By: Supriya Gupta
Summary: On October 8th, the U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service announced that the Kirkland’s Warbler would no longer be protected by the Endangered Species Act. Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Eichinger says that “The Kirtland’s warbler was one of the first species in the United States to be put on the federal list of endangered and threatened species, and today’s action by the U.S. Department of the Interior marks the latest chapter in a remarkable wildlife success story”. The USFWS and the U.S. Forest Service have been actively working to bring breeding pair numbers up for these songbirds. Kirtland’s Warblers require natural disturbance to have quality breeding habitat in the jack pine forests of Michigan, Ontario, and Wisconsin. Due to the suppression of wildfires however, these historical disturbances were limited. Through collaborative efforts, timber harvesting and reforestation were done in a way to mimic natural succession. Brown-headed cowbirds also posed a threat to the formerly endangered species. A brood parasite, brown-headed cowbirds lay eggs in warbler nests and when their young hatch, they would outcompete the warbler hatchlings. The impact of these nest predators was controlled as well, allowing a chance for the Kirtland’s Warbler population to rebound. How are the Kirtland’s Warblers doing today? Kirtland’s Warblers went from just 167 breeding pairs in 1974 to ~2000 pairs, double the recovery goal.
We we should care? The Kirtland’s Warbler’s story shows that if they can double their recovery goal, so can other endangered species, so long as we work together!
Example News Article:
I really like this article because it explains the (former) situation of the Kirkland’s Warbler very nicely, in a way that even people with limited knowledge about conservation and ecology can understand. What I really like is how the article relates this to Michigan. Of course, the Kirkland’s Warbler is only found in three places, Ontario, Michigan, and Wisconsin, but this article relates this news to Michiganders. It gives us a sense of pride that the recovery of one of our native songbirds was so wildly successful, and I hope it inspires the people of Michigan to support and help in the conservation of other native species.
Science in Action.
Dr. Nathan Cooper is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution and a Research Associate at Georgetown University, but was a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center from 2014-2017, where he studied Kirtland’s Warblers.
Dr. Nathan Cooper and a team of scientists at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center were funded by the USFWS to track Kirtland’s Warblers across a full annual cycle (a full year). From this data, they were able to study many things about this formerly endangered species. They could take a look at how winter habitat quality and body conditions affects when these birds begin their migration, how long their journey takes, when they arrive on breeding grounds, and ultimately reproductive success. Understanding how certain factors could affect Kirtland’s Warbler reproduction is very important in order to take the species off the Endangered Species list. It would allow us to see what we could change/do in order to protect them.