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Kirtland’s Warbler Banded as Nestling
in Wisconsin Confirmed in Bahamas
A Field Update by Ashley Hannah
Banding Kirtland’s Nestlings in Wisconsin
The 2014 Kirtland’s warbler season was the first time biologists attempted to band nestlings at the breeding site in Wisconsin. Banding nestlings helps to determine if the young warblers return to the breeding site in following years. The color combinations allow observers to easily tell individuals apart. Wisconsin Kirtland’s warbler males, some females, and six nestlings are banded with their own color combinations, and can be easily recognized whether they are in Wisconsin on the breeding grounds or in the Bahamas on the wintering grounds.
Kirtland’s Warbler Confirmed in Bahamas
In March and April 2015, researchers have been surveying for Kirtland’s on the wintering grounds in the Bahamas. The team consists of Joe Wunderle (US Forest Service), Dave Ewert (The Nature Conservancy), Genie Fleming (Puerto Rican Conservation Foundation), Nathan Cooper (Postdoctoral Researcher Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center), and Ashley Hannah (Field Assistant). Joe and Dave are long-time Kirtland’s re-searchers, Genie is an expert on Bahamian plants, Nathan worked on Kirtland’s warblers in Michigan, and Ashley was a 2014 Wisconsin DNR Kirtland’s nest monitor.
On April 6, 2015, Joe and Ashley conducted a survey on Cat Island and confirmed a banded Kirtland’s warbler. They quickly determined that the bird was ABPI (color-bands Aluminum, Blue, Purple, Indigo), a nestling banded in Wisconsin in 2014!
ABPI was one of four fledglings from the nest of adult male AORB (color-bands Aluminum, Orange, Red, Blue). AORB was banded in Adams County on June 8, 2008, and aged as a second year. Therefore, he was 7 years old in 2014, making him the oldest known Kirtland’s Warbler in Wisconsin. AORB has returned to Adams County every year to pair with a female and nest. Two of AORB’s nests were successful, one in 2009 which fledged four young, and the one last year, which fledged ABPI along with three other siblings.
A 1500-mile Trip: WI to Bahamas
To find a banded Kirtland’s warbler in the Bahamas is extremely rare; only a small portion of the nearly 4000 birds are banded, and of those only a handful are young birds. But to see one out of only six fledglings banded in Wisconsin is an even rarer feat. ABPI has faced many struggles, which include surviving on the breeding grounds, on the migration route south, and on the wintering grounds in Bahamas.
In total, three Kirtland’s warbler males banded in the Bahamas on Eleuthera Island have held territories on the Wisconsin breeding grounds. However, the finding of ABPI marks the first time in history that a Kirtland’s banded in Wisconsin was sighted on the wintering grounds in the Bahamas. With any luck we will be welcoming both AORB and ABPI (and perhaps some of his color-banded siblings) back to Wisconsin this May.
The Wisconsin Kirtland’s Warbler Partners wish to thank Ashley Hannah for writing this field update and for her dedication to Kirtland’s warbler conservation. We are grateful to the Kirtland’s wintering grounds research team: Joe Wunderle (US Forest Service), Dave Ewert (The Nature Conservancy), Genie Fleming (Puerto Rican Conservation Foundation), Nathan Cooper (Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center), for the incredible work they do surveying and researching Kirtland’s wintering grounds and habitat ecology.