The Minnesota River Valley is located in a unique transition zone where east meets west in the middle of the continent. This east - west factor makes the Minnesota River basin an important wildlife area and a prime birding location where eastern woodland species interact with western and prairie species.
In fact, the river floodplain acts as an extension of the eastern forest, which provides an extension of the western limit of the nesting ranges of Scarlet Tanagers, Cerulean Warblers, Prothonotory Warblers, Wood Thrushes, Northern Cardinals, American Woodcocks, Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-shouldered Hawks, Broad-winged Hawks and other species. At the same time, the adjoining grasslands provide habitat for the eastern-most populations of Swainson's Hawks, Upland Sandpipers, Marbled Godwits, American Avocets, Wilson's Phalaropes, Western Kingbirds, and other birds.
The Minnesota River basin is also a north - south meeting place for wintering birds that nest in the Arctic and northern boreal forests, and some neotropical migrants that nest in this region and winters in the American tropics. During winter, such dramatic species as Snowy Owls, Rough-legged Hawks, Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs can be found. During spring and summer, colorful songbirds from the neotropics invade the woodlands, including Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers, Brown Thrashers, Indigo Buntings and many more. A diversity of birds migrate through this watershed each spring and fall, and many species rely on critical stopover locations here during their phenomenal journeys north and south. (See List of Valley Birds.)