North Shore birds

Keep track!

Get a list of North Shore birds and keep track of the birds you spot during your state park visit.

The first spring migrants arrive in early April with the "big push" of migration in late May, when more than 150 species may be present in the park at once. Summer nesting specialties along the North Shore include Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, many wood warblers, and more. During fall look for the Common Nighthawk migration in late August, when thousands can fill the sky on warm evenings; the flood of songbirds heading south in early September; the peak of raptor migration in September and October, when the North Shore is one of the best places in North America to see migrating hawks; and the Arctic birds beginning to arrive in late October. In winter, northern owls and winter finches sometimes visit from Canada.

The North Shore is one of the best places in North America to observe the fall raptor migration. Hawks, eagles, and falcons are concentrated here by the Lake, and on a good day (northwest winds) in September or October, it is possible to see thousands. Species include Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Golden Eagle, American Kestrel, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon.

Loons do not nest on Lake Superior, but the Big Lake is still a great place to find them. Common loons are common in spring and fall migration, as well as in mid-to-late summer, when adults who did not breed come out to the lake to fish. Red-throated Loons and Pacific Loons are rare migrants in the spring and fall.

More than 20 kinds of shorebirds are seen along the North Shore. Shorebirds are sandpipers, plovers, and other wading birds. At Gooseberry, look near the mouth of the river, on the gravel bar, or on the Picnic Flow. The best times to look are in April and May, and again in August and September. However, Killdeers and Spotted Sandpipers are around all summer, and birds migrating south can turn up as early as late June.

Herring Gulls
The most easily-seen bird at Gooseberry, Herring Gulls are big, gray-backed gulls with pink legs. They nest on the cliff by the mouth of the river, and they are present year-round, but are not very common in winter. Sometimes other gulls stop here when they see the flock of Herring Gulls. Ring-billed Gulls, which nest in Duluth, sometimes visit here in summer. In winter, northern gulls, such as Glaucous Gulls, Thayer's Gulls, and Iceland Gulls sometimes make brief appearances. Great Black-backed Gulls show up on rare occasions, but their range is expanding from the east, so eventually they may be regular residents on the North Shore.

Wood Warblers
More than 25 kinds of wood warblers can be seen in migration at Gooseberry, and almost 20 kinds nest here. Most eat only insects and are only here during the time that insects are abundant (late May through early September).

Winter Ducks
From late October into January, Lake Superior hosts several kinds of ducks that nest in the far north and are seen more often on the oceans. Harlequin Ducks, Long-tailed Ducks (formerly called Oldsquaws), White-winged Scoters, Black Scoters, and Surf Scoters are all seen almost every year along the North Shore.

Ruffed Grouse
These birds (sometimes called partridge) are very common in the forests of Gooseberry Falls. They are well-camouflaged and often sit still until you are almost upon them, when they fly in a loud blur of flapping wings. In the spring, the males "drum" (actually, flap their wings) as they perch on a downed log, trying to attract a mate. The sound they make has been described as similar to a "two-cycle engine starting up;" it's a sound you feel before you even hear it.

Common Raven
Ravens are present year-round in Northeastern Minnesota. They can be distinguished from American Crows by their massive bills; long, stretched-out wings; and by their tails, which come to a V (like the V in raven) behind them.

Graphic showing difference in size between the crow and common raven: raven is much larger and has different shape.