Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

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.


Grants Now Available for Bird City Communities

Bird City Wisconsin Grants

Bird City Wisconsin is excited to announce a new benefit for Bird City communities: a small-grants program!

The goal of the program is to provide a helping hand to Bird City communities that are just a modest funding boost away from accomplishing something really great in three categories -- that is, launching or completing a project that creates and protects bird habitat, educating residents about the interactions between birds and people, or protecting birds by reducing such threats as window collisions and outdoor cats.

In 2020, we’ll award grants totaling $500 in each of these three categories. More than one grant may be awarded in each category, and if multiple grants are awarded, the total amount awarded in that category will be $500.

The grants are intended to support work that will be performed in 2020. Grants will be awarded only to Bird City communities that have completed their renewal for 2020.

How to apply: Submit a Word document no more than two pages or 500 words long containing the following:

  • Title and category: Provide the title of your project and its category: Habitat Creation and Protection, Education, or Bird Protection.
  • Description: Tell us how the project will create and protect habitat, educate your residents, or protect birds, and estimate its total cost.
  • Expected impact: For a habitat project, tell us the size of the habit to be created or protected, its type and location, its ecological significance, and the birds and other wildlife that will benefit. For an education project, describe your target audience and the number of people you expect to educate. For a bird-protection project, tell us the nature of the threat, its scope, and the birds at risk.
  • Project timeframe: What dates in 2020 will your project begin and end.
  • Leaders: Provide names, titles, and contact information for your project’s leader or leaders.
  • Funding: Finally, list other sources of funding, if any.

Apply by email: Submit your application as an attachment to an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please use the following subject line: “Grant Application: [Insert Bird City Community name]”

Deadline for applying: Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Applications received after that date will not be considered.

Members of the Bird City board of directors will evaluate applications and award grants based on the urgency of the project, its potential impact, a community’s ability to complete it, the need for funding, and the number of applications received.

Grant winners will be announced at the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory’s celebration of World Migratory Bird Day in Port Washington on Sunday, May 17, 2020.

One more thing: Grantees agree to submit, no later than Nov. 1, 2020, a Word document no more than two pages or 500 words long describing the completed project and comparing actual results to what was described in the application, along with three publishable photos taken during the project.

Questions? Write to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Good luck!

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

Apply and renew your Bird City status.

Read past issues of the monthly Bird City newsletter.


It’s Time to Renew!

Bird City Wisconsin Logo

November's colder temperatures and snow flurries are sure signs of two things in Wisconsin: that White-throated Sparrows, juncos, and other northern birds will soon reappear at backyard feeders, and that it’s time for Bird City communities to start work on their annual renewals.

Renewing is a powerful way to demonstrate that your community is a great place to work, live, take a vacation, and do some bird watching. It signals that you and your fellow residents want to be counted in Bird City’s statewide network of conservation advocates. And it’s a superb way for your hometown to be recognized publicly for steps it has already taken to be both friendlier for birds and healthier for people. So don’t put off this important task! Renewals for 2020 are due by January 31.

Like last year, you can complete the entire renewal process electronically, on the Bird City Wisconsin website.

First steps: The best way to start is to compile a list of the new bird- and people-friendly actions that your community completed in 2019. Then gather your team members and review your community’s narrative on the Bird City website. Look for references to past actions that are out of date and need updating and for criteria that match your community’s new accomplishments. Then start writing!

Find your community's narrative.

How to update your narrative: Click the “APPLY/RENEW” tab in the orange band at the top of this page. This will take you to the Apply & Renew Page. Then click the blue “Renew Here” button to log in. After logging in, you will see a number of tabs. We recommend starting with the tab on the left, the instructions.

Forgot your password? Simply send an email to Bird City director Chuck Hagner right away. (You can reach Chuck by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..) He will send you a new password.

No longer your community’s rep? The Bird City website allows the email address of only one representative from each community to be used to log in. If you’re no longer the person responsible for updating your community’s account, don’t worry; Chuck can change the email address associated with your account at any time. Simply send him the name and email address of your community’s new representative (or have that person contact Chuck right away). He will get him or her into the system pronto.

Dates to remember: All Wisconsin communities can submit new applications to become Bird Cities at any time of the year (we review applications every March 1, July 1, and November 1), but renewals are due every year on January 31.

How much does it cost? The fee for applications and annual renewals is $125. We accept payment by check or credit card. If you send a check, please make it out to “Bird City Wisconsin.”

When you’re finished, we’ll send you a signed certificate that you can display at City Hall, the public library, or another municipal center, and you’ll have an updated web page on which your community can tout its accomplishments. Even more valuable, you’ll be able to say that your community is one of Wisconsin’s most desirable places to live and work.

Apply and renew your Bird City status.

See a list of Bird City communities.


2019 Birdathon Raises Over $85,000 for Bird Conservation

Great Wisconsin Birdathon

The 2019 Great Wisconsin Birdathon is a wrap, and thanks to 24 teams, 27 field trips and winter tours, and 660 donors, it was a big success. According to the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, the event raised $85,652 for bird conservation.

The annual birdathon is the primary source of support for the Bird Protection Fund, which provides critical support to projects that advance conservation across Wisconsin, focusing on species that are most imperiled. In 2019, it funded Kirtland's Warbler research, Piping Plover monitoring, and five other priority conservation projects, including Bird City Wisconsin.

The Bird Protection Fund is a collaboration of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. It has raised more than $1 million for bird conservation and research since 2007.

Signature teams and field trips and tours brought in the lion's share of funds raised during this year's birdathon. The signature teams raised over $40,000, while field trips and winter tours yielded $20,300.

Of the signature teams, Cutright's Old Coots -- landscape artist Tom Uttech, Marilyn Bontly, Joan Sommer, Mike Wanger, Ric Zarwell, and Carl Schwartz, past chair of the Bird City Wisconsin steering committee -- raised the most: $13,276.80.

"Cutright’s Old Coots are six people who strongly believe that birds are valuable and need our help -- now more than ever," says Schwartz. "That’s why every year since 2012 we have enlisted as many friends, family, and colleagues as possible to support a team for the Great Wisconsin Birdathon."

In addition to raising the most money, Cutright's Old Coots came close to taking honors for the most birds recorded during the birdathon, observing no fewer than 168 species on a big day held on May 16.

The top birding team was the Secretary Birds (Tom Prestby, Mark Korducki, Quentin Yoerger, and Aaron Haycraft), who recorded a remarkable 193 species while birding from Door County to Horicon Marsh on May 21, including Northern Saw-whet Owl near Duvall Swamp, Eastern Whip-poor-will near Bailey's Harbor, and both Hooded and Blue-winged Warblers in the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

The Muirland Merlins (Daryl Christenson, Steve Mullen, and Kari and Mark Stauffer) found the second most species, an impressive 175 species, on May 11 at Comstock Bog, Germania Marsh, the Buena Vista-Leola Marsh complex, Middleton's Pheasant Branch Conservancy, Horicon Marsh, and other east-central hotspots.

Eighteen organizations fielded Birdathon teams, including the Madison Audubon Society, Madison Friends of Urban Nature, North Lakeland Discovery Center, Mequon Nature Preserve, Tropical Wings, Baraboo Ranger Preservation Association, and the Wausau, Muirland, Ben Goss, Northeast Wisconsin, and Noel J. Cutright Bird Clubs.

The organizational teams raised $16,400, half of which will be returned to them to fund their own projects, including land protection and stewardship, education, outreach, and more. Their success suggests that the birdathon would be a fun and effective way for Bird Cities to raise money for conservation efforts in their communities.

The next Great Wisconsin Birdathon will be in April 2020.


Results and stories from the 2019 Great Wisconsin Birdathon.

Read the Secretary Birds' big day report.

Read Cutright's Old Coots' big day report.

Read about the Muirland Merlins.

See the Bird Protection Fund's 2019 priority projects.


Updated Aug. 10, 2019, to include updated fundraising and Big Day results. 


Milwaukee County Parks designated an Important Bird Area

Milwaukee County Parks Important Bird Area

Milwaukee County, the only Bird City community to have earned credit for documenting that a municipal or major public building had been awarded LEED certification as bird-friendly, has another feather for its cap: The county's treasured 15,000-acre park system has been designated Wisconsin's 93rd Important Bird Area (IBA).

Milwaukee County, a High Flyer, had earlier satisfied Criterion D in Category 3 (Limiting or Removing Threats to Birds) by documenting that Fiserv Forum, home of the Milwaukee Bucks professional basketball team, had been awarded LEED certification as bird-friendly. The world’s first bird-friendly sports and entertainment arena, the arena not only achieved LEED Silver certification but also satisfied the U.S. Green Building Council's Bird Collision Deterrence credit (SSpc55). Fiserv Forum opened in August 2018.

See the complete list of Bird City's recognition criteria.

Officials from the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative (WBCI), a collaboration of more than 180 groups working to conserve native birds in Wisconsin, conferred the IBA designation in a ceremony at Lake Park in Milwaukee on July 25, 2019.

"The value of these 15,000 acres to migrating birds is immense," says Karen Etter Hale, WBCI chair and community relations director for the Wisconsin Audubon Council. "Seventy-five percent of the remaining green space in Milwaukee is found within Milwaukee County Parks."

Fifty-seven bird species listed in Wisconsin DNR's Wildlife Action Plan as Species of Greatest Conservation Need because of low or declining populations have been found using the natural areas within the Milwaukee County Park System. Other factors helping land the IBA designation, says Etter Hale, were the park system's active natural areas management program; its "rigorous, long-term bird-monitoring program; and its engaging accessible bird education programs," which reach up to 4,000 people each year.

Brian Russart, coordinator of the Milwaukee County Parks System's Natural Areas Program, said the designation is significant for the parks system and, beyond that, for urban natural areas across Wisconsin. "We are certainly honored to be designated an Important Bird Area. Too often urban natural areas are not perceived as being essential for wildlife conservation; however, if they are protected and properly managed these urban natural areas can maintain surprisingly diverse bird populations.

"The Milwaukee County Park System's location within a major bird-migration corridor allows us to play a small yet important role in the larger international bird-conservation efforts, and Parks takes that stewardship responsibility very seriously."

With the designation, the park system joins 92 IBAs in Wisconsin, 2,832 in the United States, and 12,000 worldwide. The IBA program was launched by Birdlife International in 1985 to identify, protect, and monitor sites essential to the conservation of bird populations globally. IBA designation is voluntary and conveys no legal status or regulatory requirements but highlights the importance of the Milwaukee County Parks System for bird conservation.

Read Milwaukee County's achievements as a Bird City.

Read about Fiserv Forum.

See the complete list of Bird City's recognition criteria.