Strap on your hiking boots and grab a pair of binoculars because birding season is officially here! Get outside and stretch your legs while exploring some of the most beautiful wilderness in Wisconsin and spotting a wide variety of birds. Here are some of our favorite birding spots around Sparta, Wisconsin.
Under forty-five minutes east of Sparta is Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most beautiful habitats in the Midwest. It is home to over 110 species of migratory birds, including many endangered ones. Find Whooping Cranes, Red-Headed Woodpeckers, Bobolinks, and Golden-Winged Warblers flying between the pine and oak trees, over the savanna, and through the prairie. If traveling in May or August, you just might get a chance to see the rare Karner blue butterfly, another beautiful federally endangered species that Necedah is committed to protecting.
Just half an hour southeast of Sparta lies Wildcat Mountain, a great spot for canoeing, hiking, and bird watching. Take a hike up to the panoramic vista on top of Wildcat Mountain and see if you can spot any Golden Eagles. About 25% of Wisconsin’s Golden Eagles call Wildcat Mountain home during the winter and spring is the best time to catch them in action. Also, keep an eye out for color. Elusive Cerulean Warblers frequent the area along with the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Kentucky Warbler, and Eastern Meadowlark.
Halfway between Sparta and La Crosse lies a protected forest with some of the largest oak trees in the region. This little known gem is a favorite amongst locals looking for warblers, tanagers, grosbeaks, and several other woodland species. Most species in these woods are year-round residents so you can see them during any season, but spring is especially beautiful as the oaks start to bud.
Most people don’t ride the Elroy-Sparta Rail to Trail to bird watch, but spotting a few species is a pleasant treat. Head out on a bike ride and pull over frequently to listen for songbirds and keep an eye out for species flying around overhead. The main species include the Meadowlark, Bobolink, and Eastern Bluebird, but you can also catch a glimpse of the Carolina Wren and Lark Sparrow while riding through.
North of Lacrosse lies an ecologically important floodplain that provides crucial habitat for over 100 species of birds. You can bird here any season of the year, but springtime is your best bet to catch the migration of thousands of birds coming north for summer. You can hike along the winding trail network or grab a canoe to check out some of the more secluded areas of the floodplain.
Connecting Sparta and Onalaska, The La Crosse River Trail is a scenic 21-mile trail that crosses through wetlands, prairies, forests, and over a number of bridges. If you want to spot a wide variety of bird species then grab a bike and embark on a gentle ride. Pull over frequently to watch and listen for songbirds in the trees or gaze out over the rivers and marshes to spot some of the migratory birds coming to Sparta for the summer.
North of Sparta near Black River Falls lies a forest filled with coniferous and deciduous trees that is a great birding spot year-round. The thick forest groves paired with the numerous small ponds create an ideal habitat for migratory waterfowl and shorebirds while the open meadows host a wide variety of migrating meadow birds. You’ll also have the chance to view reintroduced elk and other wildlife while you’re here.
Head to one of these great birding spots just outside of Sparta and see which species you can check off your list. With a large number of year-round residents and the migratory species flocking to Sparta this spring, you’ll have the chance to spot some of the world’s rarest and most elusive birds right in our backyard!
Ready to bird watch through Wisconsin’s Driftless Region? Book a room at the Franklin Victorian Bed & Breakfast for a warm and inviting stay in one of Sparta’s most beautiful and historic inns.