Baltimore Oriole_Kelly Colgan Azar

Baltimore oriole (photo by Kelly Colgan Azar)

Each spring, millions of birds return to Wisconsin from distant winter haunts. Hungry and tired from thousands of miles of perilous travel, our birds can count on Wisconsin to provide the habitat they need. But that is not always the case south of the border, where more than half of Wisconsin’s 238 breeding bird species spend the winter.

Throughout Latin America, deforestation and incompatible development are squeezing Wisconsin’s birds into ever smaller wintering grounds, threatening their long-term survival.

Despite significant conservation efforts in Wisconsin, populations of many bird species continue to decline. Loss of habitat, pollution, and global warming threaten the birds that enhance our quality oflife. Our migrating birds spend only about half of their lives with us, so protecting them requires a full-life-cycle approach.

Recognizing the need to act internationally on behalf of Wisconsin’s birds, the Foundation has partnered with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative’s International Committee, Osa Conservation and Neenah Paper to safeguard important migratory bird wintering habitat on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula.

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Planting native trees has been the main activity to restore tropical rainforest habitat for birds, including our migratory birds who winter there. In nature, bats, monkeys and birds will disburse seeds from fruit trees. After they have eaten the fruit, the seed passes through their digestive system preparing the seed for germination.  Knowing this, Osa Conservation has installed bat houses and collects the seeds below the houses. This is one example of how Osa Conservation has learned when and where to hand-collect thousands of seeds from native trees throughout the year.

Once collected, the seeds are grown to 2-3 years old and are then planted out by volunteers. Osa Conservation may have the largest native tree planting nursery system in  Central America. Osa Conservation is now contracting with a commercial grower to expand the quantity of native tree seedling for tree planting.

2015 Osa final report

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About the Osa

Jutting into the Pacific Ocean, the Osa peninsula harbors the last remaining old growth rain forest on the west coast of Central America. Enormous trees, some more than 1,000 years old, provide critical habitat for hundreds of species of birds, including 55 species that breed in Wisconsin, 18 of which are state conservation priorities.

When the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative’s International Committee searched Latin America for a place and project to devote resources to, they discovered the excellent work being done by Osa Conservation, a group devoted to protecting and managing critical habitat in the Osa Peninsula. They channel their work toward creating and protecting wildlife corridors that connect large existing preserves, including Corcovado National Park. As gold mining and tourism development descend upon the area, the work of this organization is urgent for the host of species that thrive in this globally significant area, including migratory birds that breed in the Midwest. The Osa Project is featured in Our Birds, a documentary on Wisconsin Public Television.

Platform at Yellow Billed Cotinga Reserve

Platform at Yellow Billed Cotinga Reserve (photo courtesy of Osa Conservation)

Natural Resources Foundation Support: 2012 – 2016

Since 2009, the Foundation has provided $137,000 in support to Osa Conservation to acquire key parcels on the Osa Peninsula that serve as corridors between existing protected areas, plant trees in logged and degraded areas, build viewing platforms at all three properties, and produce a video that showcases conservationists doing important work at the Osa. The work is funded through the Foundation’s Bird Protection Fund, which helps protect warblers and other vulnerable birds, including those that migrate from Wisconsin to Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula.

From 2012 through 2015, generous gifts from Neenah Paper, several Foundation members and the Great Wisconsin Birdathon allowed Osa Conservation to:

Plant 7,000 native tree seedlings on former ranchland adjacent to the new Yellow-billed Cotinga and Prothonotary Warbler Sanctuary along the Rincon River;
Replace seedlings that died in a section of a restored site with larger, stronger seedlings;
Complete a two-year inventory of bird species found at newly restored sites (11 neotropical migrants and 48 resident species were found during April 2012 and April 2013 surveys);
Erect platforms for wildlife viewing and educational purposes at three Osa Conservation properties.
Maintain previously established Cerra Osa parcels and the OC tree nursery.
Produce a video 
that highlights Wisconsin’s Neotropical migrants wintering at the Osa Peninusla.

Postcard graphicWings to Wisconsin

In 2015, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin joined Osa Conservation and Osa Conservation in Wings for Wisconsin, a project that asked Wisconsin’s elementary school students to welcome migratory birds back to Wisconsin from Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. More than 70 students from six schools throughout Wisconsin participated by writing postcards to specific migratory species, welcoming them back to the state and explaining the type of habitat Wisconsin has that the birds need and what the students are doing to help care for the habitat. The three organizations published an e-book featuring the students’ notes of warm welcome.

Donate now to support the Bird Protection Fund and the Osa Peninsula!