Michigan's Kirtland Warbler

Michigan's Kirtland Warbler -
By Dan Stewart
 

Kirtland's Warbler PhotoDid you know that Michigan is home to one of the rarest birds in the world? It is small, energetic and is called the Kirtlandís Warbler.  It was one of the first to be listed as endangered after the Endangered Species Act of 1973.  Young Jack pines of about 5 to 16 feet tall is where the Kirtland Warbler calls home. This is the only place they nest and do it below the tree.   After about 6 to 12 years of use, branches come into contact with the ground and die.  Warblers abandoned the habitat and seek younger trees nearby.  In the winter, the Kirtland Warbler's spend their time in the Bahamas Islands where they spend most of there time in low, brushy vegetation.

 Photo of a Kirtland's warblerIn 2002, researchers, and volunteers counted 1,050 singing males during the census period. During a sample period of time, they take a count of the population calling it a census period.  2002 was a record year.   In 1951, the census was started and has been conducted annually since 1971.  The birds are counted by listening for their songs.  In 1974 and 1987, the survey only counted 167 males. The little birdís songs can be heard over one-quarter mile away and provided an accurate method to census the birds with minimum disturbance.  Since only the males sing, they have to double the number they have to double the number to get the total population.  
You might be wondering what a Kirtland warbler looks like, right?  Well, they are a small blue-gray bird with a bright yellow breast and a black streak on itís back.  The maleís chest is brighter than the femaleís, and they also has a black mask.  Both male and female have a distinct white-ish eye-ring split in front and behind.  It also has yellow below with white under tail coverts, the sides of flanks are spotted.  The warblerís gray plumage becomes mixed with brown in the autumn.

The two main reasons the Kirtland warbler is in danger of becoming extinct are Humans and Cowbird Parasitism.  In the past years, humans had mis-managed the forest resulting in a shortage of nesting areas. This bird is very picky on where they nest.  The northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan is the only place in the world they nest.  Another reason for decline is Cowbird Parasitism.  This bird is brown headed and has spread from the Great Plains into Michigan and is causing problems for the Warblers. They lay their eggs in warbler area and then the warblers raise the cowbird young instead of theirs.

 To help these birds, Michigan is taking several approaches.  One of them is the DNR (Department of Natural Resources).  They are putting aside public forest to warbler management and planting jack pines so there will always be jack pines of all ages around. Parts of state land are being burned and cut so that the jack pines can grow. The recovery plans are to establish a self-sustaining population of 1,000 pairs of warblers. Plans consist of logging of 50 year old jack pines. The brown-headed cowbirds will be controlled in order to keep normal warbler reproduction.

To help the Kirtland Warbler you can read and learn more about them.  In the summer, participate in the tours.  Visit your local library and read books and magazine articles on them. Spread the word about them.  Make donations to help the organizations that are helping this bird.  Tell the government how you feel about the Kirtland Warbler.

To get more information, you can mail or call them at this address.








 

 

Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Wildlife Division Ė Natural Heritage ProgramBox 30028
Department KW
Lansing, Michigan 48909
517/373-1263

 

 

 

 
"To help these birds, Michigan is taking several approaches. One of them is the DNR (Department of Natural Resources). They are putting aside public forest to warbler management and planting jack pines so there will always be jack pines of all ages around."

 

 


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