Owls and Other Winter Birds of Minnesota January 2021

Upcoming Tours:


(Click on the + or on the date for prices )

11 - 16 January 2021

Tour Costs

Price: US$2,502 / £2,104 / €2,336 per person sharing, assuming 4-8 participants

Single Supplement: US$381 / £320 / €356

* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.

Tour Details

Duration: 6 days
Group Size: 4 – 8
Tour Start: Duluth
Tour End: Duluth

Price includes:
Guiding fees
Park entrance fees

Price excludes:
All flights
Personal insurance
Alcoholic beverages
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)
Laundry service
Personal expenses such as gifts

Owls and Other Winter Birds of Minnesota: Sax-Zim Bog and Duluth January 2021


One of the best places for owls in the US winter is in Duluth, Minnesota. Up here there is a chance for irruptive Owls like Snowy and Boreal plus Great Grey and Northern Saw-whet, as well as other irruptive species like crossbills, Evening and Pine Grosbeaks, Ruffed and Spruce Grouse, Common Redpoll, American Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers, plus other winter denizens.

Great Grey Owl is one of our big targets on this trip.

Itinerary (6 days/5 nights)

Day 1. Arrival at Duluth International Airport

If there is time, we’ll bird around the Duluth area until dinner. We’ll try Canal Park and Wisconsin Point landfill for Thayer’s Gull, Glaucous Gull, and possibly Iceland Gull. We might also see Great Black-backed Gull as well. Then at dusk we’ll look for Snowy Owl in the Duluth-Superior harbor.

Overnight: Days Inn, Duluth

Day 2. Birding the Sax-Zim Bog IBA

Today we’ll bird Sax-Zim Bog for Sharp-tailed Grouse, Ruffed Grouse, Northern Goshawk, Rough-legged Buzzard (Hawk), Snowy Owl, Northern Hawk-Owl, Great Grey Owl, Black-backed Woodpecker, Great Grey Shrike, Grey Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Black-billed Magpie, Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll, Arctic (Hoary) Redpoll, Two-barred (White-winged) Crossbill, Red Crossbill, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, Snow Bunting, and Evening Grosbeak.

Overnight: Days Inn, Duluth

Minnesota birding toursSax-Zim Bog is a good place for Ruffed Grouse.

Day 3. Birding Lake County and the north shore of Lake Superior

Today we’ll visit Lake County to try for Spruce Grouse, Ruffed Grouse, Great Graey Owl, Northern Hawk-Owl, Northern Goshawk, Great Grey Shrike, and Bohemian Waxwing. We’ll also check Ely or Two Harbors for Grey Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed Woodpecker, Northern Three-toed Woodpecker, Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll, Arctic (Hoary) Redpoll, Two-barred (White-winged) Crossbill, Red Crossbill, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, and Evening Grosbeak.

Overnight: Days Inn, Duluth

Day 4. Birding the north shore toward Grand Marais

We’ll leave Duluth and bird our way to Grand Marais along the north shore of Lake Superior. We’ll keep our eyes out for Sharp-tailed Grouse, Ruffed Grouse, Northern Goshawk, Rough-legged Buzzard (Hawk), Great Grey Owl, Northern Hawk-Owl, Snowy Owl, Grey Jay, Great Grey Shrike, Snow Bunting, Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll, Arctic (Hoary) Redpoll, Two-barred (White-winged) Crossbill, Red Crossbill, Evening Grosbeak, Purple Finch, and Pine Siskin.

Minnesota birding toursNorthern Hawk-Owl is another of our owl targets on this tour.

Making our way up the North Shore to Grand Marais along Minnesota State Highway 61, we will have a chance for Long-tailed Duck and possibly some scoter species. We will see Common and Red-breasted Mergansers and Common Goldeneye here too. There is an outside chance for Harlequin Duck.

Overnight: Grand Marais

Day 5. Birding the Gunflint Trail and the north shore near the Canadian border

Cook County – Grand Marais. We’ll hit the Gunflint Trail and locations along the north shore of Lake Superior today, looking for Spruce Grouse, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Black-backed Woodpecker, and several of the wintering finches like Common Redpoll, Evening Grosbeak, and Pine Grosbeak. Possible finds here will include both Red and Two-barred (White-winged) Crossbills and Arctic (Hoary) Redpoll, or Purple Finch, Boreal Chickadee, Grey Jay, Bohemian Waxwing, Great Grey Shrike, and Northern Goshawk. There is an outside chance for Boreal Owl, Great Grey Owl, Northern Hawk-Owl, Varied Thrush, or Townsend’s Solitaire. Along Lake Superior we hope to come across Long-tailed Duck, Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye, and Red-breasted Merganser. Both Glaucous Gull and Thayer’s Gull are possible here too.

Overnight: Grand Marais

Minnesota birding toursThe iconic Snowy Owl will hopefully be seen on this tour.

Day 6. Birding our way back to Duluth International Airport

We’ll make our way back to Duluth to catch our flights home.

Other Resident birds we should encounter:

Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, American Crow, Northern Raven, Mallard, American Herring Gull, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, and American Goldfinch

Outside rarities:

Gyrfalcon, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Varied Thrush, Townsend’s Solitaire, Slaty-backed Gull


Grey Wolf, Eastern Coyote, Moose, White-tailed Deer, Canadian Lynx, Bobcat, Red Fox, Grey Fox, American Marten, Fisher, Ermine, Snowshoe Hare, and Eastern Cottontail are all possible to see on this trip.


Black spruce-tamarack bog, Jack pine-white pine-red pine-balsam fir forest, upland deciduous forest, maple-birch forest, and coastal Lake Superior habitat.


Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors.

Download Itinerary
Download Trip Report

This is a sample trip report. Please email us (info@birdingecotours.com) for more trip reports from this destination.


A Great Grey Owl descends silently upon an open field to catch a vole hidden in the deep snow. Flocks of colorful winter finches noisily visit a feeder, rivaling even the tanagers of the tropics in color. Grouse strut along an open field with their amazing snowshoe-like feet, perfectly adapted in both form and color to the depths of winter. These are the images that come to mind when one thinks of a birding trip to Minnesota in winter.

Although visiting this frigid state in winter may seem like madness to the uninitiated, the birds that occur in northeastern Minnesota are among some of the most special and charismatic in the world, such as Northern Hawk-Owl, Great Grey Owl, and Snowy Owl. Sitting on the southern edge of the vast boreal forest biome, northeastern Minnesota is the southern limit of distribution for many other boreal forest species that do not regularly occur further south, such as Boreal Chickadee and Grey Jay. However, one must keep in mind that a trip list to this state in January will only include about 40 or so hardy species, with few individuals overall. It will definitely be a case of quality over quantity.

Another factor to consider is the weather. Average high temperatures in Duluth in January range between 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 to -6 degrees Celsius), but it can potentially never go above 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17 degrees Celsius) on some days. Although it will be very cold by most standards, most of our birding will be done along roadsides, either near or within the warmth of our vehicle. There may be a few very short walks of a couple of hundred meters/yards or less. Notwithstanding these details, please dress in multiple warm layers!

Download General Information Minnesota
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