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Endangered Bird Species Makes a Comeback in Wisconsin

The Kirtland’s Warbler was one of the first birds that were on the endangered species list, created in 1973. This type of bird is a gray and yellow songbird, they are a beautiful and unique species.

The habitat of the Kirtland’s Warbler is in forests and grassy areas located in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Canada. During winter, these birds migrate to sunny places like the Bahamas. When they fly back to the U.S., they stop to rest in forests and marshes.

The primary conservation concerns are habitat loss or degradation and parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds. Partners in Flight, a conservation organization for birds, estimates the global breeding population at 4,800 individuals and rates the species a 16 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, which is a rating given to endangered species. The group lists Kirtland's Warbler on the Yellow Watch List for species with restricted ranges.

The population of Kirtland’s Warbler recovered by controlling the populations of their parasites. The brown-headed cowbird parasites would lay their eggs on the Warbler nest, which caused issues with nesting. However, over time the Kirtland’s Warbler evolved to use jackpine trees for nesting, mitigating parasitic activities as brown-headed cowbird parasites avoid these plants. Because of this, the number of Kirtland’s Warblers increased from about 200 to more than 2000.

In 2019 the Warbler was taken off the endangered species list for its recovery. If we help keep forests growing, especially the jackpines trees, it would help the Warbler population keep increasing.

[Source: Allaboutbirds.org; Wisconsin DNR]

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