City of Lake Geneva

City of Lake Geneva


Habitat Creation, Protection, and Monitoring

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)

The City of Lake Geneva's Purple Martin Project, begun in 2018 with grant funding, involves volunteers monitoring Purple Martin houses, located on City of Lake Geneva parkland. Funding from the City of Lake Geneva allowed the Committee to add a gourd-structure, with six nest boxes, in the spring of 2020. Along with committee members, more community members have joined as nest monitors. The volunteers check on the houses on a routine basis (approximately every three days during the spring and summer months). Volunteers were trained and equipped to monitor and record activity from nesting to fledging. The colony is thriving.    In the photo section, please see - Category 1B - Purple Martin nest monitoring - volunteer checking and cleaning.

E. Describe your community’s ordinance demonstrating that your community does not restrict natural/native landscaping that emphasizes native plants and non-turf lawns.

In August 2022, the Lake Geneva City Council approved a revised "noxious weed and grass" ordinance in which Lake Geneva resdients will be allowed to participate in the international "No Mow May" program to help native pollinators forge for food and obtain habitat.  In the documents, please see Category 1E - City of Lake Geneva Weed Ordinance Sec.82-1 article 1.

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 City of Lake Geneva’s website provides a link to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) at City Website Link to WDNR to provide residents with information on the control and removal of invasive species.  In addition, on the City of Lake Geneva's website, there is a link to a brochure on keeping "Stopping Aquatic Hitchhikers" posted under the "Click and Learn" section. This informs boaters of ways to avoid bringing invasive species into Geneva Lake. The water quality of the lake influences the health of fish, insects, and plants that are critical for the preservation of habitat and food sources for a wide variety of birds - including various species of Duck, Swfits, Loons, Merganzers, Coots, and Raptors. Citizens can also contact the arborist for help with the identification and removal of invasive plants.  


In addition, a consortium of conservation-minded, non-profit groups have banded together to purchase and deploy boat-washing stations at all major launch points to help reduce the introduction of invasive species in Geneva Lake.

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.

Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge is located in Walworth County, Wisconsin and McHenry County, Illinois and serves as a globally important corridor for migratory birds. It provides habitat for 109 species of concern that include federal and state threatened and endangered species. It was officially established in 2012 and the first segment was open to the public in 2019. The Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge boundary employs a cores and corridors concept for wildlife preservation with a focus on migratory and grassland birds.

As the refuge continues to grow, the staff and volunteers are working to connect conserved land in southeast Wisconsin and northeast Illinois, linking lands conserved by local, county, and state agencies and private organizations. The mission is to restore and connect a landscape that includes large blocks of grasslands, wet prairies, and natural stream watercourses.In addition, a designated birding area is associated with Hackmatack in Peterkin Pond, 

The White River County Park is Walworth County’s newest and largest park. The 195-acre farm was acquired in 2012  It is located near Lake Geneva and has two miles of frontage on the White River. The county is partnering with the Geneva Lake Conservancy and other local groups to restore this prime acquisition to its native prairie, forest and wetlands. This park provides critical habitat for resident and migratory birds.  Visitors are encouraged to go birding and use trail maps, like the one provided in the documents section, Category 1G - White River Birding Trail Map, equip visitors with information on birds they are likley to see in the park.  These include Meadowlarks, Goldfinch, a variety of ducks, Red-winged Blackbirds, and a growing number of Bald Eagles.

H. Show that the local Chamber of Commerce or a similar group (e.g., an Audubon chapter, Wild Ones, etc.) takes an active role in the planning process for protecting and enlarging favorable bird habitat.

The Geneva Lake Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization located in Walworth County . Over the last 40 years the Conservancy has protected more than 2,000 acres through conservation easements and land donations. The Conservancy also works with other public and private organizations to acquire and protect land with high conservation value in priority areas. They advocate through educational programs on such topics as birds, and oak tree preservation, as well as programs encouraging native plantings for monarch and pollinator species. The Conservancy is dedicated to ecology, the preservation of open space and the history of our natural spaces. The Conservancy directs its efforts toward shaping zoning policies and decisions, public and private land conservation, and environmental education. Gathering Waters, the Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts, named the Geneva Lake Conservancy the Wisconsin Land Trust of the Year in 2020. 

In 2021 the Geneva Lake Conservancy (GLC) acquired an additional 61 acres of farmland whose donors had worked to restore some of the cropland to prairie and wetlands, and who, together with the GLC, envision full restoration of the land to native ecosystems. In 2022 they accepted 12.5 donation near Lake Como which will provide a habitat for a variety of wildlife including birds. The property is closed to hiking and is maintained as a wildlife preserve with public access only by guided tour. Lake Como is adjacent to Lake Geneva. In addition, the GLC worked with a land foundation to protect 60 acres of organic farm land in Walworth County with conservation easements that ensure that this prime agricultural land will be preserved.

In 2023 the GLC acquired 42 acres surrounding Lake Ivanhoe. This land contains important wetlands and is linked with Wisconsin DNR Conservation Opportunity Area of regional significance.

The Geneva Lake Conservancy offers a “Conservation@Home” program to help educate and activate landowners to make eco-healthy choices in their home landscape that are critical to the health of resident and migratory birds. The GLC has also begun a "Keep it Blue" progam to encourage property owners to limit the use of chemicals that pollute Geneva Lake.   

One of the areas preserved by the Conservancy is Bromley Woods  This has been the site of the Conservancy's bi-annual bird walks. 

Lakeland Audubon Society is a chapter of the National Audubon Society that serves the Geneva Lake area . Their mission is to support the Audubon Society’s programs. They actively advocate for conservation efforts through their electronic newsletter, blog, and Facebook page, and hold a yearly bird seed sale to promote backyard bird watching and provide quality food for our overwintering and migrating species.  In 2022 Lakeland continued to lead bird walks to carry forward their efforts to inspire and educate bird enthusiasts, and reestablished their monthly meetings. Using the outdoor education programs and their electronic newsletter and Facebook, the Lakeland Chapter equips and educates residents in ways to protect and expand bird habitat.  Please see an example of that educational effort in the newletter highlighting the benefits of native plants for bird habitat.  In the documents section, please see, Category 1H - November 2022 "The Chat" newletter including the article "Planting for Wildlife."

The City of Lake Geneva’s Chamber of Commerce - Visit Lake Geneva (VLG) - functions as the tourism promotion agency for the region as well as the Chamber of Commerce for Lake Geneva. VLG is actively engaged with the Avian Committee to promote birding events through their publications, digital advertising, and social and traditional media.

The City of Lake Geneva Public Works maintains public access to Duck Lake Nature Trail on the northwest edge of Lake Geneva and runs along the shore of Lake Como. It is also know locally as " Warblers Walk Way" because of the number of Warblers that migrate through.

As noted throughout this application, these organizations are actively collaborating with the Avian Committee on multiple projects.

L. Show that your community has restored at least two acres of woodlands, wetlands, or prairie.

The City of Lake Geneva’s 40-acre Four Seasons Nature Preserve is on County Highway H, just southeast of Geneva Lake. The city has restored over five acres by cleaning out scrub plants and planting native plants and wild flowers to provide food and shelter for birds and other animals. The restoration was done with community service students under city supervision. Interpretive signs on the trails note the native species and their importance for various bird, animal, and insect populations.

There is a significant avian population throughout the park including bird-houses for Wood-ducks, Purple Martins, and Blue Birds. The prairie, oak openings, and pond provide shelter and food for migrating birds, such as Sandhill Cranes.  Lake Geneva also built - and continues to maintain - a wooden walkway more than 1,000 feet in length.  In the photo section, please see Category 1L - 2022 Sandhill Crane migration over Four Seasons Nature Preserve.

In the photo section, please see Category 1L - Four Seasons Nature Preserve Wide Shot, Category 1L - Four Seasons Nature Preserve - example of interpretive sign highlighting native plants, Category 1L - Bloodwort - Four Seasons Nature Preserve,

M. Demonstrate that your community offers a program for private property owners who are interested in dealing with invasive plants that have significant negative impacts on bird habitat.

The City of Lake Geneva is very concerned about invasive shrubs and plants and their encroachment into wooded areas. To that effect, the City has established several ways for residents to get information on how to control the spread of invasive plants and shrubs. The City provides information on its website under "Prevent the Spread" which links to the WDNR’s excellent resources on invasive species. A resident may call the City Arborist for information and help in dealing with these plants on their property. Residents can contact the County Extension office for information

Since a critical part of the Lake Geneva bird habitat is Geneva Lake, it should also be noted that the Geneva Lake Environmental Agency is also working with the Geneva Lake Association and other area task forces to educate the community and organize efforts to equip boat owners and property owners around the lake in ways to limit the incursion of invasion aquatic species and to take action to rid the lake of these invaders.   Please see this link to Geneva Lake Environmental Agency information on preventing the spread of invasive aquatic plants that threaten the health of the lake, a critical part of resident and migrant bird habitat

N. Show that your community works on public lands to control invasive species that have significant negative impacts on bird habitat.

The Lake Geneva Tree Board has recently intiated the purchace of eradication materials for the control of the invasive Spongy Moth that is threatening critical native trees, including native oaks.

P. Demonstrate the implementation of a program to preserve Chimney Swift nesting and roosting sites (preferred) and/or to construct Chimney Swift towers.

The City of Lake Geneva owns several buildings, two of which have large chimneys (40+ feet tall), at the Water Department and the Geneva Lake Museum. One, the chimney at the Geneva Lake Museum, attracts thousands of Chimney Swifts on an annual basis. This has been the site of the City's Swift Night Out event for the past decade.  When the City found that the other chimney (Water Department) had been capped, this was uncapped for the swifts.  An additional nesting chimney was identified at a retail shop in downtown Lake Geneva. In the photo section, please see the following:  Category 1P - Chimney Swifts at Geneva Lake Museum Chimney and Category 1P - Chimney Swifts at Olive Oil Shop Chimney in downtown Lake Geneva.

Q. Document the establishment of a program to promote the conservation of Purple Martins through research, state of the art management techniques, or public education.

The Purple Martin Project was started by the City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee in 2018. The Avian Committee was awarded a WE Energies grant and worked to obtain matching funds from volunteers who solicited donations. This allowed the purchase of state-of-the-art Purple Martin houses. The Committee partnered with researcher Dick Nikolai of the Wisconsin Purple Martin Association, an expert on Purple Martin breeding and behavior and a retired Wisconsin DNR wildlife biologist, to research, buy, and site these houses. A core of volunteers was recruited to monitor the houses and collect data, interact with and educate residents and tourists, and participate in various community education programs. Both Nikolai and Helen Pugh, from the Hoy Audubon Society, educated volunteers in state-of-the-art management techniques for the new colony. Nikolai also worked with the volunteers to band the fledglings.  In 2022, the City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee members and volunteers continue to monitor the colony and to look for birds banded in 2019.   The volunteer nest keepers have gained knowledge and experience with this colony and, with the advice of experts, have determined that grouping houses attracts more nesting pairs to the colony. Therefore, several houses were relocated to enhance the colony along the lakeshore path.  The first year the houses were in place, 2018, twenty-three birds fledged from the new colony nests. In 2022, that number had grown to 115.  The colony is thriving.  In the photo section, please see Category 1Q - 2022 Purple Martin nesting pair at colony house.

 Volunteers who manage houses along the lakeshore path - a high foot traffic area - take time to speak with, and educate, residents and visitors about the City’s Purple Martin Colony project. Since volunteers monitor the houses multiple times per week, this provided the opportunity for many interactions with residents and visitors. Outreach to the public continued even when volunteers were not present, through interpretative signage. The City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee, with the support of city leadership and the assistance of the Public Works Department, purchased, sited, and installed one interpretive sign near the Public Library. In 2021 a second sign was added on the lakeshore path and near three Purple Martin houses. Information on the colony and on Purple Martin conservation was also posted on the Avian Committee's Facebook page.  Please see photo Category 1T - One of two Purple Martin interpretive signs..  

In 2022, the Avian Committee participated in the Lake Geneva Public Library's Author Fest where they shared information about Purple Martins.This educational outreach included guided tours of the houses, resources at the library which included books and bird watching kits, and also promoted family visits to Four Seasons Nature Preserve which showcases the Storybook Trail featuring purple martins. In the photo section please see Category 1Q - Purple Martin Educational Poster

Committee members and volunteers also encouraged private property owners to install Purple Martin houses. During visits, these members and volunteers assisted residents in house management and monitoring.  In the photo section, please see Category 1Q - Private Purple Martin House along the lakeshore.

T. Document that your community maintains a birding trail or hot spot location with educational signage and/or literature. (Note: A birding hotspot alone is not sufficient - your community must actively promote birding and public education at the site itself.)

The City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee has partnered with other city committees and conservation groups to create two birding trails in the city. As noted in Section 1P, one trail is found along the City’s Lakeshore Path. This trail features two interpretive signs and various informal “tours” of the Purple Martin colony lead by volunteer nest-keepers. The second interpretive sign was funded, sited, and installed near three active Purple Martin houses as part of the Avian Committee's public education and outreach about this expanding colony. Please see the photo section for Category 1T - One of two Purple Martin interpretive signs.  The Avian Committee, along with the Public Library of Lake Geneva, and funding partners Alliant Energy Foundation and Simple Bakery and Market also provided birding hotspot maps and literature in the Alliant Energy Bird-watching Kits, available for free check-out at the public library. This project is explained in greater depth in Category 4L.  Residents and visitors along the lakeshore path can use the binoculars and bird identification materials in the kits to spot birds from the Purple Martin Colony, but also a host of birds who flock to the lake as summer residents or as migrants.  In the photo section, please see Category 1T - Purple Martins gathered on the Lake Geneva Pier sign and Category 1T - Bonaparte Gulls gathered at a lakefront pier.

In addition, the Avian committee added educational signage at the Four Seasons Nature Preserve. When this trail was created signage was placed along the trail that informed walkers about the native plants and trees that are found in the preserve, and the animals, insects, and birds that rely on these natives for food and habitat. These signs are geared for adults.
With the mentoring of Avian Committee members, fifth-graders at a local school created a story-book trail aimed at young children and families. Each of the nine signs lead the walker around one of the trails. On each sign the students display one page of the story that they wrote about a bird family that migrates to the preserve, along with a fun fact about the birds and the flora at the preserve, and one activity to do at that spot (such as look for a nest or birdhouse).
  With the assistance of the city arborist,  the Avain committee added educational posters along with introductory materials in the large, permanent, weather-resistant display signs at the trailhead. These materials include a map to introduce the trail, a poster noting the Bird City designation for the city, and pictorial posters of native Midwestern birds and plants that visitors can anticipate encountering while walking and visiting the preserve.  In the photo section, please see Category 1T - Dedication and map for the Storybook Trail at Four Seasons Nature Preserve, Category 1T - Signage at the entrance to Four Seasons Nature Preserve, and Category 1T - Example showing the content of one of the Storybook Trail signs at Four Seasons Nature Preserve.

Community Forest Management

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

Lake Geneva continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in 1995.  The city continues its commitment to maintaining this important award.

C. Document an ongoing community program to incorporate a significant number of native trees, native shrubs, native herbaceous plants, and/or cultivars of native species in public or large-scale private landscaping.

Geneva Lake Conservancy conducts an anuual Heritage Oak Program in which they have a contest for recognizing the oldest oak tree, conduct a oak tree sale for private property owners, and have opportunies for the public to plant oak trees in parks and other educational and outreach activities. For information on the various Oak-focused programs at the conservancy, please visit their site at Oak Recovery - Geneva Lake Conservancy.

F. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

The Lake Geneva Rotary Club, in partnership with the Geneva Lake Museum and the City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee , develped a permanent exhibit at the Museum highlighting the importance of oak trees to our environment, particularly for our resident and migratory birds. Oak trees are known as a keystone species that provides habitat and nutrients for many native wildlife and insects as well. They also store carbon dioxide in their trunks and branches, thus reducing the effects of climate change. Featured in the exhibit is a ring from an old oak tree, and interactive activities to engage young people and inspire future birders.  In the photo section , please see Category 2F - Oak Tree Exhibit at the Geneva Lake Musuem.

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 of Lake Geneva has a web page dedicated to Dog and Cat Owner Responsibility and also displays this information in handouts available in the City Hall Lobby. This information explains the City’s ordinance that requires that all cats be either indoors or safely confined.  Dog and cat leash laws are enforced in a cooperative effort by several city departments. All street department personnel, utility personnel, police personnel, fire personnel and the code enforcement officer are asked to report any loose dogs or cats to the Code Enforcement Officer. The animals are then caught, and either taken to the Walworth County animal rescue shelter or returned to the owner if there is a license tag on the animal and it has had its shots. The first time, the owners are warned and if the animal is caught again, a ticket will be issued

In addition to the City’s information and code enforcement, the City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee has developed educational materials about the need to keep cats indoors for both Brownies and Junior Girl Scouts.  As part of badge requirements, both levels of Girl Scouts researched and developed posters to communicate to their neighbors about the need to keep cats indoors.  Please see the photo in Category 3A –  Brownies - How to be a bird buddy

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

Wisconsin Bird City decals (anti-window-strike devices) are sold at City Hall. Information documents on the prevention of window strikes are available at City Hall. The source of these pamphlets is the American Bird Conservancy.

The City website provides links to the American Bird Conservancy and notes the following,"As part of our strategic conservation framework, we tackle the biggest threats to birds. When it comes to bird collisions, we work with manufacturers to develop bird-safe glass and provide easy solutions for homeowners. We push for wind turbines and associated power lines and towers to be placed in areas that minimize impacts on federally protected birds."  [City of Lake Geneva website link - bird collision information]. 

Part of the public outreach and educational efforts of the Avian Committee of Lake Geneva was to develop materials to work with Brownies and Junior Girl Scouts on bird-related badges.  As part of the curriculum created by the committee, both the Brownies and Junior Girl Scouts are required to research ways to help protect birds and create a means to assist them in communicating this information to others.  A required part of that message was ways that they could equip others to help prevent bird-window strikes.  In the photo section, please see an example of a poster that the Junior Girl Scouts created, Category 3B - Junior Girl Scout poster showing ways to limit bird-window strikes.  Also in the photo section, please see Category 3B – Cords to prevent window strikes - Avian Committee members demonstrating this for Brownies.  This photo shows two committee members, Kelley Happ and Jill Rodriguez, demonstrating how to hang cords on windows to prevent bird strikes.

G. Show how your community regulates communication tower construction, siting, and lighting to mitigate their risk to migrating birds.

Most communication antennas in Lake Geneva are on city-owned water towers. There are few free-standing towers. Lake Geneva’s zoning does permit towers in the industrial park areas as a conditional use. However, the City has never received an application to construct such a tower. While it is illegal to ban communication towers, this conditional-use-process would make it significantly more difficult to construct a tower in Lake Geneva.

Using information provided by Bird City Wisconsin, Brian Lenz, the Committee provided consultation to the Lake Geneva YMCA to inform the planning and design of the building of a new facility.  This was appropriate given that the plans called for extensive glass windows and the building site is adjacent to a natural area.

H. Document that your community operates a significant Lights Out program that dims building lights to reduce collisions during spring and fall migration or that you have an outdoor lighting ordinance that includes Lights Out during bird migration.

Exterior Lighting Zoning Ordinance 98-707 - regulated.....The Geneva Lake Dark Sky Initiative is a local community movement raising awareness of light pollution in our area. Research shows that artificial light at night has negative effects on many species. Geneva Lake Astrophysics and Steam organization (GLAS), continues to work on ways to monitor and measure the amount of light pollution around the lake.  GLAS continues to provide leadership, resources and outreach efforts to improve the dark skies status of the Geneva Lake community. More information on the GLAS Dark Skies educational programs can be found at

The City of Lake Geneva has only one tall building. Built in the 1960s, it was one of two planned towers. Following its completion, the Common Council passed an ordinance limiting the height of buildings to a maximum of 45 feet in the downtown area and 35 feet in all other parts of Lake Geneva. The second tower was never built. The initial tower had four very large spotlights on each side of the roof for security reasons. The City asked the tower association to consider turning those lights off permanently to protect the bird population and to cut down on the light that would affect the environment for astronomy. The tower association followed the City’s request and disconnected the lights in 2013. The City of Lake Geneva Ordinance: Section 98-707 Exterior Lighting Standards (Ord. No. 14-12, January 22, 2015) regulates outdoor lighting.

Public Education

A. Demonstrate that schools in your community participate in a nationally-recognized environmental education program (e.g., Flying WILD, Audubon Adventures) or that your community organizes its own substantial education and outreach program for young people. 

In 2023 the Avian Committee continued its " Learning to Soar" educational programming as an interdisciplinary classroom and field experience. The committee also broadened its education programs and expanded to other youth groups, as noted in Section 4.E.  These additional educational programs, such as the Brownie "Bird Buddy" badge and the "Beautiful Birds" program were designed based on learning objectives for lower elementary grades.  The Learning to Soar curriculum continues to be a semester-long multi-disciplinary course mapped to fifth-grade learning objectives (see curriculum description below).  This is the fourth year that this program has been implemented.  In 2019 members of the Avian Committee, in concert with a local educator - Ms. Jill Lorenzi - created a cross-disciplinary, bird-focused curriculum for fifth graders which was titled "Learning to Soar."  The curriculum is designed to equip students with information and skills across multiple disciplines.  Using these tools, these young citizen scientists will research and use critical thinking skills to understand the complex relationships between humans and birds, and how humans’ actions impact birds’ ability to thrive.  The program was piloted in that year with eighteen students.  Pre and post-testing indicated significant, positive progress in all learning objectives. A summary of the program is given in the last paragraph of this section. Also, please see the documents section - Category 4A. Outline of the "Learning to Soar" Curriculum The course is designed to engage students and inspire them to learn about birds and the protection of the ecosystems that help birds (and humans) thrive. Students learn to use the scientific method to identify birds and apply multiple disciplines to understand aspects of birds from their basic biology to bird migration. The committee equips students to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count and to become part of the international citizen-scientist corp that uploads bird data into eBird. Students also "become" migratory birds as they participate in the migratory bird game. Groups of students become flocks of migratory birds and try to win the game by answering questions and then pulling cards that present them with a positive or negative event that befalls birds during migration. In the photo section please see Category 4A.  "Learning to Soar" student "flocks" participating in the Migratory Bird Game. For the capstone project the students created a Storybook Trail at the city's Four Seasons Nature Preserve.  This capstone was created to provide a project-based, collaborative learning experience that blended in-class work with outdoor exploration and education.  This process introduced students, staff, and parents to community and governmental groups focused on conservation. Students worked in teams to create an original story about a bird that migrates to the preserve, to illustrate that story, and to link an activity  and a "bird fact" to each page of the story.  Avian Committee members served as the "clients" for this project-based learning experience.  Mentors from the Avian Committee, Lakeland Audubon Society, the Public Library, the Geneva Lake Conservancy, a local artist and the city arborist assisted students with their research, classroom work, and took the students on a research visit to the preserve. In the photo section, please see Category 4A - Research visit to Four Seasons Nature Preserve.  In the documents section, please see Category 4A - Client Requirements - Storybook Trail 2023.  Overview of the Curriculum: Learning objectives for the " Learning to Soar" program were mapped for each lesson to cover the following Wisconsin 5th grade standards:  Science, (Life Science, (Cross-cutting Concepts, Science & Engineering Practice & Earth Science), English Language Arts (Reading Information Texts, Speaking and Listening), and Math (Measurement and Data).  Lesson worksheets provide formative assessments on one or two standards and tests provide more comprehensive summative assessments.  In the documents section, please see Category 4A - City of Lake Geneva - " Learning to Soar". The lessons cover the following. Unit 1.  Bird Basics:  How do birds make a living? This unit has five knowledge and skill-building lessons and two engaged learning lessons (to prepare for an engaged learning exercise).  The mission of these lessons is to build the students’ understanding of the basic biology of birds and the critical internal processes and external resources that are necessary for birds to survive.  This equips the students with the important background to move into the higher order research and reasoning necessary to complete a capstone project.  Engaged Learning Exercises for Unit 1 are integrated into the course plan to coincide with The Great Backyard Bird Count (February) or another bird-watching event.    Unit 2.  Focus on Migratory Birds This unit has two lessons focused on migratory birds.  Migratory birds provide a basis for introducing complexity into research and modeling (climate, transnational ecosystems/ agriculture/laws/cultures/economies, physics, and risk models).  Unit 3. Working as a Citizen Scientist This unit is designed to build the students’ ability to research and integrate information into a cohesive physical and oral presentation.  The structure of the assignment includes common components that can be mentored in a full-class setting, and employs volunteer coaches (ratio 1 coach to 4 students) who serve as mentors to the students and provide structured feedback to the teacher on progress and problems.  This unit can result in a capstone project that is either a project-based learning experience for the entire class or an individual research project for each student.  With the assistance of volunteer coaches and local experts (from entities such as the Lakeland Audubon Society and the Geneva Lake Conservancy), the students either produce a "bird fair" exhibit or a storybook trail. The capstone project for the class for 2023 - as noted earlier in this section - was the creation of a Storybook Trail at the Four Seasons Nature Preserve.  The story for 2023 was "The Incredible Journey."  The student-authors wrote and illustrated a story about a Tree Swallow couple that migrates to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and face dangers, but find a place to thrive and raise their babies at the Four Seasons Nature Preserve.  The story is told in nine "pages" or trail signs, which relate to the nature features and bird houses in the preserve.

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).

In 2023 the Avian Committee equipped elementary students to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count.  Avian Committee members taught " Learning to Soar" students the basics of bird watching and bird identification.  The students also learned how to input bird counts into eBird and why scientists, scholars, bird advocates, and policymakers depend on citizen scientists and the information that people (just like them) record and enter into the database. Students were also provided with field manuals to record their sightings, bird identification posters, seed packets, and QR codes to take them to virtual resources including All About Birds and the online Audubon field guide.   This year students recorded more bird sightings than in any previous year.  These citizen scientists recorded sightings of 157 birds, including 19 different species.  In the photo section please see Category 4C - Backyard Bird Count - seed packets and bird identification materials. In the documents section please see Category 4C - Record of eBird sightings during the Great Backyard Bird Count. The local Audubon Chapter,  Lakeland Audubon Society, has been conducting a Christmas Bird Count for many years. The 2022- 2023 count engaged 22 birders and recorded more that 10,000 birds, including six Bald Eagles. Details can be found by going visiting the Lakeland Audubon Society's January newsletter webpage at

D. Describe your community-sponsored annual bird festival. This must be a multi-day event or a truly exceptional one-day event.

Each year for the past decade, the City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee, in conjunction with the Geneva Lake Museum presents an annual Swift Night Out Program to help raise awareness and encourage interest in Chimney Swifts. Lake Geneva is fortunate to have large populations of Chimney Swifts that migrate through each fall, as well as several tall chimneys, notably at the Geneva Lake Museum, that serve as overnight stops for large flocks for several weeks in September.  The chimney at the Geneva Lake Museum is a traditional gathering place for thousands of these birds as they migrate.  This event is a one-night event where at dusk, at the conclusion of the indoor informational program, everyone goes outside as thousands of these acrobatic birds descend into the chimney. In addition to the indoor and outdoor programs, attendees are given an information sheet abour Chimney Swifts that includes a resource section with additional electronic and traditional sources for Chimney Swift information. In 2023, the Avian committee invited Schlitz Audubon back again to present their wonderful Raptor program “Eagle and Friends” at the Lake Geneva Swift Night Out. Since the program would occur over dinnertime, food trucks and picnic tables were made available throughout the evening. Avian committee member Dr. Carol Zimmermann gave an introductory talk on the Chimney Swifts, stressing the vital importance of preserving these local chimneys for their migration. All audience members were provided with an information sheet on Chimney Swifts. This introduction was followed by the Schlitz Audubon’s raptor program which thrilled the audience with four live raptors, including a magnificent eagle. At dusk everyone was encouraged to gather outside the museum.  A great deal of interest in Swifts had been generated as two years ago year the swifts did not show up at the museum chimney and then this year a cold front occurred the night before the program. The committee had been monitoring the chimney during the week, but it was feared that the Swifts might have left with the sudden change of weather. Dr. Zimmermann warned the crowd of this possibility and she had prepared a "Plan B" talk in case this happened. This uncertainty created much anticipation for the onlookers as to whether or not Swifts would show up at the museum this year. Fortunately, the Swifts did not disappoint and a cheer went up from the crowd as the spectacle of thousands of swifts started to gather and applause broke out as the final Swifts descended into the large chimney.  In the photo section, please see Category 4D - Swift Night Out - Eagle - Schlitz Audubon presentation. The  public was invited through flyers, Facebook posts, and newspaper articles. Our partner entities- Lake Geneva Museum, Lakeland Audubon, the Public Library of Lake Geneva, Visit Lake Geneva- the City’s Tourism Commission, as well as local businesses, helped promote this event through the museum's electronic sign, social media, flyers, and yard signs. Despite the challenges posed by the weather and the lack of Swifts in past years, the event was very successful, attracting more than 300 enthusiastic attendees to the museum.  In the documents section, please Category 4D - Swift Night Out promotional material - two-sided rack cards and Category 4D - Chimney Swift information sheet.

E. Illustrate a program that involves schools, garden clubs, or other organizations in bird conservation activities.

The Avian Committee has partnered with the Girl Scouts and Brownies to create resources for these young people to both learn about birds and complete badge requirements. Since Brownies are allowed to create a special interest badge for their troop, the City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee created the learning objectives and activities for a special "Bird Buddy" badge. The committee also created learning experiences, including a bird walk and "house tour" of the city's Purple Martin houses, These experiences are mapped to the requirements of the Junior Girl Scout Animal Habitat Badge. For both the Junior Girl Scout and the Brownies, the committee also builds materials for - and leads - the learning sessions. While the requirments for the Junior Girl Scouts are more rigorous than those for the Brownies, both programs include learning objectives that include building an understanding of the basic requirements birds need to thrive, the threats birds face, and the ways humans can help. Category 4E - Brownies awarded Bird Buddy badges and certification by Avian Committee Members. The Avian Committee also partnered with the local conservation association, the Geneva Lake Conservancy (GLC) .  Together the organizations have created experiences that educate children and adults about the threats to birds and the ways people can help birds thrive. In 2023, the GLC presented its 2023 Bird Festival. As in years past, the Avain Committee and the GLC worked together to promote both the bird walk through the Kettle Moraine. and the indoor luncheon program. Adults and children were invited to attend the bird walk. The Avian Committee and the GLC provided complementary tickets to the " Learning to Soar" students as well as paying for bus transportation. The GLC asked one of the Avian Committee members, Dr Carol Zimmermann to deliver the keynote presentation. Rather than do this by herself, Dr. Zimmermann engaged every one of the " Learning to Soar" students in the program. The theme was, "Are you smarter than a "Learning to Soar" Student? " The students presented the adult audience with questions about migratory birds, and the correct answers. All the adults who participated got a prize, whether or not they answered correctly. This allowed the audience to gently learn about the needs of migratory birds and simple steps they could take to help the birds, such as planting native plants and oak trees and reducing the use of pesticides and herbicides. For the students this collaboration with a conservation group strengthened the bonds they make with the conservation experts during their capstone project and provide them with a vision of their adult vocations or avocations as bird advocates. In the documents section, please see Category 4E. Pdf of Powerpoint Presentation for the GLC Bird Festival and In the photo section, please see Category 4E. Students participating the GLC Bird Festival Presentation. The Geneva Lake Museum has been a valued partner and has joined with the Avian Committee of Lake Geneva in sponsoring public engagement and educational programs (including hosting events such as Swift Night Out and informational presentations by Avian Committee members or organized by the committee).  In 2023, the Museum once again hosts a "Parade of Trees."  This annual event is promoted by the Museum (and participating organizations) on social media and newsletters.  The mission of the event is two-fold: to help non-profit organizations get the message out about their causes and to raise money for local charities.  This year (2023) the Avian Committee has once again joined in this event, decorating a "Cardinal Tree" to promote avian education in the community.  In the photo section please see Category 4E - Parade of Trees - Avian Committee Cardinal Tree.

J. Document that a municipal building has significant bird-friendly landscaping that features native plants AND signage that explains the importance of native plants and providing diverse habitat for birds (e.g., brush piles, water features).

The Public Library of Lake Geneva, located in the heart of Lake Geneva, has a garden of native, perennial plants. This garden was developed by Northwinds Perennial Farm.  The signage in the garden explains the benefit of native plants. Information includes, "This garden will be visited by large numbers of pollinators, moths, butterflies, bees, and diverse seasonal bird activity, providing food and material for nest building." In 2023 the city of Lake Geneva Avian committee supported one of it's partners, the Rotary Club of Lake Geneva, in the development and implementation of a Monarch Butterfly Garden. The garden is located behind the library along the lake path that includes our Puple Martin colony. An interprative sign describing the life cycle of monarchs will be situated adjacent to the Avain committee sign about Purple Martin sign. Educational programs for youths on the value of native plants to the eco system. These activities will be a collaboration of the Rotary, the Public Library and the Avian committee. In the photo section, please see Category 4J - Native Plant Gardens at Lake Geneva Public Library.

L. Show that your community works with traditionally underserved communities to increase their access to natural areas, environmental education, birding resources, and local environmental experts.

With the support of a grant from the Alliant Energy Foundation, the City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee assembled six bird-watching backpacks. These backpacks include binoculars, a bird identification book, a diary for recording observations, and a special city-specific birding hotspot map. The Public Library of Lake Geneva volunteered strong support for the program by housing and lending the backpacks to any resident or visitor. The Lakeland Audubon Society provided technical assistance and advice on the components of the kit. This is a no-cost resource available to any family or individual. To continue to build knowledge about - and use of - this free resource, the Avian Committee also integrated the use of the back-packs into outreach efforts with public and private schools and on bird walks with groups such as the Girl Scouts.  In the photo section, please see the photo from Category 4L - Junior Girl Scouts on a bird watching walk. The popularity of the Bird-Watching Kits and the partnership with the Public Library of Lake Geneva inspired Avian Committee activity to improve the bird resources at the Public Library of Lake Geneva. The Avian Committee used funds to help purchase bird books and materials to teach beginning readers (pre-school to second grade) about birds. These materials, as well as programs using the materials, are a free service of the Public Library of Lake Geneva.  In the photo section, please see Category 4L - Avian Committee members joining public library staff to present bird-related resources and  information to young readers.

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.

 The World Migratory Bird Day celebrations in Lake Geneva provided multiple levels of outreach and education to community members.  Among the events was the launch of the Storybook Trail at Mary Koutsky Four Seasons Nature Preserve.


In May 2023, as the capstone project for the Learning to Soar educational program, the fifth-grade students from St. Francis de Sales Elementary School presented their gift to the community - a Storybook Trail at the Four Seasons Nature Preserve.  More than 100 people attended the event. Joining students, parents, and school principal and school staff, community members, and members of supporting and funding groups attended. Lake Geneva Mayor Charlene Klein and President of Visit Lake Geneva Stephanie Klett, lead the celebration and the opening of the trail. Members of the board of the Environmental Education Foundation, Tree Board members ,city arborist Jon Foster, Park Board Commissioners, Geneva Lake Conservancy Executives, Kevin Dickey of Lakeland Auduban joined City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee members to tour bird-focused resource. The event was publicied throughout the county which resulted in a feature article in local news media.  In the photo section please see Category 6B - 2023 World Migratory Bird Day - Storybook Trail Launch - group shot with students and visitors.


Since the trail was designed to get young readers interested in birds, perhaps the most important guests at the lauch were the second grade students.  The highlight of the event was the "test-drive" by the children.  Groups of fifth-graders guided the younger students around the trail, helping them read the signs, do the activities (like looking for bird nests), and introducing them to the "brillant bird facts" noted on the signs.  In the photo section, please see Category 6B - Student creators touring younger children around the Storybook Trail

Joined Bird City: 2010

Population: 7,771

Incorporated: 1883

Area: 6.55 mi2

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