2010 Waterbird Survey
The Mississippi River is a great place to observe migrating birds. In the Twin Cities, fall migration runs from September through December and spring migration occurs from late February through May.
The National Park Service monitors the distribution and abundance of waterbirds and waterfowl each fall on Pig's Eye and Red Rock Lakes, just southeast of downtown St. Paul, MN (map). Even though they're within the city, and surrounded by industry and a former landfill, these two lakes have a rich marsh habitat that provides valuable food and shelter for birds migrating along the Mississippi Flyway.
The purpose of this study is to better understand our Park's resources, ensure the health of waterfowl and waterbird populations, and to protect these resources for the enjoyment of future generations. Surveys data helps biologists and officials make important decisions about hunting regulations and habitat management. This is the second year we have surveyed here.
What we saw
Twenty-five species of waterbirds were observed on these urban lakes from late September through early December. This included nine species of diving ducks, six species of dabbling/puddle ducks, and several other species of migrating waterbirds, from the towering Great Blue Heron to the inconspicuous Pied-billed Grebe.
Each species of waterbird has its own unique migration strategy, which means that groups of birds arrive at different times. Over a two year study of Red Rock Lake, diving duck numbers peaked during the third week in November, while other waterbirds had more variable migratory peaks. See the graphs below for more details.
Did You Know?
At Lake Itasca, the elevation of the Mississippi River is 1,475 feet above sea level. It drops to sea level at the Gulf of Mexico. More than half of that drop occurs within the state of Minnesota.