A 315-acre woodland on a bluff overlooking Lake Superior where more Northern Goshawks are tallied than anywhere else.
By Erik Bruhnke | Published: 8/16/2013
I go birding at Hawk Ridge for the hawk-migration spectacle, for the amazing assortment of migrating boreal birds, and because the ridge offers an incredible view of the landscape and Lake Superior. I’ve been a count interpreter here for the past five years, and I’ve witnessed days when thousands of Common Nighthawks stream along the lakeshore into the evening hours.
A little later in the season, the full spectrum of winter finches arrives. And just a few Octobers ago, Hawk Ridge tallied Minnesota’s largest single-day counts of Rusty Blackbird and Common Redpoll.
Raptor migration here is top-notch. Tens of thousands of Broad-winged Hawks pass by in September, followed by impressive numbers of Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks in late October. In October 2009, I held and released a banded juvenile Gyrfalcon. What a thrill!
The site’s claim to fame is the number of migrating Northern Goshawks. Hawk Ridge hosts the largest concentration of the species in North America. Day counts in October and November sometimes exceed 15 birds; last year, the season total was 269 goshawks. — Erik Bruhnke
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Aspen, birch, and spruce forests.
Trails meander along and around ridges. Rock outcrops. Main overlook wheelchair-accessible; trails are not. Birds can be observed from car.
Throughout autumn: Sharp-shinned Hawk (immatures peak in mid-September, adults in early to mid-October). September: Broad-winged Hawk, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk (mostly juveniles), Swainson’s Hawk (uncommon but regular), Mississippi Kite (very rare), Peregrine Falcon, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin. October: Northern Goshawk, Red-tailed Hawk (adults), Red-shouldered Hawk (very rare), Bald and Golden Eagles. October and November: Gyrfalcon (rare), Rough-legged Hawk. Other birds: Warblers, White-winged and Red Crossbills, Common Redpoll, Pine and Evening Grosbeaks, Rusty Blackbird, Northern Shrike, White-throated Sparrow, Common Nighthawk.
When to go
Mid-August through late November. Early morning for warblers; mid-morning through afternoon for migrating raptors.
Hawk-counting platform and several trails. Naturalist staff and volunteers on site 9-4 from September 1-October 31. Banded birds from private banding operation often brought to the main overlook. Portable toilets available September and October.
Raptor-viewing area managed by Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. No fees. Parking is along the road leading to the main overlook.
Sun exposure is high, and sometimes it’s breezy, making staying hydrated a challenge. Bring sunscreen and water, and dress in layers.
For more info
Mature pines, mixed woods, and a lake four miles west of Hawk Ridge at 3001 Woodland Ave. Good location for breeding warblers.
About 11 miles south of Hawk Ridge on Minnesota Ave., on the world’s longest freshwater peninsula. Duluth’s go-to place for rare waterfowl, jaegers, gulls, and shorebirds during migration. An outstanding fallout spot for migrating warblers.