Important Bird Areas

Lake of the Woods IBA

Minnesota

Lake of the Woods is the largest lake in Minnesota, although most of the lake is in Canada. The lake has been utilized as a reservoir since the late 1880?s. The lake consists of 65,000 miles of shoreline, 14,582 islands and is 90 miles long and 55 miles wide. Lake of the Woods is located in the Agassiz Lowlands subsection of the Minnesota Ecological Classification system. This is a very diverse subsection of Minnesota, and the Lake of the Woods is used by a large number of species as well as several unique and endangered species. Several species using the Lake of the Woods area are known to nest only in or on unique habitats found in the lake area.

The areas included within the IBA are the entire lake (United State portion), all the islands (approximately 25 in number), and the open wetlands (sedge, cattails, etc) immediately adjoining the lake. All of Zippel Bay State Park, Garden Island State Recreation Area, Pine and Curry Island Scientific and Natural Area, and Larry Bernhoft, Rocky Point, South Shore, and Border Wildlife Management Areas are included in the IBA. Parts of the Canadian side of the lake have been identified as an Important Bird Area (ON 144) http://www.ibacanada.com/

The primary areas on Lake of the Woods which provide unique birding opportunities include the Pine and Curry Island and Zipple Bay State Park areas near Baudette, the Warroad Marina
near Warroad, the Long Point and Rocky Point areas along the south shore, and the Northwest Angle area in extreme northern Lake of the Woods. These sites are areas where concentrations of shorebirds, waterfowl, colonial water birds, migrating raptors and species such as the endangered Common Tern and Piping Plover can be observed.

Lake of the Woods is located in extreme north central Minnesota. Major cities located along the southern most shore of the lake are Baudette and Warroad. The best travel route from the

Bemidji and Blackduck area would be to utilize Hwy. 72 from Blackduck north to Baudette. If traveling from a more western point of Minnesota use Hwy. 32 or Hwy. 89 until reaching Hwy. 11, then take Hwy.11 to Warroad.

Ornithological Summary

The primary areas on Lake of the Woods which provide unique birding opportunities include the Pine and Curry Island and Zipple Bay State Park areas near Baudette, the Warroad Marina
near Warroad, the Long Point and Rocky Point areas along the south shore, and the Northwest Angle area in extreme northern Lake of the Woods. These sites are areas where concentrations of shorebirds, waterfowl, colonial water birds, migrating raptors and species such as the endangered Common Tern and Piping Plover can be observed.
Lake of the Woods is a large body of water attracting migrating waterfowl in both spring and fall. Regular waterfowl surveys are not conducted on this lake. Historically tens of thousands of Lesser and Greater Scaup have migrated through the area. In 2004, the Minnesota DNR recorded 4,000 Ring-necked Ducks and 4,000 Lesser Scaup on Lake of the Woods in the vicinity of the Northwest Angle. Lesser numbers of teal, American Widgeon, Pintails, and mergansers can also be observed during periods of migration with some local nesting. In recent years the numbers of Canada Geese have been on the increase.

Numerous raptors can be observed along the shores of Lake of the Woods as they skirt the large lake and travel along mainland corridors. Raptors observed during T. Wien?s survey (reference1) included Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon. Rough-legged Hawks can be expected in fall, winter and early spring

Pine and Curry Islands, Garden Island and the sandy beaches of the Northwest Angle may be the last areas where the Piping Plover can find adequate breeding localities in the state. Garden Island, with its large sandbars and beaches is a major stop over spot for many migrating shorebirds, although no count data exists.
Lake of the Woods County claims 278 total species with 78 species documented as breeding in the county (Appendix 1). Zippel Bay State Park has a list of 234 recorded species with 140 species recorded during the breeding season within the park.

Lake of the Woods is rich in shorebird diversity, a survey by T. Wiens completed in 1982 (reference 1) identified 28 of the regular 33 species found in Minnesota passing through the Pine and Curry Island area. Examples of shorebirds seen include Black-bellied Plover (October 2005), Piping Plover, nine species of sandpipers, Sanderling (October 2005), Ruddy Turnstones, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and various other species.
This is the only place in Minnesota where Piping Plovers have been attempting to nest in recent years. Annual surveys of Piping Plovers in the Lake of the Woods area began in 1982 and have continued through 2005. The population has plummeted from 50 adults in 1982 to 4 adults in 2002. No nesting occurred in 2004, and 1 unsuccessful nest was found in 2005.

Lake of the Woods is one of several places in Minnesota where Common Terns nest, both the Pine & Curry Island area and several islands in the Northwest Angle area currently have colonies of Common Terns. The location varies annually, and not all sites may be active in any given year. Common Terns are also monitored each year with approximately 95 young fledged in 2003. Other listed bird species in the Lake of the Woods area include Bald Eagle (federal threatened, state special concern), Short-eared Owl (state special concern), Peregrine Falcon (transient only, state threatened), Franklin?s Gull (transient only, state special concern), American White Pelican (state special concern), Horned Grebe (transient only, state threatened), Wilson?s Phalarope (state threatened), Yellow Rail (state special concern), and Nelson?s Sharp-tailed Sparrow (state special concern).
Lake of the Woods County recognizes numerous species that are considered to be species of conservation concern in Minnesota. The species listed below are species which have bred within the IBA area

American Bittern
American Black Duck
Northern Goshawk
American Woodcock
Black Tern
Sharp-tailed Grouse
Great Gray Owl
LeConte?s Sparrow

Conservation Issues

The Lake of the Woods area receives a lot of tourists in the spring and summer months, the area starts to see an increase in traffic around mid May with the opening of the walleye fishing season. Boat traffic, beach combing and other activities near the bird colonies can have negative impacts on the success of Lake of the Wood?s bird colonies.
Two shore lunch areas are available for public use on Pine and Curry Islands, these areas are well signed and are located away from traditional sites used by nesting birds. Much of the Pine and Curry Island area as well as portions of Rocky Point is signed as a Wildlife Sanctuary and is off limits to foot travel in order to protect nesting birds including piping plovers and common terns.
Predators have also been a problem some years. On occasion a trapper has been hired to trap predators that have been preying on sites where common tern and piping plovers prefer to nest.
String grids have also been utilized to repel ring-billed gulls from these areas in order to try to maximize nest success of these endangered species.
Other impacts such as wetland loss, habitat changes, increased agriculture and non-native species could impact native species and habitats as man made land changes increase throughout the Lake of the Woods area.