To celebrate World Migratory Bird Day, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated Nashville as the newest Urban Bird Treaty (UBT) city. Nashville joins 30 other cities across the country that are working to create bird-friendly environments and provide people with opportunities to connect with nature through bird-related activities.
The Treaty designation was a collaborative effort among a core group of partners, including the Mayor’s Office, Nashville Parks and Recreation, The Nature Conservancy, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Friends of Warner Parks and Bird Safe Nashville. On May 13, 2023, the Service’s Dr. Bill Uihlein, assistant director for Conservation Science and Innovation, joined Nashville Mayor John Cooper, director of Nashville Metro Parks Monique Odom, Tennessee state director of The Nature Conservancy Laurel Creech, and deputy director of field operations for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Brandon Wear to sign the Nashville Urban Bird Treaty. The event was hosted by the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center in conjunction with its World Migratory Bird Day Festival.
The core partner group engaged dozens of agencies and organizations to identify key needs and opportunities to make Nashville a healthier and greener city for both birds and people as part of a Nashville Bird Agenda. This agenda lays out a series of goals, objectives and actions consistent with the Urban Bird Treaty’s mission and vision and with Nashville’s desire to be a more resilient and sustainable city for people and nature.
“The Service is proud to designate Nashville as the 31st Urban Bird Treaty city,” said Mike Oetker, acting regional director. “We thank Mayor Cooper, Nashville Parks and Recreation, The Nature Conservancy, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Friends of Warner Parks and Bird Safe Nashville for their dedicated leadership in connecting Music City with the greater natural world. Our collective national love for the outdoors inspires this type of commitment, and we greatly appreciate their efforts.”
The Nashville partners’ decision to become part of the Urban Bird Treaty program started in spring 2022 after issues arose with a purple martin (progne subis) migration roost in downtown. Purple martins have historically roosted along the Cumberland River near Nashville, with numbers reaching 80,000 birds. However, in August 2020, approximately 150,000 purple martins began roosting in the heart of downtown at the Nashville Symphony’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center. This amazing migration phenomenon received local and national attention.
The complexities of hosting such a large number of birds in an urban environment led to the realization that Nashville needed a plan in place to support not just the purple martins, but all native birds in Nashville. The Urban Bird Treaty program provides an opportunity for Nashville to create bird-friendly habitats while also providing diverse and under-resourced local communities the opportunity to connect with nature through bird-related recreation, education, and conservation.
The Urban Bird Treaty program is a unique, collaborative effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and participating U.S. cities as we look for opportunities across the country to make cities healthier places for both birds and people. The program emphasizes bird habitat conservation through control and native plant restoration; hazard reduction efforts through bird-friendly building and Lights Out programs (meaning these birds won’t see their names in light anytime soon!); community science activities involving bird and habitat monitoring; and collaborative and inclusive engagement programs that provide people with opportunities to appreciate birds and participate in their conservation.