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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 October 7, 2021

White Throated Sparrow
Sparrows steal the show during the month of October, perhaps none more recognizable than the white-throated sparrow. Photo by Ryan Brady.

Mid-migration season has arrived, bringing sparrows, waterfowl, and other hardy species as warm weather birds continue to depart. Look for white-throated, white-crowned, Lincoln's, song, swamp, fox, chipping, and savannah sparrows, among others. Harris's sparrows are showing better than average, and Nelson's sparrows are being seen at wet weedy fields in portions of southern Wisconsin. Like it or not, dark-eyed juncos have arrived in force too, especially up north. 

Diving ducks like scaup, redheads, and a few surf scoters have begun to move in, while mallards, wood ducks, and both teal were reported in good numbers among other dabbling ducks in recent weeks. American coots, horned grebes, and increasing numbers of common loons are also being seen. Shorebird numbers are well past peak but a diversity of late-season species continue, including American woodcock, Wilson's snipe, both yellowlegs, American golden and black-bellied plovers, long-billed dowitcher, killdeer, and pectoral sandpiper. Of note recently were hundreds of sanderlings seen at several sites along Lake Michigan and 15 Hudsonian godwits in Brown County.

Other short-distance migrants now on the move include American robins, blue jays, rusty blackbirds, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, northern flickers, ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets, brown creepers, winter wrens, hermit thrushes, and a suite of tundra breeding songbirds that includes American pipit, horned lark, and Lapland longspur. Warbler migration is waning save for scores of yellow-rumped and palm warblers and smaller numbers of late species such as pine, orange-crowned, Tennessee, Nashville, Cape May, common yellowthroat, and the occasional black-throated blue. A few ruby-throated hummingbirds continue in mostly southern counties, as do some eastern phoebes, gray catbirds, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and indigo buntings.

Great horned and barred owls are actively calling again, while northern saw-whet owls and the first long-eared owls have begun their migrations. A few purple finches and pine siskins are being seen, but most notable is a very early common redpoll photographed in Marquette County. Some of the other rare birds spotted this week included parasitic and pomarine jaegers in Douglas, little gull in Bayfield, white-faced ibis in Brown, and eared grebe in Dane. With more south than north winds in the forecast for the next week, migration will slow down and the possibility of vagrants from the south may increase. Help us track the migration by reporting your finds to www.ebird.org/wi.  Enjoy the birds!

– 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.