Conference will tackle plunging populations of martins, swallows, swifts, and other insect-eaters.

Some of Wisconsin's most beloved birds -- Purple Martins, Chimney Swifts, Tree and Barn Swallows, Eastern Whip-poor-wills, and Common Nighthawks -- are in trouble. You can learn why and how to help them at an important conference in Pewaukee in early September. Register now to reserve your spot!

The event, titled S.O.S. for Our Flying Bug Eaters, is the combined annual meeting of the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative (WBCI) and biannual summit of Bird City Wisconsin's 109 communities. The conference will take place Sept. 6-8 at the Ingleside Hotel in Pewaukee. Registration for the conference closes Tuesday, Aug. 21.

Program schedule and speakers (PDF)

Registration form (PDF)

Online registration

"Conservation groups have taken notice and are beginning to address declines in these beneficial insect-eating birds, but citizens can help too," says Ryan Brady, a conservation biologist for the Department of Natural Resources and bird-monitoring coordinator for WBCI.

The time to act is now!

"We invite you to attend the conference to learn more about these birds, why we should be concerned, and the work being done to address the concerns. Most important, you can learn more about how you can help at home." 

Five reasons why you should attend the September WBCI/BCW meeting

Brady says that data from the federal Breeding Bird Survey indicate nearly a two percent decline in Chimney Swifts, a four percent decline in Bank Swallows, and a seven percent decline in Purple Martins in Wisconsin each year.

Along with other swallows, some flycatchers, and even bats, the birds are known as "aerial insectivores," species that feed on their insect prey in flight.

Causes of their declines are likely complex and involve multiple factors depending on the species, such as loss of foraging habitat, decreased availability of nesting sites, and increased predation, Brady says. The one feature shared by all the birds is a reliance on flying insects as a primary food source.

"Although solid long-term data is lacking, there is widespread belief that numbers of flying insects have declined dramatically in recent decades," he says.

Adds Karen Etter Hale, WBCI chair and Wisconsin Audubon Council's director of community relations: "Some of us remember from years ago how we had to scrape 'bugs' off our windshields. That hardly ever happens anymore."

Hale says that organizers from WBCI and Bird City Wisconsin thought that combining their meetings would offer the opportunity to expand efforts quickly on behalf of aerial insectivores.

She urges all Bird City communities, and all Wisconsin residents, to come and hear about these fascinating birds, to learn to visualize airspace as habitat, and to see what we all can do to help. "We can guarantee you'll head home inspired to take action in your own community," she says.

Conference website

Conference hotel

The combined meeting of the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative and Bird City Wisconsin is sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, American Bird Conservancy, Madison Audubon Society, Western Great Lakes Birds and Bat Observatory, and Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, with additional funding provided by the Wisconsin Metro Audubon Society, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, and Jaeger-Mellerop Family Charitable Trust.