City of Oshkosh

City of Oshkosh


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 22, 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, which turned into the Comprehensive Plan 2040, presented on October 9, 2018.

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)

For the eighth year (2022), a bird nesting survey was conducted on the UW Oshkosh campus.  22 species were documented with several species having multiple nests.  Nesting species included Peregrine Falcon, Warbling Vireo, Eastern Kingbird, Baltimore Oriole, Purple Martin, Northern Cardinal, and American Goldfinch.    

Bluebird nesting boxes in Menominee Park - Three Eastern Bluebird nest boxes were installed in 2021 in native plant sites along Miller’s Bay in Menominee Park and continued to be monitored weekly by volunteers for nest activity from March through August. Successful tree swallow nests were observed.

Skylight Nest Box Study Report - Kira Stark and Dr. Memuna Khan of Ripon College: Skylight nest boxes have been recommended as a house sparrow deterrent by Dean Rust, former president of the Pennsylvania Bluebird Society.  Skylight nest boxes have a small plexiglass window on the roof of the box. BRAW asked Ripon College to test this idea with a scientific study. They hypothesized that all the species would prefer the opaque, “normal” box to the skylight box.  This summer with the help of 32 citizen scientists, mostly BRAW members, they executed the first year of the Skylight Nest Box Study. The study spanned 19 counties (including Winnebago County - UW Oshkosh site) and consisted of 83 nest box pairs, one each with a skylight or an opaque roof. Boxes were installed 3 feet apart and oriented in the same direction. Volunteers monitored the boxes weekly and reported the nest box status with a weekly report form. Once a bird had made a nest and laid at least one egg, the other box was made unavailable. The occupied box remained unavailable until the occupied box’s nest had fledged. House Sparrows were managed by oiling eggs and removing eggs and nests once the eggs became cold. They oiled the eggs to maintain incubation behavior of the female sparrow and prevent the pair from seeking a nest box elsewhere on the trail. All species preferred the standard opaque houses over the skylight nest boxes.  They observed that 88% (73/83) of all nesting activity occurred in opaque roofed boxes. House Sparrows and native species exhibited similar preferences. House Sparrows exhibited nesting activities in 47 locations and used skylight nest boxes only twice. Eastern Bluebirds never used a skylight box, while Tree Swallows nested in skylight boxes six times. In three of these instances, a House Sparrow was occupying the opaque roofed box but had not laid an egg.  These results are suggestive that native species will tolerate skylight boxes when competition with House Sparrows is intense. Now that they have established the preference between the two boxes, they plan to continue the project for another summer.  They are currently designing this new study to assess if native species are more likely to successfully nest in skylight boxes if it is the only choice available.  

In 2022, the Utica Gold Club bluebird nest box trail was monitored weekly by Dave Misterek (BRAW volunteer) and his wife from April through August. Out of a total of 43 bluebird houses on this trail only 12 of them were occupied by bluebirds.  The total bluebirds fledged from these houses was 43 compared with 126 tree swallows fledged. The golf club owner and staff are very supportive of the trail and the golfers take interest in it.  

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

New Lakeshore Park has multiple areas designated for new plantings. The first phase of the master plan is underway and the proposed landscaping plan for this phase is supported by the Sustainability Advisory Board. 
In January 2018, the Common Council approved the sale of approximately 33 acres of the former Lakeshore Golf Course to the Oshkosh Corporation. Shortly thereafter, Council chartered a new path for Lakeshore, determining that the golf course’s remaining 70 acres would be redeveloped as a community park.

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

Native Plant Ordinance has been attached to the photos and documents page. The ordinance was updated in 2022 and has new protections for native plants and exemptions from the weed and lawn care ordinance.

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.

There are brochures in the Hallways of City Hall with information on how to remove certain invasive plants and woody species.

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 located west of Oshkosh in Winnebago 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.

In 2022 The City of Oshkosh Sustainability Advisory Board (board is made up of residents, some of which are also member of the Audubon and Wild ones) worked with city staff to amend the Weed Cutting and Lawn Care Ordinance to enhance Native Plant species ability to thrive. NOTE: See attached ordinance.

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 (Anita Carpenter) continues to maintain and add additional native prairie plantings and other natural landscaping on the campus. In 2017 they erected 10 Wren and Tree Swallow houses and 3 Wood Duck houses. They also added a brush pile which was used by many birds!  In 2018, they erected 5 additional Wren/Tree Swallow/Bluebird houses plus continue to add and maintain rain gardens and other native plantings.

In 2019, UW Oshkosh added 2 Screech Owl nest boxes, 2 Eastern Phoebe nesting platforms bringing the total number of bird houses to 21.

In 2020, UW Oshkosh added bat houses.  Our Winnebago Audubon member confirmed the following nests on campus:  warbling vireos - 2, Eastern kingbird - 1, and barn swallows - 5. The barn swallow nests were in a parking ramp that received very little use in 2020 which might explain why the barn swallows used this site for the first time.

In 2021, UW Oshkosh added a purple martin house and beehives.

Evergreen Retirement Community added a native prairie planting on their campus along a trail that is open to the public. Educational signage will be added in 2022.

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 and an additional 300 sq. ft. near the Melvin Avenue pump house 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. In 2022, the Millers Bay Shoreline Restoration project canged its name to Oshkosh Ecological Restoration and has continued to work with volunteers to maintain, improve and clean-up these sites.

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

Work has been completed (2021) to update the lagoon at South Park in Oshkosh which provides additional bird habitat.


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, twice a year for half day. 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 and garlic mustard at Oshkosh Area School District Environmental Area, Sullivan's Woods.

The Winnebago County Master Gardeners are working to remove Buckthorn from the Natural Area at Oshkosh North School which is owned by the Oshkosh Area School District.

A volunteer Friends group for Sheldon Nature Area works to control invasive species on this site owned by the Oshkosh Area School District located by Oakwood School.

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 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.

Oshkosh Ecological Restoration in partnership with Winnebago Audubon conducts work days at the Miller's Bay shoreland restoration site in Menominee Park. While volunteers help with the work we discuss the benefits of native landscaping and talk with passersby on the adjacent trail.

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.

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.  In 2018, Oshkosh Seniors Center cut to size the wood for bluebird houses.  WAVE Robotics students helped Oshkosh Bird Fest attendees put them together to take home.

In 2019, Oshkosh Bird Fest partnered with WAVE Robotics students who helped Oshkosh Bird Fest attendees build 50 bluebird houses to take home.

In 2021, Winnebago Audubon and Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin representatives worked with an Eagle Scout to put up bluebird boxes and nesting platforms along with educational signage at Ken Robl Conservation Park.

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

 Beginning in 2015, Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin member, Dave Misterek, erected 20 Bluebird houses and has continued to monitor the Bluebird nest box trail at Utica Golf Course near Oshkosh. Winnebago Audubon supports this effort and has offered field trips to the site. Dave meets regularly with management at the golf course and shares his data with them while discussing good maintenance practices.

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. The City continues to plant trees on street terraces and parks. Between 2011 and 2020 Oshkosh has planted 4,044 trees through multiple initiatives, which include, the Taking Root program, neighborhood revitalization efforts, and a partnership with City-recognized neighborhood associations. Additionally, two public workshops were held to educate residents on the benefits of the urban tree canopy. 

B. Implement a municipal moratorium on the trimming of trees and shrubs and the mowing of ditches, storm water retention basins, and other grasslands from May 15 to July 15 to prevent the destruction of active bird nests. (Exceptions: Invasive species control and public safety)

No Mow May continued in 2022.
2021 No Mow May Resolution put a pause on enforcing the long grass and weed ordinance through the month of May to encourage and increase pollinator friendly habitats through pollinator-friendly lawn-care practices.

2021 No Mow May Resolution

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.

Working with Fox Wolf Watershed Alliance to install a rain garden to new Lakeshore Park site.

Ongoing native plant installation and maintenance at South Park ponds.

Ash trees are actively being removed in the terraces and replaced with native Wisconsin tree species.

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. 

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. They are also at Oshkosh Bird Fest.

I. Demonstrate that your community has enacted a bird collision monitoring program and has treated problem windows to reduce collisions with municipal and commercial buildings.

In 2019, a small grant was awarded to study window-killed birds on UW Oshkosh campus, with hopes of rectifying the offending campus windows and buildings if necessary. This study continued into 2022 and have since treated windows at Sage Hall, which had the largest amount of bird collisions in the study.

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.  This project has expanded to 3 other airports in Wisconsin and is now called Project SOAR.  Winnebago Audubon is a partner and works to disseminate information across the state.  In addition, Winnebago Audubon raised funds and purchased 2 live traps for airport use.

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. 

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.

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).

Winnebago Audubon promotes participation in the Great Backyard Bird Count, Christmas Bird Count, and May and September bird counts via its newsletter, FaceBook, a press release in local papers and on a field trip. Winnebago Audubon also coordinates the Midwest Annual Crane Count for Winnebago County.

Oshkosh Bird Fest holds a “Big Sit” from 6 a.m. to noon on the first Saturday in May. 

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 2022 Fest was held on May 7, at Menominee Park in Oshkosh. See the following link for additional information regarding Oshkosh Bird Fest. Activities included: Big Sit, Bird Banding Demo, Live Birds of Prey presentations, educational children's activities, informational exhibits, student bird art exhibit in downtown Oshkosh the evening before.

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

The Winnebago Audubon Society held a Big Sit bird observation at the Oshkosh Bird Fest. They also conduct programs and field trips open to the public including several bird walks.

F. Demonstrate that your community understands the critical ecological role of pollinators by documenting your Bee City USA status or by describing another substantial effort to promote pollinator health (for ideas visit the Xerxes Society and the Pollinator Partnership).

The City of Oshkosh passed a beekeeping ordinance in 2017 to allow residential properties to house bees in their backyard. That permit requires beekeepers to pay a $15 fee and submit operational plans with their application. 

UW Oshkosh has three beehives on campus. Students are the beekeepers under the guidance of a professor. A great learning experience!

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 remote nest camera on a peregrine nest box atop Gruenhagen Conference Center. UWO hosts the camera on their website.

Winnebago Audubon offer numerous bird watching field trips throughout the year. In addition to field trips, Winnebago Audubon hosts a website and a has a newsletter with educational information on birds, and shares information on Facebook.

Energy & Sustainability

D. Document that your community has been recognized as a Green Tier Legacy Community.

Link to Green Tier Legacy Community Website

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

City of Oshkosh Sustainability Advisory Board Facebook Page

Citizen's Climate Lobby holds monthly programs to raise awareness and educate the public about climate change.

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 City of Oshkosh official resolution proclaiming May 6, 2023, as World Migratory Bird Day will go before the City Council later in February. The 12th Oshkosh Bird Fest will be held May 6, 2023, at Rainbow Memorial Park. Oshkosh Bird Fest will include a "Big Sit", bird banding, guided bird walks, educational children’s activities, and a live birds of prey presentation. We plan to create a display centered on the "water" theme and hopefully additional activities on the theme. For more information about this event please see Bird Fest news.  

Joined Bird City: 2010

Population: 66,083

Incorporated: 1853

Area: 26.6 mi2

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