Fall Bird Migration Visitor Information (September-October)
We are excited for another fall bird migration season this year at Hawk Ridge! Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory is the nonprofit organization that manages the 365-acre Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve and conducts the bird migration research and provides education programs for general visitors and groups. Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve does adhere to City of Duluth Parks guidelines (road safety, no alcohol, dogs leashed, no fires, closed at 10pm, etc). Visitation guidelines may be adjusted based on City of Duluth, COVID-19 mandates, and other needs throughout the season. We ask for your compliance and understanding with any posted safety measures in place at our main overlook and below. Please keep in mind we are a nonprofit organization with limited staff and resources. We are doing our best to operate our bird migration research and education efforts, while sharing the wonder and beauty of the migration with all visitors. Thank you and we look forward to another great season!
When is the Best Time to Visit?
Birds begin migrating past Hawk Ridge in mid-August and continue through November. The “Big Days”, when we have a higher diversity of birds and can get tens of thousands of Broad-winged Hawks flying over, generally occur from September 10-25. October is great for viewing the migration, too, as we get good numbers of the “big” birds…Bald and Golden Eagles, Rough-legged Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Goshawks. Weather is also a major factor in the quality of the flight–in fact, it’s MORE important than the date. Winds from the west or northwest are best for bringing us big numbers of birds. If you come up on a day with south or east winds, expect the flight to be slower.
Hawk watching, unlike most other wildlife activities, is best during the middle of the day. Generally, the raptors don’t start flying until 9am, and they taper off after 4pm. Planning your trip during the middle of the day: between 10am and 2pm is best. Naturalists are on site from September 1 through October 31 9am-4pm (weather pending). Click HERE to see the raptor count numbers.
NOTE: Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve is open for public use year-round; however, the majority of East Skyline Parkway is closed/not maintained from Dec 1 – May 1. Hawk Ridge staff are only present at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve during the fall bird migration.
What Activities are Available?
Naturalist staff & volunteers are on site daily from 9am-4pm, September 1 – October 31.
The overlook staff is also on site to help with bird identification, answer questions, provide live bird demonstration, kid’s activity cart, and sell Hawk Ridge merchandise. Regularly scheduled public programs are also available throughout the season. If you are bringing a group, we highly recommend scheduling a group program to get the most out of your visit. Program info can be found under our Education & Event tabs. You can also email Education Director, Margie Menzies, firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
Hiking Trails – Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve has approximately 4 miles of hiking trails. Please note the trails are rugged and rocky. If you are looking for a short distance easy hike, please look at the map for directions: CLICK HERE for map. Accessible migration viewing is best along the roadside at our main overlook. Please note road is closed Dec 1 – May 1 and trails may also be closed during winter/spring, when muddy/wet.
Cost? FREE! There is no charge to visit the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve. We welcome and encourage visitors to become a member or contribute a donation to help support our organization. Hawk Ridge is a non-profit organization that is majorly supported through memberships, donations, and merchandise sales.
What Do We Need to Bring?
Dress for the weather – Weather is always more extreme at the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve main overlook. Make sure to dress in or bring layers (warm, wind/rainproof clothing, hat, sunscreen, sturdy shoes), and anything else to be prepared outdoors (water, snack, etc). If you plan to do any hiking on the Hawk Ridge trails, hiking boots are a good choice; at the very least, tennis shoes must be worn. The trails are very rugged.
Bring a chair – We recommend bringing a camp type chair to enjoy the migration, as seating is not provided for general viewing. We do have an education program area with benches, but limited for use with public & private programs.
Pets? The Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve is part of the City of Duluth park system and there is a leash law within the city limits. If you need to bring your dog along, we ask that you keep your dog on a short leash (4′ maximum) and come prepared to pick up after your dog. Please be aware and cautious that Hawk Ridge can be very busy, especially on weekends, with visitors of all ages, other dogs, expensive equipment (scopes on tripods, cameras) and at times live bird demonstrations.
What not to bring? – Some items we don’t allow that impact our fall bird migration research and education safety are any objects that affect the migratory air space (drones, kites, remote control airplanes, etc) and anything prohibited in City Parks (drugs/alcohol, fireworks, campfires, weapons, etc). While Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve is a public space, we ask that you refrain from smoking at our main overlook area/trails/around visitors and be respectful in photography/videography, especially cautious with visitors space/privacy.
How Do We Get to Hawk Ridge?
Directions/Parking – The Hawk Ridge main overlook is located along East Skyline Parkway in Duluth. Access is by car and parking is available along the roadside near the main overlook on either side. Accessible parking is also designated and available at the main overlook. Busses and other large vehicles can drive past the main overlook and turn around in a pull-off heading down East Skyline Pkwy towards Seven Bridges Rd. Complete directions can be found HERE.
Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve can be very busy with both vehicle traffic and people during the fall bird migration. There is limited space along the roadside. Please drive slowly and carefully on East Skyline Parkway. Visitors should also be cautious of vehicle traffic.
What Amenities are Available?
There is no building at Hawk Ridge; everything is outdoors, and the main overlook is located on East Skyline Parkway. East Skyline Parkway is open from late spring through late fall, although the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve is open to the public year-round and can be reached by hiking when the road is closed.
A portable toilet is available during the fall season. The Hawk Ridge Merchandise Trailer is available Sept 1 – Oct 31 with nature/bird-related books, gear, clothing, snacks & drinks.
We have a few lodging partner birder discounts HERE and you can find a variety of nearby restaurants and places to stay at VisitDuluth.com.
Helpful Raptor Resources
We have a number of resources to help you better identify raptors in flight and learn about their natural history. Just print them off and bring them with you!
- Raptors in Flight ID sheet – for beginners; identify to raptor groups
- Raptors in Flight ID brochure – for the more experienced; identify to individual species
- Raptors at a Glance– natural history information on Hawk Ridge raptors
Regular bird guides are not much use in identifying raptors in flight, so here are some other resources WE USE & RECOMMEND:
- Sutton, Dunne & Sibley’s HAWKS IN FLIGHT: this contains a lot of text about identifying raptors in flight based mainly upon silhouettes and behavior. The really bad photos in the back are perfect for testing your skills–after all, do we get GREAT looks at all the birds moving through?
- Wheeler & Clark’s A PHOTOGRAPHIC GUIDE TO NORTH AMERICAN RAPTORS: filled with excellent photography of raptors, not only in flight, but also perched. Includes information on identifying raptors not only to species, but also to age, morph, subspecies, race and sex.
- Liguori’s HAWKS FROM EVERY ANGLE: again, a lot of great photographs and text. This is a halfway point between the previous two books, focusing on flight, behavior & silhouettes through text and photographs.
If you would like to arrange an interview for news/marketing at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve, please contact Executive Director, Janelle Long, at email@example.com.
We look forward to your visit to Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory this fall. By following these guidelines and recommendations, we are confident that we’ll experience another safe and astounding fall bird migration this year! Please continue to check our website at hawkridge.org or Facebook page for potential updates. You can also contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (218) 428-6209 with further questions.
Click HERE for visiting Spring Count (March-May) on West Skyline Parkway
Image Credits: Debbie Waters