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Rare owl sighting: Tiny boreal owl visits Baxter

A rare, little feathered visitor appeared unexpectedly in Baxter Tuesday morning. This is only the fourth boreal owl recorded in 80 years in Crow Wing County, according to the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER—A rare, little feathered visitor appeared unexpectedly in Baxter on Tuesday morning.

Judd Brink, MN Backyard Birds owner and guide, said he spent a weekend guiding in the Sax-Zim Bog, southwest of Eveleth, which is considered a real hot spot for owls this winter, when a rare owl showed up in his own Baxter yard. Brink said he followed the scolding calls of blue jays and chickadees through the backyard and there in a jack pine tree, sitting in the sun about 5 feet high, was a boreal owl. Brink said about 20 visitors showed up to view this owl, a chance of a lifetime for many, including a tour group from Texas that drove all the way from Duluth.

This is only the fourth boreal owl recorded in 80 years in Crow Wing County, according to the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union. These birds are traditionally found in the the boreal forest of northern Canada. However, these birds tend to be cyclic and migrate to northern portions of the state every four to six years, Brink said.

The National Audubon Society describes the bird as a rather mysterious owl of dense northern woodlands that is easily overlooked. Brink said the last major migration occurred in 2013, when hundreds of people from all over the country got to view the owls during the Sax-Zim Winter Bird Festival.