Go birding in South Central Wisconsin

There are countless fantastic birding destinations right here in Madison Audubon's service area, including our two beautiful sanctuaries, Goose Pond and Faville Grove. If you're looking for ways to explore Wisconsin's incredible natural spaces, just follow the birds! Explore our favorite places and resources below.


Faville Grove is a delight in all seasons. Photo by Matt Reetz

Faville Grove is a delight in all seasons. Photo by Matt Reetz

MAdison Audubon's Faville Grove Sanctuary

Visitors to Faville Grove Sanctuary are encouraged to walk off-trail to experience the landscape as the Native Americans did. Get your feet wet in the prairies of the Crawfish River floodplain; sit in the shade of centuries-old bur oaks on outcroppings of pre-Cambrian quartzite bedrock; or stand in a dry, short-grass prairie and watch a harrier hunt over a floating bog of sphagnum, sedges and tamarack.

Northern Shovelers at Goose Pond Sanctuary. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Northern Shovelers at Goose Pond Sanctuary. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Madison Audubon's Goose Pond Sanctuary

Goose Pond Sanctuary and its surrounding properties in Columbia County are a haven for birds, rare plants, insects, and more. Over 250 species of birds have been spotted at this prairie pothole and its surrounding lands, just 30 minutes north of Madison. Visit during migration for a spectacle of migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, or come any time of year to enjoy the changing seasons.

Indigo bunting. Photo by Jim Hudgins, USFWS

Indigo bunting. Photo by Jim Hudgins, USFWS

Great Wisconsin Birding & Nature Trail

The Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail is a mapped auto trail that reaches into every area of the state.  Full-color viewing guides with maps and descriptions of every site leads the nature traveler to warblers, shorebirds, eagles, loons, cranes and all manner of mammals found in some of the states premier wildlife venues.


Sandhill cranes overhead at Pheasant Branch Conservancy. Photo by Jim Windelborn

Sandhill cranes overhead at Pheasant Branch Conservancy. Photo by Jim Windelborn

Pheasant Branch Conservancy

Pheasant Branch Conservancy is a regionally significant natural area located on the north side of Middleton, Wisconsin. It contains a marsh with open water, springs, prairies, meadows, lowland forest, and wooded hills. These various habitats sustain a wide variety of plants and animals, including some that are threatened or endangered.

Golden-winged warbler. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Golden-winged warbler. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Lakeshore Nature Preserve & the Friends of Lakeshore Nature Preserve

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Lakeshore Nature Preserve permanently protects the undeveloped lands along the shore of Lake Mendota where members of the UW-Madison campus community have long experienced the intellectual and aesthetic benefits of interacting with the natural world.

Big Springs at the UW-Madison Arboretum. Photo by Richard Hurd

Big Springs at the UW-Madison Arboretum. Photo by Richard Hurd

University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum

Widely recognized as the site of historic research in ecological restoration, the UW-Madison Arboretum includes the oldest and most varied collection of restored ecological communities in the world. Explore tallgrass prairies, savannas, wetlands and several forest types.


Cherokee Marsh. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Cherokee Marsh. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Cherokee Marsh

Cherokee Marsh is part of an extensive wetland complex of more than 2,000 acres. The north portion has been classified as a fen although it contains species characteristic of low prairies, shrub-carr, bogs, and sedge meadows. Cherokee Marsh is owned jointly by the City of Madison and the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1976.

Red-headed woodpecker. Photo by Scott Duncan

Red-headed woodpecker. Photo by Scott Duncan

City of Madison Conservation Parks

Madison Parks offers 19 unique conservation parks. A conservation park differs in how it is managed and why the land was acquired. The goal of the conservation park is to restore native plant and animal communities while providing educational opportunities.

Red-winged blackbird. Photo by Mark Sadowski

Red-winged blackbird. Photo by Mark Sadowski

Jefferson/Dodge County Bird Walks

Walks led by experienced local birders. Karen Etter Hale and Brad and Royan Webb, have been leading these walks since 2008. Locations throughout Jefferson and Dodge Counties vary, and are decided shortly before each walk to ensure that a good showing of birds are present!


Horicon Marsh. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Horicon Marsh. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge

Horicon Marsh is the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States. Located in southeast Wisconsin, Horicon Marsh has been formally recognized as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention of the United Nations. This renowned marsh is now home to the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center.

Eastern meadowlark. Photo by Phil Brown

Eastern meadowlark. Photo by Phil Brown

Glacial Heritage Area - Jefferson County

There are 9 State Wildlife Areas in the Glacial Heritage Area, encompassing more than 25,000 acres of high quality wildlife watching opportunities. These properties host an array of grassland, wetland and wooded habitats. They offer exceptional bird-watching during the spring and fall migrations.

Bald eagle. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Bald eagle. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Sauk Prairie Recreation Area

The Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, located in southeastern Sauk County, consists of a portion of the decommissioned Badger Army Ammunition Plant. The property is still undergoing demolition and clean-up work. The recreation area is open year-round from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset.


Sandhill crane breakfast. Photo by Andrea Westmoreland

Sandhill crane breakfast. Photo by Andrea Westmoreland

Capital Springs Recreation Area/Nine Springs E-way

Capital Springs, conveniently located just minutes from downtown Madison, contains a rich system of trails, marshes, prairies, woods, springs, creeks and lakes which provide a healthy place for birdwatching, outdoor learning, solitude and reflection. A large portion of the popular Capital City State Trail meanders through a variety of habitats within Capital Springs Recreation Area.  

Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy USFWS

Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy USFWS

Necedah National Wildlife Refuge

Nestled in central Wisconsin is a landscape that was epitomized by early homesteaders as the Great Wisconsin Swamp. A mosaic habitat of sedge meadow, savanna, prairie, and pine-oak forest established in 1939, Necedah National Wildlife Refuge is home to ringed boghaunter dragonflies, whooping cranes, trumpeter swans, wolves, Karner blue butterflies, badgers, and red-headed woodpeckers. 
 

Pleasant Valley Conservancy. Photo by Joshua Mayer

Pleasant Valley Conservancy. Photo by Joshua Mayer

Pleasant Valley Conservancy SNA

Pleasant Valley Conservancy State Natural Area No. 551 is a 140 acre Preserve in western Dane County, Wisconsin. It consists of extensive restored oak savannas, dry, mesic, and wet prairies, wetlands, and oak woods. Scenic views and wildlife viewing are excellent, and several trails provide ready access to the Preserve. The Preserve provides excellent habitat for cavity-nesting birds, including red-headed woodpeckers, a characteristic bird of oak savannas.


Schurch-Thomson Prairie, owned and managed by The Prairie Enthusiasts. Photo by Joshua Mayer

Schurch-Thomson Prairie, owned and managed by The Prairie Enthusiasts. Photo by Joshua Mayer

Schurch-Thomson Prairie

This site is a 160-acre farm in the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area with mix of prairie, savanna, woodland, and agricultural fields that provides habitat for several rare and endangered species. It has over 220 species of native plants and supports many butterflies and other prairie insects, as well as rare grassland birds and animals like the badger and bull snake.

Honey Creek is owned and managed by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. Photo by Joshua Mayer

Honey Creek is owned and managed by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. Photo by Joshua Mayer

Honey Creek WSO Preserve

Honey Creek State Natural Area lies within the scenic Baraboo hills. More than 80 species have been recorded during the nesting season. Unusual nesting species include veery, blue-gray gnatcatcher, yellow-throated vireo, blue-winged warbler, Louisiana waterthrush, and Acadian flycatcher. Honey Creek was designated a State Natural Area in 1971.

Spring Green Preserve - hoary puccoon. Photo by Joshua Mayer

Spring Green Preserve - hoary puccoon. Photo by Joshua Mayer

Spring Green Prairie & Preserve SNA

Spring Green Prairie is known as “Wisconsin’s Desert” - a rolling sand prairie on an old terrace of the Wisconsin River. The Nature Conservancy opens this property to visitors for hiking, photography and bird watching. A population of pocket gophers lives here among interesting grassland birds and plants that are found in few other places in the state.