Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of Oshkosh


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.

In accordance with Resolution 05-71 and 05-82 the City of Oshkosh adopted their Comprehensive Plan on March 22nd, 2005 and has been in compliance with the plan since. This Comprehensive Plan is in compliance with Wisconsin’s “Smart Growth” law regarding land use planning and resource management.

In 2016, the City of Oshkosh Planning Services Division began working with East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission to update the City of Oshkosh 2005-2025 Comprehensive Plan. It is anticipated this update will be completed in 2017.

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)

Counts of nesting colonial waterbirds have been conducted since 1993 at the pre-treatment basin at Millers Bay, adjacent to Menomonee Park in Oshkosh. Habitat management to encourage the nesting of herons and egrets has taken place since 2003. Among the species that have nested there and the maximum number of nests counted are:

Ring-billed Gull – 15,000
Herring Gull – 78
Double-crested Cormorant – 966
Great Egret – 300
Cattle Egret – 300
Black-crowned Night Heron – 903
Yellow-crowned Night Heron – 1
Green Heron – 2

The Oshkosh Bird Club also conducts a large amount of bird monitoring, including annual May Day and Christmas Bird Counts and participates in the Great Backyard Bird Count each February. Within Winnebago County the Bird Club also does annual counts in May and September; their findings, along with other information about the club, can be found on their website.

May, 2017 Bird Counts               September, 2017 Bird Counts            December, 2017 Bird Counts

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)

In 2012, the Winnebago Audubon Society wrote a letter of support for an EPA Grant to clean up the former Boat Works for the River Walk Trail project and to put up an Osprey nest platform at that location.

Begun in the fall of 2011, the Millers Bay Shoreland Restoration Project continued with Phase II in 2012, and received a “You Make a Difference” community award from the Oshkosh Collaboration Work Group. The project brought together neighbors of Menominee Park as well as representatives from Winnebago Audubon, Wild Ones Fox Valley Area Chapter, Winnebago County Land and Water Conservation Department, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, UW-Oshkosh Student Environmental Action Coalition, students and staff from Oshkosh North High School, Winnebago Lakes Council, and UW Extension. The shoreland restoration project features 15,000 square feet of lake frontage near Ames Point in Menominee Park, and addresses a community need highlighted in the 2010 City of Oshkosh Millers Bay Aquatic Management Plan, which stated, “The shoreline is incredibly poor and provides no aesthetic habitat or buffering value to the bay.”  The area is now creating a natural buffer zone along the shoreline which provides food, shelter and nesting sites for birds in addition to other benefits. The Millers Bay Shoreline Restoration project continued in 2013 with a volunteer clean-up on June 8th, 2013. They installed shoreline plants along the immediate shoreline and submerged into the water, cleaned up weeds and garbage, and planted fill-in plugs. Through 2017, this project has been maintained and improved by volunteers.

In addition, the City of Oshkosh has partnered with the Menominee Park Zoo in seeking to provide additional bird habitat.

Work has begun to update the lagoon at South Park in Oshkosh which will provide additional bird habitat once completed.

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 Oshkosh-Larsen Trail Prairies is a State Natural Area with a series of three low prairie remnants along a 4-mile segment of the Wiouwash State Trial. Notable species: Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Short-eared Owl, Sedge Wren, American Tree Sparrow. This trail begins in Oshkosh and is connected to the riverwalk trail so residents can continue on the trail to the north of the City.

Rush Lake is an IBA and is located west of Oshkosh in Winnebago County. Rush Lake


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

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Grounds Manager working with a Winnebago Audubon member continues to maintain and add additional native prairie plantings and other natural landscaping on the campus. This past year they erected 10 wren and tree swallow nests and 3 wood duck houses. They also added a brush pile which was used by many birds!

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

Hands on Oshkosh Work Day at Sullivan's Woods - Oshkosh Area School District Environmental Education Area, Saturdays, April 22, 2017 and Sept. 30, 2017. Hands on Oshkosh is sponsored by Reeve Union Volunteerism at UW Oshkosh. It is run by student volunteers and designed to bring students, faculty and staff together to volunteer in the Oshkosh community. About 30 UWO students volunteered each date to help us fight buckthorn at Sullivan's Woods. These young people do the hard work and supervisory volunteers help identify buckthorn and guide students on how the job needs to be done.

Members of Winnebago Audubon volunteer their time on an ongoing basis to remove buckthorn at Oshkosh Area School District Environmental Area, Sullivan's Woods.

O. Document a program to support the establishment of natural lawns and native landscaping, possibly including public presentations of Audubon’s Plants for Birds Initiative (contact them for a presentation kit).

The City of Oshkosh Sustainability Plan, approved in May 2012, includes a chapter on Environmental Conservation. Each year the Sustainability Advisory Board (SAB) will develop an Action Plan with an implementation plan to carry out the recommendations in the Sustainability Plan. The SAB is currently developing the 2014 Action Plan. UW Oshkosh continues to replace mowed grass with native plantings around buildings and retention ponds.

The Winnebago County Master Gardeners are working to remove Buckthorn from the Natural Area at Oshkosh North School. UW-Oshkosh continues to replace mowed grass with native plantings around buildings and retention ponds. The local chapter of Wild Ones holds its annual conference (Toward Harmony with Nature), which is open to the public, in Oshkosh promoting natural landscaping with native plants.

Lanceleaf Coreopsis along Miller's Bay: A sea of Coreopsis on 6/12/2016 at the newer shore restoration site by the Melvin Ave Pump Station, across from Webster Stanley Elementary. The site is in its second year, planted in spring 2015 by neighbors and students from a UW Oshkosh Sociology class.


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 2009, Luke Benish, Boy Scout Troop 606, completed his Eagle Scout project in the natural area at the JP Coughlin Center, 625 E. County Road Y, Oshkosh. He planted 414 trees and built three benches where people could sit and enjoy wildlife.

In spring 2010, Sarah Benish, Girl Scout Troop 2119, continued the work at the JP Coughlin Center as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project. She helped plant 400 trees (along with fellow scout Jordan Angell), built five bluebird nest houses, constructed a Mallard Duck nesting platform, built two benches, created new identification signs for the trail signs, repainted the trail posts, and created a brochure to advertise the center and its facilities.

In fall 2011, Jordan Angell cleaned up the beds in front of the center and created signs for the bulletin boards, detailing some of the plants and animals people will find at the nature area.

By participating in the national effort to increase nesting by American Kestrels, the Oshkosh Bird Club constructed and put up four nest boxes for use by American Kestrels. No Kestrels used the boxes in 2012, but the boxes continue to be available to the birds. The boxes are monitored late winter and spring.

The Oshkosh Bird Club also publicizes the Chimney Swift watch in late summer. They monitor about a dozen chimneys for roosting use by the Swifts. The chimneys at Merrill Elementary had the most use-close to 200 birds and one of the teachers indicated an interest in making a class project out of it. This monitoring continues to this day.

In 2016, an Eagle Scout made 50 bluebird house kits, which his troop then helped attendees at Oshkosh Bird Fest put together to take home and put up in their backyards. It also included an information sheet about bluebirds.

In 2017, Oshkosh Habitat for Humanity purchased wood and cut to size for wren houses. Oshkosh Rotaract helped attendees at Oshkosh Bird Fest put together to take home and put up in their backyards.

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

In 2010, an additional half acre of natural area was added to the Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course.

Beginning in 2015, Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin member erected 20 bluebird houses and has continued to monitor the bluebird nest box trail at Utica Golf Course near Oshkosh.

V. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

In 1989, the Oshkosh Bird Club became aware of an old Purple Martin house at the Oshkosh Water Treatment plant on the shore of Lake Winnebago. It was in bad repair, had not been cleaned out in years and was full of House Sparrow nests. However, there was one pair of martins attempting to nest in it. In 1990, Tom Ziebell repaired and painted the house and the club purchased and erected 6 plastic gourds. Three pairs of Purple Martins nested that year. Since then the club added more houses and gourds and had 52 possible nest sites: 24 gourds and 28 apartments. In 2010, it appeared that 45 to 50 nest sites were in use. In 2012, there were 24 Purple Martin nests and the effort to provide additional nest sites continued in 2013. UPDATE:  The purple martin houses had to be removed from the Oshkosh Water Treatment Plant because of expansion, but the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh was given the gourds and apartments and will be erecting them on the campus in 2018

Community Forest Management

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

The City of Oshkosh continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in 1981. In addition, the City continues to plant trees on street terraces and parks. In 2011, 1840 trees were planted as part of the Taking Root program. In 2012, 400 trees were planted by the same program. Furthermore, the City of Oshkosh planted an additional 130 terrace trees as part of neighborhood revitalization efforts. In 2013, an additional 132 terrace trees were planted as Oshkosh stays dedicated to providing forest habitat. In 2015, an additional 157 terrace trees and 35 park trees were planted. In 2016, an additional 150 terrace trees were planted in partnership with City-recognized neighborhood associations. Additionally, two public workshops were held to educate residents on the benefits of the urban tree canopy. In 2017 an additional 327 trees were planted.

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.

The Wisconsin Community Tree Management Institute was developed to assist in the training of personnel in communities without a professional forester on staff. Oshkosh's professional forester helped develop the syllabus for this program a number of years ago and has served as an instructor.  Oshkosh also has six other individuals on City staff who are International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborists which requires ongoing training.

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 Oshkosh actively educates the community about the dangers to songbirds posed by free-roaming cats. The Sustainable Oshkosh webpage has further information outlined on this subject.

Additionally, the Oshkosh Sustainability Advisory Board continues to host stands during the Farmers Market and provides residents with information to promote the “Cats Indoors!” campaign. In 2016, this information was also at the first annual “Live Green” Event held at the Leach Amphitheater in Oshkosh and again in 2017. They are also at Oshkosh Bird Fest.

One of the community’s Bird City partners has created a section on its web site devoted to making the city bird friendly. The site promotes the “Cats Indoors!” campaign and provides links to Bird City Wisconsin, IMBD, Winnebago Audubon (another partner), the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, and tips on making your yard bird friendly.

J. Document that your community has registered a municipal building(s) in the Wisconsin Humane Society’s WIngs BirdSafe Business program AND show that this building has made an effort to reduce window collisions (see “Things that can be done at businesses”).

The City of Oshkosh City Hall is a registered bird-safe building.

L. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

Winnebago Audubon was instrumental in changing the protocol at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh in regards to removing snowy owls from the airport property.  After learning that a snowy owl had been shot and killed by an airport employee because it was considered an immediate threat to aircraft and human safety. They can legally do this because they hold a depredation permit from USDA Wildlife Services. Winnebago Audubon, The Feather Wildlife Rehab/Education Center, and falconers came together and proposed a catch and relocate plan to the airport, which was well received. Within weeks we had a plan in place with volunteer falconers on a call list and The Feather prepared to examine the owls before relocating. Two owls were successfully captured and relocated within a week.  

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. 

In 2017, Winnebago Audubon sponsored a program called "Birds in the Air Everywhere" and offered it to area schools. The program was given by Beka Weiss, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, of Aves Wildlife Alliance, with 5 live birds of prey.  We reached 600 students with 6 programs.

Winnebago Audubon used to sponsor as many as 20 Audubon Adventures classes, but we stopped offering it when it dropped to only one class a few years ago. The feedback we received from teachers is that it is very difficult to fit in.

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.

In 2017 Winnebago Audubon and Wild Ones hosted a program on Preventing Bird-Window Collisions which also discussed backyard habitat.

In 2017, Oshkosh Bird Fest presented on program about landscaping your backyard for birds.

In 2015 Winnebago Audubon and Wild Ones offered a Bird-Friendly Yard Tour. Visitors were able to talk to the homeowner and other knowledgeable people about birds, habitat, bird feeding, and native plantings. The yard features prairie and woodland habitat along with fruit trees and a vegetable garden. Not only do the birds love this yard, so do butterflies, bees, toads and other critters.

Also in 2015, Winnebago Audubon and Wild Ones hosted a program called "Native Plants & Birds, Stopover Initiative" by Kim Grveles, DNR Avian Ecologist. The presentation discussed the work of the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative and why stopover habitats are important to the survival of migratory birds. Participants learned about the significance of the Great Lakes region, particularly Wisconsin's Lake Michigan basin, for migratory birds. Participants learned what backyard habitat features are most used by migratory birds and how to make easy additions to their backyard to benefit migratory birds and the habitats on which they depend as they journey through our Great Lakes neighborhoods.

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 Oshkosh Bird Club annually participates in the Great Backyard Bird Count. Winnebago Audubon promotes participation in the Great Backyard Bird Count via its newsletter, FaceBook, a press release in local papers and on a field trip.

On August 21, 2014, during "Swift Night Out", members of Winnebago Audubon counted 118 chimney swifts using the old firehouse chimney near Merrill School. In our effort to monitor the swifts, the chimney was checked in early July, 2015, and surprisingly, 180 birds were counted! So Winnebago Audubon decided to host two Swift Night Outs on Tuesdays, July 28 and August 11. Two events were held which provided participants with an opportunity to learn about chimney swifts and their habits.

The Oshkosh Bird Club conducted three bird count events in 2017, including Swift Night Out. Additionally during Oshkosh Bird Fest, a “Big Sit” takes place between 6 a.m. and noon. The data collected during the event can be found online.

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

Oshkosh Bird Fest was held on May 6, 2017 at Menominee Park in Oshkosh. Festivities continued in Downtown Oshkosh in the evening. See attached poster or the following link for additional information regarding Oshkosh Bird Fest. Activities included: Big Sit, Bird Walks, Bird Banding Demo, Live Birds of Prey Presentations, Wren House Building, Program on Landscaping your backyard for birds, educational children's activities, native plant sale, informational exhibits, student bird art exhibit, live birds of prey at downtown businesses, bird trivia on FaceBook, etc.

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

The Oshkosh Bird Club is registered with the Wise Earth organization.

The Winnebago Audubon Society held a Big Sit bird observation at the Oshkosh Bird Fest. Also, they conduct programs and field trips open to the public. In 2017, they had programs on eagles, owls, bird walks, preventing bird-window collisions. In addition, they coordinate the Annual Midwest Crane Count for Winnebago County through the International Crane Foundation by recruiting volunteer counters from the community. 

Oshkosh North High School created a new program called Communities in 2012. In their first unit about neighborhoods, they challenged students to identify birds and habitat in their neighborhoods and backyards. A community partner, knowledgeable about birds, was invited to come into the classroom to help with discussions.

The Oshkosh Zoological Society holds an annual Conservation Carnival. Typically held in August the event promotes conservation of natural resources by recycling, reusing, and reducing waste. There are always many exciting activities for children at the carnival.

Multiple programs are run throughout the year – more information can be found online.

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.

UW-Oshkosh has a Peregrine Falcon Cam on top of Gruenhagen Hall.

Winnebago Audubon has a Birdathon every May. They encourage people to join them for bird watching for a day. They recruit sponsorships as a fundraiser, as well, and let their sponsors know how many species they saw, so it is educational and creates awareness of all the different kinds of birds that live in the Oshkosh area. The City also holds the annual Oshkosh Bird Fest.

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.

In 2017, Winnebago Audubon promoted and participated in the Great Wisconsin Birdathon. We raised almost $1,000 with four teams participating.

N. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

Since 1982, Winnebago Audubon's Friends of Sullivan's Woods, has worked with the Oshkosh Area School District (OASD) at the Sullivan's Woods Outdoor Education Center. Sullivan's Woods is a 40-acre woods and prairie owned by the OASD. The Friends provide volunteer guides and organize activities when the the 4th grade students visit for a day in spring and then again as 5th graders in fall. Approximately 800 students visit each season over a 5 week period. The Friends also planted and maintains the prairie, provides invasive species control, erects bird houses, etc.

In 2016, the City of Oshkosh hosted several bird-centered events: Audubon's Birds of America, May 7 - October 16, 2016, at Paine Art Center and Gardens. This exhibition featured a selection of extraordinary, hand-colored original engravings created by renowned American artist and naturalist John James Audubon (1785-1851) for his series The Birds of America. Dating from 1827 to 1838, these impressive, large-format masterworks (known as the “Double Elephant Folio”) are the most celebrated work of American ornithology and are among the most beloved wildlife imagery in the world today. Featuring loans from Midwest institutions and Audubon’s homestead at Mill Grove, Pennsylvania, the exhibition was organized by the Paine Art Center and Gardens and curated by David J. Wagner, a distinguished scholar and leading expert in American wildlife art. The lead sponsor of the exhibition is Horicon Bank.

In conjunction with this exhibit, there was be a special event weekend, June 2-4, with educational programs sponsored in partnership with Winnebago Audubon Society and supported by Oshkosh Area Community Foundation. Brian “Fox” Ellis was invited to portray John James Audubon. He gave gallery walks and offered family program at the Paine Art Center and Gardens. While in Oshkosh, Mr. Ellis also gave some of his ecological programs at two public schools.

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 Oshkosh has approved an official resolution proclaiming May 5, 2018, to be International Migratory Bird Day. The 8th annual Oshkosh Bird Fest will be held May 5, 2018, at Menominee Park and include a six-hour Big Sit, bird banding, guided bird walks, informational exhibits, concessions, a live demonstration with birds of prey, two programs on birds, educational children’s activities, bluebird house building, bird trivia and Facebook, plus a student exhibition of bird art, live birds of prey, and much more at the Downtown Oshkosh Gallery Walk. For more information about this event please see the Bird Fest news.

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Community Details

Joined Bird City: 2010

Population: 66,083

Incorporated: 1853

Area: 26.6 mi2

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