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Evening Grosbeak by Steve Bird. MINNESOTA
Boreal Winter Birding Special
with Frank Nicoletti

February 20 - 25, 2025

Contact [email protected] to reserve your space!

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Great Gray Owl by Gina Nichol.Despite its frigid reputation, Duluth has long been an attractive winter site for visiting birders in search of the unique birds that winter around the city and its environs. Ruffed Grouse, Snowy Owl, Northern Shrike, Boreal Chickadee, Bohemian Waxwing, Pine and Evening Grosbeaks, and Common Redpoll can be expected even in a relatively short visit. There can also a good chance to see Spruce and Sharp-tailed Grouse, Great Gray Owl, Northern Hawk-owl, Black-backed Woodpecker, both White-winged and Red Crossbills, and Hoary Redpoll. Even rarities such as Gyrfalcon, Boreal Owl, and American Three-toed Woodpecker are other hoped-for possibilities (though don't occur every year).
Boreal Chickadee by Steve Bird


Yes, it's chilly, we're talking serious winter birding here, but the birds are worth it. Frank knows every spot for the best chance to see them. With sunshine, minimal winds, and the right winter gear, conditions can be reasonably pleasant. Even the coldest days are tolerable, since virtually all of the birding is along roadsides, in or near the warmth of our vehicles.

Our itinerary features four full days visiting places like the famed Sax-Zim Bog area, Lake County, and Cook County in the arrowhead region on Minnesota. Possible species include Great Gray and Northern Hawk-Owl, Black-backed and American Three-toed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, Ruffed, Sharp-tailed and Spruce Grouse, Northern Shrike, Black-billed Magpie, White-winged and Red Crossbill, Pine and Evening Grosbeak, Canada Jay, Common and Hoary Redpoll, and more!

Pine Grosebeak by Gina Nichol.  Northern Hawk-owl by Steve Bird.

Experience the wonders of winter boreal birding with
expert Duluth guide, Frank Nicoletti.

Steve Bird in Minnesota 2023

Day 1: Arrival in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Plan to be picked up at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Airport code: MSP) this morning, the earlier the better. From here we will spend a few hours looking for Trumpeter Swan and assorted ducks as well as Long-eared and Saw-whet Owls. Then we will make our way north toward Duluth. 5 Nights Duluth.


Days 2-5: Duluth-Superior and Northeastern Minnesota
Within the city limits of Duluth itself and Superior, Wisconsin across the bay, one may find many of the specialties we seek without having to venture into more remote areas. At feeders and mountain ash trees in residential areas, Bohemian Waxwings, Pine Grosbeaks, and Common Redpolls can often be expected; in most years, a Varied Thrush, some Red or White-winged Crossbills, and a Hoary Redpoll or two are also present in or around Duluth itself.


Meanwhile, waste grain around the grain elevators in the Duluth-Superior harbor area creates, in effect, a giant feeding station, one which attracts small mammals and Rock Pigeons. These, in turn, attract raptors. A Snowy Owl or two typically winter here, and even in unproductive years at least one of these can usually be found somewhere in the area. A few hawks also overwinter in the harbor, mostly Red-taileds, but in some recent years a Peregrine or even a Gyrfalcon has settled in for the season, subsisting on pigeons.


Pine Marten by Gina Nichol.Over at the landfill in Superior, if the weather has not been too severe, a good concentration of gulls normally survives the winter. Among the predominant Herring Gulls, at least a few Glaucous and Iceland’s are usually present, along with an occasional Great Black-backed Gull.

Ruffed Grouse

On at least one day, we will head north out of town into the vast boreal forests of spruce, balsam fir, and pine in the Superior National Forest. The best and most accessible examples of this habitat lie northeast of Duluth along Lake County Road 2 and Minnesota Highway 1. Spruce Grouse are sometimes spotted at dawn along these roadsides as they scratch for salt and grit. In some winters, flocks of a dozen or more individuals of this highly elusive grouse have been seen. Ruffed Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker (plus the rarer American Three-toed), Common Raven, Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, and winter finches are also regularly-seen residents in these same forests. It is also possible to spot Moose, Porcupine, and Snowshoe Hare as we bird here, and with a lot of luck we might even glimpse a Gray Wolf, Ermine, or Pine Marten.


Day 6: Departure for Home.
If there is time, we can bird the Duluth area for any birds not yet seen on the tour before heading to the Minneapolis airport (Code: MSP) for flights out. We plan to arrive at MSP by 1 PM so flights out can be after 4 PM.

Lake Superior Sunrise

The average high temperature in Duluth during February is in the mid-20s, with the average low in the single digits. Unless it’s windy, most participants should be able to handle such days without too much difficulty. However, cold fronts with brisk winds are also possible, and days with lows in the minus 20s or even lower and “highs” remaining below zero do occur. Wind chills in the minus 30s and minus 40s can occur. While Northern Minnesota does get its share of snow, storms serious enough to preclude birding activity are infrequent, with even the back roads promptly and efficiently plowed.


Although almost all our birding will be from the warmth of the van, be sure to pack the warmest clothing you can find. Bring thermal underwear, heavy sweaters, and a warm coat, and you’ll find the best strategy is to dress in layers. Of course, bring a warm hat and scarf or neck gaiter to cover the ears and neck. Fingers and toes will be the most vulnerable to the cold. Mittens generally work better than gloves, and insulated boots and warm socks are a must.


Frank NicolettiTOUR LEADER: Frank Nicoletti
Frank Nicoletti grew up in New York State along the Hudson River where he started watching raptors at the age of 11. His passion for raptors and birds fueled him to work at various locations including Cape May and Sandy Hook NJ, Braddock Bay NY and in Israel. From 1984 until 1996 he traveled and conducted various raptor projects. He arrived in Duluth in 1991 to count raptors and the Northern Goshawk invasion which he conducted until 2005. He moved permanently to Duluth in 1996, and conducted the first spring count of raptors migrating north in Minnesota. Frank has continues to work at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory as the senior biologist. He has published a number of papers on birds and has helped with many authors working on books and articles. Frank lives just north of Duluth with his wife, Kate.

Boreal Winter Birding Special
with Frank Nicoletti

February 20 - 25, 2025

Contact [email protected] to reserve your space!
Registration Form>    

TOUR PRICE:  $2295.00 per person based on double occupancy and a minimum of 8 persons from Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Airport code: MSP).

Single supplement: $525.00 per person based on availability

Deposit: $750.00 per person per tour. Note: Tour deposits can be paid by credit card via PayPal.  Use this link to make your credit card payment.  Please advise [email protected] when you have made payment. 

Included in cost:  All accommodations, all breakfasts and all lunches during the tour, two dinners (Days 1 & 5), guide services as stated in the itinerary, private ground transportation during the tour, and park entrance fees.

Not included: Flights, tipping, travel insurance, excess baggage charges, 3 dinners (ask about the all meals included option for an additional $150 pp), private excursions, à la carte dishes, snacks, drinks, laundry, telephone calls and anything else of a purely personal nature. Also, any and all costs arising from pandemic or Covid-19 related issues are not included in the tour cost and are the sole responsibility of the traveler. These include, among others, the costs of Covid treatment, hospitalization, medical fees, transport, meals and accommodation in case of illness or quarantine, and the costs of any Covid tests needed before, during and after the tour.

RESERVATIONS: To reserve your place on this tour:

1) Contact Gina Nichol at [email protected] to confirm availability and hold your place.

2) Review the Terms and Conditions of Booking (pdf download)>

3) Complete the Registration & Release Form (pdf)> and mail it with your deposit of US$750.00 per person to Sunrise Birding, LLC within two weeks to secure your place. 

>Download & print the Registration Form (pdf download).
Instructions are on the form.

Reservations are held with a paid deposit on a first-come, first-served basis.

Once the tour is confirmed to go ahead, we will send you information about booking your flights.
Please do not book flights until you receive this information from us and are notified that the trip has sufficient numbers to run. Final payment is due November 20, 2024. Check or bank transfer are preferred but credit card payments are possible (surcharges of up to 5% are added depending on amount to cover credit card company fees). 


**Please note: Tour prices are based on quoted costs from ground operators, estimated fuel costs, and other costs known at the time of itinerary publication. The erratic nature to global financial markets makes it difficult to predict changes in costs and currency exchange rates over the long term. Since tours are priced well in advance of the actual operation of the tour, tour costs, fuel costs and exchange rates can change, sometimes drastically. Depending on the extent of such changes, it may be necessary to implement a surcharge on this tour. If a surcharge is necessary, every effort will be made to minimize the amount.

Cancellations and Refunds:
Please review our Terms and Conditions of Booking (pdf download)> prior to registering for this tour. All cancellations must be made in writing. Please ensure that you take out adequate insurance to cover this and any other eventuality as early as possible. You may have the opportunity to transfer your booking to another tour or another person, provided you are unavoidably prevented from coming on the tour. In this case, you will bear any extra costs that such changes may incur.

There are no refunds once the trip is confirmed to go ahead and no refunds will be made for unused meals, accommodations, or other trip features. Sunrise Birding, LLC cannot accept liability for airline cancellations or delays or penalties incurred by the purchase of non-refundable airline tickets or other expenses incurred by tour participants in preparing for this tour.


Sunrise Birding LLC strongly recommends that you consider purchasing a travel protection plan to protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected in case of delay, injury or illness prior to or during a tour. Travel protection plans can include coverage for Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Emergency Medical and Emergency Evacuation/Repatriation, Trip Delay, Baggage Loss and Delay, Emergency Medical Transportation, Pre-existing Conditions, and more. Get started here>


  • Insurance policy requirements vary and the timing of your purchase can affect coverage. Some insurance providers require that for coverage of pre-existing conditions, a policy must be purchased within 7-14 days of booking. Others, like CSA, offer policies that cover pre-existing conditions as long as the policy is purchased prior to making your final payment for the tour.

  • Trip insurance policy premiums may be non-refundable, but they may be able to be amended or transferred. Check with your insurer. It is important to be sure that the tour is sufficiently subscribed to operate before you purchase trip insurance.

  • Pay attention to coverages provided by your policy. Be aware of the requirements of country or destination can change, so check often. Some policies are now offering Covid related coverages so check with your insurer.

  • US medical insurance plans (including Medicare) often do not provide coverage outside the US. The US State Department strongly advises Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Consult with your insurer prior to your trip to ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider directly or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Be sure to get and keep all documentation of any expenses incurred.
Questions? Contact Gina Nichol at 
Phone: 203.453.6724