Good news for rare songbird in Michigan

Sep 19, 2011

Kirtland's warblers are moving south to their winter home in the Bahamas (lucky devils), but before they left Michigan, researchers counted 1,805 singing males.

That's less than the high in 2009 (1,826 singing males) but more than last year's count (1,773 singing males), and researchers say it's a sign of a healthy population.

From the Associated Press' Environment Writer, John Flesher:

Scientists say the population of endangered Kirtland's warblers has stabilized at a level that should ensure long-term survival for the tiny songbirds - but only with continued help from humans.

Kirtland's warblers breed only in Michigan, except for a few scattered pairs in Wisconsin and Ontario. They nearly went extinct a few decades ago because of habitat loss but have bounced back in the northern Lower Peninsula thanks to conservation programs.

The Department of Natural Resources said Monday that this year's census turned up 1,805 singing males in Michigan. It's believed that there's at least one female for each singing male. So that would put the population at about 3,600.

DNR official Chris Hoving says if the population remains stable, the warbler eventually may come off the endangered species list.

Kirtland's warbler habitat is managed in the state by making sure there are enough young Jack pine trees for the birds to nest in, and by trapping cowbirds.

Cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, "usually at the expense of at least some of the host’s own chicks," according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Here's the song of a Kirtland's Warbler - a rare sound in the wild: