Bird City - Town of Mercer

To achieve annual certification as a "Bird City," communities need to demonstrate in a written application that they have met at least seven of 22 criteria, including three from Category 1 and one from each of the other four categories:

Town of Mercer, Wisconsin, logo and link to site

Approved Application

Highlights of Town of Mercer's Bird Conservation Efforts

Category 1: Creation and Protection of Habitat

1A.  Mercer adopted the Town of Mercer Comprehensive Plan 2025 in 2005. The plan is in compliance with Wisconsin's "Smart Growth" law for land use planning and resource management.

1B. Priding themselves as the “Loon Capital of the World,” it is unsurprising that Mercer has been actively involved in Iron County’s citizen-based loon monitoring project for over 14 years, resulting in many successfully hatched loon chicks from artificial platforms.  In 1999, the WDNR approached a group of Environmental Educators in Iron County with the idea of piloting a citizen-monitoring program for artificial loon nesting platforms.  The concept for the Practicum in Loon and Lake Ecology came out of this discussion, with Hurley and Mercer students involved in a pilot during the spring and summer of 2000.  Students constructed nesting platforms; selected study lakes based on water quality and habitat features, and placed and monitored the platforms in spring and summer.  As of 2014, this program has been monitoring lake health and loon production for over 14 years in the Mercer and Hurley Area.  The students’ work has resulted in many successfully hatched loon chicks from the artificial platforms that they have constructed and placed out for loons to use in Iron County.    

Rice Lake and the Flambeau Flowage are ideal nesting grounds for loons and the efforts of monitors and platform designers the area has been recognized as a critical habitat.  As such the areas are in-line to receive DNR grants and additional surveys.

A Common Loon on an artificial nesting platform in Iron County.
1D.  Park planning in the Town of Mercer has been highlighted in the community’s “Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan,” which was adopted in 2006 and amended three times, most recently in 2010.

In Section 5, the document notes the ongoing planning process.  Section 6 describes the planning region with a detailed focus on the Town of Mercer’s important water resources around which a number of wildlife viewing accesses have been formulated.  These accesses are available on and around local lakes and on the 27,000 acres on the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage and the Little Turtle Flowage.  Nearly 54% of Mercer is public land that supports both motorized and non-motorized recreation.  The wildlife and natural habitat are vital to the community’s outdoor recreation planning.  The outdoor plan’s latest Statement of Need describes a great necessity to link its rich nature-based attributes with a 7-mile non-motorized trail that would extend to Vilas County and serve as the northern-most link in the Northern Highlands Regional Trail System.   

The Town of Mercer has applied for and received $1,121,090 in grant funding to help construct this trail.  Of that total, $396,876 comes from the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Fund and $45,000 from the Recreational Trails Program.

The Stewardship/Recreational Trails grant application describes the project and provides historical background.  Much of the description of the trail details the need to provide access to the area’s unique wildlife and natural habitat.

1F.  Most of the lakes in the Town of Mercer, belong to the Iron County Lakes Alliance, which has been educating all local lake associations regarding the eradication of invasive species for 10 years.  The organization has offered numerous Invasive Species Identification and Clean Boats/Clean Waters workshops for all Iron County lakes.

The Rice Lake Properties Lake Association, just one small lake organization located in Mercer, has undertaken focused activities to address such issues as noted in its newsletter, the Turtle Soup Times.  Recently, it has been addressing the problem of encroaching Curly-leaf Pondweed, providing tips on identification and removal.

Black Terns are a signature species around the Flowage. 
1G.  The 14,000-acre Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area is listed in the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail guide.  This area encompasses a wide variety of wildlife habitats, including large expanses of open water, hundreds of scattered islands and many quiet bays.  Surrounding woodlands vary from steeply rolling hills to level terrain with grassy openings, small wild lakes and ponds, and expansive wetlands.  The woodlands consist of Aspen, northern hardwoods, White Birch, pine and scattered old growth Hemlock pockets. 

The Flowage, known for its high density of Bald Eagles, Ospreys and Common Loons, also hosts Black Terns, Merlins, Trumpeter Swans and over 150 other bird species.  In addition, a variety of reptiles, amphibians and mammals including deer, bear, bobcat and timber wolves also reside there.  Even the occasional moose hangs out there in the fall.  Many opportunities exist to observe and enjoy wildlife in a remote and wild setting.

Also located a short distance to the north of Mercer is the Underwood State Wildlife Area.  This is a 1,600-acre upland forest and cedar swamp, home to Bald Eagles and Ruffed Grouse.

Potato River Falls located just north of Mercer. 

1H.  The Town of  Mercer and Iron County actively promote outdoor recreational assets, especially birding, through a variety of pamphlets, newsletters, websites and circulars.  Many of the publications provide region-specific bird species checklists, identification tips and birding packets.  In addition, numerous publications seek to protect and enlarge favorable bird habitat.  One such publication provided by WDNR and distributed locally is the Wisconsin Wildcards.  These cards provide an abundance of web links for bird identification, feeding, housing, landscaping, classroom resources, literature, bird checklists, and conservation issues. 

Category 2: Promoting Effective Community Forest Management

2B.  The Mercer School Forest Management Plan emphasizes education for both students and town residents regarding bird houses and feeders and habitat management.  This project involves both cooperation and interaction between professionals and citizens.  For more information on this on-going project: .

Category 3: Limiting or Removing Hazards to Birds

3A. & 3B.  The town has created materials on the “Cats Indoors” program and protecting birds from window strikes that will be made available at the Mercer Public Library, the Northwoods Wildlife and Wetlands Club’s educational building, DNR Ranger Station and Mercer Chamber of Commerce office. When available in electronic form, links will be available on the Chamber website:

Category 4: Public Education

4A.  The Mercer K-12 public school and the Mercer Environmental Tourism Charter School both participate in the Flying WILD program.

4B. & 4C.  The Mercer area has numerous web links and local clubs that both provide information and actively participate in creating and enhancing backyard bird habitat.  Groups that provide information include the Rice Lake Property Owners newsletter the Turtle Soup Times, Hanson’s Garden Village, the Mercer Woods and Blooms Garden Club  and the Mercer K-12 Public School Forest program. 

The Mercer Chamber of Commerce website offers many links to clubs and organizations that aid in the creation of backyard bird habitat. Such links include the North Lakeland Discovery Center, Northwoods Wildlife and Wetlands Club, Turtle-Flambeau Flowage Associations, WDNR, and the North American Bird Conservation Initiative.  A list of all their links can be found at:

4D.  Tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition for years. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission: The Christmas Bird Count.  For over one hundred years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people all around the world to leave the comfort of a warm house during the holidays and venture into the woods, fields, and bank parking lots in search of birds.. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations - and to help guide conservation action. Both the Town of Mercer and The town of Manitowish Waters fall within a count circle that has been organized for over 20 years by naturalist and artist John Bates and Mary Burns.

In addition, Town of Mercer residents participate in the Annual Sandhill Crane Count in Iron County. The count is conducted every spring as a population survey throughout the state.  Data is collected and sent to the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wis. 

4E.  The Mercer community sponsors two festivals: Loon Day (the first Wednesday in August) and the Lupine Junefest (the second Saturday in June) annually.  In 2014, Mercer celebrated its 34th annual Loon Day on Aug. 6 in downtown Mercer.  Events included an arts and crafts fair and the loon call contest.  The 8th annual Lupine Junefest was held on June 14 and included bike tours, information booths, a photography contest, and an arts and craft fair.  The 2015 International Migratory Bird Day event will be held during the 9th annual Lupine Junefest.

4F.  The Mercer community involves schools and garden programs in bird conservation efforts.  In addition to the Woods and Blooms Garden Club that involves bird landscaping activities, the two main public education programs are:

·         Mercer Environmental Tourism Charter School: The mission of the Mercer Environmental Tourism Charter School is to provide Wisconsin Grade 7-12 students with standards-driven curricula that promote academic excellence along with vocational, business and higher order thinking skills needed to prepare them for entry into careers or post-secondary education.  METCS combines a variety of academic and hands-on learning experiences with 21st century technology to enable students to enhance local and global environments.


·         Northwoods Learning Adventures LLC:  This business is a for-profit nature-based education program focused on scenic learning adventures and wildlife tours based in the Northwoods.  This includes Citizen Based Science Monitoring and Ecological Consulting.  Their mission statement reflects dedication to the exploration of the region’s natural, cultural and historic resources.

Category 5: Celebration of International Migratory Bird Day

On April 15, 2014, the Town of Mercer approved a resolution proclaiming the second Saturday in June as International Migratory Bird Day.  This celebration will be held in conjunction with the Lupine Junefest and will involve biking and birding tours as well as informational booths focusing on bird conservation practices.

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