The Kirtland’s warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii) is one of the rarest warblers in the wood warbler family. The bird’s only known nesting places are in small spots of the northern lower peninsula and upper peninsula of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ontario. It wasn’t until 1996 that they found nests anywhere other than 60 miles from Oscoda County in rural Northern Michigan (and very few still). Kirtland’s warblers nest only in the low, ground level branches of young jack pine trees, between 5 and 15 feet tall. Once the trees mature to above this height, the lower branches die, along with their sheltered nesting spots. It’s ironic that the embrace of Smokey’s “Only You” initiative in fire prevention may lend to the eventual end of the Kirtland’s warbler without proper management. No fire means no natural rotation of trees, no new young jack pines.


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  1. Jonathan November 23, 2010 at 9:08 am #

    Here’s a great segment from Radiolab on the Kirtland’s and the measures that have been taken to protect it…

  2. Nick November 23, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    I spent summers in Oscoda County growing up–great bird, great post.

  3. evencleveland November 23, 2010 at 9:48 am #

    An old RadioLab (‘Oops’) has a segment on the Kirtland’s Warbler and the lengths the Michigan Forestry Service has gone to to preserve it. It’s well worth a listen. In the same episode, they talk about Donald Currey and the Prometheus tree.

  4. Joe December 7, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    As a youngblood, my old lady used to take me out of school once a year to watch birds at Magee Marsh in Ohio. Migratory routes bring hundreds of species to the north coast in quick respite before the arduous journey over the lake. One year, I had the good fortune of spotting this beauty near the beach. Stunning creature. If you’re into warblers, or birding in general, Magee is an absolute must in the spring–dead east of Toledo.

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