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Contact information
For information on birding and bird conservation, contact:
Ryan Brady
Conservation Biologist
Natural Heritage Conservation

Birding and bird conservation

Evening Grosbeak

Wisconsin ranks 2nd in the nation in percentage of residents who birdwatch, and it’s easy to see why as evening grosbeaks and hundreds of other species put on a show. Photo by Ryan Brady.

Wisconsin is home to over 300 species of birds and has thousands of people who enjoy birds. Explore the links below for information on birds, bird identification, birding locations and how to get involved in bird conservation efforts.

Birding report

Statewide Birding Report as of January 23, 2020

Weekly birding report

With snow cover statewide, now is a good time to look for flocks of snow buntings in weedy fields or along country roadsides.
Photo by Peder Svingen.

Southern Wisconsin finally received a blanket of snow, forcing snow buntings, horned larks, American tree sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, and other species out of fields and onto roadsides in search of seeds and other foods. A few other lingering sparrows were also found, including fox, song, swamp, field, white-crowned, white-throated, and Harris’s sparrows. Feeder activity generally picked up on the heels of the snowfall there, a few northern flickers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, tufted titmice, and Carolina wrens providing highlights among more common species. Flocks of American goldfinches remain the dominant finch statewide, although a few pine siskins are being seen, especially in the north. Other winter finches remain absent, although north woods birders should keep eyes and ears out for white-winged crossbills as several recent sightings in Ashland suggest a few may finally be moving in to take advantage of our great spruce cone crops. Cedar waxwings and a few American robins also continue to be seen at fruit sources statewide.

Mild temperatures have generated open water and plenty of waterfowl in some places. Trumpeter swans have been found this month as far north as Sawyer and Vilas counties, while tundra swans have been reported in various southern locations, especially around the Madison lakes where other ducks and geese are also being seen, including female harlequin and long-tailed ducks on Lake Mendota. On Lake Michigan, Port Washington has hosted great birding of late, including a large number of Canada geese, wide variety of duck species, and 1-2 very obliging red-throated loons. Gull enthusiasts should look for great and lesser black-blacked, Iceland (Thayer’s), and glaucous amid the many herring gulls there.

The rarest bird found since our last report was a lark bunting photographed in Manitowoc on January 14. Aside from one in Nova Scotia and another in Kansas, no others have been reported north of Texas this month. Moreover, this marks only the second lark bunting ever seen in Wisconsin during any month from November to March. Weather for the rest of the month will be mild without major precipitation, meaning current birding conditions are likely to continue. Visit open water for waterbirds, open fields for grassland birds and raptors, and listen for increased vocalizations from Northern cardinals and black-capped chickadees as lengthening daylight lends promise of winter’s end and triggers these beloved songbirds to start belting out their spring song. Help us track birds through the season by reporting your finds to Good birding!

– Ryan Brady, DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program biologist

Find birds

Explore the information below to learn more about great birding places in Wisconsin.

Report a bird

Amateur birders have always been leaders in the field of citizen science. The links below provide a number of web-based tools that allow you to report and track your daily bird sightings. These data are used by DNR and conservation partners across the hemisphere to monitor migratory bird populations.

Bird ID and info

The links below provide useful tips in identifying birds as well as information on their biology, status and conservation in Wisconsin.

Get involved

See the links below for ways to get involved in birding and bird conservation efforts around the state.

Birdfeeder tips

Ten tips for winter bird feeding

Winter is a great time to feed the birds, as higher energy demands and fewer natural foods give us opportunity to bring some species closer to home.

  1. The single best seed to provide is black oil sunflower, which has high fat content and attracts the most species.
  2. Also offer nyjer (thistle) for finches, white millet for sparrows, doves, and other ground-feeding species both suet and peanut chunks for woodpeckers, chickadees nuthatches.
  3. Avoid generic seed mixes as these tend to have more waste and attract less desired bird and mammal species.
  4. Deter squirrels with cone- or dome-shaped baffles above hanging feeders or below pole-mounted feeders.
  5. Place feeders closer than 3 feet or farther than 30 feet from your home to avoid the deadliest window collision zone.
  6. Minimize disease by cleaning your feeders at least once every two weeks using soapy water and a 10% bleach solution.
  7. Provide cover such as brush piles or dense shrubs for roosting and escape from predators.
  8. Offer water to attract a wider variety of species, using a heating element when temperatures dip below freezing.
  9. “Birdscape” your property with native plants such as fruit-bearing shrubs and evergreen trees. Check out these birdscaping resources on the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative website [exit DNR].
  10. Contribute to bird science and management by reporting birds you see at your feeder. The Great Backyard Bird Count [exit DNR] every February is an easy, fun way to get started: for at least 15 minutes on one or more days you simply tally the numbers and kinds of birds you see. Project Feederwatch [exit DNR] spans the entire winter.
Last revised: Thursday January 23 2020