“The Mead is probably the best all around wildlife watching acreage in central Wisconsin.” ~ Birding in Central Wisconsin

Birds of the George W. Mead Wildlife Area

Birds, birds, birds! If it’s birds you're looking for, then come birding to the George W. Mead State Wildlife Area! This 33,000+ acre state wildlife area is truly one of the best birding locations in central Wisconsin. With a wide variety of different habitats, many bird species can be found throughout the year.

With the proper knowledge of where a species might be found, and at which time of the year, you'll have a very good chance of seeing the species you’re seeking.

Spring brings migrants passing through this area to their northern Wisconsin and Canadian nesting grounds. Many species nest in the Mead area in summer. These species include neotropical birds, various waterfowl, herons and bitterns, and many, many more. Autumn brings the northern migrants back southward and the winter months may bring a nice variety of northern finches & owls, Snow Buntings, and other species, which mingle with the year-round residents of the Mead property.

This checklist currently has a total of 251 species that can be found on the property at some point during the year. It also lists 22 species that have occurred accidentally on the Mead property. This means that a total of 273 species have been recorded for the Mead SWA, one of the largest bird lists for any State Wildlife Area in Wisconsin.

The accidentals (listed as Exceptional Records) have occurred very rarely on the property, so if you should happen to see one of them, please report your sighting to the Mead Staff.

Currently, there are 131 bird species which are known to breed on the Mead property, with an additional 16 that are suspected breeders. An asterisk (*) indicates a species is a confirmed breeder and a (?) indicates it is a suspected breeder.

Every few years someone manages to find a new bird species on the property, so keep on the lookout, as you might find the next “new one” for the Mead property. In fact, two species that are thought to occur during spring and fall migrations at the Mead, but have not yet been recorded on the property are the Yellow Rail and Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow.

No matter what your interest and ability level, “birdwatching” at the Mead SWA promises many exciting moments for you and your friends. Get out and enjoy!

Exceptional Records

The following 22 species are considered to be very rare on the Mead property. Most of these species have been seen on the property only once or twice since bird records have been kept here:

  • Anhinga
  • Black-necked Stilt
  • Black Scoter
  • Boreal Owl
  • Cattle Egret
  • Eared Grebe
  • Gray Jay
  • Great Gray Owl
  • King Rail
  • Lark Bunting
  • Lazuli Bunting
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull
  • Little Blue Heron
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Long-tailed Duck
  • Northern Hawk Owl
  • Red Knot
  • Swainson’s Hawk
  • Varied Thrush
  • Whimbrel
  • White Ibis
  • White-winged Scoter

Since the publication of our Bird Brochure in 2005, some new species have been discovered here on the Mead.

  • Buff-breasted Sandpiper
  • Eared Grebe
  • Northern Hawk-Owl
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Snowy Egret
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Varied Thrush
  • White-winged Scoter

If you see one of these species, or any other species not found on this checklist, please report it/them to the Mead Staff as soon as possible.

To see other birder’s observations around the world or right here at the Mead, please check out the   eBird website to discover more.

Download the Mead Wildlife Birding Brochure which was updated in 2017 with the help of Dan Belter or

checkout Mead’s Bird Checklist page.