Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of Fort Atkinson

Community Achievements

Habitat Creation, Protection, and Monitoring

A. Comply with Wisconsin's "Smart Growth" law for land use planning and resource management. This criterion is an option only for applications submitted before July 1, 2017.

The City of Fort Atkinson has demonstrated that it has continued to comply with the state of Wisconsin’s “Smart Growth” law for land use and planning and resource management. The “City of Fort Atkinson Comprehensive Plan” was adopted on 9/16/2008 and is intended to be the decision making guide for future community growth, change, and preservation over the next 20 or so years. As evidence of this, the city has initiated the Green Recognition Program which identifies businesses, community organization and individual citizens who are doing things to lessen harmful environmental impacts. The award recognizes that a healthy economy and healthy environment are mutually supportive.

B. Describe organized bird monitoring or data obtained from researchers or volunteers in the local park system. (Exclusions: Programs that receive credit under 4C: Christmas Bird Count, Great Backyard Bird Count, Swift Night Out)

Local birding hotspots Dorothy Carnes County Park & Rose Lake State Natural Area and Bark River Nature Park are monitored regularly with results being submitted to eBird. Additionally, many birders have been actively involved in Wisconsin’s Breeding Bird Atlas II, all results are submitted via the eBird BBS portal. Local resident birder Daniel Schneider has erected and checked numerous Prothonotary Warbler boxes in and near the City or Fort Atkinson.

There are several active Purple Martin colonies in an around Fort Atkinson. Local resident and Purple Martin extraordinaire Gary Wolfram has built numerous Purple Martin houses for various individuals. By far the largest colony is located just east of Fort Atkinson, near the Rock and Bark River confluence with 250+ pairs using a very well maintained and appropriate group of houses. Between this group and the other active colonies hundreds of Purple Martins have fledged in recent years.

C. Provide evidence (e.g., official designation of natural areas, easements, etc.) that existing bird habitat within community limits has legal protection. (Exclusions: Leash laws; prohibitions against disturbing nests and wildlife; areas consisting primarily of mowed grass)

The following parks support bird and wildlife habitat and are wonderful places to enjoy the serenity of the area: Rock River Park, Bark River Nature Park, Memorial Park, Glacial River Bike Trail and the Riverwalk Park. A full list of City of Fort Atkinson parks with legal protection can be found online.

D. Document that current municipal planning seeks to provide additional bird habitat.

The City of Fort Atkinson is continually adding trees along bike and walking trails, therefore providing more habitats for birds. The Garden Club and Heart of the City groups provide programs on instructions to improve bird habitats in our community.

F. Show that your community offers the public information on how they can control and remove invasive species in order to improve or maintain bird habitat.

The following information on the control and removal of invasive species can be found on the city of Fort Atkinson website (the City Council has already approved this action).

Control and removal of invasive vegetation

Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program: Whether you have an apartment balcony or a 20-acre farm, you can create a garden that attracts beautiful wildlife and helps restore habitat in commercial and residential areas.

Wild About Gardening: This website is all about gardening for wildlife. You’ll learn how to plan your garden to meet both your needs and that of the wildlife you wish to attract.

WDNR’s invasive species site: Comprehensive site with information about invasive species laws and policies, types of invasives, reporting invasives, etc.

G. Document that there is a segment of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail or a designated Important Bird Area within or adjacent to your community.

The following information on the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail and IBA program can be found on the city of Fort Atkinson website (the City Council has already approved this action).

Fort Atkinson Birding and other Nature-based Resources

Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail: The Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail is a mapped auto trail that reaches into every area of the state. Full-color viewing guides with maps and descriptions of every site leads the nature traveler to warblers, shorebirds, eagles, loons, cranes and all manner of mammals found in some of the state’s premier wildlife venues.

The Fort Atkinson Area has two Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail sites:

#32. The Hoard Historical Museum

#34. Dorothy Carnes County Park & Rose Lake State Natural Area

Wisconsin Important Bird Areas:  An Important Bird Area (IBA) is a site that provides essential habitat to one or more species of breeding or non-breeding birds. Whenever possible IBAs should be large enough to supply all or most of the requirements of the bird(s) during the season for which it is important.

The Fort Atkinson area has one Important Bird Area: Greater Lake Koshkonong.

Community Forest Management

A. Demonstrate that your community has been awarded Tree City USA status by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

Fort Atkinson continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in 1992.

Limiting or Removing Threats to Birds

A. Describe your community’s educational program to control free-roaming cats and/or the manner in which you actively publicize the Cats Indoors! initiative.

Information on the benefits of keeping cats indoors can be found on the city of Fort Atkinson website.

 American Bird Conservancy Cats Indoors! seeks to educate cat owners, decision makers and the general public that free-roaming cats pose a significant risk to birds and other wildlife, suffer themselves, and pose a threat to human health. 

B. Demonstrate that your community provides property owners with information on how to protect birds from window strikes (e.g., online links, brochures).

Information on how to prevent window collisions can be found on the city of Fort Atkinson website.

Preventing Window Collisions

Public Education

B. Provide web links or a community newsletter demonstrating that your community educates property owners on methods to create and enhance backyard habitat for birds.

The City of Fort Atkinson will soon have the following information on creating and enhance backyard bird habitat on its website: City Council has already approved this action, we are just waiting for it to be put on the website.

Creating backyard bird habitat

Wild Ones: is a great resource on how to birdscape your backyard with native species.

Beyond the Birdfeeder: Creating a Bird-friendly Yard with Native Wisconsin Plants: learn about the best native trees, shrubs, vines, wildlflowers, and grasses for birds.

Natural Resources Conservation Services: Information on Backyard Conservation and Wildlife Habitat techniques.

Cornell’s Urban Gardening for Birds: Aimed at city dwellers, this site has resources for providing food, shelter, water, and nest sites for birds in urban settings.

How to Manage Your Land to Help Birds: A manual from the Zoological Society of Milwaukee on habitats and food resources important to birds, and how you can help.

C. Demonstrate that your community is represented in at least one citizen science bird monitoring program (e.g., the Christmas Bird Count, Great Backyard Bird Count, Swift Night Out).

Fort Atkinson has participated in the Christmas Bird Count yearly since 1974. Retired science teacher and columnist Dick Wanie organized the count up until about the late 1990s when The Friends of Rose Lake took over the responsibilities. The average of the number of participants afield has been 19 over the last 10 years with an additional 16 feeder watchers. This is up significantly from the count’s early years when the average was 12 participants with no watching feeders. To get more participants involved known feeder watchers were contacted and asked to submit their sightings via phone just prior to compilation. Over the years, the species range has been 29 on the low end and 48 on the high. Unexpected birds reported were a Palm Warbler in 2003 and a beautiful pair of Harlequin Ducks found on the Rock River in 2012. With the exception of a few years Mr. Wanie has been keeping records and reporting CBC results in his regular The Daily Jefferson County Union column “Outdoors Calling” (which is heavy into birding) since mid 1970’s.

Fort Atkinson hosts some fantastic colonies of Chimney swifts, especially during fall migration. Local resident birder Daniel Schneider participated in the Swift Night Out surveys, where he has counted as many as 600 swifts entering the huge chimney at the middle school.

N. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

A contest was held to see which Fort Atkinson city resident could create the best backyard bird habitat. Participants had to follow two simple rules: 1. Keep a year list of birds seen or heard on your property and 2. Each yard had to be a safe haven for birds (no cats may be allowed to roam freely). Participation forms are currently being collected and yards will be judged based on the following five criteria: provide nest trees and/or boxes, provide water, have ample and clean bird feeders, native trees or shrubs, leave standing vegetation and/or forbs for pollinators. Contest winners receive $100 gift certificate and all participants get rewarded with ice cream!

Community members have highlighted several of the city parks and other birding hotspots with a fantastic birding brochure of Fort Atkinson.

The Friends of Rose Lake have and maintain an active presents on Facebook, where they advertise upcoming bird-related events and activities within the Fort Atkinson community. In January 2016, working with Hoo’s Woods Raptor Center, the group held an event at the Hoard Museum for citizens to get an up close look at owls. The group also has an active presents at the fall Mason Jar Jamboree event, offering bird tours and the opportunity for individuals to handle dozens of mounted birds.

Since September 2015, Yoyi Steele, Daniel Schneider, Tom Belzer have put on birding presentations within the community at the Hoard Museum and the Fort Atkinson Club. These presentations focus on Fort Atkinson’s great birding history, bird conservation and Bird City Wisconsin.

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD)

A. This community's municipal body passed the required International Migratory Bird Day resolution.

B. Document and describe your event that incorporates the annual IMBD theme in some fashion. If the event has not yet occurred, please share your detailed plans. For information on the current year’s theme and event materials, please visit the International Migratory Bird Day website. To see what other Bird City communities have done in the past, please view some other profiles on our website.

Fort Atkinson Bird City held its IMBD event on May 9th in 2016. Roughly 10 people attended the event at the Hoard Museum where retired science teacher Dick Wanie talked about the significance of birds and discussed the mounted birds he had on display. The afternoon talk was followed a bird walk to the Bark River Nature Park to bird the river and check on several Prothonotary Warblers next boxes. Additionally, there were about 15 birders stopped by the Big Sit being led by Tom Belzer at the Dorothy Carnes County Park & Rose Lake State Natural Area observation platform. On the day, the team saw 56 species with the highlight being a pair of pair of Barred Owls.

Photo Gallery

Community Details

Joined Bird City: 2016

Population: 12,368

Incorporated: 1878

Area: 5.82 mi2

Community Website

Community Bird City Page

Community Bird City Facebook Page

Community Map