Ah Wisconsin, famous for cheese, beer, cows, and well, more cheese. While at first glance, Wisconsin may seem like any other Midwestern state, after a closer look, some unique features of this state become evident. With landscapes carved by glaciers, a great lake to its east and a major migratory flyway overhead, Wisconsin has some incredible places for birding. Whether you are a resident or just passing through, there are definitely some must visit places in the dairy state. Here are the top 5 places to go birding in Wisconsin.
5. Crex Meadows
Sitting at number 5 in our countdown is Crex Meadows. Situated at the top of the state in Burnett County, this 30,000 acre wildlife management area is home to over a thousand species of plants and animals. Crex Meadows features marshes, forests, and Pine Barrens. The Pine Barrens, which are a large sandy area of plains left behind by the laurentide ice sheet during North Americas last glacial period and are found almost nowhere else in the state. In fact, Crex is the largest remaining section of this globally endangered ecosystem in the world. Each year, Crex meadows holds a variety of rare species including Yellow Rails, LeConte’s Sparrows, Red-necked Grebes and Sharp-tailed Grouse in addition to many other vagrant species that have been seen over the years. For anyone looking to bird during spring migration, this is a great place to take in the sights and sounds of spring.
4. Wisconsin Point
At number 4 is another northern hotspot: Wisconsin Point. Located in Douglas county, Wisconsin Point is the worlds largest freshwater bay mouth sand bar and juts out into Lake Superior creating a landing zone for rare migrant birds. Each fall, the beaches of Wisconsin Point play host to Jaeger Fest, a field trip type event in which area birders gather to watch for Jaegers moving South. In addition to Jaegers, other rare species also make an appearance including Sabine’s Gulls, Harris’ Sparrows and many more. Because Wisconsin point is so far north and on Lake Superior, it is a productive birding location in any season but particularly during migration in spring and fall.
3. Milwaukee Lake Front
The largest city in the state cracks the list at number 3. With high volumes of birders and Lake Michigan crashing into its shorelines, tons of interesting birds are reported in the cream city. In winter, sea ducks such as scoters make their appearance along with winter gulls. In spring, the warblers and other passerines flood the parks and natural areas much to the delight of local birders. In fall, shorebirds such as piping plovers and ruddy turnstones gather on the rocks along the lake and on the sandy beaches. While the entire eastern lakeshore is a great place to bird, all the way from Door County to Kenosha, the number of reports coming from Milwaukee gives it a boost over other cities along Lake Michigan. For anyone coming as a tourist to the city, ebird reports give a great indication of which areas are the most fruitful.
2. Wyalusing State Park
Located in the most southwest corner of the state, Wyalusing State Park ranks number 2 on our list. With some incredible overviews of the Mississippi river and plenty of forest and bluffs to attract almost any migratory bird species that travels through the center of the state, Wyalusing is a must visit for birders in spring. Many rare species breed at Wyalusing including Cerulean Warblers, Kentucky Warblers, Yellow-throated Warblers and Prothonotary Warblers as well as occasional Bell’s Vireos and Yellow-breasted Chats. Even for non birders, Wyalusing is an attractive place to camp as the areas natural beauty is truly spectacular
1. Horicon Marsh
At number one in our countdown is the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States: Horicon Marsh. Widely regarded as a premier birding destination in the Midwest, Horicon Marsh has been formally recognized as a wetland of international importance. Featuring an auto tour, roads that lead into the marsh, and multiple visitor centers, the 32,000 acre marsh is known for its shorebird habitat and migratory waterfowl. Some of the notable species found in Horicon Marsh are Black Terns, Whooping Cranes, Black-necked Stilts and King Rails. Other rare and vagrant species also turn up there from time to time including snowy and cattle egrets, Ibis species, Ruff, and Godwits. Birders and nature lovers alike make trips from not only all over the country but all over the world to enjoy the wildlife at Horicon Marsh. No other location in the state has quite the same pull as Horicon Marsh, which is why it finds itself at number 1 on our list of the top 5 places to go birding in Wisconsin.
Are there any places that you think belong on this list? Do you agree or disagree with the order? Leave a like and a comment below and don’t forget to subscribe for more Badgerland Birding content.