The Superior National Forest Important Bird Area (SNF IBA) encompasses approximately 3.9 million acres and spans 150 miles along the Canadian border in Cook, Lake, and St. Louis Counties (see map #1). It is the larger of the two Minnesota National Forests and was established in 1909. The ecological setting of the SNF is in the Laurentian Mixed Forest province, a transition zone between the boreal forest and the eastern deciduous forest. The landscape is a mosaic of eight basic forest communities varying from upland pine and aspen-birch types to lowland conifer and open shrub bog. The land cover is about 85% native vegetation, about 3% developed, and 12% water. The water resources are very rich, numbering about 2,000 lakes, greater than 10 acres (including some famous major lakes: Vermilion, Burntside, LaCroix, Basswood, Seagull, Saganaga) and 1,300 miles of major coldwater streams and 950 miles of major warmwater streams. This land and water diversity provides a myriad of niches for 163 breeding bird species, including 24 warblers, and 50 mammal species, including notable populations of the iconic Gray Wolf and Canada Lynx. Forest management is focused on land protection, timber harvesting and recreation. Recreational use is high for hiking, boating, snowmobiling, wildlife viewing and wilderness canoeing. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which is part of the SNF IBA, is the premier wilderness unit east of the Rocky Mountains and is the most heavily used wilderness in the United States.

Ornithological Summary

The forest in the Superior IBA is an extraordinarily diverse mixture of forest species and patch sizes interspersed with 12% lakes and waterways of varied sizes. This diversity provides habitat for 163 species that are breeders on the Superior NF. In the context of the state of Minnesota, the breeding species richness is 74% of the state regular breeding species list. Many other species are migrants. Those that occur yearly in the Superior NF number 227 which is 72% of the state list of regular species. In addition there are 51 casual (occur occasionally) and 36 accidental (single occurrence) species that have been documented since 1990. Category MN-1e: Sites where birds concentrate in significant numbers when breeding, in winter, or during migration.

Species Diversity- The SNF IBA hosts 24 breeding species of warblers. Their yearly occurrence has been well documented through surveys by the Minnesota Biological Survey, the U. of Minnesota, Natural Resources Research Institute and annotated published checklists. This number is 77 % of the 31 warblers presumed to breed annually in Minnesota.
Northern Waterthrush
Golden-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Connecticut Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Canada Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Category MN-1f: Sites where birds concentrate in significant numbers when breeding, in winter, or during migration. ? Significant number of a particular species.

The distribution of even common species is not geographically uniform in Minnesota because of the intersection of three major biomes in the state and the disparate landscapes of the prairie, hardwood forests, and coniferous forests. The Superior IBA with its boreal-conifer forest has many species whose breeding populations are 25% or more of the occurrences in the state. Using the maps in the Breeding Bird Atlas and the DNR's Minnesota Breeding Bird Survey Locations as a guide, these species meet that criterion.
American Black Duck NorthernWaterthrush
Common Goldeneye Tennessee Warbler
Common Merganser Cape May Warbler
Red-breasted Merganser Northern Parula
Spruce Grouse Magnolia Warbler
Northern Goshawk BaybreastedWarbler Merlin Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher BlackthroatedBlueWarbler
Blue-headed Vireo Palm Warbler
Gray Jay YellowrumpedWarbler
Boreal Chickadee BlackthroatedGreenWarbler
Winter Wren Canada Warbler
Golden-crowned Kinglet Wilson's Warbler
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Dark-eyed Junco
Swainson?s Thrush Evening Grosbeak
The Minnesota Biological Survey has documented records for the Black-throated Blue Warbler and estimates that the SNF IBA has about 75% of all the state records in their surveys.
Category MN-2: Sites for species of conservation concern.
(2a) State or federal listed species;
Trumpeter Swan recent confirmed breeding in the SNF; this represents a range expansion
Peregrine Falcon in Cook Co. known sites are outside SNF boundary (Grand Portage Indian Reservation); possible BWCAW sites  Rose Lake, Winchell Lake, but no confirmation.
Wilson's Phalarope ? there is one confirmed breeding record (Crest Lake) at the southern margin of the SNF
In addition, the USFA has a category for species of conservation concern called the Regional Forester Sensitive Species List. For the Eastern Region 9 that list (February 20, 2012) for birds in the Superior National Forest is:
Bald Eagle AmericanThreetoedWoodpecker
Northern Goshawk OlivesidedFlycatcher
Great Gray Owl Connecticut Warbler
Boreal Owl Baybreasted Warbler
Category MN-3: Sites containing assemblages of species characteristic of a representative, rare, threatened, or unique habitat.
Conifer Swamps (black spruce, tamarack & white cedar swamps, spruce bog)
All species in this habitat are present in the SNF, some in high numbers.
Upland Deciduous Forest
Most of the species in this habitat are present in the SNF, a few in high numbers.
For the Superior National Forest this program includes 15 years (1991-2005) of point count data on 164 stands stratified randomly across the forested land (excluding lakes, fens, marshes). For this checklist the date from these two programs was combined into five abundance categories:
Abundant (8 species); Common (25 species); Uncommon (35 species): Rare (36 species); Very Rare (59 species). The abundant and common classes together make up about 90% of the total record of individuals. Some species are rare because of lake of habitat; others because they are at the edge of their range.

Conservation Issues

Climate Change is not on this list but is an obvious factor in increasing fire risk, drought and other weather/climatic factors that influence bird breeding and migration behavior.

Stay abreast of Audubon

Our email newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives.