Where are the best birding spots in the parks?
Be sure to read about the parks you plan to visit. The park descriptions below give you information about a park's size, features, and birding areas. A sampling of bird species is listed to prepare you for what you might see.
Anderson Lake (D:19)
Approximately 10 acres, Anderson Lake is a former gravel pit that is now a backwater of the Root River. As a slow and quiet birder, you may observe American Goldfinch, Tree Swallow, House Wren, Baltimore Oriole, American Woodcock, Field Sparrow, and Indigo Bunting during the summer. This weedy backwater is also a great place to watch dragonflies.
4503 E. Ryan Road
Approximately 308 acres, Bender Park offers a paved boat launch and pavilion in addition to birding areas of planted prairie, old apple orchards, lake, beach, high-quality beech-maple forest, and eroding bluff slope. Bender Park, a lakefront park, is a magnet for migrating birds such as Bald Eagle, Palm Warbler, White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows, Bonaparte's Gull, and a variety of ducks. Resident birds include Belted Kingfisher, Bank Swallow, Cooper's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, and American Robin. Bender Park is also within the hunting territory of a pair of Peregrine Falcons. The beech-maple lakefront forest has a great wildflower display in spring, and also harbors two state-listed plant species and several that are uncommon in southeast Wisconsin.
Big Bay (I–J:6)
5000 N. Lake Drive
Approximately seven acres, Big Bay Park offers views of Lake Michigan at a point between the northern and central areas of the county. A lakefront park that may hold good numbers of migrating birds, Big Bay Park may also hold Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Scaup, and Long-tailed Ducks in winter.
Bradford Beach (J:9)
2400 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive
Approximately 19 acres, Bradford Beach shares boundaries with McKinley Marina at the south and Lake Park to the west and north. A popular wading beach in summer, Bradford Beach can offer great views of migrating shorebirds and waterfowl. Some notable species observed here include Yellow Rail, King Eider, Harlequin Duck, LeConte's Sparrow, Semipalmated Plover, Sanderling, Baird's Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Thayer's Gull, Sabine's Gull, and Glaucous Gull.
Brown Deer (F:3)
7835 N. Green Bay Road
Approximately 367 acres, Brown Deer Park hosts the Greater Milwaukee Open, a stop on the Professional Golf Association tour. A lagoon and three wooded natural areas with over 100 identified native plant species are also features in the park. Birds you might view in this diverse habitat include ducks, Green Heron, Baltimore Oriole, Pee Wee, Eastern Kingbird, Warbling Vireo, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, and Northern Cardinal.
Cambridge Woods (I:8)
Cambridge & Providence
Approximately 10 acres along the banks of the Milwaukee River, Cambridge Woods is adjacent to the Oak Leaf Bike Trail and offers a good quality natural area with great spring native wildflower displays. Part of a river corridor, this site is a magnet for migrating songbirds in spring and autumn. Occasionally you may also hear the splashing of a salmon in the Milwaukee River.
Cathedral Square (I:11)
520 E. Wells St.
Approximately two acres, Cathedral Square is one of the downtown birding sites. Despite the park's metropolitan surroundings, it has harbored some interesting migrant birds such as Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Northern Parula, White-throated Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Red-headed Woodpecker, Winter Wren, and Ovenbird.
Cudahy Nature Preserve (I:19)
501 E. College Ave.
Approximately 42 acres and at the south end of Mitchell International Airport, the Cudahy Nature Preserve is a classic old-growth sugar maple-beech forest and a high-quality natural area, harboring at least four state-listed plant species. The wildflower display here during the spring migration has a great variety of native ephemerals. In the woods you may find Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, Red-eyed Vireo, White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, and Black-capped Chickadee, while in the grassy area to the east you may find Eastern Meadowlark, Bobolink, Dickcissel, and Savanna Sparrow.
1870 E. Fox Lane
Approximately 49 acres, Doctor's Park is in far northeastern Milwaukee County along Lake Michigan. Doctor's Park offers a beach and good quality wooded natural areas. Doctor's Woods is a classic beech-maple woods with a great spring native wildflower display. Walk slowly and quietly, and you may observe resident Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Robin, Northern Cardinal, and Common Crow, and during migration, warblers, thrushes, and other neotropical migrants. As a diligent watcher of the water, you may be rewarded with Long-tailed, Harlequin, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Merganser, or Eider Ducks from late fall to spring.
4400 N. Estabrook Drive
Approximately 115 acres, Estabrook Park is on the east side of the Milwaukee River and harbors several state-listed plant species. During migration, hike slowly and quietly, and you may observe several warbler species, including Palm, Black-and-White, Prothonotary, and Black-throated Blue. Be sure to visit the small pond by the service building for additional species. The Milwaukee River, just below the service building's pond, is attractive to Flyfishers seeking salmon. During "low water" on this part of the river, you may see the Spotted Sandpiper or Belted Kingfisher.
2013 W. Rawson Ave.
Approximately 217 acres, Falk Park offers a high-quality beech-maple forest that harbors one state-listed plant and several that are uncommon in the county. Also present in Falk Park are 100-plus acres of former farm fields that have been planted to grassland. Some of the resident birds you may find here include Savanna Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, American Goldfinch, Indigo Bunting, Downy Woodpecker, Wood Duck, Red-winged Blackbird, and Red-tailed Hawk. Falk Park is also a reliable location for viewing migrant songbirds.
8801 S. 51st St.
Approximately 17 acres and adjacent to the Oak Leaf Bike Trail, Froemming Park has primarily grassland birding opportunities. Resident birds here may include Song Sparrow, Savanna Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Eastern Kingbird, American Goldfinch, and Red-tailed Hawk.
100 E. Hawthorne Ave.
Approximately 381 acres along Lake Michigan, Grant Park features a golf course surrounded by mature woods, a Victorian home-turned golf clubhouse, and the Seven Bridges hiking trail. Also offered are picnic sites, a beach, small ponds, and natural areas. The natural areas offer tremendous spring shows and harbor a good number of rare and uncommon plants. Because of the location along the lake, Grant Park is an ideal place to get great views of the "fall-outs" of mixed warbler and thrush flocks during migration in the spring and fall. Resident birds include Red-eyed Vireo, Catbird, and Belted Kingfisher. At the beach you may be lucky enough to see one of the rare gull species that occasionally visit the area – and possibly a Common Loon or Red-throated Loon during migration.
North end of Grant Park
Along the entrance drive is a small shrub-lined pond that has been a magnet for migrants including Cedar Waxwing, White-throated Sparrow, Connecticut Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and White-crowned Sparrow. Resident birds may include Black-capped Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Phoebe, Wood Duck, Cooper's Hawk, and Green Heron. During a recent spring migration, a Little-blue Heron visited for a few days.
2828 N. Humboldt Blvd.
Approximately 15 acres and just across the Milwaukee River from Riverside Park, Gordon Park offers a high riverbank bluff which looks over the river and the opposite shore. The tall trees and shrubby undergrowth on the bluff slope are attractive to resident songbirds as well as neotropical migrants.
Granville Dog Park (A:3)
11718 W. Good Hope Road
Approximately 24 acres along the Menomonee River, Granville Dog Park is the only off-leash dog park in the Milwaukee County park system. The lowland woods and adjacent old agricultural fields are magnets for migrant songbirds and resident "edge" species such as Indigo Bunting, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, Song Sparrow, and Field Sparrow.
2028 S. 124th St.
Approximately 295 acres, Greenfield Park boasts the Cool Waters family aquatic park – a beach-entry heated pool with giant waterslides and interactive water toys – a golf course with majestic tree-lined fairways, a high-quality wooded natural area adjacent to three small ponds, and a large lagoon. The pond near the east entrance often harbors Canada Goose, Mallard Duck, Wood Duck, and Catbird. The ponds along the Oak Leaf Bike Trail are shrub-lined and are frequented by Catbird, Goldfinch, Northern Cardinal, and Mallard Duck as well as dragonflies.
3751 W. College Ave.
Approximately 154 acres of planted prairie, Grobschmidt Park is also composed of oak-hickory woodland, sedge meadow, and a six-acre pond with beaver. Grobschmidt Park is an area formerly used by Native Americans and is virtually undeveloped except for the park sign and walking trail. Birds you might encounter here include Red-winged Blackbird, Woodcock, Northern Flicker, Osprey, Brown Thrasher, Catbird, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Kingbird, Green Heron, Tree Swallow, and Sora rail. The park also provides great opportunities for viewing dragonflies and butterflies.
9800 W. Underwood Creek Parkway
Approximately 54 acres, Hansen Park offers the Menomonee River and Underwood Creek cutting through its par-3, 18-hole golf course. Hansen's adjacent parkland, the Underwood Creek, Menomonee River, and uplands of oak woods provide a natural travel corridor for migratory birds. Good numbers of Yellow-rumped Warbler and American Redstarts, among others, have been seen in recent years. Summer residents include American Kestrel, Indigo Bunting, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Eastern Bluebird, Red-tailed Hawk, and the uncommon Orchard Oriole.
5151 S. 6th St.
Approximately 16 acres, Holler Park is just west of Mitchell International Airport. The park offers a lagoon for fishing and watching some interesting dragonflies. A small but good-quality oak woodland with nature trails provides a very nice display of native spring wildflowers. Some of the resident birds include Red-eyed Vireo, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Robin, Downy Woodpecker, and Blue Jay. The park attracts spring and autumn migrants as well.
3000 S. Howell Ave.
Approximately 70 acres, Humboldt Park offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities. Fishing, picnicking, and attending summer concerts at the bandshell are popular activities here. A lagoon and small lotus pond are additional park features. Summer resident birds you might see in the park include American Goldfinch, Cedar Waxwing, and American Robin. This is also a good park for viewing dragonflies.
3500 W. Forest Home Ave.
Approximately 117 acres, Jackson Park is along the Kinnickinnic River Parkway and offers several ball fields, picnic sites, a lagoon, and a good-quality oak woodland with a very good display of native spring wildflowers. In recent years, Great Horned Owls have been heard calling at night. Other resident birds are American Robin, Common Crow, Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, Red-eyed Vireo, and House Finch. It's a good bet that you'll find warblers along the Kinnickinnic River during migration.
6501 W. Hillside Lane
Approximately 31 acres, Jacobus Park offers picnic sites, hiking trails, and natural areas. Located along the Menomonee River, the park has floodplain habitat as well as pre-settlement oak woodland on the ancient river bluffs. The native spring wildflower display is exceptional with a few rare plant species still present in this nature preserve. Walk slowly and quietly, and you may observe Red-eyed Vireo, Screech Owl, Blue Jay, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Cardinal, Catbird, Brown Thrasher, and American Robin. Spring and autumn migrations provide great birding from the narrow trails.
Veterans Lagoon, 1010 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive
Approximately 14 acres, Juneau Park is just off the Lake Michigan shore and along North Lincoln Memorial Drive. The lagoon is attractive to a variety of waterfowl on rough-water days as well as the occasional surprise bird in the non-breeding resident gull flock.
6560 N. Milwaukee River Parkway
Approximately 118 acres along the Milwaukee River, Kletzsch Park is an early Native American dwelling site. Although little, if any, evidence remains of the former inhabitants, you will understand why the high ground next to the river was an attractive location for these early residents. Adjacent to the river, Kletzsch Park is a magnet for waterfowl and for warblers during the spring migration. During the autumn migration, the warblers make their way south. Osprey have been seen in the park as well. In recent years large numbers of Broad-winged Hawks have roosted overnight in Kletzsch Woods, before continuing their migration to Central and South America. The woods is a fairly high-quality natural area and boasts a spectacular spring show of wildflowers as well as flowering shrubs and trees.
3233 E. Kenwood Blvd.
Approximately 140 acres, Lake Park is one of several parks in the Milwaukee County park system that was designed by renowned landscape architect, and Central Park designer, Fredrick Law Olmstead. The steep slopes of the lakeside bluff and ravines are magnets for migrating birds, and you can easily view them from the flat ground at the bluff top. Summer residents include Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-eyed Vireo, American Robin, Blue Jay, and Northern Cardinal. Another part of Lake Park to visit is the Cladophora algae area along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The habitat created by these algae mats is a magnet for numerous waterfowl and shorebird species. Thousands of waterfowl have been observed feeding off shore including Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Scaup, Canvasback, American Widgeon, Gadwall, and others. During shorebird migration, several species have been observed along the water's edge, including Purple Sandpiper, Killdeer, American Avocet, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, American Pipit, Baird's Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, and others. For more information on birding in Lake Park, visit the Lake Park Friends website.
5400 N. 51st Blvd.
Approximately 70 acres, McGovern Park offers several ball fields, picnic areas, a lagoon with urban fishing opportunities, and a good-quality oak-maple woodland with a very good spring native wildflower display. Resident birds you may find here are Cedar Waxwing, Red-eyed Vireo, American Robin, Eastern Kingbird, Baltimore Oriole, and Giant Canada Goose. Other animals you may view are muskrat, tree frog, damselfly, and dragonfly.
McKinley Marina/Beach (I–J:10)
1750 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive
Approximately 118 acres, the McKinley area offers Milwaukee County's only public lakefront marina, boat ramps, beach, access to the Oak Leaf Bike Trail, fishing along the breakwater, and great shorebird, gull, and waterfowl birding opportunities. The Marina offers great views of winter waterfowl such as Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Scaup, Eared Grebe, and Horned Grebe. Occasionally you may see Scoter, Barrow's Goldeneye, Mew Gull, Thayer's Gull, Kumlien's Gull, and Glaucous Gull, as well as Snowy Owl.
524 S. Layton Blvd.
Approximately 61 acres and adorned with spectacular outdoor flowerbeds, Mitchell Park is home to the world-famous horticultural conservatory, "The Domes." Built in the 1960s, three glass domes reach over 85 feet and allow you to see a desert, a rainforest, and a floral show – all in the same day! In Mitchell Park there are a variety of sports fields as well as picnic sites. Amid the rolling hills just east of the domes is a lagoon that attracts feathered summer residents, including Green Heron, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Mallard Duck, and, although not feathered, dragonflies.
Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory (The Domes)
No matter what the weather outside, the Arid, Tropical, and Floral Show domes are always in season and ready to present you with a sensory panorama. A world-class collection of cacti and succulents thrive in the natural desert setting of the Arid Dome, while rare and exotic flowers bloom in our microcosm of the rainforest in the Tropical Dome. Throughout the year, the Floral Show Dome offers five different themed exhibits, featuring seasonal plants by the thousands. In addition to plant material, within these domes are numerous live birds not found in the wild within Milwaukee County. In the Tropical Dome, you may see the Orange Bishop Weaver, Pekin Robin, Java Rice Finch, and Black-headed Munia, while in the Arid Dome, you may see Bourle's Parakeet and Zebra Finches. And there's more than plants and birds here – keep your eyes open for lizards as well! The Domes are a real treat in winter, during those bitter-cold days, or in late-winter when cabin fever strikes. There is a small admission fee.
North Point (J:10)
2272 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive
At the boundary between Lake Park to the north and Bradford Beach to the south, the North Point snack bar offers a place for birders to rest and refuel in the summer. The North Point area is a good bet for observing the rare and uncommon visitors to the lakefront. Some of the birds you might observe here are Icelandic Gull, Glaucous Gull, King Eider, Scoter, Harlequin Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Barrow's Goldeneye, American Avocet, Purple Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, and American Pipit.
8235 W. Good Hope Road
Approximately 80 acres, Noyes Park offers a 9-hole, par-3 golf course, an indoor swimming pool, and a high-quality beech-maple woods with lagoons and a diverse plant community. In spring you may observe Nashville Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Green Heron, Canada Goose, Mallard Duck, Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, Hooded Warbler, American Goldfinch, House Finch, Black-capped Chickadee, Cooper's Hawk, and Great Horned Owl.
Pere Marquette (H:11)
900 N. Plankinton Ave.
Only 1.9 acres and in the heart of downtown, Pere Marquette Park is bordered on the east by the Milwaukee River. The park can hold some very interesting bird life during spring and fall migrations. Birders have observed a variety of feathered friends here, including many warbler species as well as Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Summer Tanager, Dark-eyed Junco, White-crowned Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Swainson's Thrush, and Kinglets.
Red Arrow (H:11)
920 N. Water St.
Only 1.3 acres in downtown Milwaukee, this park was named in honor of the US Army's 32nd "Red Arrow" Infantry Division, commemorating the many Wisconsinites who served in this unit. Red Arrow Park offers "Slice of Ice," an outdoor refrigerated skating rink, open from December through February, and a warming house with snack bar. During the warmer months, Red Arrow Park is a great place to take a lunchtime stroll. You can find common urban birds such as House Sparrow, Rock Dove (pigeon), and perhaps a hunting Peregrine Falcon, but during migration, you might be treated to some of the neotropical migrants.
1500 E. Riverside Place
Approximately 21 acres, Riverside Park is home to the Urban Ecology Center. The center offers nature-based programs for adults and children. Along the Milwaukee River and the Oak Leaf Bike Trail, the park has open grown oak trees and an open understory which make it attractive to the Red-headed Woodpeckers occasionally seen there. Warblers are not the only creatures that migrate through this park – if you hear a loud splash, it might be a migrating salmon in the Milwaukee River at the west end of the park.
Root River Parkway (A:14–J:24)
Conservation Reserve (D:21)
The field on the north side of Drexel Avenue is enrolled in the Federal Conservation Reserve Program. To reduce soil erosion and sedimentation and to improve water quality on environmentally sensitive lands, the program funds the establishment of conservation cover crops. Now planted to grassy cover, the field has held Savanna Sparrow, Bobolink, Song Sparrow, and Red-winged Blackbird. Along the bike trail to the south you will encounter many types of habitats and may observe Cedar Waxwing, Indigo Bunting, Red-tailed Hawk, Gray Catbird, Northern Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Wood Thrush, and Red-eyed Vireo.
Scout Lake (D–E:18)
5902 W. Loomis Road
Approximately 72 acres, Scout Lake is an urban fishery offering the spectacle of spawning bluegill along the shore in spring. Scout Lake has a wheelchair-accessible path and fishing pier. The path circles closely to the lake, so walk slowly and quietly, and you may be rewarded with great views of Mallard Duck, Northern Cardinal, Great Blue Heron, Wood Thrush, Catbird, Northern Flicker, Great-crested Flycatcher, and, occasionally, Common Loon during migration. This is also a good place to watch for dragonflies and damselflies.
4800 S. Lake Drive
Approximately 84 acres and named in honor of Civil War General Philip Sheridan, this park acknowledges local history with a sculpture of Cudahy's founder, Patrick Cudahy. Sheridan Park offers a variety of sports fields as well as picnic sites. This lakefront park presents an excellent vantage point from the mowed bluff edge. From here, you overlook the bluff slope down to Lake Michigan – you'll have the best seat in the house for watching lake and shore birds. Migratory birds frequently travel and rest along the brushy bluff slope. Resident birds include Tree Swallow, Cedar Waxwing, Goldfinch, and Mallard Duck. At the northern boundary of the park, where the road turns east-west, is a little meadow of wildflowers, sedges, and shrubs that provides great opportunities for butterfly watching.
South Shore (J:14)
2900 S. Shore Drive
Approximately 40 acres along the lakefront, South Shore Park offers public boat-launch ramps, a beach, and picnic sites. The boating area at the north end of the park is noted for holding uncommon lakefront birds such as Hooded Merganser, Thayer's Gull, Glaucous Gull, California Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, American Avocet, Horned Grebe, Snowy Owl in winter, as well as the more common Rock Dove and Cooper's Hawk.
5400 S. Lake Drive
Approximately 291 acres, Warnimont Park offers a par-3, 18-hole golf course with panoramic views of Lake Michigan. The steep eroding bluffs of Warnimont Park provide necessary habitat for burrowing birds such as the Belted Kingfisher and Bank Swallow. The wooded areas and brushy slope are used as a travel corridor by numerous birds during migrations. Some of the larger grassy areas in Warnimont Park may hold Eastern Meadowlark, Bobolink, and grassland sparrows.
1859 N. 40th St.
Approximately 134 acres, Washington Park offers a variety of recreational opportunities. Fishing, picnicking, and attending summer concerts at the bandshell are popular activities here. Scenic features of the park include a large lagoon with islands, and a small lily pad pond to the east of the lagoon. Despite the park's central location, you may observe Mallard Duck, Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Black Duck, Cedar Waxwing, Green Heron, Red-winged Blackbird, Red-eyed Vireo, and Common Grackle.
5879 S. 92nd St.
Approximately 640 acres, Whitnall Park is not only large, but also diverse in habitat. Whitnall Park is home to the 18-hole Whitnall Golf Course, the Wehr Nature Center with some of the oldest prairie restorations in the country, and the Boerner Botanical Gardens with its famous rose collection. The upland wooded areas of Whitnall Park are dominated by large 150-year-old oak trees that provide habitat for Blue Jay, White- and Red-breasted Nuthatches, Wood Thrush, Cooper's Hawk, Black-capped Chickadee, and Screech Owl. A recent autumn migration brought over 1000 Broad-winged Hawks to the park in a single day. Winter has provided the occasional Bald Eagle.
Zeidler Union Square (H:11)
301 W. Michigan St.
Approximately one acre, Zeidler Union Square has had some very interesting birds such as Great Horned Owl, Snowy Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, American Kestrel, American Goldfinch, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and various warblers, vireos, thrushes, flycatchers, cuckoos, and White-throated Sparrows during migration.