The birdwatching is outstanding in the Wisconsin Rapids area, which includes 10 state and federal wildlife viewing areas. It’s a wealth of high-quality wildlife viewing habitat you’ll find nowhere else in Wisconsin. The combination of open water, wetlands and forests allows for a huge diversity of bird species. Bring your binoculars to Wisconsin Rapids and enjoy hours of serenity among the area’s many winged inhabitants.
Necedah National Wildlife Refuge
The Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, covering more than 43,500 acres of wetlands, forest, restored oak savanna and prairie, is a prime place for birdwatching. Located just 22 miles south of Babcock and the Sandhill Wildlife Area on Highway 21, the refuge is home to more than 220 species of birds. Birders may spot herons, red-headed woodpeckers, common loons, tundra swans, trumpeter swans, turkey vultures, ruffed grouse, wild turkeys and golden eagles.
The reintroduction of migratory whooping cranes, however, has stolen the birding show at Necedah. Wildlife biologists, working with ultralight aircraft pilots, conducted flight training with a small flock of whooping cranes at Necedah. In the fall of 2001, the birds made their first migration, guided by ultralight aircraft, to their wintering ground in Florida. Since then, a number of whooping cranes have been reintroduced successfully and migrate along a well-defined corridor between central Wisconsin (including Necedah National Wildlife Refuge) and Florida.
Wisconsin’s Meadow Valley State Wildlife Area totals more than 60,000 acres and is adjacent to the refuge. Additional birding opportunities are available on these public grounds.
Located approximately 25 miles north of Wisconsin Rapids on County Highway S, Mead Wildlife Area totals some 28,500 acres. With more than 70 miles of dikes and trails to hike, birding enthusiasts will have plenty of habitat to explore. A popular spot for sandhill cranes, visitors may also find trumpeter swans, Henslow’s sparrows, greater prairie chickens and ospreys. Download a Mead Wildlife Area Map prior to your visit.
The Buena Vista Grassland and interconnecting Leola Marsh, located in Portage and Adams counties, consist of the best and most extensive prairie chicken habitat left in Wisconsin. Just 10 miles east of Wisconsin Rapids on Highway W, the area totals more than 11,000 acres. Every April volunteers from across the state and the country come to the Buena Vista Area to aid in the spring prairie chicken census. Check the Calendar of Events for more information and to make your viewing reservation!
Climb one of three observation towers located throughout the area to catch an aerial view of the wildlife and habitat in its undisturbed form. You’ll see a small herd of American bison as well as white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, Canada geese, ducks, loons, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, shorebirds, songbirds, hawks, owls and furbearers. The wildlife area is a remote, quiet wildlife oasis amidst a bustling world dominated by people. Check our Calendar of Events for Sandhill Wildlife Area’s annual “Mornings on the Marsh” event in October. Visitors will have the chance to see more than 5,000 sandhill cranes at Gallagher Marsh.
Located in southwestern Wood County, approximately 20 miles from Wisconsin Rapids, the Wood County Wildlife Area is comprised of 18,500 acres and includes acres of aspen, lowland brush and sedges. The area is a prime viewing spot for Sharp-tailed Grouse. Other species include Bobolink, Northern Harrier, Least Flycatcher, Nashville Warbler and Yellow Warbler.