Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

Village of Waunakee becomes 110th Bird City

Waunakee Bird City Wisconsin

The Village of Waunakee has become a Bird City.

At a meeting of the Village Board on July 15, 2019, Charles Hagner, director of Bird City Wisconsin, commended the Village for steps it had taken to make the community healthier for birds and for people. He cited the following:

  • The natural prairie at the Bolz Conservancy Park, which is now maintained by many volunteers as well as the Village Center and Public Works Department
  • The Village’s protected natural areas, including an area within Ripp Park that was recently restored into a two-acre prairie
  • The planting of up to 75 trees each year in public parks and around Village facilities
  • The creation of 67 miles of paths that reduce motor-vehicle dependency
  • The control and removal of invasive species in public areas

“Actions like these benefit birds and other wildlife,” Hagner told the Board of Trustees, “and help build a connection to nature that will show current and future decision makers just how important it is to protect the natural world.”

Hagner presented two street signs and a 3'x5' flag bearing the Bird City logo, a framed, signed commemorative plaque, and a copy of Owen Gromme’s classic book Birds of Wisconsin to Chris Zellner Village President, and Jeffrey Karls and William Frederick of the Village’s Public Works Department, pictured above.

Bird City Wisconsin was founded in 2009. Modeled on the successful Tree City USA program of the Arbor Day Foundation, it encourages Wisconsin communities to implement sound bird-conservation practices by rewarding those that both enhance the environment for birds and educate their citizens about the interactions between birds and people and about the contributions that birds make to healthy communities.

The Village of Waunakee became the 110th Bird City that the program has recognized to date. A complete list of all 110 Bird Cities, along with the narrative that each community submitted to describe its bird-friendly accomplishments, can be found on the program’s website.

Bird City Wisconsin is a program of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory in Port Washington.

It is supported by a grant from the Bird Protection Fund of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, application and renewal fees, and generous donors. Seed funding and follow-up support for Bird City Wisconsin was provided by the National Audubon Society and Toyota through a TogetherGreen Innovation Grant.

See a list of all Bird Cities.

Read what the Village of Waunakee did to earn recognition as a Bird City.


Birdathon donors spurred bird-friendly Bucks arena

Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee

Donors to the Great Wisconsin Birdathon have helped make important gains for Wisconsin birds in recent years. Chief among them is funding Bird City Wisconsin, the organization that spurred the Milwaukee Bucks to make their arena the first bird-friendly sports and entertainment arena in the world.

Bird City Wisconsin works to encourage communities throughout the state to implement bird-conservation practices. In 2015, it successfully approached the Bucks about incorporating bird-friendly measures in the design of their new arena. 

As a result, Fiserv Forum, located in downtown Milwaukee near the shore of Lake Michigan, earned the Bird Collision Deterrence Credit from the U.S. Green Building Council as part of its LEED Green Building Certification. The credit reflected the stadium's minimal use of see-through glass and reduced use of lighting that can disorient migrating birds. Scientists estimate that upwards of 600 million birds die from building collisions in the U.S. and Canada every year.

Other important projects that will be funded by donations to the 2019 Great Wisconsin Birdathon include the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas, a comprehensive field survey that documents the distribution and abundance of birds breeding in Wisconsin; waterbird monitoring by the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory; work to re-establish an eastern migratory flock of Whooping Cranes; and efforts to increase the number of endangered Kirtland's Warblers.

New this year, funds raised through the Great Wisconsin Birdathon will also benefit endangered Piping Plovers by supporting work aimed at protecting and restoring breeding and nesting sites and creating additional breeding sites.

The Birdathon is organized and run by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. Participants identify and record as many bird species as possible during part of a day between April 15 and June 15 and solicit pledges from family and friends. There is also a general fund to donate to if donors do not have a favorite team or birder registered.

Last year's Birdathon raised $88,000 for bird-conservation projects. This year's goal is $90,000.

Bird City helps Bucks open the world’s first bird-friendly arena.

Birdathon helps push Bird Protection Fund past $1 million mark.


Birdathon helps push Bird Protection Fund past $1 million mark

Great Wisconsin Birdathon

The Bird Protection Fund -- a collaboration of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources -- has raised and distributed $1,014,566 for bird conservation since it was created in 2009.

The Bird Protection Fund supports Wisconsin’s birds throughout their lifecycle -- from their breeding grounds in Wisconsin to their migratory habitat in Central and South America. Each year, the Bird Protection Fund partner organizations get together to review bird-conservation priorities in Wisconsin, identify areas of greatest need, and allocate funding to projects that address those needs.

“Given the increasing demand for bird-conservation funds for a growing number of projects, NRF’s Bird Protection Fund plays a special and novel role to address a rich variety of bird-conservation needs,” said Sumner Matteson, a conservation biologist with Wisconsin DNR. By bringing together public and private entities to coordinate and work together toward a common goal, Matteson sees the Bird Protection Fund as “uniquely positioned to help maintain Wisconsin’s storied bird conservation legacy.”

This million-dollar mark was made possible thanks to a truly Wisconsin-wide effort. The primary source of donations for the Bird Protection Fund comes from the annual Great Wisconsin Birdathon -- a walk-a-thon-style fundraiser in which participants raise money and venture out to log as many birds as they can see in one day.

“Wisconsin people care about birds,” said Karen Etter Hale, chair of the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative and director of community relations for the Wisconsin Audubon Council. “We really appreciate every donor and Birdathon participant who has made this million dollars possible.”

In 2018, Birdathon teams throughout the state ranged from a kindergarten class in Sussex to millennials in Madison and professional birders in Lake Superior. Teams birded by kayak, bike, and by foot; from front porches, out windows, and at ice cream shops.

Read the 2018 Great Wisconsin Birdathon report.

The common thread running through every team, whether they were out for 16 hours or just one, has been the excitement and wonder that come from devoting one’s attention to nature -- watching closely and uncovering glimpses of a world we too often take for granted. This reprieve into nature can feel like a break from “real life.” “I’ve been looking forward to next year’s Birdathon for three months already,” commented Tom Pearce of the Millennial Falcons in Madison. “It’s my favorite holiday.”

In 2018, the Bird Protection Fund is granting a total of $62,000 to the following:

The Great Wisconsin Birdathon began in 2012 and since then has raised more than $400,000 for bird protection in Wisconsin. The funds are collected and managed by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin through the Bird Protection Fund.

Learn about the Great Wisconsin Birdathon.

Read more about the Bird Protection Fund.


Bird City Wisconsin elects Lenz as Board Chair

Bryan Lenz, Bird City Wisconsin Board Chair

The Board of Directors for Bird City Wisconsin has elected Dr. Bryan Lenz as the program’s new Board Chair. 

A Milwaukee-area native, the 40-year-old Lenz is Collisions Campaign Manager for American Bird Conservancy. Until 2018, he was state director of Bird City Wisconsin and chief scientist at the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory in Port Washington. 

The Observatory became Bird City’s fiscal sponsor in October 2018, taking over from Milwaukee Audubon Society.

As Board Chair, Lenz succeeds Carl Schwartz, who helped launched the program in 2010 and was its director until Lenz was hired in 2015. Schwartz will continue to serve on the Bird City Board, as well as on the boards of both the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology and the Observatory and on the steering committee of the second Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas. 

Lenz capped his tenure as Bird City’s director with the news that the Milwaukee Bucks would open the world’s first bird-friendly sports and entertainment arena, upon completion of the Bucks’ application for LEED Silver® certification for Fiserv Forum. The announcement represented a significant victory for bird conservation because up to 1 billion birds die annually after colliding with glass in the United States. 

In his position at American Bird Conservancy, Lenz is focusing on an area that is a cornerstone of the Bird City model: using education, research, design, technology, and legislation to reduce threats to birds and build greener communities. The target audience includes just about everyone -- elected officials, private citizens, public employees, architects, corporations, universities, and anyone else who has the power to influence the design of new buildings or the operation of existing buildings (including homes). 

Lenz turned over day-to-day Bird City responsibilities last spring to former BirdWatching magazine editor Charles Hagner, who also chairs the Observatory Board.

Modeled on the Tree City USA program, Bird City Wisconsin has developed more than 60 application criteria across six categories. If a community meets at least eight criteria, it can be recognized as an official Bird City. 

Each recognized community receives a Bird City Wisconsin flag, a plaque, and two attractive street signs that announce its conservation achievements.

Working through its website, the program has recruited both public officials and interested citizens who belong to Audubon groups, nature preserves, bird clubs, natural history museums, conservation organizations and agencies, garden clubs, eco-minded businesses, and chambers of commerce that can be effective partners for developing and implementing Bird City strategies. 

Bird City Wisconsin has helped foster similar programs in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, Texas, Maryland, and Colorado. 

Read the mission and rationale of Bird City Wisconsin.

Order bird-friendly coffee from Bird City.

Read more about ABC's program to prevent collisions.


Three Important Changes for Bird City Wisconsin

Bird City Wisconsin logo

Bird City Wisconsin has announced three important changes that all partners and member communities need to know about.

Change no. 1: New fiscal sponsor

The first change is that Bird City has a new fiscal sponsor. The Board of Directors of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, Inc., voted unanimously on October 19, 2018, to assume fiscal sponsorship. The Observatory takes over from the Milwaukee Audubon Society, which served as Bird City’s fiscal sponsor since 2009, when the society was awarded the TogetherGreen planning grant that launched the successful program.

Read the history of Bird City Wisconsin.

The transition brings to fruition the long-time dream of the late founder of the Observatory, Dr. Noel J. Cutright, who saw the institution as a potential successor to Milwaukee Audubon as Bird City’s home base. “We believe strongly that this is a positive development for all involved and a growth opportunity for both Bird City and the Observatory, in that it closely aligns two organizations with a fundamental commitment to aggressive conservation action on behalf of the birds we love,” said Carl Schwartz, Chair of the Bird City Steering Committee and a member of the Observatory Board.

Change no. 2: New mailing address

The second change is that Bird City has a new mailing address. Mail intended for the program should no longer be sent to 1111 E. Brown Deer Road in Bayside. Rather, it should be sent to this address:

Bird City Wisconsin
4230 N. Oakland Ave., #219
Shorewood, WI 53211

The new mailing address can also be seen in the brown band at the bottom of each page of this website. A new mailing address became necessary recently after officials at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center in Bayside reclaimed office space that had been provided to Milwaukee Audubon and had been used as Bird City’s headquarters and for storage.

Change no. 3: New payee

The third change is that communities and partners who send checks to Bird City Wisconsin should no longer write them to Milwaukee Audubon. Effective immediately, checks should instead be written to “Bird City Wisconsin.”

No other changes were made to the program’s daily operations, said Chuck Hagner, Director of Bird City Wisconsin and Chair of the Observatory Board. Member communities and partners will be able to conduct business as before. “Our great thanks go to Milwaukee Audubon Society, and especially to Andrew Struck, for the foundational support that made Bird City possible and helped it grow into a national force in bird conservation,” said Hagner.

Struck served as president of Milwaukee Audubon until November 10, 2018. He is Director of Planning and Parks for Ozaukee County, one of the inaugural Bird City communities. He served for five years as Chair of the Bird City Steering Committee and nine years as its treasurer. He will remain on the Steering Committee as a municipal representative.

About the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory: The Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory is an independent a 501(c)(3) organization. It was founded in 2010 to conduct coordinated research, monitoring, and education that advances the conservation of birds and bats in Wisconsin and throughout the Western Great Lakes Region. The Observatory’s headquarters is at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve, located near the Lake Michigan shore between Belgium and Port Washington in Ozaukee Co., Wisconsin.

Read about the members of the Bird City Steering Committee.

The mission and rationale of Bird City Wisconsin.

Order bird-friendly coffee from Bird City.