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.

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.

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 14th 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.

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.

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)

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

In 2016, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Although the Feral Cat issue did not go well here in Wausau it wasn’t for a lack of trying. We still have avenues to follow to try to get the cat colonies to be considered illegal.

Attached is a letter to the editor published in the Wausau Daily Herald prior to the ordinances being changed by the common council.

Dark Sky Friendly Lighting

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.

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.

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

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.

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 Wausau Bird Club presented bird related talks to nursing home residents and church and school groups. Also, all Wausau Bird Club meetings are open to the public and the community has welcomed many of the speakers.

The Wausau Bird Club conducted a series of bird education events with the local Boys and Girl’s Club. A power point presentation was given on House Wrens and Wren houses were constructed. The houses were given to the participants to present to their mothers as a Mother’s Day gift. Finch feeders and nyger seed were also given out. Discussion on feeder care and Goldfinches followed.

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.

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD)

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.

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Community Details

Joined Bird City: 2012

Population: 39,106

Incorporated: 1872

Area: 20.04 mi2

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