Retzer Nature Center | Birding Hotspot Review | Waukesha, Wisconsin


Waukesha, Wisconsin
S14W28167 Madison St, Waukesha, WI 53188

Notable Birds to See

Eastern Bluebird, Bobolink, Henslow’s Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Indigo Bunting.

Check out our video on Retzer Nature Center

Retzer Nature Center has its own parking lot with plenty of space, even on busier days. They have a wide variety of trails ranging from a paved loop trail to boardwalks, to grass, to woodchips. Most of these trails do not have steep grades so walking is pretty easy.


There are a many different habitats at Retzer Nature center that draw in a variety of bird species. Near the visitor center there is mixed deciduous and coniferous woods with regular coniferous woods being other places on the property. There is a stream that flows through the lower elevation parts of the center and a small pond. The most notable habitat is the prairie at the top of the large hill. This is where the best birding typically is. There is also a trail that goes through a fen. Altogether, the variety of habitat in a relatively small area is quite impressive.

Seasonal Differences in Species

As with most places in the northern United States, time of the year is going to be a major factor in the birds you find at Retzer Nature Center. In fall and winter, year-round residents such as Northern Cardinals, White-breasted Nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers are common here as well as winter visitors such as Dark-eyed Juncos and occasionally irruptive species such as Pine Siskins and Red-breasted Nuthatches.

Spring and summer are generally the best seasons to go birding at Retzer Nature center due to the birds that breed on the property. Bobolinks and Henslow’s Sparrows are two signature species that arrive in spring and then spend most of the summer along with other grassland species. If you’re looking for warblers, Retzer isn’t going to necessarily be at the top of the list. On any given day in spring some species can be moving through especially Yellow-rumped Warblers, Common Yellowthroats and Palm Warblers. Blackpoll Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Golden-winged Warblers, and Blue-winged Warblers are all species I have found at Retzer before but not with regularity.

Personal Experiences

Retzer Nature Center is a place I have visited ever since I’ve been a little kid. I find it to be a very relaxing and peaceful place to spend time in and at this point I know the birds there in every season like the back of my hand. The multitude of habitats along with the beautiful scenery is top notch for the area and there are some pretty solid bird species that are reliable on an annual basis. It’s definitely my go-to spot to get my first of year Bobolinks and Henslow’s Sparrows each year.

One of the few downsides to Retzer Nature Center is that it’s a very popular place for photographers to take family portraits; so sometimes the trails near the visitor center can be a little crowded. If that’s the case, venturing out on the other trails usually solves the problem.

Video of a Birding Tournament Held at Retzer Nature Center
Other Things to See and Do

Retzer Nature actually has a lot of festivals and other things that occur on the grounds. There is an annual apple harvest festival which is a great family event as well as several clubs and organizations that meet there. One organization is the Ben Goss Bird Club that hosts weekly meetings. Another unique feature is the planetarium in the same building as the visitor center.


Retzer Nature Center is an excellent place for a relaxing day of birding, hiking, and exploring. It’s a fantastic place for families to explore nature together and while it’s not a place to get crazy rarities or an outrageous species total, the birding is solid and there are some nice species to find.

Other Nearby Hotspots

Glacial Drumlin Trail, Paradise Valley SWA

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