Tundra Swans at Rieck’s Lake Park in Alma
With more than 300 species to discover, Wisconsin is a bird-watcher's paradise, particularly so in the fall, winter and early spring months. Our crew has traveled all over the state with the mission of determining the best places to go "birding." Here’s what we’ve learned:
- Alma - This tiny 19th century river town is situated on the upper Mississippi River in western Wisconsin. Its location is prime for bird-watching as it sits smack dab in the middle of the Mississippi Flyway, which serves as a major bird migration route. So major in fact, that 40 percent of all North American shorebirds and waterfowl migrate via the Mississippi Flyway. Alma is also home to the Wings Over Alma Nature Center, with a 50-foot viewing deck that overlooks the Mississippi River Lock and Dam No. 4 and a nesting ground for wintering bald eagles from December through February. You may even get a glimpse of some of Wisconsin's endangered species such as the trumpeter swan or the peregrine falcon. You can also check out the Birding by Mini-Train event twice a year, which takes visitors through Tiffany State Wildlife Area along the Chippewa River.
- International Crane Foundation - If you have even a remote interest in nature, a visit to the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo is an absolute must. For starters, it's the only place in the world where you can see all 15 crane species. The campus offers live crane exhibits, an interactive education center, guided and self-guided tours, a research library and more than four miles of hiking trails set among 100 acres of restored tall grass prairie, oak savanna and wetlands. This place is just amazing.
Birding at Marinette County's highest point: Thunder Mountain Park
Marinette County - The "Waterfalls Capital of Wisconsin" hosts several excellent birding trails, sandbars and lookouts at parks like Bloch Oxbow State Natural Area in Peshtigo, Governor Thompson State Park in Crivitz and Seagull Bar State Natural Area in Marinette. With the Peshtigo River running all the way through the county, you'll likely spot a plethora of river birds: eagles, osprey, great blue herons and more.
- Oneida Nation - Bird-watching is great because it can be both a solo excursion or a group outing. But if you prefer the latter, I recommend embarking on a guided tour. The Oneida Tribe was really one of the first native tribes to offer guided bird-watching tours. Birders who embark on the “Where the Water Birds Nest” tour will enjoy the expedition's prairie and forested areas, 65 acres of restored wetland and a 49-acre pond with a canoe launch.
- Sauk Prairie - The part of the Wisconsin River that flows south of the Prairie du Sac dam actually rarely freezes, making fish available to eagles throughout the year. This is why the Sauk Prairie area is one of the most popular places in the state to spot eagles (...which is also why the Discover Wisconsin crew is heading there to film this January!). I also suggest checking out the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council Overlook in Prairie du Sac.
Pack your binoculars and a camera - it's time to hit the trails! If you've got any birding tales to share, leave a comment for us below. I love reading your stories and tips.
Author profile: AJ Marz is one of the new producers and cinematographers for Discover Wisconsin and an avid outdoorsman. When not behind a camera or producing a segment of Discover Wisconsin, you can find AJ climbing the bluffs of Baraboo, catching walleye on the Wisconsin River, or discovering peace in nature.
The eagles are beautiful in Sauk Prairie from the babies to the adults. They do not get their white heads or tail feathers until they are between 4 or 5 years old. They have a festival every year there.
Thanks for the quick list of hotspots. No mention of Horicon though?
Another great spot for birding! Thanks for commenting, Gary.
What about Crex Meadows?
Wear Nature Center and Grant Park are great places for photographing birds.