Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of Manitowoc


Community Achievements

Habitat Creation, Protection, and Monitoring

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

The City of Manitowoc has supplied evidence that they are in compliance with Wisconsin’s “Smart Growth” law for land use planning and resource management.

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)

Birds, especially at the Manitowoc Lakefront, are monitored perhaps more extensively than anywhere in Wisconsin.  Charles Sontag records birds observed twice each day since 1967 and submits checklists to eBird (  More than 300 species have been recorded at that location, and Charles has the largest number of species observations in the State.  A Christmas Bird Count also takes place in Manitowoc, and locations within the City are being monitored as part of the second Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas.

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 Manitowoc's website has a page for citizens to obtain information about the Emerald Ash Borer, which was detected in the city limits for the first time on July 26, 2017 (, and offers a link on its Bird City ( and Tree City USA (  pages to the Lakeshore Invasive Species Management Area and the Woodland Dunes Nature Center & Preserve website.

Woodland Dunes ( serves as a resource for information about invasive species, both aquatic and terrestrial. Woodland Dunes has raised Galerucella beetles for purple loosestrife control and released them at a number of sites in the area including at the Manitowoc Small Boat Harbor area and Henry Schuette Park in Manitowoc.  The Nature Center also coordinates aquatic invasive species monitoring for lakes in Manitowoc County, and a mapping project for terrestrial invasive plants. Woodland Dunes periodically publicizes information about identification and control of invasive species and is available for citizen referrals from the City.  Furthermore, Woodland Dunes has information on free-roaming cats and natural landscaping/habitat improvement on their website and Facebook page.

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.

An expansive state natural area, Woodland Dunes Nature Center & Preserve, is listed in the Great Wisconsin Birding & Nature Trail Guide as one of the premier birding areas in Manitowoc County. "Located between Manitowoc and Two Rivers, this 1,200-acre reserve offers boardwalks, observation areas and six miles of hiking trails to explore its woodlands, meadows and marshes. Common avian residents include ten species of sparrows, Ruffed Grouse, Acadian Flycatcher, and White-eyed Vireo. The State Natural Area highlights the ancient ridges and swales that are found near the lakeshore. Many ridges are timbered with aspen, white birch, beech and hemlock trees. The tremendous variety of plant species found here attract many species of birds, especially warblers and thrushes. 

Signature species: Songbirds, raptors, waterfowl, and shorebirds. 

Rare species: Osprey, Redshouldered Hawk, and Mourning Warbler. "

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 City of Manitowoc has met with members of the Woodland Dunes Nature Center & Preserve to plan for enhancing bird habitat through the use of native and fruit bearing trees and other vegetation at the Lakeside Boulevard Bluff and at the CDF along the City's lakefront.  The group, Citizens for a Scenic Lakeshore, has assisted with the removal of invasive species and the planting of native trees and other vegetation along Lakeside Boulevard bluff and Red Arrow Park. In 2018, the City plans to partner with Woodland Dunes to remove poplars and other shallow rooted trees on the Maritime Drive bluff and then re-plant with native trees which would be beneficial for the bird population at the nearby CDF.

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

The City of Manitowoc, along with the Woodland Dunes Nature Center & Preserve and the Citizens for a Scenic Lakeshore volunteer group, have been involved in an ongoing management plan to “Restore the Shore” on Lakeside Boulevard in Manitowoc. The goal is to improve the site in terms of quality of habitat for birds and other animals, stabilize the soils on the bluff area, and improve the aesthetic value of this property overlooking Lake Michigan.

To date, work has been performed to some extent in every management work section. Over 500 cubic yards of invasives, dead wood, unwanted trees, and pruned limbs have been cut and removed from the area. The groups worked to plant over 50 pounds of native and wild grass seeds, over 120 native and fruit bearing trees, and a wide variety of flowers and plants from the native plants list approved for bluff planning in the management plan.

In addition, the City of Manitowoc was notified in July 2016 that the US Fish and Wildlife Service Great Lakes Coastal Program will be funding the Manitowoc Lakefront Habitat Project, north of the Manitowoc harbor. The Woodland Dunes Nature Center & Preserve is serving as the lead for the 11 acre project which includes establishing a songbird and pollinator habitat, and will coordinate with partners to implement the project over the next field seasons. This project will not only make the area more bird-friendly but also a top destination for visiting bird watchers as the site is a very important migratory stopover location for many species of birds and potentially monarch butterflies.

Furthermore, the City of Manitowoc began planning a project at the Maritime Boulevard bluff in 2017 to remove invasive and non-native trees and vegetation and to replace them with native fruit or seed-bearing trees and shrubs.  This area is also in close proximity to the shore of Lake Michigan, which is an important migratory flyway.  Work is scheduled to begin on this area in 2018.

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

In 2015, the City continued its partnership with Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership (LNRP) to control phragmites along the Little Manitowoc River through Indian Creek Park and on lakefront property along the shoreline.  In 2016, through a grant from the LNRP, follow-up treatment and removal was conducted on Japanese knotweed at the Manitowoc Lincoln Park Zoo, Lakeside Boulevard Bluff/Red Arrow Park, and at the Manitowoc Yacht Club by the City of Manitowoc and Woodland Dunes Nature Center and Preserve.  Garlic mustard, honeysuckle, and phragmities were also removed at Lakeside Boulevard Bluff/Red Arrow Park.  In September of 2017, Japanese knotweed was removed from the Lincoln Park Zoo area and wild parsnip and barberry were removed from the Woodland Dunes preserve in fall.  Plans are in place to continue monitoring and control of these invasive species.

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.

In 2017, Woodland Dunes Nature Center & Preserve began establishing a purple martin colony at the Manitowoc CDF.  Additional nesting structures will be placed in 2018.  Representatives from Woodland Dunes will continue to band purple martins at the site and will provide public education about the birds through signage and public programs.

Links are provided on the City of Manitowoc's Bird City page for the public to view a video about purple martins by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology or to view Cornell University's online bird guide about purple martins.

R. Show how your community aids a local youth group (e.g., Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of USA, 4-H Club, etc.) or conservation group in bird conservation projects (e.g., bluebird trail, habitat restoration, Wood Duck nest boxes, etc.).

In 2017, several classes of students and teachers from Madison Elementary School helped plant 100 dogwood, viburnums, chokeberries, and birch trees at the Manitowoc CDF.  A purple martin birdhouse was later placed just outside these trees and shrubs.

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 2016, a birding "hot spot" was identified at the Manitowoc Containment Disposal Facility (CDF) / Lakeview Park.  This harbor area has been outstanding for birds, including sightings of the white-winged tern.  Many individuals from the Wisconsin Ornithology organization have visited the area,  A sign was designated for this area and states "Welcome to One of Wisconsin's Best Birdwatching Hotspots:  The Manitowoc Containment Facility or CDF is a man-made structure designed to hold material excavated during harbor dredging activities.  Because it is essentially an island and lies along the Lake Michigan shore, an important migratory route for many species of birds, it is an important stopover area for many of them.  More than 300 species of birds have been recorded here, some nesting, others feeding and resting during migration.  A cooperative project to improve the quality of habitat for songbirds, and people who use the CDF for recreation is being done by the City of Manitowoc, and Woodland Dunes Nature Center, with support from the US Dept. of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership.  Invasive plant species will be managed, and the area planted with native vegetation which benefits songbirds."  A photo of Ruddy Turnstones is featured on the sign.

 As part of the 2017 Bird Migration Celebration, Woodland Dunes sponsored a trip to the Manitowoc harbor area where a birding hotspot was named the Manitowoc Lakefront Birding Area and was "designated in honor of Dr. Charles Sontag, Emeritus Professor of Biology at the UW Manitowoc whose 50 years of daily observations revealed that more than 300 species of birds have been found at that single location."

Community Forest Management

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

The City of Manitowoc continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in 1983.

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.

In 2016, City of Manitowoc, along with Woodland Dunes Nature Center & Preserve and the Citizens for a Scenic Lakeshore volunteer group, worked to plant over 120 native and fruit bearing trees by the Lakeside Boulevard Bluff. They have also agreed upon a native plant list for this area.

In 2017, work began at the City of Manitowoc CDF.  This 11 acre project includes planting native trees & shrubs, etc. to facilitate a songbird habitat.

The City of Manitowoc also began planning a project at the Maritime Boulevard bluff in 2017 to remove invasive and non-native trees and vegetation and to replace them with native fruit or seed-bearing trees and shrubs.  This area is also in close proximity to the shore of Lake Michigan, which is an important migratory flyway.  Work is scheduled to begin on this area in 2018.

E. Show that your forester, a member of your tree board, or another person currently responsible for managing your community’s trees has completed the Wisconsin DNR’s Wisconsin Tree Management Institute.

Al Rehme, the City of Manitowoc Forester, is currently in the process of attending the Wisconsin Community Tree Management Institute.  He attended Session I in October 2017, is registered for session II in February 2018, and plans to complete the III session in June 2018.

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 Manitowoc Bird City page includes a link to the Cats Indoors initiative by the American Bird Conservancy and to the Woodland Dunes Nature Center & Preserve which offers information about free roaming cats.  The City of Manitowoc also makes the municipal code 14.020 (Regulation of Dogs, Cats, and Other Animals)  available online for the public to view at any time.


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

Woodland Dunes routinely distributes materials and information as requested about protecting birds from window strikes, such as the Safe Windows publication from Cornell. Links to both organizations are on the City of Manitowoc's Bird City page.  Frosted, adhesive tape that reflects ultraviolet light that birds can see is available for sale in the Woodland Dunes gift shop.

F. Demonstrate that your community enforces an ordinance that requires domestic cats to be kept indoors, on a leash, or in an enclosure to prevent them from preying on birds and other wildlife and spreading disease.

The City of Manitowoc has had an ordinance in place for many years that states that cats are not to run at large.  Furthermore, cats are not permitted in any school ground, public playground, cemetery or public park.  Cats must be leashed or contained if on the streets or in public places.  Animals in heat must be confined on the owner's property at all times.

The City of Manitowoc Police Department does not break down their animal complaint statistics by species of animals.  Overall, the department received 642 reports of incidents; of those, 360 field warnings were issued, and 87 citations were issued regarding animal ordinances.

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 Manitowoc’s webpage includes links to Bird City Wisconsin, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the Woodland Dunes Nature Center & Preserve. A link to the Audubon Society can be found in the sidebar of the Lincoln Park Zoo conservation webpage (

Woodland Dunes has links on its website to the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, National Wildlife Federation, and others which address backyard bird habitat creation.  The Woodland Dunes has also posted information on its Facebook page showing how people can improve habitats for birds in their own yard.

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).

Woodland Dunes coordinates the Christmas Bird Count for Manitowoc County, promotes the Great Backyard Bird Count, and conducts annual summer bird surveys within its preserve adjacent to the City. At the Christmas Bird Count for kids aged 8 years and older, 16 different species and 188 total birds were identified over the first two years. Woodland Dunes has also participated in the Midwest Crane Count for numerous years.  In addition, sites in Manitowoc are monitored as part of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II.

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

Each year Woodland Dunes hosts its annual Bird Breakfast and Migration Celebration on the second Saturday in May. The Bird Breakfast was inaugurated in 1942 by a local librarian and has been continued by the nature center since the late 1970’s. This event generally coincides with International Migratory Bird Day, and includes guided bird walks at different area locations, talks, children’s activities, and bird banding demonstrations.  This year's celebration included a special trip to the Manitowoc harbor, where a birding area was dedicated "in honor of Dr. Charles Sontag, Emeritus Professor of Biology whose 50 years of daily observations revealed that more than 300 species of birds have been found at that single location."

In fall, Woodland Dunes has Owlfest, a widely-known event celebrating the migration of Northern Saw-whet Owls which attracts visitors from across the state.  This year's celebration included representatives from Wildlife of Wisconsin.  Channel 5 was visited Woodland Dunes to help promote the event.

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

Woodland Dunes annually provides environmental education programs to thousands of school children and people of all ages and many of those programs include bird-related components.  Woodland Dunes was founded to protect bird habitat, and avian education is a primary focus of many educational activities.  Examples of the conservation activities held include programs held at Woodland Dunes where bird feeders were made and when several classes of elementary school children and their teachers helped plant trees and shrubs at the Manitowoc CDF, which were beneficial for use as bird habitats.


K. Demonstrate that your community actively raises awareness of its bird assets. Examples include placing a remote web camera on a nest platform, offering bird watching field trips, or creating a significant educational resource on your community's bird life.

The Manitowoc area has been featured in a number of media publications, including features in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, local television news features, Wisconsin Public Television, Discover Wisconsin, and the Visitor Guide for the Manitowoc Area Visitor and Convention Bureau - all highlighting the diversity of birds found in the area. 

There are some webcams in the local area where citizens can view birds. Briess Malt & Ingredients Company has a link on their website to a live Falcon cam atop their grain elevator. The Woodland Dunes website has both a Bird Feeder Cam and an Osprey Cam, so that people can enjoy birds from the comfort of their own house.

Awareness of birds in the Manitowoc area was also raised through the advertising on the website, in newspapers, newsletters, Facebook, etc. of various activities at the Woodland Dunes Nature Center, such as:

  • The Breeding Bird Atlas, which is an important citizen-science study to document what species of birds are nesting across the state,
  • A Sandhill Crane Count for Manitowoc County, which was open to new volunteers and experienced counters,
  • Birding with Bernie programs to identify and observe the birds as they come to the feeders at the Chickadee Landing inside the Nature Center,
  • The Bird Breakfast & Migration Celebration, which celebrates the return of many migratory songbirds and includes a guided bird hike and children’s activities,
  • The Birds, Bees & Butterflies Summer Camp for children ages 4-7, which teaches children how to make a bird nest,
  • Friday Morning Bird Walks that help document the birds in the Woodland Dunes preserve,
  • Birding the Marsh, which offers a guided tour of the marsh to look for birds,
  • Owl Fest, where participants can meet and learn about Wisconsin owls and raptors through Wildlife of Wisconsin, enjoy nature walks, and an owl hooting contest,
  • Kids’ Eye View of Wildlife Rehabilitation with Wildlife of Wisconsin, where kids can practice wing wrapping and learn what it is like to be a wildlife rehabilitator,
  • Hawk Watch along Lakeside Boulevard where people look for migrating hawks and other birds on Lake Michigan, and the
  • Kids’ Nature Club Hike & Activity, where families can enjoy a guided nature hike and learn about owls.
  • The Christmas Bird Count for Kids, which originated in 2012 and helps children learn birding basics and gives them an opportunity to document bird species and tabulate results.

At the preserve, a Bird Sanctuary with bird feeders is offered for kids to observe and watch various species and Adventure Backpacks have activities that help children learn about things such as bird nests. Geocaching is also available on site to bring more visitors to the area to view the natural plants and wildlife, such as birds.

Finally, the City of Manitowoc offers a page on its website for Bird City information and links.

N. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

Woodland Dunes offers programs about bird banding and conservation to schools, scout, garden, and other community groups on a continual basis. For example, each fall nearly 1,000 first grade students visit for their Cottonwood Trail program, during which they learn about fall bird migration and bird banding, and students help release banded songbirds.

 The City's Lincoln Park Zoo offers native songbird exhibits, as well as a Birds of Prey exhibit, which they have always been enthusiastic about showcasing.  Information about the birds in their exhibits is available on the City's website  (

Energy & Sustainability

H. Describe your community’s efforts to educate residents about climate change.

In 2016, a Woodland Dunes summer education intern held an event regarding "The UNFCCC Climate Conference:  A Local Perspective on an International Agreement."  The purpose of the event was to discuss the agreement and what it means for the future of this area.   In 2018, a workshop is being planned at the Wisconsin Maritime Mueseum in Manitowoc by the Climate Change Coalition of Door County entitled "Effective Communication in the Face of Skepticism:  Climate Change."  Participants will learn ways to communicate about climate change in a "positive, assertive, and effective manner."  The goal is to give participants the "tools needed to make a difference" in the local community.

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 Bird Breakfast and Migration Celebration, held on the second Saturday in May at Woodland Dunes, coincides with International Migratory Bird Day and includes guided bird walks, talks, bird banding demonstrations, and children’s activities.  

In 2017, a International Migratory Bird Day event was held at the City's Lincoln Park Zoo.  Children were able to play an educational bird migration game, make pinecone birdfeeders, and complete various bird-related worksheets.

Community Details

Joined Bird City: 2011

Population: 33,736

Incorporated: 1870

Area: 17.99 mi2

Community Website

Community Bird City Page

Community Tourism Page

Community Map