Scarlet Tanager male

This article was prepared by Wisconsin DNR and augmented by Bird City Wisconsin.

Fall bird migration is a great time for bird lovers in Wisconsin. Tens of millions of birds representing hundreds of species have already passed through or over Wisconsin. Half of Wisconsin’s 243 documented nesting species migrate and fly mostly to Central and South America. Here are five ways to enjoy these “snowbirds” and help speed them on their way.

1. See how many and what kind of birds to expect daily. Now, thanks to radar and the innovative thinkers on the BirdCast team, you can “see” how many birds are expected to fly overhead at night, what species are expected, and how that all compares to past years. Check out the Wisconsin dashboard for a bird’s-eye view of the phenomenon that is bird migration.

2. Tune in Oct. 12 to the Larry Meiller Radio Show to ask your migration questions. Learn more about which of your backyard favorites migrate, why, and what we can all do to help them survive their flights when the DNR’s Bird Conservation Leader Craig Thompson joins the program on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at 11:45 am.

Plus, Bird City Wisconsin Director Chuck Hagner was on Wisconsin Public Radio on Sep. 29 talking about this fall's incredible bird migration on the program "Central Time." You can listen to Chuck's interview with host Rob Ferrett.

3. See where “our birds” go and what DNR and the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin do to protect those places. Migration is the most dangerous time in a bird’s life, and 60-70% of annual bird mortality is estimated to occur during migration. The DNR and the Natural Resources Foundation support conservationists in Latin America who are identifying and preserving critical habitat for Wisconsin birds. See five previously unknown but critically important stopover sites identified by biologists with the Neotropical Flyways Project.

4. Help birds survive migration by planting native plants, which support far more insect prey than non-native plants. Find a list of native plants benefitting birds and other information on the DNR’s Plant Native Plants for Nature webpage.

5. Keep cats indoors. Excluding habitat loss and degradation, outdoor cats are by far the biggest human-caused source of bird mortality, killing an estimated 2.4 billion birds per year in the United States alone.

6. Reduce window collisions. It's easy to do by by making glass visible to birds with markers or films, putting a barrier between windows and birds, and switching off lights at night. Here are products that have been proved highly effective at preventing collisions and are readily available for purchase:

Acopian BirdSavers (Zen Wind Curtains)
Order online or make your own. Acopian BirdSavers are lengths of paracord that hang on the outside of a window. The vertical hanging cords, spaced about 4” apart, are enough to convince a bird that there is not a wide enough space for clear flight.

Bird Screen
Bird Screens are black fiberglass screens that hang several inches in front of a window but are practically transparent. The screens are soft and flexible enough that no harm is done to birds that fly into them.

CollidEscape is a perforated vinyl film that adheres to the exterior glass surface of a window. Thousands of small perforations in the film allow ample light to pass through the window to the interior, while substantially reducing reflections and transparency.

FeatherFriendly is not a film but a marker that adheres to the outside surface of a window to reduce the surface reflection and alert birds to avoid collision.

SOLYX Bird Safety Film
SOLYX Bird Safety Film is a clear film applied to exterior glass, with lines/patterns designed to break reflections on the glass allowing birds to see that there is an obstruction.

7. Fill the bird feeder and bird bath. Native trees and shrubs provide the best food sources and habitat for birds, but filling your bird feeder won’t delay their trip and might even help. Plus, don’t forget to fill up the bird bath daily with clean water for birds to drink and bathe in.


Photo: Scarlet Tanager by Bmajoros - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,