Dendroica kirtlandii


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Dendroica kirtlandii
Species Authority: (Baird, 1852)
Common Name(s):
English Kirtland's Warbler

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Ewert, D., Hilton, G. & Rustem, R.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Bird, J., Harding, M., Khwaja, N., Pople, R.
Since 1987, conservation action has successfully increased the population of this species. Numbers exceeded 500 singing males in 1994 following doubling of suitably aged habitat between 1987 and 1990. Numbers continue to increase, but its population and range remain small, hence its classification as Near Threatened.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Almost the entire population of Dendroica kirtlandii breeds in north and central Michigan (Anon. 2008), with small numbers (and occasional breeding) in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin, U.S.A. Breeding was also recorded in Canada in 2007 for the first time since 1945 (Eskelsen 2007). Breeding habitat has declined by 33% since the 1960s, but is more extensive than the 18 km2 occupied in 1994 (Nelson and Buech 1996). It has a very small winter range in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands (to U.K.), either concentrated in the northern islands or spread throughout the Bahama Archipelago (Haney et al. 1998, Sykes and Clench 1998). There were major declines in c.1900-1920 and 1961-1971 (Haney et al. 1998), with the population numbering just 167 singing males in 1974 and 1987 (Anon. 1996). Numbers have recovered to 1,697 singing males in Michigan in 2007 (Line 2008), the highest since surveys began in 1951 (,1607,7-153--72725--,00.html, National Wildlife Refuge Association in litt. 2006).
Bahamas; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States
Present - origin uncertain:
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The population size continues to increase, with latest estimates putting it around 3,500 individuals, roughly equivalent to 2,300-2,400 mature individuals.
Population Trend: Increasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Its optimal breeding habitat is fire-maintained homogeneous stands of 1-5 m tall jack pines Pinus banksiana on sandy soil (Mayfield 1992, Sykes 1997, Anon. 2008). Eggs are laid in May and June (Curson et al. 1994). It winters in early-successional disturbed habitat (Wunderle et al. 2010), either stands of Caribbean pine P. caribbaea (Haney et al. 1998), or natural and secondary scrub, and saline/upland ecotone (Sykes and Clench 1998). It feeds on arthropods and abundant fruit during this time (Wunderle et al. 2010). Birds move from patch to patch in the wintering grounds as food supplies are depleted and areas dry out, eventually concentrating in small patches where they maintain small and overlapping home ranges (Wunderle et al. 2006).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): If scrub is the preferred winter habitat, key threats are fire suppression and brood-parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds Molothrus ater in Michigan (Sykes and Clench 1998). If Caribbean pine is preferred, habitat loss on the wintering ground is probably more important. The latter is considered likely because of the species's failure to occupy all breeding habitat, and changes in population have occurred contemporaneously with the degradation and recovery of the north Bahamas pine ecosystem (Haney et al. 1998). Recently however the fourfold population increase between 1990 and 2000, coincident with a tripling of the available habitat through management, would appear to indicate that currently population levels are closely linked to habitat availability (Probst et al. 2003). Consequentially, the current breeding range is too large for fire to affect the whole population rapidly.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix I. Management replicating the effects of natural fires has expanded potential breeding habitat to c.516 km2 (Richter 1996, Sykes 1997). Since 1972, a cowbird trapping programme has reduced parasitism from 70% to 3% (Anon. 1996). Education and ecotourism initiatives in Michigan include an annual Kirtland's Warbler Festival (Richter 1996). Surveys have been undertaken in the Bahamas, most recently in 1998 (Haney et al. 1998, D. Ewert in litt. 1999). There is a project in progress to establish the principal wintering habitat (G. Hilton in litt. 2000). Virtually the entire population breeds within the 140,000-acre Kirtland's Warbler Management Area which includes the Huron National Forest, the Kirtland's Warbler National Wildlife Refuge and various Michigan state forests.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Maintain periodically-disturbed suitable habitat on its wintering grounds in the Bahamian archipelago (Wunderle et al. 2010). Continue existing initiatives, which will require $1 million per year (R. Rustem in litt. 2003). Study the effects of management on breeding ecology). Implement prescribed burning for all breeding habitat (Sykes 1997). This is not possible in many areas, where it has been replaced by commercial clearouts, followed by a replant or re-seed (R. Rustem in litt. 2003). Increase the area of jack pine - this is difficult to maintain due to the cost, and its future is uncertain because of the loss of the carbon sequestration program (R. Rustem in litt. 2003). Investigate more economical cowbird control (Sykes 1997).

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Dendroica kirtlandii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <>. Downloaded on 25 July 2014.
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