Press Release

Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin Logo

Media Contacts:

Shelly Torkelson, Communications Director
Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin

PHONE: (602) 481-4109



Caitlin Williamson, Director of Conservation Programs
Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin

PHONE: (608) 409-3109 ext.1009




Madison, WI

Breaking Records, Saving Birds: Bird Protection Fund Announces 2022 Grants

The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin is directing the record-breaking $117,000 raised during the 2022 Great Wisconsin Birdathon to the state’s biggest bird conservation needs.


Whooping crane walks through tall grass

A Whooping Crane (the 2022 Birdathon’s Bird of the Year) walks through tall grass. The Bird Protection Fund has supported the recovery and conservation of this endangered species for over 20 years. Photo by David McGowan via Getty Images


Wisconsinites really love their birds, and it shows.

Every year birdwatchers from every corner of the state “bird for a cause” during the Great Wisconsin Birdathon, the annual fundraiser for the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin’s Bird Protection Fund. But this year was one for the books—together these birders raised a record-breaking $117,000 for bird conservation.

This funding will protect Wisconsin’s threatened and endangered birds by creating and protecting habitat; supporting research and monitoring projects; and making bird education and outreach initiatives possible.

New this year

Since the Bird Protection Fund’s inception in 2009, it has given over $1.3 million to Wisconsin’s highest-priority bird conservation projects. Every year before the Bird Protection Fund announces the year’s grants, the Fund’s advisory committee reviews bird conservation priorities in Wisconsin and determines the greatest needs. 

This year, the Bird Protection Fund is expanding support for the Connecticut Warbler and for grassland birds like Bobolink, Dickcissel, and Henslow’s Sparrow, because they’re facing growing threats.

Funds are also going to outreach and education programs that get more people involved in bird conservation. For example, the Neighborhood Habitat Improvement Project is helping communities create bird habitat at the local level. And the BIPOC Birding Club of Wisconsin is expanding their reach across the state, inspiring new bird lovers—and ultimately, bird protectors.

Henslow's Sparrow on wild grape By Eric Preston

The Bird Protection Fund announced its 2022 grants, one of which focuses on grassland birds (like this Henslow’s sparrow perching on wild grape). Photo by Eric Preston

Bird Protection Fund Announces 2022 Grants

The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin is proud to announce the recipients of this year’s Bird Protection Fund grants. In total, the Bird Protection Fund will support the following projects:


Advancing Bird Conservation within Wisconsin’s Important Bird Areas System

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. The goal is to develop and implement strategies that increase understanding, protection, and management of Important Bird Areas.  Partner: Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership 

Capacity Building and Support for the Feminist Bird Club

The Feminist Bird Club is dedicated to promoting diversity in birding and providing a safe opportunity for people to learn to bird and engage with others. Funding will support continued capacity building as this organization continues to grow. Partner: Feminist Bird Club – Madison Wisconsin Chapter

Connecticut Warbler Conservation Project

The Connecticut Warbler is rapidly declining across Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources aims to raise awareness about this bird and what threatens it. This communications campaign will create more impactful protection across the warbler’s range. See the Wisconsin DNR’s recent press release for more information. Partner: DNR’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program

Building Partnerships and Tools to Address Barriers to Bird-Friendly Actions

This project will make bird-friendly actions more approachable for communities by understanding their motivations and barriers to action and building tools based on this understanding, while also continuing to build partnerships needed to sustain bird-friendly actions. Partner: Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory

Neotropical Flyways Project

This expansive research effort seeks to identify critical migratory stopover regions in Central and South America. New stopover sites are being identified and mapped, and mist-netting and radio-tracking of birds are revealing how they use these sites. Funds will support the expansion of their surveys to Honduras, Guatemala and Belize. The results of these studies will be used to develop conservation plans for migratory stopover habitat, critical to saving migration for Wisconsin’s birds. Partners: SELVA and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Outreach and Program Expansion for the BIPOC Birding Club of WI

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. Partner: BIPOC Birding Club of Wisconsin

Piping Plover Conservation and Management

Piping Plovers are a federally endangered species that relies on habitat on the shores of the Great Lakes. Funds will focus on habitat management and creation of potential breeding sites, monitoring of nesting pairs, and banding of chicks. Partner: DNR’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program

Whooping Crane Reintroduction

Conservation partners are working hard to reintroduce the critically imperiled Whooping Crane, one of the rarest birds in North America. The Bird Protection Fund is supporting conservation efforts including monitoring the existing wild population, raising and releasing captive chicks with the goal of establishing a self-sustaining migratory population, and supporting community education and outreach to protect this species. Partner: International Crane Foundation

Southern Kettle Moraine Habitat Restoration for Grassland Birds

Grassland birds are one of the fastest declining groups of birds in Wisconsin. As part of an effort to create and enhance grassland bird habitat in the Southern Kettle Moraine across both public and private land, support from the Bird Protection Fund will enable the Kettle Moraine Land Trust to work with private landowners to support the additional creation of habitat near priority sites on DNR-managed land. Partner: Kettle Moraine Land Trust

Members of team Girl Scout Troop 11035 bird  by Molly Ticcioni

People from all walks of life came together during the 2022 Great Wisconsin Birdathon. Here, a member of the Girl Scout Troop 11035 birding team points out a bird. Photo by Molly Ticcioni

$22,000 more #Forthebirds

In addition to the Bird Protection Fund’s grants, teams that are doing bird conservation themselves also keep 50% of the funds they raise. These organizations channel those funds back into their communities, supporting local bird conservation projects and expanding outreach for birds. This year, 27 land trusts, nature centers, “Friends Of” groups, conservation organizations, bird clubs, Bird Cities, and more are putting $22,815 back into local bird conservation.

What is that $22,815 doing? It’s installing bird houses, putting birding backpacks in local libraries, planting native plants, placing bird-related signage at local parks, buying binoculars for youth programs, creating more accessible birding events, supporting bird-tracking projects, protecting critical habitat held in trust, and so much more.

Members of team “The BIPOC Flock,” representing the BIPOC Birding Club of Wisconsin, birded at Lake Farm Park during the 2022 Great Wisconsin Birdathon. The BIPOC Birding Club creates safe spaces for people of color in the outdoors through outdoor birding activities and outdoor experiences. Individuals and families of all ages and at any level of birding experience are invited and encouraged to join. Photo by Dexter Patterson

These projects showcase the incredible range of support for Wisconsin’s birds. Together, they protect their breeding grounds here in Wisconsin all the way to their migratory habitat in Central and South America.


The Great Wisconsin Birdathon began in 2012 and since then has raised more than $700,000 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 $10 million to public and private conservation efforts, and is dedicated to conserving lands, protecting wildlife, and promoting conservation in Wisconsin in perpetuity.



More about the Birdathon

Check out the 2022 Birdathon Report to learn more about the 2022 Birdathon’s record-breaking success and how individuals, families, nonprofits and more came together for the birds.


“I loved getting to see new places in Wisconsin and get introduced to new birds I hadn’t seen before!”

2022 Birdathon participant

Project Highlight: Neotropical Flyways

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. 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.

More about conservation in Wisconsin

Shelly Torkelson

Shelly Torkelson

Director of Communications

(608) 409-3113

Shelly Torkelson (she/her) oversees the Foundation's strategic communications public relations, and marketing. She tells our stories of positive impact on the land, broadens awareness of our programs, and creates connections with key audiences.