"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song." -Lou Holtz
With over 1,300 lakes, 73 rivers and streams, and a countless acres of deciduous and coniferous forests, Vilas County offers unique opportunities for viewing hundreds of bird species. Common to the area are Bald Eagles, Loons, Woodpeckers, Ruffed Grouse, Woodcock and a wide variety of songbirds.
Pick a nature trail and take a quiet stroll - bring your binoculars (and bug spray) and take a look. If you're unfamiliar with Wisconsin birds, you can download this 36-page checklist to get you started.
Fallison Lake Nature Trail, Sayner, WI - A 2.5-mile loop trail that boasts eagles and loons. There is also a wide variety of hard woods and mixed conifers including a hemlock glade. The longest loop of the trail goes all the way around 50-acre Fallison Lake.
Thunder Marsh Wildlife Area, Three Lakes, WI - this 3,000- acre wildlife area offers a rare opportunity to observe the birds of a spruce and tamarack forest like different species of woodpeckers—including the three-toed woodpecker and the pileated woodpecker—as well as kingfishers, osprey, boreal chickadee, spruce grouse and gray jay. Resident birds include ruby-crowned kinglets, yellow rails, hooded-mergansers and kingfishers. Please note that there is limited access in winter and early spring.
Northern Highland - American Legion State Forest - Home to one of the largest Bald Eagle nesting concentrations in the state. Other common birds include Alder Flycatchers, Vesper Sparrow, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. If you're lucky you may spot a Gray Jay, Nelson’s Sharptailed & LeConte’s Sparrow or Osprey.
At 223,283 acres, the Northern Highland/American Legion State Forest is Wisconsin’s largest property. For trail options click here.
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest
Covering 661,400 acres in northeastern Wisconsin, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest provides abundant habitat for a wide variety of species. Rare species in the forest include the boreal chickadee, gray jay, northern tree-toed woodpecker, spruce grouse and sandhill crane. The abundance of lakes attracts bald eagles, common loons and ospreys.
Lumberjack/Escanaba Trails, Boulder Junction, WI - An 11-mile trail system around White Sand and Escanaba Lakes where Ruffed Grouse, Woodcock and Bald Eagles can be spotted. A state vehicle parking sticker is required for parking.
North Lakeland Discovery Center, Manitowish Waters, WI - An educational center that offers a year-round program of environmental education, including bird watching. April through October, enjoy their 22-Station Breeding Bird Trail. Signs are dispersed throughout the trail system, highlighting birds known to breed in or near that exact spot. Common species include Semipalmated Plovers, Savannah Sparrows, Sandhill Cranes, Yellow Warblers, Dunlins, White-rumped Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Least Sandpipers.
Rarities: Osprey, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and Red-shouldered Hawk.
Powell Marsh Wildlife Area, Manitowish Waters, WI - This 4,303-acre wetland supports a variety of waterfowl, water birds, migrant shorebirds, and open-area birds. Yellow Rail, LeConte’s Sparrow, and Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow are common. Rarities include Yellow Rail, Short-eared Owl, Northern Harrier, American Bittern, and Merlin.
Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area, Presque Isle, WI - This 2,189-acre Nature Conservancy property is known for neotropical migrant songbirds like the Black-throated Green and Black-throated Blue Warblers, American Redstarts, Golden-winged Warblers, Magnolia Warblers and Mourning Warblers. In addition you can see Common Loons, Osprey, and an occasional Bald Eagle.
The Vilas County Tourism site also offers additional information on the trails listed about along with more birding trail options by Vilas County area:
Boulder Junction Area Birding Trails
Conover Area Birding Trails
Eagle River Area Birding Trails
Land O’Lakes Area Birding Trails
Manitowish Waters Area Birding Trails
Presque Isle Area Birding Trails
The Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail is a great resource for mapped auto trails in every area of the state. To see maps by county, click here.
Vilas County resident and silent sport enthusiast Dan Anderson has captured photos of many of the birds in the area. These are just a few...
Eagle nest on the Wisconsin River
Eagle from the above nest
Sandhill Crane near Land O' Lakes
Ruffed Grouse drumming in the spring
Woodcock in the county forest in the fall