The Twin Cities is one of the best metropolitan areas in the country for serious birdwatchers. Such common bird habitats as lakes, marshes, bogs, rivers, prairie, forests, gardens, and fields are never more than a few minutes drive away.
Grab your binoculars and check out these popular Twin Cities birding sites:
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge (map)
3815 East 80th Street, Bloomington, MN 55425
Stretching from Fort Snelling to Belle Plaine along the Minnesota River, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is used by more than 250 bird species, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, great blue herons, egrets and other large birds.
Eloise Butler Wildflower and Bird Refuge (map)
Theodore Wirth Parkway and Glenwood Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55422
Many bird species either nest in the refuge or use it as a stopover during spring and fall migration. Warblers and hummingbirds are particularly fond of the garden during migration season, and the garden is home to dozens of species of waterfowl, owls, woodpeckers, swallows, virios, finches, blackbirds and other birds also call the garden home.
Fort Snelling State Park (map)
101 Snelling Lake Road, St. Paul, MN 55111
The best place to see birds here is to take a hike around Pike Island, which sits at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. Cottonwood, silver maple, ash, and willow trees provide homes to all kinds of birds, including bald eagles.
Pilot Knob Hill (map)
Hwy. 13 to Hwy. 55 to Pilot Knob Rd.
It’s only 25 acres, but Pilot Knob is a popular birdwatching hill that overlooks both Fort Snelling Park and Pike Island along the Mississippi River. The Mississippi flyway is a major migratory route for hundreds of species of birds. During migration season, many birds that are rarely seen in Minnesota fly through or by Pilot Knob. Migrations in spring and fall are particularly rewarding.
Baker Park Reserve (map)
2309 Baker Park Road, Maple Plain, MN 55359
Located next to Lake Independence, Baker Park Reserve offers 2,700 acres of explorable habitat. A highlight for birders is the trumpeter swan refuge, which was started in 1978 and has populated the state with more than 5,000 of these majestic birds.
University of Minnesota Raptor Center (map)
1920 Fitch Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108
If you want to get close to eagles, falcons, and hawks, head to The Raptor Center, where University of Minnesota veterinarians rehabilitate more than 700 sick or injured birds each year. It’s not technically a “birding” spot, but it is the best place in town to get up close and personal with those big birds that are sometimes difficult to find in the wild.
Other great places for birding:
Public (and private) gardens
Parkways and bikeways
Small streams and ponds
Fields and farms
Near Mississippi river dams