Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Birdwatching Overview

Shorebirds, songbirds, birds of prey, ducks... 155 species of birds breed in the Superior national Forest. Birds account for over 79 percent of the wildlife in the canoe country. Most are overlooked. Many small and inconspicuous song birds are hidden by thick foliage. Seeing them requires much patience, stalking, and braving the insects of the thick woods.

Everyone wants to see the northern bald eagle and everyone should. Nests are scattered throughout the canoe country. Soaring eagles can be seen often as you gaze into the sky. Watch closely and you may see the eagle dive for fish. The osprey depends almost entirely on fish for it's diet, unlike the eagle, which also scavenges for meat. Osprey build a huge nest, almost six feet across, usually in a large, dead tree near the shoreline.

The common loon will be seen by every canoe traveler at one time or another. Pairs can be found on almost every wilderness lake. Low, loosely formed nests hold one or two eggs. When hatched, you'll see the young loons riding on moms back. The haunting call of the loons and their spectacular water dancing antics will be one of your lasting memories from our area.

The common raven is the large bird often seen feeding on roadside kills. This bird will also follow wolf packs where it will scavenge the remains of wolf kills. Nests can be found of cliff ledges or tall pines. When you see a flock of "circling" black birds, you are seeing turkey vultures, often mistaken for eagles. If you can get a close look, you'll see that the birds head is actually quite bald. This scavenger will eat just about anything he can find laying around. Both the raven and vulture winter in our area.

The friendly gray jay, also known as the Canadian jay or lumberjack, will snitch tidbits of food right off your plate. The birds are quite tame and unafraid of people. Whenever you find spruce, tamarack or cedar, you're sure to find the gray jay. This year round resident looks like a bluejay except the feather colors are not as brilliant. Many varieties of sparrows inhabit our forest, the most common being the white-throated sparrow. A distinctive call, one low note followed by four high notes, will help you recognize this bird.

Many people report hearing "some one trying to start a motor." This "drumming" noise is our ruffed grouse, beating his wings in rhythm to attract a mate or show off for his competition. This chicken-like bird is not afraid of humans in the wilderness area. You may see them strolling through camp or crossing your portage trail.

Other common birds you may see are the robin, bluejay, rose-breasted and evening grosbeak, wrens, chickadee, blackbirds, warblers, flickers, sapsuckers, and crows.

Ducks common to the area are the mallard, black mallard, wood duck, common merganser, hooded merganser and pied-billed grebe. An interesting characteristic of the common merganser; this fish eating duck uses a "dump nest." Several hen mergansers will lay their eggs in one nest. Some lucky (or unlucky) hen sits on the entire lot! Sometimes you'll see 20-30 chicks all following one hen. The common merganser hen has a grey body, white chest and a rusty red colored crest on the head. The male is black and white with brilliant orange feet and bill.

Thanks to Canadian Border Outfitters for sharing this information on Boundary Waters.


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