Minnesota ’s remarkable variety of habitats leads to excellent bird-watching, and many people come here with binoculars and field guides in hand. In total, over 312 regular visitors, plus another 115 casuals and accidentals, have been recorded in Minnesota.
While bird-watching opportunities are excellent year-round, winter bird-watching in Minnesota stands out. Arctic species like the common and hoary redpoll, gyrfalcon, Ross’s gull, and snowy owl head south to Minnesota when the snow flies. There are also exciting resident species, such as the spruce grouse, three-toed woodpecker, and boreal chickadee, who reach the southernmost ends of their nesting range in Minnesota.
Where to go depends on what you want to see and when you visit, but many people consider the Sax-Zim Bog north of Duluth  to be the single best bird-watching site in the state because of the ease of spotting northern species that are tough to find elsewhere. On the other hand, some of these species can be seen in Duluth  where there is a greater overall variety of birdlife.
The endlessly varied Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge north of Thief River Falls has gained a good reputation among bird-watchers nationwide, and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, just a stone’s throw from the Mall of America, is one of the best urban bird-watching sites in the nation.
Minnesota lies right at the heart of the Mississippi Flyway, one of North America’s four main migration corridors, and this brings some tremendous congregations to the state each fall. Anywhere from 40,000 to over 200,000 (the record count for a single day is over 100,000) raptors soar past Duluth’s Hawk Ridge  between August and November.
Other fall migration hotspots include Lac Qui Parle Wildlife Management Area along the upper reaches of the Minnesota River, where as many as 150,000 Canada geese flock; and Weaver Bottoms  along the Mississippi River north of Winona , which has seen upward of 12,000 tundra swans in a single day.
The Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union website (www.moumn.org ) offers a wealth of information including bird-watching hot spots, trip announcements, and the definitive Minnesota species checklist. The MOU’s Rare Bird Alerts are available online or by phone. There are separate numbers for the Duluth area (218/834-2858), northwest Minnesota (800/433-1888), and the rest of the state (763/780-8890). No book is more invaluable than Kim Eckert’s A Birder’s Guide To Minnesota.
Anyone heading to the Red River Valley should get a copy of the Pine to Prairie Birding Trail booklet (available free from all area tourism agencies or at www.mnbirdtrail.com ), which details 43 top sites between Fergus Falls and Warroad. The Audubon Society has also developed the Great River Birding Trail (608/784-2992) along the Mississippi River and the Minnesota River Valley Birding Trail (651/739-9332, www.birdingtrail.org ).