the primary QR codes of several of the counties, and it is not needed to scan and store the contents of any of the QRs – you can download and save them in the same way as other files with no need for Avenza or any other app. Note as well that you can save maps in advance and read them later if you think you'll be birding in areas without wifi or cell service. With your smartphone, go Google Maps, click on your avatar on the right side of the search line, and on the next page select Offline maps. Next, click on Select Your Own Map, on the next page scroll to the area on whatever map you’re interested in, and click Download. You can then read the map’s contents, add annotations with locations or notes, and navigate while birding in areas with no cell service; note that you should select the Default map type, not Satellite or Terrain, which makes the map easier to use.
p. 19 – Another term used by birders should be included on this page since its definition is often misunderstood: • Boreal = Northern (e.g., as in boreal forest); note that it is not synonymous with coniferous, since boreal forests can consist of deciduous trees.
p. 20-23 – County Birding Contacts:
Add the following to the list of contacts –
• Kittson: Ezra Hosch <email@example.com>
• Douglas: Ben Eckhoff <firstname.lastname@example.org>
• Freeborn: Ezra Hosch <email@example.com>
• Fillmore: Todd Mitchell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
• Meeker: Koni & Paul Fank <email@example.com>
Change contact method from e-mail to texting –
• Jeanie Joppru (Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake, Polk counties): 218 280 3977
• Mike Hendrickson (St. Louis County): 218 348 5124
ANNOTATED LIST OF MINNESOTA BIRDS
p. 27 – The MOU Records Committee had recognized a total of 447 species recorded in the state through the spring of 2022, and an additional 5 species have now been accepted. Since this 5th edition went to press in the summer of 2022, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Brown Booby, Phainopepla, Abert's Towhee, and Swainson’s Warbler are now added to the Minnesota list, which includes 452 species through June 2023 (with the total of Accidental species increasing to 95).
Accordingly, in this Annotated List section, Broad-billed Hummingbird is added after Rufous Hummingbird (p. 37), Brown Booby (and Family Sulidae) added after Magnificent Frigatebird (p. 48), Phainopepla (and Family Ptillogonatidae) added after Cedar Waxwing (p. 64), Abert’s Towhee added after Swamp Sparrow (p. 73), and Swainson’s Warbler added after Prothonotary Warbler (p. 76).
With these records, it follows that Broad-billed Hummingbird, Phainopepla, and Swainson’s Warbler are no longer on the list of possible future additions to the Minnesota checklist – see p. 82.
p. 80 – In the Yellow-throated Warbler paragraph (as mentioned on p. 233), it should be added that Hillside Road just north of Reno Recreation Area Campground in Houston County [site 8] is currently the most consistent location for this species, with annual sightings from 2018 through 2023.
p. 104 – Wayne Johnson still welcomes birders to contact him by text for access to the Thief River Falls sewage ponds [site 4]: his number is 218 689 8967 (texts only, no calls). It is best to not to use the office phone number and e-mail address cited on this page.
p. 187 – Bell’s Vireo has been found in 3 consecutive years (2021-2023) at the northern tip of the county near the Minnesota River: from the junction of CR 7 & 440th St. [site 1], go 1 mi. south, 1 mi. east, and 0.6 mi. south on Grandview Ave.
p. 190 – Of the US Highway 14 wetlands west of New Ulm [site 7], the best one recently has been Somsen WMA on the north side of US 14: turn north on CR 12, 0.9 mi. west of the Walmart.
p. 192 – The water levels at the 320th Street Wetland [site 1] were managed and became too low in 2022, and the birding was not as productive as in previous years; hopefully, though, this situation is only temporary.
p. 193 – Meadowlark Prairies Outdoor Lab (33672 733rd Ave.) is a mostly wooded area just northeast of St. James with edge habitats to attract migrant passerines, and with good potential as well for breeding species and winter visitants. From downtown St. James, go east on 1st Ave. S to 11th St. S / CR 54, then 0.5 mi. north, 0.2 mi. east, and 0.3 mi. north to the sign and main trailhead.
p. 202-203 – The city of Pipestone now asks that birders get an annual permit before entering the sewage ponds [site 6]. Joel Adelman continues to be a good contact person, but for a more direct way of obtaining a permit, contact Jeff Jones’ office at (507) 825 3324.
p. 209 – One of the best wetlands in southeastern Nobles Co. is along Quine Avenue: e.g., Cinnamon Teal, Black-necked Stilt, and White-faced Ibis were all found here on a single day in May 2022. From the CR 57 access to Ocheda Lake [site 8], continue 1 mi. south, 0.5 mi. east to Quine Ave., and another 0.5 mi. south.
p. 210 – The number to call for vehicle access to the Adrian sewage ponds has changed: contact Kendall at (507) 841 3574.
p. 213 – In the Sioux Valley area [site 11], better access and birding for Skunk Lake is at the WMA on the south side of the lake. From Sioux Valley, go 2.5 mi. east on CR 4, then zigzag south-east-south-west on 410th Ave. for 2 mi., then back north on the two-track road through the WMA’s mixed habitats.
p. 232 – There is a small pull-off for viewing the MN Highway 16 wetland [site 3]: it’s on the south side of the highway, 2.0 mi. east of CR 25 or 0.1 mi east of Ryan Rd.; if coming from the east from Hokah, look for it 3.5 mi. west of the MN 44 junction.
p. 232 – Mound Prairie SNA [site 4] includes two tracts south of MN 16, which are easier to access than the area off Carlson Rd. on the north side of 16 (the trail uphill from that pull-out to the SNA is usually overgrown). To reach the southern tracts: go 0.5 mi. west from Carlson Rd. on MN 16 to Mound Prairie Dr., 0.1 mi. south to Golfview Dr., then east as Golfview becomes Hidden Valley Dr., and after the curve south you’ll see a SNA sign on the left; the road ends shortly after that at a trail leading left and uphill to a another SNA section.
p. 233 – Yellow-throated Warblers have still been present in 2022 and 2023 about 1/4 mi. north of the Reno Recreation Area campground [site 8]; however, they can be difficult to see, so listen for the song in the tall pines along Hillside Rd.
p. 234 – The easement to access Gordon Anderson Recreation Area [site 13] appeared to be discontinued in May 2023, as the access road has become a private driveway. It is unknown if this change is temporary or permanent, or if the area can be reached another way from CR 2.
p. 241 – The gate at the two-track road at McCarthy Lake WMA [site 4] is now usually left open; if so, it’s OK to drive in and park away from CR 84 (where parking is difficult).
p. 241-242 – There are additional accesses to the woods and wetlands along the Mississippi River backwaters between Weaver and Kellogg, which are shown on Upper Mississippi River NWR maps:
• Two of these are along 622nd St., which turns east off CR 84, just north of the McCarthy Lake WMA sign [site 4]: i.e., the West Newton Chute and Halfmoon Lake landings (see map at ).
• Three others are north of Lock & Dam #4 [site 6]: i.e., 0.4 mi. north of the dam at the corner of 657th St. and 140th Ave. (not labeled on the NWR map, but probably the best of these three), and Peterson Lake and Wilcox landings (see map at ).
p. 242 – To reach Reads Landing [site 7], turn down to the river off US 61 at the inconspicuous CR 77 sign, 3 mi. northwest of MN 60.
p. 243 – Acadian Flycatcher and Louisiana Waterthrush have occurred in recent years (including 2023) near Carley State Park [site 14] along the north branch of the Whitewater River, just across the Olmsted County line. Then, in 2023, they were joined by a Yellow-throated Warbler: listen in the pines on the ridge above the river. From the state park’s entrance road, go 0.5 mi. south on Wabasha CR 4 / Olmsted CR 10, then east on 72nd St. for 1.5 mi. to its end, and hike south and east on an old two-track road down into the woods along the river.
p. 253 – There are now small sewage ponds at Waldorf, 1 mi. northwest of town on MN 83.
p. 263 – The former Le Sueur sewage ponds [site 1] can still be scanned from the side road to the public access immediately west of the river or from the shoulder of southbound US 169, but there is no longer good access a half mile west of the river off 169.
p 264 – While Sand Lake [site 8] is visible from the public access on MN 15, 3 mi. south of Winthrop, there are better views from 310th St. west of MN 15 on the north side of the lake.
p. 269 – Among the lakes of secondary interest in the county is Circle Lake, which has two sites of note. One is its county park: from I-35 at exit #66, go 2.4 mi. west on CR 1, then 0.8 mi. southwest on Circle Lake Tr. The other is Canby Pond, adjacent to the east end of Circle L. (often attractive to waders and sometimes shorebirds): from I-35, go 1.4 mi. west on CR 1 to Canby Ave. / CR 60, 1.0 mi. south to 120th Court, then west and north along the west side of the pond.
p. 269 – The best place recently to look for Acadian Flycatchers and other specialties at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park [site 3] has been east of the campground along the Hidden Falls Trail.
p. 270 – At Koester Prairie [site 9], Bell's Vireos were present in 2022 about 1/4 mi. east of the trailhead and WMA sign on Lamb Ave., 0.9 mi. south of CR 31.
p. 272 – From Red Wing, the easiest way to Colville Park [site 5] is via US 61: turn south at the first MN 292 sign, 1 mi. east of the stoplight at US 63.
p. 274 – In the Prairie Island area, the road to the casino (Sturgeon Lake Rd.) is marked by a relatively inconspicuous stop sign on CR 18 that can be missed. This road brings you first to the casino: next turn left at the sign for the marina on Sturgeon Lake [site 13]: then return to Sturgeon Lake Rd., continue to the curve going right, and jog left to another public access at the backwaters; and rerurn to the main road which becomes Wakonade Rd. leading to more backwaters and the lock & dam [site 14].
p. 276 – The trail on top of the levee in the Lake Rebecca area [site 3] extends from the dam, west past the north end of Lake Rebecca, and eventually to CR 42. Also be sure check the Washington County side of the river north of the US 61 bridge – a Roseate Spoonbill stood on the flats here a few years back.
p. 277 – Fortunately, the 140th Street Marsh [site 5] has mostly recovered from the impact of the extension of the adjacent landfill in 2020. In addition to the Willet, White-faced Ibis, and Bell’s Vireo seen here in 2021, during 2022 there were reports of 24 shorebirds (including avocet), another Bell’s Vireo, Lark and Henslow’s sparrows, and Blue Grosbeak.
p. 287 – The gated trail a half mile from the Sibley Co. line on CR 40 [site 1] has been abandoned, is overgrown, and no longer passable.
p. 287 – The trails in Minnesota Valley NWR [site 2] on Rapids Lake Rd. west of the Rapids Lake Visitor Center and from the North Hunter Lot on CR 11 mostly pass through grasslands before coming to the woods; look for Henslow Sparrow and other species partial to such open terrain.
p. 297 – Amended directions to the public access on the north side of Pelican Lake [site 6] at Fallon Avenue: from CR 37, go 100 yards south on Fallon Ave. (not to the end of Fallon), then east at the public access sign to Holker’s Landing.
p. 319 – If birding Centerville Lake in summer [site 13], be aware of the Acadian Flycatchers found in at least the past two years about a mile west of Centerville L. Find your way up to I-35W, take the Lake Dr. / CR 23 exit (#36), go 1.2 mi. south to Aqua Ln., then turn 0.6 mi. east, and listen on the south side of the road.
p. 322 – The best (and perhaps only) access to Lawrence Creek SNA [site 9] is from the Unity Ave. parking area, though the signed trail going west from there and down to the creek is often steep and the hike difficult. At the creek, turn left/downstream as the trail becomes inconspicuous at times but leads to where Acadian Flycatchers and Louisiana Waterthrushes were still being seen in 2023 (along with Winter Wrens).
p. 327 – The county map does not clearly show MN Highway 25; it runs between Monticello (Wright Co.) and Big Lake, is then concurrent with US 10 going northwest for 9.5 mi., and turns north into Benton Co.
p. 328 – The parking lot on the Sherburne side of the Mississippi opposite Monticello [site 3] no longer has an actual church but still provides a view of the river. When traveling northwest from MN 25 on CR 11, however, you cannot turn left to access this lot: accordingly, go 0.3 mi. northwest from 25 on CR 11, turn around at the driveway on the right, then return southeast to 187th Ave. and turn right.
p. 330 – The Clear Lake sewage ponds were still in use with birding potential as of May 2023. An alternate, unsigned access road from the north turns south off CR 8, just southeast of MN 24; after 0.7 mi. it is posted No Trespassing, but it has been OK to walk in from there to view the main pond.
p. 330 – Amended directions to the Zimmerman sewage ponds: From CR 4 / Fremont Ave., go 0.8 mi. south on 2nd St. E through town and past the disc golf course, then turn right at the gate to the city compost site, and continue another 0.2 mi. south.
p. 331 – Other accessible woods along the Mississippi River in Sauk Rapids [site 1] that are often good for migrant passerines lie along Riverside Drive between 3rd and 7th streets NE.
p. 332 – One stand of pines that has attracted Red Crossbill is on CR 2, 0.6 mi. east of the Benton Beach County Park entrance [site 3]: despite some misleading signage, it’s OK to walk south into the state forest land opposite the corner where 5th Ave. NE turns north.
p. 332 – Common Raven and Northern Waterthrush (presumably nesting) were also found in 2023 in the Little Rock Creek area along 160th St. [site 5]. Farther south, the creek flows through additional bogland habitats in Sartell WMA: to reach one WMA access, go 0.5 mi. west from the creek crossing on 160th, then 1.3 mi. south on 15th Ave. NW.
p. 332 – To reach the best access for viewing the Rice sewage ponds: drive around the west side of the ponds to the end of the road on their south side.
p. 355 – The directions to Gandy Dancer Forest Road [site 6] should include going north on CR 31 to Cloverton (as shown on the county map) – not Cloverdale.
p. 386 – Moose River Dike Road [site 4] is signed as open to vehicles from mid-July to mid-September only, but there are good views of open water and marshes at both gated ends. From Fourtown, the south gate is a total of 9 mi. on CR 44 (which zigzags north-west-north-west from “town”), then 1 mi. north on signed Dike Trail. From Fourtown, the north gate is 12.5 mi. north on Fourtown Rd. / Dick’s Parkway, 4 mi. west on Moose River Forest Road [site 5], then 2.3 mi. southwest on the dike road.
When the dike road meets Moose River Rd., it jogs east a bit and continues north as an unsigned and non-gated two-track road to a T at Morehouse Forest Rd. [site 6]; this road goes east back to Dick’s Parkway (and there is no gate here either).
p. 386 – The best views of Lower Red Lake from the Ponemah Road [site 10] are 3.5 - 4.5 north of MN 1. To reach the point between Lower and Upper Red lakes, take the right fork on the loop road 5.5 mi. beyond Ponemah, then continue 0.6 mi. and turn right to a boat landing for your only real view of Upper Red L. However, the birding on both lakes (when you can see them) tends to be on the slow side, the woods along Ponemah Rd. are deciduous and disappointing as well (except for that point between the lakes), and this route takes you miles out of your way with little to show for it if no migration is going on.
p. 387 – If heading next for the eastern half of Upper Red L., turn north at the unmarked paved road immediately west of the Ponemah community center, go 10.5 mi. north and east to the reservation border, where the road becomes CR 108 and continues 3.8 mi. east to Shotley and eventually to MN 72 via CR 23. From west to east on 108 and 23: you can scan the lake at the WMA public access (turn north, 0.8 mi. east of the reservation boundary) [site 12], 1.8 mi. north of Shotley at the corner where CR 23 turns east, and 1.5 mi. farther east at Rogers Rd. [also site 12].
p. 387 – In the Waskish area of wild rice paddies [site 13], those along CR 111 are 1-2 mi. north of CR 23 (not MN 23). And those at the east end of Steel Bridge Rd are now posted and have no access.
p. 387 – Waskish Road / CR 112 [site 15] is also numbered as CR 40 on some maps.
p. 389 – Amended directions to Ponemah sewage ponds: 0.4 mi. north on unsigned road immediately east of the community center.
Lake of the Woods County
p. 391 – Recently published reports indicate that single pairs of Piping Plovers had apparently nested at Morris Point [site 3] in four of the past five years.
p. 398 – Despite construction of a wide power line corridor and continued logging, the habitat on County Road 13 [site 10] was still productive in summer 2022, with records of both sought-after woodpeckers, Canada Jay, Boreal Chickadee, and other coniferous specialties.
p. 402 – Delete Sunset View [site 6], which is now a private residential area with a gated entrance road and no lake access.
p. 402– Amended directions to Bowen Lodge [site 6]: from the junction of CR 9 and MN 46, go 3.8 mi. north to CR 148 / Williams Narrows Rd., then 0.5 mi. west to the fork, and left on Bowens Rd. for 3 mi. to the lodge.
St. Louis County
p. 408 – When water birds concentrate in spring on the Lake Superior side of the Park Point Recreation Area [site 3], the largest numbers tend to be earlier in the morning; by mid-morning, they often drift east out on the lake farther from shore and become less visible. This is especially true in early to mid-May when concentrations of 100 or more Red-throated Loons have occurred: this is usually during the first hour or so after sunrise, with few – and sometimes none – still present after then.
p. 409-411 – Due to a long-term construction project, there will be times with closures and detours related to I-535 and the Blatnik Bridge in Duluth during the next few years. This may impact access to the Port Terminal [site 7], Interstate Island [site 8], and Superior, WI. Currently, the only access to I-535 is via Garfield Ave. from either Superior St. at 16th Ave. W, or from the west end of Railroad St.
p. 416 – Probably the best place to park and scan Lake Superior at the mouth of the Lester River [site 23] is behind the University of MN limnology building at 6008 London Rd.: turn in at the driveway off London Rd., either immediately west of the river or at the 60th Ave. E intersection.
p. 421 – The Sharp-tailed Grouse lek [site 32] may no longer be active. Only 2 displaying males were still present into spring 2022, and none has been reported there since then as of December 2022. Sharp-taileds can still occur randomly at other sites in Sax-Zim, with probably the best place to look along CR 7, 1-2 mi. south of Sax.
p. 423 – After virtually no documented reports ever in the heavily birded Sax-Zim Bog, a handful of confirmed Spruce Grouse records (some photographed) started to occur at various sites there in 2022 and early 2023. These have all been since the wildfire in fall 2021 along Lake CR 2, an area where Spruce Grouse have consistently occurred for decades (see p. 437-438). There is speculation that some of these grouse were displaced by the fire and accordingly turned up at Sax-Zim.
p. 430 – East Stanley Road in Two Harbors has again become a private residential road with no birding access.
p. 443 – Upper Cliff House Rd. at Lutsen Resort [site 8] is worth birding for sparrows and other migrants partial to open areas. From the main entrance road to the resort, turn west at the sign immediately south of MN 61, and check the fields and edges along this 1/4-mile-long road.
p. 449 – Although birders have long been visiting the Lutsen sewage ponds [site 9], some birders there were recently asked to leave. It is possible this new restriction is only temporary, and that other public works staff would allow access.
The retail price of A Birder's Guide to Minnesota is $34.95 for the First Printing ($37.50 incl. sales tax), or $39.95 for the Second Printing ($42.50 incl. sales tax), with some discounts applicable (e.g., for MBW participants). In addition to the usual retail and online outlets, it is directly available (at a discounted price, with no shipping charges) from...
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