Discover one of Wisconsin’s premier places to bird watch right here in the heart of Milwaukee! As part of the Lake Michigan Flyway, Lakeshore State Park hosts over 70 species of indigenous and migratory birds each year. From birds of prey and songbirds, to shore birds and waterfowl, you’re sure to see an array of birds at any time of the year!
If you love birding and want to find out what others have observed, check out ebird.org, created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. Here you can create an account to submit your findings, look up information about different species, search for bird sightings at Lakeshore State Park, and see when certain species are typically at the Park, as well as numerous other sites throughout the country.
Both grey and red foxes call the Park their home, and kits (youngsters) of both species are observed at the Park every year. The foxes are often seen at dawn and dusk, hunting, playing or just walking down the trails. Other mammals that live in the Park include mink, woodchucks, muskrats, various mice and voles, and an occasional rabbit, coyote or deer.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Aside from birds, mammals and fish, Lakeshore State Park is host to a variety of other vertebrates (animals with true backbones). While walking around the rock prairie at the south entrance, keep a close eye out for Common and Butler’s Garter Snakes. These snakes are not a threat to humans (but do eat worms and other small creatures). Near the rocky shores of the basin, look for resident Snapping, Soft Shelled and Painted Turtles, which often poke their head up while they warm up in the shallow water. It is common to observe large Bullfrogs in the wetland prairie, sunning themselves on the rocks.
Photos of reptiles and amphibians found at the Park courtesy of A.B. Sheldon and the Wisconsin DNR.
Insects and Other Invertebrates
An invertebrate is an organism without a true backbone. This means that it has neither a cartilage or bony spine. The majority of invertebrates instead rely on an exoskeleton to protect their vital organs. Lakeshore State Park is host to a variety of pollinators and other invertebrates. The diversity of the prairies allow insects to thrive here throughout the growing season, and they provide an overwintering habitat for species that do not migrate. These animals may be creepy crawlies, but check them out-they are vital to the ecosystem and can be beautiful and interesting!
The short-grass prairie habitat at Lakeshore State Park provides vital food and shelter for migratory birds as well as other native animal and insect species. In addition, the prairie helps to enhance the feeling of space in a crowded urban area while allowing for spectacular open views of the surrounding city and lake. During spring and summer, forbs (flowering plants) such as Butterfly Weed, Purple Coneflower and Coreopsis dominate the prairies. These give way to native grasses, such as Big Blue Stem, Indian Grass, and Sideoats Grama in the fall. The park area once was part of Lake Michigan, with surrounding areas dominated by wild rice, but the prairie plants observed here would have been present in large portions of Wisconsin prior to urbanization. The restoration process is ongoing, so stop by often to see what we’re working on next!
The basins and surrounding waters hold a surprising variety of fish species. The basins contain Large and Smallmouth Bass, Northern pike, Walleyes, Suckers, Bullhead, Carp, Crappies, Perch, and Bluegills. Seasonally a wide variety of Great Lake Trout and Salmon species enter the basins and are seen jumping through the water. Anglers use the park year round, including a die-hard group of ice anglers who are out even on the coldest days. The Park is also used as the release site for the annual SturgeonFest (DNR/RiverEdge Nature Center), where roughly 1,000 Lake Sturgeon fingerlings are placed into Lake Michigan as part of a restoration initiative.
A fishing license is required for anyone aged 16 and older. It is required that anyone fishing in the park follow all state licensing and regulations. Stamps or special licensing is required for some species, such as Great Lakes Trout/Salmon. For more information on regulations and licensing, see DNR Fishing Regulations