Egrets of Wisconsin (3 Species to Know)

Egrets are elegant looking wading birds. There are a few different species of Egrets that live in the United States and 3 species that can be found in Wisconsin

Cattle Egret (Uncommon)

Cattle Egret
Identification

Cattle egrets are medium sized white birds with a yellow bill, yellow legs and feet, and yellowish green coloration behind their eye. Breeding adults have peach coloration on their head, wings, and underside while nonbreeding adults are pure white. 

Range

Cattle Egrets are actually native to Africa but at some point made their way over to South America and then eventually spread north into Central America, Mexico, and the United States. In the US, they can be found year round in the Gulf Coast and some of the Southwestern states. In spring, they migrate north and breed in the Southeastern United States as well as seemingly random other parts of the country. Some of these more strange breeding locations are parts of the Dakotas, Idaho, Oregon, Colorado, Wisconsin, and even parts of Southern Canada.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Cattle Egrets have a widely varied diet which includes small mammals, amphibians, lizards, and even other birds. The majority of their diet however, is comprised of insects. Cattle Egrets have a habit of spending time near heards of cattle that kick up insects such as crickets and grasshoppers as they graze. The Egrets will also forage near heavy machinery in farm fields for the same reason. This species will feed alone or in large groups.

Where to Find This Bird

Cattle Egrets can be found in open fields, typically near grazing cattle. They can also be found on the edges of marshes and swamps. Sometimes, extremely large numbers of Cattle Egrets gather together to forage or roost.

In Wisconsin, Cattle Egrets are somewhat rare but can be found in some select places on an annual basis. Farms around Lake Winnebago are good places to find Cattle Egrets where they will most likely be in the fields. They also sometimes show up around Horicon Marsh but not every year.

Great Egret

Great Egret
Identification

Great egrets are large heron-shaped birds with a long neck. They are pure white with black legs. a yellow bill, and green coloration from the bill to the eye. They can also have more of a yellowish color behind their eye. Out of all of the egret species that live in the state, the aptly named Great Egret is the largest.

Range

Great Egrets live in South and Central America year round. They are also year long residents of the coasts of Mexico, both the Gulf Coast and the East Coast of the United States, and parts of California. In spring, they migrate north and breed in parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri along with other states in the region in addition to parts of Oregon.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Great Egrets are wading birds which means they will walk in shallow water and search for food. Their preferred food sources are small fish, frogs, small mammals, aquatic invertebrates, and essentially any living creature that they can get down their throat.

Where to Find This Bird

Great Egrets can be found in places with slow moving or even standing water. They can be readily spotted standing on the edges of ponds, in shallow marshes, and in coastal estuaries. They are also common in man-made canals and in lakes.

Snowy Egret (Rare)

Snowy Egret
Identification

Snowy Egrets are relatively small wading birds that are clean white with a black bill and black legs. They have yellow behind the bill and also have distinctive and noticeable yellow feet. They are significantly smaller than Great Egrets, so if the two are in the same vicinity, they are easy to tell apart based on size.

Range

Snowy Egrets are year round residents of South America, the Carribean Islands, Cuba, the coasts of Mexico, the Southwestern United States, The Gulf Coast, and the Southeastern Coast of the United States. Some of the population migrates north into the United States, most notably farther up the Atlantic Coast, and the Southwestern states. During migration, Snowy Egrets can be found in a wide variety of places in the United States including the Midwest.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Snowy Egrets feed primarily on aquatic creatures such as fish, frogs, and crustaceans among others. They will feed in both marine and freshwater environments, and typically catch prey by wading into the water and stirring up small creatures with their feet.

Where to Find This Bird

The best places to find Snowy Egrets are along ocean coastlines with shallow water. These birds can typically be seen wading into the water and searching for food. They can also be found inland in marshes and other places with shallow water and mudflats.

In Wisconsin, Snowy Egrets are rare but annual visitors. They sometimes show up at Horicon Marsh, but can also sometimes be found along rivers and the coasts of the Great Lakes.

Summary

Egrets are quite beautiful birds that can be fun to observe as they go about their daily lives. Knowing the species that are expected in your state can be instrumental in identifying which one you’re looking at. Hopefully, this article has helped to answer some questions about the egrets of Wisconsin.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding Youtube Channel

Swallows of Wisconsin (6 Species to know)

Swallows are fast moving aerial insectivores that move quickly and catch prey on the fly. They have long wings and are characterized by their acrobatic movements. There are many different swallow species that live across the United States. Contained in this article is information on how to identify each one that can typically be found in Wisconsin, along with additional information on their lifestyle and habits.

Bank Swallow

Bank Swallow (Charles Gates – Photo)
Identification

Bank Swallows have a grayish brown back, head, and wings. They have a white underside and throat separated by a grayish brown chest band and stripe going from this band to the underside. 

Range

Bank Swallows winter in South America and Western Mexico. They migrate north in spring spreading across the United States and breeding in the Central and Northern United States and the majority of Canada and Alaska with the exception of the most Northern parts.

Diet and Feeding Behavior

Bank Swallows feed on flying insects and will occasionally scoop insects from the surface of the water. This species will forage solo or in groups. 

Where to Find This Bird

Bank Swallows typically live in areas near water such as riverbanks, and coastlines. The easiest way to find this species is to locate a nesting colony that will sometimes consist of thousands of birds. They will build nests in natural places such as bluffs and cliffsides as well as manmade structures such as quarries.

In Wisconsin, the bluffs along the Lake Michigan Coastline in Ozaukee and Milwaukee county are a great place to find this species.

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow (Alan Schmierer Photo)
Identification

Barn Swallows have a navy blue back and head with grayish blue tail and wings. They have Reddish orange faces, lighter orange undersides, and light orange undertails. They have longer feathers on the outside of their tails giving them a forked appearance.

Range

Barn Swallows winter in South America and Central America, then fly North into Mexico, the United and Southern Canada. Bran Swallows do make it as far North as Southern Alaska and generally extend more North in the Western portion of Canada than the Eastern.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Barn Swallows eat insects that they typically catch in flight. They also land on the ground and ingest small pebbles and other things that have vitamins and minerals in them such as calcium.

Where to Find This Bird

Barn Swallows are extremely widespread and can be found across pretty much the entire United States in summer, They are common over meadows and other open spaces in addition to places near water. Barn Swallows will often use structures such as barns and bridges to build there nests on. These types of structures are also good places to look for this species.

Cliff Swallow

Cliff Swallow (Alan Schmierer Photo)
Identification

Cliff Swallows have dark blue backs and heads with dark gray wings, and a dark gray tail. They have a reddish orange face, a light orange colored rump, a light underside, and a distinctive white marking just above the bill. These swallows have squared off tails which can be useful in differentiating them from the similarly colored Barn Swallow.

Range

Cliff Swallows spend the winter in South America. In spring, they travel north to Mexico, the United States, and Canada where they breed. In the United States, Cliff Swallows summer in most states with the exception of some states in the Southeast.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Cliff Swallows eat insects that they catch out of the air. Some types of insects they will consume are flying ants, bees, wasps, flies, and crickets, but they will eat many other types of flying invertebrates as well.

Where to Find This Bird

Cliff Swallows can be seen soaring and foraging over open areas in addition to places like canyons, rivers, and lakes. These swallows are usually found together but can sometimes be found in extremely large numbers.

Cliff Swallows can be easy to see during their breeding months provided you are aware of a nesting site. Some areas to keep an eye on are bridges, tall buildings, and cliff sides

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Identification

Northern Rough-winged Swallows have a brown, back, wings, head, and tail, They have a lighter colored underside with a brownish gray wash over the chest. They have a short squared off tail.

Range

Northern Rough-winged Swallows winter in Central America, parts of Mexico, and the Southern part of Florida. In summer they move into every state in the continental US and parts of Southern Canada.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Northern Rough-winged Swallows feed on flying insects and have been known to take insects out of the air or off of the waters surface. They tend to fly lower over the water than other swallow species.

Where to Find This Bird

Northern Rough-winged Swallows can be found in areas with water such as lakes, rivers, and streams. They often forage in groups and are quite noticeable as they fly over the water. They are common and widespread in the spring and summer throughout most of the United States.

Purple Martin

Purple Martin (Male, left – Female, right)
Identification

Purple Martins are large members of the swallow family. Adult males are a shiny bluish purple color with darker colored wings and tails. Female and immature birds have patches of the same bluish purple color on their head and backs, but their underside and parts of their neck and forehead are a light gray to tan color.

Range

Purple Martins winter in Central and Northern South America and make their way north in spring. They spend the spring and summer in the Eastern United States as well as some select parts of the Western United States including the Pacific Coast.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Purple Martins eat insects that they catch in mid air. This species will also eat pebbles to help grind up and digest food.

Where to Find This Bird

The easiest way to find Purple Martins is to go to places where Purple Martin houses have been put up. These nesting sites usually look something like an apartment complex. If Purple Martins have taken up residence in these nest boxes they can be seen flying around or perching just outside the openings.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallows have a shiny blue colored back and head, with a white throat and underside. They have squared off tails and a slight black mask over their eyes. Juvenile Tree Swallows are grayish colored before their adult blue color comes in. Immature females will be mostly gray with a white underside and some hints of blueish color starting to come in on the wings.

Range

Tree Swallows winter in Central America, Mexico, and the Gulf Coast of the United States in addition to some of the most Southwestern portions of the US. In spring, they move north into th Northern half of the United States and Canada all the way up to and including Alaska. There are some parts of the Southern United States in which Tree Swallows don’t breed but do pass through.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Tree Swallows eat mostly insects but will occasionally eat other small invertebrate prey items as well in addition to plant matter on occasion. This species ingests egg shells, small bones, and other high calcium food items to get the necessary vitamins and minerals.

Where to Find This Bird

Tree Swallows are extremely common and widespread in their breeding ranges. They can be seen in meadows and edge habitat as well as near marshes and other bodies of water. In places where tree swallows are nesting, they will sometimes dive-bomb people who get too close.

Summary

Swallows are fun birds to have around as their aerial acrobatics make them quite entertaining to watch. Knowing which species are expected in your state can be instrumental in identifying which one you’re looking at. Hopefully, this article has helped to answer some questions about the swallows of Wisconsin.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding Youtube Channel.

Flycatchers of Wisconsin (14 Species to Know)

Flycatchers are both intriguing and maddening to birders. Some of them are extremely vibrant and distinctive, while many others are drab and nearly indistinguishable from other species.

A nice variety of flycatcher species move through Wisconsin with some breeding in the state. Here are the expected (and some rare) flycatcher species that can be found in Wisconsin.

Acadian Flycatcher

Acadian Flycatcher (Alan Schmierer Photo)
Identification

Acadian Flycatchers are members of the Empidonax group. This group is particularly hard to identify as they all have a similar look. Acadian Flycatchers have a greenish back, yellowish undersides, two white wing bars, a white eye ring, and a bi-colored bill with half of it being orange and half being darker.

The easiest way to identify this species is by habitat and call. The call of the Acadian Flycatcher is “peet-sah!”

Range

Acadian Flycatchers winter in Northern South America, and make their way north into the U.S. during spring migration. They summer and breed in most of the Southeastern United States and make it as far north as Wisconsin in the Midwest and New York in the Northeast.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Acadian Flycatchers hawk insects from the air as well as grabbing them from the undersides of leaves. They can be seen flying and returning to the same perch time and time again.

Where to Find this Bird

Acadian Flycatchers can be found in mature forests, typically those with a lot of undisturbed forest.

Alder Flycatcher

Alder Flycatcher (Alan Schmierer Photo)
Identification

The Alder Flycatcher is a member of the Empidonax group. They have an olive green back and head, light yellowish underside, white wing bars and a fairly nondescript eye ring.

Alder Flycatchers are best differentiated from the nearly identical Willow Flycatcher based on song. Their song sounds like “free-beer!”

Range

Alder Flycatchers winter in the Western part of South America and make their way into the United States to breed. Their summering sites are mostly in Canada with their range going from Alaska all the way to the Southeastern coast. In the United States, Alder Flycatchers migrate through the Eastern half of the country and in the Northern parts of the Great Lakes.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Alder Flycatchers are insectivores and eat butterflies, wasps, and grasshoppers among other insects. They may even eat fruit during the winter months.

Where to Find this Bird

Alder Flycatchers can typically be found in habitats that are somewhat wet including marshes, meadows, and thickets.

Alder Flycatcher “Free Beer” Call – Jonathon Jongsma – CC By 4.0

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe (Alan Schmierer Photo)
Identification

The Eastern Phoebe can be identified by its brownish gray back and even darker brownish gray head. They have a yellowish colored underside and no eye ring.

Range

Eastern Phoebes are common in Canada and the Eastern United States in summer where they breed. In winter they reside in the Southeastern United States and Mexico. Eastern Pheobes can be found year round in some Southeastern States including North Carolina, Kentucky, and Texas among others.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Eastern Phoebes eat primarily flying insects including wasps, moths, flies, and beetles. They will also eat fruit and seeds occasionally.

Where to Find this Bird

Eastern Phoebes can be found in wooded areas and are common near water sources. They will nest in manmade structures such as eaves of buildings and on decks.

Eastern Phoebe Call – Jonathon Jongsma – CC By 4.0

Eastern Wood Peewee

Eastern Wood Pewee (Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren Photo – CC By 2.0)
Identification

Eastern Wood Peewees have grayish-green backs, wings, and heads with two white wing bars. Their underside is yellowish with a grayish wash. They have a peaked head with feathers that make them look somewhat crested. Eastern Wood Peewees have little to no eye ring and a bi-colored bill with part being dark and the other part being orange.

Range

Eastern Wood Peewees winter in Northwestern South America and migrate into the Eastern United States in spring to breed. Their summer range is as far west as the Dakotas and does go into Southern Canada. This is species migrates through Central America, Mexico, Florida, and the Gulf Coast.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Eastern Wood Peewees eat mostly insects. They will fly from their perch to take prey such as crickets, moths, flies, among other groups of insects. They will also eat seeds and berries.

Where to Find this Bird

Eastern Wood Peewees can be found in wooded habitats across their range. They like edge habitat, and can often be heard before they are seen with their long drawn out “pee wee” call.

Eastern Wood Pewee Call – Jonathon Jongsma – CC By 4.0

Great Crested Flycatcher

Great Crested Flycatcher (Grayson Smith Photo – CC By 2.0)
Identification

Great Crested Flycatchers have a brownish back and wings with rufous accents. They also have rufous on their tail, a gray face and neck, a brownish crest, and a yellow underside.

The call of the Great Crested Flycatcher is a loud “breep!”

Range

Great Crested Flycatchers winter in Northern South America and Central America. They migrate north to Eastern North America and Southeastern Canada where they breed.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Great Crested flycatchers eat a variety of different invertebrates including bees, wasps, grasshoppers, beetles, and more. They will take insects from perches or on the wing. Great Crested Flycatchers will also eat berries.

Where to Find this Bird

Great Crested Flycatchers can be found in woodlands and edge habitat. They typically prefer deciduous or mixed woodlands. Listen for their “breep” call to know that they are in the area.

Great Crested Flycatcher “Breep” Call – Phillip Vanbergen – CC By 4.0

Least Flycatcher

Least Flycatcher (Alan Schmierer Photo)
Identification

Least Flycatchers are small members of the Empidonax flycatcher group with greenish gray backs, light gray to yellow undersides, white wing bars, and a white eye ring. They have a bi-colored bill with the top being darker and the lower part being orange. Least Flycatchers can also be identified by call. They make a crisp “chebeck” sound.

Range

Least Flycatchers winter in Central America and Mexico. In spring, they are one of the earlier arriving flycatcher species in the United States, moving through much of the country and settling into the Northeastern United States and Southern Canada to breed. There are some locations in the Western United States where Least Flycatchers stay during the summer months.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Least Flycatchers eat mostly small insects such as leafhoppers, moths, ants, and grasshoppers. They will also eat certain types of grass seeds and berries.

Where to Find this Bird

Least Flycatchers can be found in or around wooded areas. They typically prefer deciduous or mixed forests. The easiest time to find the species is during migration when they are one of the first flycatcher species to move north and can be heard making their distinctive calls.

Least Flycatcher “Chebeck” Call – Jonathon Jongsma – CC By 4.0

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher (Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren Photo – CC By 2.0)
Identification

Olive-sided Flycatchers are rather large for flycatchers and are a brownish gray color with a somewhat peaked appearance to the head when its feathers are raised. The underside shows darker coloration on the sides with a yellow base color to the underside. This pattern is what gives this species its name. Olive-sided Flycatchers do not have a noticeable eye ring, and overall, look fairly distinctive among this group of bird species. The call of the Olive-sided Flycatcher is “three beers!”

Range

Olive-sided Flycatchers winter in Northern South America and migrate north through Mexico in spring. They breed in the Western United States north through Northern Alaska. This species also breeds in Southern Canada, the Eastern United States, and the Northern Great Lakes States.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Olive-sided Flycatchers eat insects, most of which are of the flying variety as this species typically catches prey out of the air. Some food items include wasps, grasshoppers, flies, and moths. Olive-sided Flycatchers also eat berries and other plant matter, but the majority of their diet is insects.

Where to Find this Bird

In many parts of the United States, Olive-sided Flycatchers are most easily found during the breeding season where they will typically be in conifer forests. In Canada and the Northern United States, boreal forests are a great place to find this species during summer. Olive-sided Flycatchers can also be found during migration in a wider variety of habitats.

In Wisconsin, Olive-sided Flycatchers breed in the Northern Boreal Forests but can also be found during spring and fall migration.

Willow Flycatcher

Willow Flycatcher (Alan Schmierer Photo)
Identification

Willow Flycatchers look pretty much identical to Alder Flycatchers with an olive colored back, a lighter underside, two white wing bars, and an eye ring. These two species used to be lumped together as a species known as the Trails Flycatcher, and can only reliably be differentiated by call. The Willow Flycatcher call sounds like “Fitz-bew!”

Range

Willow Flycatchers winter in the Northern most parts of South America as well as Central America and parts of Mexico. They move into the continental United States in spring and breed in the Northern half of the country and the Southern part of Canada.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Willow Flycatchers eat mostly insects which they catch out of the air or pick off of leaves and branches. They will also eat certain types of berries.

Where to Find this Bird

Willow Flycatchers are most often found in areas with shrubs and cover near standing or running water. Edge habitat of marshes, springs, and rivers are all places well suited for Willow Flycatchers.

In Wisconsin, Willow Flycatchers are much more common in the Southern half of the state and areas such as Horicon Marsh and other places with marshy habitat are great places to find them.

Listen to the Willow Flycatcher call

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren Photo – CC By 2.0)
Identification

The Yellow-bellied Flycatcher is one of the more distinctive looking Empidonax Flycatchers. They have a yellow wash over their entire body with even their wing bars and eye ring showing yellow. their back is darker than their underside but still shows a yellow tint. The call of the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher is a sharp, pointed “Che-lunk!”

Range

Yellow-bellied Flycatchers winter in Central America and Mexico, They migrate through the Eastern half of the United States and breed in the Northern forests of the Great Lakes states and Eastern United States. The majority of the population breeds in Southern Canada.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Yellow-bellied Flycatchers eat primarily insects including flies, ants, beetles, and caterpillars. One interesting food item they have been known to eat are the berries of poison ivy.

Where to Find this Bird

Yellow-bellied Flycatchers are birds of the boreal forest. this habitat is the best place to find them during the breeding season in summer. They can also be found on the way up to their nesting sites in spring as well as their way back south in fall.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher Call – Jonathon Jongsma – CC By 4.0

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird (Mike Budd Photo)
Identification

The Eastern kingbird has a blueish gray back, head, and wings, with a white underside, and white tip of their tail. They are a medium sized perching bird with a heavy looking bill compared to other types of flycatchers.

Range

Eastern Kingbirds winter in the Northwestern part of South America and move through Central America, Cuba, and Eastern Mexico on their way north to the United States and Canada. As their name would suggest, Eastern Kingbirds breed in the Eastern United States but can also be found in the Northwestern US, Southwestern Canada, and Southeastern Canada.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Eastern Kingbirds feed on insects which they catch in typical flycatcher fashion by flying from a perch, grabbing the insect in mid air or off of vegetation, and landing back on the same perch again. Typical fare includes wasps, grasshoppers, crickets, moths, beetles, and more.

Where to Find this Bird

Eastern Kingbirds can be found in a variety of different habitats including open savannas. marshy areas, and edge habitat. They can be seen perching relatively low in trees and bushes. Look for them flying from their perches for short periods of time and returning to the same place again.

Eastern Kingbird Call – Jonathon Jongsma – CC By 4.0

Western Kingbird (Rare)

Western Kingbird (Alan Schmierer Photo)
Identification

Western Kingbirds can be identified by their brown wings, gray back and head, and bright yellow underside.

Range

Western Kingbirds winter in parts of Central America and Mexico. They move up north during migration and end up in the Western half of the United States and Southwestern Canada. Their breeding range goes as far east as Minnesota and Texas, but some individuals end up west of their expected range on an annual basis.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Western Kingbirds forage in the same way that other flycatchers do, feeding mostly on insects by catching them in mid air. In addition to many different insect species, they also eat some types of berries.

Where to Find this Bird

Western kingbirds can be found in open areas with few trees such as scrubland, farms, savannas, and grasslands.

In Wisconsin, Western Kingbirds are rare visitors with a few reports typically coming in each year during spring migration or sometimes even fall migration. Keep an eye out for them along migratory flyways.

Ash-throated Flycatcher (Rare)

Ash-throated Flycatcher (Alan Schmierer Photo)
Identification

Named for its gray colored throat, the Ash-throated Flycatcher is a fairly large flycatcher species with a yellow underside, brownish wings, rufous colored tail, and dark crested head.

Range

Ash-throated Flycatchers winter in Central America and Mexico with some individuals living in Northern Mexico year round. They move into the Southwestern United States in summer with their range not quite reaching up into Canada.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Ash-throated Flycatchers diets consist primarily of insects, many of which they catch in the air. They also eat fruits with one interesting food item being the fruit of the Saguaro Cactus.

Where to Find this Bird

Ash-throated Flycatchers live in arid environments with trees or other structures to perch on. Some of these habitats include oak savannas, western pine forests, and canyons. They look for areas with natural tree cavities for nesting.

In Wisconsin, Ash-throated Flycatchers are very rare and only show up every handful of years. Often times, they are found along the Lake Michigan coastline.

Say’s Phoebe (Rare)

Say’s Phoebe (Alan Schmierer Photo)
Identification

Say’s Phoebes are brownish gray with a distinctive peach colored underside. They have a slightly darker head, wingtips, and tail than the rest of their body.

Range

Say’s Phoebes winter in Northern Mexico and move into the Western United States, parts of Western Canada, and Alaska to breed. They live year round in some of the Southwestern states and in parts of Mexico. Their native breeding range typically doesn’t go east of Nebraska and the Dakotas.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Say’s Phoebes diets are comprised of insects ranging from beetles, to grasshoppers, to bees and wasps. They forage in mid air as well as on the ground where they will sometimes land to grab an insect.

Where to Find this Bird

Say’s Phoebes live in areas with few trees such as scrub land, canyons, fields of sagebrush, and even urban places. Typically areas that are flat and open are ideal places to find Say’s Phoebes.

In Wisconsin, Say’s Phoebes seem to show up every couple of years but the location is fairly random with both Milwaukee, and Madison being places that they have been reported. In the state, they seem to be found most often in open areas near water such as wet meadows and around ponds.

Say’s Phoebe Call – Diana Doyle – CC By 4.0

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Rare)

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Alan Schmierer Photo)
Identification

The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is quite possibly one of the most recognizable birds in the United States. They have brown wings, a blueish gray head and chest, orange sides, and salmon colored feathers under their wings. Of course, they also have an extremely long, forked tail. This tail can be varied in size with some individuals having a very long tail and some having a more modest one.

Juveniles have less extravagant colors and shorter tails.

Range

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers winter in Central America and Mexico. They then make the relatively short trip to states in the South-central part of the Country. The states Scissor Tailed Flycatchers typically breed in are Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, and Missouri among a few others. Although this range is more limited than other flycatcher species, they are known for their vagrancy as reports of this species appear in every state in the continental US.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are mostly insectivorous with grasshoppers, crickets, and other similar creatures making up the largest portion of their diet. These birds can be seen perching on wires, and other structures as they survey for insects. In addition, they will also eat berries on occasion.

Where to Find this Bird

Cruising country roads in the native range of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher will usually turn up multiple individuals of this species. They can also be found around farms as well as in more urban environments such as parks and around cities.

In Wisconsin, a few Scissor-tailed Flycatchers typically show up each year with most of them being reported along Lake Michigan.

Summary

Flycatchers can certainly be a tough group of birds to differentiate from one another, but with a little bit of knowledge on their expected habitats and identification tips, it can be a lot less stressful. In the end, for how many of them look the same, others look extremely different and flycatchers as a group are quite fascinating.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding Youtube Channel.

Swifts of Wisconsin (1 Species to Know)

Swifts are quick moving aerial insectivores that soar through the sky with fast wing beats alternating with open-winged gliding. There are a handful of different swift species that live in the United States. This post will help paint a picture of which species live in the state and will also contain some interesting facts about the species.

Chimney Swift

Chimney Swift (photo by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren)
Identification

Chimney Swifts are small cigar shaped birds with sharp looking wings in flight. They have dark brown backs and heads with a slightly lighter underside, and a noticeably whiter throat. They have very short tails that are not forked.

In flight, they make chattering noises and can be identified by their very quick flaps, almost making them look moth-like.

Range

Chimney Swifts winter in the Northwestern part of South America and migrate north into the Eastern United States where they spend the summer. They reach into the Southeastern portion of Canada during summer as well.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Chimney Swifts eat insects, mostly those of the flying variety. They will also pick insects off of branches and hover in place while they do. This species feeds over a wide variety of habitats and landscapes including more urban areas.

Where to Find This Bird

Chimney Swifts can be found in an extremely wide variety of places. Look for areas with many insects as this species is easy to see while foraging. Listening for the distinctive chattering calls of the Chimney Swift overhead is one of the easiest ways to locate the species.

It’s also worth noting that a great time to see Chimney Swifts is during fall migration when hundreds to thousands of them gather together and roost in chimneys. This event is quite the spectacle and many bird clubs hold events centered around seeing it.

Summary

Swifts are very unique birds that play an important role in the ecosystems of North American. Knowing which species is expected in your state can be instrumental in identifying which one you’re looking at.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding Youtube Channel.

5 Weird places birders go to find birds

Birding is a past time that can take you to some of the most amazing and beautiful places on planet earth. Between state parks, national wildlife refuges, and pristine wilderness, there is no end to the breathtaking habitats that birds call home. However, birds don’t always turn up in the most secluded places, and instead flock to where they can find food and shelter. For this reason, the quest for birds can take those who seek them out to some extremely strange places. Here are the top 5 weird places birders go to find birds.

5. Roadsides

Horned Lark along the side of a country road

Every birder has had the experience of spotting a bird from their car. Birds frequently hang out along the sides of roads taking advantage of edge habitat and high perches making it easy to spot prey. In many instances, the actual side of the road is a great place for birds to find insects and seeds. In winter, plows clear snow and churn up the substrate, allowing birds that forage along the ground access to an easy meal. Sparrows, finches, grouse, longspurs, Horned Larks and more can all be found along roadsides as they forage. Not only are road sides great places for birds, but the option to go birding by car makes it easy to cover a lot of ground and see a lot of different habitats, even though it’s not a place many non birders would expect to find birds.

4. Sod Farms

Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Photo by Bill Grossmeyer)

Farms in general are a great place to find birds. With an abundance of food, flooded fields, and a lot of open space, it’s no wonder birds frequent these areas. Of the different types of farms, the most specific and strange place to find birds is the sod farm. During fall, these farms play host to shorebirds migrating down from the north including black-bellied plovers, American golden plovers, and buff breasted sandpipers. In addition to these species, other birds that frequent agricultural fields and open spaces can also be found roaming the turf, making it a fun and ecclectic place to go birding..

3. Cemeteries

White-winged Crossbills

At first glance a cemetery may not seem like a place that birds would frequent, but it’s not about the cemetery itself, rather what’s planted there. Many cemeteries have decorative fruit trees or small groves of pines. The fruit trees can draw in birds like robins and waxwings, as well as winter migrants like Pine Grosbeaks looking for a meal. Pines can bring in species like Red-breasted Nuthatches, crossbills and other cone feeders. Although it may sound a bit odd to spend your free time lurking around a cemetery, if the right trees are planted there, they can be havens for some fascinating birds.

2. Stranger’s Houses

Rufous Hummingbird visiting a bird feeder

Most people that have been birding for a while have been involved in a home feeder stake out situation. The event usually plays out like this: A homeowner reports a rarity visiting their feeder, word gets out that the homeowner is allowing visitors, and birders from all over the region come to see the rare bird. Many times, homeowners are extremely welcoming and enjoy meeting the birders that come to visit. Even so, when you think about sitting in your car and spying on a strangers bird feeder, the idea is pretty weird. 

1. Landfills

Gulls gathering just outside of a landfill

Out of all the strange places to find birds, there is none more out of left field than the dump. As it turns out, a lot of opportunistic bird species find the food scraps in the garbage to be a convenient food source. These species include crows, ravens, eagles, and most of all gulls. In fact, landfills are one of the best places to find large groups of gulls including some that are considered regionally rare. While it’s certainly not an appealing or beautiful place to bird, the dump can serve as an important spot to find a variety of species.

 Did you agree with our list? Is there another strange place to bird that we left off? Let us know in the comments below. Also, be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding YouTube channel.

Plovers of Wisconsin (5 Species to Know)

Plovers are a type of shorebird characterized by their round appearance and often look plump. They can be found near water or in open fields. While they are a sub-group of shorebirds, there are many species of plovers in the United States. In this post, you will be able to see all of the expected plovers in Wisconsin.

American Golden-plover

American golden-plover in breeding plumage (Peter Pearsall Photo)
American Golden-plover in nonbreeding plumage (Alan Schmierer Photo)
Identification

The American Golden-plover is quite an impressive looking bird when in breeding plumage. They have a black underside, beautiful golden feathers on the back and wings, and a white marking that goes all the way from the bill to the shoulder. In nonbreeding plumage, American Golden-plovers are buffy colored with gold and brown speckled wings, back, and head. During certain times of the year these birds will be half way between breeding and nonbreeding plumage as they transition.

Range

Like many shorebird species, American Golden-plovers are long distance migrants. They winter in Southeastern South America and fly all the way to their breeding areas in Alaska and the northern most parts of Canada.

Diet and Foraging Habits

American Golden-plovers feed mostly on invertebrates including insect larva and worms. They have also been known to eat some plant-based foods as well, including berries. This species hunts by running along the ground, periodically stopping to scan for food.

Where to Find this Bird

American Golden-plovers are most often found in the continental United States during fall migration. Some common places to find them are in agricultural fields, along lake shores, and at sod farms.

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover in breeding plumage (under the same moon Photo CC by 2.0)
Black-bellied Plover in nonbreeding plumage (Susan Young Photo)

Identification

Black-bellied Plovers are large as far as plovers go, similar in size to American Golden-plovers, but a little more stocky. They have black on their face, chest, and underside, but unlike American Golden-plovers they have a white under tail. They have white mottling on their back and wings as well as a white head and white stripe from the bill down to the shoulders.

In nonbreeding plumage, Black-bellied Plovers are much more sandy colored with darker shades on the wings, back, and head. In both breeding and nonbreeding plumage, this species shows black patches under the wing, visible in flight.

Range

The Black-bellied Plover is extremely widespread across the globe with numerous sightings in every continent except for Antarctica. In North America, they summer in the most Northern parts of Canada and migrate south to the coasts of both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. During migration, they can be found inland on an annual basis.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Black-bellied Plovers eat a wide variety of invertebrates including insects, worms, urchins, crabs and much more. They will forage in farm fields and on mud flats in both fresh and salt water.

Where to Find this Bird

The best time to find Black-bellied Plovers is during winter and during fall migration. In winter, both the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts of the United States play host to the species. Look for them on beaches, mudflats, and break walls where they will be sitting on large rocks. During migration, sod farms, agricultural fields, and the shores of inland lakes are good places to search for Black-bellied Plovers.

Killdeer

Killdeer (Tom Koerner Photo)
Identification

The Killdeer is a widespread and recognizable bird in the plover family. They have a brown head, back, and wings, with a white underside. They have several black markings on their chest and head with two bands on their chest and two on the head with one of the stripes on the forehead and another looking something like a mustache. They have a rusty colored tail and a noticeable red eye.

Range

Killdeer do not migrate as far as other plover species, and many of them live in the United States and parts of Western South America year round. The Killdeer that do migrate, go from Northern South America, Central America, and Southern Mexico, into the United States, and end up breeding in either the U.S. or Southern Canada.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Killdeer run along the ground as they forage for food. They consume mostly invertebrates such as grasshoppers, worms, snails, and insect larva. They will forage both near water as well as in drier open areas.

Where to Find this Bird

Killdeer are common throughout most of the United States in the summer and are one of the first birds to return north in spring. Look for them in open areas with a lot of flat land such as athletic fields, sod farms, plowed fields, and even gravel lots. Listen for their “kill-deer” call as the walk around or fly over.

Other Notes: Killdeer are known for doing a broken wing display to distract predators and eventually lead them away from their nests. This behavior can be seen often during the nesting season.

Piping Plover

Piping Plover in breeding plumage (Derek Sallmann Photo)
Piping Plover in nonbreeding plumage (Ryan Sallmann Photo)
Identification

Piping Plovers are relatively small plovers with a brownish gray back and head, with a white underside, and white stripe over the eye. In breeding plumage, this species has black on the forehead and black around the neck. Nonbreeding adults and immature birds lack these black markings.

Range

Piping Plovers winter on the Southern Atlantic Coast as well as the Gulf Coast. In spring they move north to their breeding areas in the North-central United States, South-central Canada, the Northeastern United States, and some of the Great Lakes states.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Piping Plovers forage near the edge of the water searching for small invertebrates. They will forage in both marine and freshwater environments.

Where to Find this Bird

Piping Plovers breed in areas with sandy beaches and sparse vegetation. They show up along lake shores, ocean coastlines, and even rivers during migration.

In Wisconsin, there are islands that Piping Plovers breed on, but many of these areas are restricted. A few of them typically show up along Lake Michigan each year, but with more and more reports being hidden as people don’t want others disturbing the nests. As a result, they are becoming increasingly difficult to locate.

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover in breeding plumage (Ryan Sallmann Photo)
Semipalmated Plover in nonbreeding plumage (Ryan Sallmann photo)
Identification

Semipalmated Plovers are on the small side for shorebirds and have a brown back and wings, and a white underside. In breeding plumage they have a black band on their upper chest as well as a black mask. In nonbreeding plumage, the black on this species is much less visible or gone altogether.

Range

Semipalmated Plovers breed in the arctic and make their way south in fall. They winter along the ocean coasts of the United States, Mexico, and South America. They move through most regions of the United States in fall.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Semipalmated Plovers feed near the waters edge and occasionally wade in to very shallow water. They eat mostly aquatic invertebrates including worms and small crustaceans.

Where to Find this Bird

For people who live on the ocean coastlines, look for Semipalmated Plovers on beaches and mudflats in winter. For those that live in the interior of the country, the best time to see this species is during fall migration where they can be fund on inland lakes and sandbars.

In Wisconsin, Semipalmated Plovers are reliably found along Lake Michigan. I have always had success finding them along the beaches in Milwaukee.

Summary

Plovers are a fascinating and cute looking group of shorebirds that are certainly worth knowing more about. Getting acquainted with these five species can make it much easier to know what to expect in the field.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding Youtube Channel.

Eagles of Wisconsin (Two Species to Know)

Eagles are thought of as regal and majestic birds that soar over the United States. This description pretty much fits the bill to a tee. There are a few different eagle species that make their way into the United States. In this post there is information about which species you can expect to find in addition to identification and other information.

Wisconsin is home to two different eagle species with one that can be found nearly anywhere in the state, and one that is a little more season and location specific.

Bald Eagle

Adult Bald Eagle (Photo by Bill grossmeyer)
Juvenile Bald Eagle (Photo by Bill Grossmeyer)
Identification

The adult Bald Eagle is an unmistakable raptor species. They have a brown body with a white head and tail. In flight, they look quite flat as opposed to Turkey Vultures and other soaring species that sport a v-shaped wing pattern known as a dihedral. Bald Eagles have a large yellow bill.

Juvenile Bald Eagles don’t look quite as distinctive with varying degrees of mottled white mixed In with brown. Juveniles still have a noticeably large bill.

Range

Bald Eagles winter in most of the Southern United States and Northern Mexico. They migrate north into Canada and some of the Great Lakes states including Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. There are many areas where Bald Eagles live year round, most of which are around coastlines, rivers, or other bodies of water.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Bald Eagles eat primarily fish but will also consume amphibians, mammals, reptiles, and carrion. In fact, Bald Eagles can often be seen around landfills searching for scraps, or roadsides searching for roadkill. Two places one wouldn’t expect to see such a majestic bird.

Where to Find This Bird

The easiest way to see Bald Eagles is to watch the skies and look for a large bird with broad, flat wings soaring. In terms of places to see many Bald Eagles at once, search out dams or other places where fish congregate, here, several different Eagles may be waiting to get an easy meal. To see Eagles in their nesting habitat, forests near rivers and bodies of water that are far away from human habitation are the best places.

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle (Photo by Bill Grossmeyer)
Identification

Golden Eagles are very large raptors that are brown in color with slightly lighter feathers mixed in. They have a white band on the tail, and the nape of their neck has golden colored feathers. Immature birds have white at the base of their primary feathers visible in flight from underneath.

Range

Golden Eagles live year round in the western half of the United States and Northern Mexico. Some members of this species migrate north and breed in Alaska and Canada. During winter, Golden Eagles move east with some birds traveling a significant distance away from their expected area. This species can also be found in Europe and parts of Asia.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Golden Eagles typically eat mammals such as squirrels and rabbits, but they will also eat birds. This particular species has also been known to to take on much larger prey such as deer or even other larger predators such as coyotes.

Where to Find This Bird

Golden Eagles aren’t typically found near human habitation or near large tracts of forest. They are a species of open areas as well as mountainous areas. The easiest way to find them is to look for them soaring over.

In Wisconsin, Golden Eagles are seen annually in Grant County and can be found by driving the roads near the bluffs and watching the sky. They are also constantly reported north along the Mississippi River.

Summary

Eagles are large and noticeable birds. Their regal look and importance as symbols of strength certainly make them intriguing. Knowing which eagle species are expected in your state can be instrumental in identifying which exact species you’re looking at.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding Youtube Channel.

Falcons of Wisconsin (5 Species to Know)

Falcons are the stealth fighter jets of the bird world. Recording some of the fastest speeds of all winged animals, these dynamic flyers are captivating to watch.

There are three species of falcons that can be found in Wisconsin on an annual basis, and two that are quite rare for the state. Here are the five species of falcons that can be found in the dairy state.

Falcons that can be Found Annually in Wisconsin (3 Species)

American Kestrel

American Kestrel
Identification

The American Kestrel is a small and colorful bird. Males have a rusty colored back as well as a lighter rusty colored underside. They have blue on their wings and the top of their head as well as black markings near their eye. Females are lighter overall with rusty orange barring on their wings, back, and tail.

Range

American Kestrels live in both South America and North America. In North America, Kestrels are migratory and reside in Mexico in winter, then move into Canada during the breeding season. Throughout much of the United States, American Kestrels can be found year round.

Diet and Foraging Habits

American Kestrels eat small creatures including insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and rodents. In terms of the insects they eat, some of the most commonly consumed are grasshoppers, dragonflies, and cicadas.

Where to Find this Bird

American Kestrels are a common sight along roadsides and in open fields. They can be seen on telephone poles and wires in addition to perched on dead trees and other structures in areas with few trees. Other places Kestrels can be found are urban parks, pastures, and farm fields.

Merlin

Merlin (Bill Thompson photo)
Identification

Merlins are very small members of the falcon family looking similar in size to a Mourning Dove. They have a blueish gray to black back, wings, and head, and a buffy to brown streaked underside. Merlins can differ in color based on region but always maintain a somewhat similar appearance. Most of the time they will have a white eye brow stripe.

Range

Merlins winter in Northern South America, Central America, Mexico, the Southeastern United States, and most of the Western United States. In spring they migrate north ending up in only the most Northern parts of the U.S. and much of Canada and Alaska. There is an area from the Northwestern part of the United States to the Southwestern part of Alaska where Merlins live year round. Some individuals stay all winter in Northern states as well.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Merlins primarily eat small birds such as waxwings, sparrows, and even shorebirds. In addition to birds, they also eat insects and rodents.

Where to Find this Bird

Merlins can be tricky to find as encountering one typically seems like a matter of luck. They can be found in wooded areas as well as in open areas where they will be surveying for food. Sometimes the easiest way to see them is in flight when they will be moving at high speeds.

Personal Experience: It seems like if I ever go out intentionally trying to find Merlins there aren’t any around. Each year I typically find one by chance while out birding. It seems that even though they aren’t necessarily supposed to winter in the northern U.S. that is when I see them most.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon (Betsy Matsubara Photo – CC by 2.0)
Identification

Peregrine Falcons are iconic birds with a dark back, wings, head, and neck. They have a light underside with dark barring and noticeable bright yellow legs. This species has interesting facial markings that some people refer to as “sideburns” but is essentially dark coloration coming down below the eye onto the cheeks of the bird.

Range

The Peregrine Falcon’s range in North America is complicated with a general pattern of wintering in the Southeastern United States and Mexico, summering in Northern Canada, and migrating throughout the rest of the continent. However, there are many places in the continental United States that Peregrine Falcons breed in during summer (such as along Lake Superior) and live year round (such as most of the Pacific Coast, and around the Great Lakes).

This species not only lives in North America, but every other continent as well with the exception of Antarctica.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Peregrine Falcons are the fastest fliers in the entire animal kingdom reaching normal speeds of around 70 miles per hour and a diving speed of around 200 miles per hour. They use this incredible speed to hunt medium sized birds such as doves and ducks, but they have been observed taking on an extremely wide array of different bird species. Peregrine Falcons will also eat fish, and mammals.

Where to Find this Bird

Peregrine Falcons have adapted well to human habitation and use skyscrapers as nesting sites. In more wild areas they will use cliffs as nest sites. Peregrine Falcons can be reliable sights in places where people have placed nest boxes specifically for the species to breed in. Often times these places have corresponding nest cams.

In Wisconsin, some of the best places to find Peregrine Falcons are around Lake Michigan including Milwaukee and Port Washington where they typically nest annually.

Falcons that are Rare in Wisconsin (2 Species)

Gyrfalcon (Rare)

Gyrfalcon (dfaulder Photo – CC by 2.0)
Identification

Gyrfalcons come in two different color morphs. Living in the high arctic is the white morph which essentially looks like someone took the look of a Snowy Owl and put it on a large falcon. They are pure white with black markings on their wings. The gray morph typically lives farther south and has a gray back and head with dark barring on the underside. They have dark teardrop markings underneath the eye.

Range

Gyrfalcons breed in the arctic with some migrating into the Northern United States to spend the winter. There is a population that lives in mid to Northern Canada and Alaska that most likely stay in the same area year round.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Gyrfalcons feed mostly on medium sized birds such as ptarmigans and seabirds. They will also eat mammals such as lemmings and typically dive onto prey from above.

Where to Find this Bird

Gyrfalcons are most typically found in the continental United States in winter. They like open spaces such as tundras and coast lines where they can survey for prey.

In Wisconsin, this species is quite rare and seems to show up even less often than it used to. The city of Superior has traditionally been a place these birds turn up, but it has been a few years since a reliable individual was reported.

Prairie Falcon (Rare)

Prairie Falcon (Charles Gates Photo – CC by 2.0)
Identification

Prairie Falcons have a light brown back, wings, and head with a white underside barred with brown. They have a different facial pattern than the Peregrine Falcon with a brown teardrop marking below the eye that contrasts the pure white of the cheeks and chin.

Range

Prairie Falcons are birds of the Western United States, living year round in most states west of Minnesota and Louisiana year round. They also live in parts of Mexico and Southwestern Canada year round. In winter, some individuals move east into more of the Great Plains states.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Prairie Falcons eat many different small mammals in addition to insects and birds. Like most falcons, they have quite a varied diet in terms of the bird species they eat.

Where to Find this Bird

True to their name, Prairie Falcons live in open spaces such as grasslands, open fields, tundra, and farmland. They nest in places with bluffs and cliffs but often are most easily seen hunting. Prairie Falcons are often on the move and cruise the open spaces looking for food. They can also sometimes be seen perched on branches or telephone poles.

In Wisconsin, Prairie Falcons are quite rare and have only showed up a few times in the past ten years. Even so, it is worth keeping an eye out for them in places with few trees.

Summary

Falcons are always entertaining to see, and knowing which ones to expect in the state can be a key part of correctly identifying the bird you are seeing.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding Youtube Channel.

Top 5 birds to find in Wisconsin

Each state in the US has its own unique set of habitats and animals that live within their borders. Among these animals are many bird species that only live in particular regions of the country and can sometimes not be easily found anywhere else in the world. One state that harbors a surprising array of bird species is Wisconsin. With a great lake to the east, boreal forest to the north, and migratory flyways overhead, Wisconsin is home to some rare species that can only be seen in a handful of places around the country. While there are plenty of birds to see in Wisconsin, there are 5 that stand out as signature species of the state that are extremely hard to find in most other regions of the United States. Here are the top five birds to find in the Wisconsin

5. Greater Prairie Chicken

Greater-prairie Chicken
Greater-prairie Chicken

At number five on our list is a species that can usually only be found on the Great Plains, the Greater Prairie Chicken. These stout, plump looking birds reside in grasslands and prairies where they feed on seeds, grains, fruits, and insects. Greater prairie chickens are listed as vulnerable after experiencing a massive decline in their population between 1966 and 2015. The reason this species is at number five on a list of birds to find in Wisconsin is that the dairy state is one of the only place to find greater prairie chickens east of the Mississippi river as a breeding population lives in the middle of the state. The most reliable place to see them is at the Buena Vista Grasslands where a management area is set aside for these birds. The easiest time to locate Greater Prairie Chickens is in winter when they can be found roosting in trees in the early morning or foraging in fields as they stand out better against the snow. The other time of year they can be found is during spring when they lek and males put on displays for females. The University of Wisconsin Stevens point allows people to rent blinds during this time to get a close up view of the Prairie Chickens lekking.

4. Snowy Owl

Badgerland Birding searches for Snowy Owls along Lake Michigan

Coming in at number four is a majestic bird species extremely recognizable to the general public, the Snowy Owl. Although they are thought of as a bird exclusive to the high arctic, some of them migrate south into the northern United States in winter, allowing people in many of the states bordering Canada a chance to see them on an annual basis. Some years, few snowy owls can be found in the US while other years many of them end up crossing the Canada border and occasionally even turn up as far south as the Carolinas. Even though there are a handful of states to find Snowy Owls in, they typically show up in relatively good numbers in Wisconsin and in places accessible to birders. Some spots to look for them are the rocks along the Lake Michigan coastline and in open farm fields, both of which can be found in copious amounts in Wisconsin.

3. Connecticut Warbler

Badgerland Birding searches for an elusive Connecticut Warbler

The first warbler on the list is a species that breeds in the most northern recesses of the state, the Connecticut Warbler. Connecticut Warblers are skulky, ground foraging, migratory birds with a yellow underside, a gray head, and a white eye ring. These secretive birds are notoriously difficult to find and are normally only seen or heard during migration. Speaking of migration, the Connecticut Warbler’s path from its wintering areas in South America through Florida, and then spreading out over the Great Lakes states and into Canada. The Connecticut warbler finds itself at number 3 on our list for a variety of reasons. First, the species as a whole has declined significantly since 1966 making it harder to find in general. Additionally, the range of this uncommon species is rather small compared to that of most warblers. Lastly, the majority of Connecticut warblers breed in Canada with the only states in the US harboring Connecticut Warblers during the breeding season being Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

2. Kirtland’s Warbler

Kirtland’s Warbler

Landing at number 2 in our countdown is the once federally endangered Kirtland’s Warbler. Identified by their gray backs with black streaks, yellow throat and underside, and white eye crescents, this species (which some consider to be the holy grail of Eastern United States warblers) is still a very rare sight in most parts of the country. While they are off the endangered list, there are still only about 4,800 individuals in the global breeding population. One of the reason’s the Kirtland’s Warbler is so rare, is because they are so picky about the habitat they breed in. This species only nests in Jack Pines generally between 5 and 15 feet tall. Any shorter or taller and they find the habitat to be unsuitable. Kirtland’s Warblers do migrate, spending most of the winter in the Bahamas, and can be seen occasionally along their migratory route, but the best place to see them is in their summer breeding grounds. The selectiveness of the Kirtland’s Warbler means there are only a few areas where they can be reliably found including some parts of Southern Canada, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

1. Whooping Crane

Check this video out to learn more about Whooping Cranes

The top bird in our contdown is one that’s hard to miss if it’s around: the whooping crane. This massive bird has a wing span of 229 cm and is certainly one of the largest bird species in North America. They can be identified by their all white coloration with black wing tips and red on their head and face. What makes the Whooping Crane such a coveted bird to find is the fact that there are so few of them in the wild. Back in 1941, there were only an estimated 21 Whooping cranes in existence. Fast forward to now and there are around 600 of them between the wild populations and those kept in captivity. While there are certainly more of them around today, and the species has been trending in a slightly better direction, they are still not all that easy to locate. In fact, there are 4 populations of Whooping Cranes in the United States. One that lives in Texas and migrates to Canada, one that lives in Louisiana year round, one that lives in Florida year round, and one that migrates from Florida to Wisconsin. Considering the conservation status of the Whooping Crane and their overall rarity in the world, makes them an extremely sought after bird to find not only in the state, but throughout the continent. This fact elevates the Whooping Crane to the top of the list of the five best birds to find in Wisconsin

Did you enjoy this post? Let us know in the comments below. If you’re interested in a guided tour of some of the best places to bird in Wisconsin, click here. And as always, thanks for reading, we’ll see you next time, on Badgerland Birding.

Lake Park | Birding Hotspot Review | Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Location

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
2975 N Lake Park Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53211

Notable Birds to See

Louisiana Waterthrush, Connecticut Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Harris’s sparrows and other fall sparrows, other general migrants.

Badgerland Birding Searches for a Connecticut Warbler at Lake Park
Logistics

Lake Park is easily accessible as it has multiple parking lots serving as points of entry. One lot is on N Lincoln Memorial Dr and another farther south off of East Newberry Blvd. Both lots are technically on a street called N Lake Park Rd. However, these two streets are not connected so it can be a bit confusing.

Walking at Lake Park is easy as it has many roads and walking paths. Most of them are relatively flat. There are some areas of the park that are only accessible with stairs but overall, birding at the park is easy for everyone including those who are less mobile.

Note: There has been construction on one of the bridges at the park for over a year which restricts access to a small portion of the park. While the restricted area has traditionally been a good birding spot, the construction does not impede birders from accessing the majority of the park.

Habitat

What makes Lake Park an interesting place to go birding is the habitat that it offers. While it does have plenty of open space like most parks do, it also has ravines with walking trails going right through them in addition to a small creek. When birds are present, these ravines are extremely productive and useful for different types of viewing. Above the ravine, birders are able to get somewhat of an eye level view while the trails in the ravine contain many different ground dwelling species.

There are a few bird feeders spread out through the park that attract some migratory species as well as typical year round residents.

This park is accessible to birders with physical limitations as sidewalks and walking paths line the trees and ravines. However, there are stairs that go down into the actual ravines.

Seasonal Differences in Species

When birding at Lake Park, the time of the year is going to be quite relevant. In winter, birds like Dark-eyed Juncos and American Tree Sparrows are found near the bird feeders as well as species like Northern Cardinals, Black-capped Chickadees, and White-breasted Nuthatches.

In summer, there’s not much to see at Lake Park other than the regular summer birds such as Eastern Wood-peewees and Red-eyed Vireos.

The best times to go birding at Lake Park are in the fall and the spring. Spring can be absolutely crazy with almost every species of warbler that migrates through the state being found there. Some of these species include but are not limited to Cerulean Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, and Louisiana Waterthrush. Lake Park typically has records of Louisiana Waterthrush annually during the early parts of spring migration.

Many of the same warblers move through the park in fall with Cape May, Bay-breasted, and Blackpoll Warblers being some of the more common species to move through. In both fall and spring, migratory sparrows and other passerines come through as well including White-throated, White-crowned, and sometimes even rare species such as Harris’s Sparrows.

Badgerland Birding searches for warblers at Lake Park
Personal Experiences

Being a Wisconsin resident who lives within half an hour of Lake Park, it is one of my favorite places to go in the spring time. There have been days when the sheer numbers of warblers and other migratory birds is shocking and it’s honestly difficult to stay focused with how much is going on. The area is well known by local birders so if the birding is good, be prepared to share the space with others.

In a recent trip to Lake Park this fall the numbers of warblers were still quite pleasing with many Cape May, and Bay-breasted Warblers foraging in the trees in addition to a Mourning Warbler, a few Tennessee Warblers, and a single Magnolia Warbler.

I typically don’t go to Lake Park in winter or summer as without migrants there aren’t a ton of different species there that can’t simply be found in a backyard or deciduous forest. Red-headed Woodpeckers can still be found there in summer however.

Other Things to See and Do

Lake Park has a few interesting features to see even if the birds aren’t present. Springs and small creeks going through the ravines offer some nice serene views and sounds. There are also some historical statues to see and a lighthouse that people can walk up into for a small fee. One of the most fascinating things about the park is that any people believe that it contains a buried treasure. This treasure know as “The Secret” is part of a book that looked to give people an exciting quest as the author buried treasure boxes around major cities in the United States. Due to the clues in the book, treasure hunters believe that one of these treasure boxes was placed in Lake Park.

Palm Warbler
Review

Lake park is one of the most popular places to go birding in the Milwaukee area. It’s located just one street away from Lake Michigan so birding there during migration is typically quite good. For anyone visiting the Milwaukee area during peak migration in spring or fall, Lake Park is a must visit.

Other Nearby Hotspots

Veterans Park, Bradford Beach, McKinley Beach, Lakeshore State Park, Discovery World Harbor.