Saturday, October 26, 2019

Common backyard birds in Wisconsin (lists, photos, ID)

I've put this resource together for you to answer the question: What birds are in my backyard in Wisconsin?

This article tells you what Wisconsin birds you can expect in your backyard and when they are most common. I also provide a photo and description section to help you with Wisconsin bird identification of the most common birds native to Wisconsin backyards.

The most common backyard birds in Wisconsin are these:

  1. Black-capped Chickadee
  2. American Crow
  3. American Robin
  4. American Goldfinch
  5. Northern Cardinal
  6. Mourning Dove
  7. Blue Jay
  8. Downy Woodpecker
  9. White-breasted Nuthatch
  10. Song Sparrow
  11. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  12. House Sparrow
  13. European Starling
  14. Dark-eyed Junco
  15. House Finch
  16. Common Grackle

These birds occur on more than 20% of eBird checklists for the state.

Continue reading to see additional common birds and common birds at different times of year.

In this article
  • Lists of the most common backyard birds in Wisconsin
  • Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in Wisconsin
  • Other birds you might see from your backyard in Wisconsin
  • Comparison of the most common backyard birds in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Beyond your backyard

This page lists the most common backyard birds as determined by actual bird sightings reported to the citizen science birding program, eBird. These birds are ranked according to frequency--the percentage of all bird checklists on which a species occurs. Below I list common backyard birds in winter and summer.

Photos and identification are next. I tell a little bit about each species and how you might attract them to your yard.

Farther below I've also added a list of other common birds not typically found in backyards.

I conclude with a list comparing the birds of Milwaukee with the birds of the state as a whole.

List of the most common feeder birds and backyard birds in Wisconsin

The birds listed at the top of the page are those most frequently encountered in backyards throughout the state and throughout the year.

These lists are based on the citizen science program, eBird, using data of actual bird sightings.

Many of the most common backyard birds are residents, but there are seasonal differences as well.

The next parts list birds at different times of the year, starting again with the year as a whole.

Most common backyard birds in Wisconsin throughout the year

The following list is the backyard birds that are, on average, most common throughout the entire year. The list is ordered by most common based on the frequency of how often each species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird.

The most common backyard birds throughout the year in the state of Wisconsin, in order, are these:

  1. Black-capped Chickadee (49% frequency)
  2. American Crow (46%)
  3. American Robin (44%)
  4. American Goldfinch (42%)
  5. Northern Cardinal (40%)
  6. Mourning Dove (38%)
  7. Blue Jay (37%)
  8. Downy Woodpecker (34%)
  9. White-breasted Nuthatch (32%)
  10. Song Sparrow (30%)
  11. Red-bellied Woodpecker (25%)
  12. House Sparrow (23%)
  13. European Starling (21%)
  14. Dark-eyed Junco (20%)
  15. House Finch (20%)
  16. Common Grackle (20%)

Most common backyard birds in Wisconsin in winter

The following list is the backyard birds that are most common in winter. The list is ordered by most common based on the frequency of how often each species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird.

The most common backyard birds in Wisconsin in winter (December to February) are these:

  1. Black-capped Chickadee (55% frequency)
  2. American Crow (45%)
  3. Dark-eyed Junco (41%)
  4. Downy Woodpecker (40%)
  5. White-breasted Nuthatch (38%)
  6. Northern Cardinal (38%)
  7. American Goldfinch (34%)
  8. Mourning Dove (31%)
  9. Blue Jay (30%)
  10. Red-bellied Woodpecker (27%)
  11. House Sparrow (27%)
  12. Hairy Woodpecker (24%)
  13. House Finch (21%)

Most common backyard birds in Wisconsin in summer

The following list is the backyard birds that are most common in summer. The list is ordered by most common based on the frequency of how often each species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird.

The most common backyard birds in Wisconsin in summer (June to July) are these:

  1. American Robin (64% frequency)
  2. Song Sparrow (50%)
  3. American Goldfinch (47%)
  4. Mourning Dove (44%)
  5. American Crow (41%)
  6. Black-capped Chickadee (38%)
  7. Blue Jay (37%)
  8. Northern Cardinal (36%)
  9. House Wren (35%)
  10. Gray Catbird (35%)
  11. Red-eyed Vireo (34%)
  12. Chipping Sparrow (34%)
  13. Common Grackle (29%)
  14. Barn Swallow (28%)
  15. Indigo Bunting (28%)
  16. Cedar Waxwing (27%)
  17. Brown-headed Cowbird (25%)
  18. Eastern Wood-Pewee (24%)
  19. White-breasted Nuthatch (24%)
  20. Downy Woodpecker (24%)
  21. House Sparrow (23%)
  22. Baltimore Oriole (23%)
  23. Rose-breasted Grosbeak (21%)
  24. European Starling (21%)
  25. Northern Flicker (20%)

How do birds differ between winter and summer?

Black-capped Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, Downy Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches are more common in winter.

American Robins, Song Sparrows, American Goldfinches, Mourning Doves, House Wrens, Gray Catbirds, Red-eyed Vireos, Chipping Sparrows, Common Grackles, Barn Swallows, Indigo Buntings, Cedar Waxwings, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Eastern Wood-Pewees, Baltimore Orioles, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are more common in summer.

Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in Wisconsin

Photo of Black-capped Chickadee on bird bath
Black-capped Chickadee
Photo by Greg Gillson

1. Black-capped Chickadee

Poecile atricapillus
This is a common backyard bird in the northern half of the United States.

Identification: Size: Chickadees are small birds, the same general size as an American Goldfinch. Shape: Round body, big round head, long tail with rounded tip. Bill: Short, straight, stout. Color: Gray above, buffy below. Black cap and bib with white lower face. White edges on wing feathers.

Habitat, range & behavior: Deciduous and mixed forests. They range from the northern half of the United States, southern half of Canada, and most of Alaska. Small flocks flit actively from tree to tree acrobatically gleaning insects from twig tips. In winter chickadees make up the core of mixed-species flocks also containing nuthatches, kinglets, creepers, woodpeckers and others.

Food and feeder preference: Seeds, insects, berries. They eat at tube, hopper and tray feeders. They love black oil sunflower seeds and suet.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting Black-capped Chickadees.

Photo of American Crow
American Crow
Photo by Greg Gillson

2. American Crow

Corvus brachyrhynchos
This larger all-black bird is common in cities and country. Its cawing call is familiar to most people.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. Size: About 17-1/2 inches long from bill tip to tail tip, though there is much size variation throughout its range. Larger than blackbirds and grackles. Smaller than ravens. Shape: Thick neck, large head, rather short square-ended tail. Longer legs. In flight has rounded wing tips with each primary feather separated from others forming "fingers." Bill: As long as head, thick, black. Color: Glossy black throughout.

Habitat, range & behavior: They prefer open areas with trees, fields, farms, cities. They are common across most of the United States lower-48, except in the desert southwest. They move into southern Canada in summer. They gather in evening communal roosts in large flocks that may number into the thousands and then move out at dawn into the surrounding area.

Food and feeder preference: Omnivorous, they feed on large insects, grain, small mammals, carrion. You probably don't want these large entirely-black birds in your backyard feeders. So don't feed table scraps to birds.

Photo of American Robin
American Robin
Photo by Greg Gillson

3. American Robin

Turdus migratorius
This familiar bird is a resident in the northern half of the United States and a winter visitor in the southern half.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. Size: 10 inches long from bill tip to tail tip. About the same size as a Blue Jay or one of the Scrub-Jays. Larger than Red-winged Blackbird. Smaller than a Mourning Dove. Shape: Very plump with a fairly long tail. Bill: Straight and fairly slender, curved at the tip. Color: Gray-brown upperparts, rusty orange breast.

Habitat, range & behavior: Open woodlands, farmlands, urban parks and lawns. Migratory, breeds north across Alaska and Canada. Resident in most of the United States (lower 48). Winters in the United States, Mexico, to central America. Hops on your lawn turning head this way and that looking for food. Their caroling song is one of the early signs of spring in the north.

Food and feeder preference: Worms and other invertebrates in the lawn. May eat fruit from a tray feeder or the ground. Eat small berries from trees and bushes.

Photo of American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
Photo by Greg Gillson

4. American Goldfinch

Spinus tristis
A beautiful tiny finch familiar to many in it's bright yellow summer plumage. Colloquially called a "wild canary."

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. Size: Very small at about 5 inches from bill tip to tail tip. Similar in size to a chickadee. Larger than hummingbirds. Smaller than juncos and House Finches. Shape: Tiny, somewhat plump with larger head and short tail. Bill: Short, conical, pink. Color: Males in summer are bright lemon yellow with black forehead and black wings and tail with white bars. White under tail coverts. Females dull olive, wings and tail browner. Winter birds are pale grayish-yellow with tan and brown wings and tail.

Habitat, range & behavior: This species is found in weedy fields and similar clearings with thistles and similar plants. It is found coast-to-coast throughout the year across most of the middle lower-48 states. In summer moves north to the Canada border. In the winter found south to the Mexico border. The flight is highly undulating, rising and falling as they flap in short bursts. Besides a long, sweet lilting song, they call in flight a lilting 4-part: "potato chip!"

Food and feeder preference: Feeds on weed seeds, thistle seed. May eat black oil sunflower seeds from tube feeder. Love Nyjer seed in a feeder called a "thistle sock."

You may like to read my in-depth article on attracting American Goldfinches.

Photo of Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Image by GeorgeB2 from Pixaby

5. Northern Cardinal

Cardinalis cardinalis
This is one of the most common and popular backyard birds in the eastern half of the United States.

Identification: Size: Cardinals are a bit smaller than American Robins, about the same size as Red-winged Blackbirds. Shape: Plump body with fairly long full tail. Wispy crest. Bill: Short, heavy, conical, pink. Color: That bright red color is matched by few other birds. Black face. The female is more gray, but with hints of red in wings and tail, and has a crest, too.

Habitat, range & behavior: Cardinals are year-round residents in shrubby woodland edges from the eastern United States to Texas and Arizona south into Mexico. That large conical bill is made for chewing seeds. Watch them crack open sunflower seeds, spit out the hulls, and pluck the kernel with their tongues!

Food and feeder preference: Black oil sunflower seeds. Many types of seeds, berries, nuts in larger hopper or tray feeders.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting Northern Cardinals.

Photo of Mourning Dove in a tree
Mourning Dove
Photo by Greg Gillson

6. Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura
Mourning Doves are the most widespread and most frequent backyard bird in the Lower 48 states of the United States.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. Size: About 12 inches long from bill tip to tail tip. About same size as Northern Flicker. Larger than American Robin. Slightly smaller than domestic city pigeon. Shape: Very plump with a small round head. Tail is long and pointed. Legs are short. Bill: Small and rather slender. Color: Pale brown-pink body, darker wings and tail. White edges on side of tail.

Habitat, range & behavior: Semi-open areas such as urban areas, farmlands, woods. Often seen perched on wires, fences. It is a resident across the lower-48 states and Mexico, with some movement out of northern areas in winter. Their mournful cooing is a familiar spring birdsong.

Food and feeder preference: Mourning Doves eat seeds almost exclusively. Attract with black oil sunflower seeds on a large sturdy tray feeder or on the ground.

Photo of Blue Jay enjoying a bath
Blue Jay
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

7. Blue Jay

Cyanocitta cristata
A common and well-known bird in the eastern half of the United States.

Identification: Size: About that of American Robin. Shape: Fluffy, large crested head, ample tail. Large strong legs. Bill: Black, long and stout. Color: Blue above, white below. Black neck collar. White patches in wing.

Habitat, range & behavior: Woodlands and towns in the eastern half of the United States. In summer into southern Canada. Bold and brash. May bully smaller birds. Jays gulp lots of seeds or other food at once, storing it in their crop. Then they fly off and bury food items in a hidden cache.

Food and feeder preference: Omnivorous. They can quickly empty your feeder! Because they are also aggressive toward other feeder birds, some people put mesh cages around smaller bird feeders. Small birds can go through, squirrels and larger "pest" birds are prevented entry. Some people feed jays peanuts, perhaps away from the seed feeders.

Photo of Downy Woodpecker on suet block
Downy Woodpecker
Photo by Greg Gillson

8. Downy Woodpecker

Dryobates pubescens
This tiny woodpecker is found across the United States.

Identification: Size: Bigger than a junco or House Finch. Smaller than a Red-winged Blackbird. About the same size as a White-crowned Sparrow, but with a much shorter tail. Shape: Stocky with large head and short stiff tail. Bill: Short, chisel-shaped. Color: Black-and-white striped head. Black wings with white spots. Solid white black. White under parts. Black tail with white outer tail feathers with black bars or spots. Male with small red spot at back of head.

Habitat, range & behavior: Found in small deciduous trees, willows, and even weed stocks such as teasel, especially near water. Ranges coast-to-coast across all but northernmost parts of Canada and Alaska south to the southern US. Absent in the desert southwest. Interestingly, I learned today that the males may more often be found in smaller plants and twigs, while females are more likely on tree trunks.

Food and feeder preference: Insects, fruits, and seeds. Gleans arthropods from the bark of trees. Attract with suet feeder. Will also eat black oil sunflower seeds.

Photo of White-breasted Nuthatch head-first down the tree
White-breasted Nuthatch
Photo by Greg Gillson

9. White-breasted Nuthatch

Sitta carolinensis
A favorite feeder bird for many for its active antics and fearlessness. Though a small bird it is the largest nuthatch in North America.

Identification: Size: About chickadee-sized in length. Smaller than a junco or House Finch. Shape: Appears large-headed, neckless, very short tailed. Short legs. Bill: Nearly as long as head, straight, thin. Color: Blue-gray above, white below. Black cap, wing tips, tail. Rusty feathers under tail.

Habitat, range & behavior: Common in oak and oak-pine woodlands, wooded towns. Found across the United States, southern Canada, mountains of central Mexico. Absent from treeless grasslands, deserts in the west. Crawls over tree branches and head-first down tree trunks searching for insects.

Food and feeder preference: Insects, seeds, acorns and other nuts. Love black oil sunflower seeds feeding on hopper and tray feeders. Suet blocks.

Photo of Song Sparrow in bush
Song Sparrow
Photo by Greg Gillson

10. Song Sparrow

Melospiza melodia
A common bird, but variable, and similar to many other streaked brown sparrows.

Identification: Size: A smaller bird, similar in size to House Finch and juncos. Larger than chickadees and goldfinches. Smaller than White-crowned Sparrows or Spotted/Eastern towhees. Shape: Plump with round head, long rounded tail. Bill: Short, conical. Color: Highly variable in darkness and color saturation across its range (dark rusty to pale gray). Generally gray-brown above with dark brown streaking on back. Complicated head pattern. Streaking on sides and breast converge into dense central breast spot.

Habitat, range & behavior: Thickets, especially near water. Backyard shrubbery. Resident in western United States, western Canada, coastal southern Alaska, northeastern US. In summer also moves into mid-Canada and northern half of US. In the winter found in most of the US lower-48. Also a population in central Mexico. Forages on ground, never far from low cover to which they fly if startled.

Food and feeder preference: They feed on seeds and insects near the ground. Will visit hopper and tray feeders for mixed bird seed.

Photo of Red-bellied Woodpecker climbing a tree
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

11. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Melanerpes carolinus
This is one of the most common species in the eastern half of the United States.

Identification: Size: Fairly large for a backyard bird. Between a Starling and American Robin in size. Smaller than a Northern Flicker. Shape: Stout with large head and short tail. Clings to tree trunk on strong short legs propped up with short stiff tail. Bill: Long, chisel-shaped. Color: Pale gray body, many thin black-and-white bars across back and wings. Red nape, extending forward on crown on male.

Habitat, range & behavior: These birds are found in many woodland types, including oak, hickory and pine. They are found from the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains in the lower-48 states from Texas to extreme southern Canada, and eastward from Florida northward just to the southern edge of the New England states. In typical woodpecker fashion, it hitches up the tree trunk and larger branches.

Food and feeder preference: This species eats insects and nuts. They may eat peanuts from a tray feeder and eat from a suet block.

Photo of House Sparrow on feeder with sunflower seed
House Sparrow
Photo by Greg Gillson

12. House Sparrow

Passer domesticus
Like the starling, this is another bird introduced from Europe in the 1800's. This sparrow is commonly found in cities and farmlands. It is considered a pest in most areas where it has been introduced.

Identification: Size: The size of a House Finch or Dark-eyed Junco. Shape: Chunkier than native North American sparrows with large head, barrel chest, short neck, medium tail, short legs. Bill: Short, conical. Color: Males are brown and gray with a black mask. Females lack the black and are tan and brown with a pale line back from the eye.

Habitat, range & behavior: Cities and farms. Range in North American from southern Canada through Central America. In summer northward through Canada to southern Alaska. Originated in Middle East and spread to most of Europe and Asia. Introduced in South America, Africa, Australia--nearly anywhere there are people and cities. They tend to be messy... and have a good appetite, and may occur in large noisy chirping flocks. They are aggressive toward other feeder birds.

Food and feeder preference: They eat grain, seed, and insects. To discourage them from your hopper and tray feeders do not feed birds human food scraps. They have a bit of difficulty eating from tube feeders.

Photo of European Starling
European Starling
Photo by Greg Gillson

13. European Starling

Sturnus vulgaris
Introduced to North America in the late 1800's, they crossed the continent, often to the detriment of native cavity-nesting birds. The prime example of an invasive species.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. Size: 8-1/2 inches from bill tip to tail tip. About the size of a Red-winged Blackbird. Smaller than an American Robin. Larger than a White-crowned Sparrow or Spotted/Eastern towhee. Shape: Stocky with large head, short square-ended tail. Longer legs. Bill: As long as head. Sharp pointed. Yellow in spring, otherwise dark. Color: They are grayish brown much of the year, with glossy iridescence and white spotting during the spring.

Habitat, range & behavior: Lowland birds that need trees large enough for nest cavities but plenty of open area for feeding. They are most abundant in urban and suburban areas where they find food and artificial nest cavities. Resident from coast-to-coast from southern Canada to northern Mexico. In summer north across Canada and Alaska. Native range is Europe to Pakistan, north Africa. Often viewed as a pest, starlings often bully other backyard birds, taking over bird feeders, and stealing nest cavities from smaller native birds. In winter they can form into flocks of ten's of thousands.

Food and feeder preference: Primarily insects when available, often feeding on the ground. Discourage them from your backyard hopper and tray feeders by never feeding birds table scraps (including bread or meat). They have weak feet and do not perch well on tube feeders. A cage mesh around smaller hopper feeders may keep them out.

Photo of Dark-eyed Junco on snow-covered branch
Dark-eyed Junco
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

14. Dark-eyed Junco

Junco hyemalis
Colloquially called "snow birds," they often arrive in backyards in winter from nearby mountain forests or more northern climes.

Identification: Size: Small birds about the size of a House Finch. Shape: Round body, short neck, round head, fairly long square-ended tail. Bill: Short, pointed, conical, pink. Color: Eastern birds are a darker all-gray with white belly. Western birds have jet black hood over head, brown back, and pink sides.

Habitat, range & behavior: Breed in coniferous forests. Winters widely. Avoids heavy brush, preferring widely spaced bushes. Breeds across most of Canada, Alaska, and the western half of the United States. Winters from southern Canada and all of the lower 48-states to extreme northern Mexico. Spend much of their time hopping and feeding on the ground.

Food and feeder preference: Eats mostly seeds, also insects in summer. Readily feed at backyard feeders on mixed seeds on hopper or tray feeders and ground.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting Dark-eyed Juncos.

Photo of a House Finch in a bird bath
House Finch in bird bath
Photo by Greg Gillson

15. House Finch

Haemorhous mexicanus
Originally a bird of the West, now found across most of the US. There are other red finches, but these are the ones most likely in residential areas.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. Size: About 6 inches from bill tip to tail tip. Larger than goldfinches and chickadees. Smaller than a White-crowned Sparrows or Spotted/Eastern towhees. Shape: Medium build with a medium-long notched tail. Round head. Bill: Short, conical. Color: Brown and gray above with streaks on the sides of the pale underparts. Males with red (sometimes orange or rarely yellow) crown, chest, rump.

Habitat, range & behavior: You'll find small flocks on wires, in short tree tops and in bushes. Originally deserts and grasslands. Rural areas and towns are where they're now most common. Formerly found in the western United States and Mexico. Then introduced into the northeastern United States, but now found in nearly all of the lower-48 states and extreme southern Canada. Rare in plains states (Dakotas to Texas) and southern Florida. House Finches are not territorial, but males sing throughout the year--a lively, wiry song ending in a couple of buzzy notes.

Food and feeder preference: They love sunflower seeds and tube feeders. May eat from thistle socks.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting House Finches.

Photo of Common Grackle on bird bath
Common Grackle
Image by GeorgiaLens from Pixabay

16. Common Grackle

Quiscalus quiscula
Sometimes considered a pest to crops, grackles are longer and lankier than very similar blackbirds.

Identification: Size: Larger than Red-winged Blackbirds, they are near the length of Mourning Doves. Shape: Long, with long full keel-shaped tail, long legs, flat crown. Bill: Longer than head, pointed, but stouter than other blackbirds. Color: Glossy black with hint of bronze or green on head (depending upon population). Yellow eye.

Habitat, range & behavior: They are found in agricultural areas, woodland edges, city parks and lawns. Resident in the southeastern United States. In summer they migrate northward and west to the central United States and Canada. They monopolize feeders and are bullies toward other birds.

Food and feeder preference: Grain, corn, acorns, small aquatic fish and amphibians. To discourage them, use tube feeders, rather than hopper or tray feeders. Don't over-feed, keep spilled seed picked up.

[Update coming soon!]

17. Hairy Woodpecker

18. House Wren

19. Gray Catbird

20. Red-eyed Vireo

21. Chipping Sparrow

22. Barn Swallow

23. Indigo Bunting

24. Cedar Waxwing

25. Brown-headed Cowbird

26. Eastern Wood-Pewee

27. Baltimore Oriole

28. Rose-breasted Grosbeak

29. Northern Flicker

Where to watch birds in Wisconsin:

Other common birds you might see from your backyard in Wisconsin

The following lists contain additional common birds you might see flying over your yard or in a nearby neighborhood. There are also several less common backyard birds in these lists that don't appear in the lists above.

Watch for these additional common Wisconsin birds in winter (December to February):
Canada Goose (21% frequency)

Watch for these additional common Wisconsin birds in summer (June to July):
Red-winged Blackbird (52% frequency)
Common Yellowthroat (38%)
Yellow Warbler (21%)

Watch for these additional common Wisconsin birds in spring (April to May):
Red-winged Blackbird (58% frequency)
Canada Goose (44%)
Mallard (41%)
Tree Swallow (30%)
Sandhill Crane (24%)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (22%)

Comparison of the most common backyard birds in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Photo of Downy Woodpecker on suet feeder
Downy Woodpecker is a common bird in Milwaukee. 
Photo by Greg Gillson.

The following list uses eBird data to compare the birds of Milwaukee with the birds of the state as a whole. Milwaukee is in Milwaukee County. I will use the data for Milwaukee County to represent the birds in the Milwaukee area.

Here are the most common backyard birds throughout the year in Milwaukee.
Black-capped Chickadee (62%)
Northern Cardinal (59%)
American Robin (55%)
American Goldfinch (52%)
Downy Woodpecker (49%)
American Crow (44%)
House Sparrow (38%)
White-breasted Nuthatch (37%)
Mourning Dove (37%)
Blue Jay (32%)
House Finch (29%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (28%)
Song Sparrow (28%)
Dark-eyed Junco (27%)
Common Grackle (25%)
European Starling (25%)
Brown-headed Cowbird (20%)
Gray Catbird (20%)

Northern Cardinals, American Robins, American Goldfinches, Downy Woodpeckers, House Sparrows are more common in Milwaukee than in the state as a whole. Other regular backyard birds occur at about the same frequency.

Beyond your backyard

To create this page on the backyard birds in Wisconsin I used some of the advanced features of eBird.

You can learn more about what birds are in your own backyard using some easy and helpful features of eBird. Rare birds. Common birds. Winter birds, spring birds, summer birds, and fall birds. In fact, you can determine the abundance of all birds likely in your area for every week of the year! You can also see photos of the birds from your own area.

eBird also has numerous photos and voice recordings of the birds. Thus, you can see pictures of all the variation in each species. And you can listen to recordings of bird songs and calls.

Not all birds can be found in backyards. You may find that you wish to see birds in other places. If so, you'll want to check this out.

First, I'm sending you to eBird ( Please don't forget me! Bookmark this page to come back.

Explore Regions for birds in your own county

From the eBird home page, select the tab for Explore ( The Explore page offers several options. Please use the Explore Regions form for now. Start entering your county name into the form. Select your county and state from the drop-down list.

Now your County page pops up.

There are 72 counties in Wisconsin. There are bird lists for each county. The county with the most birds recorded is Dane County with 353 species. The county with the least birds recorded is Menominee County with 184 species.

From this County page there are 3 selections that I want to share with you. They are Printable Checklist, Illustrated Checklist, and Hotspots.

1. Printable Checklist

The Printable Checklist is exactly what it sounds like. It is a basic bird checklist of all birds with eBird records in the county, state, or country you choose. It is a professional looking checklist, too. You can print it double-sided on card stock for a quite nice and durable bird checklist.

Bird checklists are useful to keep track of birds in your backyard as you identify them. Or, you may want to print a new list for each time you take a bird watching outing.

But this type of list doesn't help you figure out if a bird in your backyard is common or rare. For that, you need the next type of checklist.

2. Bar Charts

Bar charts combine the species list with abundance over time. The thickness of the line (bar) indicates how frequently a bird is seen. A thicker bar indicates a common bird. A thin line indicates a rare bird. No bars are shown when the birds are absent or not recorded.

In the case of the eBird bar charts, there is a space for every week of the year. There is room for 52 lines, or bars, in each chart. This way, you can tell, week by week, how common birds are in your state, even in each county.

One feature that I like on the county page is the Illustrated Checklist. It is a bar chart for the county. But it also includes photos of birds that have been taken in the county. That way, for unusual birds, I can see the plumage. Are most of the records for breeding males or perhaps dull-looking immatures? That will let me know exactly what I am looking for when I am out in the field. Of course, I always like to add photos to the Illustrated Checklist if any are missing. But that is easier to do with the following list.

3. Hotspots

Hotspots are public bird watching areas with their own species checklists and bar charts. Sometimes these are very famous birding sites with thousands of bird watchers visiting per year. Other hotspots are very rarely visited by birders. These will give you an idea of what other birds (not just backyard birds) may be found near you.

There are hundreds of hotspots for every state. Each county is likely to have numerous hotspots, too. There is a list of the top 100 hotspots in each state. To see all of them you can go to the map.

You may also like my eBird tutorial with illustrations.

Once you start viewing your backyard birds in Wisconsin, you may find that you want to look for more types of birds than just backyard birds. Then you're on your way to exploring the wildlife in a larger world. There are birds everywhere you go. Different ones in every location. In fact, 10,000 of them. That's enough for several lifetimes of joy just to see them once!

All this because you were curious as to what birds were in your backyard!

Read next: Get started watching birds! Bird watching tips and equipment.

You may enjoy these other articles:

My review of the Nikon Monarch 7 8x42: I recommend these as the best binoculars under $500

My review of the Celestron Nature DX ED 8x42: I recommend these as the best birding binoculars under $200

Would you like me to set up your bird feeding station for you? Here are my recommendations for you!

Learn about the 7 different kinds of bird feeders and the different birds they attract

Here's some help for you to identify birds: 7 Steps to accurately identify birds

Please also check out my recommended products page. There I maintain a list of the best feeders, bird foods, binoculars, bird baths, fountains, books and other bird watching items.


  1. I loved this! I'm currently working on a bird bingo sheet for people to use inside a nursing home, due to social distancing we've all gotten really into bird watching.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment, Irasema. Bird watching is certainly enjoyable. I love going out and exploring new areas to find what different birds may be there. But they can also come to you when you are home-bound. And don't forget coloring sheets and word finds for other indoor bird activities!

  2. Very informative resource. Thank you

  3. I really liked it. The photos are helpful but I didnt find all the birds that visit my feeder. I think I had a couple brown thrashers. But thank you for the article!

    1. Brown Thrashers? That's wonderful, Teri!

      You are right. I can't show every possible backyard bird. But I try for the most common, as they are more likely than rare birds. (But finding rare birds is fun, too!) Thank you for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it.

  4. I am fortunate to have my coffee outside in the early morning and hear and see dozens of birds. I was able to identify many by your photos. There are so many different sounds to listen to, some very distinctive. Do most birds sound the same or do they have very different "voices" within their own species as well? I'd love to believe there are 20 different birds around my backyard, but I have a feeling fewer species are talking with one another.

    1. Very interesting question. Some species have innate songs that they are born with and never change. Other species learn complex songs from their neighbors after hatching. Wrens, thrashers, mockingbirds may have dozens of songs one bird will sing. Some of these song variations are only given at dawn; once the sun comes up they may stick with the same song through the rest of the day!

      Males and females may have slightly different songs, if the female sings at all.

      Many birds also have a couple type of alarm or contact calls. Some birds that migrate at night have a different flight call.

      So a song or two (similar pitch and speed but sometimes change the order of notes and trills) and a call note or two for each species.

      I'm not sure I answered your question, though. It would be hard for there to be LESS than a dozen species in your yard in Wisconsin in spring. An experienced birder can probably detect 35 species or more by voice in or flying by your yard in an hour!

    2. I saw a Northern Flicker and a Cedar Waxwing. Beautiful.

    3. I don't know anybody who doesn't love Cedar Waxwings! But I am partial to woodpeckers, including the Northern Flicker. Thanks for sharing your sightings.

  5. Very helpful, thank you for doing this. During the pandemic, I put a decorative large bowl on the deck, filled with water. Amazing the number of birds,and squirrels, using it.

    1. Yes, we need more nature and wildlife in our lives. I'm glad you were able to attract such just by offering water. Easy, cheap, fun!

  6. Nice article. Very informative.


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