Mission & History


The mission of the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory is to protect birds of prey and other migratory birds in the Western Lake Superior Region through research, education, and stewardship.

Hawk Ridge History

Before 1950, the only people who witnessed the raptor migration were local gunners who used the birds for target practice. The killing stopped through efforts of the Duluth Bird Club (now the Duluth Audubon Society). The club publicized the illegal shooting and had the prohibition against shooting within the city limits enforced.

The first hawk watch was organized in 1951. As the magnitude of the migration became apparent, observation increased from a few days in mid-September to daily counts from August through November. In 1972, the Duluth Audubon Society, with a loan from the Minnesota Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, donated funds to the City of Duluth to purchase the highest part of the Ridge. The city acquired approximately 250 adjacent acres in 1973 to serve as a buffer for the Nature Reserve. Under a trust agreement with the City, the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory manages the 365 acres as a nature reserve, open to the public for study and enjoyment.

The first systematic count from the main overlook began in 1972, also the year the banding research station opened. A naturalist program began in 1974. Friends of Hawk Ridge was established in 1979 to support the programs and research conducted on the Ridge. In 2004, Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory was incorporated as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization and as the management entity for Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve.

Hawk Ridge is now known as one of the major sites for observation of raptor migration. Visitors come from all over the world in the fall. Indeed, our guest register has entries from thousands of visitors who have come from all 50 states and from over 40 foreign countries.