Important Bird Areas

Mississippi River - Lake Pepin IBA

Minnesota

This area in southeast Minnesota comprises the Mississippi River Valley from the Hwy 63 bridge in Red Wing (Goodhue County) to Reads Landing (Wabasha County). The northern (eastern) boundary is the MN/WI state line. On the south (west) this IBA runs along Hwy 61 out of Red Wing to Wacouta, and then jogs south to include the Perched Valley WMA and Frontenac State Park. Hwy 61 is the boundary through Lake City then County Roads 4 and 10 to Reads Landing.

The site is easily accessed by U.S. Highway 61 as well as the Mississippi River for the entire length of the area. It lies within Pool 4 of the Mississippi River and includes all of Lake Pepin, Perched Valley WMA near Wacouta, Frontenac State Park, Bald Eagle SNA and Hok Si La Park.

This area is one of the most notable and significant birding areas in the State of Minnesota. The Frontenac area is known throughout the birding community as one of the main and most famous areas in the state to view the May migration of warblers and other neotropical migrants. Frontenac State Park contains the second highest species count among Minnesota??s 71 State Parks. Frontenac Point was a concentration site for shorebirds in the first half of the 20th Century until water level control on the river and the concentration of recreational boaters caused a decline in shorebird habitat. Frontenac Point is the subject of one of the most beautiful dioramas at the Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota. Lake Pepin, which is basically a widening of the Mississippi River contained between beautiful bluffs, provides magnificent vistas of the surrounding countryside and is one of the most scenic areas in Minnesota.

Ornithological Summary

The widening of the Mississippi River Valley at Lake Pepin and the adjoining bluffs provides some of the best bird habitat in the State of Minnesota, especially for migrant birds. Frontenac State Park regularly records between 20 and 30 species of migrant warblers and the total number of species recorded there is 263, the second highest for a Minnesota State Park. This list includes 81 Species of Greatest Conservation Need from Minnesota??s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Vireos, flycatchers, sparrows, orioles, tanagers and thrushes are recorded in abundance every year, and the prairie grasslands of the park provide excellent habitat for Henslow??s and Grasshopper Sparrows. Hok-si-la Park is also noted as an important migratory stopover for songbirds in both spring and fall. Bald Eagles nest, migrate, and winter within this IBA. Many portions of the river remain open, even during the severest of winters, providing winter feeding sites for the eagles. This area contains the largest northerly (outside Alaska) concentration of wintering Bald Eagles in the United States.Two to three hundred eagles use this IBA on a daily basis from November to March. Colville Park in Red Wing on the north end of the IBA, and Read??s landing on the south end of the IBA are both noted for attracting wintering eagles. The highest concentration of migrating Common Mergansers in the workd occurs on Lake Pepin during the month of November. Counts of 20-70,000 occur each year, with the highest recorded count of 70,000 occuring on 26 November 1995. Large concentrations of other species of waterfowl, Ring-billed Gulls and Herring Gulls are found with the flocks of mergansers. Unusual species seen in the area include Pomerine Jaeger in Nov. 1996, and a White-winged Scoter in 2006.

MN-1a (waterfowl) ?V During the months of November and December Lake Pepin is the site for a major concentration of migrating Common Mergansers with numbers varying each year from 20,000 to over 70,000. The fall high count of 79,000 was recorded on 18 November 1989. In spring 2006, daily high counts of 2,499 on 12 March, and 3,450 on 17 March were recorded.

MN-1d (Bald Eagles) ?V The area from Red Wing to the mouth of the Chippewa River regularly supports a wintering population of between 250 to 300 immature and adult Bald Eagles using three roosts (4). Bald Eagles also use this area as a migration route with a state daily high count of 1,213 recorded in spring of 2006.

MN-1e (Species diversity) - This IBA, situated within the Mississippi River corridor, is one of the major routes for spring and fall migrants in the central part of the United States. Frontenac State Park, with a total list of 263 species, is one of the most popular birding areas in Minnesota. Daily counts of over 100 species are recorded each May by birders who come to this area to view the spring migration of warblers, vireos, thrushes, flycatchers and many other species of birds. Goodhue County with a composite list of 309 species and Wabasha County with a composite list of 292 species are considered to be in an area of prime birding in the State of Minnesota.

The St. Paul Audubon Society has kept records since 1972 of the species seen on its annual May (typically the the 2nd or 3rd weekend) fieldtrip to the area (??Villa Maria Warbler Weekend??). A summary of the years 1972 ?V 2003 show a total of 244 species were recorded, including

34 warbler species (includes all ??regular species?? on the MOU list). Sixty species were seen in at least 30 of the 32 years.

MN-2a (Species of conservation concern) ?V Frontenac State Park is a site for significant numbers of breeding Henslow??s Sparrows. Other species of concern include the Bald Eagle, Cerulean Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush. Peregrine Falcons nest in Lake City and on Maiden Rock in Wisconsin and hunt over Lake Pepin.

MN-2b (Species of conservation concern) ?V The following species occur in significant numbers as non-breeders and breeders within this site:

American Woodcock
Black-billed Cuckoo
Whip-poor-will
Red-headed Woodpecker
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Bell??s Vireo
Wood Thrush
Prothonotary Warbler
Bobolink

Conservation Issues

Numerous cold-water trout streams feed major rivers such as the Root, Whitewater, Zumbro, and Cannon. High traffic of recreational fishing occurs in these streams. Forestry is
also an important land use, and outdoor recreational opportunities abound, with significant
amounts of public lands along the river corridor. Retaining or restoring the health of stream
systems is an important conservation objective in this subsection.

Habitat

From Tomorrow??s Habitat for the Wild and Rare - The Blufflands Subsection in southeastern Minnesota, dominated by the Mississippi River, is characterized by bluff prairies, steep bluffs,and stream valleys, often 500 to 600 feet deep. Numerous cold-water trout streams feed major rivers such as the Root, Whitewater, Zumbro, and Cannon. Rich hardwood forests grow along the river valleys, and river-bottom forests grow along major streams and backwaters. There are few lakes. Agriculture, both row crops and pastures, takes place in former savanna and prairie areas and is the most prominent land use in this subsection. Forestry is also an important land use, and outdoor recreational opportunities abound, with significant amounts of public lands along the river corridor. Retaining or restoring the health of stream systems is an important conservation objective in this subsection.