Wisconsin Home to Plethora of Birds and Birders

Mar 3, 2014

A third of Wisconsin residents age 16 and over are birders.  That’s according to a new survey from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which ranks Wisconsin’s percentage of birders second highest in the nation, tied with West Virginia. 

Trumpeter swans one species many birders may travel to see in Wisconsin.
Credit USFWS Mountain Prairie

The report defined birders as those who traveled at least one mile to watch birds, or reported paying close attention to the birds around their house. 

Ryan Brady, research scientist with the Wisconsin DNR in Ashland, says he’s not surprised by the high number. 

“We’ve always had this really good tradition of people connecting with the natural resources here and birds in particular.  A lot of other states have what we call Wisconsin Envy.  Where they see the way our citizen science programs revolving around birds – we get just extraordinary participation.” 

Over 400 species of birds have been recorded in Wisconsin.  Brady says the state is on migratory pathway because of its proximity to the Great Lakes and Mississippi River.  The state’s species diversity also comes from being on the fringe of both northern and southern habitat ranges.

Not all bird populations in the state are doing well.  Brady notes the picture is mixed. 

“Certainly there are birds where there are some really nice success stories – peregrine falcons come to mind, bald eagles come to mind.  Populations are on the rise.  Other birds, not doing quite as well.  Grassland birds – we’ve lost so much of our grassland that grassland species are on severe decline.” 

Wisconsin birders average 95 days of birding a year. 

Nationally the report finds birders and birding trips generated $13 billion in state and federal tax revenues, with a total economic impact of $106 billion.