Short Trips for Target Birds Series

MINNESOTA: Winter Boreal Specialties

Northern Hawk Owl, photo by Adrian Binns


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2025 :: February 15 - February 19
2025 :: February 20 - February 24


From: $1,850 (See details)
Cost is per person, double occupancy from Duluth, Minnesota. (DLH)


3 - 10 Participants


February 15 – 19, 2025: 8 spaces available    

February 20 – 24, 2025: 3 spaces available


This tour is available as a private trip for any size group. The tour cost will vary with the number of people and any custom requests.

  • If not already completed, please enter the tour name above.


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Highlights of MINNESOTA: Winter Boreal Specialties

  • Brilliant Boreal Birding!
  • 7 owl species *possible* including Great Gray, hawk owl, & Snowy Owl
  • Spruce Grouse, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Ruffed Grouse, & Wild Turkey
  • Pine Grosbeak, Evening Grosbeak, crossbills, & both redpolls
  • 4 nights, 1 hotel – unpack & relax!

Description of MINNESOTA: Winter Boreal Specialties

Minnesota provides a wonderfully rewarding experience to birders brave enough to venture into its frigid, snow-covered landscapes. This short, wintertime tour of Minnesota’s northlands highlights quality over quantity; looking for elusive owls and other boreal specialties. Our trip may not often exceed 50 species, but there are always sure to be some heavy-hitters on that list!

Northern owl species are the biggest attraction, especially during irruption cycles. Though abundance and distribution of each species vary largely from year-to-year, peak years can showcase incredible daytime encounters with these rare birds. From the nearly mythical Great Gray Owl, to the ‘bog-bullet’ Northern Hawk Owl, to tiny Boreal Owl and Northern Saw-whet Owl, to the quintessential Snowy Owl you never know what each visit will hold. Each year the owl diversity differs dramatically, but we’ll always try our hardest to track down these incredible birds throughout the extensive bogs, meadows, lakeshore, and boreal forests of northern Minnesota. Depending on snow depth and ice-cover we may find other winter raptors like Rough-legged Hawk and Bald Eagle. Of course, the holy grail of boreal raptors is the Northern Goshawk and we’ve had nearly annual sightings!

Traversing remote rural roads and touring Black Spruce/Tamarack forests, we’ll spend 3 full days exploring the famous Sax-Zim Bog looking for boreal specialties like Black-backed and American Three-toed Woodpeckers, Boreal Chickadee, Canada Jay, and Northern Shrike. We’ll visit local bird-feeders to look for rare Hoary Redpolls mixed into swirling flocks of Common Redpolls. Pine Grosbeaks, Evening Grosbeaks, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Pine Siskin, and Purple Finches also frequently visit feeders and can also be found foraging in conifers and birches throughout the region. Red Crossbill and White-winged Crossbill roam the forests for cone-laden conifers. Snow Buntings can sometimes be found quietly foraging on bare ground, totally camouflaged with the surrounding landscape. We’ll check berry-laden bushes for flocks of hungry Bohemian Waxwings.

Heading out in the early mornings to cruise the forest roads can produce Spruce Grouse sightings, while Sharp-tailed Grouse can be found foraging in open snowy fields, and Ruffed Grouse may climb high into birches to feed on catkins. Sax-Zim Bog also hosts the eastern-most population of Black-billed Magpie! Common Ravens and American Crows are abundant.

The bustling, midwestern city of Duluth rises up from the western tip of Lake Superior. We’ll use Duluth as our base for this tour, and will search any open bodies of water along the lakeshore for lingering waterfowl and gulls. Common Goldeneye, American Black Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, “Thayer’s” Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, and Great Black-backed Gulls are all possible. Of course, wherever ducks are congregated there are sure to be predators patiently waiting nearby… keep a close eye on buildings, dunes, and smoke-stacks for Snowy Owls, Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcon, and maybe even a rare Gyrfalcon!

Beyond the birding potential, exploring this region in the dead of winter provides the thrill of the unexpected. This vast landscape is home to many cryptic animals and you never know what might cross the road up ahead… American Marten, Red Fox, Snowshoe Hare, porcupine, and even Timber Wolf, Fisher, and Canada Lynx are possible! Moose and White-tailed Deer are fairly common. Keep your eyes peeled! There’s more to see than just birds!

Sparkling scenery dotted with picturesque barns and frozen lakes inspires photographers, birders, and nature-lovers alike. Our short tour each February yields a great appreciation for the harsh yet beautiful climate. Our focus will be to track down as many winter boreal specialties as we can, but our slower pace allows for an educational and rewarding experience. We will discuss in-depth the cycles of boreal specialties, the conservation efforts of this region, and the adaptations these animals have to surviving in this challenging environment. Join us for this unique experience as we search for winter specialties in northern Minnesota! It is sure to be the trip of a lifetime! Just remember to wear layers!

Length of Tour


Length of Tour

5-days, 4-nights

Brief Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival at Duluth International Airport. Duluth & Superior gulls, ducks, and Snowy Owls.

Days 2 through 4 – Birding many locations depending on current conditions and recent sightings. Sax-Zim Bog will often be our primary destination, with many hours spent cruising snow-covered roads in search of owls, finches, and other wintertime specialties. Side trips to Superior National Forest and the Superior Lakeshore will help to fill out our species list and track down other targets. Nights in Duluth.

Day 5 – Morning birding and departures from Duluth International Airport.

Detailed Itinerary

*Exact birding itinerary subject to change depending on current conditions.

*Single hotel for the entire tour

Day 1 – Arrival at Duluth International Airport. Duluth & Superior gulls, ducks, and Snowy Owls.

We strongly recommend that guests arrive the day before this tour officially begins, in order to avoid issues with flights during a time of the year when winter storm risks, long delays, and cancelations are regular. On Day 1 we will meet at noon in the hotel lobby, and will spend our first afternoon birding around any open water along the Lake Superior shoreline. We will search for lingering waterfowl and gulls. Snowy Owls will also be a target of our first evening. Group orientation at dinner. Night in Duluth.

Days 2 through 4 – Birding many locations depending on current conditions and recent sightings. Sax-Zim Bog will often be our primary destination, with many hours spent cruising snow-covered roads in search of owls, finches, and other wintertime specialties. Side trips to Superior National Forest and the Superior Lakeshore will help to fill out our species list and track down other targets. Nights in Duluth.

During these three full days we will thoroughly explore the northland. From the birch and willow scrublands and meadows of Sax-Zim Bog to the old-growth spruce forests of Superior National Forest, to the frozen shoreline of Lake Superior – we will search far and wide for winter boreal specialties! Our guides are experienced and knowledgable about the region and know where to be to get the birds! Recent sightings and weather conditions will dictate what exactly we do each day, but we are sure to make the most of it! Dress warm, bring your camera, and let’s get out there exploring! Each morning we will leave the hotel very early (well before sunrise) in order to have the best chances at finding rare owls at first light.

*Be prepared for early mornings and long days in the field!*

Day 5 – Morning birding and departures from Duluth International Airport.

We will spend any available time during the morning hours to track down some last-minute target birds, or try for better photo opportunities, and then head to the airport. Please plan for mid-day departures from Duluth International Airport.


Cost is $1,850 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Duluth, Minnesota. (Airport code DLH).
This trip ends in same as arrival city (Airport code DLH).

Cost Includes

Cost includes airport transfers, all ground transportation, accomodations, entrance fees and services of your professional leader(s).

Cost does not Include

All meals, flights to/from destination city, trip insurance, or anything that is not specifically mentioned in the itinerary.

Minimum Number

If fewer than the minimum number of participants registered, the trip can still run with a small-group supplement fee per person determined by the number of participants.

Single Supplement

If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to find a suitable roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $300 will be assessed.

Deposit Requirements

A $500 deposit per person is required to hold each space on this tour. Deposit may be made online by clicking the "Book Your Trip Now" button and using any credit card. If you prefer, you may call us at 888-875-9453 to pay by phone. You may also mail us a check, however, remember that all space is held on a first come-first served basis as deposits are received.

Minimum Number

If fewer than the minimum number of required participants are registered, we may still be able to run the trip by adding a small-group supplement fee, per person, determined by the number of participants registered.

How to Book

In order to hold your space, click the "Book Your Trip Now" button above and complete the deposit process, including payment of the deposit through our Paypal portal using ANY CREDIT CARD. Upon completion of deposit, please visit our secure, online CLIENT INFORMATION FORM to complete your registration.

Final Payment

For all land-based tours: full payment by check is due 120 days prior to the departure date.

For all boat-based adventure cruises of 7-days or longer: full payment by check is required 180 days prior to departure.

NOTE: If you prefer to use credit card for final payment, a 3% fee may be added to cover the credit card merchant fees we incur.

This tour is based out of one standard hotel for all 4 nights.

Activity Level Rating: (Note: 1 is easy and 5 is difficult)

Most of our birding will be done from inside the vehicles or standing close-by along (sometimes icey) roads. There will be very little walking due to snow depths, though we may explore well-compressed snowy paths on wooden boardwalks and take short walks along plowed roads. Please be prepared for the cold conditions and bring good boots, gloves, and hats.


We will use full-size SUVs during this tour for both safety in snowy conditions and maximum comfort in all our oversized winter clothing! Each SUV will transport guide (driver) and 5 participants. Therefore, if less than 6 participants register, Alex Lamoreaux will be the only leader. However, if 6 or more register for this trip Chris Brown will be added as a second leader.

Recommended Field Guide

The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of North America (2nd Edition, 2016, Knopf)
by David Allen Sibley

Also available as an App

Climate / Weather

Minnesota in winter can be downright cold! Temperatures are often below 0F and windchills can push the temp well into the negatives. The ground will be frozen and likely covered in deep snow, which will limit walking. Most of our birding will be done from the roadside with occasional short walks. The terrain therefore can be uneven and icy. Don’t let these conditions scare you – we will take every precaution, and the birds are out there! They are built for winter landscapes!

Purchasing Flights

Do not purchase your flights until the trip has been confirmed to go.

Detailed Trip Information

Upon notification that final payment is due (120 days prior to departure for land based tours / 180 days for boat based tours), you will receive a trip package of detailed information for your tour.

Any additional information about the trip, including lodgings, contacts, participants, meeting locations, etc., will sent about 2 weeks prior to the trip departure, or after final payment is received for late registrants.

Travel Insurance

As with all tours, we recommend purchasing Travel Insurance to help cover your investment, for covered reasons. Please see our section on Travel Insurance.

Passport & Visa

US Citizens may require a visa to enter certain foreign countries. See above for any required visa information.

Participants arriving to the USA from a foreign country may need to get a travel visa to enter the United States. Be sure to check the requirements for your country of origin.

Itinerary Changes

The trip itinerary is developed many months ahead of time. Occasionally, despite our best planning, changes may occur during the trip, or we may be forced to alter our plans. Changes may occur because of weather, road conditions, safety concerns or other circumstances. In these situations, it is the leader(s) responsibility to carefully consider and implement appropriate alternatives. Any additional costs incurred because of changes will be the responsibility of each individual participant. Refunds will not be issued as a result of itinerary changes.

Location Map