A Kirtland’s Warbler that hatched in central Wisconsin last year and was banded before its first migration has returned to its birthplace, providing a significant milestone in efforts to help boost populations of the federally endangered songbird, state and federal bird experts say.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to document that a bird hatched in Adams County has returned to the area,” says Kim Grveles, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources avian ecologist. “It’s a very encouraging sign that Wisconsin is providing suitable and successful breeding habitat for these birds.”
Chris Mensing, endangered species biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, also hailed the news. “It’s exciting to see Kirtland’s Warblers returning to habitat in Wisconsin. With endangered species, you never want to put all your eggs in one basket. Having a successful breeding population outside the core Kirtland’s Warbler range in Michigan helps protect the species from catastrophic events.”
Kirtland’s Warblers have been breeding in Wisconsin since 2008, when five nests were found in Adams County. Last year, at least 24 singing males were documented in five counties in the state. (Read updates about Kirtland’s Warblers in the Badger State and learn about warblers from past years.)
Volunteers search for the birds in a survey each spring. This year’s survey began on May 18 in six counties.
On June 3, nest monitors Valarie Michel and Daryl Christensen discovered the returning bird in Adams County. It had been hatched at the same site in 2012 and was captured and banded last August by retired FWS biologists Ron Refsnider and Joel Trick.
Refsnider estimates the chances of finding the young warbler at the same site a year after hatching was less than 15 percent. — Matt Mendenhall, Managing Editor