Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve, located in Duluth, St. Louis County, Minnesota, provides some of North America's best autumn hawk watching. Hawk Ridge is owned by the City of Duluth and managed as a reserve by the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. The reserve is surrounded by a 200 acre buffer zone. The buffer zone and the reserve are being nominated for IBA status.
Daily counts of migrating raptors have been conducted for 30 years along with banding of both raptors and migrating songbirds. Hawks migrate from as far away as the Arctic towards wintering areas as distant as South America. During the fall, migrating hawks concentrate in impressive numbers at the western tip of Lake Superior. Reluctant to cross a large body of water, birds funnel down the north shore of Lake Superior, riding thermals and updrafts created by the topography along the shore.
The most common species seen at Hawk Ridge include turkey vulture, osprey, bald eagle, northern harrier, sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper's hawk, northern goshawk, broad-winged hawk, red-tailed hawk, rough-legged hawk, golden eagle, American kestrel, merlin and peregrine falcon. Occasional sightings of gyrfalcon, red-shouldered hawk and Swainson's hawk also occur.
Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve IBA is the most significant raptor migration site in Minnesota, and one of the premier sites in North America. The fall raptor count from the main overlook for the past 30 years has averaged 62,595 individuals, with fall season totals exceeding 100,000 individuals in two different years. Newly initiated spring counts indicate a previously undetected northern movement as well. Since 1996, songbird banding has also been a regular occurrence with over 15,000 individuals from 100 species banded.
Hawk Ridge has been known to be a significant migration concentration point for well over half a century. The first organized hawk counts were started and documented by Dr. Pershing Hofslund in 1951. The banding station was started in 1972, and alomost 3,000 raptors are banded there annually, on average.
Hawk Ridge is well managed and protected by the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory and Duluth Audubon Society. There are concerns about increased development along Skyline Parkway and in the neighborhood on the periphery of the protected land, and its potential impact on migratory birds. We are working to get some guidelines adopted for windows on houses east of the Ridge, and working with the city to be proactive with one proposed development.
Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve is owned by the City of Duluth and managed as a reserve by the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory.