Ever seen those interesting looking signs that say "Bird City Wisconsin" as you are driving? Ever wonder what that exactly means? We'll it's something you should take pride in, according to Bird City Wisconsin State Coordinator Carl Schwartz.
Bird City Wisconsin launched in November 2010 and announced its first 15 Bird Cities that same December. Since then, 45 other communities have joined the ranks as official Bird Cities, including both Bayside and Fox Point. Bayside was named a Bird City in 2011 while Fox Point was recognized in early 2012. The organization's headquarters are at 1111 E. Brown Deer Rd., in Bayside.
People should be proud to be a part of Bird City Wisconsin, according to Carl Schwartz, the coordinator of Bird City Wisconsin.
According to the group's website, Schwartz is vice president of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology and leads the Honey Creek Birdathon/Bandathon. He also is "field trip chairman for the Riveredge Bird Club, president of the Friends of the Cedarburg Bog, and a member of the American Bird Conservancy, National Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, International Crane Foundation and the Horicon Marsh Bird Club. In 2009, he retired as senior editor for national and international news at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel," the site says.
"The fact that we are at 60 communities statewide is a sign, we think, that the program meets the needs of communities and that communities are interested in bird conservation," Schwartz told Patch. "Part of Bird City Wisconsin's mission is to recognize communities so those communities feel the value of being good place for birds."
Bird watching and conservation is an important tool for understanding the state of the environment. Seeing what birds are or are not around can help determine if a problem exists.
"There is the old analogy of the canary in the coal mine. Miners used to carry canaries down into the mines because they were much more sensitive to the environment," Schwartz said. "The canary would drop dead before the miner would."
Schwartz believes that people should use birds as sign to tell them if something is wrong in their community.
"When you're losing species, when there are no robins in your back yard digging for worms, maybe you ought to think twice about your next application of pesticides or support more efforts by your community to create a little more park land," he said.
The Bird City concept is based on the Tree City USA model. In order to become a Bird City, a community must meet seven of the 22 criteria set by Bird City Wisconsin. There are five categories of criteria:
- Creating and Protection of Habitat
- Participation in Programs Promoting Effective Community Forest Management
- Limiting or Removing Hazards to Birds
- Public Education
- Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day
Communities must meet three criteria from category 1 and 4 more from each of the other 4 categories in order to achieve certification as a "Bird City." Communities must resubmit annually to be recognized each year as Bird Cities.
Schwartz says he got the birding bug from his mother, who despite being 90 years old, still goes out to put feed in her bird feeders. Although Schwartz has a great love of birds and bird watching, he understands it is not for everyone. When asked if his wife liked to bird watch, Schwartz said:
"There is a joke among birders that she is an SOB — a spouse of birder."
Schwartz believes that bird watching is like a sport in many the same ways fishing and hunting are sports. While hunters and fishermen use guns and fishing poles to seek out their prey, birders use binoculars. It is these shared attributes that cause there to be a large number of "SOB's."
"There are lot of SOB's who don't enjoy getting up at 4 a.m in the morning to look for birds," Schwartz said. "But they do it anyways because they are a kind and loving spouse."
You can learn more about Bird City Wisconsin and what your community can do or is doing to be recognized as an official Bird City by visiting the website atbirdcitywisconsin.org. The site is a home to a plethora of knowledge regarding bird conservation and protection. If your community is interested in becoming a part of the Bird City family, Schwartz encourages people to get in touch with him. He looks forward to working with more communities as Bird City Wisconsin continues to grow. The group also has a Facebook page.