Important Bird Areas

Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area


Crex Meadows is the largest property in the Glacial Lake Grantsburg Wildlife Management Complex. Restoration of this complex of wetlands, grasslands, and ?brush prairie? began shortly after it was acquired by the state in 1946. Over half of Crex?s 30,000 acres are comprised of wetlands, including extensive northern sedge marshes and sedge meadows, deep-water marshes, wild rice, and flowages. Approximately 7,000 acres of brush prairie have been restored, and another 6,000 acres are forested with oak, jack pine, and aspen. Crex contains a diversity of plants and animals including many prairie grasses and forbs, Karner Blue Butterfly, Blanding?s Turtle, and a Timber Wolf pack. Rich wildlife and abundant wildlife viewing and other recreational opportunities make Crex one of the most popular wildlife areas in Wisconsin.

Ornithological Summary

This site contains critical habitat for a host of birds, including a significant number of priority species. It is the original release site for the Wisconsin Trumpeter Swan Recovery Program, and maintains a robust population of Trumpeters. Other priority wetland species with high populations here include Red-necked Grebe, American Bittern, Yellow Rail, Ring-necked Duck, Le Conte?s Sparrow, and Nelson?s Sharp-tailed Sparrow. Sedge Wrens and Swamp Sparrows breed in particularly high numbers. A number of barrens and grassland species also breed here, including the state?s largest population of Sharp-tailed Grouse, Upland Sandpiper, Brown Thrasher, and Field Sparrow. Crex is an outstanding concentration area in both fall and spring for waterfowl, shorebirds, and waterbirds, hosting tens of thousands of ducks, geese, and Sandhill Cranes. A variety of shorebirds can be found on drawn-down flowages, particularly in the fall, including American Golden-Plover, Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitcher, Short-billed Dowitcher, Whimbrel, Stilt Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Hudsonian Godwit, Greater Yellowlegs, and Lesser Yellowlegs.

Conservation Issues

Crex Meadows represents an outstanding opportunity for landscape-level restoration and management of native grassland and wetland communities, particularly pine barrens and sedge meadow (Sample and Mossman 1997). Restoration already has improved thousands of acres of habitat for priority species and these efforts will continue. Management techniques being used to maintain these open landscapes include prescribed burning, mowing, cutting, and herbicide application. Pine barrens in particular need fire to properly regenerate, and the need for continued use of fire to manage this area is critical. Succession and invasive species are ongoing threats to habitats. The Sharp-tailed Grouse population here has been declining in recent years, and its isolation from other populations has the potential to cause genetic problems which will have to be addressed through management.


Two State Natural Areas are Crex Sand Prairie and Reed Lake Meadow.


Over half of the acreage at Crex Meadows consists of wetland communities, primarily sedge meadows and marshes, as well as deep-water marsh and flowages. There also are significant acreages of grassland, restored brush-prairie, and forests of oak, jack pine, and aspen.