Great Outdoors: Bird Watching at Hawk Ridge

Research Done at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory Is Important to Understanding the Ecosystem

DULUTH, Minn. – Birds are migrating to their winter homes in Central and South America, and Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth is a fantastic place to watch them fly overhead.

In this weeks’s Great Outdoors, we take you to Hawk Ridge where a lot of work is being done to study migratory birds.

“Birds are everywhere and so I think it’s a species that everyone can relate to in some way, whether it might be the first time you saw a bald eagle or, thinking of our state bird, the common loon going out on a lake to your cabin,” said Janelle Long, Executive Director of Hawk Ridge.

Birds are all around us, but most people never stop to think about their part in the world.

“Once you start noticing nature around you, it’s kind of contagious,” said Brenda Hiniker, an amateur bird watcher. “You start seeing the birds, then you start seeing the insects, then you start seeing the birds and you want to know everything that’s going on around you.”

At Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth, birds of all kinds are studied as they fly to their winter homes.

“From sunrise until the sun goes down, when the birds are moving, our hawk watchers are out here, they’re counting every single bird,” said Long. “Not just raptors, not just the hawks and the eagles and falcons, but they’re counting all the smaller birds too, everything from robins to blue jays to warblers.”

The work being done by the Hawk Ridge staff is important in understanding the ecosystem around us.

“Raptors being at the top of the food chain as a top predator, they’re one of those birds that are also known as an indicator species and so if we’re noticing changes, declines in raptor populations, that’s also signaling to us something’s happening in our environment that’s off, that’s not right, that we should look into further,” said Long.

Hawk Ridge also offers classes that teach people all about birds.

“The science and the biology of the birds, it’s a God’s creation,” said Hiniker. “I mean, I’m fascinated by it.”

It gives the people a chance to experience nature right in the palm of their hand.

“We’ve had visitors from every state, over forty different countries and they’re all coming here to enjoy the amazing migration and who can beat this backdrop with Lake Superior and the fall colors,” said Long.

Bird watchers enjoy the beautiful setting while learning about the animals they love.

“There’s a lot of nature that’s sitting right outside the window of our home or our car, in a parking lot in a store, in a shopping mall, walking across that, there’s birds in the air and people don’t notice them,” said Hiniker.

This year, the staff at Hawk Ridge has counted more than sixty-thousand raptors.

The bird observatory is open every day in October from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.