Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of Wausau


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.

The City of Wausau adopted the City of Wausau Comprehensive Plan that met Wisconsin’s “Smart Growth” law on February 28, 2006 (City ordinance 61-5283) and has been in compliance since.

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)

Wausau Bird Club members meet monthly at various city and county parks during the summer. A walk is held and bird species are noted and counted. The city parks include Fern Island, Blue Gill Bay and Dells of the Eau Claire County Park. A DNR Marsh Bird Survey is conducted annually at Nine Mile County Recreational Area.  In 2017 the club met at Garske park in addition to a walk at Blue Gill Bay Park to confirm a White Eyed Vireo seen earlier in the week.

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

Additional bird habitat is created through the planting of native species trees throughout the City of Wausau. For example, in 2013, the City of Wausau planted 578 trees while removing 514 poor quality trees including 120 Ash trees in preparation for Emerald Ash Borer management. Hackberry has been used as a common replacement tree due to its high value of shelter and food for native birds. Conifers have been mainly planted within the city parks.

Wausau Bird Club worked with the Director of Parks and Recreation, William Duncanson on steering the contractor to use as many native plant species as possible. Some natives being planted include:

Acer P Emerald Queen (Native Maples), Betula nigra, Celtis occidentalis, Quercus ellipsodalis (Oak),

Amelanchier (Serviceberry), Viburnum, New Jersey Tea and too many more to list. The contractor’s list was checked against Birdscaping in the Midwest by Mariette Nowak. Many species being planted were listed as “high bird value” and several as “very high bird value” concerning food value. Others are listed by Nowak as attracting birds and butterflies.

Wausau is currently renovating its Wisconsin River front. Wausau Bird Club worked with the park department to use as many native plantings as possible. “The public space along the Wisconsin River is the biggest, most elaborate parks project the city has seen in a lifetime” was the headline in the City Pages a local newspaper.

Final planting including many native species was conducted at the Wisconsin River Front project in 2017.

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.

Golden Sands Resource Conservation & Development Council Inc., students from Wausau East High School, and volunteers joined forces on October 13, 2017 to battle against invasive shrubs on Fern Island, part of the beloved Oak Island complex in downtown Wausau.

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 Wausau contains a segment of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail. The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum is #33 on Page 32 of the brochure.

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.

Wausau Bird Club has a member on the Marathon County Forest Citizens’ Advisory Subcommittee of the Marathon County board of Supervisors representing bird watching. While being only an advisory group the County’s Supervisors are made aware of issues the various members groups they represent are interested in. Plus the subcommittee is charged at times with polling their group about issues the county forest administrator is concerned with.  In 2017 the Wausau Bird Club and birding community worked with the County Forest Administrator on the issue of logging and Cerulean Warbler presence.

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

Tribute Golf course has obtained an exemption to the mowing ordinance.  They have let areas go natural by adding native plantings and by not mowing.  See the two aerial photos showing the extra restored habitat.  The course also has a bluebird trail.

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

The city of Wausau has granted an exemption to Tribute Golf Course to allow the planting of native grasses and wildflowers on the course.   The Park Department has purchased an additional 6.2 acres adjacent to the Eau Claire River Conservancy and Sports Complex created on the former Holtz-Krause Landfill. Tribute Golf course has obtained an exemption to the mowing ordinance.  They have let areas go natural by adding native plantings and by not mowing.  See the two aerial photos showing the extra restored habitat.  The course also has a bluebird trail.

M. Demonstrate that your community offers a program for private property owners who are interested in dealing with invasive plants that have significant negative impacts on bird habitat.

The Robert W. Monk Gardens offered two classes this fall with hands-on opportunities:

  • Stop the Invasion (Invasive Species)
  • What a Difference a Tree Makes (Tree Canopy)
  • In 2017, on the city's website a link was placed to help the public learn about the Emerald Ash Borer.  The insect was officially found in Marathon county in 2017.  An article on the Emerald Ash Borer was featured in the City Pages, a free weekly newspaper, December 7-14, 2017.  The article alerted the public to the plans the city has made to combat this problem.

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

In 2017, Wausau again hosted the Golden Sands Environmental Group’s Invasive Species Workshop and conducted removal work days at Fern Island and Riverside Parks.

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

The Wausau Bird Club constructed two Chimney Swift towers. One was placed at REGI in Antigo and the other will be placed by the Aldo Leopold Audubon Society in Stevens Point. The Wausau Bird Club in the summer of 2015 constructed another Chimney Swift tower and erected at the Robert W. Monk Botanical Gardens. The club continues to monitor each of its chimneys along with clean out.

Wausau Bird Club has made several Prothonotary Warbler nest boxes and monitors them continuously. Two were placed along the Eau Claire River on the Holtz-Krause property and two along the Wisconsin River. To date no birds have moved this far north but we are ready.  In 2017 one of the Prothonotary Warbler boxes was moved to the Mead Wildlife area.  Prothonotary Warblers were seen in the area and when the boxes are checked this winter we will see if they used the box.

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.

In 2014, The City of Wausau is engaged in a Purple Martin project at Everest Park in Wausau. Two houses were erected in 2010, and are continually monitored by the club and the public. The City is considering relocating one of the two houses but both will continue to be used.

In 2017 one Martin house was taken down and repaired.  It was then relocated by the city and Wausau Bird Club to Blue Gill Bay Park.  The Wausau Bird Club continues to monitor the houses.

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.).

Two Wood Duck boxes were purchased by the Wausau Bird Club and placed in the Eau Claire River Conservancy. In the summer of 2016, 10 Bluebird houses were installed at the new soccer complex. They will continue to be monitored.

Monitoring continued in 2017.

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

Greenwood Hills Golf Course hosts a Bluebird trail. The trail is managed by Tom and Sue Beckett. The trail on the course contains 40 houses, but 52 houses are monitored within the City. The results are submitted to the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin.

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.)

Bitzke Bird walk maintained by the Marathon County Parks and Recreation department is a birding trail with signage. Cortney Schaefer, DNR Wildlife Biologist works with the Marathon County Forest Department on maintaining this sight.

Community Forest Management

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

The City of Wausau continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in 1981. This makes Wausau one of the longest running participants in the state of Wisconsin.

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.

Wausau Bird Club purchases “Cats, Birds, and You” flyers from the American Birding Conservancy. The flyers have been placed at the Marathon County Humane Society, VCA (Vet clinic), Wisconsin Valley Vet Services and Wausau Mobile Pet Hospital. The flyers are placed in new cat owner folders. The feeling is that if you know the value of keeping your cat/kitten indoors you will start and continue this good practice. Monitoring and replacement of the flyers is done annually by the Wausau Bird Club.

In 2017 an additional five veterninary clinics were supplied with "Cats, Birds and You" flyers along with instructions on usage by the Wausau Bird Club.  Efforts continue to address the Trap, Neuter, Return program which was enacted in Wausau.  A member of Wausau Bird Club attended a presentation by Peter Marra, author of  Cat Wars.

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

On Wausau Bird Club's website there is a link to American Bird Conservancy's Bird Collison information.

C. Show that your municipality practices Integrated Pest Management, using natural pest control and the best available science to minimize pesticide and herbicide use.

The city of Wausau uses Integrated Pest Management practices when practical.  At the Eastbay Sports Complex natural weed control is used to ensure the safety of the atheletes.  Another example was used in 2017 on a planting of Asiatic lillies.  Grubs were seen on the plants and an oil was used to control instead of an insecticide.  All of the employees that use pesticides are certified pesticide applicators so they have been educated in safe practices.





G. Show how your community regulates communication tower construction, siting, and lighting to mitigate their risk to migrating birds.


Dark sky friendly lighting serves several purposes. It reduces light pollution, saves energy, and protects wildlife by helping maintain normal nocturnal conditions. One specific nocturnal condition that affects birds is the impact light pollution has on the ability of birds to see stars needed for migration purposes.

The Wausau and Marathon County Parks Recreation and Forestry Department have adopted the practice of utilizing dark sky friendly outdoor light fixtures when possible on new lighting installations and when retrofitting existing systems. To date they have implemented the practice for roadway, parking lot and walkway lighting in several parks and on the majority of the River Edge Trail which borders the Wisconsin River in the heart of the city.

The Wausau Department of Public Works is considering adopting the practice and has implemented dark sky friendly lighting on a number of main arterial streets to study performance and cost factors.

These steps are leading to internal policies and potentially an ordinance requiring the use of dark sky friendly lighting in business and commercial developments. Through the City’s planning and permitting process they have been successful in achieving voluntary use of dark sky friendly fixtures in a number of new private developments including two auto dealerships and a gas station/convenience store/fast food outlet/carwash facility.

In 2016, Wausau installed ROAM lighting which allows street lights to be dimmed when the volume of traffic lessens. This will help save energy and diminish light pollution.

In 2017 on 2nd Avenue in Wausau additional Dark Sky Lighting was installed as the area was refurbished.  Additional ROAM lighting was also installed in some neighborhoods. 

H. Document that your community operates a significant Lights Out program that dims building lights to reduce collisions during spring and fall migration or that you have an outdoor lighting ordinance that includes Lights Out during bird migration.

Additional dark sky lighting was installed on Grand Avenue during road reconstruction. During construction of County Hwy’s U and K dark sky lighting was erected. Additional information is found above (3C).

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. 

The DC Everest School District has a nature center at its school forest. Students from the district attend Flying WILD programs at Twin Oaks Environmental Center.

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.

The Wausau Bird Club website has a link to the The National Audubon Society which has information on bird friendly habitat creation.

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 Wausau Bird Club has participated in the Christmas Bird Count since 1950. The club also annually conducts a Spring Count that traditionally has been held on the second Saturday of May as part of the club's celebration of International Migratory Bird Day. Members of the community also participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. Local birders also have been active in citizen science by conducting a Marsh Bird survey in 9 Mile County Forest, participating in a Red-shouldered Hawk survey in Marathon County and in a breeding bird survey also conducted in the 9 Mile County Forest.

In 2016, members of the community and the Wausau Bird Club participated in the following count activities:

Great Backyard Bird Count

Spring Migration Count

Swift Night Out

Christmas Bird Count

Breeding Bird Atlas II

Residents again participated in all of the above counts in 2017.

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

Annually the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum hosts Birds in Art, an international juried exhibition of bird art from September through November and includes many interactive programs for children. Members of the Wausau Bird Club take interested artists to local birding hotspots and artists visit the Raptor Education Group Inc. to see the work being done to rehabilitate raptors.

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

Wausau Bird Club and their partner Monk Botanical Gardens worked together on multiple programs in 2017 involving school groups and the community.  One program in July 2017 was StoryWalk held at the Monk Gardens.  Wausau Bird Club sponsored a book called Spit and Sticks:  A Chimney Full of Swifts.  The books are put on stakes and the families walk through the gardens to read the book.  Our book ended in front of our Chimney Swift tower.  Members of the club were on hand to explain the tower and its value to the bird.

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).

On June 15, 2017 Melinda Myers gave a presentation at the Monk Gardens on pollinators entitled "What's the Buzz?  The Benefits of Creating a Pollinator Garden."  

G. Provide a link to your community’s Bird City Wisconsin webpage, which must be visible from the main page of your municipal website (it may be located at the first level of a drop down menu on the main page but cannot be any less visible) OR demonstrate that your Bird City effort has a significant social media presence.

The city of Wausau's website proudly displays the Bird City link.  

I. Show that your municipality promotes and supports a bird club or other environmentally/ecologically-minded club. (Exclusions: Garden clubs, unless you demonstrate a strong focus on native plants)

The Wausau Bird Club celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017.

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.

Wausau Bird Club has gotten listed in the Marathon County   Recreation Guide so the public can find us. Wausau Bird Club applications and information sheets are located at various venues in the area. Wausau Bird Club has a link on the Marathon County website under the bird watching category.

The Wausau Bird Club continues its part in the adopt-a-highway program. A three mile section of highway is cleaned adjacent to the Bitzke Bird Walk. Bitzke is part of the Watchable Wildlife program with signage to educate the public on the wildlife and birds.

All of the field trips sponsored by the Wausau Bird Club are advertised by the Wausau Visitor Center and through other local media and are always open to the public. In 2014 our field trips helped educate participants on several Wisconsin threatened bird species:  our camping trip to Kohler-Andrae State Park produced Hooded Warbler, our participation in the Prairie Chicken festival educates on the Greater Prairie Chicken, our winter trip to the Nicolet Forest has us looking for spruce grouse and many local birders were rewarded with sightings of a Yellow Crowned Night Heron on the Eau Claire River in eastern Marathon county.

Wausau Bird Club has updated its bird checklist of Marathon County and printed the new version in 2016. Unfortunately, as soon as we went to print a Painted Redstart showed up in the county!  So the checklists are already out of date! The checklist is available at the visitor center, the Park and Forestry building and at local retailers who sell bird feeding products.

The Wausau Bird Club in 2017 again offered field trips in the area.  Once again the Visitor Center featured a bird watching display in the lobby for the month of International Migratory Bird Day which is May.

Also there is much interest in our FaceBook page:  Wausau Area Birders and Bird Watchers.  There are monitors policing the site, events are posted, bird identification questions answered and sightings posted.  Over 400 people are members.

L. Show that your community works with traditionally underserved communities to increase their access to natural areas, environmental education, birding resources, and local environmental experts.

Monk Gardens and the Wausau Bird Club worked together in early June 2017 on Community Connections.  This program brings elementary school children to the garden where the various activities include a nature walk, cooking in the kitchen garden, book time etc.  In December 2017 children were invited to the Monk Gardens to make bird seed ornaments.  This was a free activity.  

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.

The Wausau Bird Club enters a team annually in the Great Wisconsin Birdathon.  The "Wausau Bird Nerds" saw over 140 birds in last years event.

N. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

Additional educational programs were presented in the community providing information on native landscaping, explaining the relationship between birds and forest management and backyard birding.  See attachments for the complete list of 2017 activities.

Energy & Sustainability

J. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

The city of Wausau is planning to relight the mall parking garage with LED lights to save money and energy.   Over 50% kWh's will be used when the project is completed.  Funding is being considered. 

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.

On Saturday May 20, 2016, an International Migratory Bird Day celebratory bird walk was again held in conjunction with the Monk Garden’s plant sale and flea market. The early-morning bird walk, which was attended by the Mayor of Wausau, was led by members of the Wausau Bird Club at the Monk Gardens. This year bird tattoos and stickers were purchased and given to all children in attendance.

Additionally, the Wausau Visitor Center again displayed bird watching flyers along with the IMBD 2016 poster. Another poster was also displayed at the Wausau City and Marathon County Park office.

Wausau's IMBD 2017 celebration again involved an early morning bird walk.  Discussion on protecting our birds here and on their wintering grounds took place.  The event held at the Monk Gardens included the annual Green Saturday Plant Sale and Garden Flea Market.  The event was held on May 20, 2017.

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Community Details

Joined Bird City: 2012

Population: 39,106

Incorporated: 1872

Area: 20.04 mi2

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