The Rock River corridor is rich in birds and wildlife!
You’ll find outstanding places to view birds as the Rock River winds its way through 11 counties in Wisconsin and Illinois. We’ve created the Rock River Birding Trail map to enable birders and others to discover the best places to observe birds. The Rock River corridor boasts vast wildlife refuges, state forests, and parks that provide the habitat and food sources birds depend on. During the spring and fall migration, millions of birds, from tiny warblers to giant white pelicans, make their way along the Rock River flyway.
Rock River Birding Highlights
Near the head waters of the Rock River, Horicon Marsh is the nation’s largest freshwater cattail marsh, spanning approximately 14 miles top to bottom and five miles side to side. Often referred to as the “Everglades of the North,” Horicon Marsh is a seasonal staging area for the largest population of migrating Canada geese in the world. More than 275 bird species have been sighted here.
Continue your birding quest along the Rock River as you wind through five cities in Wisconsin that have been designated as official Bird Cities by Bird City Wisconsin. These cities have worked hard to earn this designation by implementing sound bird conservation practices.
The Hoard Historical Museum in Fort Atkinson, WI has an exhibit of 500 mounted birds, including birds mounted by famed naturalist Thure Kumlein and taxidermist Walter Pelzer. Also included in this display is a beautiful example of the extinct passenger pigeon.
As you enter Illinois, near where the Sugar River joins with the Rock River, you’ll find Sand Bluff Bird Observatory, one of the largest small-bird banding operations in the country that is open to the public. The station is operated entirely by volunteers who band, serve as guides for visitors and present educational programs for various groups.
We invite to explore the Rock River as part of your birding adventure!
About The Rock River Flyway – “In many areas along its route to the Mississippi, the Rock River and its tributaries provide the last remaining undeveloped corridors providing wildlife with sheltered paths between habitats, for migration, food sources and breeding areas. Although dozens of species have vanished, an impressive array of wildlife can still be found inhabiting the Rock and in restored marshes and wetlands at its margins. Bald eagles have made a come-back in the last fifteen years because the river is supporting more aquatic life and they are finding abundant fish to feed on. Visitors may see kingfishers and bald eagles fishing, and hear some of the 100+ species of song birds who use the Rock River as a migratory flyway. Because of the intensive agricultural land use in Illinois and Wisconsin and lost natural habitat, the Rock River’s riparian corridor is considered a critical oasis for resting and feeding migratory birds.” From Forest Preserves of Winnebago County website.