Endangered Species Program
Conserving the Nature of America

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Produced by: Plum Creek Timber
Partners: Plum Creek Timber, Town of Rome, Wisconsin and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources


The people inside this bus are on a mission...

"It's a pretty big deal to us."

Deep into Wisconsin woods...

"We're anxious to see one."

To see an endangered bird that weighs less than half an ounce.

The Kirtland's warbler, a songbird that makes its home in young jack pine forests during mating season.

"The bird is a colorful bird, very gregarious. It's not a bird that you can see just anywhere because its nesting range is so small."

The bird–discovered in Wisconsin in 2007–has been on the endangered species list since 1973. That's why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, helps take bird lovers on tours to get a chance to see a treasure.

Much of the Wisconsin land that hosts the warbler belongs to Plum Creek Timber Company, one of Wisconsin's largest private landowners. The company works with wildlife experts to help create habitat for the warblers through planned harvests and replanting.

"He's coming closer"

Kirtland's warblers seek low branches from jack pine trees to conceal their nests, which is why you'll find nests on the ground. The bird incubates four or five eggs for about two weeks and then the warbler feeds the babies berries or small insects.

And it's not easy for the Kirtland's warbler. It has enemies–brown-headed cowbirds.

Cowbirds lay eggs in warblers' nests, and since cowbird eggs grow faster, they hatch earlier, potentially pushing out warbler eggs.

"Certain species have evolved in the presence of a cowbird and can deal better with them. The Kirtland's is one that historically has not been present in the range of cowbirds."

So in Wisconsin, wildlife experts' trap the predator bird during nesting season to give the warbler a fair chance. They also work to band warblers to track their progress and work with landowners, like Plum Creek, to maintain habitat for the bird.

"It's very gratifying that the Kirtland's warbler decided to come to our intensively managed forest and that other folks are enjoying the opportunity to see this endangered species. At plum creek, we work very hard to do the right thing for the environment and the Kirtland warbler, and what we're able to do just demonstrates that. We're real pleased to be able to do this small part in making other people enjoy this."

It's a large-scale effort to protect a very small bird.

"That's what we came for–just to see them."

Last updated: November 16, 2011