To bird the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary is to experience a premiere “bird funnel.” The adjacent bay sweeps significant concentrations of landbirds through the property each spring and fall. The site is well known for its diversity and abundance of warblers, for which it was designated a Wisconsin Important Birding Area. Thirty-three species of warblers have been seen, including the state’s first confirmed Swainson’s.
Due to diverse habitats, Bay Beach can add a wide variety of bird species to your list in a relatively short visit in any season. Egrets, herons, pelicans, nesting Bald Eagles, Osprey, owls, and waterfowl are just part of the active wildlife community. The refuge has become one of the most predictable sites in the state for Snowy Egrets.
Birds rare to our area continue to make appearances, adding to the excitement and checklist: Tricolored Heron, Eurasian Wigeon, Gyrfalcon, Laughing Gull, Townsend’s Solitaire, and Western Tanager, to name a few.
Most birds can be observed from the hard-surfaced trails and floating boardwalk in and around the main buildings. More adventurous birders can walk the six miles of trails. — Ty Baumann
Ty Baumann is director of the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. He and his wife Ida have lived on the refuge for the past 37 years.
Diverse lowland forest, fields, and wetlands. Adjacent open bay and rookery islands.
Primarily level. Paved roads, parking lots, and paths. Boardwalks and bridges through wetlands and marsh areas. Wheelchair accessible.
More than 260 species. 22 species of ducks, including the Midwest’s largest wintering population of American Black Ducks. Occasional geese: Greater White-fronted, Ross’s, and Cackling. Great Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Green Heron, plus Snowy Egret, Osprey, and American White Pelican in summer. Bald Eagles nest in summer and roost nightly in winter. Migrants in late April through May and late August through September: 33 warbler species, vireos, tanagers, orioles, flycatchers, and sparrows.
When to go
Migration in spring and fall is best. Summer and winter provide great bird-feeding behavior.
Trail maps at buildings and kiosks. Free bird checklist in information racks and at counters. Nature center, observation/rehabilitation center, and woodland building offer viewing of wildlife rehabilitation, nursery, aviaries, plus raptor programs, interpretive exhibits, library, gift shop, and annual bird festival/art show. Food and lodging less than 10-minute drive into city.
City park. Admission free. Open daily 8-7:30 from April 15 to September 15, 8-4:30 from September 16 to April 14. Main trail gates open during spring migration at 6 a.m. daily.
Best birding in early morning. Watch for Snowy Egrets in summer in Manger Lagoon.