Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of Oconto

City of Oconto


Habitat Creation, Protection, and Monitoring

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 Oconto has a large marsh area also known as the Oconto Marsh and is part of the Great Wisconsin Birding & Nature Trail, Lake Michigan Region. The Oconto Marsh & Rush Point Refuge is located just north of the City of Oconto on the west shore of Green Bay. Covering more than 800 acres, the marsh is an area rich in bird life, which includes: Wood Ducks, Ring-neck Ducks, Snowy Owl, Scoters and many, many more. It also encompasses a state waterfowl sanctuary and a breeding ground for the Yellow-headed Blackbird. Uncommon birds such as Acadian Flycatchers and Cerulean Warblers can also be found here.

At the Oconto Marsh and Oconto Harbor DNR, Wildlife Biologist David Halfmann conducts a mid-winter Bald Eagle Survey and Water Fowl Survey. 

The city has also established a series of bluebird trails. All the trails have boxes located at the following locations: Copper Culture State Park, Holtwood Sporting Complex, Sharp Park, Beyer Home Museum, Aurora and Prevea, Farnsworth Public Library, Legend Golf Course, City Park, and 4 private locations.  All boxes are monitored, by 8 total volunteers, and reported to BRAW creating 55 boxes, 51 city owned and 6 privately owned.

In addition, Oconto citizens count cranes for the Annual Midwest Crane Count in 3 sites within the city limits.

In 2016 Bird City Oconto reported for the first time to the Purple Martin Association. Two houses with 14 nesting boxes each, these are monitored by 2 volunteers. The birds are also banded by Dick Nikolai. 

Bird City Oconto also holds 2 wood duck houses at the Copper Culture State Park that are monitored and reported on. 

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)

City of Oconto ordinances mandate the protection of park property. “No person shall kill, injure or disturb or attempt to injure or disturb waterfowl, birds or animals, wild or domestic, within any park, except as permitted by this Chapter. No person shall climb any tree or remove flowers or fruit, wild or cultivated, or break, cut down, trample upon, remove or in any manner injure, deface, write upon or ill use any tree, shrub, flower, flower bed, turf, soil, sand, fountain, ornament, building, structure, apparatus, bench, table, official notice, sign, fence or other property within any park.”

In addition, the City of Oconto ordinance states, “Acts of Cruelty Prohibited. No person except a police officer or health or humane officer in the pursuit of his duties shall, within the City, shoot or kill or commit an act of cruelty to any animal or bird or disturb any bird’s nests or bird’s eggs.”

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

Bird City Oconto established another Purple Martin Colony at City Docks.

In 2017 Bird City updated the Purple Martin houses at City Park to more modern housing for the Martins

At Copper Culture State Park and Holtwood Sporting Complex we are working on the establishment of more wood duck houses.

At Copper Culture State Park, Sharp Park, City Park: Flicker and Woodpecker housing was established in 2017. The Red-Headed Woodpecker was cited and photographed at City Park. 

In 2017 the DNR erected a small kiosk at the Oconto Marsh, in 2018 we will be developing information for the site to put up in the kiosk. 

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 Oconto Forestry Department policy states, “It is the policy of the City of Oconto and Forestry Department to regulate and establish policy for the control of planting, removal, maintenance and protection of trees and shrubs in or upon all public areas and terrace areas of the City to persons using the streets, alleys, sidewalks or other public areas; to promote and enhance the beauty and general welfare of the City; to prohibit the undesirable and unsafe planting, removal, treatment and maintenance of trees and shrubs located in public areas; and to guard all trees and shrubs both public and private within the City against the spread of disease, insects or pests. Assistance in tree selection and location is available from the City Forester.” More information on pests and diseases impacting trees can be found on the City of Oconto Forestry Department’s website.

In addition, through the Department of Natural Resources and the US Department of Agriculture, the City of Oconto offers the public information on the identification, control, and removal of invasive species. Brochures on invasive species are available at City Hall. The City’s website also links to the Wisconsin DNR.

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 City of Oconto contains three segments of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail and a designated Important Bird Area to include the Oconto Harbor, Oconto Marsh and Rush Point (#45).

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 Chamber of Commerce for the City of Oconto is renting 2 binoculars for the Oconto Marsha and Harbor, free of charge, for the public to view the wildlife in the distance. 

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 City of Oconto established three Purple Martin houses within city limits, two at City Park, now updated as of 2017, and the other at Holtwood Campground. In 2018 we established a new Purple Martin site at City Docks, with 2 houses. 2019 93 martins where raised and banded.

In July the City of Oconto held a Purple Martin event with an educational program and bird banding for the public 94 people attended the event at City Park.

S. Demonstrate how a public golf course is managed to benefit birds.

Within the city limits lays the Oconto Legions Golf Course. In the spring of 2015 Bird City Oconto established a Bluebird Trail with 15 boxes on the property.

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 community has installed and continues to maintain two sides of the kiosk at the Copper Culture State Park with information on birds and migration. The Copper Culture Museum hands out Bird City Oconto brochures, including the brochure on “Oconto Marsh”, “Birds and Parks” (Oconto’s bird list), and the “Help the Birds” brochure. A brochure holder was installed on the kiosk to allow 24/7 accesses to this information. Brochures can also be found at Oconto City Hall, Farnsworth Public Library, and the Oconto Tourism Center.

In 2017 a new kiosk was also erected at the Oconto Marsh and a brochure holder was added this year. The Oconto Marsh brochure is available there.

At City Park we created a Purple Martin Hotspot, with posters and brochures.

V. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

The Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust added the Oconto Preserve, a protected area of 70 acres within the city limits of Oconto and is continually improving it and in 2018 the preserve grew to 148 acres.

The City of Oconto implemented new strict firewood laws to help deal with threats to community forests like the emerald ash borer. The City of Oconto’s Parks & Recreation Department now prohibits people from bringing their own firewood to Holtwood Campground City Park and City Park Campground. Instead, the City has certified wood for sale.

The Oconto Marsh received many updates this years. The platform, bridge and pathway to the platform are now all ADA accessible. Also, the parking lot was updated. In 2017 a billboard was added. Thanks to DNR wildlife biologist David Halfman.

A boardwalk was added to Copper Culture State Park.

According to "A Planning Tool for Migratory BIrd Conservation along Lake Michigan"  (Bureau of Natural Heritage Conversavtion and The Wisconsin DNR) , the Oconto Marsh qualifies as a Priority Stop Over Site and categorized as a Full-Service Hotel for migratory bird species. 

Community Forest Management

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

The City of Oconto continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in 1999.

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 Oconto purchased brochures to publicize the “Cats Indoors!” program to help educate the public about the problems associated with free roaming cats. These brochures are distributed at city hall, the county humane society located in the City of Oconto, and various other locations within the city.


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 Park & Recreation Department purchased the American Bird Conservancy’s flyer “You Can Save Birds from Flying into Windows” and distributes copies at Oconto City Hall and at all Bird City Oconto events. 

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 Oconto Police Department takes live-trapped feral cats to the local area humane society. The City of Oconto purchases brochures to publicize the “Cats Indoors!” program to help educate the public about the problems associated with free roaming cats and is still doing this today. These brochures are distributed at City Hall, the county humane society and various other locations within the city.

The City of Oconto has changed the city ordinances.

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. 

A retired US Wildlife Biologist visits all 4th grade classes of the Oconto School District, educating nearly 85 students on bird behavior, identification, and habitat every year. 

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.

Bird City Oconto has created a brochure “Help the Birds” that you can find at every Bird City event, on the City’s website, as well as at Farnsworth Public Library, City Hall, Copper Culture State Park Kiosk and Museum and Bay Impression.

Through the city website and Oconto Bird City Facebook page, links to the Audubon Society and the National Wildlife Federation can be found.

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).

During the spring of 2019, representatives from the community participated in the annual Midwest Crane Count. These representatives will also organize and participate in the 2020 Crane Count. The city has also been encouraging citizens to participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count and the Great Backyard Bird Count through advertising on Facebook.

All results of the Bluebird Trails within the City of Oconto are reported to Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin (BRAW). Purple Martin results are reported to the Purple Martin Association.

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

 Bird City Oconto and the Farnsworth Public Library are holding community events together. The library is also adding books about birding and other nature related fields to their collection, for all age groups.

Bird City Oconto with help of the Farnsworth Public Library and the Oconto Park and Rec. Department created and added four adventure backpacks to the library for checkout.

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 City of Oconto and the Oconto Bird City group are actively raising awareness of the bird assets that can be found in the community. They have created the Bird City of Oconto Bird List, an Oconto Marsh Bird List and a Help the Birds brochure, and are continuing to print them and give people free access to them. Bird City Oconto maintains 2 field trips to the Oconto Marsh yearly. 

The city tourism committee assists with paying for the Oconto Discovery Guide, every year, which promotes Bird Watching especially for the Oconto Harbor and Oconto Marsh. 

N. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

Bird City Oconto held numerous events in 2018 to educate the public about nature:

  • Oconto Marsh Bird Migration in Spring and Fall (WDNR Wildlife Biologist David Halfman)
  • Three Storybook Walks, Sky Bluebird Sky, We Planted a Tree, and Why We Need to Protect Nature, were installed in Oconto Parks to educate children every year, over 300 people are reached alone
  • Oconto Bird City posted educational updates to Facebook all year
  • Informational Kiosk at Copper Culture State Park
  • Seven Articles about Birds Published by the Oconto County Reporter (Oconto) in 2018 and by Times Herald (Oconto Falls), Peshtigo Herald (Peshtigo) and Eagle Herald (Marinette)
  • Written by Cathy Carnes, Oconto (Bird City Oconto Volunteer): 


    January 30:Snow Buntings head south to Wisconsin for winter

    Feburary 22:Northern Cardinals song a harbinger of spring

    April 10: Loons face dangers, but the public can

    May 1: Red-breasted Nuthatch, the upside down

    June 30: Come see the banding of Purple Martin chicks at Oconto’s City Park on July 9

    July 31: Purple Martins at City Park part of on-going research project

    September  11: Learn about owls at presentation, marsh hike

  • Bird City Oconto started an outreach program to the elderly and people with disabilities in 2019

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.

In 2020 Bird City Oconto will hold a presentation about Eagles, given by UW Stevens Point Eviromental Education Student Amber VanDenHeuvel, at the Farnsworth Public Library, with a field trip to the Oconto Harbor, which is part of the Great Wisconsin Birding Trail, for observing the Bald Eagles Nest.

UW Stevens Point Educational Student Amber VanDenHeuvel will also bring this event to a Community Based Assisted Living Facility and New View Industries (Facility for people with disabilities in Oconto County)


Joined Bird City: 2012

Population: 4,557

Incorporated: 1869

Area: 7.4 mi2

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