MADISON — Endangered Kirtland’s warblers, the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative, and the five-year Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas project to document birds that nest in Wisconsin will get more help in 2018 thanks to 49 teams of bird lovers across the state who raised more than $90,000 through the Great Wisconsin Birdathon in 2017.
“A group of dedicated birders came together, once again, to benefit important conservation efforts in their state,” said Drew Feldkirchner, who directs the Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Conservation Program. “We are grateful to everyone who participated, donated, and sponsored, along with our partners at the Natural Resources Foundation who created and led the effort.”
DNR is a partner in the birdathon, which is organized and run by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. The event is like a walkathon for birders: participating teams tally as many bird species as possible on a day of their choosing between April and June and collect pledges and donations.
The funds raised through the annual event allow for the continued advancement of priority bird initiatives in Wisconsin including monitoring and protection for the federally and state endangered Kirtland’s warbler.
Local birders also benefit: funds raised by the birdathon will go toward the creation of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II, a follow-up to the breeding bird survey from 1995-2000 that resulted in a reference book still used routinely today to guide species conservation and land management planning. Organizational teams such as several representing Madison Audubon Society that participated in the birdathon got to keep half the funds they raised for their own conservation efforts.
Diane Packett, foundation birdathon coordinator, described the event as a competition of who can spot the most bird species but also a fun way to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with friends and family. In 2017, a record number of teams participated across the state and saw donations from a total of 796 donors. The total amount raised was $91,000, exceeding the 2017 goal of $75,000.
“We’re so impressed with how Wisconsin birders mobilized for the birdathon last year, surpassing our goal by 20 percent,” said Packett. “We’ve set an ambitious goal of $100,000 for the Great Wisconsin Birdathon 2018, and we’re really excited to engage even more of the community to protect Wisconsin’s birds.”
A total of 10 priority local bird conservation projects received funding from the birdathon proceeds, including three new project recipients. These new projects involve bird conservation and monitoring in the Peruvian Amazon where many Wisconsin birds overwinter, colonial water bird monitoring in east-central Wisconsin, and water bird and waterfowl monitoring on Lake Michigan.