Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

Bird City Wisconsin Welcomes Two New Cities

Bird City Wisconsin

Bird City Wisconsin is happy to announce the recognition of a pair of new Bird Cities in 2020: Greenfield and Wauwatosa.


Greenfield’s application process was led by Renee Rollman, an engineering specialist with the city. Greenfield was recognized for its work to control invasive plant species, its longtime status as a Tree City USA, and especially for its recent restoration of Pondview Park, a 6.69-acre special open space area located in the eastern part of the city.

Established around neighborhood retention basins as part of a senior residential housing development, the park is planted with native wetland trees, shrubs, and wildflowers that provide shelter and food for waterfowl and other birds, and features an asphalt trail loop with interpretive signage. In spring 2018, the city cleared buckthorn and other invasive plants that were encroaching on the edge of the pond.


Jeff Roznowski, a board member of the Wauwatosa Chamber of Commerce, spearheaded Wauwatosa’s application. The city was recognized for a host of bird-friendly actions, including its longtime status as a Tree City USA; weed-outs and cleanups along the Menomonee River; conducting regular bird monitoring in the 60-acre maple-beech forest known as the Woodland as well as in parks in Wauwatosa; and especially for the unanimous 2019 approval of a zoning modification for a cherished parcel of land known as Sanctuary Woods.

Located east of I-41 and north of Wisconsin Avenue, 55-acre Sanctuary Woods is a small but important portion of the 1,200 acres of city land covered by the Life Sciences District Master Plan adopted by the Wauwatosa Common Council in late 2018. The area has long been known to shelter flying squirrels, Butler’s garter snakes, and other interesting wildlife, and it is well known as a haunt for Long-eared Owls and other birds and as a stopover site for migrating Monarch butterflies, yet it was not zoned as a Conservancy prior to approval of the plan. This designation was made permanent thanks to the modification adopted in December. The new zoning status (Special Purpose Conservancy, SP-CON) ensures that Sanctuary Woods is now part of an overall contiguous area of 500 acres of environmental green space that will be protected as important wildlife habitat into perpetuity.

The two Milwaukee-area communities bring to 111 the number of communities that have been recognized as Bird Cities since the program was begun in 2009.


The end of October means that it’s time for Bird City communities to start work on their 2021 renewals.

Renewing is how your community can be recognized publicly for the steps it has taken to be friendly to birds and healthy for people. It’s also a great way to let the world know that your hometown is a desirable place to work, live, take a vacation, and do some bird watching, and it signals that you want to be counted in Bird City’s statewide network of conservation advocates.

Get started now! You can complete the entire renewal process electronically, on the Bird City Wisconsin website. Renewals for 2021 are due by January 31.


Read more:

How to renew your Bird City status.

Visit our application and renewal page.

See a list or map of Bird City communities.

Contact the director of Bird City Wisconsin.


ABC Seeks Coordinator for New Bird City Americas Program

American Bird Conservancy

The American Bird Conservancy, which is celebrating 25 years of conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas, is seeking to hire a coordinator for its new Bird City Americas initiative.

This will be a full-time position, and the successful applicant will be able to work remotely or can choose to join an existing ABC office in either Washington, DC, or in The Plains, Virginia.

The Bird City Americas coordinator will work closely with Bird City Americas Director Bryan Lenz to launch and run the new Bird City Americas initiative, a program being created in partnership with Environment for the Americas.

Bird City Americas will scale up the community conservation model created by Bird City Wisconsin, which has recognized 111 communities for their commitment to bird conservation since the program was launched in 2009. The goal is to build a hemisphere-wide network that provides recognition, guidance, and encouragement to communities focused on habitat protection/management, education, and other actions to reduce threats to birds and make communities better places for people.

You can read ABC’s job posting on ZipRecruiter. It reads as follows:

The Bird City Americas coordinator should understand bird and community conservation as well as environmental education. Experience with community certification programs is a plus. The coordinator should be an organized, detail-oriented, analytical, and deadline-driven person who understands the value, formation, and maintenance of partnerships and the importance of flexibility in pursuit of overarching program goals.

The successful candidate will also be a people person who is quick on their feet and able to lead organizations considering joining the Bird City Americas program. An understanding of what motivates different segments of the population to take conservation and education action is also required.

Public speaking skills are a must. Experience in Latin America and Canada, along with some proficiency in Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and French, will be considered a plus.

Primary duties:

  1. Help to develop the program’s structure and materials, including the website (with an external developer) and all program documents in coordination with the Bird City Americas Director and input from Environment for the Americas.
  2. Build connections with existing Bird City programs and work to see them become a part of the Bird City Americas network.
  3. Serve as facilitator of the Bird City Steering Committee and maintain and organize the committee records and information.
  4. Recruit and train organizations interested in starting new Bird City programs in the United States.
  5. Manage the hemisphere-wide Bird City Americas network in partnership with the Bird City Americas Director.
  6. Innovate to develop new features as the Bird City program grows and evolves.
  7. Develop, update, and help to manage annual budgets.
  8. Work with the Development Team to seek funding for the Bird City Americas program itself and to help provide resources for local programs and communities within the network.
  9. Work within ABC to ensure that ABC staff and programs maximize their contributions to Bird City Americas and that Bird City Americas multiplies the impact of ABC’s programs.

Position requirements:

  1. Bachelor’s degree and at least five years of experience in environmental conservation, education or community recognition.
  2. Proven track record of working with partners at high levels to achieve significant programmatic outcomes.
  3. Knowledge of birds and bird conservation, especially related to urban/suburban conservation and threats to birds.
  4. Ability to innovate to create added value for the program and to solve challenging problems that will arise during the creation of a new program.
  5. Ability to work independently, efficiently, and accurately in a deadline-oriented position.
  6. Ability to work with a wide range of people from a wide range of cultures while always maintaining a sense of humor and a positive attitude.
  7. Excellent communication (writing, in-person, and public speaking) and organizational skills. Some ability in Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, or French will be a plus.
  8. Ability to travel to throughout the Western Hemisphere (primarily North America).
  9. Dedication to ABC’s mission.


Read more:

Go to ABC’s job posting on ZipRecruiter.

Read more about American Bird Conservancy.


Madison Enacts State’s First Bird-Friendly Building Law

Madison, Wisconsin, bird-friendly

The Madison Common Council has unanimously adopted Wisconsin’s first bird-friendly building ordinance. The city-wide ordinance will require large construction and expansion projects to use modern bird-safe strategies and materials that allow birds to see glass. The new requirements, drawn up with input from American Bird Conservancy, are expected to dramatically reduce bird mortalities. The ordinance goes into effect Oct. 1, 2020.

“The well-being of birds and people in Wisconsin are very intertwined, from the economic benefits of tourism and birdwatching to free services like pest control and pollination,” says Matt Reetz, executive director of Madison Audubon, one of the organizations that advocated for the ordinance. “We really must do what we can to protect birds, and this is a straightforward and important step in doing so. I’m proud of our city for taking this step.”

The ordinance, adopted Aug. 4, 2020, was introduced by Alds. Marsha Rummel and Keith Furman and drafted by city staff in consultation with planners from other cities that have implemented similar bird-friendly standards.

A coalition of local environmental groups studying the bird-collision problem also provided strong support for the ordinance. This group, called the Bird Collision Corps, is coordinated by Madison Audubon, the UW-Madison’s Facilities Planning and Management Department, the university's Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, the Dane County Humane Society’s Wildlife Center, and American Bird Conservancy.

“The City of Madison’s unanimous adoption of bird-friendly building standards puts it at the front of a growing movement of communities that are doing their part to save the nearly a billion birds that die after colliding with glass in the United States each year,” said Bryan Lenz, American Bird Conservancy’s glass collisions program manager.

Lenz has been involved in the Bird Collision Corps and development of the Madison ordinance. “Not to mention that saving birds is the right thing to do, both ethically and for a healthy environment,” he added. Lenz also chairs the board for Bird City Wisconsin, which has recognized some 110 communities in the state, including Madison, for their bird-conservation efforts. Madison is a High-Flyer.

Research shows that residences that are 1 to 3 stories tall account for 43.6 percent of collision-related fatalities, while 56.3 percent of collisions happen at low-rise buildings (4 to 11 floors). Those two types of buildings account for most of Madison’s cityscape. Only 0.1 percent of bird deaths happen after collisions with buildings 12 stories or higher.

This article was adapted from Facility Executive magazine.


Read more:

Read Madison's Bird-Safe Glass Ordinance.

Bird Collision Corps

First Bird-Friendly Building Ordinance in Wisconsin Passed (Facility Executive, Aug. 13, 2020).

New York City Passes a Landmark Bill to Make More Buildings Bird-Friendly (Audubon, Dec. 10, 2019)

Bird City Helps Bucks Open the World’s First Bird-Friendly Arena, Oct. 17, 2018

Bird–building collisions in the United States: Estimates of annual Mortality and Species Vulnerability (The Condor, Jan. 2, 2014)

San Francisco Mayor Approves New Standards for Bird-Safe Buildings (ABC, Oct. 11, 2011)


Chimney Swifts! Now Is the Time to Count!

Chimney Swift

Chimney Swifts are on the decline, and we need YOUR help in identifying roost chimneys and counting the swifts that use them. It’s easy and fun to conduct a “Swift Night Out.” By identifying roost chimneys, we’ll have a better chance of saving them.

Follow these additional guidelines to increase your event’s safety during the COVID-19 pandemic: Choose a site that provides adequate room to spread out. Invite a small group, such as your family or those living in your residence. And wear masks if you can’t practice social distancing.

A complete guide to hosting a “Swift Night Out” event is available on the website of the Wisconsin Chimney Swift Working Group. Here’s how to host your own.

1. Pick one or more nights from early August in northern Wisconsin through mid- to late September in southern Wisconsin.

2. Look for tall brick chimneys (or ones on homes) that are uncapped. Watch to see where swifts are feeding and congregating.

3. Observe the roost starting about 30 minutes before sunset until 10 minutes after the last swift enters the chimney. Count (or estimate) the number of swifts as they enter the chimney. It’s useful to count in groups of 5 or 10 birds at a time when many birds pour into the chimney in a short period of time.

4. Enter the data on eBird (preferred!). When prompted for location, map your roost site to an exact address or point. After you enter the number of Chimney Swifts, please use the hash tag #swiftwi in the Chimney Swift details section. This will help us greatly in accessing the data.

If you want to go above and beyond and be a rock star, please add additional information in the Chimney Swift details section, in this exact order, with semicolons separating the data: #swiftwi; the type of building (residence, school, church, business, hospital, apartment, swift tower or structure, etc.); the condition of the chimney (in good shape; in need of repair); any other notes. Here's an example: #swiftwi; residence; chimney in need of repair; any other notes.

Please also include any Common Nighthawks you see. These aerial insectivores are also in decline.

If you don't use eBird, send the same information as above plus date of observation, exact start time, length of observation at the roost site, and your name, mailing address, and email address to Fred Dike, 2613 Waltham Rd., Madison, WI 53711 or

More information about Chimney Swifts and how to help protect them can be found on the website of the Wisconsin Chimney Swift Working Group.

Article by Karen Etter Hale.


Read more:

Wisconsin Chimney Swift Working Group

How to host a “Swift Night Out” event (pdf).

Get Started with eBird (Cornell Lab of Ornithology).

Survey seeks to ID chimneys providing Chimney Swift habitat (July 27, 2020).

Photo by Jim McCulloch - Flickr: Chimney swift overhead, CC BY 2.0,


Survey seeks to ID chimneys providing Chimney Swift habitat

Chimney Swift in chimney

July 27, 2020 - Brick chimneys may be a key component to conserving acrobatic, fast-flying Chimney Swifts.

That's why the Wisconsin Chimney Swift Working Group is making a special appeal to Bird City Wisconsin communities and their residential and commercial property owners to take an online survey if their chimneys are currently being used by swifts. The Chimney Swift survey is online at

Information gained by the survey will help shape a pilot project aimed at helping owners pay for chimney repairs, so the owners are more likely to keep the structures. Biologists with Wisconsin DNR's Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation (NHC) are part of the working group.

“Sadly, Chimney Swifts, like many other aerial insectivores including whip-poor-wills, nighthawks, and swallows, are declining,” said Rich Staffen, an NHC biologist and working group member (email). “There are no definitive reasons identified yet for why this is, but the ongoing decline in insect populations is a major concern, and bird experts also know the removal or capping of old chimneys is removing suitable nesting and roosting locations for these birds.”

Chimney Swifts nest in eastern North America (east of the Rockies) in the summer and migrate to South America in the fall. Historically, the birds congregated before migrating in large standing hollow trees in old-growth forests. However, as old-growth forests disappeared from North America, the swifts discovered that brick chimneys served as an easy and abundant replacement.

Chimney Swifts have slender bodies, very long, narrow, curved wings, and short tapered tails. They fly rapidly, beating their wings nearly constantly, often twisting from side to side and banking erratically. The birds often give a distinctive high-pitched twittering call while flying.

Swifts can cling to a rough vertical surface like the inside of a hollow tree or a chimney. Hundreds of native Chimney Swifts may congregate in communal roosts, gathering strength before flying to South America and creating a spectacle that looks like smoke pouring into brick chimneys in the fall.

“Chimneys are crucial habitat for swifts, which depend upon manmade structures for nesting and roosting before fall migration,” said Sandy Schwab, chair of the working group (email), adding that a member of the working group may contact respondents in the future to discuss their answers. “We’d like to know if you have a chimney that is being used by swifts for nesting or resting, and if you do, if it’s in need of repairs. This information will help us develop our project to help preserve habitat for chimney swifts.”

The survey will help working group members understand which chimneys are being used for roosting and nesting by these birds and if those chimneys require any repair to keep them as a viable option for the birds into the future.


Read more:

Learn more about Chimney Swifts (All About Birds).

Take the Chimney Swift Survey.

Learn more about the Wisconsin Chimney Swift Working Group.


Photo: An adult Chimney Swift and a nestling rest in a stick nest inside a chimney. Photo by Nancy J. Nabak.