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Endangered Kirtland's warbler increases numbers and nests in Wisconsin

Published by Central Office December 12, 2017

Contact(s): Kim Grveles, 608-264-8594 and Davin Lopez, 608-266-0837

10 years of nest monitoring, protection and habitat work by DNR and partners pay off

MADISON - Ten years after Kirtland's warblers were first documented in Wisconsin, populations of the songbird have increased and their range is expanding through the efforts of state, federal and local partners to increase and manage the endangered bird and its habitat in the state. ,

According to the recently released 2017 nesting season report., the number of Kirtland's warblers grew from eleven birds and three nests in 2007 to 53 birds and 20 total nests in 2017.

Populations of the endangered Kirtland's warbler in Wisconsin are increasing and expanding geographically.  - Photo credit: Joel Trick
Populations of the endangered Kirtland's warbler in Wisconsin are increasing and expanding geographically.Photo credit: Joel Trick

The population has grown and its range has expanded from Adams County to also include Marinette and Bayfield counties. The birds fledged a minimum of 49 and up to 63 young in 2017.

"We're very encouraged by results of recent years -- the numbers of birds and nests continues to increase and expand geographically," says Kim Grveles, a biologist for the Natural Heritage Conservation Program of the Department of Natural Resources. "We look forward to contributing more birds toward the recovery of this species in coming years."

Sarah Warner, wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says the progress reflects a decade of conservation work from many enthusiastic and dedicated partners. "We want to thank all of the partners for making this season and the overall effort a success."

A male Kirtland's warbler that was recently color-banded as part of state and federal efforts to monitor the endangered songbird. - Photo credit: Joel Trick
A male Kirtland's warbler that was recently color-banded as part of state and federal efforts to monitor the endangered songbird.Photo credit: Joel Trick

Kirtland's warbler is a wood warbler that measures 5.5 inches long, weighs under a half ounce, and migrates from the Great Lakes to the Bahamas for the winter.

Until 1995, Kirtland's warblers were found almost exclusively in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan and were struggling to recover from a steep decline in populations in the 1960s and 1970s due to habitat loss and nest parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds.

Davin Lopez, a DNR conservation biologist who co-leads the project with Grveles, says the partners are also working to maintain and expand the mix of 5- to 20-year-old jack pine trees and barrens to provide quality habitat for Kirtland's warblers and other species.

In addition to DNR and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, other partners and collaborators include the University of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Natural Resources Foundation, USDA Wildlife Services, Sand Valley Restoration Fund LLC, Meteor Timber, the Wisconsin Trapshooting Association, Bayfield, Marinette, Vilas, and Jackson County Forest Departments, and many birders and other private citizens.

Last Revised: Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Contact information

For more information about news and media, contact:
James Dick
Director of Communications
608-267-2773