Minnesota & North Dakota: Jun 03—12, 2016

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Price: $3,195
Departs: Duluth
Tour Limit: 7
Operations Manager: Margaret Anderson
Download Itinerary: PDF (86.7 KB)

Route Map


Tour Leaders


Erik Bruhnke

Erik Bruhnke has loved birds since he was a child looking at chickadees. In 2008 he graduate...

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Register for this Tour

Register for this tour by phone (800/328-VENT or 512/328-5221), or by downloading a tour registration form. Signed and completed forms can be faxed, mailed, or scanned and emailed to the VENT office.

Great Gray Owl

Great Gray Owl— Photo: Brian Gibbons

From the vast boreal forests and remote spruce bogs of northern Minnesota to the beautiful rolling prairie-potholes of North Dakota, this tour immerses birders in one of the most uniquely scenic regions within the Upper Midwest. From Chestnut-collared Longspurs to Great Gray Owls, this tour provides a rich array of birding experiences that collectively can approach 200 breeding bird species during the course of the week.

We begin with exploration of the extensive coniferous forests of the Superior National Forest. The bogs, marshes, spruce and pine forests, and distant reaches of aspen forests lead birders on a deep-woods journey as an impressive spectrum of birds is revealed. Once the tour heads west, participants encounter the rolling grassland and alkaline wetlands near Jamestown, North Dakota. A little further west is one of the key areas of North Dakota’s prairie pothole ecosystem, where the quest for highly specialized northern prairie birds takes place.

Ruffed Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, Gray Jay, and Boreal Chickadee are characteristic permanent residents of northeastern Minnesota’s vast boreal forests where the tour begins. Also nesting here are Yellow-bellied and Alder flycatchers, Philadelphia Vireo, over 20 species of warblers (including Connecticut, Mourning, Cape May, Golden-winged, and Canada), and many other passerines singing on territory. With luck, there is also the possibility of finding a Northern Goshawk, a Barred or Northern Saw-whet owl, American Three-toed Woodpecker, or one of the crossbills.

In the more mixed and open habitats near Duluth, scattered Great Gray Owls and Sharp-tailed Grouse are year-round yet elusive residents which we manage to find most years. Normally easier to locate are the likes of American Woodcock, Black-billed Cuckoo, and Le Conte’s and Nelson’s sparrows. Later in the tour we will schedule an evening to search a renowned sedge marsh for Yellow Rails.

The prairie potholes are a landscape visually and ecologically unlike any other. Baird’s Sparrow and Sprague’s Pipit (both now rare) are a high priority among the intact native landscape. While searching for these species, we’ll spend a great deal of time hiking through publicly-accessible tracts of land in these Great Plains where birds like Gray Partridge, Greater Prairie-Chicken, Ferruginous Hawk, Krider’s Red-tailed Hawk, Piping Plover, Upland Sandpiper, Franklin’s Gull, Willow Flycatcher, Dickcissel, Clay-colored and Grasshopper sparrows, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Bobolink, and Yellow-headed Blackbird can be found. Beautiful sunrises over the plains, sweet-smelling air all around, and treks through deep forests are just a few of this tour’s attractions.

Several early morning starts; birding mostly along roadsides with mostly short walks; some long driving days; weather normally pleasant, with often cool temperatures at dawn; some biting insects and wood ticks likely.