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Birds of Zeloski Marsh. Wetlands Reserve Program in Wisconsin. Zeloski Marsh-Wisconsin.

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Birds of zeloski marsh
Birds of Zeloski Marsh

Wetlands Reserve Program in Wisconsin

Zeloski marsh wisconsin
Zeloski Marsh-Wisconsin

The dedication of the Zeloski Marsh Unit of the Lake Mills Wildlife Area was the highlight of the WRP Program in 2007. Over 1,320 acres of marginal farmland was restored to wetland forming the core of the Wildlife Area .This project was a collaborative effort of the NRCS, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Madison Audubon Society. Grants from the DNR Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program helped Madison Audubon Society to purchase acquisition rights to the property and the money assisted in the restoration efforts.

This wetland restoration is rich in diversity and through the project there is development of a complex of wetlands, prairies, an oak opening, tamarack woods and a remnant bog. Specifically, during the past 18 months, 286 acres were planted to prairie, 270 acres of sedge meadow were developed along with 112 acres of emergent wetland habitat and 64 acres of shorebird habitat. This wetland jewel is restored and open for public recreation and hunting. The Glacial Drumlin Bicycle Trail crosses through the marsh, offering cyclists unique wildlife viewing opportunities.

Efforts included:

  • planting 286 acres of prairie

  • planting 270 acres of sedge meadow

  • development of 112 acres of emergent wetland habitat

  • restoration of 64 acres of shorebird habitat

    Restoration includes:

  • filling in two miles of ditches

  • disabling 12 miles of drainage tiles

  • constructing four miles of berms

  • placing seven water control structures in four wetland basins resulting in 560 acres of shallow marsh

  • constructing six islands totaling over 19 acres, and four smaller islands in the southeast pool area

  • 151,000 cubic yards of fill were placed to create the berms and islands

Initial bird response
Initial Bird Response

  • Wetland and grassland restoration efforts have resulted in sightings of over 160 species of birds in just over one year

  • Sightings are being tracked by volunteer observers and general birders on eBird (

Waterfowl management
Waterfowl Management

  • Initial restoration efforts have resulted in breeding habitat and ample food for spring and fall migrants.

  • Peak counts of waterfowl during migration exceeded 10,000.

Wood Ducks


Green-winged Teal: Common

migrant, attracted to shallow

mudflats and smartweed.

Blue-winged Teal: Abundant migrant and breeder. Peak counts of 10,000 birds in Fall 2007.

Mallard: Common breeder and abundant migrant. Peak counts of >1000 birds in Fall 2007.

Northern Pintail: Uncommon migrant.

Locally abundant in 2007 due to high

food resources. High conservation concern.


  • Capability to manage water levels allows for periodic drawdowns for shorebirds and vegetation renewal.

  • Mudflats in 2007 attracted 24 species of shorebirds and 1000s of individuals.

  • Mudflats during spring and summer shorebird migration matured into high-quality duck food for Fall hunting season.


Shorebird management
Shorebird Management

Least Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper

American Golden-Plover

Wilson’s Snipe

Wetland dependent species
Wetland Dependent Species

  • Many species of birds benefit from wetland and waterfowl management.

  • Early restoration efforts have resulted in good foraging habitat for herons and cranes.

  • As vegetation matures breeding waterbirds will “find the marsh”.


American Coot

Green Heron

Sandhill Crane

Black Tern

American Bittern

Other wetland species
Other Wetland Species

Red-winged Blackbird

Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow: Rare migrant

Northern Harrier

Sora: common migrant

Prairie restoration
Prairie Restoration

  • Early prairie restoration efforts have attracted Dickcissel (at left), Western Meadowlark, Eastern Meadowlark, Sedge Wren, Northern Harrier, Short-eared Owls and other species of high conservation concern.

  • These grasslands are also important nesting areas for Ring-necked Pheasant and many species of waterfowl.

Grassland birds
Grassland Birds

Eastern Meadowlark

Sedge Wren

American Kestrel

Brewer’s Blackbird

Short-eared Owl

Other early observations
Other Early Observations

  • Whooping Cranes in Spring 2007.

Other early observations1
Other Early Observations

  • Peregrine Falcons attracted to migratory waterfowl and shorebirds during Fall 2007.

Other early observations2
Other Early Observations

  • Hudsonian Godwits (rare) and Red-necked Phalaropes (rare) present during shorebird migration.

Interesting breeding records
Interesting Breeding Records

  • Large colony of Brewer’s Blackbirds. Rare in southern Wisconsin.

  • Orchard Orioles singing on territory near parking area.

New hunting opportunities
New Hunting Opportunities


White-tailed Deer

Wild Turkey

Upland Game Birds

What to expect in 2008
What to expect in 2008?

Nesting Black Terns?

Will Henslow’s Sparrows find

the prairies?

Yellow-headed Blackbird colonies?

Will Virginia Rails and other waterbirds

start nesting in greater numbers?

If you go to zeloski marsh
If you go to Zeloski Marsh…

  • Enter your bird sightings at

  • Consider participating in marshbird monitoring, crane count, Christmas Bird Count, and other volunteer monitoring opportunities to help track the success of the project.