Species Profile
Environmental Conservation Online System

Kirtland's Warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii)

Kingdom: Animalia
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Parulidae

Listing Status:   

Where Listed: WHEREVER FOUND

General Information

The Kirtland's warbler, an endangered species, is a songbird that nests in young jack pine stands. Until 1995 Kirtlandís warblers had only been known to nest in the northern part of Michiganís Lower Peninsula. Today, they also nest in the Upper Peninsula, and since 2007, have nested in Wisconsin and Canada. They migrate from their nesting grounds to the southeastern coast of the United States on their way to wintering grounds in the Bahamas. The male Kirtland's warblers' summer plumage is composed of a distinctive bright yellow colored breast streaked in black and bluish gray back feathers, a dark mask over its face with white eye rings, and bobbing tail. The female's plumage coloration is less bright; her facial area is devoid of a mask. Overall length of the bird is less than six inches.

Map of Species occurrence

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Map Image Map of Species occurrence Map of Species occurrence

This map represents our best available information about where a species is currently known to or or is believed to occur; however, it should NOT be used as an official species list for Section 7 Consultation purposes. To obtain an official species list for this purpose, please visit the Information, Planning, and Conservation (IPaC) System (click here: http://ecos.fws.gov/ipac)



This species is listed wherever it is found, but
    • States/US Territories in which the Kirtland's Warbler, Entire is known to or is believed to occur:  Florida , Michigan , South Carolina , Wisconsin
    • US Counties in which the Kirtland's Warbler, Entire is known to or is believed to occur:  View All
    • USFWS Refuges in which the Kirtland's Warbler, Entire is known to occur:  KIRTLANDS WARBLER WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA
    • Countries in which the the Kirtland's Warbler, Entire is known to occur:  Canada
    • For more information:  http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/birds/Kirtland/
Current Listing Status Summary
Status Date Listed Lead Region Where Listed
03/11/1967 Great Lakes-Big Rivers Region (Region 3) Entire

» Federal Register Documents

Most Recent Federal Register Documents (Showing 5 of 6: view all)
Date Citation Page Title
11/14/2013 78 FR 68370 68372 Technical Corrections for Kirtland's Warbler
06/29/2012 77 FR 38762 38764 5-Year Status Reviews of Seven Listed Species; Notice of initiation of reviews and request for information
07/27/2007 72 FR 41348 41350 Initiation of 5-Year Reviews of Three Wildlife Species and Two Plant Species in the Midwest Region
06/02/1970 35 FR 8491 8498 Part 17 - Conservation of Endangered Species and Other Fish or Wildlife (First List of Endangered Foreign Fish and Wildlife as Appendix A)
04/14/1970 35 FR 6069 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Endangered Species Conservation); 35 FR 6069

» Action Plans

Action Plans (Showing 1 of 1)
Date Title
10/01/2009 Kirtland's warbler spotlight species action plan

» Recovery

Recovery Plan Information Search
Current Recovery Plan(s)
Date Title Plan Action Status Plan Status
09/30/1985 Kirtland's Warbler Recovery Plan, Updated View Implementation Progress Final Revision 1
Other Recovery Documents (Showing 2 of 2)
Date Citation Page Title Document Type
06/29/2012 77 FR 38762 38764 5-Year Status Reviews of Seven Listed Species; Notice of initiation of reviews and request for information
  • Notice 5-year Review, Initiation
  • 07/27/2007 72 FR 41348 41350 Initiation of 5-Year Reviews of Three Wildlife Species and Two Plant Species in the Midwest Region
  • Notice 5-year Review, Initiation
  • Five Year Review
    Date Title
    08/21/2012 Kirtland's warbler 5-Year Review

    » Critical Habitat

    No critical habitat rules have been published for the Kirtland's Warbler, Entire.

    » Conservation Plans

    No conservation plans have been created for Kirtland's Warbler, Entire

    » Petitions

    No petition findings have been published for the Kirtland's Warbler, Entire.

    » Life History

    Habitat Requirements

    The Kirtland's warbler nests only in young jack pine forests growing on a special type of sandy soil. The warblers prefer to nest in forests that are about 80 acres (roughly 60 football fields) or larger with numerous small, grassy openings. Kirtland's warblers prefer to nest in groups. They build their nests only on the ground among grass or other plants like blueberry bushes. The jack pine trees in its nesting area must be just the right height (about 5 to 16 feet tall) and the trees must be spaced to let sunlight through to the ground. The sunlight helps keep the lower branches alive and bushy, hiding the Kirtland's warbler nest beneath them. When the trees grow larger their upper branches block the sun, causing the lower branches to die. Grasses and other plants also become less dense. The warblers then must find another nesting area. When a stand of jack pines reaches about 5 feet high (around 8 years old), Kirtland's warblers begin nesting in the area. They will continue to use the area until the needles on the lower branches start dying. This usually happens when the trees are about 16 feet high (around 20 years old). For more about habitat requirements and management, see http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/birds/Kirtland/kiwamgmt.html

    Food Habits

    Primarily insect eaters, Kirtlandís warblers forage for insects and larvae near the ground and in lower parts of pines and oaks. They also eat blueberries.

    Movement / Home Range

    A pair of Kirtlandís warblers requires at least eight acres of dense young jack pine forest to nest, but often 30 to 40 acres is needed to raise their young. Until 1995 Kirtlandís warblers had only been known to nest in the northern part of Michiganís Lower Peninsula. Today, they also nest in the Upper Peninsula, and since 2007, have nested in Wisconsin and Canada. They migrate from their nesting grounds to the southeastern coast of the United States on their way to wintering grounds in the Bahamas.

    Reproductive Strategy

    Kirtlandís warblers nest only on the ground near the lower branches and in large stands of young jack pines that are 5 to 20 feet tall and 6 to 22 years old. The treeís age is crucial, although biologists are not sure why. It is possible that the birds need low branches near the ground to help conceal their nests. Before the trees are six years old, the lower branches are not large enough to hide the nest. After 15 years, these lower branches begin to die. Concealed by branches, overhanging grass and low shrubs, the warblerís cup-shaped nest is made of grasses. While being fed by their mates, females incubate four to five eggs for about 14 days. After hatching, the chicks remain in the nest for another nine or ten days before fledging, or leaving the nest. For more see the Kirtland's Warbler Fact Sheet - http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/birds/Kirtland/kiwafctsht.html

    » Other Resources

    NatureServe Explorer Species Reports -- NatureServe Explorer is a source for authoritative conservation information on more than 50,000 plants, animals and ecological communtities of the U.S and Canada. NatureServe Explorer provides in-depth information on rare and endangered species, but includes common plants and animals too. NatureServe Explorer is a product of NatureServe in collaboration with the Natural Heritage Network.

    ITIS Reports -- ITIS (the Integrated Taxonomic Information System) is a source for authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.

    Last updated: April 19, 2014