Sax-Zim Bog

Top 5 Birds to Find at the Sax-Zim Bog

When fall draws to a close and winter takes its icy hold of the Northern United States, a new set of birds move in. While some of these birds aren’t as picky about where they spend their winter, others can only be found in a few select places: Especially the birds of Canada’s Boreal forests. One of the most well known places to find these birds, is the Zax Zim Bog. Located in northeastern Minnesota and boasting over 300 square miles of land Sax-Zim Bog contains a variety of different habitats, including deciduous forests, open meadows, lakes, rivers, and of course bogs. Out of all of these, it’s the tamarak and spruce bogs that are the biggest draw for the rarest boreal birds. Although there are many unique and exciting birds that call Saz-Zim home, 5 of them stand above the rest as signature species of the bog. Here are the top 5 birds to find at the Sax-Zim Bog.

5. Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

At number 5 on our list is the Boreal Chickadee. Boreal chickadees look very similar to black capped chickadees but with a brown cap, smaller white cheek patch, and cinnamon color on their sides. It isn’t their coloring that puts them in the top five but rather their elusive nature and scarcity. Boreal chickadees are harder to find than other chickadee species as they are generally less willing to come out in the open and prefer living in habitats that are less accessible. In fact, Boreal chickadees can typically only be found in the most northern states in the US and primarily reside in Canada and Alaska. In Sax Zim, these crafty birds sometimes come to feeders but they can also be found by driving the roads and listening for their raspy call. Even though tthe sax zim bog is one of the best places to see this species they can still be extremely hard to get a look at. 

To see Boreal Chickadees in action, check out the videos above and below.

4. Black-backed Woodpecker

Black-backed Woodpecker
Black-backed Woodpecker by Matthew Thompson

Coming in at number 4 in our countdown is the black backed woodpecker. The black-backed woodpecker is a medium sized woodpecker with a namesake black back, white stripe on it’s face and black barring on it’s white underside. Males also have a yellow patch on their head. Black-backed woodpeckers look for forests that have recently been burned where they will then stay for a number of years as they feed on wood boring beetle larva. Much like the Boreal Chickadee, the Black-backed woodpecker’s range is mostly in Canada but does extend south into the lower 48 states in the far west and far east. In the Midwest, Nothern Minnesota is one of the few places to reliably find this species. 

There is also another similar looking Woodpecker that can occasionally be found in Sax Zim, The American Three Toed woodpecker. The american three toed woodpecker doesn’t always inhabit the bog and can be found in the western united states with more regularity than it can at sax zim. For that reason, the black backed woodpecker gets the nod on our list over the American three-toed.

3. Northern Hawk Owl

Northern Hawk Owl

While there are many rare birds that can be found in the sax zim bog, none generate more fanfare than the owl species. The first of them on our list is the Northern Hawk Owl at number 3. The Northern Hawk Owl is a medium sized owl with a brown back, barred chest, and black markings around their light gray face. This species typically resides in Northern Canada but occasionally makes it’s way south where it turns up in Boreal forests of the Northern United States. Northern Hawk Owls are diurnal and can be found perching up on the tops of trees in open woodlands as they survey the landscape, making them somewhat easy to locate if they are in the area. The Habitat in the Sax Zim Bog is perfect for these raptors and is one of the best places to find them. 

2. Great Gray Owl

Great Gray Owl

The second owl on our ist us the great gray owl. The great gray owl is an unmistakable bird with a large facial disk, and overall gray color with white and brown accenting. Like the Northern Hawk Owl, this species is also at home in Canada and Alaska but does move south during winter, traveling greater distances when food is scarce. The great gray owl is one of the tallest owl species in North America but n spite of their large size they can be extremely difficult to to spot given their camouflage. The best time to find these birds is dawn and dusk while they are hunting most actively but they can also be seen perching up in trees during the daytime. Great Gray Owls prefer coniferous forests with open meadows and bogs where they can perch near the forests edge and hunt for small mammals. 

1. Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl
Boreal Owl

At the top of our list is a bird that to many is the holy grail of sax zim bogs owl species. The Boreal owl looks like a pint sized version of a Northern Hawk owl with the same brown back, brown and white underside, and black around their facial disk. The Boreal owls range spans from Alaska accross the continent to eastern Canada and only dips into the US in a few places such as some of the western states. In the midwest, Northern Minnesota and Sax zim in particular are some of the only places to find them. However, Boreal Owls are not a sure thing at Sax Zim and years go by without the species being seen there. Another thing that makes the Boreal owl such a coveted species is that even if they are around, they aren’t easy to find. They are nocturnal hunters and usually roost in a different location each day, for that reason, pinning down the exact location of this bird can be a difficult task. 

Visiting the Sax Zim Bog is certainly a memorable experience for those that make the trip  . Not only is the scenery beautiful, but the birds that inhabit the snowy forests and meadows are among the most sought after in the entire midwest. This stellar combination makes the sax zim bog one of the hottest destinations to bird in, during the coldest time of the year. Do you agree with our list? Leave us a like and a comment below.

Top 5 Birds to find at the Sax Zim Bog

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