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A Haven for Winged Wonders: Exploring the Bird Diversity of the Apostle Islands"

From migratory birds to endangered species, the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin are home to a wide variety of feathered friends. Follow the annual breeding bird surveys and learn about the conservation efforts for threatened species such as the piping plover. Discover the fascinating world of owls and other avian residents of the park, and explore the diverse habitats that make the Apostle Islands a paradise for birdwatchers.


Located on a strategic flyway in the Great Lakes region, the islands provide a habitat for birds to rest and refuel during migration. Over 89% of the breeding birds in the Apostle Islands are migrants, with 59% being neotropical migrants that winter in Central and South America. The islands are also important for threatened and endangered species, such as the piping plover.


Gull and Eagle Islands are home to a large proportion of the herring gull breeding population in the Apostle Islands and on the entire Wisconsin shore of Lake Superior. Eagle Island is the only location in the park with a great blue heron rookery. The park conducts annual breeding bird surveys for herring gulls and cormorants on Gull Island, in partnership with the Great Lakes Inventory & Monitoring Network.


The piping plover is a federally, tribally, and state-endangered species in the park. The management of this species is a collaborative effort between the park, the Bad River Band, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of Minnesota, and The Nature Conservancy. Long Island and the Michigan sandspit were designated as critical habitat for the piping plover in 2001. Long Island is the most important habitat for these birds in the park, and until 2019 was the only location where they successfully nested. There have been occasional successful nesting on Outer, Stockton, and Michigan Islands in recent years. Plover monitors are stationed on Long Island to monitor nesting activity and provide information to visitors, with the Bad River Natural Resource staff leading the program since 2010.

The park is also home to several species of owls, including the great horned owl, the saw-whet owl, and the long-eared owl. These nocturnal predators can be found on most of the islands, but are most commonly found on the mainland. The park conducts owl surveys to monitor their populations and distribution.


In addition to these species, the Apostle Islands are home to a variety of other birds, including eagles, falcons, waterfowl, and shorebirds. With its diverse habitats and refuges, the park is a haven for birdwatchers and researchers alike.


The Apostle Islands in Wisconsin are home to a diverse array of birds, including:

  • Migratory passerines (songbirds)

  • Hawks

  • Falcons

  • Waterfowl (ducks, geese, swans)

  • Shorebirds (plovers, sandpipers, curlews, godwits)

  • Resident breeding birds

  • Neotropical migrant land birds (species that migrate to Central and South America in winter)

  • Herring gulls

  • Cormorants

  • Great blue herons

  • Owls (great horned owl, saw-whet owl, long-eared owl)

  • Eagles

  • Falcons

  • Waterfowl

  • Shorebirds (plovers, sandpipers, curlews, godwits)

This is not an exhaustive list, as the park is home to a wide variety of other bird species as well. The diversity of habitats in the Apostle Islands, including forests, wetlands, and shorelines, provides a home for many different bird species.

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