Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of Middleton

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.

On November 21, 2006, the City of Middleton adopted their Comprehensive Plan, an action that represented the City’s compliance with Wisconsin’s “Smart Growth” planning legislation that became law through Wisconsin Act 9 in October 1999. Middleton’s Comprehensive Plan addresses 9 key elements identified by Smart Growth Legislation. Several components, including land acquisition for recreational lands and parks, as well as zoning of shorelands and wetlands, have assured that the City of Middleton plans its growth with birds and other wildlife in mind.

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)

Avid bird watchers abound in Middleton and have been keeping detailed bird checklists for several of

Middleton’s conservancies for many years. For example, Mike McDowell and partners have been monitoring birds in Middleton’s Pheasant Branch Conservancy monthly since 2007, and during that time have tracked over 160 bird species. As of 2015, Middleton has continued to monitor Wood Duck and Purple Martin nesting. Furthermore, the community provides a detailed bird species count conducted at the Pheasant Branch Conservancy yearly.

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)

The City of Middleton’s Parks and Recreation ordinances protect park and conservancy property and specifically protect birds and bird habitat by stating that “no person shall kill, injure or disturb or attempt to injure or disturb waterfowl, birds or animals, wild or domestic, within any park.” The ordinance goes on to prohibit any action that may injure trees, shrubs or other vegetation. The Parks Ordinance also protects Middleton’s conservancy lands, including Stricker’s Pond, Tiedeman’s Pond, Graber Pond, Esser Pond and the famed Pheasant Branch Conservancy. In fact, Middleton can proudly say that over 25% of its land area is zoned as protected conservancy.

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

In 2014, the City of Middleton adopted a Comprehensive Park and Open Space Plan to remain in effect through the year 2019. At 127 pages, this extensive document ensures that community planning occurs with bird habitat and open space in mind. This plan covers parkland as governed by the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission. The mission statement of Middleton’s Open Space Plan calls for preserving and protecting the City’s open space, water, cultural and natural resources, and the plan’s first goal is maintaining an adequate amount of active and passive recreational land, which includes acquiring additional acreage for parks and recreation.

While the Parks & Open Space Plan includes conservancy lands, it does so only under the general analysis and master planning of public open space. Thus, a more comprehensive handling of conservancy lands can be found in the City of Middleton 2011 Conservancy Lands Plan. At the time of the Conservancy Lands Plan’s writing, conservancy lands covered over 800 acres, which represented approximately 15% of the City’s total area. By 2007, Middleton’s “green space” had increased to over 25% of the City’s area. The Conservancy Lands Plan acknowledges threats to conservancy lands including invasive species and development, and calls for measures like land acquisition to ensure viable conservancy lands long into the future.

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

The City of Middleton promotes native landscaping and distributes an informative pamphlet. One excellent resource for residents can be found on the City’s website where the rationale and benefits of native landscaping are explained and tips are offered for getting started.

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 Middleton provides an ample amount of information about the identification and removal of invasive plant species. This information is available on the City’s website. Additional links to related invasive species information can be found on the previously mentioned website as well under the Forestry heading.

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.

The Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail Guide features Middleton’s 160-acre Pheasant Branch Conservancy as an important site in Dane County. According to the Southern Savanna Region Trail Guide, signature species at Pheasant Branch include the Clay-colored Sparrow, Barred Owl and Common Yellowthroat.

Community Forest Management

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

The City of Middleton continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in 1994. As one of the over 3,400 tree cities nationwide, Middleton works with the National Association of State Foresters and the USDA Forest Service.

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.

Several City of Middleton ordinances already deal with cats in that they require licensing, mandate rabies vaccination, forbid free-roaming in parks and allow for the impounding of cats or other animals as needed to prevent rabies.

Middleton has taken the first steps to institute the American Bird Conservancy’s “Cats Indoors!” program by displaying a poster and providing brochures at both the library and city hall. Information is also available through their website. In light of greater knowledge surrounding the care and responsible ownership of cats, Middleton will be considering an ordinance with provisions recommended by the American Bird Conservancy, including, but not limited to, the mandatory spay/neuter of all cats over 6 months of age (unless the cat owner seeks an exception permit), and the confinement of all cats to the owners’ property or restraint when off premises.

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 of Middleton provides online information on window-strike protection for bird under the Bird City Wisconsin section of its website.

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 Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy host many bird-related events annually, including educational programs for area educators that focus on birds. In 2015 the Friends celebrated their 20th anniversary with a special event. During this event, two documentaries were shown:  Conservancy Connections and The Story of the Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy – 20 Years of   Advocacy for the Conservancy. Students from Middleton High School collaborated with senior citizens, business leaders, government officials and school district educators to create a series of documentaries about the importance of the Conservancy to the community as well as chronicling the important grass root initiatives and the commitment of citizens who have cared enough to conserve and enhance the Conservancy for generations past, present and the future.

In 2010, the Friends provided sessions on “Flying WILD: An Educator’s Guide to Celebrating Birds” and “One Bird-Two Habitats” for area educators. Five teachers and two area naturalists attended this staff development program in which participants also received a Wisconsin Birding Kit consisting of 15 pairs of binoculars, a spotting scope, three field guides and other educational bird materials.

The Middleton High School also has a requirement that 40 hours of community service must be completed before graduation. The Friends have used this opportunity to help educate students on aspects of wildlife as well as helping to improve the Conservancy.

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 Middleton provides a pamphlet mailer that encourages and informs residents on native landscaping. The pamphlet is available through the Middleton Public Lands Department. The department can be reached by the following telephone # (608) 821-8360.

N. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

Numerous educational programs are available in the Middleton area. Many of the programs are sponsored by the Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy. In 2011, Pheasant Branch Conservancy hosted two bird watching hikes as official Conservancy Day Programs.

In 2015, various educational programs and field trips were conducted at the Pheasant Branch Conservancy from April all the way through October. Most walks and educational opportunities centered on migratory songbirds, especially wood warblers. In addition, Middleton and assorted partners have been sponsoring guided bird and bike tours. In 2015, there was one event per month from May-September. These tours provide participants with information on local trails, birds, and conservancies. Mike Healy, principal ecologist from Adaptive Restoration, coordinates and provides information during the “Bike the Bird City” Event. For more information contact the Middleton Public Lands, Recreation and Forestry Division at (608) 821-8360.

Middleton’s Public Lands Department offers an excellent brochure and birding checklist to residents entitled “The Birds of Middleton Kettle Ponds.”  Their mission is to “promote an understanding of the value of the natural habitats of Tiedeman, Stricker’s, Esser and Graber ponds, and to encourage the restoration, preservation and maintenance of these wetland areas.”

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD)

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 2015 City of Middleton National Trails/International Migratory Bird Day event, held on June 6 at Orchard Heights Park, involved a broad array of activities. These included a guided bike ride, wildlife photography, trail dedications, health-focused programs, and an informational bird hike led my Mike Healy of Adaptive Restoration LLC. During the event those in attendance were able to learn more about the City’s public and conservation lands, trails, and the importance that birds play in the Pheasant Branch Conservancy and Middleton overall.

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Community Details

Joined Bird City: 2011

Population: 17,442

Incorporated: 1963

Area: 9.12 mi2

Community Website

Community Bird City Page

Community Map