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Sand Prairie Wildlife Management & Environmental Education Area
Around 80 years ago this extensive prairie-wetland complex—once a channel of the Mississippi River—was drained for cropland. In more recent years, native prairie plants recolonized its abandoned fields. Today, with hard work and dedication, more than 600 acres at this site offer a diverse landsca...
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Lake Osakis – Important Bird Area (IBA)
Description: "A great day of birding!" would sum up a visit to Lake Osakis in west-central Minnesota. This site is part of the 20,567-acre Lake Osakis Important Bird Area (IBA), which encompasses the lake, its shoreline, and surrounding upland areas to the north and south. Located in Todd and Douglas counties, the IBA also includes many smaller lakes and wetlands.

Wildlife to Watch: At Lake Osakis there is a chance to witness western grebes performing their spectacular courtship dance on the water. Clearly, there are few birding experiences that surpass such sight and sound. Occurring on the eastern edge of their range, this is the largest nesting population of western grebes in Minnesota.

And as if that weren't enough, another species of grebe, the red-necked, bob, dip and dive along the shoreline. A few Clark's grebes have also been documented.

Look for Forster's terns as they hover, skim and swoop through the air near their reedy nests. Historically, this population is one of Minnesota's largest colonies of Forster's, a state species of special concern. White pelicans, double-crested cormorants, ring-billed gulls, Caspian terns and gangly great blue herons frequent the area as well.

Check out the protected bay on the southwest end of the lake for grebes and waterfowl, such as wood and ruddy ducks and American coots. On the lake margin, watch for purple martins, tree swallows, warbling vireos, killdeer and red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds. With fields and farmlands nearby, it's not unusual to spot red-tailed hawks or other birds of prey searching for a meal of mice.

Special Tips: This lake is 11 miles long, so the best way to see birds is to rent a pontoon or boat. Rental rates are reasonable, making viewing easy, especially where dense emergent vegetation makes it hard to spot birds from shore. Bring binoculars, bird book and a box lunch. Don't forget sunscreen and a cap. Lake maps are helpful and available at the visitor center, resorts and retailers.

Other Activities: If time doesn't allow for a water outing, highways circle the lake. There's a park and swimming beach on the south end and four public accesses, where you may walk to the water's edge to look for birds. The Battle Point access also has a short trail on a spit of land that juts out into the water for additional viewing opportunities.

Ownership: Public 
Size: 6269 acres 
Closest Town: Osakis

Facilities:
ParkingFishingPicnic tablesBoat LaunchVisitor CenterLarge BoatsSmall BoatsSwimmingAuto TourRV Pullout

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:
SpringSummer

Red-necked Grebe - Photo by Carrol Henderson
Map
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Driving Directions:
Lake Osakis is about 12 miles east of Alexandria.

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Lake Osakis – Important Bird Area (IBA) : Wildlife Viewing Area