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, involves volunteers monitoring seven 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, and to submit these bird counts to Purple Martin Conservation Association.  This information was recorded and forwarded using Martinwatch Nest Data sheets.  Banding was also part of this effort.  

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.

Lake Geneva’s website links to Wisconsin DNR information on the control and removal of invasive species. Citizens can also contact the arborist for help with the identification and removal of invasive plants.

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 and plans to continue restoring this area by planting additional flowers each year. The restoration was done with community service students under City supervision. There is a significant avian population throughout the park, which currently features 27 bird houses. The City Street Department is in the process of building 12 more Purple Martin and Bluebird houses to add to the park. 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 also attend a City Tree Board meeting to get advice and help in addressing their problem with invasive shrubs and plants.

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). One has attracted many hundreds of Chimney Swifts on an annual basis. We found the other chimney had been capped so the City uncapped the second chimney 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, which partnered with researcher Dick Nikolai of the Purple Martin Conservation Association (PMCA).  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.  

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.

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.

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).

The City’s website provides information on Bird City decals (Window-strikes) with the decals 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.

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 will make it significantly more difficult to construct a tower in Lake Geneva. Unfortunately, there is an effort to regulate tower as a utility, thus reducing the City’s ability to regulate and restrict towers in the City.

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.

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.  There is also a Dark Skies initiative for Lake Geneva.

Public Education

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).

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.  

Also in 2018, Lake Geneva celebrated its 7th annual Swift Night Out count on September 15, 2018 at the Geneva Lake Museum. Dick Nikolia, retired Wisconsin DNR wildlife biologist, provided a presentation about Swifts.  More than 70 adults and children attended the research-based presentation and then went outside to witness Chimney Swifts enter the museum chimney, photograph the birds,  and interact with our expert as he counted the Swifts.

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

The City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee has partnered with St. Francis De Sales Schools to create, implement and assess an avian curriculum.  Fifth-graders are participating as citizen-scientists learning about birds, bird-biology, habitats, migration, food sources, threats, and ways to protect birds. The students learn to observe and identify birds and are collecting data through ebird to add to international research.  Students participate in the Backyard Bird Count.  The students have bird-feeders and are learning to be good stewards of their feathered neighbors.  Volunteers, members of the Avian Committee, and local avian experts are providing resources and experiences for the students.  

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 avian advocates.  Fifth grade students are presenting creative and informative displays and projects focused on birds that migrate to and through Lake Geneva Wisconsin.  Bird experts and local officials serve as mentors and as judges for the projects.   The syllabus for the fifth-grade curriculum is available upon request.

 To celebrate another aspect of bird migration, the City of Lake Geneva also annually holds a community celebration of the Chimney Swift.    Each September, community members and experts gather at the Geneva Lake Museum to hear an educational presentation and then gather to witness the Swifts as they swirl down the chimney of the museum.  (See picture in the photo section.  All are titled beginning with the phrase, "Category 6.B Swift Night Out..." )

Joined Bird City: 2010

Population: 7,771

Incorporated: 1883

Area: 6.55 mi2

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