Of course, challenges still remain for the Kirtland’s warbler. Because large scale reintroduction of wildfire is not reasonable, forest management will be required to continually create new breeding habitat every year.
The jack pine timber market has enhanced the conservation effort, but it isn’t a silver bullet. Jack pine prices can fluctuate and the tree is not as sought after as other species like red pine. In addition to habitat needs, the conservation effort supports brown-headed cowbird control. Cowbirds lay their eggs in Kirtland’s warbler nests, and the cowbirds then outcompete warbler nestlings for food.
To ensure the ultimate success of the Kirtland’s warbler, American Forests and the Michigan DNR are in the second year of a five-year partnership that will plant 5 million jack pine trees on more than 3,000 acres of managed state forest land. The tree planting will create the next young forests for the warbler. The partnership helps to fill funding gaps and ensure that the species will remain secure.
Our investment is focused on future habitat needs too. Since 1951, 98 percent of all singing males have been found in Michigan. However, as the population grows, the Kirtland’s warbler is slowly expanding its range into northern Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario. As temperatures and precipitation changes due to climate change, the need for jack pine restoration will also grow. American Forests is currently partnering with Simcoe County, Ontario, and the Canadian Wildlife Service to implement the first-ever Kirtland’s warbler habitat restoration in Canada.