The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin works with partners to protect Wisconsin’s hundreds of bird species and their habitat. Over a third of Wisconsin’s 284 native bird species are identified as Species of Greatest Conservation Need—meaning their populations are low or declining and are in need of conservation action. Among them are trumpeter swans, spruce grouse, short-eared owls, red-headed woodpeckers, Kirtland’s warblers, and bald eagles.

Priority Projects

The Bird Protection Fund was created in 2007 in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative to provide critical support to projects that advance bird conservation across Wisconsin, focusing on the bird species that are most imperiled.

Bird City Wisconsin supported by Natural Resources Foundation's Bird Protection FundBird City Wisconsin

Bird City Wisconsin was created in 2010 by the Milwaukee Audubon Society, Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, Wisconsin Audubon Council, Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, and Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. The innovative program recognizes communities across Wisconsin that excel at putting birds first. From installing nest boxes to promoting green space, native plant gardens, window treatments, educational programs, and festivals, these communities are engaging in serious efforts to address the decline of urban birds and make our communities more bird friendly. So far more than 100 communities in Wisconsin have been recognized as Bird Cities.


The endangered Kirtland's warbler is supported through conservation efforts through NRF's Bird Protection FundKirtland’s Warblers

The federally Endangered Kirtland’s warbler was first discovered in the central sands region of Wisconsin in 2007. Efforts quickly got underway to monitor and manage this vulnerable population, which contains fewer than 15 breeding pairs. Kirtland’s warblers require jack pine habitat, and build their nests on the ground, making them extremely challenging to protect. Our support funds population surveys, nest monitoring, and other critical research activities. Funding also supports work with landowners and foresters to expand jack pine habitat for these and other rare pine barrens birds.


Costa Rica's Osa Penninsula is the winter home for many of Wisconsin's migratory birdsNeotropical Migrant Wintering Areas

Over half of Wisconsin’s threatened bird species winter in Latin America. The quality of habitat there directly impacts their survival and reproductive success here in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative works with partners in the United States and abroad to ensure that habitat is conserved for orioles, warblers, thrushes, shorebirds, and other neotropical migrants. Priority areas include Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula and the Peruvian Amazon, globally important biodiversity hotspots and winter home for more than 50 species of Wisconsin birds. Working with Osa Conservation, the Bird Protection Fund supports reforestation and environmental education programs, and joins the Amazon Conservation Association’s efforts to determine the best habitats to conserve as wintering grounds for migratory birds.


whooping crane by DZJohnsonWhooping Cranes

The endangered whooping crane population in the eastern United States has just 100 birds, but thanks to efforts via the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), we’re moving the needle on whooping crane conservation. As a partner of WCEP, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin supports the efforts of International Crane Foundation and the Wisconsin DNR, to reintroduce Whooping Cranes to Wisconsin. The ‘rearing and release’ method being used by WCEP raises captive whooping crane chicks, and then releases them near a wild, adult pair of whooping cranes that will ‘adopt’ the young birds and teach them the migratory route south. Learn more about Foundation efforts to save the whooping crane.


Wisconsin Bird Monitoring Program

Effective conservation actions are guided by sound science. Information about species’ distributions, habitat use, and population trends is critical to meaningful conservation action. The Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative and its partners are conducting volunteer-based monitoring programs to fill information gaps. The current focus is on marshbirds, nightjars (such as whip-poor-wills and nighthawks), and owls. The Wisconsin Bird Monitoring Program is working closely with the Midwest Coordinated Bird Monitoring Partnership and will be sharing survey data with the Midwest Avian Data Center, thus enhancing long-term trend assessment and information sharing.


Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II

Field work for the second Atlas will take place 2015-2020, with publication by 2025. This project assigns volunteers specific areas to survey for signs of nesting activities and data are entered on eBird, which is accessible to anyone and useful for a wide range of analyses. The resulting Atlas documents the distribution and abundance of bird species that breed within Wisconsin’s borders. The second Atlas will document trends that have occurred over twenty years due to climate change and other factors, and will help to inform management and policy decisions going forward.


Osprey_US Fish and Wildlife SurveyWisconsin Stopover Initiative

The Wisconsin Stopover Initiative is a partnership consisting of local, state, and federal agencies, private organizations, businesses, and individuals working together to protect, conserve, and enhance stopover habitats used by birds migrating through the Great Lakes basins of Wisconsin. The project works on multiple fronts to identify priority sites for protection, provide technical support for land acquisitions and easements, and offer educational programs and materials about habitat management for private landowners and professional land managers.

Black tern. Photo by Jack BartholmaiColonial Waterbirds

Several species of state endangered and threatened waterbirds nest in east-central Wisconsin. The Wisconsin DNR surveys nesting colonies of three species of tern, red-necked grebe, and great egret to locate new colonies, track the species’ population changes, and determine the best breeding habitat in five east-central counties. Our support funds the research that aims to assess the progress toward species recovery goals.


Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat ObservatoryLake Michigan Waterbirds

Over the last five years the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory has monitored waterbirds and waterfowl migrating over Lake Michigan and along the shoreline, by onshore observers and offshore aircraft, finding surprising numbers and diversity of birds and adding to our knowledge of over-water migrations. The Bird Protection Fund supports their research and monitoring efforts that are conducted along with state and federal partners. Their results will help inform decisions about offshore wind energy development, as well as management plans and harvest quotas for waterfowl.


Learn more about Bird Protection Fund priority projects here.

Great Wisconsin BirdathonGreat Wisconsin Birdathon

Birds are valuable and they need our help. The Great Wisconsin Birdathon engages individuals and communities to raise support and awareness for birds in Wisconsin. The Birdathon is a walkathon-style fundraiser. Participate by donating to a team or forming your own to count birds.

WHEN:  Any day, April 15 – June 15

Where: Your backyard, local park, State Natural Area, etc. You decide!

What: Join a team or form your own and collect pledges from friends, family, neighbors, even local businesses. Pick the time and place and go at your own pace. Identify and count the birds you see.

Visit to learn more.

Join Us

There are many ways to make a difference for birds in Wisconsin. We hope you’ll join us in our effort to protect our birds.

Become a member of the Natural Resources Foundation to stay in touch about bird conservation in Wisconsin and help support our statewide efforts to protect birds and their habitat. Become a member today.

Join us on a Field Trip! Our renowned Field Trip Program includes dozens of trips about Wisconsin’s birds, including rare species such as whooping cranes, Kirtland’s warblers, and more.

Turn your backyard into a bird sanctuary. Native plants provide important food and habitat for migratory birds. Learn more about attracting birds to your backyard from Audubon’s Native Plants Database.

Join a citizen science effort to monitor birds in Wisconsin. Projects such as the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas, the Great Backyard Birdcount, and the Annual Midwest Crane Count provide critical information to scientists and conservationists. Learn more by visiting the Wisconsin Audubon Council.

Take a Wisconsin Master Naturalist class to learn about Wisconsin’s natural heritage, and plug into a statewide network of informed citizens dedicated to conservation education and service.


Consider a Gift

You can support our work protecting Wisconsin’s birds by making a donation to the Bird Protection Fund. In the Special Purpose section of the online donation form, please select “Bird Protection Fund/Birdathon” from the drop-down menu. And Thank you!

Thank You to our Sponsors and Program Partners

Eagle Optics supports Great Wisconsin Birdathon