Statewide Birding Report as of January 9, 2020

Weekly birding report

Painted Buntings in Wisconsin? Yes! Read about these and other exciting bird sightings around the state in the 2019 Wisconsin eBird Year in Review [exit DNR]
Photo by Peder Svingen.

2019 has come and gone. Check out the stats, sightings, and images that made it another great year of Wisconsin birding in this excellent recap [exit DNR]. 2020 has begun much the way 2019 ended, i.e. fairly slow. Most winters bring one or more ornithological phenomena that mark the season and generate special excitement but alas this is not one of them, at least so far. Winter finches remain north of Wisconsin, no owls have “irrupted” into the state, natural food sources are plentiful, and lack of snow and ice in the south means birds are spread more thinly across the landscape there. Of course, much of this is actually good news for birds, less so for us hoping to attract and observe them.

While the north has good numbers of blue jays, ruffed grouse, and various woodpeckers, as well as a few pine siskins and purple finches, most of the birding action is in the south of late. Waterfowl continue to show fairly well in places holding open water, including the Madison lakes (e.g. Mendota) where some tundra swans and various duck species persist. Open fields and wetlands are hosting raptors like red-tailed and rough-legged hawks, northern harriers, and American kestrels and a few lingering sandhill cranes. The mild, snow-free conditions have also allowed a number of other species to stick around longer than usual, highlighted by sightings of ruby-crowned kinglet, orange-crowned warbler, Harris’s sparrow, eastern bluebirds, eastern towhees, northern flickers, and even a few Baltimore orioles.

Approximately 72 snowy owls have been reported statewide, which is the second lowest total as of this date in the last 7 years. Check out our snowy owl webpage for the latest update on where to spot one. Great horned owls are very vocal now as they establish territories, court a mate, and prepare to lay eggs in the next 1-2 months. Read the DNR's weekly article: Bald eagle watching events take off in January. The week’s rarest finds were continuing varied thrush in Dunn, Townsend’s solitaires in Milwaukee, Columbia, and Sauk, and harlequin duck in Dane. A weekend storm in the east/southeast should increase feeder activity and bring field birds like snow buntings, Lapland longspurs, horned larks, and American tree sparrows to roadsides and other patches of bare ground. Help us track bird populations by reporting your finds to [exit DNR]. Good birding!

– Ryan Brady, DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program biologist

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