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E-M:/ Michigan's Kirtland's Warbler Population Continues to Grow

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

July 31, 2006

CONTACTS: Elaine Carlson 989-826-3211 or Ann Wilson 906-228-6561

Michigan's Kirtland's Warbler Population Continues to Grow

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 in Michigan observed 1,478 singing males during the 2006 official census period. This number exceeds the 1,415 males observed in 2005, 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 each year over a 10-day period during the first two weeks of June. The birds are detected by listening for their songs. The songs can be heard at distances up to one-quarter mile, providing an excellent way to detect the birds with minimum disturbance. Only the males sing, so estimates of breeding population size are obtained by doubling the number of singing males recorded.
The 2006 census was a joint effort by 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 (170), Clare (137), Crawford (276), Grand Traverse (2), Iosco (168), Kalkaska (4), Montmorency (10), Ogemaw (493), Oscoda (149), Otsego (35) and Roscommon (13).  Surveyors identified 21 singing males in four Upper Peninsula counties: Chippewa (5), Delta (7), Marquette (3) and Schoolcraft (6).  Females were observed with the males, indicating continuing nesting activity in the UP. In addition to the birds counted in Michigan, four singing males were 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, the DNR and its partners at the state and federal level 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.
"New habitats are continually developed to replace those that become too old for Kirtland's warbler nesting,? said DNR Endangered Species Coordinator Todd Hogrefe. ?With this habitat management program, we expect the warbler population to remain stable or increase."

Elaine Carlson, DNR wildlife biologist emphasized how the habitat management program has produced benefits that extend well beyond the recovery of a single species. "In addition to generating habitat for the Kirtland's warbler, the program provides valuable forest products as well as habitat for a variety of plants, songbirds, game animals and other wildlife," Carlson said.

For more information on the Kirtland's warbler, contact the DNR Wildlife Division, Natural Heritage Program, Box 30180, Lansing, MI 48909, or visit the DNR Web site: 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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