Wisconsin birdwatching

January 22, 2022 // 25 minutes read

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Birding In Wisconsin State Bird - American Robin

Wisconsin is located directly on the border of two Great Lakes, which means the opportunities for birding are immense. Couple this with over 15,000 smaller lakes and it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that this is a great state to visit if you want to see shorebirds, wading birds, and waterfowl of all types and kinds.

Along Lake Michigan alone, there are a number of different migration traps and excellent places for waterbirds and songbirds to stop by and visit as they travel across the shore. And let’s not forget about Lake Superior, because there are more than 150 different birds located throughout a plethora of nesting habitats for visitors to enjoy and appreciate.

It doesn’t matter if you’re visiting America’s Dairyland or you live in the Badger State every day because the birding opportunities are plentiful. I personally enjoy visiting because of all of the wonderful national parks, wetlands, and a variety of different types of birding habitats for visitors to spend time in while birdwatching. And the different numbers of birds and bird species are truly astounding, to say the least.

At the moment, I want to tell you about my favorite hotspots in Wisconsin that are perfect for those looking for free birding destinations and paid bird watching hotspots as well. I’ll share my favorite recommendations for both of these types and even tell you about all of the wonderful hiking trails and other activities that you can enjoy at these locations.

Next, I’d like to help you better learn about and understand the various bird watching clubs and National Audubon Society chapters Within the State. Becoming a member of these groups will make it possible to take your bird watching experience to the next level and it’s a great way to connect with other people interested in your favorite hobby as well.

Keep reading to discover my favorite Wisconsin birding hotspots. And if you feel like checking out bird watching hotspots in the surrounding states, please visit my pages covering Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa for further information.

Wisconsin free birdwatching destinations

America’s Dairyland is rife with some of the best free bird watching destinations in the entire United States of America. If you feel like spending time with family members and friends and plan on taking a birdwatching trip in the Badger State, I highly recommend checking out these free options to experience a low-cost day trip with the ones you love.

These free destinations are wonderful because they encompass a wide range of birding habitats with a tremendous amount of diversity along the way. And as we’ve discussed already, because there are so many lakes in Wisconsin, you can experience many different types of water waterfowl, shorebirds, and wading birds. Songbirds are in plentiful supply as well.

In some instances, I might share information about a birding destination with a small fee or a parking fee. But ultimately, each location will either be free or so inexpensive that you’ll hardly notice that you paid a fee to enter the park or facility.

Horicon Marsh Wildlife Area

This marsh is near Fond du Lac but to the south of it and it’s a 14-mile-long expanse that also encompasses 5 miles of area within. It’s one of the biggest freshwater marshes throughout the entire United States, which truly makes it something beautiful and a wonderful sight to behold.

In the past, the marsh was actually drained at one point for agriculture, but the area has been fully restored since then and it’s now home to flocks of marsh birds, wading birds, and waterfowl because they love to nest in the area.

If you’re new to the area, it’s definitely a great place to explore because there are thousands of different birds to see throughout the migration season and it’s a wonderful sight to behold.


N7725 WI-28
Horicon, WI 53032

Phone: 920-387-7860
GPS: 43.5720° N, 88.6531° W

Hours Of Operation:

The hours of operation for Horicon Marsh Wildlife Area are 7 AM to 8:30 PM each day. The refuge is open seven days a week and it’s even open on holidays because this is considered public land.

  • Whooping Crane
  • Snow Bunting
  • Northern Harrier
  • Alder Flycatcher
  • Black Tern
  • Trumpeter Swan
  • Canada Geese
  • Yellow-Headed Blackbird
  • Virginia Rail
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Snowy Owl
  • Great Egret

Hiking Trails:

If you enjoy hiking then you’ll definitely appreciate visiting Horicon Marsh Wildlife Area because there are a number of great hiking trails in the area. In fact, there are six trails that I’d like to take a moment to tell you about right now. Each one of these trails varies in length and degree of difficulty. You’ll certainly find one or more trails to enjoy the next time you’re in the area birdwatching or hiking with your loved ones.

The names of the trails and other great info include:

  • Wild Goose State Trail – easy difficulty, 34.4 miles, multi-day hiking trail
  • Horicon Marsh Paddle Route – easy difficulty, 7.3 miles, three hours and 45 minutes to complete
  • Bachhuber Loop – easy difficulty, 2.4 miles, one hour and 10 minutes to complete
  • Quick’s Point Trail – moderate difficulty, 4.3 miles, one hour and 50 minutes to complete
  • Ledge Park Trail – easy difficulty, 1.3 miles, 35 minutes to complete
  • Indermuehle Island Loop – easy difficulty, 1 mile, 30 minutes to complete

Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area

Visitors are going to absolutely adore Crex Meadows because in the upper Midwest, it’s actually considered one of the most renowned sites for wildlife viewing in the area. The land is made up of 30,000 acres of woods, prairie, and marshland. It’s also the home to a plethora of nesting waterbirds including Sandhill Cranes and other large flocks of different water bird species.

They drain the majority of the sedge marshes to create cropland, but the Crex Meadows habitat remains intact. Many different nesting birds live or migrate in the area, so it’s truly a wonderful spot to visit to see many different types of birds.


102 East Crex Ave.
Grantsburg, WI 54840

Phone: 888-936-7463
GPS: 45.7963° N, 92.6805° W

Hours of Operation:

The wildlife area at Crex Meadows is open 24 hours a day. The area is open all year round and it’s open during the day and at night as well. Plan accordingly if you intend to go birdwatching because you’ll want to spend the majority of your time outdoors when it’s light outside.

  • Trumpeter Swan
  • Yellow-Headed Blackbird
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Red-Necked Grebe
  • Common Loon
  • Marsh Wren
  • Yellow Rail
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Bald Eagle
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Golden-Winged Warbler
  • Virginia Rail

Hiking Trails:

today, I’d like to tell you all about the wonderful and amazing hiking trails that you’ll discover in Grantsburg, WI. If you like to run, hike, or bike along the trails, you’ll definitely enjoy exploring these wonderful hotspots filled with plentiful outdoor activities. In the area, I have discovered six scenic trails that I know you’re absolutely going to love. And these trails are right in the area of the Crex Meadows wildlife area, so you can enjoy plenty of birdwatching as you get some exercise and spend time outdoors with family and friends.

The important details about the hiking trails include:

  • Sunrise Ferry Hiking Trail – the great thing about this trail is that it’s really something to behold because the scenery is beautiful and it takes you right along the water. It’s also an easy hiking trail to navigate and they do a good job keeping the path clear all year long. Even though it’s an easy trail, it’s relatively long because it’s 8.6 miles from beginning to end. The average person can complete this hiking trail in roughly 4 hours and 20 minutes walking at an average pace.
  • Gov. Knowles State Forest Trail – this is another great trail that I know you’re absolutely going to love, but this one’s a little bit harder because it’s considered moderately difficult. It’s shorter than the previous trail mentioned but still relatively long since the total distance is 4.9 miles. If you put your mind to it and give it your all, you should have no trouble finishing this trail in 2 ½ hours give or take a couple of minutes.
  • Fox’s Landing Route – I like this trail a great deal as well even though it’s moderately difficult so there are going to be a few obstacles in your path along the way, but nothing too serious. And it’s a relatively long trail just like the previous two mentioned above, because the complete distance is 6.9 miles. The average person should have no problem finishing this trail in 3 ½ hours if they walk at a decent pace.
  • Brandt Pines Trail System – once again, we have another relatively long trail because the total distance of this one is 6.8 miles. The good thing is that the terrain itself is easy to navigate and it takes you along the water, so you’ll have a very difficult time getting lost because the path is very clear. If you put forth an average effort and walk at a decent pace, you should have no problem completing this trail in three hours and 25 minutes, which is more than doable.
  • Hay Creek Trail – so far, this is definitely the easiest trail that I’ve come across in the area and it’s also well maintained and easy to navigate. The complete length of the trail is 1.2 miles, which isn’t very difficult at all. Most people who walk at a relatively quick pace can finish this trail from beginning to end in about a half an hour and I believe you can do it too if you put forth the effort.
  • Sandrock Cliffs – last but certainly not least, this easy to navigate trail goes along the water and the scenery is truly amazing. Thankfully, this is one of our shorter trails as well since the distance from start to finish is only 2.9 miles. The average person should complete this trail in one and a half hours if they walk at a moderate pace.

Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge

I really like this national wildlife refuge a great deal because it’s located on the bank of the Mississippi River. This means the majority of it is wetlands and it also means it’s the home to a plentiful supply of waterfowl during the spring and fall months. And nesting wetland birds also like to live and congregate in this area. 

Even better, it’s made up of bottomland forest, prairie, and oak savanna Woods as well as ancient sand dunes. You never know exactly what you’re going to find in the area, just know that there are plenty of waterfowl and wetland birds among other bird species.


W28488 Refuge Rd.
Trempealeau, WI 54661

Phone: 608-539-2311
GPS: 44.0455° N, 91.5312° W

Hours Of Operation:

The wildlife refuge is open seven days a week and it even remains open on weekends and federal holidays. The hours of operation are from 5 AM to 10 PM each day.

  • Vesper Sparrow
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Black Tern
  • American White Pelican
  • Grasshopper Sparrow
  • Virginia Rail
  • Bald Eagle
  • Dickcissel
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Northern Harrier
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk
  • Eastern Bluebird

Hiking Trails:

If you’re in the mood for some hiking as you take in the sights and sounds of Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge, I’m happy to tell you that there are three hiking trails for you to try out the next time you stop by for a visit. Two of these trails are pretty long because they are between 6-7 miles each. But one trail is much shorter, because it only last for about a mile, which is a good thing for beginners or individuals that do not like to walk for long distances.

The names of the hiking trails and other valuable information include:

  • Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge Trail – this trail is the hardest of the three, although it isn’t brutal but it is moderately difficult to travel along. The path is relatively clear but you may come across obstacles like rocks and fallen trees in your path from time to time. The total length of this trail is 7.1 miles. The average person should be able to complete this trail in roughly 3 ½ hours.
  • River Bottoms Road and Oxbow Dike – this is the second longest trail out of the three, but it’s thankfully easy to navigate and it’s also very well maintained, so you shouldn’t have a difficult time walking along the path. The total length of the trail is 6 miles which is nothing to sneeze at because it’s pretty long to say the least. But I know that if you put your mind to it and give a halfway decent effort, you should be able to finish the entire trail in three hours or less.
  • Pine Creek Dike – as promised, this is the easy trail and it’s very well maintained and well-kept and easy to navigate as well. The trail length is 1 mile long, which shouldn’t be too hard to conquer even if you aren’t someone who hikes regularly. In fact, as long as you walk at a moderate pace, I truly believe that you can finish the whole trail in about a half an hour without much difficulty or expending too much effort.

Wyalusing State Park

This wonderful park is located in the southeastern part of Wisconsin and you can find it at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. It’s one of the areas that nesting birds find very attractive because it’s in the warmer southern regions. Spring migrants tend to visit the area while following along the riverbank on their journey north, which makes it one of the most wonderful places to visit if you want to see songbirds, warblers, and other bird species.


13081 State Park Ln.
Bagley, WI 53801

Phone: 608-996-2261
GPS: 42.9912° N, 91.0934° W

Hours Of Operation:

The park is open every day and it remains open all year round, even on federal and national holidays. The hours of operation for the park is it opens at 6 AM every morning and closes at 11 PM every evening.

  • Cerulean Warbler
  • Eastern Whip-Poor-Will
  • Winter Wren
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Acadian Flycatcher
  • Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
  • Indigo Bunting
  • American Woodcock
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk

Parking Fees:

  • Daily Wisconsin Vehicle Fee – $8 per day
  • Daily Wisconsin Vehicle Fee 65 and Older – $3 per day
  • Daily Wisconsin Out-Of-State Plates – $11 per day
  • Bus with Wisconsin License Plate – $11 per day
  • Bus with Out-Of-State Plates – $15 per day
  • Annual Wisconsin Vehicle Fee – $20 per year
  • Annual Wisconsin Vehicle Fee 65 and Older – $13 per year
  • Annual Vehicle with Out-Of-State Plates – $38 per year

Hiking Trails:

Like many of the wonderful birding hotspots in Wisconsin, Wyalusing State Park is a wonderful place with 12 exciting hiking trails, biking trails, running trails, and more. The area is filled with some of the oldest parks and features information about the history of Indian burial mounds, Native Americans, and for trading as well. It’s also located next to the Mississippian Wisconsin Rivers, so these trails are perfect for birdwatching, hiking, biking, and more.

The most important information about these 12 trails include the following:

  • Old Immigrant Trail and Bluff Trail Loop – moderate difficulty, 3.4 miles, one hour and 50 minutes to complete
  • Wyalusing State Park Loop Trail – moderate difficulty, 4.7 miles, 2 ½ hours to complete
  • Walnut Springs Trail – easy difficulty, 1.3 miles, 35 minutes to complete
  • Prairie Trail – easy difficulty, 1.5 miles, 40 minutes to complete
  • Wisconsin-Mississippi Confluence Paddle – moderate difficulty, 10.1 miles, times may vary
  • Wyalusing Canoe Trail – easy difficulty, 5.2 miles, times may vary
  • Whitetail Meadows Trail – easy difficulty, 3.2 miles, one hour and 30 minutes to complete
  • Mississippi Ridge Trail – easy difficulty, 3.5 miles, one hour and 45 minutes to complete
  • Turkey Hollow Trail Loop – easy difficulty, 2.1 miles, one hour and five minutes to complete
  • Sentinel Ridge Trail – moderate difficulty, 3.3 miles, one hour and 51 minutes to complete
  • Sugar Maple Trail – moderate difficulty, 1.9 miles, one hour and five minutes to complete
  • Sand Cave Trail – easy difficulty, 2 miles, one hour and five minutes to complete

Yellowstone Lake State Park

Located in the southwestern portion of Wisconsin, Yellowstone Lake State Park is a great place to go if you’re looking for some amazing bird watching because it has a diversity of habitats and many different bird species continue to nest in the area. It’s truly one of the best birding sites in all of Wisconsin, and the area encompasses a leak that takes up 455 acres of land. Besides the lake, there is also grassland, forest, and many other places for nesting birds to live in the natural beauty and splendor of this exquisite place.


8495 Lake Rd.
Blanchardville, WI 53516

Phone: 608-523-4427
GPS: 42.7708° N, 89.9857° W

Hours Of Operation:

This park remains open all year round and you can visit daily during the specified and allotted hours. The hours of operation for Yellowstone Lake State Park are from 6 AM each morning until 11 PM each night.

  • White-Eyed Vireo
  • Barred Owl
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Common Loon
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • American White Pelican
  • Hens Low’s Sparrow
  • Wood Duck
  • Sedge Wren
  • Green Heron
  • Bald Eagle
  • Blue-Winged Warbler

Parking Fees:

  • Daily Wisconsin Vehicle Fee – $8 per day
  • Daily Wisconsin Vehicle Fee 65 and Older – $3 per day
  • Daily Wisconsin Out-Of-State Plates – $11 per day
  • Bus with Wisconsin License Plate – $11 per day
  • Bus with Out-Of-State Plates – $15 per day
  • Annual Wisconsin Vehicle Fee – $20 per year
  • Annual Wisconsin Vehicle Fee 65 and Older – $13 per year
  • Annual Vehicle with Out-Of-State Plates – $38 per year

Hiking Trails:

Yellowstone Lake State Park is definitely a great place to visit if you plan to see many different types of nesting birds and migratory birds. There are a few select hiking trails in the area as well, so you’ll have an opportunity to get out in nature and experience the splendor and beauty of the land in living color. I only discovered two hiking trails for you to enjoy the next time you’re visiting the area, but both of them seem like really great trails, which is an absolute plus!

The names of these hiking trails and other important details include:

  • Yellowstone Double Loop – this trail is the shorter of the two and it’s considered moderately difficult, which means it’s not too hard to travel upon but it does get difficult at times, so keep that in mind. The total length of the trail is 2.7 miles, which a person walking at an average pace should have no trouble completing in an hour and 20 minutes.
  • Oak Grove Trail – this trail is also moderately difficult and it’s the longer of the two, which is a good thing because it’s nice to have some variety as we hike and birdwatch in the Yellowstone Lake State Park region. The total length of the trail is 3.5 miles from start to finish. The average person walking at an average hiking speed should have no trouble finishing this trail in one hour and 45 minutes or less, depending on how fast you walk.

Wisconsin paid birdwatching destinations

Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

This gorgeous nature center encompasses 185 acres of land on the shores of Lake Michigan. The Milwaukee brewing family once owned this land, but local citizen conservationists retrieved the land in the 1970s and turned it into an Audubon nature center. The land ends up being a combination of lakefront, grassland, wetlands, and woodlands. In fact, this wonderful hotspot is considered one of the top birding locations throughout the Milwaukee area.


1111 E. Brown Deer Rd.
Milwaukee, WI 53217

Phone: 414-352-2880
GPS: 43.1763° N, 87.8906° W

Hours Of Operation:

The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center is open daily for visitors. The park opens its gates every day at 8:30 AM and closes at 5 PM each day.

  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Mourning Warbler
  • Broad-Winged Hawk
  • Rose-Breasted Nuthatch
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Wild Turkey
  • Black-Billed Cuckoo
  • American Redstart
  • Marsh Wren

Entrance Fees:

  • Adults – $8
  • Ages 3-17 – $5
  • Active-Duty & Veterans – $5
  • Free for Members
  • Individual Annual Membership – $55
  • Family Annual Membership – $65
  • Student Annual Membership – $35
  • Military Annual Membership – $35

Hiking Trails:

For those interested in hiking and desire to spend time outdoors in nature while viewing their favorite birds on their next bird watching excursion, you’re in luck because this nature center is home to four different hiking trails that you’ll enjoy and appreciate. They are all very short and relatively easy, so you will not have any trouble traversing these trails because they are well-maintained and not too long.

The names of the trails and other valuable info include:

  • South Ravine Trail and Woodland Loop – this is an easy trail that they do a really good job keeping well-maintained and in excellent condition. You should never run into any difficulty navigating this trail whatsoever. It’s only 1.1 miles long, which the average person should have no trouble completing in 30 minutes.
  • North Ravine and Norman C Huth Trail Loop – I like this particular trail because part of it is a boardwalk and another part of the trail will take you to a lookout post and they also share some history and information on signs that you can learn from. It’s an easy trail and it’s only 0.7 miles long, which the average person should easily complete in roughly 20 minutes.
  • West Meadow Trail Loop – this is the longest trail out of the bunch even though it’s still relatively short and it’s also easy to navigate as well. The trail itself is 1.7-mile-long, which may sound like a lot but it’s a lot easier to complete than you think. In fact, if you walk at a moderate pace, you should have no trouble getting from the beginning of the trail to the end in 45 minutes.
  • Lake Terrace Trail – this final trail is also easy to navigate and the people who run the park do an excellent job of keeping the path clean, clear, and well-maintained. The total length of the trail from start to finish is 1 mile long. Most people should have no trouble walking the entire length of the trail in about a half an hour.

Wisconsin birdwatching clubs

I personally love spending time or living in Wisconsin because of the wonderful bird watching opportunities available in the state. The other thing I love about it is the exciting bird watching clubs and chapters of the National Audubon Society that you have the opportunity to become a member of.

The best part about these organizations is they really focus on conservation, protecting birding habitats, protecting habitats for local wildlife, birdwatching, field trips, hiking, walking, monthly meetings, and so much more. As soon as you become a member of one of these bird watching clubs, it’s like being inducted into a family of like-minded individuals that also enjoy all things bird related.

Keep reading to discover some truly amazing bird watching clubs in America’s Dairyland.

Chequamegon Bird Club

This wonderful birdwatching club consists of a group of like-minded people that are very interested in birds, watching birds, and creating other birding experiences. Many of the members of the group are very knowledgeable about birds and have been members of this club for many years. Some have even been here since the beginning.

The group was first founded in 1981 by Sam Robbins, a renowned ornithologist. Since then, the membership has grown and the club has excelled in many facets. You’ll appreciate becoming a member of this group because it makes it easy to connect with other like-minded birders and it’s perfect for beginners, intermediates, and the experienced.

Contact Info:

Phone: 715-654-5819

Past and Future Events:

  • Monthly Meeting – due to the latest outbreak of the coronavirus, the club is now hosting their monthly meetings at the normal time at 7 PM, but it is being hosted on Zoom instead of in person. The most recent meeting was on January 17. During the online meeting, they discussed the Christmas bird count results, special sighting highlights, and more.
  • Field Trips – unfortunately, because of the coronavirus, the group hasn’t been on a field trip in quite some time. The last special event was the World Migratory Bird Day Challenge, which took place between May 1-31 of 2021. Read all the details about this event by clicking here.

Membership Fees:

Becoming a member of the Chequamegon Bird Club is really easy to accomplish. Just visit this page here and follow the on-screen instructions. You’ll basically have to call the treasurer Cam Scott at 715-785-7614 or email her to pay your $18 fee, which is good for an individual or family membership.

Milwaukee Audubon Society

The Milwaukee Audubon Society is an exciting organization that works hard to restore and protect the natural ecology and heritage of the land in Wisconsin. This group has taken a very active leadership role in environmentalism, advocacy, stewardship, and education.

This group covers a wide territory including parts of six different counties. Their activities take place in downtown Milwaukee, Port Washington, Johnson Creek, Horicon Marsh, and other surrounding areas. Join this bird watching club to better connect with a group of like-minded birdwatching enthusiasts just like you.

Contact Info:

Past and Future Events:

  • Membership Meeting – this group holds a membership meeting once a month and it typically takes place on a Monday from 6 PM to 8 PM. Visit their website to find out about the next monthly meeting.
  • Weeding Volunteer Day at Buffalo Speaks Reserve – this event seems to take place relatively regularly, but the last time it happened was on October 20, 2021 before the really cold weather and wintry weather kicked in. The event was held on a Wednesday from 4:45 PM to 6:45 PM in Brownsville, Wisconsin. They recommend bringing snacks with energy, bug spray, drinking water, and leather gloves if you decide to get involved with this event the next time it is hosted.

Membership Fees:

It’s easy to become a member of the National Audubon Society. Please visit their website on this page and follow the on-screen instructions. You can pay for your membership via PayPal, your personal bank account, or a credit or debit card.

Membership levels include:

  • $20 monthly
  • $25 monthly
  • $30 monthly
  • $40 monthly
  • $50 monthly
  • $50 annually
  • $75 annually
  • $100 annually
  • $250 annually
  • $500 annually 

Feel free to pay any amount that you can afford or pay additional if you would like to donate to help out the cause. It’s up to you to decide how much you’re willing to give to support the National Audubon Society and all of its wonderful endeavors.

Wisconsin birding final thoughts

I really appreciate that you took the time to read and use the information shared regarding the best Wisconsin free and paid bird watching destinations and bird watching clubs. I go out of my way to provide the best and most useful information possible for birdwatchers in the state of Wisconsin and all around the country as well. I hope to continue to create the top birding resource with your help.

Would you like to help us achieve our goal? If you have any important Wisconsin birding resources – or resources for any state – please feel free to send us a message right away. Let us know about your resource so we can add it to our ever-growing list.

Thank you so much for all of your help. We truly appreciate it!

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