Marquette County

Marquette County


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.

All Marquette County townships and communities are in compliance with the “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)

Volunteers from the Muir Land Bird Club continue to monitor and maintain 2 Bluebird trails on country properties as well as additional birdhouses on two other properties. Four Purple Martin houses are also maintained and monitored on county park sites. 

In 2021 a fifth Purple Martin House was installed on county property and monitored and maintained. A total of 1,078 chicks were raised from Martin colonies on county property thru 2021. County residents also continued to monitor two Bluebird trails. The Sandhill Crane Count was also completed in Marquette County.

Since 2013, several bird monitoring projects continued to take place in Marquette County. County residents participated in events year round including the Christmas Bird Count (the County’s 25th year), Great Backyard Bird Count, Sandhill Crane Count, Swift Night Out, Bluebird Trail, water bird Monitoring. All data was submitted to required agencies. All of these activities were repeated in 2021. In addition, a second Purple Martin house was installed and monitored at Krakow Memorial Park in 2020 and a 3rd in 2021.  All are monitored annually.

C. Provide evidence (e.g., official designation of natural areas, easements, etc.) that existing bird habitat within community limits has legal protection. (Exclusions: Leash laws; prohibitions against disturbing nests and wildlife; areas consisting primarily of mowed grass)

More than 10,000 acres of bird habitat is currently under the protection of USFWS, WDNR, Conservation Reserve Program, 100-year lease agreements, County Parks and Rec, local Parks and Rec, and other state and federal programs and private holdings. The “Muir is Still Here” map highlights Department of Natural Resources State Natural Areas in the County plus Nature Conservancy property as well as US Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Marquette County. 200 additional acres of farmland was protected for birds with the purchase of the Bessie Eggleston property. Part of the property was owned by Daniel Muir, John Muir's father, and is now permanently protected. All of the crop acreage was restored into native prairie and oak savanna in 2020-2021. Restoration began in 2016. Prairie restoration was completed in 2021.

D. Document that current municipal planning seeks to provide additional bird habitat.

Marquette County approved the removal of invasive shrubs on Buffalo Lake Island in 2016 with planting of native plant species approved by county for 2017. An additional bird house trail also was approved for 2017 on Apuckawa nature trail with expansion of the trail approved for 2018. An additional 50 acres was leased from the DNR in 2019 on a 25-year lease. Invasive plants were removed and hiking trails established. A new 3/4 mile long birding and nature trail was established by the county adjacent to the Grand River SWA in 2020 and expanded in 2021. This included invasive species removal and birdhouse placement. Road access and parking areas were improved as was ADA compliant trail.

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.

Notices are printed annually by the townships in Marquette County Tribune regarding the control of invasive plant species. Workshops are done by Prairie Enthusiasts, Wisconsin Friends of John Muir and other groups to help people identify and remove invasive species on public and private property.  Invasives Species removal workshop was hosted by Marquette County and Golden Sands RC&D as part of the Central Wisconsin Invasives Partnership. 

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.

Five Marquette County sites are included in the Great Wisconsin Birding Trail publication: Central Sand Prairie Region. Grand River SWA is an IBA part of which is managed by the county.

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 Montello Chamber of Commerce provides funding for birding trail brochures and support for new trails when proposed to government agencies. An additional trail was added in 2015 and 2016, an additional trail was proposed in 2016 with planning and layout beginning in 2017. Work began on the new trail in 2017 and was continued through 2019. A new trail on Lower Locks Road was established and completed in 2021 and a new trail was constructed at Montello Park in 2021 with completion expected in 2022.

I. Document a recent project that created or restored bird habitat in your community. (Exclusions: Bird feeders and small-scale artificial nesting structures)

50 artificial Forster's Tern nesting platforms were placed at Hope Marsh in 2021. Most had documented nests with eggs during a Bird Club survey done in June.

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

200 acres of prairie and oak savannah were restored at the John Muir site in 2019 and 2020. Management Continues on these sites in form of invasive Species removal on an annual basis.

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.

Worskhop was held in 2021 along with Central WIsconsin Invasives PArtnership to teach Landowners to Identify and remove Invasive Species.

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

County Parks and Recreation along with volunteers from the High-Marq Charter School, Wisconsin Friends of John Muir, the Prairie Enthusiasts, Muir Land Bird Club and others work to remove invasive species from federal, state, county and municipal properties in Marquette County on an annual basis.

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

Currently five known Chimney Swift towers are monitored each year. All owners of these sites have been contacted by the Bird City Administrator in regard to protecting and preserving the towers from demolition. Three of the towers are on abandoned properties. All five are still standing in spite of them not being used by the businesses or owners.

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.

Four Purple Martin colonies on county properties are currently being monitored by the Muir Land Bird Club. All are Troyer-style houses and are monitored weekly during nesting season according to current established monitoring protocols. Data is submitted to the Purple Martin Association of Wisconsin at season's end. 

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 Rachel Mueller Birding Trail was established at the Apuckawa Recreation Area in 2017. A bird checklist for the site is available at the kiosk at the trailhead. The checklist points out various habitats and birds that can be seen. One new trail was established and completed at Lower Locks Recreational area in 2020. A new birding checklist has been printed for these sites. The new John Muir Nature and History Trail mobile app was upgraded to show birding hotspots and birds of Marquette County at .

Community Forest Management

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

The Village of Endeavor continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation in 2017 following its initial award in 2009. DNR Urban Forestry Assistant Olivia Witthun presented the award. She told the board and audience members what was required for Endeavor to receive the designation.

“This award is a tribute to cities and villages that meet certain standards,” she said. “They have to have a tree board or department, they must have a tree ordinance, have a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita, and they must have an Arbor Day observance and proclamation. Endeavor meets all the standards and is the first in Marquette County to be named a Tree City USA.”

The Tree City USA program is a part of the Arbor Day Foundation with the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters. Public image and citizen pride are just two of the benefits of being named a Tree City, according to the Arbor Day website at Over 3,400 communities in the United States and 180 in Wisconsin are Tree Cities.


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.

Marquette County Land & Water Conservation Department sponsors annually Tree/Shrub sale.  This sale distributes over 50,000 native trees and shrubs to county landowners.  

F. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

The Montello Historic Preservation Society has been collecting stories about Marquette County trees and has included them in the John Muir exhibit in Vaughn Hall. New in 2014, a Demonstration Forest in Harrisville is managed through DNR Forestry programs as well as local forestry programs. Arbor Day has been celebrated in Marquette County for generations, as evidenced by photos of rural school children celebrating the day by planting trees and working in the school yard. Community forest programs are being conducted annually at the Montello and Westfield School forests under the guidance of DNR foresters. Logging on private lands now includes the creation of oak savannas for Red-headed Woodpecker habitat.

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.

A continuing effort is made at the annual World Migratory Bird Day celebration as well as other events to educate the public regarding the Cats Indoors initiative. Print material including the Cats Indoors brochures are distributed to attendees at these events. There was a Cats Indoors! program and display at Marquette County’s 2019 and 2021 International Migratory Bird Day event and other community fairs with flyers passed out to attendees each year.

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

Preventing window strikes information is distributed to attendees during the World Migratory Bird Day event as well as other events throughout the year. The very thing that permits humans to observe the birds from the comforts of home, the window, is a lethal trap to the avian friend. Ornithologists estimate that more than 100 million birds a year die from window strikes.

Forty-two families of birds, or roughly 25% of the species found in the United States and Canada, are susceptible to a bird window strike. Theory suggests that birds do not recognize windows as obstacles. There are several things the human element can do to reduce the injury or fatality that can occur to a bird through bird window strikes.

Marquette County Window Strike Program

As part of the Marquette County effort to become a “Bird County,” educating the many bird watchers that are resident here is paramount. Muir Land Bird Club and other volunteers has:

  1. Offered educational literature and information at our International Migratory Bird Day Celebration and Father Marquette Days, two local festivals. Volunteers staff these booths to educate the public with the statistics of how prevalent bird window strikes are and how easy the solutions are to reduce this concern. Assortments of different window decals are be made available for purchase.
  1.  Educational materials were packaged and distributed to feed stores in Montello, Oxford, and Westfield.
  1.  Awareness and solutions to window strikes is discussed at all public birding events sponsored by the Muir Land Bird Club.

A workshop was held in 2013 at the local IMBD event sponsored by the Muir Land Bird Club to explain to people about the hazards on window strikes. Window clings were sold at that time. Information was also included in the weekly “Word on Birds” column in the Marquette County Tribune and window clings and information have been available to the public through the club. Workshops continued in 2019 at the IMBD event as well as at a booth at the County Fair and No Family Left Inside.

L. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

Marquette County has placed and monitored 10 monofilament line trash bins at several shore fishing and boat landing sites. Bins are maintained weekly.

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. 

Both the Homeschool Association and Montello Public School participate in Flying WILD's Migration Challenge each year. The Jerry, Aggie and Reggie project teaches the third grade classes about owls by learning owl calls, their habits and dissecting owl pellets.

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.

Seminars by the Muir Land Bird Club and Prairie Enthusiasts were held in several workshops about creating and enhancing backyard bird habitat including nest box placement, feeder placement, brush pile construction and native species plantings in 2019. These events were not available in 2020-2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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 27th annual CBC was held in 2021. Volunteers also participated in the GBBC and Swift Night Out project in 2021 and submitted data.

The Muir Land Bird Club organized by Daryl Christensen counted Chimney Swifts at three locations in Montello in 2021. Chimney Swift populations are declining because of the loss of nesting sites with the dismantling of hundreds of old chimneys across the state no longer in use. In Montello, the smoke stack of the Montello Granite Company, now owned by Elite Marble, and the chimney from the incinerator at the old high school still provides roosting sites during migration for the small, quick birds. Three Additional sites have been identified as roost sites in Montello, Endeavor and Westfield.

Swifts used to nest in large, hollow trees, but as forest habitat decreased, the birds adopted chimneys as their nesting spots. Energy efficient furnaces that use no chimneys, liners that make it impossible to build nests, and the dismantling of industrial chimneys has left the birds with fewer nesting places. Swifts migrate to South America over winter and some of the birds coming through Montello are those headed south from farther north. Others have remained all summer.

The birds are either always in flight, nesting, or resting for the night. They don’t perch like other birds and their ravenous appetites rid the skies of millions of mosquitoes and other bugs.

Muir Land Bird Club Encourages Participation in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) and Christmas Bird Count (CBC)

These annual events engage birdwatchers of all ages across North America. Anyone can participate, from beginners to experts. Count for as little as 15 minutes on a single day, or for as long as you like each day of the event. It's as simple as counting birds at a location near you, tallying the highest number of birds of each species seen together at once, and filling out an online checklist on the GBBC website. As the weekend progresses, visit the website regularly to check out results and share photographs. Information on the Christmas Bird Count can also be found online, Marquette County has been involved in both events throughout the years. Marquette County birders had the largest species count for the GBBC in 2015. Both the CBC and GBBC were conducted in the county in 2020.

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

The narrative below describes our annual festival that was planned for 2020, but cancelled due to Covid restrictions. The World Migratory Bird Day - an annual event was held on May 1, 2021. Due to Covid restrictions, several activities were canceled, but kids built bluebird houses and two bird hikes were held.

Our 2019 festival included the building of 80 bluebird houses for kids. Our attendance topped 350 for kids and adults for the first time. Our annual bird festival is held on the first Saturday of May each year in Montello. Although it is primarily "kid-focused" 100's of adults attend each year. Kids under 12 build their own birdhouses and are given information in regard to placement, monitoring and cleaning. Since most kids are accompanied by one or more adults, the adults receive the information as well. In 2019 we had 80 kids build houses. Also during the event, kids play the Great Migration Challenge game from Flying Wild. They also make pine cone snowy owls or other birds, get photos taken with giant bird heads, and color birds in a coloring contest. All receive the Junior Birder Journal and Activity Book. The also participate in a bird identification game.

An informational table is set up with brochures about Cats Indoors, Bird City, Great Wisconsin Birding Trail, Preventing Window Strikes and more. A tri-fold shows on-going bird-related projects in Marquette County. In 2019, more than 350 people attended the event.

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

Thyme Shares Master Gardeners hosted Marquette County naturalist and birder Daryl Christensen. Christensen spoke about how gardeners can make their land attractive to birds during the winter months. He encouraged people to have a source of running water, to leave seed heads for winter birds, and to create feeding sites for what some people consider “nuisance birds” like the starling or blue jay. “These birds can be a delight to see and are a part of our natural world. Starlings eat huge numbers of destructive insects in summer months and blue jays are the number one bird Europeans want to see when they travel to the states,” he said. Putting out ears of corn will often keep blue jays away from other feeders.

A new club has formed in Marquette County for anyone who wants to learn more about birds. Daryl Christensen, award winning ornithologist with 50 years of birding experience, is heading up the Muir Land Bird Club along with Kari Stauffer, an experienced recreational birder and photographer. The club meets once a month at J. P. Vaughn Hall at 55 West Montello Street or other locations as announced.

In addition, the club also was involved in helping Princeton, WI with their Bird City designation at a public forum attended by local officials and schools. Students from Montello School District also attend bird hikes and seminars. For more information contact Christensen (608-296-3068) or visit them online. The club is still active in 2019

The Marquette County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail and Muir Land Birding Club partnered to offer a free bird hike led by Daryl Christensen at the Fox River Refuge. The hike begins at the Blue Bird Trail in Muir Park and then heads across the road to the refuge.

Daryl Christensen is a naturalist, biologist, syndicated outdoor writer, and lifelong birder who has been active for many years in both organizing and taking part in efforts to protect species in trouble. Christensen is a founder, board member, and Marquette County Coordinator of the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin. He has received an award from the Bureau of Endangered Resources (BER) of the DNR for his outstanding work with Forester's Tern restoration efforts, as well as for work involving other threatened and endangered bird species, including the BER Turkey Vulture Recovery Program.

The Montello native was a field coordinator for a Florida Whooping Crane Reintroduction Project for the International Crane Foundation, and was also active in Sandhill Crane research in connection with his ICF work. He has been very active in the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas Project in Marquette, Waushara, and Green Lake Counties since it was initiated, and in the Wisconsin Ornithology's Weekly Checklist Project for several years. He organized the first ever Marquette County Christmas Bird Count in 1996 and following years to the present.

Several birding hikes were sponsored by the Muir Land Bird Club throughout 2019. All hikes were advertised and open to the public. Students from the Montello and Endeavor School Districts participated in Flying Wild’s Migration Challenge in spring and fall as part of the Howard & Betty Love Marquette County Educational Program. Students also participated in bird hikes and bird house and feeder building sponsored by the Howard & Betty Project and Muir Land Bird Club. Students from Montello helped construct and erect a new osprey platform on Buffalo Lake. Marquette County and private donors funded the placement of a new Purple Martin house on Buffalo Lake monitored by the bird club. Twenty-seven martins fledged the first year in 2013. To date, a total of 824 martins have fledged since 2013.

G. Provide a link to your community’s Bird City Wisconsin webpage, which must be visible from the main page of your municipal website (it may be located at the first level of a drop down menu on the main page but cannot be any less visible) OR demonstrate that your Bird City effort has a significant social media presence.

Marquette County has a dropdown link to Bird City on it's Municipal/County webpage as well as the John Muir Nature & History Route mobile app.

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

The Muir Land Bird Club has an ongoing consultation relationship with Parks and Rec and has been supported in the past and present for birding trail projects, bird house placement and habitat improvement on county properties. 

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 mobile app at has a listing of birds to see in various sites around the county. The annual Marquette County Visitor's Guide promotes birds and birding throughout the year. A new kiosk at the John Muir WPA shows many of the birds that are nesting on the property today as well as when Muir lived here 170 years ago.

M. Show that your community participates in the Natural Resources Foundation’s Great Wisconsin Birdathon to raise money for your community and for statewide conservation.

For the past 7 years, the MuirLand Merlins have conducted Birdathons to raise money for Purple Martin Houses and to purchase literature for IMBD events and other projects for Marquette County. In 2021, they did two Birdathons for NRF.

Energy & Sustainability

A. Document an energy audit for a municipal building and show that your community is working to implement its recommendations.

Marquette County had energy audit completed for the Main Courthouse, Human Services and Historical Society Buildings.  All recommendations in report were completed.

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 2021 WMBD was  held on May 1. Kids built bluebird houses and were instructed on placement and monitoring.   Cats Indoors and other literature was distributed. Two bird hikes took place.

Marquette County’s IMBD celebration was held on May 6, 2017 with over 300 participants attending the various events which included bird house building for kids, The Migration Challenge Game, Wingspan Banner, making pine cone birds for kids, Birding hikes, Bird coloring table, and information booth with literature about kids and birding, the Great Wisconsin Birding Trail, Cats Indoors, Preventing Window Strikes, the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II, landscaping for backyard birds and lots of bird stickers for kids. The event was advertised on Facebook, posters were placed around the county and two articles were placed in the local newspaper for the event.

Joined Bird City: 2012

Population: 15,404

Incorporated: 1836

Area: 464 mi2

Community Website

Community Tourism Page

Community Map