North Woods Rookeries

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Lake of the Woods has over 1,000 cormorant nests on Crowduck Island. Unless you have a good motorboat or enjoy big-lake canoeing, the island is inaccessible, but cormorants may be seen fishing at a host of locations along this enormous lake. Check Zippel Bay State Park; Morris Point; Wheelers Point; the Warroad Marina, 1 mile north of Warroad along County Road 74 on the north edge of Warroad; and the public-access boat landing off County Road 12, 2.5 miles east of Hwy. 11.

The island in Long Lake in Kandiyohi County has one of the largest heron rookeries in Minnesota some 2,300 nests of cormorants, great egrets, cattle egrets, and great blue herons. Scan the lake along its north shore from County Road 27. From Wilmar, take Hwy. 71 north and then turn left (west) onto County Road 27. The island is over a mile out into the lake, so consider putting a canoe in at the boat landing on County Road 27 or using a good spotting scope. Regardless of how close you may or may not get, the herons will be constantly on the move and easily seen flying to and from their foraging areas.

Lake Johanna in Pope County has a large rookery on the south end of the lake that provides nesting sites for great blue herons, cormorants, great egrets, and black-crowned night herons. Little blue herons and cattle egrets have bred here, too, the first recorded breeding sites for either species in Minnesota. The only real access is at the boat landing on the north end of the lake. Take Minnesota 104 south to County Road 8 and turn left (east). Go 0.9 mile and turn right onto a dirt road with a sign reading Public Water Access. The lake can't be adequately viewed from here, so put a canoe in for a remarkable birding experience. Even though you must stay a good distance away from the rookery, it is very exciting just to be a part of the general hubbub.

Egret Island , a 34-acre island owned by The Nature Conservancy on Pelican Lake in Grant County, supports thousands of nesting great blue herons, black-crowned night herons, great egrets, and cormorants. A boat landing on the western shore provides good viewing, though the island is still a mile offshore. From I-94 take Minnesota 78 north 1.7 miles to the boat landing. Additional summer sightings in this area have included snowy egret, cattle egret (which may nest here), little blue heron, tricolored heron, and yellow-crowned night heron.

Lac Qui Parle Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in the Minnesota River valley serves as an important corridor for migrants in the fall (100,000 geese stop here), but its three major water impoundments also provide great habitat for nesting herons. A large heron rookery can be seen just southeast of the hamlet of Odessa. About 7 miles south of Ortonville on Hwy. 7, take County Road 21 to the right (south). After passing Odessa on your right (it's just a few houses), the road goes up a hill and makes a 90-degree sweep to the left. Just past this curve look out to your right to view the huge rookery down in the river valley. Binoculars or a spotting scope are very helpful because the rookery is a good distance away. Continue on this road (1 mile total from Odessa) to the second gated road on the right with a sign reading Public Hunting Area. Take this road to the dead end at the dam and walk out onto the dam for a great view of the rookery. Expect white pelicans to be feeding at the dam as well.

Voyageurs National Park has double-crested cormorant rookeries on islands in Rainy Lake, a common tern rookery on an island in Kabetogama Lake, and is home to 10 percent of all Minnesota's great blue herons.

And finally, Pigs Eye Lake in St. Paul has what may be the only rookery of yellow-crowned night herons in Minnesota as well as the largest colony of black-crowned night herons. Cormorants, great blues, and great egrets also nest here.

Swan Lake in Nicollet County and Heron Lake in Jackson County are also known to be exceptional heronry sites, but viewing access to them is well nigh impossible. Keep them in mind if in the future the public gains access (Swan Lake does have a boat landing but no public shoreline to scan from).

Other easy-to-spot rookeries are Kabekona rookery, southwest of LaPorte on Minnesota 64; Madden's rookery, north of Brainerd on County Road 77; and Pigeon Lake rookery, south of Dassel on Minnesota 15.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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