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 bird blind was constructed in 2018 by the Prairie Rod and Gun Club and put to use in 2019 at La Riviere Park. The blind was placed near a bird bath along the Bird Bath Trail. La Riviere Park does not have any free water on the 310 acre property. A series of bird baths made of satellite dishes were placed in the early 1990's by the Bluff Country Longspurs. The Longspurs are a local chapter of the National Wildlife Turkey Federation. Water to the bird baths comes from the park's watering system. In 2019 a new shelter was constructed at the park. The water system for that structure includes the water source from the bird bath system. The bird baths are replenished with water several times a day. Bird watchers now have a place to observe birds from a concealed location close to the water source.

Maintenance of native prairie plantings in La Riviere Park and other properties in the city have been also conducted during the year with selective cutting of encroaching trees, mowing, and burns.  

One roadside prairie planting was completed in 2019. Additional planting was done in late November of 2019 to add to the plantings of 2018.  Results of this project shows growth in prairie plants on the site 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. 

 

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.  Swifts used both towers for nesting and roosting sites in 2019.

 

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. Additional plantings of wildlife food and cover plants in 2019 has enhanced wildlife habitat.

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. In 2019 plantings of wildlife habitat trees and shrubs in areas described above continued.

 

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.  From 2015 to 2019, volunteers have participated 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.

The Wisconsin DNR provides a weekly birding report via email. In 2019 these reports were printed and posted in the bird food section at a local hardware store by a local volunteer. This posting provides birders with an opportunity to see what birding activity is occuring in the state as well as tips on properly feeding birds.

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, Wisconsin DNR, Iowa DNR, and Cabela's Inc.

Bird related projects completed at the Prairie du Chien Bluff View Middle School campus include: establishment of a small prairie in an urban setting, conducting the Annual Bluff View Birding Bee Challenge to identify 264 of Wisconsin's regular bird species, participating in the Cornell Lab eBird survey, banding birds, studying bird behaviors at feeding stations, and conducting a Bluebird monitoring project with the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin (BRAW). 

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 World 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 2019, 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 MoundsNational Monument. 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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