Wisconsin Ecological Services Field Office

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Green Bay, WI 54229-9565
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Kirtland's warbler

(Setophaga kirtlandii ) [=Dendroica kirtlandii]

Status: Endangered


Kirtland's Warbler

Photo by USFWS; Joel Trick


Kirtland's Warbler


Status: Endangered, first listed March 11, 1967


Habitat: Breeds in jack pine


Lead Region: 3


Region 3 Lead Office: East Lansing, Michigan Field Office


Range: Michigan, Wisconsin


Listen to a podcast!

Find out about the Kirtland's warbler from Field Office biologists Dan Elbert, Chris Mensing and Christie Deloria.


Audio Clip



The Kirtland's warbler is an endangered songbird that nests in young jack pine stands. Until 1995 they had nested only in the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Today, they also nest in the Upper Peninsula, and since 2007, have nested in Wisconsin (links to a PDF) and Canada.


Kirtland's warblers migrate from their nesting grounds to the southeastern coast of the United States on their way to wintering grounds in the Bahamas.


Nesting Season Updates


Field Trip Information

The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin offers guided tours at the Adams County site in Wisconsin. For more information you can go to:


Michigan Audubon offers tours at Hartwick Pines State Park near Grayling, MI. For more information you can go to:

Research and Conservation


Nest Monitoring in Wisconsin - 2014


Conspecific Playback Experiment - 2014 Report (8-page PDF) - Luring Kirtland's warblers to new areas


2014 Banding Activities in Wisconsin (7-page PDF) - Capturing and putting leg bands Kirtland's warblers


Slideshow - Photos of our research and conservation work


Kirtland's Warbler in Wisconsin


Wisconsin Nesting Season Updates - surveying, monitoring, and banding during the nesting season.


News Release (Nov. 20, 2012): 2012 Marks a Banner Year for Endangered Kirtland’s Warblers


News Release (July 25, 2008) Partnership Proves Key to Kirtland's Warbler Nesting Success in Wisconsin


Kirtland's Warbler - Wisconsin DNR


Long-term Management for Kirtland's Warbler

Kirtland's Warbler Images in Flickr


Prescribed fire, clearcutting, replanting, and cowbird control are some of the measures taken to restore Kirtland's warblers and their habitat. In Michigan, most Kirtland's warbler habitat is on public land. In Wisconsin, Kirtland's warbler are often found on private lands.


Working Together to Save a Special Bird....managing the forest for the Kirtland's warbler (a fact sheet)


Kirtland's Warbler Habitat Management Guide for Central and Northern Wisconsin (PDF 883k)


Natural History and Regulatory Information:

Kirtland's warblers nest in jack pine stands where trees are just the right height (about 5 to 16 feet tall) and the trees are spaced to let sunlight through to the ground. Sunlight helps keep lower tree branches alive and bushy. Because Kirtland's warblers build their nests on the ground the bushy lower trees brances hide 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.


Fact sheet


Species Profile on the National Endangered Species website


Recovery Information:

Recovery is the process used to restore threatened and endangered species to the point that protection under the Endangered Species Act is no longer needed. Kirtland's warbler recovery has centered on managing State Forest lands, National Forest lands, and National Wildlife Refuge lands for short rotation jack pine to provide suitable nesting habitat, along with trapping and removing brown-headed cowbirds to reduce nest parasitism and increase warbler nest productivity.


Article: Rare Bird Nests are Cause for Celebration from Fall 2007 Endangered Species Technical Bulletin


2011 Nesting Season Summary

Annual Census Results


Michigan Guided Tour Information


Links to More Information


This species is the subject of a Michigan Natural Features Inventory abstract (PDF), last updated 2002


Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment Kirtland's Warbler website


Published Articles


The Search for the Kirtland's Warbler in Wisconsin, 1979, Nancy G. Tilghman, The Passenger Pigeon, Volume 41, No. 1 (Spring 1979), pp. 16-24 



The First Wisconsin Nesting Record of Kirtland's Warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii), 2008, Joel Trick, Kim Grveles, Dean D. Tommaso, Jon Robaidek, The Passenger Pigeon, Vol. 70, No. 2 (Summer 2008),  pp. 93-102



Characteristics of a Red Pine Plantation Occupied by Kirtland's Warblers in Wisconsin, 2011, Nicholas M. Anich, Joel A. Trick, Kim M. Grveles, and Jennifer L. Goyette, The Wilson Journal of Ornithology.



We studied a newly established population of Kirtland's Warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii) in Adams County, Wisconsin, nesting in a red pine (Pinus resinosa) plantation. We found eight males and five females in Adams County in 2008 and 10 males and 10 females in 2009. Five of seven (71%) males color-banded in 2008 returned in 2009, and at least eight successful nests produced an estimated 33 young over the 2 years. Red pine comprised 66.9% of trees on the main site, 20.6% were northern pin oak/black oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis/Q. velutina), and 12.5% were jack pine (Pinus banksiana). Total tree density at the main site was 1,876 trees/ha, lower than generally reported in Michigan. Percent canopy cover and ground cover types were similar to Michigan sites. Lowest live branch height of jack pine was similar to Michigan sites, but lowest live branches of red pine at our site were closer to the forest floor. Significant red pine die-off at our site combined with substantial natural jack pine recruitment created a landscape matrix of openings and thickets that produced suitable Kirtland's Warbler habitat. We suggest young red pine-dominated plantations should be searched when surveying for Kirtland's Warblers as some lower-density red pine plantations could provide important supplemental habitat as the species expands its range.



Using Audio Playback to Expand the Geographic Breeding Range of an Endangered Species, 2017, Nicholas M. Anich, Michael P. Ward, Diversity and Distributions, (For a copy of full text, please contact Nick Anich at Nicholas.Anich@wisconsin.gov)





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Last updated: March 29, 2018