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Rare Wisconsin songbird flies into the record books again

  • ##Will this rare songbird return to Wisconsin again from the Bahamas and keep his track record alive? Conservation biologists hope so. The bird, a Kirtland’s warbler that hatched in Adams County in 2014, flew to fame that winter after researchers found it on its winter grounds in the Bahamas, the avian equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack.

    The bird has since returned to Adams County at least three times and been a father twice over, adding to Wisconsin’s growing population of this endangered species and knowledge about the rare songbird’s habits and habitats. Photo by Joel Trick
  • ##The bird hatched in 2014 and was one of six fledglings to have bands attached to their legs to help biologists track if the young warblers would return to the breeding site in following years. The bird was only 50 millimeters in length and 5 to 6 days old when he was banded. Photo by Joel Trick
  • ##The bird is known as ABPI, short for the color and order of the bands on his leg. Graphic by Tyler Brandt
  • ##ABPI flew 1,500 miles to Cat Island in the Bahamas for the winter. He was found there on April 6, 2015, by Ashley Olah, who had been a DNR nest monitor in summer 2014 when ABPI hatched, and the U.S. Forest Service’s Joe Wunderle. Olah and Wunderle were part of a survey team looking for Kirtland’s warblers.
  • ##ABPI’s discovery and his Bahamas location caught the public’s imagination, resulting in media headlines and photoshopped pictures of ABPI on DNR’s Facebook page.
  • ##ABPI was not found in Wisconsin the summer after his sighting in the Bahamas, but he returned to Adams County in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and had successful nests in 2017 and 2018. This photo of ABPI is from May 26, 2016. He remains the first, and only Kirtland’s warbler to date that was banded in Wisconsin and sighted again in the Bahamas. Photo by Joel Trick
  • ##ABPI’s successful nesting in 2018 was just one piece of good news for Wisconsin’s Kirtland’s warblers in 2018, as detailed in the recently released 2018 nesting report.

    The report summarizes efforts by conservation partners including by DNR and DNR Kirtland’s site monitors Anna Jocham and Adelyn Hanchette, University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Ashley Olah, and volunteer Jean Haack; the University of Wisconsin; the USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife and Ecological Services programs; Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin; USDA-Aphis Wildlife Services; Marinette, Vilas, Bayfield, and Jackson County Forests; the U.S. Forest Service; Sand Valley Restoration LLC; donors to the DNR’s Endangered Resources Fund, and numerous volunteers.
  • ##In addition to monitoring and nest protection efforts, partners in 2018 worked to maintain and restore the pine barrens habitat Kirtland’s warblers need. Pine Barrens is a globally rare type of savanna which also provides important habitat for other native rare and declining species including the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly, shown in the inset photo. Photos by WDNR staff.Photos by WDNR staff.
  • ## Partner efforts have helped grow Kirtland’s warbler numbers in Wisconsin and expand it geographically, detailed in "A Happy Tune," in the Summer 2018 Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

    While the number of Kirtland’s warblers in Wisconsin doesn’t yet meet the criteria to be removed from the state’s endangered species list, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is expected to announce this spring if the bird will be removed from the federal endangered and threatened species list based on recovery of the core population in Michigan.

    Learn more on the Kirtland's Warbler Conservation Team website. Photo by Nick Anich
Last Revised: Tuesday November 6, 2018