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Wisconsin Birding Hotspots
( Click County Name to see where attraction is located )
Statewide Birding Report
as of April 18, 2018
The north saw some notable migration events this week. Large numbers of dark-eyed juncos reached the Lake Superior shore on the April 17, accompanied by fox, song, American tree, and the first white-throated sparrows. Over 750 Bohemian waxwings were tallied near Ashland on that date as well. Hermit thrushes, eastern phoebes, yellow-rumped warblers, winter wrens, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, northern flickers, rusty blackbirds, and Eastern towhee have arrived in small numbers, while feeding stations are hosting American goldfinches, purple finches, pine siskins, and a few lingering common redpolls. Readers from the Northern Highland and other portions of northcentral Wisconsin may notice a delay in migration timing for some species as snow and ice persist there following the past week's major snow event. Several large raptor flights unfolded, especially on the April 16 when hundreds of red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, and sharp-shinned hawks were on the move, in addition to some rough-legged hawks and others. The first broad-winged hawks reached Wisconsin from wintering areas in central and south America.
Do you know these four Wisconsin raptors? Now's a great time to look up on sunny or windy days in search of soaring migrants. Clockwise from top right - turkey vulture, red-tailed hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, and rough-legged hawk.
Photo Credit: Ryan Brady
Farther south, ospreys continue their march back to nest platforms. Bonaparte's gulls were reported along Lake Michigan and in flooded fields inland, while the first terns are just now arriving, including Forster's, caspian, and common. Mid-April is a good time to look for grebes, including pied-billed, horned, and the rarer red-necked. Loons are starting to shift northward but some impressive counts were made on southern lakes this week, including 80+ on Lake Monona. Also impressive were 15-20 black-necked stilts counted along Highway 49 at Horicon marsh. Other shorebirds reported this week were Baird's sandpiper, dunlin, both yellowlegs, and the first piping plovers of the season. Purple martins, barn swallows, and cliff swallows also have begun their return, while warbler species were limited to yellow-rumped, pine, the first palms, and a few Louisiana waterthrushes.
Rare birds spotted this week included western grebe in Ozaukee, varied thrush in Bayfield, and northern mockingbird in La Crosse. The week ahead looks good for migration, especially this weekend and then again mid-late next week. We'll start seeing the first of the long-distance neotropical migrants reach some portions of the state, like more warblers, perhaps a hummingbird or oriole in the far south, kettles of broad-winged hawks, and upland sandpipers back from Argentina but the main show won't kick in until late April in the south and early May up north. Help us track the migration at www.ebird.org/wi. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland
WI DNR in cooperation with the Cornell University ebird.org/content/wi program.
Copyright © 2019 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Used by permission.
See Birding Events across the state
Add a Birding Event which is not listed
Here is an article on Winter Birds. Published October 16, 2014
Wisconsin Birding Hotspots
- 1000 Islands Environmental Center
- Information: Call 920-766-4733.
This 300-acre refuge along the Fox River in the city of Kaukauna is a Conservancy Zone and is home to nesting eagles, great blue herons, black crowned night herons, owls, bitterns, teal, coots, ducks, mergansers, resident and migratory song birds. The nature center houses a collection of both North American and African/Asian animals. More than 300 specimens are on display. No admission charged. Open Mon-Fri 8-4, and Sat and Sun 10 am-3:30 pm. Naturalist on-duty at the Center 8-4 daily.
- Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
- Information: Call 715-779-3397.
Located in Lake Superior just off the tip of the Bayfield Peninsula. More than 240 species of birds breed and/or migrate through this archipelago of twenty-two pristine islands. Park rangers staff several visitor centers on a daily basis from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
- Avon Bottoms
- Information: Call the DNR wildlife manager at 608-868-7274.
1,600 acres of Wisconsin DNR land along the Sugar River near the town of Avon, (between Beloit and Janesville in south-central Wisconsin). The site is primitive but has a wide range of habitats including prairie, swamp and oak savannah.
- Chequamegon Bay
- Information: Call 715-682-2500 or 800-284-9484.
Located of the south shore of Lake Superior near Ashland, the Chequamegon Bay region has a wide variety of waterfowl habitat concentrated in a small area. Waterfowl, warblers and shorebirds in spring; snowy owls and bohemian waxwings in winter.
- Chequamegon National Forest
- Information: Call 715-762-2461 or 715-762-5701 (TTY)
The Chequamegon National Forest cover 858,400 acres in northwestern Wisconsin. More than 225 species have been sighted in the Chequamegon, including migrating tundra swans, eagles, osprey, ruby crowned kinglets, indigo buntings and rufous-sided towhees. 200 miles of trails, wildlife viewing platforms, interpretive exhibits and trail guides bring this seasonal display into focus. (Since 1993, Chequamegon and Nicolet National Forest have been managed as one, with headquarters offices in both Park Falls and Rhinelander.)
Ashland County, Bayfield County, Sawyer County, Price County, Taylor County
- Crex Meadows Wildlife Area
- Information: Call 715-463-2739 or 715-463-2896.
This state owned 30,000-plus acre complex of marsh, woodlands and prairies is located in Burnett County north of Grantsburg at the intersection of County D and F. Crex Meadows features colonies of nesting herons, double-crested cormorants, breeding osprey and sharp-tailed grouse.
- Ellwood H May Environmental Park
- Information: Call 920-459-3906.
The park is 120 acres with diverse habitats consisting of a restored prairie, wetlands, Pigeon River corridor, coniferous and deciduous forests--with bird watching being one of our top park activities. Our site was recently listed in a survey by the Sheboygan Press as the #1 wildlife viewing location in Sheboygan County.
- Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve
- Information: Call 920-731-6041.
This 775-acre white cedar swamp located on County Highway A north of Appleton offers a variety of woodland species including great horned owls, pileated woodpeckers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers warblers, herons, cranes, Cooper's hawks, harriers, Canada geese, migrating ducks and shorebirds. Naturalist on-duty at the Preserve Center Tues-sat 8-4:30 and Sun 12:30-4:30 pm.
- Great Horicon Marsh
- Located northeast of Beaver Dam in Dodge and Fond du Lac Counties, Wisconsin's Great Horicon Marsh is known worldwide for its tremendous spring and fall concentrations of Canada geese with the fall migration being the most spectacular.
The northern two-thirds of the marsh (21,142 acres) is owned by the federal government and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The southern third is owned by the Sate of Wisconsin and managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
A two-hour, rookery tour of Wisconsin's largest heron and egret rookery is offered May-September by Blue Heron Tours of Horicon, phone 920-485-4663.
- Havenwoods State Forest
- This urban forest is 237 acres of diverse habitats consisting of a restored native prairie, wetlands, deciduous forests -- bird watching is very popular. Sightings include great blue herons, sandhill cranes, kestrels, flycatchers and sandpipers. Also great for dragonflies and butterflies.
Call 414-527-0232. E-mail Judy.Klippel@wi.gov
6141 N Hopkins St, (one block west of Sherman Blvd.) Milwaukee, Milwaukee County
- Hawthorne Hollow Nature Sanctuary & Arboretum
- Information: Call 262-552-8196.
Forty acres of woodland, prarie and a 12-acre arboretum in a natural "hollow" accented by bluffs, Pike Creek, and a small fen (swamp) located at 880 Green Bay Road in Kenosha. See a variety of exotic trees, shrubs and birds including warblers, herons, owls, hawks, ducks and pheasants.
- Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area
- Information: Call 920-387-7860.
The state-owned southern third of the march is open to the public. Canoe rentals are available nearby. A 1-1/2 mile hiking trail loop affords opportunities for bird observation. Other marsh-associated birds and mammals are common. Naturalist programs offered spring and fall.
- Horicon National Wildlife Refuge
- Information: Call 920-387-2658.
More than 300 species of birds have been sighted on the march. This federally-managed portion includes a 6-mile trail system open year-round for hiking, wildlife observation and cross-country skiing in winter; and a 3.2 mile auto tour route open April 15 to September 15. Stop at the Visitor Center to see the new exhibits, shop at Coots Corner, pick up free posters, maps and information. Accessible for persons with disabilities.
- Hunt Hill Nature Center & Audubon Sanctuary
- Information: Call 715-635-6543.
A 500-acre wildlife sanctuary with wooded, glacial hills, three clear lakes, old-growth forest, prarie and northern bogs. Located ten miles south of Spooner; twenty miles north of Rice Lake. See nesting osprey and loons as well as many other species. Guided walks, cabin rental and environmental programs. Center open daily, 9-5.
- International Crane Foundation
- Information: Call 608-356-9462.
Dedicated to the protection and preservation of cranes and their wetland homes, the Foundation has the most complete collection of the fifteen crane species in the world. Newly-hatched chicks, breeding pod, habitat tours, video presentation, gift shop, self-guided and guided tours offered May 1-October 31.
E11376 Shady Lane Rd, Baraboo, Sauk County
- Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy
- Information: Call the Fontana Public Library, at 414-275-5107.
A 230-acre natural area near Williams Bay on the northwest shore of Geneva Lake. See migrating waterfowl including coots, grebes, many species of ducks and Canada geese.
- L H Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve
- Information: Call 920-448-4466.
A 925-acre wildlife management area located 3 miles north of Green Bay. Six miles of hiking and ski trails tour the preserve which is located on the west shore of Green Bay. It features waterfowl and wetland birds. Facilities include a nature center with restrooms and outdoor picnic areas. Trails open daily sunrise to sunset, year-round. Interpretive Center open Mon-Fri 9 am-4 pm, Sat and Sun noon-4 pm.
- Mack Wildlife Area
- Located 2-1/2 miles west of Black Creek on Hwy 54 and Bishkoff road. The 1,829-acre Mack State Wildlife Area is one of several public areas totaling more than 10,000 acres in northwest Outagamie County. the newly-created 500-acre wildlife observation area is one of the few areas in the state where migrating swans can be seen along with Canada geese, ducks and shore birds.
- Marsh Haven Nature Center
- Information: Call 920-386-2182.
Located on Highway 49 just east of Waupun, this 38-acre parcel on the northern edge of the marsh is dedicated to research, rehabilitation and education. Observation tower, picnic shelter, amphitheater, nature center with museum displays and exhibits, trail system, pond, and a gift shop. Adjacent to the Wild Goose State Trail.
- Navarino State Wildlife Area
- Information: Call 715-526-4226.
Located about thirty miles west of Green Bay and seven miles south of Shawano, this wetlands area was once part of a glacial lake bed formed 12,000 years ago. Birds include a resident population of sandhill cranes, black terns, wood ducks, mallards and yellow-headed blackbirds.
- Necedah National Wildlife Refuge
- Information: Call 608-565-2551.
The refuge is located in Juneau County near Necedah in the state's sand counties. Visit the area to see the sandhill crane and waterfowl concentrations in fall, both bald and golden eagles, as well as wild turkeys in winter, and shorebirds and songbirds in spring.
- Nicolet National Forest
- Information: Call 715-362-1300 or 715-362-1383 (TTY).
Covering 661,400 acres in northeastern Wisconsin, the Nicolet National Forest provides abundant habitat for a wide variety of species. In just one area alone, the annual bird survey has counted approximately 235 different species in the northern most part of Oconto County. Rare species in the forest include the boreal chickadee, gray jay, northern tree-toed woodpecker, spruce grouse and sandhill crane. The abundance of lakes attracts bald eagles, common loons and ospreys. (Since 1993, Nicolet and Chequamegon National Forest have been managed as one, with headquarters offices in both Park Falls and Rhinelander.)
Florence County, Forest County, Langlade County, Oconto County, Oneida County, Vilas County
- North Lakeland Discovery Center
- Information: Call 715-543-2085.
Our Nature Center manages 63 acres and over 20 miles of trails within the Northern Highland State Forest in Vilas County (Northern Wisconsin). Our Center also has a very active bird club with over 60 members and regular birding outings.
- Oconto Marsh Refuge
- Information: Call 920-834-2255.
The Oconto Marsh Refuge is located just north of the City of Oconto on the west shore of Green Bay. Covering 4,000 acres, the march is one of the last remaining Great Lakes' wetlands. It is accessible by car on paved roads that make watching Forester Terns, eagles, raptors, herons, cranes and other marsh denizens both rewarding and comfortable. The march encompasses a state waterfowl sanctuary and a breeding fround for the yellow-headed blackbird.
- Quincy Bluff and Wetlands
- Information: Call the Madison office of the Nature Conservancy at 608-251-8140.
A 1,705-acre preserve located in Adams County owned by the non-profit The Nature Conservancy. The terrain is varied with bluffs, buttes and mesas. Pine forest and sedge meadows give way to tamarack swamps, bogs and wetlands. Bird species include northern tarrier hawks, turkey vultures and sandhill cranes.
- Riveredge Nature Center
- Information: Call 262-675-6888. Milwaukee metro call 262-375-2715.
A 350-acre sanctuary located thirty miles north of Milwaukee between Saukville and West Bend. The Center is a breeding habitat for 67 species of birds with twelve miles of trails through prairies and woodlands along the Milwaukee River. Environmental Center open Monday-Friday from 8-5; Saturday and Sunday from noon-4.
- Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
- Information: Call 414-352-2880.
A 225-acre sanctuary located just 20 minutes north of downtown Milwaukee on Lake Michigan, (exit I-43 at Brown Deer road, east). Located along the Lake Michigan migratory corridor, 250 species of birds have been recorded within the Center. Two ponds, ravines, woodlands and prairies provide habitat for hawks, ducks, owls, warblers, finches, falcons and many others. Interpretive Center open daily, except Mondays.
- Schmeeckle Reserve
- Information: Call, 715-346-4992.
Located on the north end of the UW-Stevens Point campus, this 217-acre reserve is a field station for the College of Natural Resources. The reserve's varied habitat is excellent for songbirds. Five miles of nature trails connect to 24 miles of trails in the city's greenway. The visitor's center houses the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame. Center hours are 10-5 Mon-Fri; noon-5 Sat and Sun.
- Thunder Marsh Wildlife Area
- Information: Call 715-365-2632.
Located just off of Hwy 45, three miles north of Three Lakes, this 3,000-acre wildlife offers a rare opportunity to observe the birds of a spruce and tamarack forest, as well as many species of marsh birds and waterfowl. Resident birds include ruby crowned kinglets, yellow rails, hooded mergansers and kingfishers.
- Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge
- The "Upper Miss" refuge extends nearly 260 miles and contains more than 200,000 acres of fish and wildlife habitat along the Mississippi River from Wabasha, Minnesota to Rock Island, Illinois. The refuge is the home or nesting area of some 270 species of birds. The Mississippi River Flyway is a major migration route that hosts spectacular seasonal flights of waterfowl including tundra swans, ducks and geese. The refuge offers a ready food supply to migrating warblers, vireos, thrushes and sparrows as well as raptors, herons and resident bald eagles. The La Crosse District of the refuge encompasses Pools 7 and 8 of the Mississippi River. Popular viewing spots along Wisconsin's portion of the refuge include Wyalusing State Park near Prairie du Chien, Lake Onalaska, the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge, and Lake Pepin near Stockholm.
La Crosse County,
- Wisconsin Point
- Information: Call 715-394-0270.
At the extreme west end of Lake Superior, this long sand spit protects the city of Superior's harbor. The Point's location at the intersection of marsh, lake and woodland makes it one of the best migrant bird areas in the state in spring (May) and fall (September). The Point is one of the best locations in the state to observe extreme rarities such as the piping plover, parasitic jaeger and Cassin's kingbird.
- Woodland Dunes Nature Center
- Information: Call 920-793-4007.
Located on Hwy 310 just west of Two Rivers, this 991-acre reserve offers a variety of birding opportunities including ten species of warblers in summer. The Center includes marsh, meadow, forest, swamp and prairie habitats, as well as 6 miles of nature trails. The Visitor Center is normally open 8-3 weekends and 8-11 on Saturdays, but call ahead for confirmation.