Of the 18 warbler species that breed in Indiana, all of them can be found in this forest, including Cerulean.
By David Rupp | Published: 2/20/2018
The hiking trails, wildflowers, or fall color vistas are enough to attract many people to Yellowwood State Forest, but it’s the warblers that draw me and many other local birders in spring. No fewer than 18 warbler species breed in Indiana, and all of them can be found in Yellowwood, not to mention the other 18 species that migrate through.
Yellowwood is a stronghold for Cerulean Warbler, which is one of the most imperiled and fastest declining eastern warblers. I’ve participated in a couple of intensive studies of the Cerulean Warbler’s habitat preferences. Ceruleans group their territories close together, often atop oak-filled ridges or in forested floodplains with sycamores and walnuts. I recommend looking and listening along the Low Gap and Tecumseh Trails on the border with Morgan-Monroe State Forest in extreme northwest Brown County. Another dependable Cerulean spot is the ridgetop trails off of Crooked Creek Rd. just south of State Rd. 46.
Remnant pine stands throughout the forest are where I like to stop and listen for Pine and Black-throated Green Warblers. While hard to find, Chestnut-sided Warblers are most often seen in recently harvested parts of the forest.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
More than 23,000 acres of multi-age hardwood forest.
Rugged ravines and ridgetops. To see warblers, plan on hiking some of the many trails. However, even birding from parking lots can provide good looks at some of the breeding species.
180 species. Breeding warblers: Ovenbird, Worm-eating, Louisiana Waterthrush, Blue-winged, Black-and-white, Prothonotary, Kentucky, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded, American Redstart, Cerulean, Northern Parula, Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Pine, Yellow-throated, Prairie, Black-throated Green. Other breeders: Wood Duck, Wild Turkey, Broad-winged Hawk, Chuck-will’s-widow, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Scarlet Tanager, Acadian Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, Wood Thrush, Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Indigo Bunting, and Orchard and Baltimore Orioles.
When to go
Mid-April to the beginning of July is best for warblers.
Restrooms at campgrounds and near Yellowwood Lake. A variety of campsites. Towns of Bloomington and Nashville are about 10 miles away.
State forest. No admission fee; never closed. During hunting season, hikers and horseback riders are encouraged to wear orange.
Sassafras Audubon Society offers a birding guide to south-central Indiana that has more detailed bird-finding instructions to the area.
For more info
Yellowwood State Forest, (812) 988-7945. Maps at www.in.gov/dnr/forestry/4817.htm.
Morgan-Monroe State Forest
Borders Yellowwood to the northwest and offers similar habitat and birding opportunities. It is more quickly accessed from Indianapolis.
T.C. Steele State Historic Site
Just south of Belmont in the heart of Yellowwood. The ridgetop opening provides great morning songbird-viewing, plus the forest trails are good for Worm-eating Warbler.