- They winter in Bahamas for eight months
- Population: Over 2,000 nesting pairs
- Once endangered, delisted in 2019
The Need for Management
Always a rare bird, the Kirtland’s warbler became even rarer when its habitat in Michigan was disrupted substantially in the early 1900s by the unintended consequences of forestry operations. The Kirtland’s warbler came perilously close to extinction in the 1970s, when the population consisted of fewer than 200 nesting pairs. As if that wasn’t enough, their preferred habitat, jack pine forests, can be found only in a handful of places in Michigan, Wisconsin and the Canadian province of Ontario and, currently, nowhere else on Earth.
Wildlife management practices that include a much larger, more global perspective than previously employed have increased the Kirtland’s warbler population to over 2,000 nesting pairs — more than double the recovery goal. To this day, people come to Michigan from all over the world to catch a glimpse of this extraordinarily rare bird. Since jack pine forests cover much of northern Michigan, it is important to note that these wildlife management efforts help not only the Kirtland’s warbler, but also other species such as rabbits, snowshoe hare, white-tailed deer, woodcock, ruffed grouse and other game and nongame species.
The continued success of the Kirtland’s warbler requires several tactics, including:
- Maintaining 40,000 acres of jack pine forest in Michigan to provide suitable nesting habitat for the Kirtland’s warbler.
- Identifying and protecting habitats within the Bahamas that are used by wintering songbirds, including the Kirtland’s warbler.
- Monitoring the breeding population of the Kirtland’s warbler to evaluate responses to management practices and environmental changes.
- Developing and implementing emergency measures to prevent extinction.