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Birding And Bird Conservation

Wisconsin is home to over 300 species of birds and thousands of people who enjoy birds. Explore the links below for information on birds, bird identification, birding locations and how to get involved in conservation efforts.

Birding Report

Statewide Birding Report As Of July 29, 2021

Snowy Plover
This snowy plover, only the state’s second record in nearly 30 years, thrilled Milwaukee birders on July 22-23. Photo by Jeremy Meyer

Breeding season is starting to wind down for many species. Young birds are common on the landscape, some still following parents and others now on their own. If not obviously begging from parents, these immature birds can often be identified by remnant down on the head, brighter gape, pale-tipped feather edges and/or fresh, clean plumage this time of year. Meanwhile, adult birds generally sport older, worn feathers or are now in active molt, which leads to missing head, wing or tail feathers and a disheveled appearance.

As summer progresses, flocks of birds are becoming more common again in species such as sandhill cranes, blackbirds, swallows, loons and waterfowl. Hummingbird lovers have been pleased to see increased activity now as newly fledged birds begin to frequent gardens and feeders. Shorebird migration continues full steam ahead wherever suitable habitat is present. In areas of heavy rain, check flooded fields that provide temporary stopover habitat for these long-distance migrants. Landbird migration has also begun, including the first Tennessee warblers, Swainson’s thrushes, yellow-bellied flycatchers and others. Notable up north have been small numbers of white-winged crossbills.

The illness leading to bird mortalities in the eastern United States continues to be investigated. If you observe birds with crusty or swollen eyes or that are having seizures or are uncoordinated, please contact your local non-game ecologist or wildlife biologist. Learn more in the following news release: DNR Following Multi-state Reports Of Sick Songbirds.

Rarities spotted since our last report include a wood stork in Rusk County (the state’s first in over 40 years), snowy plover in Milwaukee, neotropical cormorant in Brown, adult male rufous hummingbird in Buffalo, continuing white-tailed kite in Burnett, yellow-crowned night-heron in Dane, yellow-breasted chats in Waukesha and Racine, blue grosbeaks in Ozaukee, Sauk, and Dane, snowy egrets in Brown and Fond du Lac and a harlequin duck that has unusually spent the summer in Sheboygan.

The week ahead has several days with north winds, which will favor additional migration of shorebirds and some landbirds. Now is a great time to check wetlands, woodland edges, shrubby or early successional forests and any fruit sources in your area. Help us track the migration by reporting your finds to Good birding!

– Ryan Brady, DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program Biologist

Find Birds

Explore the information below to learn more about great birding places in Wisconsin.

Report A Bird

Amateur birders have always been leaders in the field of citizen science. The links below provide a number of web-based tools that allow you to report and track your daily bird sightings. These data are used by DNR and conservation partners across the hemisphere to monitor migratory bird populations.

Bird ID And Info

The links below provide useful tips in identifying birds as well as information on their biology, status and conservation in Wisconsin.

Create Habitat

  • Establish native plants for birds to use as feeding, resting and nesting sites. For information on what to plant and Wisconsin native plant nurseries, see DNR's Plant native plants web page.
  • Read how Wisconsinites are taking steps to help birds in this special section of the Fall 2020 Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.
  • Ten great native plants, trees and shrubs to plant for birds
  • Provide more food for birds and maintain a healthier natural environment by removing plants not native to your area.
  • Provide fresh water for birds. A frog pond, water garden, fountain or even a shallow, regularly cleaned dish of water will get lots of bird use, especially if the water is dripping, moving or otherwise making a sound.
  • Maintain bird feeders in your yard, placed at least 30 feet from windows and near the natural protection of trees and shrubs; fruit, suet, and mealworms can supplement traditional seed such as black sunflower and niger seed.
  • Build a brush pile for shelter from predators and weather.
  • Add nest boxes for species like bluebirds or chickadees that nest and roost in cavities.
  • Prevent collisions with window glass by using non-reflective window coatings, window screens, awnings, flash tape, paracord or bird netting. Find DIY ideas here.
  • Keep cats indoors or confined to an outdoor enclosure to help reduce the hundreds of millions of birds killed by cats in the U.S. each year.
  • Limit or avoid pesticide use on your property. Pesticides harm birds directly through exposure/contact and indirectly by reducing the insect populations they need to survive. Birds are natural pesticides.

How To Help

See the links below for ways to get involved in birding and bird conservation efforts around the state.

Birdfeeder Tips

Ten Tips For Winter Bird Feeding

Winter is a great time to feed the birds, as higher energy demands and fewer natural foods give us the opportunity to bring some species closer to home.

  1. The single best seed to provide is black oil sunflower, which has high-fat content and attracts the most species.
  2. Also offer nyjer seed for finches, white millet for sparrows, doves and other ground-feeding species both suet and peanut chunks for woodpeckers, chickadees nuthatches.
  3. Avoid generic seed mixes as these tend to have more waste and attract less desired bird and mammal species.
  4. Deter squirrels with cone- or dome-shaped baffles above hanging feeders or below pole-mounted feeders.
  5. Place feeders closer than 3 feet or farther than 30 feet from your home to avoid the deadliest window collision zone.
  6. Minimize disease by cleaning your feeders at least once every two weeks using soapy water and a 10% bleach solution.
  7. Provide cover such as brush piles or dense shrubs for roosting and escape from predators.
  8. Offer water to attract a wider variety of species, using a heating element when temperatures dip below freezing.
  9. "Birdscape" your property with native plants such as fruit-bearing shrubs and evergreen trees.
  10. Contribute to bird science and management by reporting birds you see at your feeder. The Great Backyard Bird Count [exit DNR] every February is an easy, fun way to get started: for at least 15 minutes on one or more days you simply tally the numbers and kinds of birds you see. Project Feederwatch [exit DNR] spans the entire winter.