Our Wildlife

   Situated at the convergence of three terrestrial biomes, Central Wisconsin is home to a wide variety of wildlife. Our diverse land cover provides stopping points for hundreds of neotropical bird species as well as habitat for rare non-migrating species such as the Greater Prairie Chicken. Whether you're a novice photographer or a cosmopolitan birdwatcher, you'll enjoy the diversity of rare and unusual species in Central Wisconsin.

The Birds

Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus)

It's the star of the show! The state-threatened Greater Prairie Chicken is a type of grouse that once inhabited millions of acres of tallgrass prairie. Today, it inhabits small, isolated pockets of prairie throughout the Central and Midwestern US. Known for its low "booming" sound that can be heard over a mile away, the Greater Prairie Chicken is a "indicator" or keystone species - in other words, if the grasslands are healthy enough to support a population of prairie chickens, they are healthy enough to support other grassland species. Today, the population has fallen to around 600 individuals in Wisconsin - down from 55,000 in the 1930s and 2,500 when hunting was prohibited in 1955. The grasslands (and the prairie chicken) need more help now than ever!

Henslow's Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii)

This small American sparrow has a body less than 5" long and a short tail with reddish wings. It's best identified by its "se-lick" call. Henslow's Sparrows prefer undisturbed meadows and pastures, nesting close to the ground in saucer-shaped grassy depressions.  In the Wisconsin Grassland Bird Study conducted in the late 1980s, this sparrow ranked highest as a species of concern.

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda)

This anxious bird with a dove-like head might be mistaken for a plover as it runs through the grass. In fact, it is an upland sandpiper, the only species in the genus Bartramia. Unlike other sandpipers, this bird  prefers tallgrass prairies, sedge meadows, and well-managed pastures over wetlands. Its diet consists almost exclusively of invertabrates such as grasshoppers and weevils. Data from the North American Breeding  Bird Survey showed a precipitous decline in upland sandpiper numbers in Wisconsin between 1999 and 2009. Fragmentation of existing grasslands, intensive agriculture, and residential development have resulted in concern for the long-term viability of this species in Wisconsin.

More coming soon!