Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

Bird City Wisconsin: Oft Imitated, Not Yet Duplicated

Bird City Wisconsin’s program “Making our communities healthy for birds… and people” has spawned similar programs in three other states: Minnesota, Indiana and Iowa, reshaped the course of an analogous program in Pennsylvania and helped with plans to launch a program in Texas later in 2018.

The National Audubon Society and independent state Audubon chapters have paved the way in each of these states. In Indiana, Pennsylvania and Minnesota, state Audubon chapters run the program. Iowa has assembled perhaps the widest coalition of partners. Indiana adopted BCW’s program and criteria almost intact, while the other states have reformulated the recognition criteria. In working with Minnesota Audubon, BCW updated its own criteria and added a major sustainability component in 2017.

Here’s quick look at those other programs:

Read more: Bird City Wisconsin: Oft Imitated, Not Yet Duplicated

Bird City Advocate Reaches Out to His Community on Habitat and Cats

Photo of a cat by Talya Photo/Shutterstock via American Bird Conservancy

Peter McKeever was actively involved in gaining recognition for his home community of Monona (a Madison suburb) as a Bird City Wisconsin. He recorded the following radio spot, which is running on Monona’s local community radio station, WVOM. 98.7.

Are you feeding birds in your yard? Do you enjoy watching the chickadees, orioles, cardinals and House Finches? How about the honking of the geese and Sandhill Cranes overhead?

Monona has been named an official Wisconsin Bird City. This honor is in recognition of the commitment of the city and its residents to the protection of birds and the conservation of their habitat. Places like Woodland Park and the Monona Wetlands are important habitat for resident and migrating birds.

So are the trees in our city parks and the trees and bushes in your yard.

Bird populations are in decline everywhere. Bird song is disappearing.  One of the most important things we can do to protect birds is to keep our cats inside. Studies show pet cats kill billions of birds every year.

Birds are critical for a healthy ecosystem; they serve as indicators of the ecological health of our planet.

I’m Peter McKeever and I’m glad WVMO supports Monona’s birds.

Talya Photo/Shutterstock via American Bird Conservancy

Cats and birds: The combination can be disastrous. Although domestic cats (Felis catus) can make wonderful pets, they threaten birds and other wildlife and disrupt ecosystems.

Bird City Wisconsin Challenges 107 Communities to Do More

December 2, 2010. Carl Schwartz, founding director of Bird City Wisconsin, presents recognition award to Andrew Halverson, then mayor of Stevens Point, one of the state’s initial 10 Bird City Wisconsin communities.

Bird City Wisconsin has blown past the century mark in its recognition of communities that have taken the initiative to do more to be a healthy place for both birds and people. After  celebrating recognition of our milestone 100th (Sturgeon Bay) and 101st (Osceola) communities, Bird City has gone on to recognize six additional communities -- Shawano, Alma, Appleton, Monona, Rice Lake and South Milwaukee.

And now it has another exciting development to report: an updated set of criteria for becoming a Bird City.

Bird City recently made the first-ever change to the criteria it has established for recognizing communities that undertake conservation and education activities to make their communities healthy for birds… and people. Previously, communities could be recognized as Bird Cities by meeting 7 of 22 criteria from five categories (habitat creation and protection, community forest management, limiting threats to birds, education, and the official recognition and celebration of International Migratory Bird Day). To be considered an elite High Flyer, a community had to meet the Basic requirements plus at least 5 of 17 more rigorous criteria split into the same categories.

Bird City Wisconsin’s new criteria can be found online.

The changes in the criteria and in the application itself are designed to nudge Bird City communities to build upon the wonderful things they currently are doing to be recognized as Bird Cities. To maintain consistency in the program, all of the criteria that were in the old application are still in the new application (with some wording changes for clarification). To these were added an entirely new category, Energy & Sustainability, to help address climate change and urban pollution, a point system to emphasize the more-involved criteria, numerous new criteria, a single application rather than separate Basic and High Flyer applications, and a slight increase in the number of criteria required to become both a Bird City and a High Flyer.

The revised application also features a new restriction on High Flyer status that prohibits High Flyer recognition for communities that officially support outdoor cats. This is a huge issue as cats spread serious diseases to humans and wildlife (e.g., Toxoplasma gondii), cats that spend at least part of their lives outside do not live as long and are not as healthy as indoor cats, and research has shown that cats in the United States kill 2.4 billion birds and 12 billion mammals… EVERY. YEAR.

Bird City Wisconsin is modeled on the Arbor Day Foundation’s successful national program Tree City USA and seeks to promote civic management and public engagement to create healthy bird and human populations. The participants that have come together to seek recognition for their communities include public officials, bird watchers, conservationists, local businesses and chambers of commerce.

Bird City is supported by grants from the Arthur J. Donald Family Foundation, the Bird Protection Fund of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (NRF), the WE Energies Foundation and the Wisconsin Audubon Council; individual donations; and application and renewal fees. It also receives significant in-kind support from the Milwaukee Audubon Society. Seed funding and follow-up support for Bird City was provided by the National Audubon Society and Toyota through a TogetherGreen Innovation Grant.

Bird City Wisconsin strongly promotes participation in a number of statewide birding activities, including the NRF’s Great Wisconsin Birdathon, the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II, International Migratory Bird Day, the Christmas Bird Count and the Great Backyard Bird Count. It has helped launch similar programs in Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa and Texas, and offers to work with organizations in other states interested in such an effort.

Bird City has three annual application deadlines: March 1, July 1 and Nov. 1. Renewals are due each Jan. 31. Bird City Wisconsin communities receive street signs and a flag to trumpet their achievements, along with a plaque and a copy of Owen Gromme’s book “Birds of Wisconsin.”

Reliving our history: On Dec. 2, 2010, Carl Schwartz, founding director of Bird City Wisconsin, presented recognition to Andrew Halverson, then mayor of Stevens Point, one of the state’s initial 10 Bird City Wisconsin communities.

Bird City Wisconsin Names New Director

Dr. Bryan Lenz, 36, returns home to lead community recognition and avian conservation program; Carl Schwartz will chair Steering Committee

Bird City Wisconsin has announced the hiring of Dr. Bryan Lenz as director of its program to recognize communities who work with their residents to make the ir neighborhoods a better place for people, birds and other wildlife.

A Milwaukee‐area native, the 36‐ year‐old Lenz is returning home after spending a decade in New Orleans while completing his Ph.D. at Tulane University. Fo r his dissertation research he spent 16 months living in the Ama zon where he examined the impa cts of tropical forest cattle ranching on the mammal community , especially primates, while al so recording raptor sightings and data on the tree community.

Bird City Wisconsin Tops the Century Mark

osceola logo

The number 101 is a frequent target when a writer is trying to compile an impressive list – surely it has not been long since you last saw “101 Ways to ...” . 101 also describes a list that speaks volumes about the people of Wisconsin: it is the number of Bird City Wisconsin communities following the recognition Osceola (100) and Sturgeon Bay (101). Bird City welcomes both municipalities to a program that recognizes forward - thinking communities across the great state of Wisconsin who understand the value of birds.

Bird City Wisconsin recognizes municipalities for the conservation and education activities that they undertake to make their communities healthy for birds ... and people. To be recognized as a Bird City, a community must meet at least 7 of 22 criteria spread across five categories: habitat creation and protection, community forest management, limiting threats to birds, education, and the official recognition and celebration of International Migratory Bird Day. Bird City also offers a second level of recognition, High Flyer, for those communities that truly go above and beyond in their conservation and education programs. To become a High Flyer, a community must meet the requirements to become a Bird City plus a minimum of 5 of an additional 17 criteria.

Read more: Bird City Wisconsin Tops the Century Mark