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E-M:/ Michigan*s Kirtland*s Warblers Set New Record-High for Census Count

Enviro-Mich message from "Richard Morscheck" <morscher@michigan.gov>

July 11, 2005

Contacts: Elaine Carlson 989-826-3211, Todd Hogrefe 517-373-1263 or Mary Dettloff 517-335-3014	

Michigan's Kirtland's Warblers Set
New Record-High for Census Count

Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials today released annual survey information indicating the state's population of the endangered Kirtland's warbler is increasing. 

Biologists, researchers and volunteers counted 1,415 singing males during the 2005 official census period.  This count exceeds the 1,348 males observed in 2004, and represents the largest number recorded since monitoring began. The census was started in 1951, and has been conducted annually since 1971. The lowest numbers were recorded in 1974 and 1987, when only 167 singing males were found.  

The Kirtland's warbler survey is conducted over a 10-day period during the first two weeks of June each year. The birds are counted by listening for their songs. The songs can be heard at distances up to one-quarter mile, providing an excellent way to census the birds with minimum disturbance. Only the males sing, so estimates of population size are obtained by doubling the number of singing males counted.  

The 2005 census was a joint effort of the DNR, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan Department of Military Affairs and citizen volunteers. This year, singing males (numbers in parentheses) were found in 11 northern Lower Peninsula counties: Alcona (140), Clare (114), Crawford (227), Grand Traverse (1), Iosco (131), Kalkaska (9), Montmorency (14), Ogemaw (479), Oscoda (209), Otsego (47), and Roscommon (26).  Surveyors identified 18 singing males in five Upper Peninsula counties: Baraga (2), Chippewa (2), Delta (6), Luce (4), and Schoolcraft (4). Females were observed with the males, indicating continuing nesting activity in the UP. The production of young has been confirmed in the UP each year since 1996.  In addition to the birds counted in Michigan, three singing males were also observed in Wisconsin this year. 

The Kirtland's warbler population depends on northern Michigan's jack pine barrens ecosystem for nesting habitat. The warbler nests on the ground and selects nesting sites in stands of jack pine between 
four and 20 years old. Historically, these stands of young jack pine were created by natural wildfires that frequently swept through northern Michigan. Modern fire suppression programs altered this natural process, reducing Kirtland's warbler habitat.

To mimic the effects of wildfire and ensure the future of this endangered species, state and federal wildlife biologists and foresters annually manage the forests through a combination of clearcutting, burning, seeding and replanting to promote warbler habitat.  Approximately 3,000 acres of jack pine trees are planted or seeded annually on state and federal lands. The resulting new plantations will provide habitat for warblers in the near future. 

"Additional new habitat will become available each year for the next several years, so we believe the warbler populations will remain stable or increase," said Elaine Carlson, DNR wildlife biologist. "The success of the Kirtland's warbler management program shows that scientific wildlife management works."

DNR Endangered Species Coordinator Todd Hogrefe said the cooperation among the DNR, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Michigan Department of Military Affairs in restoring the warblers' nesting habitat has been outstanding.

"In addition to providing warbler habitat and forest products, the program provides valuable habitat for a variety of plant species, songbirds and game animals," Hogrefe said.

For more information on the Kirtland's warbler, contact the Michigan DNR, Wildlife Division, Natural Heritage Program, Box 30180, Lansing, MI 48909-7680, or at www.michigan.gov/dnr.

The DNR is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural resources for current and future generations.


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