City of Fort Atkinson

City of Fort Atkinson

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.  A local resident birder has erected and monitored numerous Prothonotary Warbler boxes in and near the City of 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 here.

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.

  • 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.
  • DNR’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 Fort Atkinson area has one Important Bird Area: Greater Lake Koshkonong

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

V. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

Heart of the City (HOC), a nonprofit community service organization in Fort Atkinson, embarked on an initiative called No Mow May in 2021.  This initiative, which had its genesis in the UK and was first implemented in Wisconsin in Appleton, seeks to help stem the decline in pollinators by providing an early food source for pollinators emerging from hibernation while encouraging communities to practice more natural landscaping, reduce pesticide use, and plant native species.  HOC sought and gained approval from the Fort Atkinson City Council to lift the 8-inch grass height restriction during the month of May, 2021.  They did a lot of community outreach to explain the program and encourage participation through the local media and at in-person events such as information booths at the local garden center and farmer’s market.  They also designed and gave out yard signs for participants to post in their yards.  The initiative had great success, especially for being the first year of the program, with some larger property owners such as the Fort Hospital, Dwight Foster Public Library, and Hoard Historical Museum as well as over 120 individual homeowners participating by not mowing their lawns during the month of May.  HOC plans to continue this program and will be giving a presentation about it at the Wisconsin Garden and Landscape Expo in Madison on February 11-13, 2022.  This program has clear overlapping benefits with Bird City, as it helps create habitat for pollinators (which include birds) and also promotes natural landscaping and planting of native species, which improves backyard habitat for native wildlife more generally.  HOC is explicitly recognizing this in their Garden Expo presentation which includes a slide with the Bird City logo and talking points explaining what Fort Bird City is and the natural connections between the two programs.


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

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.

The City provides a link to ABC's Cat's and Other Invasives on it's Bird City webpage.

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 Bird City page. Read about it here - 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 has the following information on creating and enhance backyard bird habitat on it's Bird City webpage:

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 birders participated in the 44th Fort Atkinson area Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on December 18, 2021. The National Audubon Society sponsors the CBC with the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology being the agency administering direction in the state. The count must be held between December 14th and January 5th.  Eight groups went afield while 12 others helped while observing bird feeder activity at 10 area feeders. The count area must be a circle with a radius of no more than 15 miles. Groups are assigned certain segments as not to duplicate sightings. Results are reported directly by state compilers no later than February, to the National Audubon Society.

Usually the Fort Atkinson contingent tallies around 40 species for the day and this year was no exception.  The weather had been relatively mild and continued to be so on count day. Dry conditions and no snow cover were the order of the day. The regular winter residents were spotted including Black-capped Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers, Dark-eyed Juncos, Cardinals, Blue Jays, American Crows, White-breasted Nuthatches, etc.  Missing from this year’s count were some of the less common winter layovers such as Belted Kingfisher, Northern Shrike, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles and a few others. Perhaps the most notable sightings were a Turkey Vulture, 3 Pileated Woodpeckers, a Carolina Wren and 11 White-crowned Sparrows. Total species tallied was 41 with the total number of birds being 3,958. Not a bad day’s work but the moderate conditions likely led to less concentration of local bird population with natural food being more readily available.  Also contributing was the recognized reduced bird population due to a variety of environmental concerns.

I. Show that your municipality promotes and supports a bird club or other environmentally/ecologically-minded club. (Exclusions: Garden clubs, unless you demonstrate a strong focus on native plants)

The Fort Atkinson community supports the Friends of Rose Lake club (see their Facebook page here) and the Heart of the City (see their Facebook page here).

World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD)

A. This community's municipal body passed the required World 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 World 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 a Big Sit-In at the Dorothy Carnes County Park & Rose Lake State Natural Area observation platform Saturday May 8, 2021. Observers were treated to an amazing 62 bird species! A “Birding Sit-In” was sponsored and conducted by the Rose Lake Friends, a group dedicated to building public awareness and protection of this important Wisconsin State Natural Area. The event was held from dawn to dusk with a wonderful array of migrating and resident birds sighted from the spacious, strategically placed observation deck at the west unit of Jefferson County’s Dorothy Carnes Park. Birds observed included relatively common and local favorites and some uncommon birds, some that nest here and others that are just passing through on to their northern breeding territories. The tally included Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole, Palm Warbler, Ring- necked Duck, Northern Flicker, Yellow Warbler, and many others. Other birds seen in the park that day included White-throated Sparrow, American Kestrel, Hooded Merganser and more. Migrating birds can still be observed at the park for a few weeks and Rose Lake Friends encourage all to make the short trip to Dorothy Carnes Park soon. Birds that make the park their home for the next few months include Purple Martins, Tree Swallows, Black Terns, Moor Hens, Red Bellied Woodpeckers, Pied Billed Grebes, Yellow Headed Blackbirds, Rose Breasted Grosbeaks, Eastern Bluebirds and many, many more. Birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, insects, wildflowers, a wonderful variety of trees and plants may be observed on any visit to Dorothy Carnes Park. Rose Lake Friends hope to see you there. To learn more about Rose Lake Friends contact Tom Belzer or visit Rose Lake Friends on Facebook.

The 2022 WMBD event is anticipated to be held on Saturday, May 7 at Dorothy Carnes County Park. The Rose Lake Friends group will once again be doing a Big Sit to educate park visitors and keep a running list of birds. 

Joined Bird City: 2016

Population: 12,368

Incorporated: 1878

Area: 5.82 mi2

Community Website

Community Bird City Page

Community Bird City Facebook Page

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