Birder's Guide

MAY 2016

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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14 Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community | May 2016 ere in northern Michigan, members of the Kirtland's Warbler Alliance (KWA) are planning our annual Jack Pine Planting Day in May. During the event, we'll create new nest - ing habitat for the endangered Kirtland's Warbler. As with the previous planting days, we are pre- paring extensively, including making lists of every- thing needed for a successful event. We'll need a two-acre location. We'll need canopies to shelter us from the weather. We'll need young jack pine trees and planting tools. We'll need medical sup- plies—just in case. We'll need water, snacks, and box lunches. And we'll need the most important thing of all: volunteers. The KWA is a relatively new organization, cre- ated in 2013 to help ensure the long-term viability of Kirtland's Warbler. Part of our mission is to edu- cate the public about Kirtland's Warbler and why efforts to create new habitat are so important to its future. The species's population will always be small because it prefers to nest on sandy soil un- derneath the overlapping branches of young jack pine trees—conditions that occur only in parts of northern Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ontario. We believe the best way to help people see the connec - tion between the warbler and its habitat is to have them visit northern Michigan's desolate outwash plains and get their hands and knees dirty planting young jack pine trees. The motivation for our volunteers is the op - portunity to do something concrete to protect an endangered species. Our motivation, however, is the chance to chat with and teach people about the connection between an endangered bird and its habitat so that they can use their knowledge to help Kirtland's Warbler in the future. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may soon take Kirtland's Warbler off the Endangered Species List, so public support for jack pine conservation is becoming more important. Although the popula- tion is only an estimated 4,300 birds, the original Kirtland's Warbler Recovery Plan, written in 1976, called for the population to be "recovered" at 1,000 pairs or 2,000 total birds from fewer than 400 as re- cently as 1987. Now that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has met its goal and the threats have been controlled, the agency is considering its removal from the list of Endangered Species. But since Kirtland's Warbler is a conservation- reliant species, an effort to delist it comes with sub- stantial challenges. Other bird species have been re- moved from the Endangered Species List and have fourished without additional human intervention; Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon come to mind. That will not happen for Kirtland's Warbler. Until the 20th century, Kirtland's Warbler de- pended upon fre to create new habitat. The jack pine forest in northern Michigan is a fre-depen- dent ecosystem. But fre was no longer allowed to run across the landscape unimpeded after northern Michigan was logged and humans be- gan to move into the region. With habitat declin- ing throughout the frst half of the 20th Century, another threat emerged. Logging allowed Brown- headed Cowbirds, which lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species, to expand their range into H n Background image: Kirtland's Warbler habitat. Photo © Zachary Frieben n Top left: Kirtland's Warbler. Photo © William Rapai n Top right: Volunteers at Jack Pine Planting Day. Photo © Huron Pines n Bottom: Kirtland's Warbler tour during the 2015 Kirtland's Warbler Festival based in Roscommon, Michigan. Photo © Erica Straton Kirtland's Warbler Connecting Community with Conservation to Secure a Future for Kirtland's Warbler

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