Monday, October 28, 2019

Good News: Kirtland's Warbler

Image result for kirtland's warblerEnvironmental & Science Education
Endangered Species
Edward Hessler

There has never been a time in my life that the Kirtland's warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii) has not been in trouble. It is a beautiful bird found in Michigan jack pine forests with specific requirements for nesting: open areas and small trees. This habitat was a natural outcome of a fire disturbance regime until fire-suppression practices were adopted.

It was a pleasure to read an article published in Science by Michael Doyle that the Kirtland's warbler has been removed from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) endangered species list. It has been on that list from the beginning, 1973--50 years. "In 1971, two years before enactment of the ESA (Endangered Species Act), the Kirtland's warbler population declined to approximately 201 singing males and as restricted to six counties in the northern part of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. By 2015...the population reached a record high of 2383 singing males and had spread geographically."

This has been accomplished by the replanting of "approximately 90,000 acres (~36400 ha) of Kirtland's warbler habitat and a Brown-headed cowbird control program." Cowbird's are aggressive nest parasites. Their breeding strategy is that the females put all their energy into egg-laying, letting others build nests and raise their chicks.

While this is wonderful news, Doyle reminds us that ESA officials, describe the Kirtland's warbler as. "'a conservation reliant species'" that will still require hands-on management."
Kirtland's warbler was named after Jared Potter Kirtland (November 10, 1793 - December 10, 1877) an Ohio physician, politician and naturalist.

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