October Big Day 2023 Results

First held in 2018, the October Big Day provides a snapshot of fall migration and global bird populations. On Saturday, October 14, Minnesota birders reported 170 species on 934 checklists. While this species count is down from the past two years, the 2023 October Big Day took place later in the month.  Combined with tallies from past October Big Days, this year’s data demonstrates the difference a few days in October can make in the ability to catch some migrating species before they depart the state.

Minnesota October Big Day Specie Counts by Day of the Month

Sightings were submitted in 69 of Minnesota’s 87 counties. Hennepin County (115) edged out St. Louis (102) in the species count, followed by Washington (94), Dakota (91) and Ramsey (81).  The “hottest” hot spots were Lake Elmo Regional Park (71) and Carver Park Reserve – Grimm Rd. Picnic/Rec. Area (57), followed closely by the Minnesota Valley NWR—Bass Ponds (56).

Across Minnesota birds were observed massing for migration including high counts of 5,000 Sandhill cranes at the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Sherburne County; rafts of 2,900 American Coots viewed from the Big River Overlook in Dakota County; and 2,500 Franklin’s Gulls in Lincoln County’s Lake Stay Township.

This year’s October Big Day also fell in the middle of the migration period for sea ducks.  Surf Scoters were reported from the state’s northern border on the Rainy River in Koochiching County, east to the Superior Bay side of Minnesota Point in St. Louis County, south to the Pine City Waste Water Treatment Plant in Pine County; and even further south to a quarry pond in Dodge County.  Black Scoters too were viewed from Lake Superior’s Minnesota Point and Stoney Point.

A particular highlight of the day was a Cattle Egret sharing a Lake Elmo pasture with two horses.  The bird, which was initially spotted by Shere Krusemark, was able to be viewed by several birders before it flew off in the evening.


Enjoy some additional photos taken across Minnesota during the October Big Day!