Seasons of Wildlife
St. Croix Wetland Management District offers wildlife viewing opportunities year round. We encourage you to explore your public lands during the different seasons for a chance to see and hear a wide range of wildlife.
It is a sign of spring when the spring peepers start singing in the thawing wetlands. This species of frog is the earliest to start their breeding season even as the ice has not completely left the wetlands. Migratory waterfowl call overhead and from the water as they stopover to rest and refuel during their migration or upon returning here to nest and raise their broods. Waterfowl can be seen on wetlands and waterways throughout the district.
Grassland nesting birds such as eastern meadowlarks may be found singing throughout the prairies. A wide range of waterfowl can be seen using wetlands which are providing them and their broods food and cover. Prairies are typically abuzz with insects which feed many grassland nesting birds. Red-winged and yellow headed blackbirds sing their raucous songs from the cattail stands amid the marshes and busily gather insects to feed their young.
Migrating monarch butterflies can be found feeding on the nectar of prairie flowers fueling up for their flight to Mexico. Waterfowl begin their journey south for the winter and can be frequently heard calling while flying overhead in their “V” formations. Recently fledged eastern bluebirds, swallows and common grackles begin to gather in groups and are often observed on overhead utility lines and stands of trees. Watch out for spotted salamanders and turtles as they cross the busy roadways in search of suitable winter habitat.
Many animals stay active in winter months on the district including waterfowl like trumpeter swans and Canada geese. Evidence of additional wildlife presence may be seen by tracks in the snow. Some animal tracks you may see in the snow on waterfowl production areas include otter, fox, mice and birds. There may even be an opportunity to see a snowy owl. Snowy owls may migrate south during winter months from their summer nesting areas on the tundra north of the Arctic Circle. In general, snowy owls tend to hang out in open areas similar to their tundra breeding grounds like agricultural fields, marshes and prairies.
St. Croix Wetland Management District is rich with wetlands, ranging from large basins and expansive sedge meadows to prairie pothole-type wetlands and small seasonal basins. This diversity of wetlands supports many species of birds including waterfowl such as mallards, blue winged teal, wood ducks and hooded mergansers, waders such as great blue herons and secretive marsh birds such as Virginia rail.
Mallards are the most common nesting waterfowl species found on the district. Typical habitat includes scattered small wetland basins near a large wetland that provides water for brood habitat. Adjacent grasslands provide nesting habitat where the hens hide their nest of eight to 10 eggs from predators.
Eastern meadowlarks are an important indicator species of the health of our grasslands. These birds rely on large tracts of unbroken grassland, one of our top restoration goals for the district.
The northern harrier is a grassland dependent bird of prey that nests on the ground and eats small mammals and small birds. In the spring, their acrobatic mating flight is a common site on waterfowl production areas.
The large nests of bald eagles built in treetops, once a rare sight in western Wisconsin, are now found on multiple waterfowl production areas within the district.