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Large Birds in Wisconsin: Majestic Feathered Giants Soaring Over Nature (2024)

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large birds in wisconsinYou’ll be amazed at the large birds in Wisconsin, commanding the skies and waterways with their majestic presence.

The American White Pelican, with its 9.5-foot wingspan, plunge-dives for fish from heights.

Listen for the trumpet-like calls of the Trumpeter Swan, or spot the distinctive Mute Swan, an invasive species.

Both the Great Blue Heron and Sandhill Crane are graceful stalkers of prey in various habitats.

Raptors like the Bald Eagle perform aerial acrobatics near water bodies.

Intrigued by these feathered giants? There’s much more to discover about their fascinating world and habits.

Key Takeaways

  • Wisconsin skies are a majestic canvas where large birds like the American White Pelican, with its impressive 9.5-foot wingspan, soar gracefully.
  • Listen for the symphony of the wild as you spot the graceful Great Blue Heron, a master stalker in our state’s waterways.
  • Cranes, with their elegant presence and distinctive calls, add a touch of magic to Wisconsin’s wetlands and skies.
  • Witness the aerial acrobatics of the Bald Eagle, a symbol of freedom and power, as it hunts near our state’s water bodies.

Large Waterfowl

Large Waterfowl
You’ll encounter some of Wisconsin’s most impressive waterfowl, including the American White Pelican with its massive 9.5-foot wingspan.

The Trumpeter Swan stretches over 6.5 feet across.

The invasive but equally sizable Mute Swan boasts a 7-foot wingspan and weighs up to 31 pounds.

These majestic birds make their presence known in various habitats, from remote islands and peninsulas to open wetlands, showcasing nature’s grandeur in the Badger State.

American White Pelican

The American white pelican, a true avian giant with its 9.5-foot wingspan, migrates to Wisconsin in spring to breed in remote colonies. You’ll witness these majestic birds gracefully soaring over wetlands, skillfully plunge-diving for fish from impressive heights. Their striking white plumage and massive pouched bills make them unmistakable icons of our state’s natural splendor.

Trumpeter Swan

Do you yearn to witness the majestic trumpeter swan? Their numbers, once dwindling, now thrive through conservation efforts. Marvel at these giants—weighing up to 27 pounds, with a wingspan exceeding 6.5 feet—as they gracefully forage in Wisconsin’s open wetlands. Their trumpet-like calls signal nature’s symphony.

Mute Swan

Unlike the majestic trumpeter swan, the mute swan is an invasive species that threatens native habitats. You’ll find these hefty birds foraging on aquatic vegetation in southeastern and northeastern Wisconsin. However, their presence raises concerns:

  • Aggressive behavior toward other waterfowl
  • Habitat degradation through overgrazing
  • Potential spread of diseases and parasites
  • Displacement of native species like ducks

Conservation efforts aim to manage their populations responsibly.


Speaking of majestic giants, you can’t miss the elegant cranes gracing Wisconsin’s skies and wetlands.

The iconic whooping crane, standing tall at 5 feet, migrates through in spring and fall. Witness their intricate courtship dances as they breed in protected areas like Necedah Refuge.

Sandhill cranes, with their distinctive rattling calls, are year-round residents, foraging in crop fields and marshes. Sadly, habitat loss threatens these remarkable birds, making conservation efforts essential to preserve their grace for future generations.


Another iconic large bird in Wisconsin is the Great Blue Heron.

These magnificent wading birds stand nearly 5 feet tall, with a 6.5-foot wingspan.

They thrive in both saltwater and freshwater habitats, feasting on fish, amphibians, and small mammals.

Herons are known for breeding in colonies called heronries, and their conservation status is closely monitored due to their sensitivity to environmental changes.

Observe these majestic herons as they gracefully stalk their prey along the state’s waterways, embodying the wild spirit of Wisconsin’s natural wonders.

Large Wading Birds

Large Wading Birds
You’ll encounter two remarkable wading bird species in Wisconsin – the statuesque Sandhill Crane, standing nearly 4 feet tall with a distinctive crimson crown, and the Wood Stork, identifiable by its distinct black head and neck contrasted against a white body.

Both species are primarily found in wetland areas, where they wade through shallow waters in search of fish, amphibians, and other aquatic prey.

Sandhill Crane

You’ve likely encountered the sandhill crane, a stately bird standing up to four feet tall, with distinctive crimson caps.

These wading birds undertake impressive migrations.

They breed across northern U.S. states and Canadian provinces before wintering in southern regions like Florida and Mexico.

While their populations faced declines historically, conservation efforts have aided in stabilizing numbers across their range.

Their distinctive rattling call echoes across wetlands as these resilient giants continue gracing our landscapes.

Wood Stork

If cranes pique your interest, you’ll also want to learn about the wood stork—a large, striking wading bird.

These majestic creatures migrate annually from Florida to Wisconsin’s wetlands. They forage for fish, frogs, and crustaceans in shallow waters.

With their distinct black-and-white plumage and bald, scaly heads, wood storks are an impressive sight.

Sadly, they’re listed as threatened due to habitat loss. Witness their graceful stalking while you can.

Savor the thrill of spotting these regal birds on your next nature adventure.


Raptors, or birds of prey, are a magnificent group of large birds that soar over Wisconsin’s skies. You can encounter the majestic Bald Eagle, with its distinctive white head and tail feathers, as well as the powerful Golden Eagle, known for its impressive size and hunting abilities.

Bald Eagle

Moving from wading birds, let’s discuss the majestic bald eagle, a symbol of power and freedom in Wisconsin. Observe these raptors as they perform aerial acrobatics while hunting for fish. Here’s what you need to know about bald eagles:

  1. Nesting: They build large nests atop tall trees near water bodies.
  2. Migration: They migrate primarily between northern US and Canada in winter to find open water.
  3. Diet: Fishes are their primary diet, caught with precision.
  4. Habitat: Found near lakes and rivers throughout Wisconsin.

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagles, one of Wisconsin’s majestic raptors, primarily reside in open or semi-open habitats. Their diet includes small to medium-sized mammals, birds, and carrion.

They’re powerful predators with sharp talons and fantastic eyesight.

These birds migrate to Wisconsin in winter, particularly near the Mississippi River.

Conservation efforts focus on preserving their habitat and minimizing human disturbances.

To spot these awe-inspiring birds, visit nature reserves and open landscapes during their migratory period, witnessing their commanding presence and mastery of the skies .

Other Notable Birds

Other Notable Birds
Turning your attention to other notable birds in Wisconsin, you’ll find the Wild Turkey, known for its impressive size and distinctive fan-shaped tail. Meanwhile, the Great Horned Owl and Snowy Owl are majestic predators that soar through Wisconsin’s forests and fields, contributing to the rich diversity of the state’s avian life .

Wild Turkey

Spotting the wild turkey in Wisconsin is a treat. You’ll find their nesting habits fascinating, as they lay eggs in hidden ground nests under bushes. Mating rituals include impressive displays by males. Conservation efforts guarantee these birds thrive, supporting hunting traditions while maintaining ecological balance .

Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl, a nocturnal predator, fiercely defends its territory year-round. It preys on a wide variety of animals, from small mammals to other birds. Adapted to winter, this owl uses its dense plumage for insulation. Conservation efforts are essential for maintaining its population, ensuring this majestic bird continues to thrive in Wisconsin’s landscapes .

Snowy Owl

While the Great Horned Owl’s hoots may echo through forests, the Snowy Owl stands apart with its diurnal behavior, often hunting during daylight. This powerful bird prefers the tundra habitat and boasts nocturnal hunting skills. Its prey preferences include lemmings and other small mammals, providing a majestic and dynamic presence in Wisconsin’s wintry landscapes (Source).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the largest bird in Wisconsin?

The bird in Wisconsin is the Trumpeter Swan, which can reach a length of up to 62 inches, a weight of up to 27 pounds, and a wingspan of over 5 feet .

Where do large birds migrate in Wisconsin?

Large birds such as the American White Pelican migrate south to Mexico and Texas in September, while Trumpeter Swans and Mute Swans remain in Wisconsin, concentrating in areas like the North, Central Sand Counties, and Southeastern regions.

When is the best time to see large birds?

The best time to see large birds in Wisconsin is early spring through late summer. This period coincides with the birds’ migration and breeding seasons, offering prime opportunities to observe species like pelicans, swans, cranes, and herons (Source).

What large birds can be seen during winter?

In winter, you can spot Trumpeter Swans with wingspans over 5 feet, primarily in Wisconsin’s northwest and central sand counties. Their impressive size and snowy habitats create a majestic winter spectacle .

How to identify large birds by their calls?

To identify large birds by their calls, use apps like Merlin Bird ID or BirdNET. They recognize bird songs and calls, making it easy to identify species such as cranes, herons, and pelicans by their distinctive sounds (Source).


Through the lens of Wisconsin’s rich landscapes, large birds symbolize the seamless blend of strength and grace.

You’ve glimpsed how the American White Pelican’s dive, the trumpet of Trumpeter Swans, and the stealth of Sandhill Cranes define their existence.

Raptors and waders, each majestic in their flights and calls, contribute to a dynamic ecosystem.

Discovering these large birds in Wisconsin enriches your understanding of nature’s intricate balance and beauty. Explore and preserve their habitats for future marvels.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh is a passionate bird enthusiast and author with a deep love for avian creatures. With years of experience studying and observing birds in their natural habitats, Mutasim has developed a profound understanding of their behavior, habitats, and conservation. Through his writings, Mutasim aims to inspire others to appreciate and protect the beautiful world of birds.