Birdwatching in Greater MankatoVisit Mankato
Flock to Mankato for some recreational birdwatching. Nestled in the Minnesota River Valley, the Mankato area offers plenty of options for your birding pleasure. Visit Mankato met up with local birdwatching enthusiast and Bethany Lutheran College biology professor, Chad Heins, to get the scoop on some of the must-stop spots.
The woodland scenery of Rasmussen Woods makes it easy to escape the city without leaving town! Located on Stoltzman Road, Rasmussen Woods is just down the hill from Minnesota State University, Mankato (360° virtual tour) and offers bird watchers a convenient getaway. Piliated Woodpeckers and Barred Owls are regulars to this spot, and the nature area includes a feeding station so birds can still be found even on a winter stroll through the woods.
Minneopa State Park
Although Minneopa Falls and the bison are breathtaking, they aren’t the only things to look for at Minneopa State Park. A short, 10-minute drive will take you to this woodland bird goldmine. Although you cannot walk through the bison area, prairie birds can still be seen and heard while driving through the enclosure. On the waterfall side, Scarlet Tanagers and American Redstarts are a few of the many birds you can find, and the rare Louisiana Waterthrush can be spotted here occasionally as well. Check out the Minneopa State Park Bird Checklist for species to watch for.
Seven Mile Creek Count Park
“If I had to pick a top location in May, it would be Seven Mile Creek,” said Heins. “There are birds dripping off the trees in May. If you go in the right conditions, there are more birds than you know what to do with.”
Located eight miles out of Mankato on Highway 169, this park offers eight miles of dirt trails for woodland birding. Cerulean Warblers breed in the park, and Hooded Warblers and Acadian Flycatchers have been reported in these woods. This is an excellent option, particularly during migration.
Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail
This 39-mile-long paved trail runs just north of Mankato. Great for hiking, biking and birding, this diverse landscape is a great place to find Barred Owls, thrushes, warblers and Brown Creepers in winter. Closer to Eagle Lake you can see marsh birds, waterfowl, migratory sparrows and blackbirds.
Swan Lake Complex
The expansive Swan Lake Complex near Nicollet offers many access points for birding adventures, including a public boat launch west of the Nicollet Conservation Club on 471st Ave and another boat launch on 460th Street just off Highway 99. Stop by and explore for yourself! The cattail marsh and grassland terrain makes this a great spot to find herons, waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, sparrows, rails and terns.
Bend of the River Region
Mankato is located on the Bend of the River Region of the Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway, home to dozens of birds. Audubon Minnesota and the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter add Red Jacket Trail, Land of Memories Park and Spring Lake Park as some in-town spots to check out. They also include directions to a few “off the beaten path” locations; contact the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter for more information on the Bend of the River birding region.
Heins also mentions that, for raptor lovers, Bethany Lutheran College is the place to stop in the fall to join the Bethany Hawkwatch, a group of students and community volunteers who count hawks, eagles and vultures during their migration. Land of Memories County Park is another location to watch raptor migration in spring and fall. Stop by and enjoy an afternoon with fellow bird enthusiasts.