Four robins, two nuthatches and a downy woodpecker that had been nursed back to health by humans took to the skies Thursday over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, part of a ceremony marking the city's participation in a federal program to protect birds in cities.

Minneapolis became the 10th city to sign on to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's urban bird treaty, which brings with it a $70,000 grant to restore avian habitat. Mayor R.T. Rybak's office and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board raised an additional $98,019 by teaming with the city of St. Paul and Audubon Minnesota.

The money will be used to enhance the bird habitat along North Mississippi Regional Park and B.F. Nelson Park near Nicollet Island and to create a birding trail in the Lilydale Regional Park along the Mississippi River.

"Birds in urban areas tell us about the quality of our environment," Rybak said Thursday.

Mark Peterson, executive director of Audubon Minnesota, said the Twin Cities supports more than 300 species of birds. About 170 pass through the Mississippi River flyway from Argentina to as far as Greenland and depend on the landscapes they pass through to survive. Birds face a number of hazards in cities, including invasive plants that damage their habitat, and constant predation from roaming cats.

"This shows that development and preservation are not mutually exclusive," Peterson said about the treaty. "That's what we're celebrating today."

Tasnim Shamma • 612-673-7603 Twitter: @TasnimS