Connecticut Audbon Society

Renewing Hartford’s Urban Bird Treaty

Cities like Hartford encompass many areas that are important to birds. The renewal of the Urban Bird Treaty will improve local parks and also help city residents to learn about and enjoy the local bird life.

Connecticut’s bird lovers were electrified in 2020 when a Townsend’s Warbler showed up in Hartford. A western U.S. species, it had never been seen in Connecticut before and scores of birders convened in Hartford to look for it. 

The Townsend’s Warbler highlighted just how important cities are for birds — not just rarities from the west but common species as well. Connecticut Audubon is now working with local partners in Hartford to help make sure the city’s parks continue to be great places for birds. 

Hartford was designated an Urban Bird Treaty city in 2011. The designation is up for renewal and the Connecticut Audubon Society, Friends of Keney Park, and Park Watershed are collaborating on an update.

The result will be better habitat for birds throughout the city’s parks, and more chances for city residents to learn about and enjoy them. 

The Urban Bird Treaty is a national network whose goal is to improve bird habitat in urban areas, and help city residents experience and learn about birds and the natural world.

It’s a program of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Federal, state, and municipal agencies, along with non-profit and educational organizations, work together to create bird-friendly habitats and connect people with nature through birding and conservation.

The program now includes 30 cities, and after more than a decade, Hartford’s agreement is up for renewal.

This Townsend’s Warbler in Hartford was the first state record for the species. Frank Mantlik photographed it on April 17, 2020.  © Frank Mantlik

Hartford’s project got off to a great start in 2011. Its goals were to improve migratory bird habitat in city parks, cultivate public awareness and citizen science, and reduce migratory bird hazards.

Native shrubs were planted throughout Keney and Pope Park ponds. A “Plant Palette” brochure was created. Signs were erected to educate the community about native vegetation beneficial to migratory birds.

Trinity College Professor of Biology Dr. Joan Morrison (now emerita) studied how urban buildings are hazardous to migratory birds. She made recommendations to remedy these hazards, such as using reflective window film to reduce bird collisions, and minimizing both light pollution and the use of rodenticides.

The 2023 renewal is called Strengthening Connections: Hartford Urban Bird Treaty. Its goal is to help neighborhoods learn from, collaborate with, and care for the benefits of nature in city parks and along stream corridors.

Following 2020 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service guidelines, the next “Bird Agenda” for the city will make recommendations that align with the three main goals of the Urban Bird Treaty program.

  • Protect, restore, and enhance urban habitats for birds.
  • Reduce urban hazards to birds.
  • Educate and engage urban communities in caring about and conserving birds and their habitats

The official Urban Bird Treaty renewal will be held at a public event, tentatively set for May 19 at 10 a.m.

It will be a family event, with educational activities and bird walks along with the presentation and adoption of the new “Bird Agenda.” We anticipate participation from federal, state, and local officials.

Connecticut Audubon Society is also planning at least four free bird walks and programs in Keney Park, Colt Park and two others still to be determined.

A Connecticut Audubon naturalist will teach participants how to use binoculars and identify birds, and will lead a walk through the park. Participants will learn about birds, and also about the general natural history of the area, and observe other wildlife and plants within the city parks.

Educational materials and activities will be available about the birds of Hartford and where to find them.






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