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The Kirtland's warbler, an endangered songbird, nests in young jack pine stands in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Canada. Michigan is the core of its breeding habitat. After nesting and rearing its young, this warbler migrates to wintering grounds in the Bahamas.
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Find out about the Kirtland's warbler from Field Office biologists Dan Elbert, Chris Mensing and Christie Deloria.
Kirtland's Warbler Recovery
Banner Year for Kirtland’s Warblers - Watch a Slideshow!
Under natural conditions, Kirtland's warbler nesting habitat is produced by fire. Fire has always occurred in forests and jack pine trees are dependent on fire. Heat from fire is needed to open their cones to release seeds. Fire also removes plants that compete with jack pines for forest space and creates a bed of ash that helps the new seeds grow. Fires before the 20th century were more widespread in the jack pine plains of Michigan and created large nesting areas for the Kirtland's warbler. Modern habitat management is aimed at mimicking post-fire conditions.
Prescribed fire, clearcutting, replanting, and cowbird control are some of the measures taken to restore Kirtland's warblers and their habitat. We work with the U.S. Forest Service, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and other partners to recover and conserve Kirtland's warblers.
Kirtland's Warbler Life History
Jack pine trees in Kirtland's warbler nesting areas 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. Kirtland's warblers build their nests on the ground. Sunlight helps keep lower tree branches alive and bushy, hiding the 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.
After nesting and raising their young, Kirtland's warblers migrate to the Bahamas where they winter in scrub thickets.