Important Bird Areas

North Metro Mississippi River iBA

Minnesota

This Important Bird Area includes the Mississippi River and its adjacent floodplain forest and uplands extending 27 river miles from the Washington Avenue Bridge adjoining the Mississippi River Twin Cities Important Bird Area in Minneapolis to the mouth of the Crow River in Hennepin County. For the most part, the other boundaries of this Important Bird Area are congruent with the boundary of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA - a unit of the National Park Service) between river miles 852 to 879. It also includes the Elm Creek Regional Trail and its adjacent public lands and Elm Creek Park Reserve (ECPR) and Elm Creek and its adjacent riparian area from ECPR to the Mill Pond in Champlin to the Mississippi River. This IBA also includes the Rice Creek corridor, its adjacent floodplain forest and uplands and public lands in Fridley to Silver Lake Road in New Brighton in Ramsey County.

This IBA lies within an area that has a very high population density and an area that is one of the fastest growing areas in the Twin Cities area. Almost all of the area, other than open water as defined in the Minnesota County Biological Surveys (MN CBS), in the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA) in this IBA is on Disturbed Land in private ownership or Disturbed Land in public ownership24. The Rice Creek area in Fridley is the same24. The Elm Creek Park Reserve (ECPR) has most of its area on Disturbed Land in public ownership24.

The Mississippi Flyway is not only a tremendously important flyway for waterbirds, but also for raptors and all other migratory birds. Warblers are seen in abundance along the river because of its rich source of insects during the spring and fall migration. The public has many sites to view birds from the many parks and other river public access points. The Stone Arch Bridge Overlook is a point near the southern end that provides a magnificent view of the river along with birds such as the great blue heron, great egret, tree swallows, barn swallows and mallards. Often eagles and peregrine falcons can be seen flying overhead. There are 13 city parks along the river and all provide good views of birds; that is in addition to the 6 boat launches and 4 canoe access points; and 4 regional parks. Many communities provide sidewalk access to the river for the public?s enjoyment. The river has easy access also by automobile and from bus routes that run parallel to the river.

Ornithological Summary

The Mississippi River is one of the great bird flyways in the world. This is the migratory corridor for 40% of North America?s waterfowl and shorebirds. Specifically, it is a part of a waterfowl flight corridor defined by Bellrose17 (in Ratti, et. al. l982) as the Mid-Minnesota Corridor. This corridor extends from eastern Manitoba to the upper Mississippi River south of Minneapolis. An estimated 760,000 dabbling ducks (wood duck, teal and widgeon), including 600,000 mallards, used this corridor according to Bellrose. Many of the ducks mentioned above pass through this area during migration as can be surmised from the bird lists in the Appendices.
MN ? 1c (Waterbirds) - There are four known heron rookery sites within this IBA. One site that contains 21 nests2,3 is located in Minneapolis on a small island in the Mississippi River just north of the mouth of Shingle Creek. The next site upriver is on the Islands of Peace. This was a fairly large rookery until it crashed a few years ago. About 3 nests2 are still there, though it is uncertain if they are still active. The next site is just below the Coon Rapids Dam. Refsnider1 reported counting 48 nests on March 28, 2004 with birds seen on 35 of them. An aerial photo survey was conducted on it and observed a great egret nest among the great blue heron nests. Refsnider1 also observed a large rookery in November 2001 just downstream from the mouth of the Crow River on the Hennepin County side of the Mississippi River. He estimated there were 100 nests.

Refsnider1 also reported that there are scores of double-crested cormorants that roost on islands in the Mississippi River between Coon Creek and the Coon Rapids Dam in the spring during migration.

MN ? 1e (Species diversity) A total of 234 species, compiled by various sources, has been documented in this IBA. There are specific areas within the IBA have been surveyed and diversity informaiton exists.

The Rice Creek area is known in the birding community as an excellent area for observing migrating birds. Foster8 over a 15 year period observed 33 different species of warblers including a prairie warbler and the following species of special concern ? Louisiana Waterthrush and the Hooded Warbler. Bird lists over a 10 year period from Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis and other birders have 120 species on them, including the Bald Eagle.

Bahls10 from his home near the St. Paul Water Station has observed 115 species of birds over the last 10 years, including Trumpeter Wwan, Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle and American White Pelican, all scpecies of conservation concern.

Swanson9 observing at the Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park ? East has recorded 179 species including Trumpeter Swan, Horned Grebe, Peregrine Falcon, American White Pelican, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk and Forster?s tern, all species of conservation concern.

Johnson11 has recorded 165 species at the Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park ? West. This list includes the following species of conservation concern; Trumpeter Swan, Horned Grebe, Loggerhead Shrike, American White Pelican, Franklin?s Gull, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hhawk and Forster?s tern. Johnson also recorded the first Hennepin County record for the Clark?s grebe in 2001.

Naturalists12 at Elm Creek Park Reserve have recorded 132 species, including Henslow?s Sparrow; Trumpeter Swan, Rred-shouldered Hawk, Cerulean Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, Forster's tern and Bald Eagle.

The DNR has documented an eagle nest on the Islands of Peace, although it is unsure if it has been active the past couple of years. Eagles are often seen perching in trees just below the Coon Rapids Dam, but no nests have been sited yet. There is an active eagle nest on the west side of Hayden Lake in Elm Creek Park Reserve22. There is also an active eagle nest on the island in Mississippi West Regional Park23. Three Rivers Park naturalists have reported a broadwing hawk nest about ½ mile below the Coon Rapids Dam.

One of the nesting sites of the peregrine falcon is the Excel Energy?s Riverside Plant in Minneapolis, which is within this proposed IBA. The site first became active in 1998. The total young fledged at Riverside is 15.

An osprey platform was put up in the Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park ? West before 1997. The first nest attempt at Coon Rapids Dam was in 1998. , Nesting has continued since then. The total osprey fledged from this platform is 15.MN ? 4 (Urban and Research Value)

Conservation Issues

The primary threat to this IBA is the rapid urbanization of the upper portions of the Mississippi River area in Anoka County and northern Hennepin County. Where agriculture was the threat to this area in the past, housing has replaced it. This construction nearly always results in mature tree loss, wetland loss and additional runoff from increased impervious cover. This urbanization increases the probability that more feral cats will add to the already large population that probably exists. This will also put more demands for recreation sites. The expansion of County Highway 81 has resulted in loss of buffer land along Elm Creek Park Reserve and may affect wetlands adjacent to Elm Creek.