Category Archives: Top 5 Birds

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.

5 Common Backyard Birds you DON’T want at your bird feeder

Bird feeding is an absolutely massive industry in the United States, and why wouldn’t it be? The hobby of feeding birds offers people the chance to get up close looks at a wide variety of species ranging from cute to extremely bright. While there are plenty of amazing birds to play host to, there are also some that you really don’t want making themselves at home at your bird feeder. Whther it’s due to their gregarious nature, or the way they bully other birds, here are 5 birds you don’t want visiting your bird feeder. 

Before we get started, keep in mind that this is a subjective list and some people may adore these particular species and welcome them to their yard and at their bird feeders. We aren’t saying any of these birds are necessarily bad, but rather that they may be problematic for other species in the yard.

Common Grackle

Common Grackle

Kicking off the countdown is a large blackbird species wide spread across much of the United States: the Common Grackle. Common Grackles live in Eastern North America with their summer range expanding north into Canada and west as far as Idaho. They are actually quite sleek in appearance with a long tail, jet black body,  iridescent head, and bright yellow eye. While they are a native species and therefor not a huge problem from an invasive standpoint, they can still pose problems due to the way they behave around the feeders. With a larger size than most other backyard birds, Common Grackles tend to take over and can become bullies. Additionally, they tend to flock with other black bird species, meaning there will probably be an all out onslaught of activity at the feeder when they are around, thus preventing other birds from getting seeds. 

European Starling

European Starling

The first invasive species on our list; European Starlings are native to Europe and Asia but were released into the united states, eventually spreading across the country. To be fair, starlings are actually quite beautiful birds with many different colors shining from their feathers, but the problem is that where there is one, many are sure to follow as these flocking birds gather together in large groups. If starlings find a bird feeder, they often dominate the space, and prevent other more timid bird species from approaching. Additionally, European Starlings are cavity nesters, and will occupy bird houses and other suitable nesting sites, preventing native species from using them. In sum, European Starlings can have a negative impact on the biodiversity of a yard, but they aren’t nearly as destructive as other species on this list.

Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Where there is an abundance of prey items, there are sure to be predators. One of the biggest natural threats to backyard birds are raptors such as Cooper’s Hawks. Other species that could occupy a spot on the list for a similar reason are Sharp-shinned Hawks and Merlins. Out of these birds, the Cooper’s Hawks gets the nod due to the fact that their range encompasses most of North America, and because they seem to often be found loitering around bird feeders. These large yet streamlined raptors feed mostly on medium sized birds such as Robins, Mourning Doves, and Woodpeckers, but have been known to catch smaller birds as well. Cooper’s Hawks are native to North America and are an important part of the ecosystem, but it’s understandable why feeder watches don’t want the birds they care for and become familiar with killed by anything, even another bird.  These predators are extremely good at what they do, landing them a spot at number three on the list, but keep in mind that their presence could actually be a sign of a healthy ecosystem.

Brown-headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbird

Although Brown-headed Cowbirds are native to North America and are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, most people dislike them because they are brood parasites. This means that rather than raising their own young, they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. The young often outcompete or kill the other nestlings and can sometimes be seen being fed by their different species parents. Cowbirds often flock with other blackbirds and can show up in very large numbers, not only preventing other species from getting food but most likely also parasatizing their nests. It’s also worth noting that the Brown-headed Cowbird is extremely wide spread in the United States, meaning that people in almost every state have most likely encountered them at some point. The fact that Brown-headed Cowbirds being in a yard means that other species have less of a chance to raise young makes them one of the most despised species by backyard bird lovers, and puts them at number two on our list. 

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

Coming in at number one is a species that anyone living in a city is probably familiar with: the House Sparrow. Some people enjoy having House Sparrows at their feeders, and they are pretty humorous to watch with their constant bickering. However, there are even more people who completely detest them. The reason for this is because much like the European Starling, House Sparrows are not originally native to North America and spread like wildfire across the country upon their release into the New World. Not only are they numerous, but they are also extremely territorial and aggressive, often outcompeting other species. In addition to their antics at bird feeders, House Sparrows have been known to kill cavity nesting birds such as Eastern Bluebirds, and anyone who has ever had to deal with them invading a bird house knows the horror that they can inflict on more passive species. If House Sparrows take up residence near a bird feeder, they are hard to get rid of and have posed major problems ever since they were first introduced to North America, earning them the title of the number one common backyard bird, that you don’t want visiting your bird feeder. 

Do you agree with our list? Are there species you would add or remove? Let us know in the comments below. Also, if you enjoyed this post, please like and subscribe as it helps our channel continue to grow. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you next time, on Badgerland Birding.

Top 5 Birds to Find at the Sax-Zim Bog

When fall draws to a close and winter takes its icy hold of the Northern United States, a new set of birds move in. While some of these birds aren’t as picky about where they spend their winter, others can only be found in a few select places: Especially the birds of Canada’s Boreal forests. One of the most well known places to find these birds, is the Zax Zim Bog. Located in northeastern Minnesota and boasting over 300 square miles of land Sax-Zim Bog contains a variety of different habitats, including deciduous forests, open meadows, lakes, rivers, and of course bogs. Out of all of these, it’s the tamarak and spruce bogs that are the biggest draw for the rarest boreal birds. Although there are many unique and exciting birds that call Saz-Zim home, 5 of them stand above the rest as signature species of the bog. Here are the top 5 birds to find at the Sax-Zim Bog.

5. Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

At number 5 on our list is the Boreal Chickadee. Boreal chickadees look very similar to black capped chickadees but with a brown cap, smaller white cheek patch, and cinnamon color on their sides. It isn’t their coloring that puts them in the top five but rather their elusive nature and scarcity. Boreal chickadees are harder to find than other chickadee species as they are generally less willing to come out in the open and prefer living in habitats that are less accessible. In fact, Boreal chickadees can typically only be found in the most northern states in the US and primarily reside in Canada and Alaska. In Sax Zim, these crafty birds sometimes come to feeders but they can also be found by driving the roads and listening for their raspy call. Even though tthe sax zim bog is one of the best places to see this species they can still be extremely hard to get a look at. 

To see Boreal Chickadees in action, check out the videos above and below.

4. Black-backed Woodpecker

Black-backed Woodpecker
Black-backed Woodpecker by Matthew Thompson

Coming in at number 4 in our countdown is the black backed woodpecker. The black-backed woodpecker is a medium sized woodpecker with a namesake black back, white stripe on it’s face and black barring on it’s white underside. Males also have a yellow patch on their head. Black-backed woodpeckers look for forests that have recently been burned where they will then stay for a number of years as they feed on wood boring beetle larva. Much like the Boreal Chickadee, the Black-backed woodpecker’s range is mostly in Canada but does extend south into the lower 48 states in the far west and far east. In the Midwest, Nothern Minnesota is one of the few places to reliably find this species. 

There is also another similar looking Woodpecker that can occasionally be found in Sax Zim, The American Three Toed woodpecker. The american three toed woodpecker doesn’t always inhabit the bog and can be found in the western united states with more regularity than it can at sax zim. For that reason, the black backed woodpecker gets the nod on our list over the American three-toed.

3. Northern Hawk Owl

Northern Hawk Owl

While there are many rare birds that can be found in the sax zim bog, none generate more fanfare than the owl species. The first of them on our list is the Northern Hawk Owl at number 3. The Northern Hawk Owl is a medium sized owl with a brown back, barred chest, and black markings around their light gray face. This species typically resides in Northern Canada but occasionally makes it’s way south where it turns up in Boreal forests of the Northern United States. Northern Hawk Owls are diurnal and can be found perching up on the tops of trees in open woodlands as they survey the landscape, making them somewhat easy to locate if they are in the area. The Habitat in the Sax Zim Bog is perfect for these raptors and is one of the best places to find them. 

2. Great Gray Owl

Great Gray Owl

The second owl on our ist us the great gray owl. The great gray owl is an unmistakable bird with a large facial disk, and overall gray color with white and brown accenting. Like the Northern Hawk Owl, this species is also at home in Canada and Alaska but does move south during winter, traveling greater distances when food is scarce. The great gray owl is one of the tallest owl species in North America but n spite of their large size they can be extremely difficult to to spot given their camouflage. The best time to find these birds is dawn and dusk while they are hunting most actively but they can also be seen perching up in trees during the daytime. Great Gray Owls prefer coniferous forests with open meadows and bogs where they can perch near the forests edge and hunt for small mammals. 

1. Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl
Boreal Owl

At the top of our list is a bird that to many is the holy grail of sax zim bogs owl species. The Boreal owl looks like a pint sized version of a Northern Hawk owl with the same brown back, brown and white underside, and black around their facial disk. The Boreal owls range spans from Alaska accross the continent to eastern Canada and only dips into the US in a few places such as some of the western states. In the midwest, Northern Minnesota and Sax zim in particular are some of the only places to find them. However, Boreal Owls are not a sure thing at Sax Zim and years go by without the species being seen there. Another thing that makes the Boreal owl such a coveted species is that even if they are around, they aren’t easy to find. They are nocturnal hunters and usually roost in a different location each day, for that reason, pinning down the exact location of this bird can be a difficult task. 

Visiting the Sax Zim Bog is certainly a memorable experience for those that make the trip  . Not only is the scenery beautiful, but the birds that inhabit the snowy forests and meadows are among the most sought after in the entire midwest. This stellar combination makes the sax zim bog one of the hottest destinations to bird in, during the coldest time of the year. Do you agree with our list? Leave us a like and a comment below.

Top 5 Birds to find at the Sax Zim Bog

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