Wisconsin Society for Ornithology lists close to 450 species on their Wisconsin birds checklist. The number of breeding birds changes as the breeding bird atlas continues to be updated. Somewhere around one-half of the total number of documented birds in the Wisconsin also breed in the state.
Wisconsin is also one of three states to name the American Robin as the state bird. It’s a very popular garden bird and the most common of all the thrush related species. During the winter season, Robins are known to gather in large flocks, sometimes reaching populations of 100,000 or more, in areas that provide adequate food, shelter and water.
Habitat availability often determines the number and types of bird species present in any area. Often the habitats get grouped into ecoregions such as the northern forests or southern grasslands.
Having the water boundaries of Lake Michigan along the east, the Mississippi River along the west and Lake Superior in the north means that waterfowl are abundant throughout the year. The bulk of the Wisconsin population lives along the east coast area from Green Bay in the north to Kenosha in the south. It stand to reason that the coastal areas would rank as birding hotspots. Nonetheless, a quick check on Ebird shows that much of Wisconsin ranks as birding hotspots. The first one hundred spots that local birders report on contain over two hundred documented species each.
Ducks rank among the most recognized of the water birds and around ten separate duck species can be found across the entire state, including the water boundary areas. Ring-necked ducks (pictured) are a fairly common breeding bird species.
Name that water bird type from herons to sandpipers and rails to plovers and you’ll probably find multiple species across Wisconsin waterways. Kildeer are large members of the plover family. They are very common in both inland and the boundary waterways. They tend to make a racket when approached by humans.
Herons are common in the state, especially around ponds and lakes. Of the nine breeding species, four are found state wide. The prairie region of the south hosts the greatest concentration of breeding heron species, with seven.
The ever cheery Marsh wren can be found singing in inland water areas during the spring and summer breeding seasons.
Knowledge about the types of birds that breed in the state is as important as the total number of birds in the state because it provides planners with the ability to focus on the types of bird habitat, i.e., forests, grasslands, that need attention in order to provide long term sustainable habitat for the population.
What is known so far is that the boreal forests of the north rank high in breeding birds and they consist of both neo-tropical migrants, shorter migrants and a handful of year round residents. The picture shows an ovenbird, one of the most common of neotropical migrants that breed in the area.
While many of the neotropical boreal forest breeding birds might rank as rare or uncommon, six additional warbler species can be regularly found breeding in the forests.
- Blackburnian Warbler
- Black and White Warbler
- Canada Warbler
- Nashville Warbler
- Northern Parula
- Yellow-rump Warbler
Typical ground nesting grassland birds such as the two meadowlark species and a handful of sparrow species faired a bit worse. Over the past five decades as agriculture in the south shifted to larger scale farming, grassland bird habitat became less common and more fragmented. Because such a large percentage of grassland bird habitat is also privately owned, habitat improvement slows down to a pace that is acceptable to agricultural interests and the habitat improvements that coincide with their interests,
Wisconsin Birds: Landscaping
Everyone enjoys the backyard feeder birds as much as the birds enjoy the backyard feeders. Do you want birds in the yard on a more consistent basis? There’s an easy answer. Families with a knack for landscaping might also consider landscaping their yard for birds.
For back yard feeder enthusiasts, common Wisconsin back yard birds can vary depending on ecoregions and seasons. There’s also a group of birds that are year round residents such as blue jays, crows, black-capped chickadees, house wrens, cardinals, house finch and the white-throated sparrows, pictured. Each of them have specific food preferences. Finch prefer thistle, chickadees prefer small grains and blue jays prefer larger seeds such as sunflower seeds.
The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin provides two very good reasons to consider the landscaping option. First, many birds don’t use the feeder. Second those that do rarely receive a sufficient amount of proper nutrition. Landscaping for birds also provides an additional element of safety for the birds, making them more likely to choose the landscaped yard as a favorite habitat, even home.
Cedar waxwings, for example, are year round residents of residential areas around the state and they feed on a variety of berry trees and shrubs. They are not alone. Close to three dozen Wisconsin birds consume the berries on American Elderberry shrubs. This includes Red-bellied and Red-headed Woodpeckers, Eastern Bluebirds, American Robins, and Northern Cardinals.
A handful of woodpeckers also visit feeders and especially enjoy suet. Please press the button to learn more about Wisconsin woodpeckers.