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Grant helps atlas that’s for the birds

If you need to know how many cardinals are in your neighborhood and whether their population is rising or crashing, there’s a book that can help you.

A fuzzy baby great horned owl is always a welcome sight. Heckrodt Wetland Reserve photo

The Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas – researched and published every five years – uses informed volunteers to track the mix of birds across the state and how the breeding population is doing.

The state is divided into 1,283 “blocks” measuring 129 square miles each for counting purposes.

The 2,000 bird surveyors have found 245 species of birds in Wisconsin (including five new ones over the past 20 years) among more than 9 million individual birds, according to Charlie Luthin, who chairs the Development Committee of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas. Volunteers – citizen scientists really – cover 90 percent of the counting area, but organizers always have to hire a few paid “atlasers” in areas where they can’t find skilled volunteers.

The information has been entered into the national “eBird” database managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The sandhill crane population is doing well.

This year, the bird atlas came up empty in recruiting volunteers for one area each in Waupaca and Shawano counties. A $1,200 grant from the Environmental Stewardship Fund within the Community Foundation covered the cost of hiring atlasers to do the job and complete the statewide survey by the end of September.

Turkeys have been expanding their range.
amy spreemanan

“Thanks to your support, and that of many others,” says Luthin, “our atlas crew of 2,000-plus observers, the majority of whom are volunteers, has completed surveys in all 1,283 blocks across the state over the past five years.”

“Our scientific team will now commence the extensive analysis of this massive database,” he said.

Find more information on the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas at

The Environmental Stewardship Fund was established in 2003 to support local projects that help people preserve, enjoy or understand nature better, by furthering the preservation or protection of nature, enhancing the enjoyment of nature and improving public knowledge and awareness of the natural world.


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