Kirtland's warbler singing a song on a Jack Pine in our Midwest Region. Find more photos here.
As the principal federal partner responsible for administering the Endangered Species Act (ESA), we take the lead in recovering and conserving our nation's imperiled species; this includes winged fellows like the Kirtland's warbler, the subject of today's Endangered Species Spotlight. Our endangered species program regularly features profiles on these amazing creatures. You can find the full stories on the Endangered Species site.
If you’re from the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, there’s a chance you’ve seen the bright yellow belly or heard the sweet songs of the endangered Kirtland’s warbler. Their song is high pitched but soothing, a pulsating chirp that can faintly echo through the forest on a quiet day.
Kirtland’s warblers are very particular about their breeding grounds – you might even call them picky. They prefer early successional stands within jack pine forests. They nest at the base of young jack pines – the males bringing food to the female incubating the eggs.
Thanks to the USFWS Midwest Region Flickr Stream for these great photos
The trees have to be a certain height, usually between two and five meters, and very dense. This type of habitat, historically created by wildfire, used to be in abundance. But a decline in this habitat over time has also meant a decline of the species.
Another challenge facing the Kirtland’s warbler is nest parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds, which used to be concentrated in the grasslands of the Great Plains, but due to a boom in population, spread into the forests. The Cowbirds lay eggs in the Kirtland’s warbler’s nests and take them over.
The Kirtland’s warbler had very little prior experience with Cowbirds and were vulnerable to their attacks. It got to the point in the 1970s and 80s when there were only about 200 pairs of the species left.
At the time the species was listed as endangered, the recovery goal was to reach 1,000 pairs. Today, we’ve surpassed that goal. At 1,700 pairs, the birds have even started breeding in other places like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Canada.
So how has this little bird been able to slowly bounce back? You'll have to listen to the full interview, which can be found here: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/about/ep_17_2011.html