Prairie du Chien seeking ‘Bird City’ designation

Ruby throated hummingbirds are just one popular species for bird watchers. Prairie du Chien and the surrounding area is a great place for local bird watchers as well as visitors, so Bird City Wisconsin status would be a natural step. (Courier Press file photo)

By Ted Pennekamp

Former Conservation Warden Dennis Kirschbaum, the Prairie du Chien Tourism Council and the Prairie du Chien Rod and Gun Club are involved in gaining a “Bird City” designation for the city of Prairie du Chien.

“We are in the application process,” said Kirschbaum, who noted that the Rod and Gun Club and the Tourism Council will likely both donate towards the $100 application fee.

Modeled on the “Tree City USA” program, Bird City Wisconsin (BCW) has developed 22 conservation criteria across five categories. If a community meets at least seven criteria, it can be recognized as an official Bird City.

“I’ve been looking into it since the beginning,” said Kirschbaum, an avid birder. The BCW program was launched in 2010 with initial funding and support coming from a variety of sources.

Bird City Wisconsin communities each receive a special Bird City Wisconsin flag, plaque and street signs to be erected at their boundaries, marking their conservation achievements. There are now 73 Bird Cities in Wisconsin and the number is expected to continue to grow.

“We’re already doing 80-90 percent of the 22 criteria,” said Kirschbaum. “So why not become a Bird City.”

Working through its web site,, BCW 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 has strongly promoted the Natural Resource Foundation’s Great Wisconsin Birdathon, an all-out birding blitz where teams raise money for bird conservation while attempting to find as many bird species in Wisconsin as they can in a single 24-hour period in May. This year’s event -- in which 11 Bird City communities directly participated – saw 800 donors and 155 birders raise more than $55,000 for priority bird conservation projects in Wisconsin.

Melissa Hopkins, director of Together Green for National Audubon, said earlier this year, “The efforts of Wisconsin conservation groups are proving that this is a model program worthy of replication at the national scale.”

BCW’s initiatives have been embraced by a wide range of cities, villages, towns and counties. At one end are villages like De Soto, a Mississippi River village of 289. And at the other, Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine.

BCW community participation has led to:

•Improved habitat conditions for breeding and migrating birds.

•Sound management of urban forests.

•Reductions in bird fatalities caused by domestic cats allowed to roam outdoors, and by window strikes.

•Active and coordinated engagement in conservation activities.

•A strong sense of community pride in conservation accomplishments.

Bird City accepts applications for initial certification three times each year. The next deadline is Nov. 1. Efforts to earn Bird City status are under way in dozens of additional communities. Recognition is renewable annually with certification valid from April 1 to March 31.

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