Birding at Richard Bong State Recreation Area
No matter which season you visit Richard Bong State Recreation Area, there’s bound to be something exciting happening. Watching an eagle soar above Wolf Lake, listening to a meadowlark’s song or spying young chickadees being fed, a day in the field is always rewarding.
The park is a mixture of several habitats, chiefly grassland with some remnant of restored prairie. It also contains numerous wetlands and a spattering of woodlands to complete the picture. Because of this variety, there is a wide array of bird life on the property.
As one of the largest grassland areas around, the park is fortunate to have several birds that appear in few other places. In the breeding season, listen for the wolf-whistle of the rare opland sandpiper, the quiet call of the Henslow’s sparrow or the cheery bubbling of the bobolink. Also present are kingbirds, killdeer, snipe and woodcock, and a variety of sparrows including grasshopper, song, savannah, field and chipping.
In the wetland areas, look for the common red-wing blackbirds, barn and tree swallows. Listen for the call of the common yellowthroat, the rattling cry of the Kingfisher or the primeval call of the Sandhill Crane. Make sure to watch the sky for black or Forster’s terns, gulls, great egrets, great blue herons, green herons or black-crowned night herons. Sit along a boardwalk to catch a glimpse of an elusive king Virginia or sora rail, an American or least Bittern or a marsh wren. In the spring and fall the wetlands fill with waterfowl, a duck-watcher’s dream!
The woodlands offer the sights and sounds of many familiar birds including blue jays, cardinals, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, robins, crows, great horned or screech owls, nuthatches, towhees and wood thrushes. During the spring migration, Richard Bong SRA’s bur oak and walnut trees offer a haven for hordes of beautifully colored warblers.
Even during the winter the birding action doesn’t slow down. People come from miles away to try and spot the short-eared owls that hunt low over the grasslands at dusk. They are often rewarded with sightings of shrikes, harriers, snow buntings or horned larks as well.
We invite you to wander the woods, fields, and wetlands to seek out the bounty of birds. While birding has its own rewards, you’ll be surprised at the beauty and variety of all life at the park and we’re sure you’ll be back!