Ely, Minnesota Bird Watching

yellow belly birdApproximately 155 species of birds breed in the Ely area and the Superior National Forest.  Whether you will spot the bird for which you are searching depends on the season and the habitat.


More than 2/3 of the summer resident birds are often overlooked. These include about 100 small and inconspicuous song birds that are often hidden by thick foliage. Their presence is more easily noted soon after dawn during the early summer when they are the most active and in full song. Warblers and vireos comprise about half of the songbirds nesting in the national forest. They spend a remarkably short time on their northern breeding grounds, three months at the most, and nesting takes about six weeks of that time – long enough to produce one brood of young. Upon first arrival in late May, the birds rapidly set up territories. Singing male activity is most conspicuous from June 1 to July 4. Most young are fledged by mid-July, and the woods then are very quiet in contrast to the territorial songs heard only a few weeks before. Wandering flocks of post-breeding birds, usually family groups of warblers or chickadees, are encountered beginning in mid-July. Migration really gets underway by late July or early August after the birds have molted.


Most birds migrate for the winter due to the lack of food sources and the climatic conditions. Resident bird life during the winter is augmented by erratic influxes of species from father north or west. Most species originate in the northern boreal forest-tundra zone, but it is possible that some invasions come from large local populations. The species regularly involved in winter invasions include: vertebrate predators – goshawk, great horned owl, hawk owl, barred owl, great gray owl and boreal owl; berry eaters (mostly mountain ash) – American robin, Bohemian waxwing, and cedar waxwing; seed eaters – evening grosbeak, purple finch, pine grosbeak, hoary redpole, pine siskin, red crossbill, and white-singed crossbill.

A checklist of birds of the Superior National Forest can be picked up at the Ely Chamber of Commerce.