Despite the swirling snow that engulfed the Bringing Birds Back Conference, more than 130 participants left Oshkosh invigorated to help protect Wisconsin’s birds and ready to take action. With the shadow of three billion birds lost in the past fifty years hanging over bird conservation, we came out more hopeful after two days of listening, discussing, and connecting. Attendees are now armed with more knowledge, resources, collaborative opportunities, and strategies to bend the curve and increase bird habitat and populations.
WSO joined with the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership and Bird City Wisconsin for the first time to sponsor this conference after its long gap since 2018, bringing together many inspirational bird conservation supporters. SOS Save Our Songbirds (sponsored by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin) also launched their new campaign to influence birders and non-birders to support bird conservation efforts.
Common phrases and themes emerged over the two days. Bird conservation needs local champions to succeed—be one! Enlist every ally you and your network can find, including more than just birders and conservationists. You do not need to share the same motivations to build shared results that benefit all. Take a few small actions to start in any area where you are not already contributing: make one window in your house more bird-friendly, drink shade-grown coffee, plant a few more native plants (especially trees and shrubs). Find ways to move upstream to earlier decision-making points for use of land, design of buildings, and other activities that impact birds. Build it and the birds will come to a space with more native plants and no pesticides.
The conference took place at UW-Oshkosh in the Culver Family Welcome Center, which was a wonderful facility with great technology and large screens so it was easy for everyone to follow the great array of speakers. Mike Parr, the President of American Bird Conservancy, opened the conference with a wider view of what it means to support bird conservation with some examples from Ecuador. Bryan Lenz from ABC closed the convention with their great information on threats to birds and making windows more bird friendly.
In between, we heard from some local champions of Important Bird Areas and Bird Cities in Wisconsin. It takes many types of collaborators, large and small, to build successful programs to support bird conservation. They provided many great examples of how to do that in places and ways that matter for birds. To finish the day, Anita Carpenter took a group around the UW-Oshkosh campus to show off its bird-friendly and sustainability actions as well as its birds.
Saturday started with a bit of surprise as the expected light dusting turned into a heavy snowstorm centered over the Fox Valley that left over a foot of snow before the conference ended. Nearly all the intrepid attendees and speakers made it in, however, to hear the transporting talks on birds and blooms that left everyone itching to plant. From landscape design to Ryan Brady’s wildlife paradise up north, and plenty of points in between, participants heard many great tips and tricks for making their home habitats more bird friendly. We left with pledges from participants to act and work as local champions or take what steps they can. We look forward to hearing what they do, and what you do, in the coming year to make your world more bird friendly.
Contacts: Karen Etter Hale, Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership, firstname.lastname@example.org; 920-245-1395 Chuck Hagner, Bird City Wisconsin, email@example.com ; 414-967-9087 Jennifer Lazewski, Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, firstname.lastname@example.org; 262-204-7242
OSHKOSH – With birds in crisis in Wisconsin, North America and globally, Wisconsin bird lovers are gathering March 24-25 in Oshkosh to share conservation ideas, inspiration, and action to help reverse steep population declines across hundreds of bird species.
The Bringing Birds Back conference will share the latest research on birds’ perilous situation and what’s being done internationally and here in Wisconsin by conservation groups, communities, and tribal nations to save them. A second full day will focus on what individuals can, and many are already doing, at home and in their communities to help birds.
“Birds are in trouble everywhere and they need our help now,” says Karen Etter Hale, chair of the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership, a conference host along with Wisconsin Society for Ornithology and Bird City Wisconsin.
“We hope this conference will be the special spark that gets each of us — wherever we may live — to take action to help birds. Together, our collective work as individuals, communities, or organizations will Bring Birds Back.”
Among the continuing bad news for birds in 2022 were reports that 1 in 8 birds globally is threatened with extinction; that North American birds have suffered steep population losses in virtually all habitats since 1970; and that only three nesting pairs of Connecticut Warblers were found in Wisconsin in the last two years, just one example of how both rare and once common species are plummeting.
The conference will be held at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Culver Family Welcome Center, 625 Pearl Ave. Registration is open through March 6, 2023. The fee for the two-day event is $50 and includes lunch. Find the full schedule of presenters here. Register today as space is limited.
International Bird Expert Headlines Day 1; Bird Collision crusader, local Bird City communities share successes
March 24 keynote speaker Michael Parr is president of the American Bird Conservancy, which works across North, South and Central America conserving birds. Parr co-authored the landmark 2019 study that found 3 billion birds have vanished from North America since 1970, and the 2022 State of the Birds report assessing U.S. bird populations. He’ll discuss report findings and international efforts to conserve birds.
“We’re excited about the amazing speakers we have both for national issues and for what we can do in Wisconsin,” says Jennifer Lazewski, executive director of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. “Birds live in many different habitats and have different needs. It’s important to have that big picture in mind even as you’re observing and learning about the birds in your neighborhood, or where you can drive to.”
Other March 24 presentations share regional and community conservation efforts in Wisconsin, such as the statewide Important Bird Areas Program to identify and prioritize key bird habitat areas, the Southern Driftless Grasslands Project, Milwaukee County’s Natural Areas, and bird conservation efforts by the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory.
Highlights of the afternoon session include conservation success stories from Bird City leaders from Lake Geneva, Wausau, Mequon and Ozaukee County.
“The upcoming conference provides a golden opportunity for Bird City representatives from across the state to come together and hear about successful conservation efforts in other Bird Cities and how those efforts could be re-created back at home,” says Bird City Wisconsin Director Chuck Hagner.
Troy Peters, Engagement Manager for Audubon Great Lakes, will talk about “Bringing Previously-Excluded Communities into the Fold of Bird Conservation,” including in Milwaukee.
A tour of campus sites that were the part of UW-Oshkosh research to determine and address windows posing a collision threat to birds will round out the day’s programming.
Oneida Nation restoration work and how bird lovers can help birds at home the focus of Day 2 programming
Day 2, March 25, opens with a presentation on a collaborative effort to monitor birds responding to environmental restoration of Oneida Nation lands. Presenters will be Tony Kuchma, Oneida wetlands project manager, Language and Cultural Educator Tehahukótha (Randy) Cornelius, and Erin Giese, president of the Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon Society and acting director of UW-Green Bay Cofrin Center for Biodiversity, both partners in the monitoring project.
The conference then shifts gears to zero in on actions people can take at home, with sessions on landscaping with native plants to provide birds and pollinators food and shelter, and solutions for addressing reflective windows that can be deadly for birds. Typically only one or a few windows at home cause problems, but up to 1 billion birds are estimated to die every year in the U.S. after flying into windows, nearly half of them home windows, research shows.
Bryan Lenz, Bird Collisions Campaign Manager for American Bird Conservancy and a former Bird City Wisconsin director, will talk about why birds collide with windows and how to address problem windows; Brenna Marsicek, Madison Audubon communications director and their Bird Collision Corps coordinator, will demonstrate ways to make home windows safer for birds.
Registration is now open for our spring conference. Professionals, citizens, and bird lovers of all kinds are welcome in helping us take steps to reverse bird declines at individual and community levels.
Topics include Important Bird Areas, Bird Cities, home landscaping with native plants, reducing bird-window collisions, and much more!
Featuring presenters from the American Bird Conservancy, Audubon Great Lakes, Wisconsin DNR, Madison Audubon, Western Great Lakes Bird & Bat Observatory, and other WBCP partners.
by Dea Larsen Converse, WICCI Communications Director
Wisconsin is world-renowned for its diversity of wildlife. Our outdoor recreation and tourism economy, which is vital to rural communities, depends on access to this diversity of species. To Tribal Nations that live within our state boundaries, wildlife and subsistence hunting and gathering are essential to their spiritual, cultural, and physical well-being. The recently published report from the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) shows that warmer winters, less snow, and new pests are stressing iconic Wisconsin species. The last two decades have been the warmest on record in Wisconsin and the past decade has been the wettest.
“Climate impacts are increasing the risk and harm to wildlife already stressed by habitat loss and degradation, pollution, and disruptions from non-native species. Aligning restorations and habitat management to provide food and cover for wildlife can help species adapt to changing climate conditions.” — WICCI Wildlife Working Group
Climate change is leading to earlier springs, milder winters, and delayed falls. Many species are shifting their historic ranges and migration patterns in response to these changes. Not all species are able to adapt, however, leading to a mismatch between habitats and the migratory species that depend on them. Reducing barriers to wildlife movement and creating resilient habitat spaces will be key for wildlife species as they try to adjust to climate change.
Impacts to a few keystone species illustrate how a warming climate is stressing Wisconsin wildlife. Ruffed grouse and snowshoe hares that depend on a snow-covered landscape to survive Wisconsin winters are increasingly at-risk as winters warm and the period of snow cover shortens. Warmer air and water temperatures, along with extreme fluctuations in lake levels, have disrupted loon reproduction by changing the availability of nesting habitat and increasing the risk of black fly outbreaks during the breeding season. Warmer waters, extreme rains, and rapid lake level fluctuations are impacting wild rice beds that are important to Ojibwe tribes in Wisconsin and the wildlife species that use them.
But there is hope. The WICCI Wildlife Working Group recommends activities to help wildlife as the climate continues to warm, including adjusting harvest regulations for climate-vulnerable species. There is hope for the future but it’s up to us.
WBCP recently partnered with Tom Prestby and GEI Consultants to assess the 93 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Wisconsin to determine strengths and weaknesses of each IBA’s bird conservation potential and identify those with high potential for accelerated, strategic conservation delivery. Factors relating to bird usage, landscape and climate change resilience, and social capacity and support were analyzed with data from eBird, GIS, and a comprehensive survey that was distributed to contacts associated with each IBA. The analysis produced a detailed account on how each IBA currently delivers bird conservation for these factors, and preliminary lists of IBAs with high and moderate potential to deliver accelerated, strategic conservation delivery.
Through a series of discussions and workshops, WBCP then considered possible next steps for delivering conservation to these priority IBAs and the rest of the state’s IBAs. WBCP partnered with UW-Madison and Rachael Klicko to learn even more details about which actions can best improve conservation in the identified priority IBAs. This effort produced recommended strategies of how bird conservation can be delivered in these IBAs. A common theme in both efforts is that each IBA is unique and requires a plan tailored to its situation for bird conservation delivery.
We have come a long way in our knowledge of the conservation potential for Wisconsin’s IBAs in the last two years and are now supplied with detailed information for each IBA and bustling energy from our partners around the state to move this effort into the conservation delivery phase. We continue to strategize on how to best do this and look forward to taking next steps in 2022, beginning with the hiring of a part-time IBA coordinator early in the year.
It’s another great year for winter finches in Wisconsin! Learn where to find them, what they eat, and how things may play out in the months ahead in this regional update from WDNR Conservation Biologist, Ryan Brady.
Have you heard of the Greater prairie-chicken? This is an extremely charismatic wildlife species in Wisconsin. People travel from all over to watch their intriguing mating display each spring. Wisconsin DNR is drafting a new management plan for this species and an initial proposal outlines four possible paths forward through 2032. The comment period for public input runs through Feb. 17, 2022. Learn more and provide input here.
The best way to celebrate birds is to spend time outdoors bird watching. To continue the celebration of birds throughout the year, here are some actions you can take to make a difference for birds every day! Thanks to our partners at the Western Great Lakes Bird & Bat Observatory for this wonderful graphic.
Conserving “our” birds requires conservation in the tropics, where many of our species spend the winter. Check out this fascinating new StoryMap from the Neotropical Flyways Project that shows the remarkable journey of Wisconsin’s breeding birds and the efforts to understand and protect them along the way. A huge shout out to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Foundation (and all you Birdathon participants) for supporting this project through the Bird Protection Fund!
On January 19, a major win for America’s wildlife was accomplished, renewing hope for bipartisan cooperation in the U.S. Congress. The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources voted to pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R.2773) out of committee–an important step closer toward passage! RAWA would bring essential funding to conservation projects in our state with no new or increased taxes. Learn more and contact your representative: https://wicoalitionforrawa.org/