Press Release

Media Contacts:

Caitlyn Schuchhardt, Outreach Coordinator
Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin

PHONE: (608) 409-3144



Madison, WI
September 28, 2021

Giving back to birds: Bird Protection Fund announces 2021 funding projects

As bird populations decline across North America, the Bird Protection Fund takes action, supporting on-the-ground conservation and education initiatives


Team Reckless Wrens look for birds

A banded Piping Plover stands on the shores of Lake Superior. The Bird Protection Fund has supported the recovery and conservation of this endangered species since 2018. Photo by Ryan Brady

Wisconsin’s love for birds flies high—and nowhere is that more apparent than in the results of the 2021 Great Wisconsin Birdathon, the annual fundraiser for the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin’s Bird Protection Fund (BPF). Birdathoners from every corner of the state came together and raised a record-breaking $108K for bird conservation. 

The Bird Protection Fund gives back to Wisconsin’s birds, supporting them throughout their lifecycle—from their breeding grounds in Wisconsin to their migratory habitat in Central and South America. The BPF’s reach is encompassing—it not only funds the conservation of Wisconsin’s most threatened and endangered species, but also the creation and protection of habitat; research and monitoring projects; and education and outreach initiatives that engage new audiences in bird conservation.

Since the Bird Protection Fund’s inception in 2009, it has given out over $1.2 million towards Wisconsin’s highest priority bird conservation projects. Every year, the BPF’s advisory committee gathers to review bird conservation priorities in Wisconsin and identify the areas of greatest need.

The Foundation is proud to announce the grant recipients of this year’s Bird Protection Fund grant cycle. In total, the Bird Protection Fund will grant nearly $60,000 to the following projects:

  • Advancing Bird Conservation within Wisconsin’s Important Bird Area (IBA) System (Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership): Wisconsin’s Important Bird Area (IBA) system brings partners and stakeholders together to coordinate and plan management, stewardship, and monitoring activities that will benefit vulnerable bird species, ensuring access to essential habitat. Funds will support a series of workshops for IBA managers and partners with the goal of developing and implementing strategies that lead to increased understanding, protection, and management of Important Bird Areas to address widespread, ongoing bird declines. 
  • Kirtland’s Warbler Nest Monitoring (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources): Kirtland’s Warblers are an endangered songbird that nest in Wisconsin in regions with suitable jack pine habitat. Funds will support the continued monitoring of nesting sites for Kirtland’s Warblers in central Wisconsin. 
  • Neighborhood Habitat Improvement Project (Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory): The Neighborhood Habitat Improvement Project is an impactful program designed to make suburban and urban areas more bird-friendly, while providing scientists and environmental practitioners data on how to do so more effectively. Funds will support ongoing project coordination that improves habitat for birds and other wildlife in the Port Washington area, while creating a pilot program for use in other sub/urban areas. 
  • Neotropical Flyways Project (Cornell Lab of Ornithology / SELVA): The Neotropical Flyways Project helps fill one of the largest gaps in our knowledge of the full life cycle of migratory birds by identifying critical stopover sites and habitats in the Neotropics that migratory bird species depend on. Funds will support the expansion of their surveys to Honduras, Guatemala and Belize. 
  • Outreach and Optics Purchase (BIPOC Birding Club of Wisconsin): The goal of the BIPOC Birding Club of Wisconsin is to develop a community of Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and allies that will increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in birding and the outdoors in Dane County and Wisconsin, changing the narrative about who is or can be a birder. Funds will support the purchase of binoculars to increase access to birding gear as well as capacity building and outreach through monthly events and social media. 
  • Piping Plover Conservation and Management in Wisconsin (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources): Piping Plovers are a federally endangered species that relies on habitat in the Great Lakes. Funds will focus on habitat management and creation of potential breeding sites, monitoring of nesting pairs, and banding of chicks. 
  • Reintroduction of Whooping Cranes into Eastern North America (International Crane Foundation): Whooping Cranes are one of the most threatened bird species in North America. This funding will support captive breeding and rearing of chicks using costume-rearing and parent-rearing methods, specialized veterinary care, and monitoring of reintroduced cranes in Wisconsin, as well as community education and outreach to protect this species.

These seven projects showcase the incredible range of support for Wisconsin’s birds—from protecting their breeding grounds here in Wisconsin all the way to their migratory habitat in Central and South America.

Canada Warblers captured in Nicaragua’s first constant effort mist-netting station in the Central Highlands. Photo courtesy of Grupo Quetzalli, Nicaragua

For example, the Neotropical Flyways Project has been receiving funds from the Bird Protection Fund since 2018 and continues to report ground-breaking new discoveries about migration patterns each year—like the discovery of a major “stopover” region for Black-billed Cuckoos in Ecuador and new information on the migratory style of Canada Warblers.

Continued funding will allow the Neotropical Flyways Project to expand its impactful bird surveys to new regions, sharing insight that can help protect the migratory routes of Wisconsin’s birds.

The Bird Protection Fund also recognizes the power that education and outreach initiatives hold in creating passion for birds and bird conservation. New to receiving funding this year is the BIPOC Birding Club of Wisconsin, a birding group for Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and allies. Established on Juneteenth 2021 by Dexter Patterson and Dr. Jeff Galligan, this group is out to “flip the script” on who can be a birder.   

The BIPOC Birding Club of WI hosted its first kickoff event in July 2021 in the Madison area, inviting Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC), allies, and families to explore the joy of birding together. Photo by Dexter Patterson

“Both of us love and have a passion for all things birding and realize that people of color are just not engaging in the outdoors enough, whether it be for exercise, hobbies, recreation or advocacy and stewardship. We want to change that,” says Galligan. “We would love for one of our events to be the catalyst for a young birder of color who gets that ‘spark’ that leads to a career in ornithology or other STEM field.”

Funding for the Bird Protection Fund comes from hundreds of participants and thousands of donors involved in the Natural Resource Foundation of Wisconsin’s Great Wisconsin Birdathon, as well as individuals who donate directly to the Bird Protection Fund. Learn more about the record-breaking success of the 2021 Birdathon and how individuals, families, nonprofits and more came together for the birds in the Foundation’s 2021 Birdathon Report.

The Great Wisconsin Birdathon began in 2012 and since then has raised more than $600,000 for bird protection in Wisconsin. The funds are collected and managed by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin through the Bird Protection Fund.

The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin is a statewide nonprofit organization that connects generations to the wonders of Wisconsin’s lands, waters, and wildlife through conservation, education, engagement, and giving. Since 1986, the Foundation has contributed more than $9.5 million to public and private conservation efforts, and currently holds more than 100 endowment funds with over $10 million in assets dedicated to conserving lands, protecting wildlife, and promoting conservation in Wisconsin in perpetuity.



Caitlin Williamson

Caitlin Williamson

Director of Conservation Programs

(608) 409-3109

Cait oversees the Natural Resources Foundation’s grant programs and initiatives for conservation and environmental education, working closely with partners across the state to ensure that our Foundation has the most significant impact possible on Wisconsin’s lands, waters, and wildlife through strategic, science-based investments.