Download the Bird Checklist by month (130Kb pdf file)
The University of Wisconsin-Madison Lakeshore Nature Preserve provides opportunities for students and the public to view a wide variety of birds in a relatively small area. The Preserve has multiple habitats, allowing it to support diverse populations of birds. The Preserve has woodlands (Picnic Point, Frautschi Point, Eagle Heights Woods), marshes (Class of 1918 Marsh, University Bay Marsh), open water (Lake Mendota, University Bay), and prairie and open lands.
Over 255 bird species have been seen in the Preserve. Most birds that regularly occur in south central Wisconsin have been found in the Preserve. Birding in the Preserve is best during migration. Migrants can be found anywhere in the area. The Preserve supports a diverse breeding bird population as well. During the 2000 to 2002 Breeding Bird Study, 81 bird species were confirmed or probable nesting birds. During the 2013-2015 Breeding Bird Study, 77 bird species were confirmed or probable nesting birds with another 13 species as possible nesters.
The Lakeshore Nature Preserve is perhaps best known for its warbler migration. Between April 25 (some years a little earlier) and May 22 (some years later) 30 or more species of warblers are usually observed in the area, though not usually all at once. Rarer warblers such as Hooded, Cerulean, Yellow-throated, Black-throated Blue, Prothonotary, Mourning, and Connecticut are reported at least once most years. Picnic Point can have spectacular passerine migrant “fall out” in the spring. These unusual weather related events can isolate hundreds or thousands of migrating birds on the Point for several days, often allowing visitors to see 20 or more warbler species (and multiple individuals of many species) in a couple of hours in May. In the fall (August 20-Oct 5), Frautschi Point usually has more song bird migrants, but Picnic Point, especially the Picnic Point Marsh, also hosts migrants. When the winds are from the north, woodland migrating birds prefer Eagle Heights Woods. When the winds are from the south, these migrants can be found at the lake edge in Tent Colony Woods. In the fall the field edge can be productive for woodland migrants. The prairie, garden, and old fields support a diverse set of sparrows, especially from mid-September thru October.
Most waterfowl visit annually. The diving duck numbers and diversity are best late in the fall (mid-November until freeze up) and in spring immediately after the ice breaks up, when there are fewer boaters. Although University Bay is usually the best area for divers, Second Point Bay (between Picnic Point and Frautschi Point) should also be checked. The Class of 1918 Marsh supports a diverse population of dabbling ducks throughout the fall. Loons, grebes, gulls, swans, and coots can also be observed along the lake shore.
Shorebirds, terns, and wading birds can periodically be found at the Class of 1918 Marsh and University Bay near Willow Creek. Hawks regularly migrate through and can be best seen from the open areas and the Class of 1918 Marsh.
Please send reports of rare (indicated by a * on the checklist), accidental, and out of season birds to Preserve staff.
Roma Lenehan, "Birds of the Campus Natural Areas by Season."
Glenda Denniston, "Eagles at Frautschi Point."
Text by Roma Lenehan.
Photos: Great horned owls by Jeff Miller; Tundra swans by Bryn Scriver; Crane and chick by John Magnuson.