Kirtland’s Warbler Population Stabilizes

September 27, 2011 by  
Filed under News

Kirtland’s Warblers have very specific habitat requirements and are found only in the jack pine forests of Ontario, Michigan and Wisconsin. Due primarily to habitat changes, the numbers of these elusive little birds were declining drastically, but thanks to ongoing conservation efforts, recent research by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has revealed that the population not only appears to have stabilized, it may even have grown. More than twenty years ago the Kirtland’s Warbler population in northern Michigan had declined to a count of 167 pairs.

The Kirtland’s Warbler count takes place in the second and third weeks of June each year, as this is the time when they defend their nesting territories and become quite vocal about it. The birds are very elusive and would be difficult to detect if it were not for their distinctive song. Only the males sing, and total population is based on the assumption that each male has a mate. The count carried out in June 2010 recorded 1,747 males, with this year’s count indicating that 1,805 males are resident across their habitat range. Two pairs were located in Ontario and another 21 in northern Wisconsin.

Kirtland’s Warblers select nesting sites in jack pine forests where the trees are between four and twenty years old. In the past, nature would create these new forests as wildfires swept through the area burning down the older trees and making way for seedlings to sprout and grow. This natural cycle has been interrupted by humans who have implemented fire suppression programs in the interests of safety. Even so-called ‘controlled’ fires can get out of hand and are considered too risky an option for reestablishing the natural order of things. So, in order to recreate the effects of wildfire and allow the growth of new jack pine trees and other rare plants in the ecosystem, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, along with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Forest Service carry out a continuous cycle of cutting, burning, seeding and replanting, over an area of around 3,000 acres.

The program has proven to be successful in a number of ways. The Kirtland’s Warbler population has increased, and snowshoe hares, deer and turkeys are among the creatures that are thriving in the area. Moreover, the program is providing valuable timber without damaging the environment. Although the Kirtland’s Warbler population has grown, it remains on the endangered species list where it has been since 1973. It appears likely that the population has reached its peak determined by the habitat available to it, but with ongoing conservation measures, the Kirtland’s Warbler will still be around in the years to come.

Eagle Fest 2009

October 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Events

The 12th Annual Eagle Fest, will be hosted by Soar South, which will see the team thrilling spectators with their presentation, from the 7th to the 22nd of November 2009. The Eagle Fest will kick off at the University of Wisconsin, and traveling to various other venues, such as the Midwest Museum of Natural History, the Crane Festival in Birchwood, Cumberland Mountain State Park in Crossville and the General Coffee State Park.

For specific times and dates for the various venues, visit the Soar South website at http://soarsouth.blogspot.com/2009/10/upcoming-programs-november-2009.html or email s.o.a.r.south@hotmail.com.

Date: 7 November 2009
Venue: Various
City: Various
Country: United States of America

Kirtland’s Warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii)

February 9, 2009 by  
Filed under

One of the most rare members of the Paulidae family is the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii). This is a fascinating bird species seen on occasion in the jack pine forests of Michigan where it is reliant on very specific habitat. Kirtland’s Warblers are endemic to the USA and are found only in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario. Much needs to be done if the Kirtland’s Warbler is to survive and the first step is gaining knowledge about the elusive species.

As a rare bird species, the Kirtland’s Warbler was only first described by scientists in 1851. The newly discovered species was named after Dr. Jared Kirtland, author of a list of Ohio’s animals. The Kirtland’s Warbler is a small songbird measuring about 5 inches in length. As an insect-eater, the warbler’s bill is thin and pointed. The nape and upperparts are grey whilst the throat, belly and breast are yellow. Its undertail covers are white and the wings have dull white bars. Its sides and flanks are streaked. The Kirtland’s Warbler is also easily identified by its constant tail wagging. The male and female are similar but males have black streaks on their back and black lores. If you are looking out for the Kirtland’s Warbler, you may hear it before you see it, so listen for a clear, loud “chip-chip-che-way-o”.

Kirtland’s Warblers are very choosy when it comes to habitat, the females even more so than the males. These warblers will only nest in small jack pines. Jack pines will only release their seeds after a fire so the warbler will only come to nest there 6 years after a fire when the young tree is around 2 m high. As the tree reaches over 3 m in height, the Kirtland’s Warbler will vacate the area. Kirtland’s Warblers are known as neotropical migrants. Males arriving back from the Bahamas in breeding season will establish territories. The female builds the nest whilst the male warbler supplies her with sustenance. A clutch contains 3 to 6 eggs and incubation lasts 14 to 15 days. The young ones fledge quickly in about 12 to 13 days.

The numbers of Kirtland’s Warbler populations has decreased largely due to the suppression of fire necessary for their chosen habitat. They also suffer due to nest parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird. Extensive conservation efforts are being made to protect the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler.

Trumpeter Swans Might Not Be Endangered Anymore

January 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Features

In this day and age of destruction and desolation, it is not often that you find wildlife officials reaching positive milestones. Yet that is exactly what is happening in Wisconsin. It seems that in that part of the United States, trumpeter swan numbers have increased so much that officials are now considering whether or not to remove them from the local endangered wildlife species list.

Trumpeter swans in Wisconsin suffered a dramatic decline in numbers in the past – so much so that they were listed as an endangered species in that area. Their decline was the result of a number of different factors, but mainly through human interference. For starters they were ruthlessly hunted before the turn of the 19th century, leading to a dramatic decrease in numbers. What was left was further affected by the use of the pesticide DDT in the area, with the result that local populations were well and truly decimated. Fortunately the state-run Department of Natural Resources saw the need to take action and the majestic white birds were reintroduced to the state in the 1980s. Trumpeter swans in Wisconsin were also placed on the endangered list in 1986, as part of efforts to further ensure their survival. The original goal was to see 20 breeding pairs firmly established in the area. The Department of Natural Resources and other partner organizations have been hard at work trying to ensure their survival by building artificial nesting platforms and doing whatever else might assist the birds in their attempts to breed successfully. What must have seemed painstaking work back then has now yielded fine results. By 1989, the birds were downgraded from endangered to threatened. Just last year there are estimated to be over 120 breeding pairs in Wisconsin, spread across 20 different counties in the state. Now, it seems that there are about 500 nesting pairs in the area!

Since it seems that local trumpeter swan populations are well and truly on the way to recovery, officials are now faced with the task of deciding whether or not to remove them from their endangered species list. Choosing to de-list the bird species in Wisconsin will not leave it completely unprotected, as it will still fall under the safeguard of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Natural Resources Board will make the final decision whether or not to de-list the bird at its official meeting in January 28, 2009.