Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of Prairie du Chien

City of Prairie du Chien

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.

The City of Prairie du Chien adopted a comprehensive plan in 2004. The City refers to the guidelines of the plan for any development activities. Goal 22 (Page B-28) describes how the city will protect natural resources and environmentally sensitive land from inappropriate use and development. Among the policies cited are "...protect rare and endangered species and maintain their habitat" and "support efforts to limit development on the bluffs rising above the city." These policies would protect migratory and resident bird habitats.


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)

Volunteer birders from Prairie du Chien have been involved in monitoring local birding activity. A bird list has been maintained at La Riviere Park, a City of Prairie du Chien nature park, since 1990. This bird list shows park visitors what birds can be seen at the park and their seasonal abundance. This list has been used by volunteers to document annual arrival dates or first-of-year-seen-dates of birds at the park since 1990. La Riviere Park has had an Eastern Bluebird trail since the first bluebird house was erected in 1978. A volunteer continues monitoring the trail and data from the nests boxes is reported to the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin (BRAW).


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)

Birding habitat at La Riviere Park is protected by City Ordinance, which has adopted language that follows the conditions of the La Riviere family will.


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.

Birding habitat is improved at La Riviere Park with land management and prescribed burns and cutting of brush encroaching into the prairie. This has benefitted many grassland birds. An invasive honeysuckle removal project, started in 2008, continues in woodland habitat. This project has improved birding habitat in woodland areas of the park that were overtaken by honeysuckle. Additional invasive plant control for autumn olive and Asiatic bittersweet is being undertaken.


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 Prairie du Chien is part of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail. The City has two areas listed in the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail: La Riviere Park and St. Feriole Island. La Riviere Park is 300 acres of woodlands and grasslands that is home to species such as Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, and Lark Sparrow. St. Feriole Island is located on the east channel of the Mississippi River and is a 240-acre expanse of beaches, woodlands and grasslands. Shorebirds are seen on the island during annual flooding. Mudflats create an exceptional feeding area for migratory shorebirds. Peregrine Falcons and Wood Warblers also are seen on the island.


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

A prairie planting in La Riviere Park completed in 2016 was maintained by burning in the Spring of 2018.  Additional maintenance of native prairie plantings in the park and other properties in the city was also conducted during the year with selective cutting of encroaching trees and a small Fall burn.  

One roadside prairie planting was completed in 2017.  Planting was done in late December of 2016 and maintenance by mowing was accomplished in the summer of 2017.  Results of this project shows growth in prairie plants as seeded with much more growth expected in years to come.  This project is a 16 wide strip along a 250 yard stretch of Vineyard Coulee Road at La Riviere Park.  Another prairie planting project at La Riviere Park that started in December of 2015 is now showing results.  A former 4 acre soy bean field adjacent to an existing 2 acre native prairie remnant was seeded to native prairie plants in December of 2015.  Maintenance by mowing was conducted in the summers of 2016 and 2017.  Seed for this planting was secured from prairie plants of La Riviere Park and with a grant for seed from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Voluntary Habitat Improvement Program.  Upper Iowa Audubon provided a grant for interpretive signage that will be erected in 2018.  The purpose of the plantings was to create bird and butterfly habitat. 


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

The prairie plantings of the past 2 years are now considered to be restored habitat.  Both the roadside planting along Vineyard Coulee Road and the added prairie to the Cactus Prairie are now completed bird and butterfly habitat.  Both will be managed with fire and selective cutting in years to come. 


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

Two Chimney Swift towers were constructed in 2018 at La Riviere Park.  The need for the towers came about when the city decided to remove the farm home at the park.  Chimney Swifts have used the two chimneys in the old house for over 30 years.  A plan for swift tower construction and placement was developed.  With the aid of Prairie du Chien High School Wood Technology Class, the tower parts were constructed.  Members of the Prairie Rod and Gun Club and other volunteers put the parts together in time for the 2018 nesting season.  Financial support was provided by the Friends of the Sherman Swift Tower group, the Prairie Rod and Gun Club, the Prairie du Chien Rotary Club, and other donors.  


Community Forest Management

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

The City of Prairie du Chien continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in 2014.


F. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

A timber cut at La Riviere Park in the winter of 2017 removed over 300 trees, mostly Walnut, and thus eliminated the forest crown in a lot of places in the park.  In mid-July of 2017 a tornado hit La Riviere Park.  Though small in nature it did a lot of tree damage to the park.  Additional tree harvest was then held in the winter of 2018 finishing the timber harvest and taking marketable trees downed in the tornado.  Additional areas of crown removal has opened further areas of the woodland to habitat change.  By late Summer of 2018 this habitat change was evident in areas of these forestry activities.  The habitat created will be used by many species of birds that live in the park or are seasonal visitors.

In 2011, the City of Prairie du Chien completed a street and park tree inventory and started to develop an urban forestry management plan. In 2015 the beginning of forest management at La Riviere Park was initiated with timber cruising for a selective timber harvest. In 2016 the City planned a 2017 timber harvest, with the goal of improving hardwood forests to improve wildlife and bird habitat. The 2017 harvest remove seed trees (walnut) from areas near native prairies. The harvest included the cutting of 215 walnut trees and marketable oak from and near oak wilt patches. The walnut harvest opened the ground to sunlight further enhancing growth of preferred bird and wildlife friendly plants.  The oak harvest removed downed oaks from oak wilt areas and created a line between infected oak and clean oak. New oak growth in infected areas will hopefully regenerate as clean oak with aspen and other young forest trees.


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.

Prairie du Chien’s website contains information to educate residents about the hazards of free roaming cats.


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

Prairie du Chien’s website links to the American Bird Conservancy and All About Birds to educate residents about the hazard of bird window collisions.


Public Education

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).

Residents of Prairie du Chien have participated in the Bridgeport Christmas Bird Count since 1988.  This Christmas Bird Count was startred by Sam Robbins in 1987.  Local birders have also participated in the Yellow River (Iowa) Christmas Bird Count since 1993.  Most of Prairie du Chien is covered by these two counts.  Volunteers have also participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count since its inception.  Since 2015 volunteers have participated in the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II.

Local residents of Prairie du Chien have participated in the Bridgeport Christmas Bird Count since 1988. This Christmas Bird Count was started by Sam Robbins in 1987. Local birders have also participated in the Yellow River (Iowa) Christmas Bird Count since 1993. Most of Prairie du Chien is covered by these two counts. Volunteers have also participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count since its inception. In 2015 volunteers in the Prairie du Chien area participated in the first year of the five year Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II.  Residents also participate in the Feeder Watch program.  In 2017 volunteers and visitors to the Prairie du Chien area continued to participate in the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II. 


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

Prairie du Chien's annual Bald Eagle Appreciation Day takes place the last Saturday of February. This day-long event is a celebration of the presence of Bald Eagles in the Prairie du Chien area. The City of Prairie du Chien, the Prairie du Chien Chamber of Commerce, and the volunteers of this event received the Governor's “Putting Wisconsin on the Map Award” in recognition of Bald Eagle Appreciation Days.  The Prairie du Chien area continues to promote its status as one of nation's premier destinations for winter Bald Eagle watching.


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

Prairie du Chien's La Riviere Park has received recognition from the National Wildlife Federation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat because of the conscientious planning, management, and landscaping providing sustainable quality wildlife habitat. This designation has been shared with the community and provides an example of what can be done to improve birding habitat on any size property. Each year, news releases regarding birding and bird habitat at La Riviere Park have been provided to local news media. A "Timberdoodle Dance" event is held at La Riviere Park each spring. At various times during the spring, between mid-March and early May, a volunteer takes interested persons to an area of La Riviere Park where American Woodcock conduct courtship displays. This educational event introduces park visitors to another element of the park and birding.

Prairie du Chien Kiwanis co-sponsors a Mississippi River Adventure Day with the McGregor District of the Upper Mississippi River Fish and Wildlife Refuge. The annual day-long event exposes 120 attending young people to the habitats, wildlife and activities of the Mississippi River. Local groups involved in this event include the Prairie Rod and Gun Club, Prairie du Chien Parks and Recreation, Wisconsin DNR, Iowa DNR, and Cabela's Inc.


Energy & Sustainability

F. Demonstrate that your community participates in a community solar program or that a municipal building receives a significant percentage of its electricity from renewable energy.

Crossing Rivers Health, the local hospital complex, has joined the ranks of businesses that have become involved in solar energy.  The hospital has multiple solar panels on the roof of the main building.  The Prairie du Chien High School has also gotten into solar energy with the placement of multiple large free standing solar panels on a portion of the school's campus. 


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.

As part of Prairie du Chien's effort with the International Migratory Bird Day event bird walks to see local and migrating birds will be held at Prairie du Chien’s La Riviere Park and Effigy Mounds National Monument. In 2016, the City held two bird walks, one at 8 a.m. at La Riviere Park in Prairie du Chien and one at 10 a.m. at Effigy Mounds. 15 people attended last year. The walks are held on the second Saturday of May.

Former Wisconsin Conservation Warden and Park Ranger at Effigy Mounds National Monument, Dennis Kirschbaum, leads the bird walks.

La Riviere Park is a 310 acre City of Prairie du Chien Park located one mile east of U.S. Highway 18 on Vineyard Coulee Road and is a well-known state and national birding area. The park has been featured in the book Wisconsin’s Favorite Bird Haunts, in Audubon’s Great River Birding Trail, and other birding publications. Effigy Mounds National Monument is located 3 miles north of Marquette, IA on Highway 76. The Monument is considered a national Important Birding Area for its birding habitat that holds a variety of birds in need of this specific habitat.   

These early spring bird walks produce a variety of birds for viewing. Wild Turkey and ruffed grouse may be heard and possibly seen. Meadowlarks, Blue Birds, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Orchard Orioles, Red-tailed Hawks and the somewhat rare Lark Sparrow and Carolina Wren may also be seen. As the date of these bird walks is near the peak migration time for newly arriving warblers many species of these migrating birds will also be present. In past bird walks as many as 20 warbler species were seen during one or more of these short walks. The Prothonotary and Cerulean Warblers are just two of the many warbler species that should be seen. Many of the migrant warblers will only be present for a short time as they will be headed further north to their breeding areas. White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows, Ovenbird, and Wood Thrushes should also be in the area at this time.

Bird watching is the fastest growing outdoor sport in North America. Come and enjoy that sport at La Riviere Park and Effigy Mounds National Monument during these bird walks or enjoy birding at these area sites on your own.


Joined Bird City: 2013

Population: 5,911

Incorporated: 1872

Area: 6.36 mi2

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