Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of Lake Geneva

City of Lake Geneva


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 Lake Geneva adopted the “City of Lake Geneva Comprehensive Plan” on December 14, 2009.

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 six Purple Martin houses, located on City parkland. 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. In 2018 volunteers recorded 23 fledglings and this number grew to 37 in 2019.  Funding from the City of Lake Geneva will allow a gourd-structure, with six nest boxes, to be added for the spring of 2020. See the attachment in the pictures section for a flyer (rack card) publicizing the 2019 training for volunteer nest-keepers for the City's Purple Martin colony - Category 1B - Purple Martin Nest Keeper Volunteer Training - Rack Card.  The Avian Committee also developed a Google form to assist volunteers in reporting the status of nest, eggs, and hatchlings.

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 Wisconsin DNR information on the control and removal of invasive species.  In addition, on the City of Lake Geneva's website, a link is posted to inform 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, Lunes, Merganzers, Coots, and Raptors.  Citizens can also contact the arborist for help with the identification and removal of invasive plants.

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. As it continues to grow, Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge will connect the dots on conserved land in southeast Wisconsin and northeast Illinois and will link lands conserved by local, county, and state agencies and private organizations with aims to restore and connect a landscape that includes large blocks of grasslands, wet prairies and natural stream watercourses.

The Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge boundary employs a cores and corridors concept for wildlife preservation with a focus on migratory and grassland birds.

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 2000 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 the preservation of open space, ecology and history, and directs its efforts toward shaping zoning policies and decisions, public and private land conservation, and environmental education.

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 while also providing local educational opportunities and hosting speakers at their monthly meetings that cover a variety of nature related subjects. In 2019, these presentations included many designed to further private and public efforts planting and preservation of bird-friendly plants and control of predators, such as the impact of outdoor cats. They also hold a series of bird watching hikes in parks and on trails throughout the area.

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

The City’s 40-acre Four Seasons Park is on County Highway H just southeast of Lake Geneva. The City has restored over five acres by cleaning out scrub plants and planting wild flowers to provide food and shelter for birds and other animals. The restoration was done with community service students under City supervision. There is a significant avian population throughout the park, which currently features including approximately 20 houses for Wood-ducks, Purple Martins, and Blue Birds.  Lake Geneva also built a wooden walkway over 1,000 feet in length.

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 and 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.

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 has 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 nine years.  The City found the other chimney had been capped this was uncapped for the swifts. There are now three large chimney housing Chimney Swifts in 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 to purchase state-of-the-art Purple Martin houses.  The Committee partnered with researcher Dick Nikolai of the Purple Martin Conservation Association (PMCA) 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. These volunteers were also educated in state-of-the-art management techniques from Helen Pugh, from the Hoy Audubon Society and Dick Nikolai of the (PMCA), an expert on Purple Martin breeding and behavior and a retired Wisconsin DNR wildlife biologist.  The City of Lake Geneva also has banding efforts in service to research on Purple Martins.  In 2019, volunteers continued to monitor the houses.  In addition, several public programs were held to educate residents and visitors about the City’s Purple Martin Colony project and to encourage private citizens to put up and monitor houses. People were invited to engage with volunteers during two Purple Martin Open Houses, to see the houses and the techniques for monitoring the birds. An interpretive sign was also placed near houses along the lakeshore path to provide basic information on Purple Martins and the houses for the Purple Martin Colony.  See the attachments in the document section.  These are titled, Category 1Q - June workshop information sheet including Purple Martin Open House and Category 1Q - July workshop information sheet including Purple Martin Open House.  Also in the picture section, see photos titled, Cateogry 1Q - Purple Martins at City House and Category 1Q - 2019 Purple Martin Nest 5 Eggs.

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.)

In 2019, the City of Lake Geneva granted the Avian Committee funds to erect an interpretive sign to educate residents and visitors about the growing colony of Purple Martins along the Lake Path.  See documentation "Category 1T - Lake Geneva Regional News article on Purple Martin Colony Project - Sign & Public Education."  This sign is part of the public education and outreach about this expanding colony.  As the newspaper article notes, public outreach and education was furthered in 2019 by information programs at this location and by the partnership with the Lake Geneva Public Library.  The Library is centered in the Purple Martin Colony area along the Lake Path.  The Library has joined the public outreach effort by hosting informational programs, serving as a distribution point for information on the colony, and highlighting and providing library resources about Purple Martins.

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 renewal application has been submitted for 2020.

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.

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 pamplets is the American Bird Conservancy.  The following information and a link to resources from the American Bird Conservancy is accessible from the  Avian Committee's City Website page.  The following is the information on the site sending readers to the link "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."  


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. 

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. This year the Geneva Lake Astrophysics and Steam organization, affiliated with Yerkes educational outreach, is also working on ways to monitor and measure the amount of light pollution around the lake. 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. 

The members of the Avian Committee in concert with a local educator, Ms. Jill Lorenzi, created a cross-disciplinary, bird-focused curriculum for fifth graders - Learning to Soar. This 12e-week program is divided into three major segments. The first is “Bird Basics” which focuses on the bird biology; and relationships that are critical for bird survival - such as the relationships between birds and humans, the environment, and food sources. In this unit the students also learn how to identify birds, how to use ebird, and participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. The second major segment focuses on migration. Using the information learned in segment one, students build an understanding of the reasons for migration, the perils of migration, and what humans can do to enhance the survival of migratory birds. In this segment the students - with the assistance of faculty, family, and volunteers - play a migratory bird game. The third segment provides a research opportunity for these citizen scientists. Each student is assigned a bird that migrates to or through Lake Geneva. With the assistance of volunteer coaches and local experts (from entities such as the Lakeland Audubon Society and the Geneva Lake Conservancy), each student prepares a “bird fair” exhibit providing sixteen points of information about their migratory bird. Projects had to include a display board and some other research or artistic or creative display. In 2019 these included wonderful creative projects including research results on feeding, videos, and a menu highlighting the favorite foods of a migratory bird.   All students were honored for participation and the two best representatives received special awards from the Mayor and City Council at a City Council meeting.  Pre and post-testing of students in the course showed statistically significant learning gains in all core learning objectives.  The curriculum is mapped to meet Wisconsin educational standards in a variety of areas including Science, English Language Arts, and Math.  The standards and the basics of the curriculum are noted in an attachment in the document section titled, Category 4A - Learning to Soar Curriculum Overview.  In the Photo section please see the folloiwng, Category 4A - Students working on Learning to Soar Lesson, Category 4A - Students and volunteers playing the Migratory Bird Game, Category 4A - Students honored for bird research at City Council meeting

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 2019, citizen-scientists in our 5th grade avian education class – Learning to Soar – participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count. With the assistance of the Lakeland Audubon Society, the school staff, Avian Committee volunteers, and parents, the students learned to use ebird, electronic and paper bird field guides, and recorded their observations during the count, but also continue to add information throughout the program period and beyond.  In the photo section please see Category 4C - Student working on bird identification and Category 4C - Slide from lesson preparing for Backyard Bird Count. The Lakeland Audubon Society has been conducting a Christmas Bird Count that encompasses the city for many years. The count circle is centered about two miles west of the city.  Approximately 56 different species were tallied last year. Highlights included Northern Flicker, Brown Creeper and Common Redpoll.  Please see bird images from the 2019 Backyard Bird Count - under Category 4C uploaded into the Photo section.

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

The City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee, in conjunction with the Geneva Lake Museum and the City of Lake Geneva Tourism Commission, presents an annual Swift Night Out Program to help raise awareness and encourage interest in Chimney Swifts. The chimney at the Geneva Lake Museum is a traditional gathering place for thousands of these birds as they migrate. This year more than 175 people attended the event.  Crag Thompson from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources gave a presentation on the state of migratory birds and practical ways that everyone can assist in protecting these valuable resources.  At dusk, at the conclusion of the indoor program, everyone went outside as thousands of these acrobatic birds descended into the chimney.  In addition to the lecture and the Swift viewing, children were engaged in an art project, painting bird houses and attendees enjoyed food and beverages provide by local food trucks.  In addition to assistance to the support from the City's Tourism Commission, the area's tourism agency - Visit Lake Geneva - promoted this event on its calendar and with digital advertising.  Our partner entities - such as Lakeland Audubon, the Geneva Lake Conservancy, and the Public Library of Lake Geneva helped promote this event on social media.  This was the highlight of the annual City of Lake Geneva Avian Programs, but was only one of the many events sponsored by the Avian Committee and its partners.  Starting with the City's World Migratory Bird Day Celebration, the Committee - with the amazing support of so many partners - created a calendar of events throughout the year.  Please see calendar rack cards in the photo section along with multiple pictures from Swift Night Out and other programs.  

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

The City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee's Learning to Soar Elementary Education Program served as a catalyst for a collaboration among bird-focused and bird-supportive organizations. In 2019 the program was piloted in the fifth grade of Saint Francie De Sales School.  Our local Audubon Society - Lakeland Audubon - provided materials, including bird books and posters.  The President and other members of the Society gave lectures and mentored students.  Lakeland Audubon assisted in successfully engaging students in the 2019 Backyard Bird Count.  The Geneva Lake Conservancy also provided amazing support, covering all the costs for students and parents to participate in a birdwalk, lunch, and a lecture by a birding expert from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  Local experts and even a local artist worked with students to help them understand and capture the amazing nature of birds.  Family and community members, including staff from the Public Library of Lake Geneva assisted with special student experiences, including a Migratory Bird Game and a capstone project for World Migratory Bird Day.  All the students who participated in the City's avian curriculum - Learning to Soar - presented information to the public during a “bird fair” celebration of World Migratory Bird Day. The students presented information on migratory birds and ways to protect them – to roughly 250 attendees! Fifth grade students from the public school attended the event and interacted with students, teachers, and local experts.  A host of volunteers from the City of Lake Geneva Public Library, the Lakeland Audubon Society, the Geneva Lake Conservancy, and the City of Lake Geneva City Council, a local artist, parents, as well as Avian Committee members and volunteers served as coaches and judges for the event.  Please see the pictures section for images from this collaboration, Category 4E - Geneva Lake Conservancy partnering to provide a bird watching experience to students, Category 4E - President of Audubon presenting to class

F. Demonstrate that your community understands the critical ecological role of pollinators by documenting your Bee City USA status or by describing another substantial effort to promote pollinator health (for ideas visit the Xerxes Society and the Pollinator Partnership).

Beginning in 2017, the Geneva Lake Conservancy has been promoting the importance of natural planting in the life cycle of the Monarch Butterflies and other pollinators species.  Each year they organize and promote the sale of three species of Milkweed and other important plants that provide food and natural habitate for migratory butterflies and other pollinators.  Please see the pictures section for a screen shot of the website that provides information on obtaining and planting milkweed, Category 4F - Pollinator Program - Geneva Lake Conservancy screen shot of website.

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 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 the photo section, please see Category 4J - Native Plant Gardens at Lake Geneva Public Library and Category 4J - Sign Explaining the Value of Native Plants for Birds and Others - Such as Pollinators.

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 Lakelake 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.  The Mayor and City Council recognized this partnership and this new resource at a city council meeting and the media coverage of the event helped promote the new program.  In the pictures section, please see a screen shot of excerpt of an article, Category 4L - Bird Watching Kits - Lake Geneva Regional News article excerpt.

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.

The City of Lake Geneva celebrates World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) with a special emphasis on educating the next generation of citizen scientists and bird advocates.  The City of Lake Geneva celebrated World Migratory Bird Day with a community celebration that hosted roughly 250 attendess.  The centerpiece of the celebration was a fifth-grade "Bird'Fair."   Each young citizen scientist was assigned a bird that migrated to or through the Lake Geneva area.  The students had to research, display, and present 16 information points about their assigned bird (including such things as the physical description, song, habitat, migratory path, threats, and ways people can assist this bird).  In addition, the young citizen scientists were required to verbally present this information and create some interesting and creative display that helped to tell the story of their assigned bird.  This displays ranged from charts summarizing feeding experiments to "bird menus" to artist representations of habitat, story books, and videos.  A sample assignment sheet can be found in attachment, Category 6B - Sample Assignment for World Migratory Bird Day Project.  Community leaders and bird and conservation experts - including a City Alderwoman and the President of the Lakeland Audubon Society, representatives from the Geneva Lake Conservancy and the Public Library - served as judges.  The Mayor of the City of Lake Geneva announced the two winning presentations to the student and then invited them to be honored at a City Council Meeting.  A pdf of a Powerpoint presentation documenting many aspects of this celebration is posted in the attachment section and titled, Category 6B - Overview of the City of Lake Geneva World Migratory Bird Day Celebration

Joined Bird City: 2010

Population: 7,771

Incorporated: 1883

Area: 6.55 mi2

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