Where to Watch Hawk Migration
Fall migration means many species of birds are on the move. September and October are great times to see birds heading south, and this month we have a terrific fall migration hotspot to visit.
Duluth, Minnesota is located on the western tip of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world by area. It serves as a gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and provides many outdoor adventures. It is also home to Hawk Ridge, an amazing fall migration hotspot.
Hawk Ridge is a short drive from downtown Duluth and looks over both the town and Lake Superior. While enjoying the view you can see streams of birds flying by. Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory hires professional counters to count hawks, but they also have an interpretive naturalist to help identify birds. Tucked back along the ridge are hawk banding stations, and HRBO’s interpreters bring out captured hawks frequently, allowing visitors to “adopt” hawks and release them.
There are many passerine migrants at Hawk Ridge, but most people come to see the ridge’s namesake, the vast numbers of raptors that fly over in fall. Scientists believe that as migrating hawks head south they turn when they reach Lake Superior, as many are reluctant to fly across such a large body of water. They follow the shoreline southwest until they can get to Duluth and “round the corner” to continue a more direct route south. Hawk Ridge is perfectly situated for great viewing of these migrants.
Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Goshawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, Peregrine Falcons and many other hawks are seen in large numbers at Hawk Ridge. You never know what might show up! Volunteers, educators, naturalists, hawk counters and visitors all keep their eyes on the sky to point out the migrants. October is an ideal month for Hawk Ridge’s most infamous migrant, the Northern Goshawk, and owl migration really picks up at that point too. Migration at Hawk Ridge remains active through November. Visit Hawk Ridge at night to see banders release wild owls, or adopt one and release it yourself!