Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

Ideas for World Migratory Bird Day and Social Distancing

World Migratory Bird Day 2020

At a time when the Covid-19 pandemic is upending each of our best-laid plans one after the other, the question is understandable: Will Bird City communities be penalized for failing to hold a World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) event this year?

The answer is no. Every Bird City should follow local regulations and the guidance of the CDC and other health officials regarding group events, even if doing so means cancelling your spring celebration. Your priority, and ours, must be maintaining the health of your staff, volunteers, and attendees -- but we sure hope you’ll think twice before cancelling your WMBD plans outright, because you may not need to.

Our friends at Environment for the Americas, the home of WMBD, have come up with three creative ways you can practice social distancing while celebrating.

1. Delay your event. It’s true, the traditional date to mark WMBD is the second Saturday in May, but did you know that WMBD is celebrated almost every month of the year? Birds don’t all travel on the same day. Hold your event when they’re present later in the year.

2. Highlight your site for WMBD over a period of time. If you’ve planned various activities to take place on a single day, spread them out over days and weeks instead, and engage individuals or small groups, rather than crowds of people.

3. Host a virtual festival. Environment for the Americas promises to provide a suite of WMBD-related videos, guest speakers, quizzes, and other online activities. Invite your communities to join in, or use the materials to host your own virtual event via the Internet, social media, or webinar. You can find more info on the WMBD website.

Please let us know what you decide, and be sure to share the dates and times of any virtual festivals; we’ll help publicize them!

Read more:

Learn about World Migratory Bird Day.

Download this year's WMBD poster and other resources.

Read about "Safer at Home" (Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services).


Great Wisconsin Birdathon Is Still a Go

Great Wisconsin Birdathon

Has your Bird City entered a team in this year’s Great Wisconsin Birdathon yet? It’s not too late to do so.

As we wrote in our last newsletter, the annual event is an irreplaceable fundraiser for bird conservation and research in the state, and it’s a perfect way for Bird Cities to engage their residents in birding, conservation, and education -- and to raise funds for local conservation projects.

That’s why we were cheered to learn that the birdathon will go on this year in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic. Sarah Cameron, coordinator of the birdathon, reports that she and her colleagues at the Natural Resources Foundation have brainstormed three ways that teams can participate safely:

1. Hold a “Big Sit.” Think of it as the tailgate of birding. Set up lawn chairs at least six feet apart, have each team member take a seat, and observe the birds that come your way.

2. Turn your birdathon into a relay. Your team members don’t need to bird in the same location; they can bird solo. Then you compile your results after your big day.

3. Bird in your backyard. Consider the birdathon an opportunity to get to know your backyard birds! Birding in your yard eliminates the need to travel or bird in groups. Sightings can be compiled at day’s end.

This year’s birdathon will take place between April 15 and June 15. To join, visit the event's organizations page, or simply Google "Great Wisconsin Birdathon" and then click on the "Fundraise For Your Own Cause" tab.

Read more:

Read our February 2020 newsletter.

Great Wisconsin Birdathon 2020

2019 Birdathon Raises Over $85,000 for Bird Conservation

Birdathon Helps Push Bird Protection Fund past $1 million Mark


Bird Cities and the 2020 Great Wisconsin Birdathon, a Perfect Pairing

Great Wisconsin Birdathon

Birds are valuable, and they need our help. That’s a core belief of the Great Wisconsin Birdathon, the Natural Resources Foundation’s annual walkathon-style fundraiser.

Each spring, the Birdathon unites thousands of birders, conservationists, and other friends of nature behind one goal -- finding as many bird species as possible in a single day while raising much-needed funds for bird conservation and research.

It’s valuable, it’s fun, and best of all, it’s for everyone -- Bird Cities as well as individuals. In recent years, more than a dozen Bird City communities -- Baraboo, Ferryville, Fox Point, Grantsburg, Green Bay, Hales Corners, Janesville, La Crosse, Marquette County, McFarland, Mequon, Mercer, Muskego, Prairie du Sac, Sauk City, Wausau, and Whitefish Bay -- have all fielded teams.

They recognized that the Birdathon was a perfect way not only to engage their residents in birding, conservation, and education but also to raise funds for local conservation projects -- including covering the annual renewal fee for their recognition as a Bird City.

This is possible because half of the money Bird Cities and other organizations raise during the Birdathon is returned to the organizations, to be used as they choose. They have all the fun, birding for a day between April 15 and June 15, while the Natural Resources Foundation does all the work, handling all donations through its convenient Great Wisconsin Birdathon website.

It’s not too early for Bird Cities to set up teams for this year’s Birdathon. To begin, visit the event's organizations page, or simply Google "Great Wisconsin Birdathon" and then click on the "Fundraise For Your Own Cause" tab.

Much of the success that Bird City Wisconsin has helped its communities achieve over the last eight years is the result of the Natural Resources Foundation’s tremendous support. As a priority project of its Bird Protection Fund, Bird City receives critical funding and outreach support that have helped it become the national conservation model that it is today.


Read more:

Great Wisconsin Birdathon 2020

2019 Birdathon Raises Over $85,000 for Bird Conservation

Birdathon Helps Push Bird Protection Fund past $1 million Mark


2020 Renewal Applications Received So Far

Bird City Wisconsin

This story was updated March 27, 2020.

Below the list of communities that have submitted a renewal application or let us know that their application is in the works, as of March 24, 2020. We are reviewing applications now.

We look forward to distributing our list of 2020 Bird Cities in the days ahead. In addition to posting it on our website, we’ll feature it on displays that we take to festivals, conferences, and other gatherings, and we’ll print it in the new brochure that we’re preparing now and will distribute across the state and beyond.

If you don’t see your community on the list, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. right away. Even at this late date, he would be happy to work with you to complete your renewal, making sure your community is recognized on our website and in our new promotional materials for the steps you’ve taken to be friendlier for birds and healthier for people.

Town of Bailey's Harbor
Beaver Dam
Brown County
Brown Deer
Door County
Eau Claire
Elm Grove
Fond du Lac
Fontana-on-Geneva Lake
Fort Atkinson
Fox Point
Town of Grafton
Green Bay
Green Lake
Hales Corners
Horicon City on the Marsh
City of Kenosha
Kenosha County
La Crosse
Lake Geneva
Town of Manitowish Waters
Marquette County
Menomonee Falls
City of Milwaukee
Milwaukee County
New London
Ozaukee County
Port Washington
Port Wing
Prairie du Chien
Town of Presque Isle
River Falls
River Hills
Town of Rome
Sauk City/Prairie du Chien
Shorewood Hills
Stevens Point
Sturgeon Bay
Taylor County
Town of Three Lakes
Two Rivers
Whitefish Bay
Williams Bay
Wisconsin Rapids


How to renew your Bird City status.

Visit our application and renewal page.

See a list or map of Bird City communities.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


World Migratory Bird Day to Focus on Bird-tracking Technologies

World Migratory Bird Day, Environment for the Americas

In 2009, scientists captured a Whimbrel in coastal Virginia, an important stopover site for the species. When the bird, a female nicknamed Hope, was released, she carried a satellite transmitter that provided details about her future travels. Shuttling between breeding grounds in northwestern Canada and a wintering site in the Virgin Islands, Hope demonstrated both the spectacular journeys that migratory birds make each year and the threats they face.

World Migratory Bird Day

In 2020, World Migratory Bird Day launches its annual conservation campaign with the slogan “Birds Connect Our World.” Throughout the year, we will focus on the tracking technologies researchers use not only to learn about migratory routes but also to examine the hazards along these routes and to implement conservation actions that help migratory birds throughout their journeys.

“Birds Connect Our World” will be celebrated across the globe, including in every Bird City community in Wisconsin, and plans are already underway to launch the event through meetings and festivals, school programs, and presentations.

In the Western Hemisphere, World Migratory Bird Day is spearheaded by Environment for the Americas, a Colorado-based non-profit organization that has been coordinating the program since 2008. Environment for the Americas focuses its efforts on the Americas Flyways, working with more than 700 groups from Canada to Argentina and the Caribbean.

Through education materials, trainings, social media, and connections with program coordinators, World Migratory Bird Day works to raise awareness of migratory birds and to promote actions that protect our feathered travelers.

Wisconsin is a big fan of World Migratory Bird Day -- so big, in fact, that holding an annual World Migratory Bird Day event and passing an official resolution recognizing the day and the importance of birds are the only actions that Bird City Wisconsin requires every one of its communities to take. (See a sample resolution.)

Artwork with a Conservation Theme

At the heart of World Migratory Bird Day is artwork that reflects the conservation theme. Selected through a rigorous, competitive process, artists from Haiti, Cuba, Mexico, the United States, Canada, and other countries have portrayed issues ranging from the impacts of climate change to the benefits of shade coffee. The final images feature the species that reflect these topics.

In 2020, self-taught printmaker and compulsive wanderer of landscapes Sherrie York is developing the design that will be used to highlight “Birds Connect Our World.” Using linocut blocks, she has created portraits of 12 focal bird species: Northern Pintail, American Kestrel, Barn Owl, Western Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit, Arctic Tern, Purple Martin, Calliope Hummingbird, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Canada Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Baird’s Sparrow.

Each species represents a different method of tracking birds, including banding, geolocators, feather analysis, and citizen science. Throughout the year, we will highlight these species, the tracking methods, and the communities on the ground that are working to make their journeys safer.

Which brings us back to Hope. The Whimbrel was tracked over more than 50,000 miles but disappeared in 2017, when Hurricane Maria struck St. Croix. Intense storms, pane-glass windows, loss of habitat, free-ranging cats, and plastic pollution are just a few of the factors that World Migratory Bird Day will tackle in 2020.

How to Participate

We invite all Bird Cities to join our growing network of activities in 2020. You can learn about Environment for the Americas at and about World Migratory Bird Day in the Americas at The Bird Day site provides information about this year’s theme, downloadable educational and promotional materials, and a way to register your World Migratory Bird Day event on our global map. For more information, write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

--This article was prepared by Susan Bonfield, Executive Director, Environment for the Americas.


Grants are now available for Bird City communities. Read more.

Annual Bird City renewals are due by Jan. 31, 2020. Get details.

Read past issues of the monthly Bird City newsletter.