About 200 square miles of black spruce and tamarack peatlands that features a mix of winter birds unmatched by any other North American location.
By Jim Williams | Published: 10/19/2015
My favorite place for winter birding is the Sax-Zim Bog. Its mix of seasonal boreal birds is unmatched by any other North American location.
The best areas are easily accessible by road: some paved, some gravel. Regularly maintained feeders dot the roadsides, allowing great birding from your vehicle. (Warmth!) There is a welcome center. (More warmth!) I almost always see certain winter species and can expect to find surprises as well. Northern Hawk Owl will make my day. Or Boreal Chickadee. Or Black-backed Woodpecker. Or Northern Goshawk. Or winter finches. Or Great Gray Owl.
Visit the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog website for a winter driving tour, checklist, and map. The weather is cold and snowy. Bring all the winter clothing you have. Drive with care. Roads on the birding routes are plowed but often not right away. Pull to the sides of the roads with caution. What looks like snow on flat ground is often a ditch. Tow trucks are scarce and expensive. Simply put, come prepared and use common sense.
The rewards: outstanding birds in a beautiful landscape. You won’t leave disappointed. — Jim Williams
Jim Williams writes a column about birdwatching for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He is a former associate editor for Birding magazine. He described birding at Alaska’s Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge and on the state’s Kenai Peninsula. And he wrote about Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Bloomington, Minnesota, Hotspot Near You No. 21.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Boreal forest, open bogs, and hay fields.
Flat. Bogs walkable only when frozen. Roads are gravel or tarmac and always narrow.
Winter: Great Gray, Great Horned, and Barred Owls, Ruffed and Sharp-tailed Grouse, Bald Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Pileated and Black-backed Woodpeckers, Northern Shrike, Gray Jay, Black-billed Magpie, Boreal Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Snow Bunting, Pine and Evening Grosbeaks, White-winged Crossbill, Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin. Rare in winter: Northern Hawk, Snowy, and Boreal Owls, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Bohemian Waxwing, Red Crossbill, Hoary Redpoll, Purple Finch. Spring and summer: most of the winter species plus flycatchers, warblers, sparrows, rails, and shorebirds.
When to go
Mid-December through February. Mornings are best; winter days are short, so start early. Mid-May through early July for migrant songbirds and breeding species.
Welcome center has feeders, maps, information, and an outhouse. Sax-Zim Bog Birding Festival, February 12-14, 2016. Food and gas in Meadowlands and Cotton.
A mix of state, county, township, and private land. Roads are public. Stay out of private driveways unless feeder access is noted. Welcome center open daily 10-3 from mid-December to mid-March.
The feeder on Admiral Rd., just west of Hwy. 7, is the best place in the state to see
and photograph Boreal Chickadee.