Migratory Birds Offer Thrill to Birders


Watch for swans on the remaining open water as they migrate south. Photo by Kate Perkins

As many birdwatchers will already know, the migration period in the fall and the spring offers a great opportunity to see birds that pass through our beautiful state. Now's the time when many species of birds are making their way south to warmer climate. Since the Whitefish Chain Area has such beautiful, pristine wilderness, keep your eye out for migratory birds, including these:


As ice begins to form on the lakes, many waterfowl will cling to the last few areas of open water as they make their way south. Keep an eye out for swans in open bays, inlets and outlets. According to the Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America, trumpeter swans were once endangered but are now doing quite well. They are massive birds that will dwarf a Canada goose when swimming alongside it. True to their name, these birds really do have a trumpet-like call that you're almost sure to hear if you hang around long enough (and believe us, they call all hours of the day!). Look for these birds on either side of the dam in Crosslake.

Sandhill Cranes

According to the Explore Minnesota birding update, sandhill cranes are currently moving through the state. These are also large, beautiful birds. During the day, though, you won't find them on the water- you'll find them in open, harvested fields and clearings. The birds are a beautiful bluish-gray, with red over their eyes. If you hear them call, you might do a double-take. Their gutteral sound is almost alien-like. Look for these birds in the open fields along County Road 1, which runs east-west north of the Whitefish Chain, or along County Roads 15 and 16.


Birds of prey are also on their way south, according to the Explore Minnesota birding update. Watch for hawks and eagles that are making their way south by checking the tops of dead trees, on electrical posts or on fence posts in open areas. (Bonus: you might also want to check the osprey nests in the area to see if those guys are still hanging around, though they may have already headed south.)

... And more!

These are just a few examples of fun birds to see on the Whitefish Chain. You may also want to take a look at the Mississippi River, as Explore Minnesota explains that it's a major migration route for many species. You may not know that the Whitefish Chain feeds into the Mississippi River by way of the Pine River, and the Mississippi is actually not too far from the Whitefish Chain. Travel east on County Road 11 and you'll see the Mississippi, usually on the south side of the road. There are a couple of pullouts and river access sites along that road.

If you're looking for more resources, head over to our birding page or check out the Birds of the Byway program, which is choc full of resources.

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