WatchList Species Account for Kirtland's Warbler
(Dendroica kirtlandii)

Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species

 

Kirtland's Warbler by Huron Mainstee National Forest

Photo: © Huron Manistee
National Forest

The endangered Kirtland’s Warbler breeds only in dense young stands of jack pines that are 6-15 years old and 5-20 feet high. Once this fire-maintained community outgrows the warbler’s narrow requirements, the bird abandons it and looks for an area where the trees have reached the requisite height a few years after a burn, where it does best in tracts larger than 200 hectares. With one of the smallest breeding ranges of any North American bird species, it is found within 13 contiguous counties of the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan and in small numbers in the Upper Peninsula. In winter it favors scrub areas of Caribbean pine in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands. Only within the past few years has the bird been found in any concentrations on its wintering grounds, and it is very rarely seen in migration.

 

Down to only 167 singing males located in 1987, the bird’s population has increased to over a thousand singing males by 2002. This is thought to be due largely to a rigorous program to control cowbirds, which in former years parasitized up to 70% of nests, now reduced to only 3%. A prescription for increasing its population depends not just on cowbird control but on a program to create extensive tracts of young jack pines. This is being done within the 125,000 acre Kirtland's Warbler Management Area through managed burns, clear-cutting, and seeding of jack pines.