Door County:
A Bird Watcher's Paradise

Experience Some of the Best Bird Watching in Wisconsin

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 human visitors to Door County each year attract multitudes of birds as well. Numerous preserved and protected landscapes—along with 300 miles of varied shoreline, 19 county parks, two nature sanctuaries, 13 protected areas of the Door County Land Trust, and an official Bird City Wisconsin designation—create a uniquely safe and peaceful environment for our avian friends.

Discover the Top Bird-Watching Spots in Door County.

Door County Birding by the Season

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, more than 300 species—a figure that accounts for more than a third of North America's native bird population—have been spotted along the peninsula and outlying islands, making Door County a Wisconsin birding hotspot for species both common and rare. Here's what to look for when birding in Door County during all four seasons.

  • Spring: 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 it's prime time to explore forests, fields, and other landscapes for a glimpse of new avian arrivals.

    Spring is also 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. Then, waterfowl return by mid-April as inland waters thaw out. Migrants, flying in from Central and South America, and shorebirds return mid-May. 
  • Summer: 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.
  • Fall: 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. 
  • 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.

Birding with Ethics

According to the American Birding Association, it's key to exercise restraint and caution to avoid exposing birds and wildlife to danger, and you should always stay on roads and trails as much as possible to avoid habitat disturbances. This includes maintaining a generous distance from nests, nesting colonies, roosts, and feeding areas as well as never trying to attract threatened, endangered, or rare species. Finally, remember to limit your use of sound recordings, camera lights, and other artificial means of attracting and filming birds.

Bald Eagles: A Comeback Tale

Bald Eagles were once extremely rare to find in the skies above Door County, but the birds have made an amazing comeback in the last decade or so. Local bird experts estimate just one pair of eagles nested here in 1995, about 11 pairs in 2012, and by 2014, there were 15–20 pairs. Look for Bald Eagles in tall pine trees near shorelines. 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 horizontally.