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Migratory Birds

Kirtland's Warbler: North America's Most Endangered Songbird

Your support will help to protect bird species, like the Kirtland's warbler, throughout the Americas.

Kirtland's Warbler: North America's Most Endangered Songbird

Funded by a grant from the USDA Forest Service International Program, The Kirtland’s Warbler Training and Research Project is a collaborative effort between The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service’s International Institute of Tropical Forestry to learn more about the wintering habits of North America's rarest songbird. Both organizations also work in cooperation with the Government of The Bahamas, The Bahamas National Trust and the College of The Bahamas.

The endangered Kirtland’s warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii) breeds almost exclusively in small areas of Michigan; since 2007 a few pairs have also been found in Wisconsin and Ontario. The species winters almost exclusively in the Bahamas from October to May, frequently in short bush vegetation. However, little has been known about the bird's wintering habitat requirements or needs. In 2001, The Kirtland's Warbler Training and Research Project was established on Andros Island, Bahamas to provide field experience and training to Bahamian biologists, while examining the winter habitat requirements of the bird. Students receive training in bird identification, bird banding and census techniques, and relevant conservation issues.

In 2002, the project was moved to Eleuthera Island, Bahamas. Although more than 200 bird species have been recorded on the island, only 200 warblers—which are secretive and difficult to see—have been recorded in the whole of the Bahamas in the last 150 years. Prior to this project, only 28 had been seen on the island; afterward, more than 200 warblers were found at more than 12 locations.

Through dedicated research and conservation efforts on the birds' breeding grounds, populations have increased from approximately 170 pairs in the 1970s to more than 1,800 breeding pairs in 2008. In addition to conservation knowledge gained through the project, the presence of significant numbers of Kirtland’s warblers on the island has also increased the island’s appeal for bird watchers and nature lovers.

To highlight the importance of the Kirtland's Warbler Training and Research Project, numerous presentations have been given to local schools and institutions, and at national and international conferences. The project continues to train more Bahamian biologists and assist with their long-term education, while integrating research activities with the local community, helping identify potential opportunities for Bahamians in conservation and ecotourism.

A Collaborative Effort

The Kirtland’s Warbler Training and Research Project has many invaluable supporters, including: The Kirtland's Warbler Recovery Team; Michigan Department of Natural Resources; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the U.S. Geological Service; Kirtland's Community College; Ron Austing; landowners in south and central Eleuthera who have allowed researchers access to their land; Eleutheran residents, and the faculty and staff of local schools and institutions, in particular the Island School.

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