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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 November 23, 2021


Statewide Birding Report as of November 5, 2021

Flock of Tundra Swans
Tundra swans have reached the state in good numbers and should provide good viewing opportunities into at least early December. Photo by Todd Leech.

Tundra swans reached the state in a big way this week, the first major influx coming on November 17 when birders reported hundreds from various sites around the state and over 1200 in Portage County. Numbers have built substantially at the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge, where upwards of 10,000 can now be found on Pool 8. The Brownsville overlook on the Minnesota side often provides the best viewing. Look for bald eagles, Canada geese, American white pelicans, and large numbers of ducks at various refuge vantages. Impressive this week were counts of 1,000 American wigeon in Vernon county and 3,000 canvasbacks in Crawford. Elsewhere, divers such as bufflehead, common goldeneye, and red-breasted mergansers are showing well, including over 2,000 of the latter in Racine.

Not to be outdone, sandhill cranes were also reported in large numbers across southern Wisconsin, including a highly visible southward flight on November 22. Over 1,800 were tallied in just a few hours in Ozaukee County, while nearly 3,000 were reportedly still staging near Horicon Marsh. Gulls aren’t viewed as admirably by most but a count of 5,500 herring gulls on Lake Superior in Douglas is impressive nonetheless. A few shorebirds continue to be seen including dunlin, sanderling, greater yellowlegs, Wilson’s snipe, and a few others. 

A total of 18 snowy owls have been reported from 14 counties, the bulk of those arriving this past week. Read a detailed update on our snowy owl page. Other winter birds being seen include rough-legged hawk, short-eared owl, northern shrike, snow bunting, and American tree sparrow. Common redpolls are plentiful and widespread across the north woods, with a few reaching southern Wisconsin already, but don’t expect many at feeders until later in winter. White-winged crossbills are also being seen, though less abundantly. A few pine siskins, American goldfinches, and purple finches can be found too, as well as small numbers of pine grosbeaks in far northern counties.   

Surprising were reports of lingering species such as Baltimore oriole, rose-breasted grosbeak, least flycatcher, American bittern, Hudsonian godwit, and common yellowthroat. Other rarities since our last report include king eider on Green Bay, red phalaropes in Dane and Sheboygan, Townsend’s solitaire in Douglas, rufous hummingbird in Richland, black-legged kittiwakes, Pacific loon, and hoary redpoll in Bayfield, and late cattle egrets documented in Dodge, Door, Marinette, Ashland, and Bayfield. As dry, seasonable weather is forecast into early December, a general lack of snow and ice (on larger water bodies, at least) should allow many species to linger and provide good late-season birdwatching opportunities. Find out what others are seeing and report your finds at 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. Data is 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.