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If you're attuned to the movements and sounds of our feathered friends, there's plenty of activity to keep your eyes and ears aflutter in Door County!
The same pristine natural features that draw millions of visitors to Door County each year attract multitudes of birds as well. Numerous preserved and protected landscapes along with serene natural habitats and 300 miles of varied shoreline create a unique environment for our avian friends.
Like people, some winged travelers stay year round, while others come just for a season before moving on with the changing seasonal winds. In fact, over 300 species – more than a third of North America's native bird population – have been spotted along the peninsula and outlying islands, making it a prime location for spotting species both common and rare.
A total of 19 county parks, two nature sanctuaries, and 13 protected areas of the Door County Land Trust provide birding enthusiasts with ample opportunities to observe and study year-round.
Come see what has locals, visitors, and birds of all feathers flocking to the scenic shores and breathtaking landscapes of Door County. From novice to expert, birders and nature enthusiasts of all ages and levels of experience are welcome.
In 2014, Door County was designated a Bird City Wisconsin community, a recognition received by communities that strive to educate the public and implement sound conservation practices to address threats to bird populations.
In addition, four Door County communities have received their own individual Bird City Wisconsin designation: Baileys Harbor, Egg Harbor, Ephraim and Washington Island.
Wildlife and bird watching varies greatly by the season.
Fields begin to flood as the shoreline and inland lakes thaw, creating a welcoming environment for migrant ducks, geese, and cranes. As spring unfolds, tree buds burst open signaling the prime time to explore forests, fields, and other diverse landscapes for a glimpse of new avian arrivals.
Spring is the perfect time to spot gulls, terns, cranes, pelicans, colorful warblers in the woodlands and waterfowl in flooded fields and thawing shoreline. Anything from sandhill cranes and larks to killdeer and redwings come back to Door County by mid-March, possibly even before the ice is off streams-they like to get home. Then, waterfowl return by mid April as inland waters de-ice. Migrants, flying in from Central and South America, and shorebirds return in mid May.
Come summer, shorebirds begin to populate the area in droves spending anywhere from three days to a week in one location. Keep a watchful eye out for the indigo bunting, scarlet tanager, and rose-breasted grosbeak.
When leaves turn vivid shades of orange, yellow, and red with the onset of autumn, Tundra Swans, Wood Ducks, and Canada Geese can be found soaring against the colorful harvest backdrop as they journey south for winter.
Even when trees become bare and snow falls upon the rolling hills, limestone bluffs and open meadows, many birds including the Black Capped Chickadee and Northern Cardinal can be found braving the winter wind and frigid temperatures. Many other birds are tough enough to stick it out through the Wisconsin winter, with turkeys, Bald Eagles, Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls, pheasants and crows all among them.
Ecosystem and wildlife preservation are imperative to the future of birding. Set an example for others as a good steward of Mother Nature by practicing these principles from the American Birding Association when you take to the trails.
The Clearing Folk School: Ellison Bay: Offers week-long classes with field trips and bird identification.
Door County Tours: Offers a variety of bird tours and outings guided by owner and naturalist Paul Regnier.
Open Door Bird Sanctuary: The only nature center within 150 miles devoted to wild bird rehabilitation and community education.
The Ridges Sanctuary: The longtime home of renowned bird expert Roy Lukes, the Ridges Sanctuary is one of the most important natural habitats on the Great Lakes. The Ridges offers regular birding hikes and events throughout the year.
Crossroads at Big Creek: Crossroads in Sturgeon Bay is a great place to observe birds throughout the year and offers occasional speakers, workshops and tours.
Nature Conservancy: International land trust hosts several preserves that are vital habitat for birds in Door County.
Door County Land Trust: With more than 7,600 acres of vital bird and wildlife habitat preserved on the Door Peninsula, the Land Trust nature preserves are a wonderful place for bird watching.
Bald Eagles were once extremely rare finds in the air above Door County, but the bird has made an amazing comeback in the last decade. By 2012, Christmas Bird Counts recorded 14 in the Brussels area, and 8 in Sturgeon Bay.
Some are just passing through, but many nest in Door County. According to Roy and Charlotte Lukes, there was just one pair of eagles nesting in Door County as recently as 1995. By 2014, there were 15 - 20 pairs nesting here. Some of the best places to spot them are in tall pines close to shorelines, where they eat mostly fish in Peninsula State Park.
In Door County people often mistake Turkey Vultures for Bald Eagles, but the former holds its wings upward at a distinct dihedral when soaring, while the latter holds its wings very horizontally.
Wondering where the best locations are to spot your feathered friends? Check out our Birding Maps and Locations>>
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