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Isle Royale Bird Report

American Redstart on the Minong Ridge Trail

The fifteen-day long hike from one end of Isle Royale to the other yielded a total of sixty-eight different avian species, none of which were new additions to my life list. That is, if I kept a life list.

The number of species would have been greater if I did not allow my fall warbler identification skills to atrophy over the last few years. Or, if I just brought a single identification guide with me, like this one.

Most of the species are present in the Adirondacks of New York State, where I do most of my backcountry adventures. The only two notable exceptions being the semipalmated sandpiper and sandhill crane.

No species were observed every day on the island. The three most frequently encountered species were the common loon, blue jay and black-capped chickadee, each on eleven days. Two species were encountered on nine days (red-breasted nuthatch and white-throated sparrow) with three others on eight days (belted kingfisher, northern flicker and common raven).


The lack of any species observed on every day is not surprising, since a part of several days were either not spent on the island or otherwise off the trail. The first day I hiked from Rock Harbor to Daisy Farm along the Rock Harbor Trail was only a half day. Little birding and no record keeping occurred after reaching Washington Creek and during my single rest day at Windigo (give me a break, it is called a rest day for a reason). The final day at Rock Harbor before departing for Copper Harbor was a little over a half day.

The following table displays the avian results from Isle Royale. The detection methods indicated are V (visual), S (singing) and C (calling).

Isle Royale Bird Report Aug. 31 to Sep. 10, 2011
Species Days Location Detection Method
Common Loon 11 RH,DF,MR,NLD,FL,RC,SLD,HL,WCL,IP,MB,GR V,C
Double-crested Cormorant 3 NLD,SLD V
Canada Goose 2 RC,WCL V
Wood Duck 1 WCL V
American Black Duck 2 RHT,FL V
Hooded Merganser 4 LS,MM,MR,WCL V
Common Merganser 3 RHT,SB,SLD,RH V
Red-breasted Merganser 2 DF,NLD V
Turkey Vulture 2 MR,GR V
Osprey 2 RC,SLD V
Bald Eagle 4 DF,MC,SLD,NLD V
Sharp-shinned Hawk 3 TH,MR,FLT V
Cooper’s Hawk 3 DFT,FRT V
Broad-winged Hawk 1 GR V
Red-tailed Hawk 1 MO V
American Kestrel 4 DFT,GR,RHT V
Merlin 2 RC V
Sandhill Crane 5 FL,IM,GR,MB V,C
Semipalmated Plover 1 RHT V
Spotted Sandpiper 2 TH,NLD V
American Woodcock 1 MO V
Ring-billed Gull 3 LS,RHT,NLD,SB V
Herring Gull 5 NLD,RC,SLD,IP V,C
Great Horned Owl 3 MC,HL,WCL V,C
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1 RC V
Belted Kingfisher 8 DF,MC,TH,NLD,RC,FL,SLD,LLP,MB V,C
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2 MR,HL V
Downy Woodpecker 5 MR,FR,SLD C
Hairy Woodpecker 6 DF,MR,TH,FLT,GR,HL,IP V,C
Black-backed Woodpecker 1 HL V
Northern Flicker 8 DF,ECT,MR,FLT,GR,WCL,IP,LLP,RH V,C
Pileated Woodpecker 5 DF,MR,HL,WCL,RH V,C
Least Flycatcher 2 DFT,SLD S
Eastern Phoebe 1 IMT V
Gray Jay 2 WCL,MFT,RH V
Blue Jay 11 DF,DFT,GR,ECT,MC,MR,NLD,FLT,FR,SLD,HL,WCL,IP V,C
American Crow 5 DF,MC,NLD,WCL,RHT V,C
Common Raven 8 RHT,DFT,MC,TH,MR,FLT,HL,RH V,C
Black-capped Chickadee 11 DF,DFT,GR,MR,TH,FLT,RC,FR,SLD,HL,WCL,IP V,S,C
Red-breasted Nuthatch 9 RHT,DF,DFT,TH,MR,FLT,WCL,IP V,S,C
Brown Creeper 2 DFT,MR V
Winter Wren 4 MR,HL,HLT,IP V,S,C
Golden-crowned Kinglet 4 RHT,GR,TH,IP V,C
Hermit Thrush 3 MR,WCL V
American Robin 5 TH,MR,GR,WCL V,C
Gray Catbird 1 RC C
American Pipit 1 RH V
Cedar Waxwing 5 RHT,MR,FLT,FRT,GR V
Blue-headed Vireo 2 DFT,FLT S
Red-eyed Vireo 6 RHT,MR,GR V,S,C
Nashville Warbler 1 DFT V
Yellow Warbler 1 DFT V
Magnolia Warbler 2 MR V
Yellow-rumped Warbler 3 RHT,DF,DFT,GR,MR V,S
Black-throated Green Warbler 3 MR,FR V
Palm Warbler 4 MR,FLT,GR,IP V
Black-and-white Warbler 2 FLT,SLD V,S
American Redstart 4 GR,MR,HL V,S
Ovenbird 4 MR,GR,SLD V,S
Mourning Warbler 1 MR V
Common Yellowthroat 2 MR,MFT V,C
Chipping Sparrow 1 MR V
Song Sparrow 1 DF S
White-throated Sparrow 9 DF,TH,MR,FLT,FL,RC,FRT,SLD,GR,HL,WCL V,S,C
Red-winged Blackbird 1 WCL V
Common Grackle 1 RC V
Pine Siskin 2 RHT,IP V,C
American Goldfinch 1 MR C

The abbreviations for the locations where the different species were observed are given in the following table:

Abbreviation Description
DF Daisy Farm
DFT Daisy Farm Trail
ECT East Chickenbone Trail
FL Feldtmann Lake
FLT Feldtmann Lake Trail
FR Feldtmann Ridge Trail
GR Greenstone Ridge Trail
HL Hatchet Lake
IMT Island Mine Trail
IP Indian Portage Trail
LLP LeSage Lake Portage
LS Lake Superior
LT Little Todd
MB Moskey Basin
MC McCargoe Cove
MFT Mount Franklin Trail
MO Mount Ojibway Trail
MR Minong Ridge Trail
NLD North Lake Desor
RC Rainbow Cove
RH Rock Harbor
RHT Rock Harbor Trail
SB Siskiwit Bay
SLD South Lake Desor
TH Todd Harbor
WCL West Chickenbone Lake

The Isle Royale National Park Checklist of Birds, which I purchased at the Windigo Ranger Station, lists nineteen of the species I encountered as rare on the island, with two species being entirely absent from the list (semipalmated plover and sandhill crane). Rare is defined as 1-5 records per year since 1980. The list is dated 1994, so given some of the rare species encountered were observed three or four times during my trip, it is probably in great need of an update.

This concludes my chronicling of my Isle Royale trip from the late summer of 2011. Hopefully, I will have an opportunity to get back to the Island someday. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to add to this list then.


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